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Sri Sarada Devi, endearingly known as ‘Holy Mother’
The spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna, was born on 22 December 1853 in a poor
Brahmin family in Jayrambati, a village adjoining Kamarpukur in
West Bengal. Her father, Ramachandra Mukhopadhyay, was a pious
and kind-hearted person, and her mother, Shyama Sundari Devi, was
a loving and hard-working woman.
On account of her immaculate purity, extraordinary forbearance, selfless service,
unconditional love, wisdom and spiritual illumination, Swami Vivekananda
regarded Sri Sarada Devi as the ideal for women in the modern age. He believed
that with the advent of Holy Mother, the spiritual awakening of women in modern
times had begun.
Under the strain of constant physical work and self-denial and repeated attacks
of malaria, her health deteriorated in the closing years of her life, and she left the
mortal world on 21 July 1920.
Simplicity and Forbearance
Although she was highly venerated for her spiritual status, and literally worshipped as the Divine Mother,
she continued to live like a simple village mother, washing clothes, sweeping the floor, bringing water from
the pond, dressing vegetables, cooking and serving food. At Jayrambati she lived with her brothers and
their families. They gave her endless troubles but, established as she was in the awareness of God and
in Divine Motherhood, she always remained calm and self-possessed, showering love and blessings on
all who came into contact with her. As Sister Nivedita stated, “Her life was one long stillness of prayer.”
Mother of All
In the history of humanity there has never been another woman who looked upon herself as the Mother of
all beings, including animals and birds, and spent her whole life in serving them as her children, undergoing
unending sacrifice and self-denial. About her role in the mission of Sri Ramakrishna on earth, she stated:
“My son, you know the Master had a maternal attitude (matri-bhava) towards every one. He has left me
behind to manifest that Divine Motherhood in the world.”
Leading the Sangha after the Master’s Passing
After Sri Ramakrishna’s passing away in 1886, Sarada Devi spent some months
in pilgrimage, and then went to Kamarpukur where she lived in great privation.
Coming to know of this, the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna brought her to Kolkata.
This marked a turning point in her life. She now began to accept spiritual
seekers as her disciples, and became the open portal to immortality for
hundreds of people. Her great universal mother-heart, endowed with boundless
love and compassion, embraced all people without any distinction, including
many who had lived sinful lives.
When the Western women disciples of Swami Vivekananda came to Kolkata,
the Holy Mother accepted them with open arms as her daughters, ignoring the
restrictions of the orthodox society of those days. Although she had grown up
in a conservative rural society without any access to modern education, she
held progressive views, and whole-heartedly supported Swami Vivekananda
in his plans for rejuvenation of India and the uplift of the masses and women.
She was closely associated with the school for girls started by Sister Nivedita.
She spent her life partly in Kolkata and partly in her native village Jayrambati.
During the early years of her stay in Kolkata, her needs were looked after by
Swami Yogananda, a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. In later years her needs
were looked after by another disciple of Sri Ramakrishna,
Swami Saradananda, who built a new house for her in Kolkata.
As a child Sarada was devoted to God, and spent most of her time helping her mother in various
household chores like caring for younger children, looking after cattle and carrying food to her father
and others engaged in work in the field. She had no formal schooling, but managed to learn the Bengali
alphabet. When she was about six years old, she was married to Sri Ramakrishna, according to the
custom prevalent in India in those days. However, after the event, she continued to live with her parents,
while Sri Ramakrishna lived a God-intoxicated life at Dakshineshwar.
Visit to Dakshineshwar
At the age of eighteen she walked all the way to Dakshineshwar to meet her husband. Sri Ramakrishna,
who had immersed himself in the intense practice of several spiritual disciplines for more than twelve
years, had reached the highest state of realization in which he saw God in all beings. He received
Sarada Devi with great affection, and allowed her to stay with him. He taught her how to lead a spiritual
life while discharging her household duties. They led absolutely pure lives, and Sarada Devi served
Sri Ramakrishna as his devoted wife and disciple, while remaining a virgin nun and following the
Life at Dakshineshwar
Sri Ramakrishna looked upon Sarada Devi as a special manifestation of Divine
Mother of the universe. In 1872, on the night of the Phala-harini-Kali-puja, he
ritualistically worshipped Sarada Devi as the Divine Mother, thereby awakening
universal Motherhood latent in her. When disciples began to gather around
Sri Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi learned to look upon them as her own children.
The room in which she stayed at Dakshineshwar was too small to live in and
had hardly any amenities; and on many days she did not get the opportunity
of meeting Sri Ramakrishna. But she bore all difficulties silently and lived in
contentment and peace, serving the increasing number of devotees who came
to see Sri Ramakrishna.