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PRABUDDHA BHARATAHoly Mother Birth Anniversary Celebrations  

 

 

 

 

            Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi's 150th Birth Anniversary Celebrations

 

 

 

     Concluding Programme at Ramakrishna Math, Belur Math (4-6 January 2005)

 


     Swami Satyamayananda

 

 



     Viewing the vast concourse of devotees from a vantage point during the concluding celebrations of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi's 150th birth anniversary, one got the impression that concluding was a misnomer and continuing was more appropriate. The celebrations had commenced last year at Holy Mother's tithi puja day at her home in Jayrambati. This 'concluding ceremony' seemed just a highpoint of the massive wave inundating the world; an inundation that saves, being spiritual in content and maternal in instinct.

     The 9,000-odd devotees, rather Mother's children, who had assembled at Belur Math from across the country, and a few also from abroad, were united in their homage to Holy Mother in consonance with their deepest feelings of what is true and good. Everything bespoke Mother at Belur Math: her presence in the beautifully decorated temple temporarily made to look like her Jayrambati home, the huge gate leading to the tastefully decorated pandal and stage that hosted the celebrations, spruced-up grounds, decorated arches depicting her triumph over human hearts, elevating music and perfect weather. All this added to the holy precincts of Belur Math with the Ganga flowing close by was an experience that made a deep impression on everybody's minds.

     The Ramakrishna Mission, sensing the need of the times, had decided on a year-long celebration. During the past year lakhs of people in urban, rural and even remote areas of the country had viewed, entertained and worshipped Holy Mother in her image, carried on rathas (chariots). Cultural programmes, elocution and essay competitions, debates, film shows, dramas, discourses, distribution of Holy Mother's pictures and literature, programmes initiated for the welfare of women and children, distribution of food and clothes to the needy, publication of literature commemorating Holy Mother, launching of websites, and so forth were conducted throughout the county. Thus Mission centres, with the help of innumerable Bhava Prachar centres and devoted individuals working in tandem, had succeeded in reaching Holy Mother to millions, cutting through economic, social, sectarian and astonishingly different religious barriers. The natural flame of devotion to God, smothered by the grind of daily living, was fanned by all these activities. The response everywhere was overwhelming and unprecedented. Holy Mother has herself said: 'He (Sri Ramakrishna) left me behind to manifest the Motherhood of God.'

     Many must have wished to be present at Belur Math but only a few of those who had participated and helped in the year-long celebration could make it. The delegates, though from different states, cultures, and linguistic backgrounds were bound by the common cord of Holy Mother's love. They were housed in the sprawling educational institutions of Ramakrishna Mission Saradapitha adjacent to Belur Math. Sumptuous food and refreshments were arranged for them and for the sizable local delegates at the Math premises. The dignity and demeanour of the participants was throughout enhanced by a camaraderie that can be best described as filial. This was an added recompense to hundreds of monastics and non-monastics that worked tirelessly round the clock to synchronize all arrangements, big and small.

     Ordinarily, visitors throng Belur Math daily. On utsava or celebration days the Math is packed. Holy Mother's tithi puja on 3 January 2005 saw devotees streaming in continuously. Suddenly the expansive grounds of Belur Math seemed woefully inadequate. Devotees waited patiently in serpentine queues for their turn to pay obeisance to Holy Mother and also at the other temples. The tremendous attraction for Holy Mother overawed even skeptical minds. There was no vestige of doubt that this setting would endure for the next three days and continue even after the celebrations. Sri Ramakrishna had said of Mother that 'she is a cat under ashes', meaning, her true nature was not easily recognizable. Going by what can be seen around, the ashes have been blown away, revealing Mother and vindicating Swamiji's words: 'You have not understood the wonderful significance of Mother's life - none of you. But gradually you will know. Without Shakti there is no regeneration for the world.'

     The inaugural session on 4 January saw devotees sitting expectantly by 9 am. Mother's huge picture was beaming down benignly on everybody from high above the stage. The proceedings commenced with the auspicious Vedic mantras chanted by brahmacharins. Swami Smaranananda, General Secretary, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, then welcomed the assembled devotees. All eyes were riveted on Most Revered Ranganathanandaji Maharaj, President, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, for his benediction. Most Revered Maharaj, was his usual spirited self despite ill health and advanced age, and exhorted all present to make Mother the centre of their lives for individual and social good. The benediction was then translated into Bengali and Hindi for the benefit of all. Srimat Swami Gahananandaji, Vice President of the Order, then read out his comprehensive inaugural address that showed how Holy Mother was becoming the focus of our lives. This session closed with a beautiful song on Mother by Swami Sarvagananda and delegates took time out for tea and snacks.

     The second session chaired by Srimat Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, Vice President of the Order, commenced at 10:20 am with a devotional song by Swami Ekavratananda. Swami Prabhananda then delivered a learned discourse in English on 'The Mother of All', which was followed by Dr Kedarnath Labh's 'Mother as a great karma-yogini' in Hindi. A chorus song preceded Prof Shankari Prasad Basu's talk on 'Mother and Swamiji', which the speaker delivered with academic finesse. Then Swami Atmasthanandaji spoke on Mother with his remarkable candour. The closing song by Swami Divyavratananda was followed by the lunch and tea break, during which Bhava Prachar members along with some monastics got together for an informal business session.

     The third session, with Swami Mumukshananda in the chair, commenced at 3:15 pm with Swami Animeshananda's song. Swami Atmapriyananda spoke on Mother's simple and practical solutions to deep spiritual truths. Swami Umananda, spoke in Bengali on Holy Mother and Sister Nivedita. Dr Raj Lakshmi Varma drew thought-provoking parallels between Sri Sarada Devi and Sita, in Hindi. Then there was a chorus song led by Swami Satyasthananda, after which came Swami Devarajananda's discourse in clear Bengali on Mother's natural divinity. The chairperson summed up the main thoughts in English and the session closed with a song by Swami Girijeshananda. After the vespers a sitar-tabla duet by Ustad Shahid Parvez and Pundit Shubankar Banerjee held the appreciating audience in thrall.

     The fourth session began on the second day (5 January) at 8:30 am under the chairmanship of Swami Asaktananda. Students of Belur Math's Veda Vidyalaya chanted Sama Veda mantras. Swami Brahmeshananda spoke in English on Mother's Shakti aspect. Swami Satyarupananda speaking in mellifluous Hindi, indicated how Mother was an ideal for both monastics and the married. That Holy Mother and Sri Ramakrishna are identical was brought home in literary Bengali by Swami Sarvalokananda. Brahmacharins then sang a devotional song in chorus. Swami Jitatmananda endeared himself to everyone by showing, with great flourish, Mother's relevance to modern society. A tea break preceded Swami Nikhileshwarananda's Hindi lecture on how Mother embodied the four yogas. Swami Divyananda spoke in Bengali on Mother as Sangha Janani, Mother of the Ramakrishna Order, and Swami Nikhilatmananda sang a bhajan before everybody broke for lunch.

     At 3:00 pm, after tea, the fifth session saw Srimat Swami Gitanandaji Maharaj, Vice President of the Order, in the chair. As usual the session began with a devotional song. Swami Harshananda, speaking in deliberate English showed Mother as a great practical Vedantist. Swami Vishwanathananda spoke of Mother as an ideal householder and ideal sannyasini in Bengali and Swami Atmaramananda presented her as a perfect symbol of unselfishness. A Sanskrit hymn was sung in chorus by monks of Advaita Ashrama after which Swami Nikhilatmananda spoke in wonderful Hindi about Mother as a unique world teacher. After Swami Gitanandaji's address the session closed with Swami Narendrananda's song. An entertaining and educative Hindi drama was staged by students of Ramakrishna Mission, Narainpur, Chattisgarh, showing select incidents in Swami Vivekananda's life. A Bastar Tribal dance performed by the same students won everybody's heart.

     The sixth session opened on the third and last day (6 January) at 8:30 am. This session was conducted by the sannyasinis of Sarada Math, Dakshineshwar. Pravrajika Amalaprana, General Secretary, Sarada Math and Mission, presided. Students from the Nivedita Girls' School chanted Vedic hymns and sang devotional songs after which Dr Kamala Jaya Rao spoke with practiced ease on Holy Mother's universal message of love and harmony. Pravrajika Vedantaprana gave a charming discourse on Mother's three rare characteristics of forbearance, compassion and sacrifice, and Dr Bandita Bhattacharya dilated on Sister Nivedita's succinct observation about Mother: 'Her life was one life stillness of prayer.' Following a song by the sannyasinis of Sarada Math, Pravrajika Satchitprana spoke in Hindi of Mother as an ideal for all women everywhere. After the tea break, Dr Anjali Mukherjee painted a glowing profile of Mother's human aspect in Bengali. Smt Subrata Sen then described Mother's role in the awakening and liberation of women. The meeting adjourned for lunch after Pravrajika Amalaprana's presidential address and a closing song.

     Swami Gokulananda chaired the seventh session that commenced at 3:00 pm with Vedic chanting by the sannyasins of Belur Math. Ms. Barbara Piner from the US, Dr Purba Sengupta of Kolkata and Sri Dharam Vir Seth of Delhi spoke in English, Bengali and Hindi respectively about what appealed to them in Holy Mother. Smt M S Shasikala from Hyderabad spoke in English on how Mother's message can be spread and the role devotees can play towards achieving this end. Sri G N Mallick of Raipur dwelt on the same topic in Hindi.

     The valedictory session at 4:15 pm had Swami Smaranananda in the chair. Swami Purnatmananda spoke of Mother's combination of tradition and modernity in Bengali. Swami Shasankananda then showed, in Hindi, how Mother could be our ideal in our daily life. After the chairman's address, Swami Shivamayananda, Assistant Secretary, Ramakrishna Math and Mission presented the vote of thanks. The closing song by Swami Purushottamananda lifted the devotees' minds. The cultural programme after Sri Ramakrishna's arati was on 'Maha Ras'. The Nikunja Bihari Raslila Mandal enacted the Krishna-Radha scenes of Vrindavan with music and dance. Thus ended the celebrations.

     The apprehension that too many lectures might tire the delegates was clearly unfounded. Delegates were all well grounded in the Ramakrishna-Sarada-Vivekananda literature and this is what helped, besides the high quality of the discourses. Each speaker was vastly experienced and each discourse appeared better than the preceding one. Devotional songs helped enliven the talks and speeches - as did the tea and snacks! Devotees have a caste of their own said Sri Ramakrishna and this was apparent in a magnified form during these three days. No one was a stranger. The devotees introduced themselves to each other and talked about their love for Holy Mother. Even the long wait in queues for lunch and dinner could not dampen the spirit of the devotees. The sessions in the morning were open only to delegates but the gates were open during the evening sessions and the cultural programmes for one and all. Chairs were provided for everyone and the eastern lawn of the temple was like a sea of heads. The entire event testified to Mother's all-embracing love and also her great power of attracting people of all kinds. Clearly, the future belongs to Mother. Who really is Mother entering into every heart? In the words of Sri Ramakrishna: 'She is Sarada, Saraswati; she has come to impart knowledge. She is the bestower of knowledge; she is full of the rarest wisdom. Is she of the common run? She is my Shakti.'

 


     

 

       





International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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