Swami Vivekananda and his Gurubhais (brother disciples), in Gujarat
Swami Vivekananda and most of his brother disciples visited the western parts of India during their Bharat Parikrama. Swami Vivekananda had spent a lot of time in Saurashtra (Kathiawar). The following brother disciples of Swamiji had sanctified this part of our country, by their holy wanderings: Swami Brahmananda, Swami Turiyananda, Swami Saradananda, Swami Akhandananda, Swami Trigunatitananda, Swami Advaitananda, Swami Abhedananda, Swami Subodhananda and Swami Vijnanananda.
During the year 1891 & 1892, Swamiji traversed Gujarat, covering Ahmedabad, Wadhwan, Limbdi, Bhavnagar, Sihore, Junagadh, Girnar, Bhuj, Veraval (Somnath), Porbandar, Nadiad, Dwaraka, Mandvi, Narayan Sarovar, Palitana and Baroda.
He thus came in contact with many prominent personalities of Gujarat, namely, the Thakore Saheb Sri Yashvantsinghji of Limbdi, the Maharaja of Bhavnagar Sri Takhtasinghji, the Maharaja of Kutch Sri Khengarji, the Dewan of Junagadh Sri Haridas Viharidas Desai, the Administrator of Porbandar Sri Shankar Pandurang Pandit, Sri Lalshankar Umiyashankar Trivedi of Ahmedabad, the Dewan of Baroda Sri Manibhai Jashbhai and the Dewan of Kutch Sri Motichand Lalchand. Some of the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna also came in close contact with the ruling princes and other important people of Gujarat, and a spiritual bond was thus established between them.
After the establishment of the Math, Swamiji proposed to preach and spread the message of Sri Ramakrishna. Accordingly, Swami Saradanandaji and Swami Turiyanandaji were sent to Gujarat and Kathiawar in the month of February, 1899. On Feb 15th 1899, they reached Limbdi. The Maharaja Yashwantsinghji of Limbdi, cordially received them and promised financial help for Swamiji’s work. He gave letters of Introduction to the Maharajas of various states.
On 14th March, 1899, they met the Thakore Saheb Shri Lakhajiraj of Rajkot, who also promised them financial aid. They also visited Gondal, Morbi and Bhavnagar before they left for the Math on 3rd May, 1899 after spending more than two months in Gujarat. During their sojourn they expressed a desire to establish a permanent centre in Kathiawar. At that time, Kathiawar occupied an important position in Western India. It consisted of many small native states, and also many important places of pilgrimage sacred to the Hindus and Jains. It was then a stronghold of Jainism, some Vaishnava cults and was also witnessing a reform movement started by Shri Swaminarayan.
Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, in Rajkot
In 1924, Swami Nikhilananda, while engaged in propaganda work in Kathiawar, came in close contact with some of the foremost ruling princes, and other leading people of Gujarat. The Maharaja Saheb of Morbi, the Thakore Saheb of Rajkot & Limbdi, and the Maharaja Rana Saheb of Porbandar, deserve special mention. He succeeded in interesting them in the ideals and activities of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission.
He stayed as the guest of erstwhile ruler of Porbandar, Shri Natwarsinghji for about a week. Shri Natwarsinghji was very much impressed by Swami Nikhilanandaji and developed great appreciation for the Ramakrishna Mission, after hearing about it from him; as is evident from his letter dated 20th August 1924, which is reproduced below:
To Whom this may concern
During about a week that Swami Nikhilananda stayed here, I was deeply impressed by his acumen and greatly interested in his mission which is known as the “Ramakrishna Mission”. I thoroughly enjoyed his company and am very pleased, indeed, to have made acquaintance with him. From what I have heard about his mission I can say that it is really laudable and I do hope that his efforts for its advancement will be crowned with success. I write this letter as a token of my appreciation for excellent work he is doing for the genuine benefit of humanity.
Maharaja Rana Saheb, Porbandar
P.S. A Sum of Rs. 20000/- has been promised by the State towards ‘Mayavati Ashrama’.
Maharaja Rana Saheb of Porbandar had donated Rs. 20000/- for the charitable dispensary in Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati. The Maharaja also expressed his keen desire that a branch centre of Ramakrishna Mission should be started in Porbandar and he assured all possible help in this regard. Later on, in1925, when Swami Madhavanandaji came to Saurashtra (Kathiawar), the scheme of having a centre there matured.
After visiting many prominent towns of Kathiawar like Morbi, Bhavnagar, Porbandar, Limbdi etc., Rajkot was finally selected as the place that would be the most central and suitable for the purpose.
The inauguration of Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama at Civil Station, Rajkot
The Maharaja Saheb of Morbi, Shri Lukhdhirji Jadeja had spent a thousand rupees over the repairs of his old Utara (Rest House) in Civil Station, Rajkot and offered the same for temporary use of the Ashrama. Thakore Saheb Shri Lakhajiraj of Rajkot also donated five hundred rupees for the maintenance of the Ashrama and promised further support whenever necessary.
Mr. Harishankar N. Pandya, Pleader, in co-operation with Sri C. N. Shroff, Dewan and other leading public men of Rajkot, set themselves about the task in right earnest, collecting funds for the maintenance of the Ashrama and requested the authorities of the Order at Belur to start the centre without delay. Accordingly Swami Madhavanandaji, accompanied by Swami Vividishanandaji and Swami Bhaveshanandaji came to Rajkot in February, 1927. Swami Vividishanandaji was put in charge, and Swami Bhaveshanandaji was to assist him in conducting the work.
The opening ceremony of the new Ashrama took place on 5th March 1927, the auspicious birthday of Sri Ramakrishna, and came off with due éclat and solemnity. The morning began with special worship of Sri Ramakrishna and Homa. The Maharaja Saheb of Morvi as well as several distinguished gentlemen attended the function. The state musician of the Rajkot State entertained the gathering with various Hindi bhajans.
In the evening a public meeting was held in a pandal specially erected for the purpose in the Ashrama compound, and was presided over by the Maharaja Saheb of Morvi. About three hundred gentlemen and several ladies were present. The inaugural speech was made by the Maharaja Saheb. Among other things he mentioned that Sri Ramakrishna and the Mission bearing his name typified “Shiva Jnane Jiva Seva”, and hoped that the centre started at Rajkot would spread its benign influence gradually all over Kathiawar and be a source of inspiration to many. Swami Madhavanandaji who had been specially deputed by the authorities to organise the work at Rajkot, spoke feelingly on the message of Sri Ramakrishna, laying special stress on the religious harmony as exemplified in the life Great Master. Mr. P. G. Masurekar, Bar-at-Law and Mr. Prabhuram Shankarji Shastri also spoke dealing with the different aspects of the life of Sri Ramakrishna and eulogised the humanitarian activities of the Mission. Mr. C. M. Shroff, Dewan, Rajkot State, proposed the vote of thanks. Later, Swami Madhavanandaji and Swami Sambuddhanandaji gave lectures on ‘Practical Vedanta’, in Connaught Hall, Rajkot.
In 1927, the Ashrama started a small library for the public with about 2000 books. Regular discourses on Vedanta philosophy and Ramakrishna-Vivekananda were conducted thrice a week. Ramnam Sankirtan, Shyamnam Sankirtan and Shivnam Sankirtan were conducted on Ekadashi, Purnima and Amavasya days and a large number of devotees used to attend the same. In 1928, the Ashrama began its publication activity and ‘Ramnam Sankirtan’ was the first book to be published. In 1930, ‘Sri Ramakrishna Upadesh’ in Gujarati was published.
Gujarat has had the misfortune to face many disasters, both natural and man-made. The Ashrama has tried to meet this challenge in its own humble way by conducting various types of relief and rehabilitation activities during drought, flood, cyclone, earthquake and other natural disasters since its very inception in 1927. A short pictorial report of the relief and rehabilitation activities for the period 1927-2002 has been given in a separate section in this souvenir.
The Ashrama at its new premises
In February 1931, Swami Shuddhanandaji Maharaj, General Secretary of Ramakrishna Math and Mission visited the Ashrama. In September 1931, the Ashrama purchased 4000 sq. yards of land at its present site at a nominal price through the kindness of H.H. Sri Dharmendrasinhji, Thakore Saheb of Rajkot. In the same year the digging work of a well was begun. In March 1932, Swami Sarvanandaji Maharaj laid the foundation stone for construction of the Ashrama buildings. In September 1932, a hostel for students named ‘Vivekananda Vidyarthi Bhavan’ was started. Regular weekly value education sessions were conducted by the monks of the Ashrama for students of Saurashtra and Alfred High School since its inception till the middle of 1932. These classes, attended by more than 100 students, were later conducted in the Vidyarthi Bhavan. In January 1933, the Ashrama was sanctified by the visit of Srimat Swami Vijnananandaji Maharaj, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and the fourth President of the Ramakrishna Order. The construction of the Ashrama buildings began in March 1934. Two more pieces of land measuring 1500 and 707 sq. yards were purchased. The construction work of a small 10′ x 12′ shrine room and an attached bhandar room began with the kind contribution of a Bengali friend.
Inauguration of the Ashrama at the new premises
On 5 October 1935 (Durga-Ashtami Day), the Ashrama was shifted to its new premises at its present site. This centre was inaugurated by H.H. Thakore Saheb of Rajkot State, in the holy presence of Swami Sarvanandaji Maharaj. A special puja and havan was performed in the morning. In a special silver mounted horse carriage drawn by six horses, Bhagvan Sri Ramakrishna’s picture was brought in a huge procession from the Morbi State Rest House at Civil Station and installed in the new shrine building. The public function organised in the evening was presided over by H. H. Thakore Saheb Dharmendrasinhji. H. H. Maharaja Lukhadhirji of Morbi, Rajasaheb of Dhrangadhra, Darbarshri of Thanadevadi, Vadiya and Bilkha, Sri Harishankar Pandya, Sri C. C. Shroff, Sri T. D. Ranasaheb, Dewan of Junagadh and many other dignitaries graced the occasion. Swami Sarvanandaji Maharaj, Swami Sambuddhanandaji Maharaj, H. H. Thakore Saheb Dharmendrasinhji and other dignitaries addressed the huge gathering in the public meeting that followed.
Construction of the Ashrama Buildings
In 1935-36, a small monks’ quarters with three rooms (8′ x 10′ each) was built with the financial help of Shri Ravikuvar Harjivan of Porbandar, Shri H.N.Pandya of Rajkot and Shri Chandrakantbhai Trivedi of Ahmedabad. A kitchen and store building was also built with the kind donation of Shri P.C.Bannerjee, Ahmedabad. A tube-well cum bathing place and a cow-shed was built with the help of donation received from Sri Karsandas Vasanji of Jamnagar. Later on, three rooms, which served as an office building were built with the generous contributions of Darbar Saheb Suragvala of Vadia, Darbar Saheb Ravatvala of Bilkha and Shri Prabhashanker H.Parekh of Rajkot.
In January 1936, a peice of land measuring 120 sq.yards was purchased and the main gate and compound wall of the Ashrama were built. In October 1936, the construction work of the new dispensary building commenced with the kind contribution made by Shri Popatlal D.Malaviya of Rajkot. The new dispensary building known as ‘The Ramakrishna Centenary Memorial Dispensary’ was inaugurated by Swami Sarvanandaji Maharaj on 15 February 1937. Many leading doctors and Vaidyas of Rajkot offered their kind services in the beginning. Later on Vaidya Shri Gijubhai Shastri of Gondal and Dr.D.N.Dholakia (allopathy) started giving their regular services.
In December1936, the construction work of a small guest house was started with the kind contribution of Shri Hirjibhai Ved, Esq of Rajkot.
Birth Centenary Celebrations of Sri Ramakrishna (1936-37)
In the Birth Centenary year of Sri Ramakrishna, a celebration committee was formed on 8 March 1936 in a meeting held at Connaught Hall with Mr.G.H.Guggley, I.C.S, District and Sessions Judge, as President. It was decided that a Parliament of Religions, a Womens’ Convention and a Youth Convention be held during the Centenary Year. Shri M.H.Udani, Khan Bahadur G.M.Munshi, Rao Bahadur P.G.Masurekar and other eminent citizens of Rajkot City were also present in the meeting.
The Parliament of Religions was held from 13 to 15 February 1937 at the Connaught Hall. Br.Pandit Sri Shitalparsadji spoke on Jainism, Smt.Shirin K.Fozdar on Bahai Faith,Rev.W.Wilson on Christianity, Prof. R.B. Athavale on Vaishnavism and Sri Ramakrishna, Prof.Y.S.Taher Ali on Islam, Shri F.J.Jinwala and F.M.Master on Zoroastrianism, Pandit Sri Krishna Vallabhacharya on Swaminarayan faith and Swami Sarvanandaji on Sri Ramakrishna and the harmony of religions. On all the three days there were bhajans by Sri Chandulalbhai and Shankarlalbhai.
A Womens’ Convention was held on 15 February 1937 at Vanita Vishram-G.T.Girls High School. Yuvarani Saheba Sri of Gondal presided over the 1000 strong gathering. Smt.Sushila Pai spoke the life and message of Sri Ramakrishna. Many cultural programmes were also conducted during the convention.
A Youth Convention was held at the Ashrama premises on 20 February 1937, which was presided over by Swami Vijayanandaji. A huge procession was also taken out during the Centenary Celebrations in the city in which Swami Sarvananadaji, Shastri Balkrishnanandaji and Shri Krishna Vallabhacharyaji of Swaminarayan Sampradaya, other monks, eminent citizens, students and the general public participated.
Another important activity which took place during the year 1937 was the publication of several books in Gujarati like ‘Sri Ramakrishnadev Sankshipta Jivan ane Sau Upadesh’, ‘Shri Ramakrishna Lilaprasanga I and II’ and ‘Bhakti Tattwa’.
The new Hostel ‘Vivekananda Gurukul’
The Ashrama was already conducting a Students’ Home for about 20 poor and meritorious studets of Saurashtra. In addition to this special coaching classes were held for about 60 students studying in the matriculation class on a regular basis, in which teachers of Saurashtra High School, Agency High School and Rajkumar College offered their free services.
With a view to provide man-making education as envisaged by Swami Vivekananda an English medium residential school ‘Vivekananda Gurukul’ was started in June 1939. Shri Mafatlal Gagalbhai of Ahmedabad contributed towards the construction of a dormitory hall for students. Shri F.F.Pearson, Under Secretary to the Resident of Western India, inaugurated the Gurukul. As the number of students increased, the need was felt for a larger building and with the help of the contribution received from Maharaja Saheb Lukhdhirji of Morvi, a bigger hall was constructed and inaugurated in 1940. Since November 1945 the Gurukul was opened to day-scholars also and the number of students studying in that year were about 90,including 60 residential students.
New Temple of Shri Ramakrishna (1943)
In December 1943, a new temple was constructed through the munificence of Shri Mafatlal Gagalbhai of Ahmedabad and was dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna. A big portrait of Sri Ramakrishna painted by artist Sri Karunashankar Joshi in 1935 was being worshipped earlier in the old shrine room. This photo along with a newly sculptured marble statue of Sri Ramakrishna was conscecrated on 11 December 1943 in the new shrine. The contributions of Shri H. A. Parekh, Smt. J. R. Kamdar and Sri Balwantrai Prabhashankar are noteworthy. The prayer hall was spacious enough to accomodate the resident students as well as devotees. Since then regular services like daily morning and evening prayers, Ramanam, Shivanam and Shyamnam etc were being conducted in the new temple.
On 8 June 1944, the Ashrama purchased 15,000 sq. yards of land for future expansion of its activities. This was made possible due to the kindness of Thakore Saheb Sri Pradyumansinhji of Rajkot who offered the royal land at a token rate of eight annas per sq. yard.
New Publications (1945-60)
From 12 September 1945 Srimat Swami Bhuteshanandaji Maharaj took charge as the head of the Ashrama. Under his able stewardship the publication activity of the Ashrama made commendable progress. During the period 1945 to 1960 several books in Gujarati were published. They included among others, ‘Sri Ma Sarada (short life)’, ‘Sri Ramakrishna Lilaprasanga – III, IV and V’, ‘Stotra Sangraha’, ‘Swami Shivananda-Jivan ane Karya’ and several books on Swami Vivekananda like ‘Kelavani’, ‘Veervani’, ‘Bahenone’, ‘Bharatne’ etc., The translation work of ‘Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita’ and ‘The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda’ was also taken up during this period.Three significant projects were also taken up and completed before the Birth Centenary Year of Swami Vivekananda.
A New Public Library (1955)
The Ashrama library, started in 1927, was shifted to its new premises in 1935. But due to an increase in the number of readers, a need was felt for a spacious and well equipped library. Accordingly, the construction work of a new two storeyed structure, with the kind financial assistance received from the Govt. of India, was started in 1954. The new library building was inaugurated on 14 October 1955 by Dr.S.Radhakrishnan, Vice-President of India in the holy presence of Swami Madhavanandaji Maharaj, General Secretary, Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Swami Sambuddhanandaji, Swami Ranganathanandaji, other senior monks. The Chief Minister of Saurashtra and other eminent citizens also graced the occasion and addressed a huge gathering of nearly fifteen thousand people who participated in the inaugural function.
The New Dispensary Building (1960)
The Ashrama dispensary, started in February 1937, was shifted to its newly constructed spacious building after its inauguration on 28th September 1960 by Dr.Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India. The new charitable dispensary with homeopathic and Ayurvedic Departments served a large number of patients.
The Ashrama also decided to construct a new spacious and well equipped hostel building and with the help of generous contributions of Rs.50,000/= from Sri Jalaram Trust and Rs.10,001/- from Shri Manharlal N.Balia the construction work started. The foundation stone for the same was laid by Sri Manubhai Shah, Minister for Industries, Govt. of India on 3 May 1960. The new hostel building was named ‘Sri Ramakrishna Vidyarthi Mandir’ and inaugurated in 1962 where its stands today.
Swami Vivekananda Birth Centenary Celebrations and Publications (1963-64)
The Publication of books in Gujarati and its extensive propogation among the Gujarati speaking masses received an impetus during the period 1960-67 which also included the Birth Centenary Year of Swami Vivekananda.
Under the Presidentship of Sri Ravishankar Maharaj a Swami Vivekananda Birth Centenary Committee was formed in 1962, with several ministers like Shri Ratubhai Adani and other eminent personalities like Shri Gulabrai Mankodi of Gujarat State. It was decided to organize programmes and celebrations throughout the period 1963-64. Accordingly, the Ashrama conducted elocution competitions in schools and colleges all over Gujarat. It was also decided to make efforts to associate Swami Vivekananda’s name with as many roads, schools, public gardens and other prominent places as possible.
Another important milestone in the Publication activity was the project of publication and distribution of ‘Swami Vivekananda Granthamala Series – I, II and III.’ Granthamala- I consisted of 12 volumes of about 500 pages each. The first two volumes were the lives of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. Volume 3 to Volume 12 constituted the Gujarati translation of the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. Granthamala-II consisted of small books compiled from Swami Vivekananda’s Complete Works like Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Purva ane Paschim, Vartaman Bharat, Divyavani, Bhakti Rahasya, Mara Gurudev, Guru Shishya Vartalap etc., Granthamala-III consisted of 12 small booklets like the short lives of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Ma Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda, Yuvanone, Bharatiya Nari, Mari Bhavi Yojana, Swatantra Bharat, Chicago Vyakhyano etc., The Granthamala Series was made available for Rs.60/- for distribution among more than 15,000 gram panchayat libraries all over Gujarat.This was made possible due to the subsidy given by the Gujarat Govt through the kind efforts of Dr. Jeevraj Mehta, the Chief Minister of Gujarat and Shri Ratubhai Adani, Minister, Govt. of Gujarat. The Central Government gave a grant of Rs.50,000/- and the Gujarat Government gave a grant of Rs.25,000/- for the purpose. Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita, which was translated from the original Bengali by Swami Chaitanyanandaji of Nasik, was also published in two volumes consisting of a total number of 1,225 pages. A team of translators rendered their untiring and invaluable services in this publication project. They included among others, Swami Chaitanyanandaji of Nasik, Shri Jayantilal.M.Oza, Shri Harishankar N.Pandya, and Shri J.R.Vaidya.
Foundation Stone for a new Temple of Shri Ramakrishna laid in 1971
In July 1965, Swami Vireshwaranandaji Maharaj, General Secretary, Ramakrishna Math and Mission, visited Rajkot Ashrama with Swami Abhayanandaji and other senior monks.
On 7 November 1965, Swami Bhuteshanandaji placed the holy relics of Shri Ramakrishna in the shrine of the new temple.
In March 1966, Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj took over the charge of the Ashrama from Swami Bhuteshanandaji Maharaj, who was appointed as one of the Asst.Secretaries of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. The small existing temple was found to be insufficient for a large number of devotees who attended the prayer and other temple functions. Moreover, it required a lot of repair work. So it was decided to erect a magnificent new temple to enshrine the holy relics of Shri Ramakrishna in a befitting manner. The devotees of Gujarat came forward to complete this long overdue task to erect a monument of reverence to the Great Master in Saurashtra, the land of temples.
On 24 August 1966 Sri Kaka Saheb Kalelkar visited the Ashrama. On 26 October 1966 Swami Ranganathanandaji Maharaj opened the newly built ‘Childrens Section’ of the existing library building.
Due to benevolence of the generous public nearly Rupees seven lacs were collected for the construction of the new temple when Swami Vireswaranandaji Maharaj, the 10th President of Ramakrishna Math and Mission finally laid the foundation stone for the new temple on 16 August 1971 in the presence of a large number of devotees and eminent people.
Shri Madhukarbhai Thakore of Architect Corner, Ahmedabad, Dr.Mahendra R.Mehta of Vakil-Mehta-Parikh-Sheth, Ahmedabad, Shri Vipinbhai Bavishi of M/s V Engineers, Rajkot, and M/s K.L.Engineers, Rajkot were entrusted with the design, planning and construction work of this monument of Universal love and faith.
During the period 1966 to 1978 several notable publications were brought out. They included among others, Sri Sri Matrucharane, Karma Yoga Sutravali, Vivekanandana Kavyo, Adarsha Manavnu Nirman, Sadhak Sri Ramakrishna, Geet Rupak etc.
Installation of Swami Vivekananda’s Potrait at Bhojeshwar Bungalow, Porbandar (1974)
Sometime in 1968, Shri Rajabhai Ladiwala, an advocate of Porbandar, informed Swami Atmasthanandaji over telephone that Swami Vivekananda stayed in Bhojeshwar Bungalow, Porbandar during his Parivrajaka days. At his invitation Swami Atmasthanandaji visited Porbandar and saw the Bhojeshwar Bungalow. Later on he came to Porbandar with Swami Gambhiranandaji Maharaj, the then General Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission, showed him the bungalow and also met Shri Revashankar Anupram Dave (a centenarian who had met Swami Vivekananda in Porbandar as a young boy). Later on, a marble plaque with an inscription mentioning this fact was placed at Bhojeshwar Bungalow in July 1974. A big portrait of Swami Vivekananda was also placed in the room in which he stayed. In this work Shri Ratubhai Adani, the then Minister of Panchayat of Gujarat played an important role. This bungalow was subsequently handed over to the Ramakrishna Mission.
Shri Ramakrishna Prarthana Mandir, Limbdi
Another notable event during this period was the starting of Sri Ramakrishna Prarthana Mandir, Limbdi in the Durbar Hall built by Maharaja Sir Yaswantsinhji. During his parivrajaka days, Swami Vivekananda became the guest of Sir Yaswantsinhji who had saved him from the hands of a degenerate sect of sadhus. The Maharaja respectfully received Swamiji in the Royal Durbar Hall and subsequently accepted his discipleship. This historic Durbar Hall, with the magnificent clock tower, where Swamiji had stayed for nearly ten days was handed over to the office bearers of Sri Ramakrishna Prarthana Mandir,Limbdi in 1971 by Rajmata Pravinkunvarba and Maharaja Shri Chhatrasalji. Shri Chhabildasbhai Shah, and his son Shri Niranjanbhai Shah, the inspired and munificent devotees of Sri Ramakrishna, since then conducted various humanitarian and cultural activities in the same royal building under the guidance of the monks of the Ramakrishna Order till they finally handed over the same along with a plot of six acres to the authorities of the Ramakrishna Mission for starting a permanent branch centre of the Ramakrishna Mission.
The Golden Jubilee and the Consecration of the new Temple
The Golden Jubilee of the Ashrama was celebrated from 5 April to 12 April 1979. The magnificent new temple of Sri Ramakrishna, built at a cost of about Rupees 25 lacs was dedicated by Swami Vireswarananadaji Maharaj, on 6 April 1979.The installation ceremony of Shri Ramakrishna in the new temple was held at 7 a.m. followed by special puja and havanam. A big procession with floats covering important places of Rajkot city was taken out with more than 150 monks and more than three thousand devotees,students etc.with Vedic Chanting, kirtan and bhajans.At 9 p.m. special Kali Puja in image was performed in the new temple.
On 7 April 1979, a Commemorative Souvenir of more that 425 pages was released by the Chief Guest, Shri Babubhai Patel, the Chief Minister of Gujarat at a public meeting. Swami Vireswaranandaji Maharaj gave his benedictory speech on the occasion. Revered Maharaj also released a postal stamp and a first-day cover commemorating the new temple inauguration ceremony. Swami Gambhiranandaji, Swami Ranganathanandaji and Swami Atmanandaji addressed the gathering. Shri Arvindbhai Maniar, Mayor, Rajkot gave the welcome speech. On 8 April, there were speeches by Swami Ranganathanandaji, Swami Atmasthanandaji, Swami Bhyasyanandaji, Swami Budhanandaji, and Shri B. J. Diwan, Chief Justice, Gujarat High Court. On 9 April, there were speeches by Swami Bhuteshanandaji, Swami Hiranmayanandaji, Swami Vyomrupanandaji, Swami Atmanandaji and Shri Keshubhai Patel, Minister, Govt. of Gujarat. From 8 April to 12 April, there were cultural programmes at night in which Dr. Kumar Gandharva, Manbhatt Shri Dharmiklal Pandya of Baroda, Pawar Brothers of Indore (Dhrupad), Shri Pingalshibhai Gadhavi, Shri Manharlalji Maharaj and other eminent artists gave their performances. There was also arrangement for Narayan Seva in which a lot of people were fed. Nearly two hundred monastic members of the Ramakrishna Order and about six hundred devotees from all over India and abroad apart from the local devotees and public participated in the celebrations.
During the period 1978-1986 several notable publications were brought out. They included among others, Balakona Sri Ramakrishna, Balakona Vivekananda, Sri Ramakrishnani Sachitra Bodhkathao, Bhagini Nivedita, Hindu Dharma, Dhyana Teni Paddhati, Vivekanandaji Sathe Vartalapa, Bharatma apela bhashano, Dhyana, Dharma ane Sadhana etc.
National Youth Day and 150th Birth Anniversary of Shri Ramakrishna
In 1985 Govt. of India declared that 12 January (Swami Vivekananda’s Birthday according to the English Calendar) would thenceforth be observed as the National Youth Day. Since then the Ashrama has been observing this day in a befitting manner by organizing Youth Conventions, Seminars, and processions all over Gujarat with the active participation of a large number of youth.
The 150th Birth Anniversary of Sri Ramakrishna (1986) and the Centenary of the Ramakrishna Order of monks (1986) were celebrated by the Ashrama in 1986-87 with several public meetings and cultural functions. In one such meeting Shri R.K.Trivedi, Governor of Gujarat, presided and released a special souvenir ‘Sri Ramakrishna Ane Sri Ramakrishna Sangha’. An inter-religious conference was also held in 1986 as part of the celebration to emphasize ‘Harmony of Religions’ preached by Sri Ramakrishna.
During the period 1986-91 several new titles were published by the Publication Department of the Ashrama. They included Balakona Ma Sri Sarada Devi, Matruvani, Swami Vivekanandana Patro, Sri Ramakrishna Bhaktamalika I and II, Sadhu Nag Mahashay, Ananda Dhamna Path Par, a new translation of Sri Ramakrishna Lilaprasanga Part I, II, III and IV.
The starting of the Gujarati monthly ‘Sri Ramakrishna Jyot’ (1989)
Another important milestone in the history of the Ashrama was the starting of a Gujarati monthly periodical ‘Shri Ramakrishna Jyot’ from April 1989. The first issue was dedicated at the feet of Shri Ramakrishna by Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj on 13 April 1989. Revered Maharaj also presided over the Public Meeting held on the same day during which the first issue was released by Shri Harindra Dave, eminent writer, poet and the editor of Gujarati daily ‘Janmabhoomi’.
The present Dispensary Building
A new dispensary building, constructed with the help of the generous donation from the trustees of Smt. Usha Devi Gordhandas Bhalja, was inaugurated in the adjacent campus of the Ashrama on 28 January 1990 by Srimat Swami Bhuteshanandaji Maharaj the 12th President of Ramakrishna Math and Mission.Revered Maharaj also laid the foundation of the new library building (Swami Vivekananda Gujarat Paribhraman Shatabdi Bhavan), to be constructed at the site of the old library building, on 7 December 1991.
A Seminar on ‘Indian Ethos in Management’ was organised from 27 to 29 September 1991 at the Ashrama. Prof. S.K. Chakraborty, I.I.M.Calcutta, Dr.N.H.Athreya, Director, M.M.C.School of Management, Mumbai and many other eminent management experts participated. Since then every year at least two such management seminars are being arranged. The Ashrama conducts regular teachers’ seminars every year apart from quarterly spiritual retreats for devotees.
The Centenary of Swami Vivekananda’s Gujarat Paribhraman (1992-93)
Before going to America in 1893, Swami Vivekananda travelled all over India. During his wanderings Swamiji spent many months in Gujarat. In order to celebrate this historic occasion, various activities were carried out all over Gujarat. Public meetings were held in Baroda, Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Junagadh, Bhuj, Adipur, Valsad, Jamnagar, Porbandar, Limbdi, Anand, Rajkot etc. Major celebrations took place at Rajkot from 20 to 23 November,1992 in which large number of devotees and friends participated, in addition to 40 monks, most of whom who were ex-monastic inmates of Rajkot Ashrama.
On 20 November 1992, Swami Vivekananda Paribhraman Shatabdi Bhavan (rebuilt at the site of the old library building) was inagurated by Swami Gahananandaji Maharaj, Vice President, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. A permanent Exhibition of paintings and pictures on Indian culture, Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna Movement was also inaugurated by him. A seminar on ‘Swami Vivekananda and Education Today’ was held on 21 November 1992, in which 350 teachers participated. A meeting of non-affiliated centres of Gujarat, was held on the same day which was presided over by Swami Gahananandaji Maharaj. In the evening a public meeting was held, presided over by Swami Lokeshwaranandaji. A Youth Meet was organised on 22 November and in the afternoon a Seminar on ‘Swami Vivekananda and Social Service’ was held. In the evening a public meeting was held, presided over by Swami Atmasthanandaji.
A grand colourful procession with 11 attractive floats was taken out on 23 November through the important parts of Rajkot city in which about 3000 Youths, 500 devotees and 40 monks participated. On 23 November 1992, a public meeting was held, presided over by Swami Atmasthanandaji, in which Dr. Sarup Singh, Governor of Gujarat released the Commemorative Souvenir. Eminent citizens of Rajkot paid their tributes to Swami Vivekananda.
The Centenary of Swami Vivekananda’s participation in the Chicago Parliament of Religions (1993-94)
The Centenary of Swami Vivekananda’s participation in the Chicago Parliament of Religions was celebrated on a large scale during 1993-94 in two phases. A big public meeting was held on 11 September 1993 in Rajkot, in collaboration with Saurashtra University and Rajkot Municipal Corporation. On the same morning,a colourful procession led by Vice Chancellor of Saurashtra University, Mayor of Rajkot Municipal Corporation was taken out round the city through a 7 km route in which more than five thousand youths participated. 114 delegates from Rajkot participated in the Parliament of Religions held at Kolkata on 11,12,18 &19 September 1993 to celebrate this event.
During the second phase of the celebrations from 10 to 17 February 1994,three 8 feet bronze statues of Swami Vivekananda were unveiled by Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj at Baroda, Limbdi and Rajkot on 11, 12, 13, February 1994 respectively.
Public meetings were held at Baroda, Rajkot, Dhaneti Adipur, Bhuj and Ahmedabad on 10-17 February. Swami Atmasthanandaji, Swami Satyarupanandaji, Swami Srikaranandaji, Shri Yashvantbhai Shukla and others spoke. Youth Conventions, lectures in educational institutions, speech and recitation competitions for students, public meetings, etc. were organised by various non-affiliated centres in different parts of Gujarat in which the monks of this Ashrama took active part. Numerous Youth Conventions were organised all over Gujarat. The monks of the Ashrama travelled all over Gujarat to address the students and also held question-answer sessions. Books on Swami Vivekananda were also distributed/sold during these programmes. About 100 educational institutions of Gujarat were covered during the period 1989-95.
One lakh sixty thousand books (40,000 copies each of the following titles) were published in Gujarati for free distribution among the youth all over Gujarat. 1. Short Life of Swami Vivekananda 2. Chicago Addresses 3. Rebuild India 4. ‘My India, Arise !’ In addition to these several thousand copies of the above books in Hindi and English, received from Belur Math, were also distributed among the youth through meetings, retreats, seminars and youth conferences held all over Gujarat.
During the period 1991 to 1995, several new titles were published by the Publication Department of the Ashrama. They include among others, Abhayvani, Gruhastha Dharma, Jago He Bharat, Swami Vivekanandana Patro, Adhyatma Marga Pradip, Swami Vivekanandani Sachitra Bodhakathao, Adhyatmik Jivannu Marma.
Swami Vivekananda Centenary Memorial Essay, Recitation, Elocution and other competitions
Swami Vivekananda Centenary Memorial Essay, Recitation, Elocution Competitions for school and college students were being conducted every year regularly since 1963. Swami Vivekananda Vichar Prachar Exams, story-telling, fancy dress depicting saints, prophets, gods and godesses of various religions, quiz, drawing, memory writing competitions were introduced in stages for spreading the message of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda and inculcating moral and religious values among the student community. Every year nearly 3000 students take part in these competitions.
Rural Development Programme through Sri Ramakrishna Seva Samiti, Rajkot
Since 7 March 1993, the Ashrama has taken up a Rural Development Programme. Every Sunday, doctors, nurses, volunteers and teachers go to the nearby villages, under the banner of Sri Ramakrisna Seva Samiti, in a Medical van kindly donated by I.O.C. to offer the following services : (1) Regular weekly free medical services including free distribution of medicines(2) Special free medical camps (3) Educational and Cultural activities for school children.
‘Ramakrishna-Vivekananada Bhava Prachar Parishad, Gujarat’
A meeting of non-affiliated centres of Gujarat was held at Rajkot on 21 Nov. 1993 in which it was resolved that ‘Ramakrishna – Vivekananda Bhava Prachar Parishad, Gujarat’ should be formed with Baroda, Ahmedabad, Bhuj and Valsad as promoter centres. Dr. Kamalkant, President of Baroda centre and Mr. O.P.N. Calla, President of Ahmedabad Centre were nominated as Convener and Joint Convener respectively. The first meeting of the Parishad was held at Rajkot on the 13 February,1994. Swami Atmasthanandaji, General Secretary, Ramakrishna Math and Mission, addressed the representatives of promoter centres as well as observer centres.
Inauguration of Sri Ramakrishna Mission, Limbdi (1994)
On 12 February 1994, the members of the Limbdi Royal family and the office bearers of Shri Ramakrishna Prathana Mandir, Limbdi officially handed over the entire property of the Royal Darbar Hall along with 6 acres of land donated by Shri Chhabildasbhai Shah and other assets to Swami Atmasthananandaji Maharaj, the General Secretary of Shri Ramakrishna Mission. Nearly 6000 people of Limbdi and the adjoining villages joined in a 3 km long procession from the Royal Darbar Hall to the Ashrama building in the new site of the Ramakrishna Mission, at the six acre complex. On this occasion, one 8 ft. bronze statue of Swamiji on a 9′ high pedestal covered with granite stone was installed in a small circle in front of the Royal Darbar Hall. The circle has been named as ‘Vivekananda Chowk’. Since its inception, regular medical, educational, cultural, spiritual and relief activities are being conducted by the Ramakrishna Mission, Limbdi. This centre, which was started as a sub-centre under the Rajkot Ashrama, became an independent centre of the Ramakrishna Mission in April 1996.
Swami Vivekananda statue, Junagadh (1995)
On 11 September 1995, a 9 ft high bronze statue was installed in Vivekananda Udyan near Talav Gate in Junagadh by the Ashrama with the help of Swami Vivekananda Seva Kendra, Junagadh. Swami Gahananandaji Maharaj,Vice President, Ramakrishna Math and Mission unveiled the statue in the presence of local M.P and other eminent citizens of the city. A huge procession was also taken out through the city in the morning.
New Dispensary at Limbdi (1996)
On 4 September 1996, the new dispensary building of the Limbdi centre was inaugurated by Swami Ranganathanandaji, Maharaj, Vice-President of Ramakrishna Math and Mission.
On 19 December 1996, the foundation stone of a new Ramakrishna Seva Bhavan temple complex at Prasadi Plot, Bhuj was laid by Swami Jitatmanandaji.
A new centre of the Ramakrishna Mission at Porbandar (1997)
Due to the efforts of Shri Ratibhai Chhaya, Sri Dwarkadas Vitthalani, Shri P.M.Joshi, Sri Jyotiben Thanki, Smt. Mintooben Dasani and other leading citizens of Porbandar, a committee was formed in 1990 under the guidance of Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot, which conducted weekly youth study circles and other activities in the Bhojeshwar Bungalow, Porbandar where Swamiji had stayed for several months as a guest of Shri Shankar Pandurang Pandit. Due to the kind efforts of Shri Chimanbhai Shukla, Rajkot, Shri Sureshbhai Mehta, ex-Chief Minister of Gujarat, and Shri Shankarsinh Vaghela, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat the Bhojeshwar Bungalow was formally handed over to Ramakrishna Mission in a public meeting held on 12 January 1997. Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, the then General Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission, received the formal documents from Shri Shankarsinh Vaghela. Shri Chimanbhai Shukla, M.P., two other ministers and other eminent citizens were also present in the public meeting.
As the bungalow was in a dilapidated condition Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot sent a few monks for the repair and renovation work of the building. Subsequently, the adjoining land of 1975 sq mtrs was handed over by the State Government to the Ashrama. On 12 January 1998, a 9′ 6″ high bronze statue was installed on a 12 ft. high pedestal in the Ashrama campus. Several life size laminated photos and some paintings on the life and message of Swami Vivekananda were also exhibited in the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Memorial building. The statue was unveiled by Swami Sridhranandaji Maharaj. Dr. Kiran Bedi, IPS, released a commemorative souvenir on that day. The Porbandar centre became an independent centre of the Ramakrishna Mission on 10 June 1998.
Ramakrishna Mission Centenary Celebrations (1997-98)
The first phase of the Centenary Year Celebrations of the Ramakrishna Mission was organised by the Ashrama in which Swami Atmasthanandaji, the then General Secretary addresed a public meeting on 13 January 1997. On 30 April 1997, a 7.5 ft high bronze statue of Swami Vivekananda installed with the help of Ramakrishna Seva Sansthan, Valsad was unveiled at Valsad by Swami Vagishanandaji, President, Ramakrishna Math, Mumbai.
The second phase of the Ramakrishna Mission Centenary was celebrated by the Ashrama from 1 to 3 May 1998. A spiritual retreat, management Seminar, and public meetings were organised on these three days.
Shri Ramakrishna Temple Complex at Bhuj (1999)
On 18 January 1999, a beautiful temple of Shri Ramakrishna constructed by Sri Ramakrishna Yuvak Mandal, Bhuj was conscecrated by Swami Jitatmanandaji in the presence of several monks and a large number of devotees. Shri Dhirubhai Shah, Speaker, Gujarat Legislative assembly, Shri Anantbhai Dave, Rajya Sabha, M.P. and other eminent citizens of Bhuj were present during the celebrations. A huge procession was also taken out through the town in the morning. On 12 February 2000, Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, Vice-President, Ramakrishna Math and Mission, inaugurated ‘Sri Saradadevi Chikitsalaya’ and ‘Sadhu Nivas’ in the Ramakrishna Seva Bhavan complex at Bhuj.
Shri Ramakrishna Temple Complex at Junagadh (2000)
On 3 December 2000, Sri Ramakrishna Prarthana Mandir built by Swami Vivekananda Seva Kendra, Junagadh under the guidance of the Ashrama was inaugurated by Swami Gahananandaji Maharaj, Vice-President, Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Several monks and eminent citizens of Junagadh attended the celebrations.
Platinum Jubilee Celebrations of Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot (2001-2002)
The first phase of the Platinum Jubilee (75 years) Celebrations of Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot was celebrated on 9 December 2001. The public meeting held in the evening was presided over by Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj, General Secretary, Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Dr. Vallabhbhai Kathiria, Minister of State, Heavy Industries, Govt of India was the Chief Guest. Swami Smarananandaji released the first copy of Swami Vivekananda Granthamala Sanchayan (subsidised edition). Swami Srikaranandaji, Asst.Secretary, Ramakrishna Math and Mission released a pictorial booklet on the various service activities of the Ashrama during 1927-2002. The distinguished group of scholars who have made significant literary contributions towards the publication of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature in Gujarati were also felicitated by Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj on this occasion.
The second phase of the Platinum Jubilee of the Ashrama was celebrated from 1 to 5 May 2002. On 1 May an Interfaith Public Meeting was held in which representatives of different religious faiths spoke on the “Universal Dimensions of my Religion”. On 2 May there was a “Youth Retreat for Personality Development.” On 3 and 4 May there was a “Workshop on Leadership for an emerging India”. On 5 May there was a Spiritual Retreat for devotees. There were cultural programmes in the evenings on all these five days. On 2 May evening there was a “Krishna Leela” performance by the famous Shri Nikunja Vihari Rasleela Mandal Trust, Vrindavan. On 3 May evening there was a flute recital programme by the child-prodigy Master Rajat Prasanna. On 4 May, there was a drama competition for school children in which several schools took part. On 5 May, there was a bhajan programme by the famous singer Shri Hemanta Chauhan.
The Ashrama’s new Value Education Centre (2001)
On 11 December 2001, Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj inaugurated the new ‘Value Education Centre’ in the Swami Vivekananda Gujarat Paribhraman Smriti Bhavan. Since 19 December 2001, 15 schools and 2087 students have participated in value education sessions held twice a month. From 16 September 2002, the Ashrama arranged for an exhibition ‘Arise ! Awake ! in Gujarati and English, consisting of 40 panels depicting the life and message of Swami Vivekananda, to be exhibited in various schools, colleges and hostels of Rajkot District. Till November 2002 nearly 16 schools/colleges have been covered and about 12,500 students have been able to have a glimpse of the life and message of Swami Vivekananda.
During the period 1995 to 2002 several new titles were published by the Publication Department of the Ashrama. They include among others, Sri Ramakrishnadevni Amrutvani, Swami Vivekananda Granthamala Sanchayan, Vyaktitva Vikas, Utho Jago, Adhyatmik Sadhana, Iccha Shati ane Teno Vikas, Charitrya Nirman kevi rite karvun, Swami Vivekanandana Agnimantra, Adhyatmik Jivanno Marma, Bharatma Shakti Puja, Vedanta ane Manavjatinu Bhavi, Manni Shanti, Atma Vikar, Vidyarthine Patra, Amrutna Panthe, Vijnana ane Adhyatmikata, Hindu Dharma vishe Prashnottari, Upanishadonna Akarshan ane shakti, Vyavaharu Vedanta ane Mulyonun Vijnan, Sri Sri Matrucharane, Pathdarshak Paygambar Swami Vivekananda, Sahuna Swami Vivekananda, Amar Bharat,Sri Krishnani Vani, Sri Buddhani Vani, Sri Ramni Vani, Ishuni vani, Sri Mahavirni Vani, sri Shankaracharyani Vani, Sri Ramakrishnani Sachitra Jivankatha, Sri Ma Saradadevini Sachitra Jivankatha, Swami Vivekanandani Sachitra Jivankatha etc., and some books in English like Swami Vivekananda-Prophet and Pathfinder, Indian Ethos for Management, Value Education, Swami Vivekananda : epoch-maker spiritual leader etc., In December 2002 there are over 130 titles in circulation.