August 6, 2015
(1) Resting and refreshing ourselves:
From Jayarambati we arrived at Kamarpukur around 2:00 p.m. The Swamis of the Ramakrishna Mission at Kamarpukur were so kind as to arrange a place for our rest. Since we had breakfast at 5:30 a.m., had gotten up very early in the morning and were traveling and walking around till now, this resting place had come as a blessing to us. It was amazing to see that there was a facility that could accommodate 91 people. The ladies had a room downstairs and the men had a large room upstairs that was filled with beds and also had fans. Many lied down and were soon fast asleep. The boys and youngsters wanted to chit-chat and they just sat and enjoyed this friendly time. Uncle sat with few alumni and told them many interesting stories related to Vivekananda Vidyapith.
After 40 minutes it was time to visit the places of Kamarpukur. Everyone used the facility to freshen themselves and were ready to go. The Ramakrishna Mission of Kamarpukur sent a woman devotee as our guide.
With the help of the guide we visited Bhutir Khal, Sri Ramakrishna’s Elementary School, Laha Babu’s temples, Sitanath Pyne’s house, the Shivaratri Stage, Sri Ramakrishna’s Birth Place, the Jugi Shiva Temple, and Haldarpukur. I will combine a reflection about these places with the stories and incidents of Sri Ramakrishna’s childhood as Gadadhar.
Here are the important places of Kamarpukur:
Kamarpukur, the birthplace of Sri Ramakrishna is about sixty miles from Kolkata. Kamarpukur was prominent in the early nineteenth century because many landlords and the family of the guru of the King of Burdwan lived in that village. A major road from Burdwan to Puri was going around Kamarpukur. Thus, Kamarpukur was visited by many travelers and Sadhus going to Puri. Today, Kamarpukur is known all over the world as the birthplace of Sri Ramakrishna.
We find the following remarks in the book “Sri Ramakrishna and His Divine Play,”
written by Swami Saradananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna: “It is remarkable how the Master (Sri Ramakrishna) had bound himself to the people of Kamarpukur with a wonderful color of love. He was tied with a loving and reverential relationship to all the neighborhood men and women, from the wealthy Lahas to the brahmins, blacksmiths, carpenters, goldsmiths and others. We were moved when the Master at different times told us with delight about the love and devotion of the simple-hearted and devout Prasanna, the widowed daughter of Dharmadas Laha; the Master’s childhood friend Gayavishnu Laha, the son of Dharamda; the sincere faith of Srinivas Sankhari; the devout women of the Pyne family; the blacksmith woman Dhani, his godmother; and others….The Master was always in a god-intoxicated mood when surrounded by his relatives and enjoying the loving care of the villagers.”
(3) How Sri Ramakrishna’s parents came to Kamarpukur:
Sri Ramakrishna’s father’s name was Kshudiram and his mother’s name was Chandramani Devi. Kshudiram was living in the village named Dere. He inherited property from his father and was living happily there. He was well respected in the village as a pious and honest person. The landlord of the village, Ramananda Roy, wanted Kshudiram to give a false statement in court in his case against a person. Kshudiram refused to do it. Ramananda Roy was angry and found a way to take away all of Kshudiram’s property through a false case in court. Kshudiram’s friend, Sukhlal Goswami, invited Kshudiram and his family to Kamarpukur. He gave Kshudiram a couple of thatched houses and a rice field to live off in order to support his family. Thus, Kshudiram and his family settled in Kamarpukur.
The place where Kshudiram and his family lived and Sri Ramakrishna was born has become an ashrama of Ramakrishna Math and Mission of Kamarpukur.
The following photos of the ancestral home of Sri Ramakrishna, Jugi Shiva Temple and temple of the birthplace of Sri Ramakrishna were taken several years ago:
(4) Kshudiram (Father of Sri Ramakrishna):
Kshudiram was a great devotee of Lord Ramachandra and spent most of his time in spiritual practices. Once, he was coming back from a nearby village and was exhausted by the walking. So he sat under a tree to take some rest. A cool breeze was coming from the open meadow, and he soon fell asleep. Lord Ramachandra appeared in his dream and said that he wanted to come to his home. When Kshudiram said that he was poor and he could not take care of him very well, Lord Ramachandra said that he would be happy with whatever way he could take care of him. When he woke up and searched around the tree, he found a Shaligram (an emblem of Lord Vishnu) was lying in front of a snake’s hole. With courage he went and picked up the Shaligram. He brought it at home, and with reverence and joy, worshipped it as his beloved deity, Lord Ramachandra. Both Kshudiram and Chandramani Devi performed their duties piously. They completely surrendered themselves to Lord Ramachandra, whom they called Lord Raghuvir.
Around 1824, Kshudirama went on a pilgrimage to Rameshwaram by foot. He returned after visiting many holly places in south India. Almost after one year he returned home. From Rameshwaram he brought a Banalingam (emblem of Lord Shiva). In the Kamarpukur shrine, one can find this Bamalingam (named Lord Rameshwara), a stone image of Lord Raghuvir, and a consecrated water pot which Kshudiram worshipped as a form of Mother Shitala. The following photo show the deities which were worshipped by Kshudiram and his family including Sri Ramakrishna.
Once Kshudiram did not hear for a while from his nephew and his family. He wanted to inquire if everything is okay with them, so he sat out on foot around 10:00 a.m. for a long journey to his nephew’s town Maidnapore. He arrived at the village and found a bel tree with fresh bel leaves. Since he had not worshipped God with bel leaves for quite some time, he collected the bel leaves, washed them, and returned home walking around 3:00 p.m. He took a bath and with the bel leaves did his worship and got absorbed in meditation for a long time. The next day he again set out on foot to his nephew’s town for the inquiry! Such was Kshudiram’s devotion for God!
(5) Vision at Gaya:
In the winter of 1835, Kshudiram went to Varanasi and Gaya on a pilgrimage. One night in a dream, Lord Gadadhar told him, “Kshudiram, I am very pleased with your sincere devotion. I shall incarnate Myself as your son and accept the loving service you offer to Me in your cottage.” Kshudiram was worried and said, “I am a poor man. How would I be able to serve you properly?” Lord said, “Don’t be afraid, Kshudiram. Whatever you offer, I shall accept it with satisfaction.” Kshudiram returned to Kamarpukur in April of 1835.
(6) Chandradevi (Mother of Sri Ramakrishna):
Sri Ramakrishna’s mother Chandradevi was an embodiment of love and simplicity. She captivated the villagers’ affection and respect through her love and compassion. Villagers felt that she was their own mother. She was happy with them in their happy moments and truly sympathetic when they were going through miseries. Poor people knew that if they would go to Chandradevi, then they would get food and loving care. Chandradevi was very pious and was sincerely doing worship of Lord Raghuvir and the other deities that were in her home altar. She had many visions of gods and goddesses.
(7) Vision at Jugi Shiva Temple:
Chandradevi said, “Another day, I was standing in front of Yogi (Jugi) Shiva Temple and talking with Dhani (a blacksmith woman friend living in the neighborhood). Suddenly I saw a divine light emanating from the image of Shiva. It filled the temple and rushed towards me like a wave. Overwhelmed, I was about to tell Dhani about it, but suddenly the light engulfed me and entered my body. I fell unconscious. …From then on I have had the feeling that the light is still in my womb and that I am pregnant.”
The following are pictures of Jugi Shiva Temple taken long ago which give us better glimpse of the original temple:
(8) Sri Ramakrishna’s Birth:
When Chandradevi felt that the birth of the child was near, Kshudiram asked Dhani to stay overnight with her. Both of them started sleeping in a small thatched shed where there was a husking machine on one side and a wood-burning stove for boiling rice on the other.
The following is a photo of three huts: the left one was a family shrine, the middle one was the residence of Sri Ramakrishna’s family and the right one is where Sri Ramakrishna was born:
On Thursday, February 18, 1836 twelve minutes before the sunrise, Chandradevi gave birth to a boy. After providing the necessary help to Chandradevi, Dhani looked for the baby. She could not find the baby where she had left him. Dhani turned up the flame of the oil lamp and looked around. She found that the baby had rolled down to the wood-burning stove and his body was covered with the ashes of the stove. The baby looked to her like the Lord Shiva. Dhani carefully picked him up, washed him and looked him near the lamp. She saw he was handsome and big like a six-month-old boy. The neighbors gathered and shared this joyful news. Kshudiram and Chandradevi’s cottage reverberated with the sounds of joyful conch shells and the laughter of people.
Right now there is a temple of Sri Ramakrishna at the place where he was born.
(9) Sri Ramakrishna’s Siblings:
Sri Ramakrishna had two elder brothers named Ramkumar and Rameswar, and an elder sister named Katyayani. He had one younger sister whose name was Sarvamangala. Ramkumar was the first one who accepted Rani Rasamani’s offer to be a priest of the Dakshineswar Kali Temple. After Ramkumar passed away, Sri Ramakrishna and Rameswar worshiped Mother Kali and served as priests.
(10) Walking on the Streets of Kamarpukur:
We walked from Bhutir Khal’s to Laha Babu’s temples and came back to the Ramakrishna Math. It was a great pleasure to walk on the streets of Kamarpukur, imaging that Sri Ramakrishna, as the young boy Gadadhar, was roaming around these very village grounds.
Looking at few young boys we tried to imagine what Gadadhar might have looked like. We also enjoyed the greenery and imagined that perhaps some of it may have been around to witness Gadadhar’s presence in the village!
The students from the US had great pleasure in seeing what rural life looks like while walking on the streets of Kamarpukur.
(11) Sri Ramakrishna’s School:
Gadadhar had great memories from his childhood. When his father Kshudiram taught him various stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata and hymns, Gadadhar remembered all of them even after he had heard them only once. Kshudiram sent Gadadhar to Laha Babu’s Pathashala (Elementry School) when he was five years old. The school was in the morning and in the afternoon. Gadadhar made many friends at school and received affection from his teacher. First, he had Jadunath Sarkar as his teacher. After Jadunath retired, Gadadhar had Rajendranath Sarkar as his teacher. Gadadhar made fair progress at school. He was able to read and write in Bengali. He was not comfortable with arithmetic. Some parts of the school are the same when Gadadhar attended it.
After his father passed away, Gadadhar spent most of his time at home helping his mother. During this time he would often wander around the cremation ground at Bhutir Khal, reflecting upon the reality of life. After some time he went back to school, but he was more interested in the recitals of the stories of the Puranas, drama performances, and sculpting clay images of gods and goddesses. He was losing interest in traditional education. He saw that most learned people craved money and many even abandoned moral conduct to acquire money. He realized that the craving for money and desires for worldly enjoyments created suffering in human life. He did not see any purpose in money-making education. Gadadhar decided to be content with “simple food and clothing.”
Gadadhar did not regularly attend school, but he was very sharp and knowledgeable. Once a group of Kamarpukur Pundits had a dispute over a complicated theological question. Gadadhar was listening to their arguments and reasoning. After a while, he gave the pundits a sensible solution of the problem. They were amazed that they had not seen the problem in the way this boy could see it. They praised Gadadhar and blessed him.
In Kamarpukur, Gadadhar often visited the village sculptors to watch how they made the images of gods and goddesses. He would then make the images at home. He would also watch village painters as they made their paintings. He too tried his hand at painting. It is said that once Gadadhar went to his youngest sister Sarvamangala’s house. There he saw how cheerfully his sister was serving her husband. Afterwards Gadadhar painted that scene and the portrait was excellent. He was an expert at impersonating various people and making everyone laugh. Since women were not allowed to go and see plays, Gadadhar used to perform the whole play for the women of his family friends. He would perform all the characters and the scenes of the play, and occasionally added his own comments and dialogues, enhancing the play. Those who had seen the play said that Gadadhar’s versions were better than the plays!
In 1852, when Ramkumar came back to Kamarpukur, he found that his younger brother Gadadhar was not interested in studying and was not doing anything. He was concerned about him. So with his mother’s permission, he decided to take Gadadhar with him to Kolkata. Gadadhar also did not protest with this proposal and left Kamarpukur.
(12) Sacred Thread Ceremony and the Beginning of Revolution:
When Gadadhar was nine years old, Ramkumar made arrangements for his Upanayan (sacred thread ceremony). After the sacred thread is given to a boy, one of the rituals of this ceremony is that the boy asks and receives food from his mother, as Sadhus ask for alms in India. The blacksmith-woman Dhani was a good friend of Gadadhar’s mother, Chandradevi, and Dhani was the first one who had held Gadadhar in hands after he was born. Dhani had great affection for Gadadhar. She had once expressed her wish that when Gadadhar had a sacred thread ceremony, he would address her as mother and ask and receive food from her. Gadadhar had promised her that he would fulfill her desire. Despite being very poor, Dhani had even saved some money from her savings to give to Gadadhar at this ceremony.
During the preparation for the sacred thread ceremony Gadadhar expressed his desire to ask for alms from Dhani after he received his sacred thread. However, Ramkumar told him it was not possible since Dhani was from a lower cast. Gadadhar told him that he had given a promise and if he could not fulfill that promise he was not fit for the sacred thread. Ramkumar was at a loss because he thought that village brahmins would create a big uproar on this matter and would not allow it to happen. Yet, Gadadhar was adamant on this matter. Dharamdas Laha came to know about the problem. He told Ramkumar that such things had happened in Brahmin families and it should not be a problem. Gadadhar was extremely happy to receive permission. Gadadhar asked for alms from Dhani; she was overjoyed by the opportunity. The following scuptor from Laha Babu’s temple courtyard gives a glimpse of Gadadhar asking alms from Dhani.
Note: Reflecting upon this incident, I realized that this was not a small thing at that time. Sri Ramakrishna broke many barriers of society, dismissed baseless popular ideologies, and revolutionized the spiritual path. I can list a few of these things here:
– He did not go through the routine education system to be educated.
– He asked Dhani for alms during sacred thread ceremony, making love surpass all cast barriers.
– He realized God only through self-effort and intense desire and longing.
– He accepted Bhairavi Brahmani, a woman, as his guru
– He practiced both Dualistic and Non-dualistic spiritual practices. He said that God with form is true and God without form is also true.
– He married but with the permission of his wife lived a celebate life
– He worshipped his wife, Sri Sarada Devi, as the Mother of the Universe, thus giving the highest honor to women
– He washed the toilet of an untouchable to rid himself of the ego of a Brahmin.
– He transcended the gender-consciousness by identifying himself with Radha or a dasi of the Universal Mother
– He lived simple life with minimum needs, especially finding him wearing only one cloth
– He asked Mathurbabu to provide food and blankets to suffering poor people with the money kept aside for the pilgrimage.
– He forgave the person who insulted him by kicking him on his back
– He, through his personal practices, realized that all sects of Hinduism and all religions lead to the same God.
– He helped and inspired people of all levels – from Sadhus to sinners.
(13) Laha Babu Family’s Role in Sri Ramakrishna’s Family Life:
Dharamdas Laha was a landlord of Kamarpukur. He and his family members had great respect for Kshudiram and his family. Both the families had a loving relationship with each other.
Laha Babu’s daughter, Prasannamayi or Prasanna, was a friend of Chandradevi. There are numerous examples that Chandadevi shared her personal things with Prasanna. Immediately after Sri Ramakrishna’s birth, Laha Babu’s family was informed about this joyful news. Prasanna came immediately and joined in the celebration of the newly born child. Prasanna loved Gadadhar as her own son. She was with Gadadhar when he had his ecstasy while going to the Vishalakshi temple. We saw Shiva Temple of Prasanna.
After Gadadhar was born, Kshudiram wanted to have a rice-feeding ceremony (the first time a baby is given food) with a few close relatives. On this occasion, Dharamdas Laha wanted to feed all the leading brahmins after the ceremony. He secretly told all the leading brahmins to go to Kshudiram’s house and asked him to feed them all after the ceremony. Kshudiram was in fix. He did not know what to do. He consulted Dharamdas Laha as a friend to handle this situation. Dharamdas Lala told Kshudiram not to worry and said he would arrange the ceremony. Thus, the rice-feeding ceremony was done with a great pomp. With the help of Dharamdas, all of the people of the village enjoyed a great feast at Kshudiram’s house.
Laha Babu had built few temples. One was Durga Temple.
We visited Laha Babu’s Vishnu Temple.
The Vishnu Temple had beautiful carvings on the temple and in the courtyard we saw few very artistic sculptors. One sculptor was Sri Ramakrishna’s vision of Mother Kali.
We visited a “Raas Temple” remembering the divine raas of Sri Krishna, Sri Radha, and the cowherd boys and girls.
Dharamdas Laha supported Gadadhar’s decision to take alms from Dhani after his sacred thread ceremony. Gadadhar went to Laha’s Pathashala (school). Laha Babu established the school and provided for the salary of the teacher.
Dharamdas Laha also built a rest house for pilgrims who were on their way to visit the Puri temple of Lord Jagannath. There, Gadadhar came in contact with many sadhus and learned lots of things from them.
(14) Sri Ramakrishna as Lord Shiva:
Gadadhar used to worship the family deities: Lord Raghuvir, Lord Shiva and Mother Shitala. Many times Gadadhar experienced Bhava Samadhi or Nirvikalpa Samadhi during his worship.
On one Shivaratri day, Gadadhar fasted for the day, and in the evening he started his worship of Lord Shiva. He was absorbed in contemplation. At that time, his friends came to inform him that he had to perform the role of Shiva in the play which was to be performed near Sitanath Pyne’s house.
The boy who was supposed to play the part of Shiva had become sick and they needed to find a substitute at the last minute. Only Gadadhar could do full justice to the role. Yet, Gadadhar declined it since he was in the middle of his worship. The boys tried to persuade him, telling him that if he played the role of Shiva, he would think of Shiva all the time. Also, many people had fasted for the day and they had taken a vow to have nightlong vigil. The play would help them to think of Shiva and also aid them in their vigil. Gadadhar agreed to play a role of Lord Shiva. But, as soon as he stepped on the stage with matted hair, body smeared with ashes, wearing a rudraksha mala and holding a trident, his mind became completely absorbed in Shiva and he experienced Bhava Samadhi.
Those who were not inclined to spirituality might have thought that Gadadhar ruined their play. But I am sure many who were present felt that they had a direct vision of Lord Shiva, himself. What more one can ask for on the day of Shivaratri?
(15) Pyne Family’s Role in Sri Ramakrishna’s Family Life:
Sitanath Pyne was a rich merchant of Kamarpukur. He had a large family and they all lived together. Many of his relatives also lived around him.
Sitanath Pyne was fond of Gadadhar. He used to invite Gadadhar to his house to tell stories of Prahlad, Dhruva, and other epic tales from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Pyne’s family members enjoyed Gadadhar’s stories. In April 1892 when Swami Saradananda and Swami Ramakrishnananda, direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, went to Kamarpukur, Sitanath Pyne’s daughter, Rukmini, told them interesting stories about Gadadhar. She told them about how Gadadhar used to come to her house and how happily the family members enjoyed his company.
In India, many devotees of Vishnu and many devotees of Shiva did not get along with each other very well. Each group believed that their deity was the best. However, in Kamarpukur devotees of Vishnu and devotees of Shiva lived happily together. Sitanath Pyne was a devotee of Vishnu and also a devotee of Shiva. It was in his courtyard that the Shiva play took place in which Gadadhar played the role of Shiva.
There is an amusing incident about the Pyne family’s “Merchant Quarters.” Durgadas Pyne was living in these quarters. He strongly objected to Gadadhar visiting Sitaram Pyne’s family’s inner apartments, and allowing him to talk to the ladies, especially the young daughters. Durgadas used to boast that no man had ever entered the ladies’ apartments of his house. Gadadhar did not like how Durgadas belittled Sitaram by boasting about his restrictions to the ladies of his house. Gadadhar told Durgadas that keeping ladies in purdah did not protect them, instead they could be protected by moral education and devotion to God. Gadadhar said that if he wanted, he could enter the ladies’ apartments and talk to them. Durgadas challenged him to do so at his own risk. He was asking for trouble –Sri Ramakrishna always did what he said and thought sincerely about it.
Before dusk Gadadhar dressed himself as a poor weaver woman and went to Durgadas’ house. Durgadas was talking with his friends. Gadadhar knew exactly how to play the role of any character. He was properly dressed up. He kept his face covered and, in the voice of a young girl, he said that he was a poor weaver girl who had come from a far distance to sell yarn. It was now too late to go back to her village. He pleaded with the helplessness of a girl who needed shelter at night. Durgadas asked a few questions and was satisfied with the answers. He then said to go inside the house and asked the women to make arrangements for her stay. Gadadhar, as a girl, went inside and told his story. The women of the family served him some refreshments. He talked to the women and passed the evening with them without them suspecting a thing! On the other side of the village, since Gadadhar had not come home that evening, his brother Rameswar was looking for him everywhere, shouting his name. When Gadadhar heard this, he came running out exclaiming, “Brother, I am coming!” Durgadas realized that Gadadhar had in fact done exactly what he said he would do. Initially, Durgadas was embarrassed and angry, but later he laughed at Gadadhar’s excellent acting. When Sitanath and his family members heard this story, they were delighted that Gadadhar had crushed the ego of Durgadas. From that day on, Durgadas’s women family members had more freedom to move around, especially in going to Gadadhar’s house.
(16) Bhutir Khal (or Bhutir’s Canal) Cremation Ground:
At the age of seven years Gadadhar lost his father, Kshudiram. This loss had a deep impact on him. Worrying about his mother, he did not express his grief openly. But, he used to wander around alone in the cremation ground at Bhutir’s Canal and other solitary places in Kamarpukur. He became more reflective and began to love solitude. As a memory of the Bhutir Khal cremation ground right now there is a huge tree and a small cremation place with woods. We could see a huge soccer ground in front of the Bhutir Khal.
Later when Sri Ramakrishna returned to Kamarpukur from Dakshniswar, after having a vision of the Divine Mother, he used to spend much of his time in Bhutir’s Canal and Budhui Moral – the two village cremation grounds. He used to spend a long time practicing japa and meditation there under an old peepal tree. From the testimonies of his relatives it was found that during this time Gadadhar had wonderful visions of Divine Mother and many spiritual experiences.
(17) Sri Ramakrishna’s Spiritual Practices and Ecstasies:
Sri Ramakrishna’s spiritual foundation was built in Kamarpukur. His parents were completely dependent on God. His father, Kshudiram, had traveled on foot to various places of pilgrimage. He walked from Kamarpukur to Rameswaram which is 1300 miles one way! His siblings were devotees. Gadadhar himself was devoted to God, and whenever anything brought with it a suggestion of God, his mind would become absorbed in God-consciousness.
Once when he was roaming through a Kamarpukur field, Gadadhar saw a thick black cloud and then a flock of white cranes flew in front of the cloud. The contrast and the beauty reminded him of God and he completely lost his outer consciousness. People thought that it was an epileptic seizure. This also happened when he was visiting Vishalakshi Temple and again when he was dressed up as a Shiva to play Shiva’s role on Shivaratri night. The joy and bliss Gadadhar was experiencing showed that they were not seizures.
Gadadhar’s spiritual search was genuine. When Gadadhar’s father passed away he was wandering through the cremation ground of Bhutir Khal and reflected upon the transitory nature of life. He also was searching for the meaning of life, if there was any. It is as though that he had understood in an early age that the goal of life is nothing but God-realization and it is only this that could give one peace and satisfaction.
Serving sadhus who were staying at the rest-house on the path of Puri, Gadadhar intensified his desire to realize God. He even dressed up as a sadhu and knocked the door of his own house to ask for alms as sadhus did. Kamarpukur played a great role in building up the life of a God-man who brought a unique spiritual upsurge in the world with his own spiritual experiences and teachings. Through Sri Ramakrishna’s life and teachings, millions of people were helped and are currently being helped spiritually. His life and teachings also helped remove many so-called religious conflicts of ideas and brought to the world a unifying message that “All religions are various paths leading to the same God.” He said that no one can say that ‘my watch is the only one that is correct.’ All watches give an approximate time. God cannot be described in words. Thus, all religions are trying to describe the same God. The goal of our life is to realize this God which religions are trying to describe. Once we realize God, then we do not fight with each other in the name of religion.
(18) Haldar Pukur:
There are three or four big ponds in Kamarpukur. Haldar Pukur is the largest among these ponds. Gadadhar used to swim in this pond with his friends. Holy Mother also bathed in this pond.
Haldar Pukur reminded us of one of Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings. He said that one day he saw a man go to Haldar Pukur, remove the scum, and drink the clean water lying underneath the scum. Within a few minutes, the scum came dancing back with the waves of the water and covered the clean water again. Thus, the Brahman (or God) is hidden behind our imaginary world. When this imaginary world is removed, the Reality or the Ultimate Truth, or Brahman appears to us as clean water. But, unfortunately, the imaginary world comes back and covers the Reality.
After visiting many places in Kamarpukur, we gathered around 5:00 p.m. in a big dining room. The Ramakrishna Mission of Kamarpukur was so gracious to us to feed us delicacies of Bengal as a token of their loving welcome. We all sat down and under the loving supervision of Swami Titikshanandaji (Pradip Maharaj), we were served murmure and jilebies in leaf-plates. Both the muremure and jilebis were tasty and delicious. Swami Jnanamritanandaji (Jayant Maharaj) welcomed us and gave us a nice short lecture on the life of Sri Ramakrishna in Kamarpukur. We all enjoyed listening to it, thinking about how fortunate we were to visit such a holy place.
We learned later that our dear friend Mr. Prakash Chakraboty of “Vivekananda Study and Philanthropic Group USA” in New York had requested and made arrangements for us to get the Bengal’s famous jilebies and murmures. We heartily thanked the Swamis of the Ramakrishna Mission and Prakashji for such a memorable treat.
Sri Ramakrishna enjoyed love for God and renunciation, but on the mundane level one of the things he liked was jilebies. Once after a heavy meal, a devotee was offering him sweets. Sri Ramakrishna told him that if you have jilebies, then he would have some because jilebies are like the viceroy’s horse carriage. As viceroy’s carriage makes its way through any heavy traffic, the jilebies could make their way in the stomach even if it is full. Our stomachs were not full, so we ate lots of jilebies. The Swamis even packed us jilebies to eat on our way home.
(20) Returning to Hyatt Hotel:
After Prasad we all sat in the buses to go back to the Hyatt Hotel. We had a journey of roughly four hours. Everyone was physically tired, but mentally we were happy to have been able to visit two birthplaces of great souls –Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi and Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. People in the buses did not want to sleep. We did evening prayer in the bus and then one by one, people who could lead a dhoon, bhajan, or hymn came in to front seat which had microphone, and led the singing. We sang many varieties of dhoons, bhajans and hymns. In between, we enjoyed the jillebies which had been packed for us.
By the grace of God, the whole day was enjoyable and passed by without any problem. The rain did not bother us, the buses ran pretty well, the roads were without problems except for some local traffic, and everyone was in good health. We were exhausted when we were dropped off at the entrance of the Hyatt. Everyone was supposed to come for the dinner after they leave there things in their rooms. We thought that after such a long day, many would not show up for the dinner, especially the small children. But, to our surprise, everyone came down and enjoyed the delicious dinner. The Club7 organizers had prepared an excellent menu during the week so that we have varieties of items including local delicacies. We went to bed remembering all the places we had visited.
(Thanks to Khush and Khushbu Patel for writing the original report, Nisha Parikh for editing this post and Deba Uncle for providing the necessary information needed to write this post.)