Ramakrishna Math, Thrissur
Ramakrishna Math, Thrissur
(A Branch Centre of Ramakrishna Math, Belur Math)
0

Brief History

of

Sri Ramakrishna Math, Puranattukara, Thrissur

Introduction

One day Swami Vivekananda told his brother disciple Swami Yogananda: “Sri Ramakrishna is far greater than his disciples understand him to be….One gracious glance of his eyes can create a hundred thousand Vivekanandas at this instant! But if this time he chooses, instead, to work through me, making me his instrument, I can only bow to his will."

 

Yes, while a sage like Swami Vivekananda has no way but subject himself to the will of Iswara or the Incarnation of God, what alternative do we have other than obeying His command? Mother knows what food best suits to her children. Likewise, God knows what advice His children need from time to time. It is an immensely great news for the world that the all-merciful God has incarnated and showed the ‘way of the day’ to his children through His Human Life and teachings to restore Dharma (righteousness).

 

A couple of days before the Sri Ramakrishna’s passing away, when Naren (later Swami Vivekananda) and a few others were standing by their master’s bed at night, a curious thought flashed across Naren's mind: "The Master has said many a time that he is an Incarnation of God. If he now says in the midst of the throes of death, in this terrible moment of human anguish and physical pain, 'I am God Incarnate', then I will believe." No sooner had Naren thought this than the Master turned towards him and, summoning all his energy, said, "O my Naren, are you not yet convinced? He who was Rama, He who was Krishna, He Himself is now Ramakrishna in this body: not in your Vedantic sense [according to which each soul is potentially divine], but actually so."

 

After completing his divine earthly mission, and initiating the spreading of his purifying message all over the world by his illustrious disciples that in turn set in motion the Ramakrishna Movement which later turned out to be the twin organizations, – Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission - the greatest among the Incarnations returned to his heavenly abode. The command of the Age has come. Hence all those who want to acquire godly qualities will have to imbibe his life and message in order to transcend the human world.

 

Sri Ramakrishna could produce any number of Vivekanandas by His mere glance. But, like Swami Vivekananda, one was more than enough. "Naren will pass away only of his own will. The moment he realizes who he is, he will refuse to stay a moment longer in the body. The time will come when he will shake the world to its foundations through the strength of his intellectual and spiritual powers,” Sri Ramakrishna once said to the other disciples.

 

Truly, Swami Vivekananda has shaken the world ‘with his intellectual and spiritual powers’. Awakening the world to the invaluable and eternal truth with the inspiration he received from his Master, Swami Vivekananda also has returned to his Abode of Rishis. And now, drawing ever-fresh inspiration from these great prophets of mankind, thousands world over have taken up their flag of everlasting peace and eternal life and embarked upon fulfilling their mission of re-establishing Dharma.

 

It was not Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda alone that pioneered this glorious mission. The Goddess of the Universe – the spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi whom Ramakrishna left in the world to show to mankind the Motherhood of God - also was guiding force in it. In 1894, Swami Vivekananda writes thus to one of his brother disciples: “You have not yet understood the wonderful significance of Mother's (Sarada Devi’s) life -- none of you. But gradually you will know. Without Shakti (Power) there is no regeneration for the world. Why is it that our country is the weakest and the most backward of all countries?-- because Shakti is held in dishonour there. Mother has been born to revive that wonderful Shakti in India; and making her the nucleus, once more will Gargis and Maitreyis be born into the world. . . . To me, Mother's grace is a hundred thousand times more valuable than Father's. ….Please pardon me. I am a little bigoted there, as regards Mother. If but Mother orders, her demons can work anything. Brother, before proceeding to America I wrote to Mother to bless me. Her blessings came, and at one bound I cleared the ocean.”

 

After the Mahasamadhi of Sri Ramakrishna, dissemination of his message to the world continued variously. However, the mission got much impetus with the establishing of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. Although a group of sannyasins took shape even before the Mahasamadhi of Sri Ramakrishna, it turned out to be an organizational set up with the establishment of Ramakrishna Math at Baranagore near Kolkata. Ramakrishna Mission came into existence on 1st May, 1897. In 1898, Belur Math became the headquarters of Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission with the consecration of the mortal remains of Sri Ramakrishna in a shrine there.

Message of Ramakrishna in South India

Message of Ramakrishna in South India

Swami Vivekananda assigned his brother-disciple Swami Ramakrishnananda with the task of familiarizing South India with the holy life and message of Sri Ramakrishna. Arriving at Madras in 1897, Swami Ramakrishnananda tirelessly worked at places like Bangalore, Mysore, Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha, Kollam and Kochi to bring to light the life-giving message of his master. A branch of Ramakrishna Math was started at Madras in 1909 and Swami Ramakrishnananda became its head. Another key figure who was to spearhead Ramakrishna Movement in South India was Swami Nirmalananda who later became head of its Bangalore centre. It was Swami Nirmalananda who made every effort to spread the message in Kerala. He started a centre at Harippad, and gradually Ramakrishna Movement had branches at Tiruvalla, Alappuzha, Pala, Koyilandy, Thiruvananthapuram in 1924, and eventually at Thrissur, Kalady and Kozhikode.

Swami Vivekananda in Thrissur

As part of his countrywide tour, Swami Vivekananda arrived at Mysore and Mysore Maharaja accorded him great reverence and royal treatment. After his sojourn at Mysore and bidding Mysore Maharaja adieu, Swami Vivekananda left for Kerala. He refused to accept any gift from the Maharaja except a train ticket that would take him to Thrissur in Kerala. It might have been his meeting with Dr. Palpu at Bangalore that prompted him to give up his earlier plan to leave for Kanyakumari via Rameswaram.

 The nearest railway station for Thrissur was Shoranur; Swamiji alighted at Shoranur and travelled the twenty-one miles to Thrissur by bullock-cart. It is said that when the bullock-cart passed in front of the house of one D. A. Subramanya Iyer, an officer in the Education Department of Cochin State, Swamiji got down and asked Shri Iyer, who was standing at the door, whether there was any suitable place for bathing. Impressed by the Swami's personality, this gentleman provided him with facilities for a bath and then entertained him as a guest in an annexe to his house. Afterwards, Subramanya Iyer took him to the District Hospital run by the Government, where a Dr. De Souza treated him for sore throat.

At Thrissur the Swami stayed only a few days. He next went to Kodungallur, a place famous as a seat of learning and for its Kali temple. At Kodungallur, people saw him sitting, early one morning, under a banyan tree near the Kali temple. The Swami tried to enter the temple to offer worship to the deity; but the temple guards prevented him. 
Without getting annoyed, he returned to the tree after bowing down to the Devi from outside. 

His ochre robes and brilliant eyes attracted the attention of a young man, who approached him with the intention of having some fun; but the young man came away disappointed, when he found that the Swami was not as he had thought him to be.

  

Just then two princes of the Kodungallur palace - Kochunni Thampuran and Bhattan Thampuran - came to the temple, and the young man just mentioned brought them to the Swami sitting under the banyan tree. The two princes were well versed in the scriptures. They could see from the Swami's features that he was not an ordinary person. When they approached him, he asked them why he was not allowed to enter the temple. They replied that it was difficult to know the caste of people, especially of those who came from outside Kerala, and therefore there was this custom. They had an argument in Sanskrit over the issue. The Swami, however, did not want to interfere with their local tradition, even though the princes were later prepared to allow a person of his calibre to enter the temple. They argued with the Swami for two days, and were defeated. On the third day they approached the Swami with the desire to have his holy company. When they reached the place where he was, they found him meditating. They waited until he had finished. The glowing, calm appearance of the Swami reminded them of what the scriptures say about the man of meditation. After the Swami had come back to normal consciousness, he conversed with the princes in Sanskrit. When they took their leave, they made obeisance at his feet.

  

Then some of the learned women of the royal family came to meet the Swami and spoke with him in chaste Sanskrit. The Swami was surprised to find women speaking Sanskrit so fluently. In no other part of India had he come across this. No doubt he was delighted to do so now.

  

On the fourth day the princes again went to the temple; but they were disappointed when they did not find the Swami under the banyan tree. He had left the town and gone towards Cochin. Some months later, when they saw the picture of Swami Vivekananda in the papers and read about his success in the Parliament of Religions at Chicago, they recognized him to be the monk with whom they had spoken under the banyan tree. Only then did they come to know his name.

Visit of Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi visited the Math on 16th January 1934 as part of his welfare activities launched for Harijans. He was housed at ‘Ananda Kutiram’, a building at the school. The next day he laid foundation stone for the new temple of the Math and Gurukulam. The Math President gifted him a coin and an Olakkuta (umbrella made of coconut palm leaves). Gandhiji visited important places of activity at the Math, including the Gurukulam, Weaving Centre, Kitchen, Honey-Making etc. Kelappan and Thakar were accompanying him. The students of Gurukulam gifted him a money kit and a khaddar cloth embroidered with his own photo. The ‘Ananda Kutiram’ where Gandhiji stayed was renovated with the help of school’s Alumni Association during the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations in 2002 and was renamed ‘Gandhi Smriti’. Many other leaders like Dr. Rajendra Prasad have paid visit to the Math at various times.

Ramakrishna Movement in Thrissur

It is no small fortune to be the instrument in spreading the message of an Avatara, an Incarnation of God. This uncommon prospect is as enlightening to the transmitter as to the recipient because grace of God prompts both. Swami Vivekananda once wrote from America to a brother-disciple : “Whoever, at this great spiritual juncture, will stand up with a courageous heart and go on spreading from door to door, from village to village, his (Sri Ramakrishna’s) message, is alone my brother, and a son of his.” It was that rare privilege of disseminating the message in Kerala’s cultural capital that fell to the lot of Krishna Menon who later became Swami Tyagisananda.

    

In 1915, Sri Appan Thampuran, a senior member of the Royal Family of Kochi, led an enthusiastic group of people in forming Vivekodayam Samajam, a small social outfit centered at Thrissur to revive the Hindu society. In its inaugural year, the Samajam celebrated the 80th birthday of Sri Ramakrishna and its commemorating the subsequent birthday anniversary of Sri Ramakrishna was grander with public feeding and colourful procession in Thrissur town. The celebration was marked by the royal participation of Ramavarma Thampuran, the 9th prince of Kochi.

The Samajam soon found an able helping hand in Sri Krishna Menon, one of its member and a lawyer by profession, and entrusted him with the responsibility of managing its Vivekodayam High School as its headmaster. Krishna Menon was glad to take up the new assignment, leaving the legal occupation which clashed with his standard of Truth acquired partly by his acquaintance with Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature.


In 1924, an unprecedented flood wrecked havoc in Thrissur. The headquarters of Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission at Belur launched relief operations at the affected areas and Krishna Menon took part in the welfare service wholeheartedly.

 

Krishna Menon was inspired by the ‘man-making’ and wholesome teachings of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda and the Ramakrishna Movement’s dictum of ‘Sivajnane Jeevaseva’ (Serving Man as God). As he was motivated by a senior swami of the Ramakrishna Order to alleviate sufferings among the impoverished Harijans in Thrissur region, Krishna Menon ventured into the field of uplifting the poor and downtrodden. To start his welfare activity, he chose Puranattukara, a place inhabited mostly by Harijans.

How do we get started?

Beginning of Sri Ramakrishna Math at Thrissur

In 1927, Krishna Menon founded the Sri Ramakrishna Gurukulam at Puranattukara with two little girls belonged to the Vettuva community among the Harijans. Harijan boys followed suit and in course of time boys from other communities including Naboodiri also joined the Gurukulam. Thus a Gurukula Vidyamandiram for boys and Matru Mandiram for girls were formally inaugurated on 1st June, 1927 at Puranattukara. The plot where the Gurukulam situated was duly purchased in 1930.

 

It was then in 1929 that the Ramakrishna Order took over these welfare activities along with the land. The new branch was addressed as Sri Ramakrishna Math, Puranattukara, Vilangan, Thrissur. Soon after,Krishna Menon was initiated into the vows of Brahmacharya and named Brahmachari Akhandachaitanya. Later in 1932, he was initiated into Sannyasa and named Tyagisananda.

Apparently we had reached a great height in the atmosphere, for the sky was a dead black, and the stars had ceased to twinkle. By the same illusion which lifts the horizon of the sea to the level of the spectator on a hillside, the sable cloud beneath was dished out, and the car seemed to float in the middle of an immense dark sphere, whose upper half was strewn with silver.

Important Activities of the Math

Important Activities of the Math

Training in Sanskrit and Weaving, Stone Quarry Society, Honey-Making Unit etc. were the subsidiary activities of the new Math. In addition to these, the Math began spiritual classes (Antaryogam) for aspirants and Srimad Swami Ranganathananda became instrumental in advancing similar activities at the Math.

 

The Gurukula Vidya Mandiram which started with first and second classes has now become a higher secondary school with more than 2000 students. An alumni association which has been active in the 86-year-old school has recently been revivified and given fresh impetus. Gurukulam hostel has now about 40 inmates belonging to classes from 5 to 10. The Math has built houses for hundreds of poor families at different times and still continues to contribute to underprivileged sections of society and destitute. Agriculture was another key area of activity which supplied with necessary farm products for the inmates.

 

Magnificent Temple

Temple

All activities of the Math have been conducted as an offering to Sri Ramakrishna and it was in 1966 that a magnificent temple of Sri Ramakrishna was constructed at the Math. Built during the 100th birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda, the temple with a cement statue of Sri Ramakrishna was inaugurated by Srimad Swami Vireswaranandaji Maharaj, the then President of Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission. The cement statue was later replaced by a marble one contributed by Srimad Swami Ranganathanandaji Maharaj, the then President of Ramakrishna Order. The marble statue was consecrated by Srimad Swami Gahananandaji Maharaj, the then Vice-President.

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