Swami Sarvasthananda is a monk of Ramakrishna Order and Minister-in-charge, Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre, U.K. and former Adhyaksha of Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot.

One day Sri Keshab Chandra Sen, the famous Brahmo leader approached Sri Ramakrishna and said to him: “Sir, if you permit, I want to make known your message to the public. It will definitely do people good and bring peace to the world.”

Sri Ramakrishna replied in an ecstatic mood: “It is not the time to spread the message of this place [i.e. his message] through lectures and newspapers. The power and ideas that are within this body will automatically spread all around in course of time. Hundreds of Himalayas will not be able to suppress that power.” (Ramakrishna as we saw Him, Ed.&trans. Swami Chetanananda (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1999), p. 287)

Speaking about the role of an Avatar, Swamiji says: “He (the Avatar) focuses in his own mind the thought of the age in which he is living and gives it back to mankind in concrete form.” Unlike worldly material power, the spiritual power of an incarnation manifests or unfolds in a subtle manner, almost imperceptible to gross human intellect and understanding. Sri Ramakrishna came with a message, a new set of ideas suited to the needs of the present age. He first applied it in his own life and charged it with power. This spiritual power generated by Sri Ramakrishna through his intense sadhanas and prayers got transmitted to different parts of India and the world through Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi and his direct disciples led by Swami Vivekananda.

Subsequently, through the disciples of those direct disciples and through successive generations of disciples, the message and power of Sri Ramakrishna have been spreading in ever-widening circles to form what may be termed the Ramakrishna Movement. Thus we see that the Ramakrishna Movement is inspired and powered by the Holy Trio – Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda – who also form the common goal and ideal for all the members of the Movement.

Sri Ramakrishna trained a group of young disciples, inspired them to lead a life of total renunciation and service and put them under the care and guidance of Narendranath (Swami Vivekananda). They were to be the torchbearers of his message and through them Sri Ramakrishna laid the foundation of a new monastic Order, which came to be known later as the Ramakrishna Math. It was registered as a Trust in 1899. Ramakrishna Mission is a society founded by Swami Vivekananda on 1 May, 1897 in which the monks of Ramakrishna Math and lay supporters cooperate in conducting service such as running schools, hospitals, rural development, etc. It was registered as a charitable Society in 1909. The Movement has now become a big river which is the confluence of several streams. The Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission together constitute the main stream. Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Mission which were founded in 1953 together constitute another stream. The lakhs of lay devotees attached to these institutions form the third stream. Apart from these, there are hundreds of unaffiliated, independent Ashramas and study circles bearing the name of Sri Ramakrishna or Sri Sarada Devi or Swami Vivekananda; they together make the fourth stream of Ramakrishna Movement. We shall make a humble attempt to trace the history of the Ramakrishna Movement in Gujarat as it slowly started unfolding itself right from the last decade of the nineteenth century.

Gujarat was privileged to have been exposed to the Ramakrishna Movement during Swamiji’s Bharat Parikrama in 1891-92, long before his appearance on the world-stage at Chicago. However, in the early part of 1890 Swamiji’s gurubhais, Swami Brahmanandaji and Swami Subodhanandaji went on pilgrimage to Dwaraka and Girnar (Junagadh) and some other places in Western India.

Swami Vivekananda’s Gurubhais in Gujarat

Many brother disciples of Swamiji also visited the western parts of India during their Bharat Parikrama. The footfalls of Swamis – Brahmanandaji, Shivananadaji, Turiyanandaji, Saradanandaji, Akhandanandaji, Trigunatitanandaji, Advaitanandaji, Abhedanandaji, Subodhanandaji and Vijnananandaji have sanctified Gujarat. They visited some of the important places of Gujarat like Ahmedabad, Wadhwan, Limbdi, Bhavnagar, Sihor, Junagadh, Girnar, Bhuj, Veraval (Somnath), Porbandar, Nadiad, Dwarka, Mandvi, Narayan Sarovar, Palitana, and Baroda etc. Like Swamiji they too came in close touch with many of the Maharajas, Diwans and other leading people of Gujarat, and a spiritual bond was thus established between them, which since then has drawn the monks of the Order from time to time to these parts.

Swami Brahmanandaji and Swami Subodhanandaji in Gujarat

As we saw earlier, Swami Brahmanandaji, along with Swami Subodhanandaji visited Gujarat in early 1890 on their way to Vrindavan. Swami Brahmananda in his reminiscences writes: “From Dwaraka, we went to Bet Dwaraka which is about 14 miles away. Returning back to Dwaraka we left for Sudamapuri (Porbandar) by boat and then proceeded to Junagadh. Then we went to a place seven miles away near the foothills of Mount Girnar and spent about two days there. Then we climbed Mount Girnar and spent the (Mahashivrathri) night there. From there we went to Ahmedabad.” (Brahmananda Charit (Bengali), by Swami Prabhananda, Udbodhan, 1995, p.86)

Being deeply contemplative by nature, unlike any ordinary pilgrim, Swami Brahmanandaji would identify himself with a deeper spirit of the tirtha and used to be constantly absorbed within himself. Though he spoke very little his very countenance indicated the spiritual fire within. Many people were attracted to him and they would feel it a privilege to be of some service to him. However, his mind was soaring high and was altogether indifferent to any material comfort. It was difficult, if not impossible, to persuade Maharaj to accept any gift. When Swami Brahmanandaji and Swami Subodhanandaji went to Dwaraka, they found out that pilgrims are required to pay a tax for taking bath in the sacred river Gomati. Seeing that neither of the two Swamis had any money with them, a rich merchant offered to pay their tax but Swami Brahmanandaji refused and preferred to take his bath in the nearby ocean. This impressed the merchant so much that he also refused to pay the tax and went to bathe with the two Swamis. He invited them to his residence and entertained them for three days, but when he offered them money for their further travels, Swami Brahmanandaji refused to accept it. The merchant then offered to give them letters of introduction to his agents in different parts of the country so that their comfort would be assured wherever they went. But Swami Brahmanandaji refused this offer also. “I need nothing from anybody,” he said. “The Lord is my only refuge! He will look after us.” The merchant then gave him a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, which was gladly accepted. (The Eternal Companion, 1993, p. 43-44)

Swami Abhedanandaji, Swami Akhandanandaji and Swami Trigunatitanandaji met Swamiji sometime or the other during his Gujarat Parikrama and spent some time with their beloved gurubhai and leader.

Visit of some other direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna to Gujarat

After the establishment of the Ramakrishna Math, Swamiji proposed to preach and spread the message of Sri Ramakrishna by sending his brother disciples all over India. According to this plan, Swami Saradanandaji and Swami Turiyanandaji were sent to Gujarat and Kathiawad in February 1899. However, this was Swami Turiyanandaji’s second visit to Gujarat. Sometime in 1896, Swami Turiyanandaji left Alambazar Math for a pilgrimage and reached Saurashtra. The details of that visit are however, not known. But when he came to the mountain region of Girnar in Junagadh, he found that it had an atmosphere conducive to meditation. So he settled down there in a cave and after a few months of tapasya he left Gujarat and moved on towards the Ganges.

During his second visit, Swami Turiyanandaji left for Gujarat with Swami Saradanandaji after seeking the blessings of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi on 7 February 1899. Swamiji had also instructed them to collect funds for the Math. Accordingly, they started for their Western India trip and passing through Kanpur and Agra reached Jaipur. From Jaipur, they started for Ahmedabad by train and from Ahmedabad, they reached Limbdi in the evening of 15 February, 1899. They stayed there as the guests of the Maharaja of Limbdi till 4 March. They met the Maharaja on 20 February and he agreed to give them letters of introduction addressed to various prominent people. Then on the suggestion of the Diwan, a public meeting was organised in Limbdi, but owing to poor response from the public, the Librarian then suggested to have another meeting on 26 February at 4 p.m. In this meeting Swami Saradanandaji spoke in Hindi. This was his first public lecture in Hindi. On 1 March, the Diwan of Limbdi informed the Swamis that the Maharaja would be glad to give one thousand rupees for Swamiji’s work. The Diwan of Junagadh also promised to give two hundred rupees.

On 14 March, they met Thakore Saheb Lakhajiraj of Rajkot who promised them financial help. On 17 March, the Swamis then left for Gondal. During their stay at Morbi, they received a letter on April 6 from Sister Nivedita with the shocking news of the passing away of their beloved brother disciple Swami Yoganandaji. On the same night Swami Saradanandaji delivered a lecture in Hindi at the town hall in Morbi. Again on 14 April, he delivered a lecture on ‘The essence of the Vedas’ at Shamaldas College, Bhavnagar. The lecture impressed a lot of people belonging to various sections of society according to a report in the journal Brahmavadin. During their sojourn they had also expressed a desire to establish a permanent centre in Kathiawad. Kathiawad consisted of many small native states and some of the most frequented places of pilgrimage sacred to the Hindus and Jains, and occupied an important position in Western India. It was then a stronghold of Jainism, some cults of Vaishnavism and of a reform movement started by Shri Swaminarayan. But the work of propagation of Vedanta in Gujarat by them could not progress further as they received a telegram from Swami Vivekananda to come back to the Math immediately. They left for Math on the very next day and reached there on 3 May 1899 after spending more than two months in Gujarat.

Some other gurubhais of Swamiji also visited Gujarat. In 1900, after a few days of Swami Vivekananda’s return from the West, Swami Advaitanandaji, with a few Gujarati devotees left for Dwarka and returned to the Math on February 7, 1901. Swami Advaitanandaji was perhaps followed by Swami Shivanandaji sometime in 1901 as we shall see later. Swami Vijnananandaji also visited Dwarka in 1932 and then visited the Ashramas at Rajkot and Bombay.

Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature in Gujarati

After Swami Vivekananda and his gurubhais’ various visits to Gujarat, it was Kalipada Ghosh who was chosen, as if, by Sri Ramakrishna to spread his message in the western parts of India. Kalipada Ghosh was one of those wayward souls like the famous Girish Ghosh whose life was transformed by the touch of the Master. It was Sri Ramakrishna’s blessings and unrestrained love that transformed an out-and-out bohemian and drunkard into a great devotee. Though he was not a writer and a playwright like Girish, he composed many songs and published them in a booklet entitled Ramakrishna Sangeet in 1893.

It was Kalipada who inspired and supported Bhagubhai F. Karbhari, the founder editor of the Gujarati weekly Prajabandhu in his mission of publishing Swamiji’s books in Gujarati and thus exposing them to Ramakrishna Vivekananda Bhavadhara. This weekly Prajabandhu was later converted into a daily, Gujarat Samachar, which is today one of the leading dailies of Gujarat. That he was inspired by Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature, especially journals like The Brahmavadin and The Prabuddha Bharata, is evident from the contents of his first editorial of Prajabandhu. Prajabandhu published a life sketch of Sri Ramakrishna serially from its 9 July 1899 issue onwards. In two subsequent issues of Prajabandhu in 1901, there is also a reference to three evening lectures delivered by Swami Shivananda at the Shanti Bhuvan Theatre Hall, Ahmedabad. On two consecutive Sundays, Swami Shivanandaji spoke on the Life and Mission of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsadeva. He discussed at length on the efforts made by Swamiji to spread Vedanta in America after creating a sensation at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. He also explained the philosophy behind image worship. On one of the following days (Monday) he also spoke on Bhakti and emphasized the need to remove all encrustations accumulated over the centuries, due to ignorance, on our glorious Sanatana Dharma. Sri Ramakrishna’s advent was to fulfil this purpose and thus restore our ancient Sanatana Vedic Dharma to its pristine glory.

Bhagubhai was also a dealer of paper manufactured by the firm M/s John Dickinson & Co.Ltd., London with an office in Ahmedabad. It was primarily due to the efforts of Kalipada Ghosh, who was at that time in charge of the Bombay office of M/s John Dickinson and Co., that this company could open many offices in the main cities of India. Among his many achievements worth mentioning is his organizing of Sri Ramakrishna Mill in 1908 and Swami Vivekananda Mill in 1919, both cloth mills at Ahmedabad. It was through Kalipada’s inspiration that Bhagubhai published Sanatana Hindu Dharma (1st Edn: January 1897, pp. 36, Vijay Pravartak Press, Ahmedabad), a Gujarati translation of Swamiji’s addresses at the Parliament of Religions, Chicago. In the appendix to this book he gives a brief biographical sketch of Swamiji in which he refers to ‘Dharmik Purusho’ published by Gujarat Vernacular Society, Ahmedabad, in June 1893. This book of hundred pages authored by the famous Gujarati writer Narayan Hemchandra (1855-1904), contains the life sketches of twelve great prophets and saints like Sri Chaitanya, Nanak, Kabir and Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna’s biographical sketch of 13 pages in this book might as well be the first to be published in any Indian vernacular after Ramachandra Dutta’s Bengali biography was published in 1890. However, the author refers to only Keshab Sen’s writings in the Indian Mirror and Dharma Tattwa and the book Paramahamser Ukti (1889) in this biography.

On the back cover of Sanatana Hindu Dharma, Bhagubhai had printed a list of eleven books on Swamiji, which were then under preparation. Of these books Karma Yoga was published in 1897 from Saraswati Bhavan, Ahmedabad, where he had earlier started a press with the machinery that he had purchased from his friend Shyamji Krishna Verma. In the introduction to Karma Yoga (1st Edn: Sept. 1897, pp. 96) and Swami Vivekananda na Patro (1st Edn: Jan 1912, pp. 284 N.M.Tripathi & Co., Mumbai), Bhagubhai mentions some interesting facts. He was first introduced to Swamiji at Bombay in 1892 by his friend Pareshchandra Ghosh (later Swami Shyamananda). He also mentioned that he used to receive letters from Swamiji regularly and in one such letter dated 8-8-1896 written from Switzerland, Swamiji wrote, ‘The Karma Yoga, you ought to translate from the American Edition and not the English.’ Some other books on Swamiji translated by Bhagubhai like Raja Yoga (1st Edn: 1899, pp. 112 ), Patanjala Yoga Darshan (1st Edn: 1903, pp. 240) both published by Mahadev Ramachandra Jagushte, Ahmedabad and Swami Shishya Samvada (11th Edn: 1914, pp. 60, Meghji Hirji & Co., Mumbai) are preserved in the archives of B.J Vidyabhavan Granthalaya (formerly Gujarat Vernacular Society), Ahmedabad, in addition to the books mentioned earlier.

Of these above books three were sent for review to The Prabuddha Bharata, which published the following note in its July 1901 issue:

‘We have received with thanks a copy each of Swami Vivekananda’s Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga and Hinduism translated into Gujarati by Mr. Bhagu F. Karbhari, the founder and first editor of the Prajabandhu newspaper. Every able man of our country who undertakes the translation of Swamiji’s works into his vernacular renders a service to his people, since a very small portion of our countrymen are yet able to read them in the original.’

Swamiji’s appearance on the world scenario in 1893 and the historic reception accorded to him on his return from the West in 1897 were the first signs of the awakening of India from the stupor into which it had fallen as a result of several hundred years of foreign domination. As a result, the whole country, irrespective of the language or region, saw in him a common leader who represented their ideals and aspirations. Apart from English newspapers like The Statesman and The Indian Mirror, and the periodicals started by Swamiji, The Brahmavadin (in 1895), The Prabuddha Bharata (in 1896) and Udbodhan (in 1899), several vernacular newspapers and periodicals all over the country began to publish with great enthusiasm, reports and extracts from Swamiji’s speeches, writings, and his letters in the last decade of the nineteenth century. The leading Gujarati daily Bombay Samachar, which was started as a weekly in 1822, published several such reports, the most notable among them being a report of the welcome accorded to Swamiji at Calcutta, in its February 20, 1897 issue and a biographical sketch which appeared after his mahasamadhi in its July 8, 1902 issue.

As we have already stated earlier, some books on Sri Ramakrishna and his message in Bengali were published in the early 1880’s but it was only in the late 1890’s that the books on Swamiji first began to appear in English. On February 23, 1896 Swamiji’s first book, Karma Yoga, was published in New York followed by Raja Yoga in July 1896 from London. Some more books and several small pamphlets were also published. However, it is only after the first journal of the Ramakrishna Movement in any vernacular, Udbodhan, was brought out in January 1899 that serious attempts were made to translate and publish books in Bengali on a regular basis. Gujarati literature was privileged to rank among the earliest vernacular literatures to be exposed to Ramakrishna-Vivekananda thought due to the pioneering efforts of several literary personalities.

Perhaps, this is the reason why one of the earliest biographical sketches of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda to be published in any vernacular, came out in Gujarati as early as in the year 1896. The author of the encyclopedic work, Mahajan Mandal (a book of more than 1325 pages of 1/8 demy size), Maganlal N. Patel, (b. 1859) was a native of Baroda State. In this book he has given a short but comprehensive biographical sketch of Sri Ramakrishna and Swamiji in more than ten pages. This huge volume gave the life sketches of a large number of saints, rulers, diwans, litterateurs and other eminent personalities like Mirabai, Narasinha Mehta, Tukaram, Keshab Chandra Sen, Max Muller, Sayajirao Gaekwad, Haridas V.Desai, many of whom, like Swamiji, were still alive. When this book was published in 1896, Swamiji was only 33 years old and was in England preaching Vedanta, a year before his historic return to India as a prophet. And yet we find the author, already proclaiming him as a Saviour who has incarnated to reestablish the truths of Vedanta. In the foreword to this book the author Maganlal has expressed his gratitude to Shri Bhagubhai Karbhari for his assistance in providing important literary materials while preparing the book. It is therefore, not unreasonable to presume that the information on Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda must have been provided by Bhagubhai, of course with Kalipada Ghosh’s assistance.

The most significant contribution to Gujarati literature, however, was the publication of Vivekananda Vicharmala in six volumes by Iccharam Suryaram Desai’s Gujarati Printing Press, Bombay during 1911-1916. A great scholar and translator of religious classics, Iccharam Desai (b.1853, d.1912) wrote or translated more that 40 books during his lifetime. He also founded the weekly journal Gujarati for propagating Gujarati literature. The translation of Vivekananda Vicharmala was done by Narayan Vissanji Thakkur (b.1880, d.1938), popularly known as the ‘Sir Walter Scott’ of Gujarati literature. A famous novelist and a poet, Narayan V. Thakkur wrote his first novel in 1911 at the age of 26. He knew English, Sanskrit, Bengali, Persian, Urdu and Marathi in addition to Gujarati. During his lifetime he wrote or translated more than a hundred books, the most famous among them being, Hindu Gaurav Granthamala, Bharatni Lokkatha (10 volumes) and the monumental work Vivekananda Vicharmala. The translation of Swamiji’s works evidently inspired him. He developed vairagya, as a result of which, in later life, he embraced Sannyasa and lived in Puri. In his introduction to the second volume of Vivekananda Vicharmala, Narayan Thakkur mentions the fact that after the publication of the first volume of Vivekananda Vicharmala in 1911, some attempts were made to publish Vivekananda Lekhamalika from Allahabad in Hindi and Swami Vivekananda Yanche Samagra Grantha by Mumbai Karnataka Press in Marathi. But he emphatically adds that this Gujarati translation is the first serious attempt in any vernacular to publish The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. It is also interesting to note that Gujarati Printing Press conceived of this project before the first Mayavati Memorial Edition (1907) of The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (in four volumes with Sister Nivedita’s foreword) came to their notice. Narayan Thakkur painstakingly collected materials from the various books, journals and pamphlets which were available at that time, translated them into excellent Gujarati prose and published the first volume, when the first Mayavati Memorial Edition of the complete works of Swami Vivekananda in English came to his hands. He made use of them to publish the subsequent volumes.

Another important milestone in the history of Gujarati literature was the publication of the first subsidized edition of the ‘Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda’ in thirteen volumes from 1914 onwards by Sastu Sahitya Vardhak Karyalaya, Ahmedabad. Being a commercial publication house, the books published by Gujarati Printing Press were out of reach of the common man. Bhikshu Akhandananda founded the Sastu Sahitya Vardhak Karyalaya in 1907 to publish books of great utility at a very nominal price. They launched a scheme to provide books on an annual subscription basis under the name of ‘Vividh Granthamala’ and thereby sold more than 5000 sets of books even before they were actually published. It was under this scheme that Swamiji’s Complete Works, including his exhaustive biography, was first published in 13 volumes from 1914 to 1930. In 1912, they also publised a large collection of Swamiji’s letters translated by the great Jain scholar Mohanlal Dalichand Desai.

Anandashanker Dhruva (1859-1942) was an eminent litterateur and educationist, the founder of the famous Gujarati journal Vasanta (in 1902) and Vice Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University for nearly 20 years. He inspired and helped his friend Motishankar Udayshankar to publish the Gujarati translation of ‘Ramakrishna: His Life and Sayings’ by Max Muller with the title ‘Sri Ramakrishna : Jivan Tatha Vachanamrita’. (1st Edn: 1901, pp.164, Union Printing Press, Ahmedabad)

The first English edition of ‘The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’, which was the translation of the first volume of the original Bengali translated into English by Mahendranath Gupta himself, was published by Brahmavadin Office, Madras in 1907. The second revised edition was published in 1911 by Ramakrishna Math, Madras. These editions inspired the publication of the first Gujarati translation of ‘The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’ called ‘Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansana Sadvachan’ (1st Edn : 1913, pp.356, Damodardas Printing House, Rajkot) by Shri Kevalram Mavji Dave of Rajkot, a classmate and close friend of Mahatma Gandhi, in 1913. Kevalram was so much fascinated by the Gospel that he went all the way to Calcutta in February 1911 to seek M’s permission to translate it into Gujarati. Later, through his letter dated 14 May, 1811, which was partly published in the foreword to the Gujarati translation, M. gave him the permission but with certain conditions. One of them was that whatever profit that accrued from the sale of the book should be sent to Belur Math for Sri Thakur Seva at Advaita Ashrama, Varanasi.

Ever since then several noteworthy attempts were made to publish the Gospel into Gujarati. Paramahamsa Ramakrishna Sudhasindhu-I, translated by Narmadashankar Balashankar (1st Edn : 1913, pp. 88, Granthamuktavali Office, Surat) and Sri Ramakrishna Vaksudha-I, translated by Dwivedi Jayshankar Ambalal (1st Edn: Sept. 1914, pp. 116, Sahitya Prakash Karyalaya, Nadiad) were among the earliest attempts made in this direction. Though copies of the subsequent volumes in this series are not traceable now, there is a possibility that they were published soon after. Sastu Sahitya Vardhak Karyalaya, Ahmedabad published the Gujarati translation of the first three volumes of the original Gospel in Bengali in two parts in 1918 and 1919 respectively. More than 4300 copies of these highly subsidized publications, Ramakrishna Kathamrita-I, (pp. 587, 33 chapters) and Ramakrishna Kathamrita-II (chapters 15) were sold out within a year. Hence a combined edition (pp.668, 48 chapters) in a larger (demy size) was published in 1924. This edition ran into five editions till 1980. Another interesting fact is that the translator of this edition Shri Narmadashankar B. Pandya became a sannyasin in later life, assuming the name Swami Sevananda. Subsequently, Sastu Sahitya Vardhak Karyalaya published the translation of the fourth volume of the Gospel in Bengali in two parts Sri Ramakrishna Vartalap (Vol I & II) (1st Edn. 1947, 33 chapters)

In 1918, Dahyabhai Ramchandra Mehta founded ‘Sri Ramakrishna Seva Samiti’ in Ahmedabad, which undertook to publish fresh Gujarati translations of the original Gospel in Bengali. Accordingly, Swami Chaitanyananda of Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Panchavati, Nasik translated the first three volumes of the Bengali original and the Samiti published them in a larger format as Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita-Vol I (1st Edn : 1949, pp.345 18 chapters), Vol II (1st Edn: Jan 1951, pp.416, 18 chapters), Vol III (1st Edn : June 1951, pp.452, 26 chapters). The Samiti subsequently published the two remaining volumes.

However, the first standard translation of the Gospel known as ‘Shri Ramakrishna Kathamrita’ was first published in two volumes by Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot in May 1965. Though Swami Chaitanyananda’s translation of the five volumes of the Bengali original was used in this edition, the chapters were rearranged chronologically. The whole manuscript was edited by Shri Ramnarayan N.Pathak, a literary personality of great repute and also a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. The first volume of 600 demy sized pages and the second volume of 636 pages were priced at Rs.10/- each and 5000 copies of each were printed.

Dahyabhai Ramachandra Mehta, (b,1870, d.1952) wrote the first exhaustive biography of Sri Ramakrishna in Gujarati titled ‘Ramakrishna Paramahansa’ in 1918. 3000 copies of this demy sized book of more than 750 pages were distributed free of cost by the author within a few months. He also asked several prominent literary figures like Chaganlal Pandya to review this book as a result of which Sri Ramakrishna’s life and message became well known in Gujarat’s literary circles. An author of several books on religion, Dahyabhai has written or translated at least fifteen books connected with Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Movement like Swami Vivekananda-Jivan Charitra, Raja Yoga (in 2 parts), Sri Ramakrishna Vachanamrita, biographies of householder disciples of Sri Ramakrishna like Nag Mahashaya and Ramachandra Dutta. An initiated devotee of the Ramakrishna Math, his obituary, which appeared in the March 1953 (Phalgun 1360) issue of the Udbodhan, acknowledged his invaluable contribution towards the propagation of Ramakrishna Vivekananda ideology among the Gujarati reading public.

Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama in Rajkot

In 1924, Swami Nikhilanandaji, while engaged in propaganda work in Kathiawad, came in close contact with some of the foremost ruling princes like the Maharaja Saheb of Morvi, Thakore Saheb of Rajkot and Limbdi, Maharaja Rana Saheb of Porbandar and other leading people of Gujarat. He suceeded in getting them interested in the ideals and activities of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. He stayed as 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 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.

S/d Natwarsinghji
Maharaja Rana Saheb,
Porbandar

P.S. A Sum of Rs. 20000/- has been promised by the State towards ‘Mayavati Ashrama’.

Rana Saheb of Porbandar donated Rs. 20000/- for charitable dispensary of Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati. Rana Saheb also expressed his desire that a branch centre of Ramakrishna Mission should be started in Porbandar and he assured all possible help in this regard. Later on, in the year 1925, when Swami Madhavanandaji came to Saurashtra (Kathiawad), the scheme of having a centre here matured. After visiting many prominent towns of Kathiawad 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 Morvi, Shri Lukhdhirji Jadeja was kind enough to spend a thousand rupees over the repairs of his old Utara (Rest House) in Civil Station, Rajkot and offer the same for the temporary use of the new Ashrama. Thakore Saheb Shri Lakhajiraj of Rajkot donated five hundred rupees for the maintainence of the Ashrama and promised more help if necessary.

Mr. Harishankar N. Pandya, Pleader, in co-operation with Sri C. N. Shroff, Diwan and other leading public men of Rajkot, set himself about the task in right earnest, collected 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 5 March, 1927, the auspicious birthday of Sri Ramakrishna, and came off with due éclat and solemnity. It was really a day of consecration and joy. The morning began with special worship of Sri Ramakrishna and Homa joined in by several distinguished gentlemen as well as the Maharaja Saheb of Morvi. In the evening a public meeting was held in the Ashrama compound, and was presided over by the Maharaja Saheb of Morvi. In the inaugural speech, 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 Kathiawad 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 of the Great Master. 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. Ram-nam Sankirtan, Shyam-nam Sankirtan and Shiv-nam 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 followed by ‘Sri Ramakrishna Upadesh’ in Gujarati. In the same year the Ashrama published the Gujarati translation of Swami Saradananda’s monumental work ‘Sri Sri Ramakrishna Lilaprasanga’. All the five volumes were translated by Harishankar N. Pandya, a disciple of Swami Shivanandaji, with the help of Swami Japanandaji (1898-1972), a disciple of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi. These volumes were published by the Ashrama in 1930, 1931, 1942, 1945, and 1961 respectively. Since 1927, the Ashrama has published more than 180 titles on Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature and Vedanta, which is a major contribution to Gujarati literature.

Swami Japanandaji had his Sannyasa in 1920 from Swami Brahmanandaji. He spent a lot of time in Gujarat as a wandering monk since 1921-22 helping to spread Ramakrishna-Vivekananda thought in these parts of India. Sometime in 1921, he visited Surat and Sachin on his way to Nasik in Maharashtra. In April 1922, he again started on a long tour of Gujarat which included Vadodara, Bharuch on the banks of the Narmada, Dahej, Ghogha Port (Bhavnagar), Porbandar, Dwarka. In the summer of 1929, he visited Gujarat again. After staying in Mangrol in Junagadh District at the invitation of the Diwan Kantilal Vasavada, he visited Rajkot Ashrama and then spent some time in Junagadh (Girnar) and Jamnagar. He also toured other parts of Saurashtra extensively and that included among other places, Gondal, Jetpur, Lathi, Babra, Jasdan, Ghela Somnath, Chotila, and Wankaner. Then he helped Sri Harishankar Pandya in the translation work of Sri Ramakrishna Lilaprasanga during his stay at Rajkot Ashrama. In winter after finishing the translation he left for Bilkha State at the earnest invitation of Diwan Tribhuvanbhai to organize a Sevashrama with State assistance. The activity began with the establishment of Sri Ramakrishna Sevashrama which included a free ayurvedic dispensary, eight schools for harijans in Bilkha and nearby villages and an extensive sanitation, hygiene and health awareness programme. Japanandaji organized all these activities with the financial support of Diwan and even persuaded Swami Shuddhanandaji, the then General Secretary of Ramakrishna Math and Mission to visit these centres and stay there for seven days. These activities continued for more than seven years from 1930 to 1937 till the passing away of Diwan Tribhuvanbhai. During this period Swami Japanandaji visited various other parts of Gujarat like Dhrol, Jamnagar, Balachadi, Palanpur, Deesa, and Ahmedabad and tried in his own humble way to spread the message of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda.

The Ashrama at its new premises

As we have seen above, in February 1931, Swami Shuddhanandaji visited Rajkot Ashrama and also the Sevashrama at Bilkha. In September 1931, the Rajkot Ashrama purchased 4000 sq. yards of land at its present site at a nominal price through the kindness of Dharmendrasinhji, Thakore Saheb of Rajkot. In March 1932, Swami Sarvanandaji laid the foundation stone for construction of the Ashrama buildings. In September 1932, a hostel for students named ‘Vivekananda Vidyarthi Bhavan’ was started where regular weekly value education sessions were also conducted. In January 1933, the Rajkot Ashrama was sanctified by the visit of Swami Vijnananandaji, 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.

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. In a special silver mounted horse carriage drawn by six horses, Bhagavan 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, Diwan of Junagadh and many other dignitaries graced the occasion.

In 1935-36, a small monks’ quarters with three rooms (8′ x 10′ each), a kitchen and store building, and other structures were built. Later on, three rooms, which served as an office building were built. In January 1936, a piece of land measuring 120 sq. yards was purchased by the Rajkot Ashrama and a new dispensary building was inaugurated by Swami Sarvanandaji on 15 February 1937.

Birth Centenary Celebrations of Sri Ramakrishna (1936-37) and later developments

In the Birth Centenary year of Sri Ramakrishna, a Parliament of Religions was held from 13 to 15 February 1937 at the Connaught Hall, Rajkot, Women’s Convention was held on 15 February 1937 and a Youth Convention was held at the Rajkot 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. The Ashrama was already conducting a Students’ Home but an English medium residential school ‘Vivekananda Gurukul’ was started in 1939. Soon after construction began for a new temple and was dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna and consecrated on 11 December 1943. On 8 June 1944, the Rajkot Ashrama purchased 15,000 sq. yards of land for future expansion of its activities.

From 12 September 1945, Swami Bhuteshanandaji took charge as the head of the Rajkot Ashrama. Under his able stewardship, the publication activity of the Ashrama made commendable progress. During the period 1945 to 1966, several books in Gujarati were published. 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 library building was inaugurated in the Rajkot Ashrama on 14 October 1955 by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the Vice-President of India in the holy presence of Swami Madhavanandaji, the then General Secretary, Ramakrishna Math and Mission, Swami Sambuddhanandaji, Swami Ranganathanandaji, and 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 Ashrama dispensary, started in February 1937, was shifted to its newly constructed spacious building with Homeopathic and Ayurvedic Departments, after its inauguration on 28th September 1960 by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India. A new hostel building ‘Sri Ramakrishna Vidyarthi Mandir’ was inaugurated in 1962.

Swami Vivekananda Birth Centenary Celebrations and Publications (1963-64)

The Publication of books in Gujarati and its extensive propagation 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 of Gujarat State. The Rajkot 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 the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda 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 then 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. As mentioned earlier, ‘Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita’, which was translated from the original Bengali, 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 Ramnarayan Pathak, Jayantilal M.Oza, Harishankar N. Pandya, and J. R. Vaidya. ‘Ramakrishnadeva-Jivan Charitra’ published by the Ashrama in January 1964 was adjudged the best book to be published in Gujarati during the year 1964 by the State Government. Thus Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature reached all the corners of Gujarat.

The impact of Ramakrishna Vivekananda Literature on Mahatma Gandhi and other eminent personalities of Gujarat

The arrival of Mahatma Gandhi on the national scene after a victorious struggle in Africa marked the beginning of a new phase not only in the socio-political field but also in the field of Gujarati literature. Though not essentially a man of literature, Gandhiji inspired a whole generation of literary personalities not only in Gujarat but also throughout the country. His works in Gujarati consists chiefly of his articles in his innumerable letters and some other books like Atmakatha. Speaking about his literary style K. M. Munshi says: ‘Mahatma Gandhi has given to Gujarati prose a new sense of power. With him, beauty of expression has to be a humble housemaid to Truth. And the reader invariably falls under the spell of ‘the bare, sheer, penetrating power of every line’ of his, which, under the stress of some great emotion, attains biblical strength.’ (K. M. Munshi, Gujarata and Its Literature, (Bombay : Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd., 1935), p. 312)

The tremendous influence exerted by the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna on Mahatma Gandhi is beautifully expressed by Vincent Sheean in his book ‘Lead Kindly Light’. He writes: “He [Gandhi] was always ready to acknowledge his masters, who were indeed, each in his field, more highly developed than he. They were in sanctity of personal life a large number of Hindu exemplars; and, above all, in sheer mysticism, that is, in the quality Indians call ‘spirituality’, the Mahatma very humbly recognized himself to be a follower. But certainly his reverence for Ramakrishna was strong and unfeigned, and a more extreme mystical phenomenon than Ramakrishna has yet to be observed on earth. Gandhi’s reserve on the subject of religious ‘realizations’ was seldom broken – never with respect to himself—but he wrote a foreword to the ‘Life of Ramakrishna’ in 1924 which is worth quoting: “The story of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s life is a story of religion in practice. His life enables us to see God face to face. No one can read the story of his life without being convinced that God alone is real and all else is an illusion. Ramakrishna was a living embodiment of godliness. His sayings are not those of a mere learned man but they are pages from the Book of Life. They are revelations of his own experiences. They therefore leave on the reader an impression which he cannot resist.” (Vincent Sheean, Lead Kindly Light, (London : Cassell & Co. Ltd., 1950), p. 315-16)

By introducing the method of objective verification in the field of religious experience, Shri Ramakrishna laid the foundation of what may be termed as a Scientific Religion to suit the modern scientific spirit. His experiments in religion might have provided the inspiration for Gandhiji’s Experiments with Truth. Sri Ramakrishna’s ideal of Sarva Dharma Samanvaya found an echo in Gandhiji’s ‘equal respect for all religions’.

While paying his homage to the revered memory of Swamiji in 1921, at Belur Math Gandhiji spoke the following words: “I have gone through his [Swamiji’s] works very thoroughly and after having gone through them, the love I had for my country became a thousandfold.” (My India The India Eternal (Calcutta : The R. K. Mission Institute of Culture, 1996), p. 205)

God to Shri Ramakrishna was no abstraction or a hypothesis but a reality to be seen, felt, spoken to, consulted with every moment. Gandhiji said: “I am surer of His existence than of the fact that you and I are sitting in this room. I may live without air and water, but not without Him.”

No important decision of his was taken without consulting the “inner voice.” (Pyarelal, Mahatma Gandhi, Vol.1, The Early Phase, (Ahmedabad, Navajivan Pub.House, 1986) p. 99) Shri Ramakrishna once told Keshab Sen: “If God makes a man great, then everybody knows about him even though he lives in a forest. When flowers bloom in the deep woods, the bees find them, but the flies do not.” (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, (Madras, Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1985), p. 1020)

In in a similar language, Gandhiji said: “Life is its own expression. The rose does not need to write a book or deliver a sermon on the scent it sheds all around, nor on the beauty, which everyone who has eyes can see. Spiritual life is infinitely superior to the beautiful and fragrant rose… The moment there is a spiritual expression in life, the surrounding will readily respond.” (Harijan, December 12, 1936, p. 353)

Elaborating his Master’s idea regarding the power of concentrated thought, Shri Ramakrishna’s disciple Swami Vivekananda said: “The highest men are calm, silent and unknown. They are the men who really know the power of thought, they are sure that even if they go into a cave and close the door and simply think five true thoughts and then pass away, these five thoughts of theirs will live throughout eternity.” (CW, 1:106)

Gandhiji wrote in a similar language: “There are two kinds of thought, idle and active. There may be myriads of the former. They do not count. But one pure, active thought, proceeding from the depth and endowed with all the undivided intensity of one’s being, becomes dynamic.” (Harijan, November 10, 1946, p. 394)

Pyarelal, in his biography of Mahatma Gandhi shows how Gandhiji internalised some of Swamiji’s revolutionary ideas in the field of religion. He writes: “In the brief span of barely a decade, he [Swamiji] accomplished work enough for a life-time. He gave India the expression ‘Daridranarayana’ – God incarnated as oppressed humanity. First adopted by Deshabandhu C. R. Das… it became the watch-word of India’s non-violent struggle when Gandhiji inscribed it on his banner in his crusade for the resuscitation of India’s seven hundred thousand villages.” (Pyarelal, Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 1, The Early Phase, p. 101)

Pyarelal continues: “Vivekananda’s declaration about the futility of preaching religion to hungry stomachs, or his utterance: “He alone serves God who serves all other beings. There is no other God to seek.” How identical with Gandhiji’s: “I recognise no God except the God that is to be found in the hearts of the dumb millions. And I worship the God that is Truth or Truth which is God, through the service of these millions.”

“Instances of parallelism in their thought and expression can be multiplied. Gandhiji never wearied of proclaiming that his life was made up of little things. Swami Vivekananda confided to his English disciple, Sister Nivedita: “As I grow older, I find that I look more and more for greatness in little things.” (ibid. p. 101)

We thus get an idea of the great influence exerted by Ramakrishna-Vivekananda thought on Gandhiji’s life and his writings.

A close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, the great prose-writer, personal essayist of the highest order, beautiful travelogue writer, freedom fighter and above all an apostle of Indian culture, Dattatreya Balakrishna Kalelkar (b.1885, d.1981) was lovingly known as Kakasaheb Kalelkar in Gujarat and all over India. Though a Maharashtrian by birth, Kakasaheb was, in the words of Gandhiji, a Savai Gujarati. His mastery over the Gujarati language was unique and he is considered to be among the ten great prose-writers of Gujarati. He taught in Shantiniketan, and after Mahatma Gandhi established the Gujarat Vidyapitha, he was appointed its Vice Chancellor in 1928. He became the President of the Gujarat Sahitya Parishad in 1960. In his collected works, ‘Kalelkar Granthavali’, published during his birth centenary, we find many articles and quotations on Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and the activities of the Ramakrishna Mission. In his ‘Atmavrittanta’ he writes how he was inspired by the works of Swamiji in his early youth. (Kalelkar Granthavali, Vol. 8, (Ahmedabad, Acharyashri Kakasaheb Kalelkar Granthavali Prakashan Samiti, 1988) p. 7-11)In the section Charitra Sankirtan he gives a biographical sketch of Sri Ramakrishna and Swamiji. Elsewhere in the same section, he glorifies the contribution of Master Mahashaya, the recorder of ‘The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’. (ibid, p. 415-421, 525-544, 631-638) In his travelogue ‘Himalayano Pravasa’, he describes in graphic detail his pilgrimage to Belur Math, Kankhal Sevashrama and many other places associated with Ramakrishna-Vivekananda. (Kalelkar Granthavali, Vol. 1 (1984), p. 31-36, 79-81) In many other works, he echoes Swamijis thoughts. For instance, speaking about Indian history he says: “The ideal of Indian people is religion. Hence, in spite of diversity of creeds, there is a unity of the ultimate ideal of the individual and society. The direction of attaining this ideal is the same. This provides a unity to the view-point and conduct of the whole people.” (K. M. Munshi, Gujarata and Its Literatre, (Bombay : Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd., 1935), p. 321)

In another place, he attributes the greatness and permanence of Hindu Culture to: “the ascetic who has given up all worldly contact; who has converted the fruit overhanging his hut into a beggars bowl; who has coloured his cloth with red earth; who has offered to the world the cup of immortality and religion with the words, ‘Not with wealth, not with progeny, but with self-abnegation alone can immortality be attained.” (ibid., p. 322)

In a lecture delivered in 1963, which was printed in a souvenir published by Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot during Swamiji’s Centenary, Kakasaheb spoke in glowing terms about the tremendous impact Swamiji’s powerful personality and his message created on the national leaders of those days like Mahatma Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, Tagore, Tilak and others.

Another close associate of Gandhi at one time, Kanhaiyalal M. Munshi (b.1887, d.1971) dominated the Gujarati literary scene for many years. He wrote novels, short stories, plays, biographies, essays, articles, literary criticisms and history of literature. He has left behind 56 books in Gujarati and 36 in English. During his long literary career, he was associated with many periodicals and institutions. He started a quarterly journal ‘Bhargava Traimasika’ in 1912 and ‘Gujarat’, a leading literary journal in 1922. After establishing the ‘Gurjara Sabha’ in 1913 and the ‘Gujarata Sahitya Samsada’ in 1922, he almost single handedly managed the affairs of Gujarati Sahitya Parishad from 1937 to 1955. The last few years of his life were devoted to the consolidation and strengthening of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, which he had founded in 1938. During a life span of 84 years, he left a stamp of his genius on varied fields such as religion, philosophy, literature, arts, culture, journalism, education, and administration. This was definitely a result of the tremendous influence exerted by Swami Vivekananda on his life which Munshi has himself acknowledged in the following glowing words: “Few can understand, unless they belong to my age-group, the great influence which Swami Vivekananda had on us, in the first decade of the 20th century, when we were at College. We were then subject not only to political but also to cultural and religious humiliation… But it was only when we began to read the books of Swami Vivekananda that our eyes were opened. Reading these books, we derived considerable knowledge of Hindu culture and religion from the modern point of view. .. Indian Renaissance was not merely an artistic and literary movement like the European Renaissance. Nor was it only a religious movement. It was essentially cultural and spiritual… it was Swami Vivekananda who brought to us, the younger generations, the message of the renaissance. …We knew about Ramayana and Mahabharata but we found in them fresh inspiration only when we read Swamiji’s summaries in his works. Yoga was a word of mystic implication, but it was only when we read his Raja Yoga and Karma Yoga that we realized what it was. ..It was Prof. Aurobindo Ghosh (at the Baroda College) who suggested to me to read Yoga Sutras and the works of Swami Vivekananda. .. Swami Vivekananda took us back to the fundamental values of our culture and brought God into our life. We offer him our tribute not merely for what he has done, but because it provides us with an opportunity to mobilize our own spiritual aspirations by dwelling on him, his works and his ideas. This way we light our little lamp from the flaming torch that he was.” (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Souvenir, 2004)

Swami Ananda (b.1887, d.1976) was another famous literary figure who was inspired by Ramakrishna-Vivekananda ideology. Educated in Bombay, he had a good command over Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Urdu, Sanskrit and English. His writings include several original works as well as translations and adaptations of a large number of books on religion, science and social issues. His close contact with Mahatma Gandhi also enriched his mind and was reflected in his view of life, which showed his devotion to Truth, simplicity and spiritual pursuits.

In his famous work ‘Dhartini Arati’ (p.411, 439), he writes in great detail about his study of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature; his stay at Ramakrishna Mission Sevashrama, Kankhal; the dedicated service of the monks there that convinced him about the uniqueness of Ramakrishna Mission monasticsm, inspired by which he had tried to build up his own life.

In his collection of essays, ‘Ananta Kala’ (p.114) he speaks in glowing terms about those dedicated monks of the Ramakrishna Mission, in whose holy company he had the privilege to live for some years, and from whom he had learnt the true meaning of daridranarayana seva and sarvadharma samanvaya. In his travelogue ‘Uttarapathni Yatra’, (p.198) he writes about Sri Ramakrishna’s wonderful renunciation. In two of his works, ‘Samaj Chintan’ and ‘Himalayna Tirthasthano’, he highlights in several places Swamiji’s influence on national leaders right from Aurobindo to Radhakrishnan. He also writes about Sister Nivedita, with whom he had regular interactions and her contribution to the nation.

Ramnarayan N. Pathak (b.1905, d.1988) was another close associate of Gandhiji and Vinoba Bhave and a well known novelist who wrote mainly on nationalisic themes. His invaluable contribution to Gujarati literature is his translation of the ‘Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda’ (in 10 volumes) published by Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot during 1962-63 as stated earlier. In a letter of condolence dated April 30, 1990, Swami Bhuteshanandaji, the twelfth president of the Ramakrishna Order writes: “I found in Ramnarayanbhai not only a gifted writer, whose simple and clear style of translation made the ‘Swami Vivekananda Granthamala’ popular among the Gujarati readers in all parts of Gujarat and elsewhere, but I found in him a sincere follower of the ideal of Gandhiji, which made him a lover of all sections of people without any prejudice for their social barriers and difference of view-points.” (Smaranoni Pankhe, (Amreli, Sarvodaya Saraswati Mandir, 1992), p. 1)

Among the contemporary literary personalities, there are quite a few who have been deeply influenced by Ramakrishna – Vivekananda thought. Ramanlal Soni (b.1908) is one of the most prolific writers of childrens books in Gujarati. He has published an amazing number of titles, short stories, poems, plays, rhymes, biographies including those on Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and Sister Nivedita.

He has also translated a large number of Bengali books written by Tagore, Sharatchandra Chattopadhyaya, Iswarchandra Vidyasagar and others into Gujarati. There is a touch of refinement and a stamp of higher values of life in his writings. In a letter dated 7 June, 1905 and an article on Sri Ramakrishna written by the 97 year old Ramanlal, both of which have been published in the July 2005 issue of Shri Ramakrishna Jyot (Gujarati monthly), we get a glimpse of the great veneration, love and devotion, he has for Sri Ramakrishna and Swamiji.

Natwarlal Pandya (b.1920), a highly creative poet and winner of the Rashtriya Sahitya Academy Award (1976), better known by his pen name Ushnas, has composed a poetical masterpiece ‘Ramakrishna Darshandohana’, which is a beautiful rendering, in 818 verses, of the important teachings of Sri Ramakrishna.

There are several other literary personalities who have been directly or indirectly influenced by Ramakrishna-Vivekananda thought. They have tried in their own humble way to produce good classical literature and have thus enriched the field of Gujarati literature by their contribution.

A new Temple of Shri Ramakrishna in Rajkot

In Mar. 1966, Swami Atmasthanandaji took over the charge of the Ashrama from Swami Bhuteshanandaji, who was appointed as one of the Asst. Secretaries of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. The small existing temple was found to be insufficient for a large number of devotees who attended the prayer and other temple functions. 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 Shri Ramakrishna in Saurashtra, the land of temples. Due to benevolence of the generous public, nearly Rupees seven lacs were collected for the construction of the new temple. Swami Vireswaranandaji, 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. The Golden Jubilee of the Ashrama was celebrated from 5 April to 12 April, 1979 and the magnificent new Universal Temple of Sri Ramakrishna, built at a cost of about Rupees 25 lacs was dedicated by Swami Vireswaranandaji, on 6 April, 1979. 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., attending the celebrations.

Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Memorial at Porbandar

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, 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 this bungalow at 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 on 12th January 1997 by the Government of Gujarat to build a Vivekananda Memorial. The new centre was named as ‘Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Memorial, Porbandar’. Subsequently, the adjoining land measuring 1975 sq. mtrs was handed over by the State Government to the Mission. On 12 January, 1998, a 9′ 6″ high bronze statue was installed on a 12 ft. high pedestal in the Mission campus. On 9 January, 2002 a new prayer hall was dedicated by Swami Atmasthanandaji followed by the inauguration of a new library building in Porbandar by Shri Jagmohan, Minister of Tourism and Culture, Govt of India on 12 January, 2002. On 11 February, 2004, foundation stone for VIVEC (Vivekananda Institute of Value Education and Culture) was laid on the plot of land measuring 5000 sq mts situated behind the Ashrama obtained from Govt of Gujarat on 30 years lease on a token rent of Re.1/- per year. The Institute was subsequently inaugurated on 12 January, 2006 by Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, the President of India.

Ramakrishna Mission in 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. 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 Durbar Hall along with 6 acres of land donated by Shri Chhabildasbhai Shah and other assets to Swami Atmasthanandaji, the then General Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission. The Ramakrishna Mission centre at Limbdi has been conducting various spiritual, cultural and service activities in the dry and arid district of Surendranagar since then, most notable among them being the construction of 24 schools after the 2001 earthquake and the deepening of about 40 lakes/ponds and several deep tubewells under the ‘Ramakrishna Jaladhara Scheme’.

A few other non-affiliated centres were also active like the Ramakrishna Prarthana Mandir since 1969 in Ahmedabad, Bhuj and Vadodara. They are being run with the help of local devotees of the Ramakrishna Movement. They were subsequently registered as trusts. Sri Ramakrishna Vivekananda Kendra, Vadodara was registered in 1976 followed by Shri Ramakrishna Yuvak Mandal, Bhuj on 13 September, 1977 and Shri Ramakrishna Vivekananda Centre, Ahmedabad on 19 December, 1988.

The starting of the Gujarati monthly ‘Sri Ramakrishna Jyot’ (1989) and other subsequent developments

Another important milestone in the history of the Rajkot 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 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’.

A new dispensary building was inaugurated in the adjacent campus of the Rajkot Ashrama on 28 January, 1990 by Swami Bhuteshanandaji, the 12th President of Ramakrishna Math and Mission. On 20 November, 1992, Swami Vivekananda Paribhraman Shatabdi Bhavan with a permanent Exhibition of paintings and pictures on Indian culture, Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna Movement (rebuilt at the site of the old library building) was inaugurated by Swami Gahananandaji, the then Vice President, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. During the first and second phase of the Chicago Centenary Celebrations, 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.

A few other non-affiliated centres were also started during this period. They were subsequently registered as trusts. Sri Ramakrishna Seva Kendra, Adipur (Kutch) was registered on 25 July, 1991 followed by Shri Ramakrishna Seva Samiti, Dhaneti (Kutch) on 17 September, 1992 and Swami Vivekananda Seva Kendra, Junagadh on 24 January, 1994.

During this period three 8 feet bronze statues of Swami Vivekananda were unveiled by Swami Atmasthanandaji at Baroda, Limbdi and Rajkot on 11, 12, 13, February, 1994 respectively.

A few more non-affiliated centres were also started during this period. Sri Ramakrishna Seva Samiti, Upleta (Dt. Rajkot) was registered on 15 May, 1995 followed by Shri Ramakrishna Vivekananda Centre Trust, Jamnagar on 16 August, 1996 and Shri Ramakrishna Seva Samiti Trust, Dharampur, (Dt.Valsad) on 5 February, 1996. 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. Shri Ramakrishna Vivekananda Kendra, Gandhinagar was registered in March 1998.

On 18 January, 1999, a beautiful temple of Shri Ramakrishna constructed by Sri Ramakrishna Yuvak Mandal, Bhuj was conscecrated. On 3 December, 2000, Sri Ramakrishna Prarthana Mandir with a beautiful bronze statue of Swami Vivekananda in the campus installed by Swami Vivekananda Seva Kendra, Junagadh under the guidance of the Rajkot Ashrama was conscecrated by Swami Gahananandaji the then Vice-President, Ramakrishna Math and Mission. A new Prayer Hall has been built there recently.

Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Bhava Prachar Parishad Gujarat

In November 1992 and 1993 two conventions were organised by the Rajkot Ashrama for bringing together the various non-affiliated centres who were abiding by or ready to abide by the ten point guidelines which would enable them to become members of Ramakrishna Vivekananda Bhava Prachar Parishad. A similar meeting was held in Bhuj on 10 January, 1999 and later at the Rajkot Ashrama again in May 1999. Later such conventions were organised in Rajkot on 25 May, 2003, Ahmedabad centre on 6 July, 2003 and on 9 November, 2003 in Bhuj. Finally on 27 and 28 April, 2006 under the guidance of Swami Shivamayanandaji, the then Asst. Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, a convention was held at the Rajkot Ashrama in which the heads of all the affiliated centres at Rajkot, Limbdi, Porbandar and Vadodara were present along with the main office bearers of the non-affiliated centres of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Movement active in Gujarat. In this meeting Swami Shivamayanandaji explained clearly the ten point guidelines and the Gujarat Bhava Prachar was officially formed with the centres at Adipur, Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Jamnagar, Junagadh and Kim being accepted as the member centres and the centres at Dhaneti, Dharampur & Upleta as observer centres. Swami Adibhavanandaji, Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission was appointed as the President of the Parishad. Swami Dhruveshanandaji, Swami Nikhileswaranandaji and Swami Avyayatmanandaji, Limbdi, the heads of Rajkot, Vadodara and Porbandar centres respectively were appointed as the Vice-Presidents of the Parishad. Shri K. K. Gor of Bhuj Kendra and Shri J. M. Sata of Junagadh Kendra were appointed Convener and Jt. Conveners repectively of the Parishad. The last covention of the Gujarat Bhava Prachar Parishad was held on 6 December, 2006 at the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Memorial, Vadodara and presided over by the then General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission, Swami Smarananandaji.

Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Work in Gujarat

Gujarat has had the misfortune to face many disasters both natural and man made. Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot and the other centres of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission have tried to meet these challenges in their own humble way by conducting various types of relief and rehabilitation activities during drought, flood, cyclone, earthquake and other natural disasters. In outer form they appear to be a kind of social service, but in reality they form a part of spiritual practices of the brotherhood of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Since 1927, the Rajkot Ashrama has been conducting, either independently or with the assistance of the Headquarters, relief and rehabilitation operations in different parts of Gujarat State. Starting with the massive Vadodara Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Work in 1927, which covered 120 villages and involved the building of 920 houses, the Ashrama has conducted more than 34 major relief and rehabilitation operations.

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