Jan 9, 2012
Even before he created Belur Math, the headquarter of the internationally famous Ramakrishna Mission, Swami Vivekananda founded a temple dedicated to Ramakrishna Paramhansa, in a centuries-old house at Howrah’s Shibpur. The house was frequented by Sarada Ma and its owner Nabagopal Ghosh was one of the closest non-monastic disciples of Sri Ramkrishna.
After Paramhansa’s death, Nabagopal Ghosh requested his ‘gurubhai’ to set up this temple in his house, to which Swamiji readily agreed. Those days, Vivekananda and 15 other monks of the newly-formed RKM, used to reside at a math (monastery) at Baranagar. It is but natural for this house, which has a large number of Swamiji’s memorabilia, to commemorate Swamiji’s 150th birth anniversary on January 12 in a special way. Swamiji returned from Chicago in 1897 and it was on February 6, 1898 that he founded the temple at Nabagopal’s house. While in Berlin, Swamiji got three porcelain etchings of his guru done and the first of these he set up as the reigning deity of this temple. Needless to say that the second one is in Belur Math, away from public view, and the third at the RKM’s Dhaka math.
At the time of founding of the temple, when monks asked Swamiji the mantra for worship, he instantly coined ‘Om Sthapakayacha Dharmasya Sarvadharma Swarupine….Avatar Barishthaya Ramakrishnay Namah’ which later became the prayer of the entire RKM order.
Swamiji later offered the silk pagdi that he wore during the Chicago address and a crystal statue of himself, gifted by Sister Nivedita and made by Lalique, the famous French crystal artifact maker, to Nabagopal and his wife, Nistarini Devi, as his “most precious” possessions.
Curiously, there was no trace of the Lalique crystal for long. Senior monks of the RKM order, who are close to the Ghosh family, often asked them to search for it. “Recently, while rummaging through the unopened wooden chests in the house, I found it neatly wrapped and kept with other objects of worship. We were thrilled. We have informed the RKM also about it,” said S Ghosh, present scion of the Ghosh family, who is also a faculty member of Presidency University.
On Sunday afternoon, as one walked into this house that is steeped in memories of Swamiji, one could smell the strong herbs and insect repellants that have just been sprayed to preserve these and other objects that Swamiji and Sarada Ma used during their stay in this house.
“We have to be extremely careful with these priceless memorabilia. There’s always a danger of losing them to damp, insects and attack from other micro organisms. They are maintained by experts,” Ghosh said.
There’s a room beside the temple, atop the house, where Swamiji lived during his visits to the house. The bed on which he slept, the harmonium that he used while singing, the ground floor room in which the piano and the organ are kept, have all been treated as the house expects a large number of visitors on January 12.The Swami Vivekananda Janmotsav Udjapan Committee, has also kept the house as part of its celebration circuit.
Swami Purnabrahmananda, a senior monk of the RKM order corroborated the importance of the temple at Shibpur’s Ghosh family. “Swami Vivekananda reached the nearest ferry ghat on boat carrying the image of Paramhansa Ramkrishna. All the monks were with him. From the ghat they sang devotional songs and walked in a procession to the house of Nabagopal Ghosh. He founded the temple and also composed our prayer song sitting in the temple. The house is of great historical and spiritual importance,” he said.
(Times of India, Kolkata)