A great history of devotion and service dawned on Madras (now Chennai) in 1897, when Shashi Maharaj (Swami Ramakrishnanandaji), on the direction of his brother disciple and leader Swami Vivekananda, came to this city of orthodox and ancient culture. This Swami, the apostle of Sri Ramakrishna to the South, established the Chennai Math and spread the message of his Master in South India against all odds.
The swami lived for 14 years between 1987 and 1911 in this city of Chennai. The several schools and colleges run by the Ramakrishna Mission not only in the city but all through the state, the mighty Students’ Home for the poor and orphaned children and the Girls School run by Math in the Mint area speak volumes of his dedication, service and vision. Apart from establishing centers at Chennai and Bangalore, he was instrumental in the Ramakrishna Mission taking roots in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra States.
Swami Ramakrishnananda’s 150th Jayanti was impressively celebrated on 17th July 2012 at Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai with various programmes from 15th-17th July 2012. Installing an image of the swami in a newly constructed Mandapam (a memorial) at the very spot where he had lived in this Math a century ago, releasing his Complete Works in three volumes, arranging an exhibition and opening a new treasure house of books in his name were some of the acts by which the Chennai Math expressed its love to its founder.
Day 1 (15th July, 2012):
The opening day started at 4:30 in the morning with Nadaswaram, Suprabhatam and Mangala Arati followed by Vedic chanting and bhajans by Swami Atmaghanananda at the Universal Temple of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna.
At 6 am Swami Gautamanandaji, Adhyaksha, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, carried the picture of Swami Ramakrishnanandaji from the temple and performed three pradakshinas (circumambulation) of the temple accompanied by a large number of monks and devotees. Nadaswaram and bhajans accompanied the procession. Nature expressed its happiness by blowing cool breeze accompanied by a slow drizzle! The procession proceeded from the Universal Temple gate to the Old Math gate through the road to reach the Mandapam.
The procession of monks made pradakshina of the Mandapam once and then Swami Suhitanandaji, the General Secretary, Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission, unveiled the image of Swami Ramakrishnanandaji in the midst of Vedic chanting by the swamis present. Swami Gautamanandaji placed the picture of Shashi Maharaj on an altar arranged in front of the image and performed Arati to Swami Ramakrishnanandaji and unveiled the plaque. Swami Somanandaji, a senior monk of the Order, other assembled Swamis and Brahmacharis offered flowers to Swami Ramakrishnanandaji.
The Mandapam is a small and simple structure. The image of Shashi Maharaj, made of bronze, looks grand with a divine smile on his face, which is often mentioned by his reminiscers. He was adorned with the offered garlands of Kapaliswara, Parthasarathy and also Sri Ramanuja of Sriperumpudur, the Acharya of the eternal adoration of Shashi Maharaj.
Swami Divyanandaji, a Trustee of Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission, declared open the Ramakrishnananda Exhibition organized in an adjacent place for the occasion. The exhibition, apart from containing Swami’s rare photographs, depicted his life in paintings by Sri Venkatesh, an artist working in Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, and was appreciated by one and all.
It was almost 8 am when ‘Ramakrishnananda Book Treasures’, a new book-sale shop, near the office complex was declared open by Swami Somanandaji by lighting a lamp and the first purchase from the stores made by Swami Suhitanandaji.
Once the Mandapam was inaugurated, a special puja to Sri Ramakrishna was started at the Mandapam site. This was followed by Ramakrishna Sahasranama Homa chanting ‘Om Aim Sarvadevadevi svarupaaya Sri Ramakrishnaaya svaahaa’ and offering bilva leaves and ghee. Puja and Homa were performed by Swami Vimurtananda assisted by Swamis Natarajananda, Bhasvatananda, Apavargananda and Suprajnananda.
In the food offering made to Shashi Maharaj, apart from prasad of Sri Ramakrishna, the prasad of Kapaliswar and Parthasarathy too had been included. A special curry prepared of ‘Thoodhuvalai’ green, dear to Shashi Maharaj for its special place in the life of Yamunacharya, also was offered to him. About two thousand devotees enjoyed the divine atmosphere and partook the prasada at about 12:30 pm.
While the puja was going on, bhajans were performed by Swami Jnanadananda, Swami Atmaghanananda and Swami Abhiramananda at the old temple. Though a special pandal was erected for conducting the programs, these bhajans had to be conducted indoor owing to rains.
The afternoon session started at 1:15 pm in the pandal, with Sri Vittal Bhajan Mandali, a leading bhajan group in Chennai, singing the songs of Saint Tukharam hailing the glory of the Guru.
The next session was unique with a special retreat arranged for the auto drivers of Chennai representing the working class – unique, for this program represents the concern of Swami Ramakrishnananda for the working class. Swami Gautamanandaji presided this session with Sri G Narayanaswami, a leading auditor and philanthropist, as the Chief Guest. Swami Harivratananda, welcomed the auto drivers and set the tone for the programe with his melodious singing.
The interaction during the session highlighted the issues faced by the working class. Two speakers, Sri Prabhakar and Sri Vijayakumar, representing the working class felt the need to orient the brethren to higher values in life and felt elated at the recognition of their services to the society by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai. Sri Prabhakar spoke about the contributions made by the auto drivers for eye donation camps and also their help for mentally retarded persons. He added that some of the auto drivers, by writing Tirukkural, a Tamil classic on moral values, every day on their autos invoke good thoughts among their passengers. Sri Vijayakumar spoke about the insecurity of the auto drivers, education of their children and host of other issues faced by them. He also pointed out their contribution to the society by helping people during emergencies like pregnancy, immediate hospitalization of the sick and also in maintaining the Hindu culture by celebrating festivals like Pongal, Deepavali, Ganesh chaturthi and so on.
Sri G. Narayanaswamy expressed the view that the auto drivers are the mirrors of the society. He appreciated the role played by the auto drivers in the society. He also stressed on the urgent need to raise their status in the society.
Swami Gautamanandaji, addressing the 150 auto drivers present, assured them that they are all devotees as they have all come under the influence of Sri Ramakrishna. Swami also welcomed them to visit the temple on any day of their choice. He wanted them to turn a new leaf in their lives by saving money, feeling for fellow human beings and service to society. He reminded the concern of Swami Vivekananda and Swami Ramakrishnananda for the working class, the need to raise them and treat them as equals. All the auto drivers were presented with books and also given photos of Holy Trio for affixing in their autos. Apart from these mementos, a scheme of free medical treatment for four members of each auto driver was offered by Swami Gautamanandaji; an identity card was issued to the auto drivers for availing these medical facilities.
The main event of the evening function at 6 pm was the release of Commemorative Souvenir, books in English and e-Books. Swami Suhitanandaji presided over the function. Swami Atmashraddhananda in his introductory speech briefed the source, importance and value of the new books released on this occasion.
Swami Suhitanandaji released the Souvenir published to commemorate Swami Ramakrishnananda’s 150th Birthday & Dedication of Ramakrishnananda Mandapam and also released new books on Swami Ramakrishnananda. Swami Jnanadananda received the first copy of the commemorative souvenir and the books. The English books released at the function were:
- Complete Works of Swami Ramakrishnananda (3 Volumes)
- Swami Ramakrishnananda as We Saw Him
- Swami Ramakrishnananda : A portrait in pictures
- Swami Ramakrishnananda: The Apostle of Sri Ramakrishna to the South (Special Edition)
- Two Great Worshippers of Sri Ramakrishna
Swami Lakshmidharananda explained the features of the e-books, how it could be used in modern gadgets like i-pad and also how it can be purchased on-line. Then Swami Suhitanandaji inaugurated the special e-books. A video show was presented detailing the features of the web site www.vedantaebooks.org through which information about the books can be obtained and purchased on-line.
Swami Jnanadananda spoke on the holiness of this Math. He called it a pilgrim centre as it was sanctified by the visits and stay of disciples of Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother Sarada Devi.
Swami Suhitanandaji in his presidential address elaborated the role played by Swamiji and Shashi Maharaj in the creation of the Chennai Math. He underlined the spiritual vibration of the Math and the services rendered by Shashi Maharaj in spreading the message of Vedanta. He also spoke about the untiring efforts of Shashi Maharaj in starting the publication of the Math, initiating new centres far and wide. He appreciated the role of a project of Chennai Math called Viveka Murasu - the mobile vehicle travelling to remote villages and for making the lives of the villagers better by teaching them about health, religion and life.
After the evening Arati, at 7 pm Maharanyam Sri Muralidhara Swamigal, a popular exponent of Hindu scriptures, gave an inspiring talk in Tamil on the life of Swami Ramakrishnananda. He hailed Sri Ramakrishna as an Avatara, and also praised the ancestry, life and role of Shashi Maharaj and his discipline in carrying out the work of his Master Sri Ramakrishna.
Katha Upanishad Chanting by Swami Atmajnananda on Swami Vivekananda Jayanti on Jan 15, 2012.
Swami Asutoshananda delivered the Swami Vivekananda Jayanti discourse in Tamil on Jan 15, 2012.