A Short History of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, Bhubaneswar
Before establishment of Bhubaneswar as the new capital of Odisha, it was a tiny place of pilgrimage abounded with forest all around and hundreds of ancient temples, big and small, of exquisitive architecture. The environment of the place was sylvan and serene. This was an ideal place of retreat for the seekers of peace and truth. Swami Brahmanandaji (Raja Maharaj), the first president of Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission, Belur Math was naturally attracted by the captivating spiritual ambience of the place to establish a center of Ramakrishna Math. According to Brahmanandaji, Bhubaneswar is Gupta Kasi. He used to say there is an underlying current of spirituality here. Here, the mind gets easily settled. One single japa here is worth five hundred elsewhere.
Raja Maharajs idea took shape in the year (1917-1918) when construction of Ramakrishna Math center at Bhubaneswar began and the work was entrusted to Swami Shankaranandaji ( Amulya Maharaj). Bhubaneswar is the substance of my Life. So many experience of monastic life have been gained there, thus spoke Swami Shankaranandaji who later became the seventh President of Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission. This statement sums up the importance of the Ramakrishna Math situated at Vivekananda Marg, Bhubaneswar.
When one comes down the Mausima Temple Road and enters the Vivekananda Marg a distinct change in the atmosphere can be palpably felt. The sight of huge red colored laterite boundary wall and the imposing gateway of the Math transports one to the somber, calm and serene realm of the ethereal world. This is a place where spirituality is never at a premium. Swami Shankaranandaji could know this because he was instrumental in selecting the site and constructing the Math building.
In the year 1908, Swami Shankaranandaji was sent to Chilka with Swami Sadananada for relief work. He struggled so hard to provide succor to the hapless drought-victims that he suffered from severe sunstroke and was unconscious for six days. His selfless work here and his rapport with the locals laid the foundation for the deep regard he had for Odisha and its devoted people. This he maintained till his last. In his own words, Odisha is in my blood. I have spent most of my Sadhu Life in these parts. How many times have I come here with Raja Maharaj! There was never a more poverty-stricken state in India than Odisha. Who could have foreseen that the same Odisha would develop so much in every sphere? The Bhubaneswar Math was favorite of Raja Maharaj and I too love it with all my heart.
Regarding his pioneering work for the Bhubaneswar Math he said, In the years 1917- 1918, when Bhubaneswar Math was being constructed, the responsibility was given to me by Raja Maharaj. I used to stay in a small rented house at Kedar Gouri and cook my own food. I would finish my meal in the morning by 8.00 a.m. and straightway go to the construction site. At that time it was difficult to get a good mason. We had to manage with the local lads. Temporary huts were erected for the work within the compound. What trials and tribulations I had to face while constructing the Math. To get good quality stones, I had to scour the hilly ranges of Odisha. I used to dress the stones with a hammer and chisel and do other menial jobs so that the workers would learn. I used to be friendly with the foresters. It only cost us five to six thousand rupees to construct this palace like structure. The majestic gate of the Math is situated right by the side of the highway. Choosing the site, the layout of the building collecting funds, as well as the decor of the Math everything was entrusted to me by Raja Maharaj. Twice Raja Maharaj had come down from Belur Math and stayed at Sharat Kutir to supervise the work. He was so pleased with my dedicated service that he never uttered a word. The Bhubaneswar Math was finally consecrated on 31st October 1919 by Raja Maharaj
To further appreciate the efforts of Amulya Maharaj one has to consider the environs with which he had to operate, Bhubaneswar was a very small town at that time. The site of the present Math building was the outer boundary of the town. Beyond the Math and across the road was the railway line that separated the town from the dense forest which surrounded it. Wild animals like tigers, leopards and bears were very common; not to speak of poisonous snakes and scorpions.
We also know from the memoirs of Swami Shankarananda that the core structure consisted of four rooms encompassing one hall and two Verandahs on either side. The construction of the temple upstairs, was taken up during the time of Raja Maharaj but was consecrated by Swami Shivanandaji Maharaj ( Mahapurush Maharaj) in the year 1923. The present charitable dispensary had a humble beginning as a Charitable Homeopathic dispensary at the time of construction of the Math by Revered Raja Maharaj. This was being managed by the monastic members at that time. The kitchen, store room, the single story structure near the well as well as the rooms upstairs were built later. The cherished desire of Raja Maharaj to perform Basanti Puja here was fulfilled on 24th March 1923 with elaborate arrangements made by Swami Nirvananandaji Maharaj ( Surya Maharaj) when a number of Sadhus from Belur Math and devotees from here and outside participated.
Swami Shankaranandji was all praise for multi- purposeBhagaban Maharaj. He was the head mason at the time of construction of the Math. He knew wood-work as well. He completed the total plastering work. At that time cement was not in use and the plastering had to be done with lime and sand. But such was the dexterity of Bhagaban (as he was known then) that the plaster and floorings stood out for many years, the salary of Bahagaban for his dedicated work was small and slowly the worker turned into a Bhakta. Raja Maharaj blessed him with initiation. Later on, he was given Sannyasa and the monastic name was Swami Nityasiddhananda. Bhagaban Maharaj served the Bhubaneswar Math the rest of his life and passed away in the year 1948.
Swami Shankaranandaji Maharaj became President of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission in the year 1951. He used to visit this Math very often after becoming president. The spiritual atmosphere of the Math, its garden and the trees so lovingly chosen and planted by Raja Maharaj played upon emotions of Swami Shankarananda. It was usual sight to see him strolling in front verandah and in the garden. Swami Nirvananandaji was the head of this Math for about 15 years from 1924 to 1939. Both the senior monks contributed a lot to the spiritual development of the Math. A thatched cottage was constructed by Surya Maharaj at a corner of the Math for spiritual practice.
The Primary School established here in the year 1933 was upgraded to a M.E. School in the year 1963 during the celebration of the birth centenary of Swami Vivekananda. A library building with the reading room was also established during that time. During the 150th Birth Anniversary celebration of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, Vivekananda high school was inaugurated. For construction of buildings for the M.E School, High School and the library funds were collected by the sincere efforts of the then head of the centre, monastic brother and the devotees.
After establishment of Bhubaneswar as the new Capital of Odisha in the year 1948, the population of Bhubaneswar increased manifold. It had its impact on the Bhubaneswar Math and Mission too. The space in the temple was found extremely inadequate for the devotees. Therefore, extension of the temple and its complex was taken up and completed in the year 1996. In the renovated temple the marble image of Sri Sri Ramakrishna Deva was installed by the Most Revered Srimat Swami Ranganathanandaji Maharaj in 3rd May 1996. This was made possible with dedicated service of the monastic members and the devotees at large. In addition to the up gradation of the school and expansion of dispensary and library a mobile rural Health unit has been functioning since 1992. Brahmananda Chhatrabas, a students Home for tribal students has been functioning on the Mission campus since 1994. Sixty tribal students pursuing their studies in our school have been accommodated here with free board and lodging. Vivekananda Hall, a multi- purpose well furnished hall with a capacity of 600 seats has been constructed for holding meetings, spiritual retreats etc. while the students Home was inaugurated by Srimat Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, in December 1994, Srimat Swami Gahananandaji Maharaj inaugurated the Vivekananda Hall. All the above extension work and the new projects involved heavy expenditures and it was possible due to dedicated services and co-operation rendered by the devotees and well wishers of the Mission.
Memories associated with Raja Maharaj and others
Having heard the great significance of this Titha-Bhubaneswar from Holy Mother Sri Sri Sarada Devi, the willingness to build a Math arose in the mind of Swami Brahmanandaji. When he was staying in the Bunglow near Lingaraj temple in the year 1917, he remarked about the healthy climate and spiritual atmosphere of this place saying, being woke up at the dawn, I felt my body and mind fresh as it were in the days of my youth.Therefore, he took strong determination to build a Math at Bhubaneswar.
Swami Brahmanandaji sent his sevaka disciple Swami Shankaranadaji to see a land at Bhubaneswar and having chosen the land Swami Shankaranandaji brought his Guru Swami Brahmanandaji there in July 17th of the year 1917. Having seen the land Swami Brahmanandaji approved it and the land was purchased and registered on July 25th. It was purchased from Sri Krupasindhu panda, the son of Sri Dianabandhu Panda at the cost of Rs. 400/-. The area of the land was 4.817 acre. At the instruction and guidance of Raja Maharaj, Swami Shanakaranandaji finished the construction of the buildings within 2 years.
In the year 1919 during Durga puja time, Raja Maharaj got the news that the construction of the builnd has been finished and he came to Bhubanwswar along with Swami Suddhananda, Swami Ambikananda and others on 19 october 1919. The inauguration was done on 31st October 1919 with all rituals and Homa etc. Raja Maharaj installed the Photo of Sri Sri Thakur. On the very next day there was feedings to the Brahmins and to the poor.
Swami Brahmanandaji had brought many fruit and flower saplings from Lal Bag,Bangalore and planted them all in his favorite Bhubaneswar Math garden. Swami Shankaranandji had used the morden oil-engine to draw water from the well and in this way plants used to be irrigated. There a few trees seen today in the math garden which were planted by Raja Maharaj.
Raja Maharaj used to be absorbed in spiritual ecstasy at Bhubaneswar Math. One day while smoking with a hubble-bubble, he was found to be in ecstasy and one photograph has been taken of that momentous incident. He once remarked, this place is meant for yoga while Puri is the place of enjoyment. A little bit of Sadhana will give god result. This place is prone to spiritual disciplines and meditation becomes easy here.
Initiation and Sanyasa Diksha
On 12th January 1920, Swami Vivekanandajis birth day , Raja Maharaj blessed 9 candidates with Sanyasa diksha and one with Brahmacharaya diksha.
Among them, Swami Abhayanandaji( Bharat Maharaj), Swami Vireswranandaji (Prabhu Maharaj) and Swami Jagadanandaji etc. were prominent.
Holy mothers Mahasamadhi day
Swami Nirvanandaji entered in to the room of Raja Maharaj at mid night ans saw Maharaj sitting on a chair having coverd his whole body. When he asked Raja Maharaj ,if anything could be required did not get any response from Maharaj. In the morning Raja maharaj also did not come for morning walk, rather he walked in the Verandha with gave mood. Then telegram came from Swami Saradanandaji that Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi had entered into Mahasamadhi at 1.30a.m. at Mayerbadi, Udbodhan. Raja Maharaj remarked, all these days I was under the shade of a big mountain.
Shivananda Memorial cottage Shankaranandji
The queen of balangir was the disciple of Swami Shivanandaji and she built a Bunglow just adjacent to the Math. Swami Shivananda went there and initiated the worthy disciple. A marble statue of Swami Shivanandaji Maharaj was installed by her in that Bungalow. She used to worship her Guru there till the end. Till today, that statue of Swami Shivanandaji Maharaj is still worshiped there. After her demise as per her wish the Bunglow and the land was added to Ramakrishna Math.
In this spiritually charged Math, Swami Nirvananandaji would lead an ascetic and recluse life. So, he built a small cottage in one corner of the Math campus for staying there. Now this house is known as Sadhan-Kutir.