Friday, 2 May 2014

1. Ancestry & Birth

It was the middle of the eighteenth century. Sri Kshudiram Chattopadhyaya and his wife Srimati Chandramani Devi lived in the village of Derepur. This village was situated in the Hooghly district, Bengal. Their life revolved around their family deity Sri Ramachandra. They were blessed with a son, Ramkumar and a daughter, Katyayani.

Being a simple village man, Kshudiram was well known for his truthfulness, charity and devotion. His reputation was such, that once a greedy landlord forced him to give false statement in court. The whole village knew that Kshudiram will speak nothing but the truth. Therefore his words would be admitted as evidence in court. Though Kshudiram knew the consequences of going against the landlord, he refused to utter falsehood. Soon, the vengeance of the landlord turned against Kshudiram. On a false claim, the landlord deprived Kshudiram his ancestral house and land. 

Depending on Lord Sri Ramachandra, Kshudiram left his village. His friend invited him to the village of Kamarpukur. He also gave Kshudiram a small house and a piece of agricultural land. This turn of event, brought great change on Kshudiram. He now spent more time in prayer and worship of Sri Ramachandra. Soon, Kshudiram earned the love and respect of the people of Kamarpukur. 

Chandramani Devi also had earned the love and trust of the new village. She was nothing but kindness, simplicity and guilelessness. The whole village was her family. She would not take her food without ensuring that everyone in the neighbourhood as eaten.

After settling in Kamarpukur, one day, Kshudiram was passing through a paddy field. It was a hot day. Feeling tired, he sat under a tree and fell asleep. Lord Ramachandra appeared in his dream. Pointing to a spot, the Lord said, “I have been lying here for ages. Take me to your home!” Kshudiram woke up with a start. Not far away, he noticed something like a stone. He rushed to the spot and found a salagrama, a stone symbolising Lord Ramachandra. Kshudiram took it home and started worshipping it as Raghuvir.

The advent of Raghuvir brought more joy to Kshudiram and his family. Kshudiram spent almost all his days in worshipping Raghuvir, singing devotional songs and meditation. Chandramani joined her husband in attending to the daily worship and in preparing food offering.

Ten years passed. In the meantime, another son, Rameswar was born to this noble couple. Leaving the family under the care of his eldest son Ramkumar, Kshudiram went on a pilgrimage to Vishnu Gaya in 1835.

The pilgrimage to Gaya, turned to be the most significant event in Kshudiram’s life. One day, after his daily worship, he was having a short nap. The presiding deity Vishnu called Lord Gadadhar appeared in his dream and said, “Kshudiram, I shall be born as your son.” A startled Kshudiram, protested, “But I am a poor man, my Lord. How can I serve You?” “Don’t worry, I shall take care of everything,” Gadadhar promised. As this was not the first time the Lord had appeared in his dream, Kshudiram felt something strange would happen. Completing his pilgrimage, he returned to Kamarpukur.  At home, Chandramani related her experience during his absence. 

“One day, I was standing in front of the Shiva temple,” Chandramani said. “Dhani was with me. Suddenly, I saw a strange white light filling the Shiva temple. Before, I could understand what was happening, that light, rushed towards me like a flood tide. It overwhelmed me and entered my body. I dropped down at the spot. When I woke up, I felt that I have conceived. As you know, I blurted this to Dhani. ‘You are a fool! How can such a thing happen? At your age!’ Dhani laughed. But it is true, I still feel that the light is in me.” 

A year after these incidents, on February 18, 1836, Chandramani Devi gave birth to a baby boy. Dhani helped Chandramani during the delivery. After attending to Chandramani, she turned to look at the baby. Somehow, the baby had rolled into the mud oven. His body was covered in ashes like a holy man.

The wise Kshudiram, remembered his dream at Gaya. He named the child as Gadadhar meaning ‘Bearer of the Mace’. Later, Gadadhar became known to the world as Sri Ramakrishna. 

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