In 1852, at the age of sixteen, Gadadhar (from now, he came to be known as Ramakrishna) left for Kolkata with his brother Ramkumar. Ramkumar was a learned scholar. He had been running a Sanskrit school in Jhamapukur, near Kolkata. Due to straightened circumstances, he also had to earn money by doing Pujas in private homes. Since the death of their father, Ramkumar also felt responsible for the education of his youngest brother, Ramakrishna.
During his long absence from Kamarpukur, he came to know that Ramakrishna had neglected his studies. Therefore, Ramkumar brought his brother to Kolkata to keep him under his care. Though sad about leaving his aged mother, Ramakrishna followed his brother. He was glad that he could be helpful to his brother. He started to perform worship at private homes on behalf of his brother.
One day, Ramkumar approached Ramakrishna about pursuing his education. Ramkumar was certain that education is the only means of sustenance. However, the reply he received was amazing. Ramakrishna said, “What can I do with the education which can only teach how to bundle rice and plantain (i.e bread winning)? I want that knowledge which will enable me to know God.”
Ramkumar knew it was hopeless to force Ramakrishna to do anything. In all matters where human efforts failed, Ramkumar surrender to God and prayed for his brother.
Three years passed. In 1855, Ramkumar accepted the post of priest in the newly built Bhavatarini Temple of Dakshineswar. He closed his Sanskrit school and moved to Dakshineswar. Ramakrishna followed his brother.
The temple garden of Dakshineswar was built by Rani Rasmani, a rich lady in Kolkata. It was on the banks of the Ganges. The main temple enshrined Mother Bhavatarini. A temple for Radhakanta (Krishna) and twelve Shiva temples formed parts of the huge temple complex.
During his early days at Dakshineswar, Ramakrishna spent his time freely in the new surroundings. The sacred Ganges River was flowing nearby the temple. The temple itself was surrounded by flower gardens and nature. It was an ideal place for a contemplative life. Ramakrishna would roam around the surrounding areas, singing and chanting hymns.
Soon, this carefree youth caught the attention of Mathurnath Biswas, the son in-law of Rani Rasmani. Mathurnath was very impressed with the simplicity, purity, and integrity of the young Ramakrishna. He wanted to appoint him as a priest. Though Ramakrisna hesitated in the beginning, finally he accepted the post of priest to lighten the burden of his brother Ramkumar.
With his whole heart and soul, Ramakrishna started decorating the Divine Mother Bhavatarini. During his free time, he sang songs and hymns to please the Divine Mother. His sincerity, purity and childlike nature, soon endeared him to all. Mathurnath and Rani Rasmani also showed him love and respect.
A Novel Solution for a Knotty Problem
Not long after this, an accident happened in the Radhakanta temple. Due to carelessness, the priest had broken the leg of Sri Krishna. It was not customary to worship broken images. Therefore, when the learned scholars were consulted, they advised that the broken image had to be thrown into the Ganges. This puts Rani Rasmani in a dilemma. She had loved the image of Krishna and was reluctant to follow the advice of the scholars. She wanted an alternative suggestion. The matter was referred to young Ramakrishna. Going into indrawn mood, Ramakrishna said, “What! Throw the broken image of God in the Ganges? Suppose the Rani’s son in-law break his leg. Would the Rani throw him out and bring a new son in-law? Or would she arrange for his treatment?” Thus, Ramakrishna gave his novel reply. This greatly pleased the Rani. Knowing that Ramakrishna was good at modelling images, Mathurnath gave him the work of repairing the image. The repaired image was then installed back in the temple and Ramakrishna was appointed as the priest of the Radhakanta temple.
Seeing his brother settling down to a respectable position in the temple eased the mind of Ramkumar. He had no more worries about his brother. However, Ramkumar, being a very practical man, wanted to equip his brother with all knowledge. He taught Ramakrishna the methods of worshiping the Divine Mother. Soon, Ramakrishna took initiation in the Sakti mantra from a guru. Upon receiving the Sakti mantra, Ramakrishna started worshiping the Divine Mother with more fervour.
About a year later, in 1856, Ramkumar passed away. Ramakrishna took over as a priest of the Bhavatarini temple.