Sri Sarada Devi(1853–1920)is known as the Holy Mother among the devotees and admirers and was the spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who is worshiped as an God incarnate all over the world. Sri Ramakrishna revealed her as an incarnation of Goddess Sarasvati who came to remove ignorance of the suffering humanity.
Years passed. Sri Ramakrishna was away at
Dakshineswar performing austerities and experiencing the bliss of
God-consciousness. Did he remember the girl whom he had wedded as an infant of
five? Probably not. For when one was not aware of one's own body, how could one
remember one's worldly relationships?
Meanwhile little Sarada had grown up into a
young woman. She was now eighteen, fully mature in body and in mind. Sweet
memories of her husband were, no doubt, lingering in her mind. When she was
thirteen she had spent a month and a half with him at Kamarpukur. A few months
after, when she was fourteen, she could again live for about seven months in
his company during his visit to his village home in 1867. She had found him
very tender and kind at that time. He was, no doubt, above the ordinary run of
men in his love of God and purity of mind, but in other respects she had found
him perfectly normal and human. She had noticed an utter selflessness in the
care and cordiality he had bestowed on her then, and her mind had been much
impressed by the instructions he had given her about God and devotional life
and about the way of discharging one's duties and responsibilities in the
world. To the Hindu wife, who is taught to look upon her husband as a veritable
God, as her sole refuge here and hereafter, there is nothing more gratifying than
the consciousness of having secured his respect and attention. To the Holy
Mother, therefore, this occasion of her first real contact with her husband was
an unforgettable experience. Recalling the inner feelings she experienced in
those days, she used to tell her women disciples, 'I then felt as if a pitcher
of bliss was kept in my heart. It was a constant experience with me then. It is
very difficult to convey an idea of this experience to others.'
the lighter incidents of her life during her stay at Kamarpukur on this
occasion, the Holy Mother would say; 'When I was still quite young, the Master
once came to Kamarpukur with stomach trouble. During the early hours of the
morning he would wake up from sleep and tell us about the dishes I should
prepare for his midday meal. I would follow his directions. One day I found
that I had not a particular spice with which he wanted the vegetables
flavoured. My sister-in-law (Sri Ramakrishna's elder brother's wife) asked me
to cook without that spice. The Master heard those words and said, "How is
it? If you have not the spice, get it from the market. It is not proper to cook
the curry without the spices necessary for it. I sacrificed the rich dishes of
Dakshineswar temple and came here for the flavour of that spice, and you want
to deprive me of that! That won't do." My sister-in-law felt ashamed and
sent for the spice.' 'The Brahmani (ie Yogesvari, the Sannyasini who instructed
Sri Ramakrishna in Tantric practices) was then with us. The Master addressed
her as mother, and I therefore looked upon her as my mother-in-law. I was
rather afraid of her. She was very fond of red-pepper. She used to cook her own
dishes- all hot stuff. Often she offered me these preparations. I would
silently eat them and wipe out the tears from my eyes. When she asked me how I
liked them, I said in fear, "Very nice!" My sister-in-law, however,
would remark, "Oh! they are very hot." I noticed that the Brahmani
was displeased at such remarks. She would say, "Why do you say so? My
'daughter' approves of these dishes. Nothing can please you. I will not give
you my curries any more. " ' And the Holy Mother would laugh as she
narrated these incidents. It was during this period that the Brahmani picked up
a quarrel with Hriday and left the Master's company.]
Several years had now passed since that
brief spell of bliss. The contact with her divine husband had enriched her
consciousness with a sense of peace and introspectiveness, with a spirit of
unselfish service and a feeling of unruffled satisfaction in all conditions of
life. But the young wife in her could not help feeling an urge to be by his
side and be of service to him. At the same time the voice of another sentiment
seemed to whisper to her, as if to silence this impatience. It seemed to say:
'He who was so very kind to you at the very first meeting will never forget
you. In good time, he will, of his own accord, call you to his side. Wait in
patience, for that blessed occasion.'
Thus silencing her impatience and giving no
expression of any kind to her innermost longings, she kept herself busily
engaged day and night in the various duties of her father's household. And she
would have waited indefinitely in patience and submissiveness, had it not been
for the very unpleasant shock that village gossip often gave her mind.
Neighbours whispered that her husband had gone mad, and that he was going about
naked, shouting the name of Hari. Not only that. As she expressed it to her
disciples in later times, 'In my early days at Jayrambati I was always busy
with some work or other, and would never visit my neighbours; for people would
blurt out at the very sight of me, "Dear me, Syama's daughter has been.
married to a lunatic!" I avoided meeting anybody in order to escape such
At first she was tempted to ignore this kind
of talk as idle gossip. But at the same time her mind was not free from anxious
questionings. What should she do if the worst were true? Had he really changed
from the pure, pious and loving soul that she found him to be some four years
back? In that case, would it be proper for her to be staying at her father's
house? Was it not her duty then to be by his side and be of service to him?
Days were spent in anxious thoughts of this kind, quite unknown even to her
nearest kith and kin. Finally, she came to the conclusion that under the
circumstances, it was better for her to go once to Dakshineswar and see things
for herself. She could then decide as to where her duty lay.
Very soon an opportunity presented itself.
Some women distantly related to her were going to Calcutta to have a bath in
the Ganges on the auspicious occasion of Sri Chaitanya's birth anniversary. She
told them that she too would accompany them for that purpose. They communicated
the information to her father Ramachandra. Ramachandra was not slow in
understanding his daughter's real object in visiting Calcutta. So he offered to
escort her himself.
I was not able to visit
the Holy Mother for some days on account of the pressure of my school duties.
No sooner had I saluted her today than she began to show her love for me in
countless ways. Bhudev was reading the Mahabharata. He was a mere boy, and
therefore could not read fluently. The Mother had her other duties also to
attend to. It was almost evening. She said to Bhudev, pointing to me,
"Give her the book. She will read it quite easily. The reading cannot be
stopped without finishing this chapter." It was her order; so I began to
read the Mahabharata. Never before had I read a book in her presence. At first
I felt a sort of shyness, but somehow I finished the chapter. The Mother saluted
the book with folded hands. We went to the shrine to witness the evening
worship. The Mother took her wonted seat and soon became absorbed in
The Mother completed her Japa, uttering the
name of God in a loud voice, and bowed down before the image of Sri
Ramakrishna. The Prasada was then distributed to all. After this the
conversation drifted to our daily duties. The Mother, referring to her own busy
days at Jayrambati, said: "Always be engaged in some work or other. It is
conducive to the health of both the body and the mind. In my early days at
Jayrambati I was always busy with some work or other and would never visit my
neighbours; for, people would blurt out at the very sight of me 'Dear me,
Syama's daughter has been married to a lunatic!' I avoided meeting anybody in
order to escape such criticism."
Just in the open square in front of the Holy
Mother's house, there lived some people belonging to some parts of India
outside Bengal. They earned their livelihood by hard manual labour. One of them
had a mistress. They lived together. Once the mistress was seriously ill.
Referring to her illness the Holy Mother said, "He nursed her with such
great devotion! I have never before seen anything like it. He has shown a real
spirit of service." She began to speak highly of the devotion of this man.
The idea of a mistress would certainly have
made us turn up our noses in disgust. Ah, how often we fail to recognize
goodness when veiled in an evil garb!
A poor up-country woman from the house
across the street, came to the Holy Mother, carrying a sick child in her arms.
She solicited her blessings. The Mother was gracious to that child. She said
that the child would soon recover, and blessed it. Two big pomegranates and
some grapes had been offered in the shrine. She handed over all these fruits to
the poor woman, saying, "Give these to your sick child." The woman
was overjoyed at this generosity of the Mother and repeatedly bowed down before
11th February, 1912
The moment I met the Holy Mother today and
sat down after saluting her, she began to say with great sorrow, "Alas!
Girish Babu is dead. Today is the fourth day. His relatives came here to invite
me to go to their house. Is it possible for me to go there any more? What
devotion for, and faith in, Sri Ramakrishna Girish had! Have you heard this
incident? He begged Sri Ramakrishna to be born as his son. Sri Ramakrishna said
in reply, 'Why should I care to be born as your son!' But who knows, my child,
the inscrutable ways of the Lord! A son was born to Girish some time after the
passing away of Sri Ramakrishna. A strange boy, indeed! Even when he was four
years old, he would not exchange a word with anybody. People could know his
mind only from his gestures. His parents looked upon him as Sri Ramakrishna himself.
They kept apart everything belonging to him-his dress, plate, cup, glass, etc.
Nobody else would use those things....
"One day the boy became extremely
restive to see me. My picture was in the upper floor of the house. He dragged
the whole household there, and uttering a cry, pointed out the picture to them.
At first they did not understand him. Then they brought him to me. Though he
was but a little child of four, he prostrated himself before me. Then he went
to the first floor and began to pull his father by his cloth. He wanted that
his father also should see me. Girish wept bitterly and said, 'I cannot, my
darling, see the Holy Mother. I am a great sinner!' But the boy was inexorable.
So Girish had to yield. He took the boy in his arm. With his whole body
trembling and tears trickling down his cheeks, he came up and prostrated on the
ground before me. He said, 'Mother, this boy has made me see your holy feet!'
But the boy passed away when he was four years old.
"Once Girish and his wife were taking
the air on the roof of their house. I had been staying then at the house of
Balaram. The houses were near each other. I also went to the roof that day. I
did not notice that Girish could see me from the roof of his house. His wife
said to him, 'Look there, the Holy Mother is pacing on the roof of the house.'
Girish at once turned his back on me and said to his wife, 'No, no, I cannot
thus stealthily look at the Holy Mother. My eyes are vicious!' He at once came
down from the roof. I heard this from his wife."
11. "People complain about their griefs and sorrows and how they pray to God but find no relief from pain. But grief itself is a gift from God. It is the symbol of His compassion. ... Tell me, who is there in the world who has not had to bear sorrow? Vrinda once said to Krishna, 'Who said you are merciful? As Rama you filled Sita's life with sorrow; as Krishna you fill Radha's life with sorrow. In Kamsa's prison your parents weep for you night and day. Yet we call upon you, because he who takes your Name has no fear of death.'
12. "The Mother of the universe is theMother of all. From Her have come out both good and evil."
13. Disciple: "Where does this initiative for good and evil originate? You may say from our previous life; but where is the source of it all?"
Mother: "Even a blade of grass cannot stir without the will of God, my son. When a creature falls on good times, his thoughts turn to prayer; when he falls on bad times, all is evil. It is all according to God's will. It is God alone who expresses His will through the actions of man. What powers did Naren (Swami Vivekananda) have by himself? It was because God acted through him that he achieved what he did. The Lord knows what He is about to perform. But should a man surrender himself totally at His feet, He will do everything for him. One must bear with everything, because it is all due to cause and effect, according to one's Karma. AndKarma counteracts the effects of one's previous Karma….If you do a good act, it cancels the effects of your evil deeds. If one prays, takes the Name of God and thinks of Him, the effects of evil are cancelled."
14. Disciple: "If God is the father and mother of all, then why does He make us commit sin?"
Mother: "No doubt, God alone has become all these objects, animate and inanimate, but in the relative world all beings act and suffer according to their past Karma and innate tendencies. The sun is one, no doubt, but his manifestation differs according to objects and places. "
Disciple: "If everything happens according to the will of God, then why does He not annul the law of Karma ?"
Mother: "Yes, if He wills, He can shorten the period of evolution. But we do not know His will."
15. "Let me tell you one thing. There is great complexity in this creation. The Master does one thing through one man and another thing through another person. Oh, it is so inscrutable!"
While little Sarada was growing up at Jayrambati assisting her mother in her domestic duties, the great soul. whose partner in life she was to become, was passing through a remarkable period of spiritual development in another part of the country. Born in 1836 as the third son of Khudiram Chatterji of Kamarpukur in the district of Hoogly, Sri Ramakrishna had become the priest of Kali at the temple of Dakshineswar in the year 1855. From his very boyhood he was highly devotional and mystical in temperament. Subsequent to his appointment as priest, his duties in the temple kindled his devotion until it became an irresistible passion for the realization of the Divine. He lost interest in worldly life, and began to spend all his time in a state of absorption and in the practice of austerities. In course of time it became impossible for him even to attend to his duties in the temple, and in the end he had to be relieved from his priestly work, so that he might be left entirely to the pursuit of his divine quest. And he spent his time in constant prayer and contemplation, forgetting even food and sleep and almost unaware of the passing of day and night.
Naturally, people who knew not what longing for God was, interpreted the strange behaviour of Sri Ramakrishna as evidence of madness. This distorted information gradually reached the ears of his mother Chandra and his brother Rameswar in their village home at Kamarpukur. So in the year 1858 they had him brought to the village, but they were grieved to find that he had developed an indifference to the world, a mood of apathy for external happenings, and a restless hankering for some unseen reality, which expressed itself occasionally in piteous cries of 'Mother! Mother!' The neighbours began to whisper that he was possessed by an alien spirit. So methods of exorcism were tried, but the spirits invoked denied that he had any physical or mental malady. Probably Sri Ramakrishna had some vivid experiences of the Divine during this period, and as a consequence his relatives soon noticed an abatement of his disquieting symptoms. Even without any remedy, occult or medical, he became quieter and his boyish gaiety and old habit of neighbourliness returned. But his indifference to worldly life and his strange habits, such as meditation in the solitude of the cremation ground, persisted. As these habits were natural with him from boyhood, they were not interpreted as being of any serious consequence.
This, no doubt, brought a sense of relief to Chandra and Rameswar, but they did not feel secure until something was done to render the recovery permanent. After consultations, they decided upon a finalnd drastic remedy. They would arrange for Sri Ramakrishna's marriage. [Note: The pre-puberty marriage prevalent among the Hindus was a mere betrothal but religiously and legally valid. Law, however, has now abolished these practices and the age of marriage for girls has legally been raised to sixteen. For it was thought that a loving wife and the responsibility of a family would be the best means to turn his mind to worldly life and its prospects.]
So Sri Ramakrishna's mother and brother set out at once to find out a suitable bride, but this was by no means an easy task. Their family was poor, and the amounts demanded as bridal money by most of the parents with marriageable girls were much beyond the means of Rarneswar Chatterji. They had begun this matrimonial quest without Sri Ramakrishna's knowledge; for they expected rebellious protests from him if he were informed. But strange to say, when the news reached his ears in course of time, he expressed ready acquiescence. And what was more, on seeing his mother and brother sad at the frustration of all their efforts to find a, suitable bride, he said to them one day in an inspired mood, 'Vain is your search in this place and that. Go to Jayrambati and there, in the house of Ramachandra Mukherji, you will find her who is marked out for me.' [Note: There is another tradition regarding the marriage. Once, when the Holy Mother was only two years old, she was taken by her mother to Sihor to witness a temple festivat Sri Ramakrishna also was present there. In social gatherings, village women sometimes play with little girls, asking them which of the assembled boys they would like to marry. On this occasion, when they put this question to little Sarada, it seems she pointed to Sri Ramakrishna.]
Though little relying on it, they took up the suggestion and made enquiries at Ramachandra's house. Ramachandra was found willing to give his daughter Sarada in marriage, but the bridegroom's party at first felt some hesitation, as the girl was only a little child of five, and Sri Ramakrishna was past twenty-three then. Any way, since no better match could be arranged, they had to accept the offer, and before long the marriage of little Sarada with Sri Ramakrishna took place in May, 1859 [Note: About the time of her marriage, the Holy Mother used to say, 'I was married at the time when dates ripen. I do not remember the exact month. Within ten days of my marriage, when I went to Kamarpukur, I plucked date fruits there. Dharma Das Laha (a neighbour and the landlord of Kamarpukur) came, and on seeing me, asked, 'Is this the newly married girl?' For I was so small that the father of Surju took me to Kamarpukur in his arms.'] at the bride's paternal house in Jayrambati. The bride was then brought to Kamarpukur, four miles to the west of Jayrambati. Rameswar Chatterji paid a bridal money of Rs.300 to Ramachandra on the occasion.
The marriage was perforce simple, as the family resources of both the parties did not admit of any elaboration of ceremonials or gifts. Chandra Devi, however, had borrowed a number of jewels from her rich neighbours, the Lahas, so that the bride might not be without some ornaments at the time of marriage rites. Now after the bride's coming to Kamarpukur, it was time to return the jewels to their owners. Chandra Devi was in a delicate situation. How could she tear way the jewels from the person of her little daughter-in-law who had already found a warm corner in her heart? Sri Ramakrishna, however, understood her difficulty and came to her rescue. While the little girl was sleeping, he cleverly removed all the jewels and sent them to the Laha family. When she woke up, she no doubt made enquiries of the missing jewels, perhaps tearfully; for she loved those bright and sparkling ornaments. And poor Chandra Devi could do no more than clasp her in a warm embrace and console her with the promise that her son would make her much better jewels afterwards.[Note: 6 As a matter of fact Sri Ramakrishna had ornaments made for the Holy Mother in later days, and she used to wear some of them till the end. See chap. 8.]. To add to the tragedy of the situation, the incident came to the notice of an uncle of the girl who was then present in the house. He was very much enraged at this, and took the girl back to her paternal home that very day. But Sri Ramakrishna made light of the affair, saying that whatever they might think about the incident, they could not nullify the marriage!.
Sri Ramakrishna stayed in his village for about one year and seven months after his marriage. During this period, in December, 1860, his wife attained her seventh year. According to the family custom he went on this occasion to spend a few days at his father-in-law's house.[Note: Referring to this visit of the Master, the Holy Mother used to say: 'The Master came to Jayrambati when I was seven years old. You know there is the custom called "going back to the father-in-law's house in couple." That time he said to me, "If anyone asks you at what age you were married, tell him it was at five and not at seven." He said this, thinking that, being a mere child of five at the time of marriage, she might not remember that occasion and confuse this second ceremony with the marriage.']. In later days the Holy Mother had a hazy remembrance of this visit. She remembered how, of her own accord, she touched her husband's feet in salutation and fanned him. Everyone present laughed on seeing this. Afterwards Hriday, the Master's nephew, who accompanied him on this occasion, sought her and worshipped her [Note: 8 According to scriptures that inculcate Mother-worship, a virgin of tender age may be looked upon as a symbol of the Divine Mother, and worship may be offered to her in that spirit. It is generally done as an item in certain forms of elaborate ceremonial worship but sometimes independently also.] with lotus flowers to her great embarrassment.
Shortly after, Sri Ramakrishna returned to Kamarpukur with his wife, and after spending some days there returned to Calcutta. The Holy Mother also returned to her parental home.