Mother Sri Sarada Devi's 150th Birth Anniversary Celebrations
Programme at Ramakrishna Math, Belur Math (4-6 January 2005)
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
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
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.'
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.
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.'
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.'