Sri Ramakrishna Math, Puranattukara, Thrissur
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.
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.