A Biography of Annada Thakur (Part 2)

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Sri Sri Annada Thakur:

A Brief History of the Founder of Dakshineswar Ramkrishna Sangha, Adyapeath.
Part 2: 1921– 1927

In 1921, Sri Rasbehari Mukhopadhya, an ardent devotee of Sri Annada Thakur, called a meeting and proposed the founding of a formal organization to accomplish the acts ordained by Sri Ramkrishna to Annada Thakur. It was with this goal that “Dakhshineswar Ramkrishna Sangha [1]" was founded that year. Sri Mukhopadhya was also instrumental in publishing in the same year the first edition of Ramkrishna Manohshikhsha, penned by Sri Thakur.

Later that year, after Sri Rasbehari Mukhopadhya passed away, Dr. Sachin Basu, a close friend of Sri Thakur, formed a working committee for the Sangha. During this time, a number of friends and devotees used to visit Sri Thakur. Many of them later joined the Sangha and carried on the work started by him. As more of them began to stay near him, living quarters were started in September of 1922 in the property next to where Thakur lived. During this time, Thakur initiated a number of these devotees into his work. In ordaining them, he gave them the title of brahmachari and bhai or “brother,” instead of the more formal titles of swami or maharaj, to instill a sense of humility and universal humanity.

Within the next year, some of Sri Thakur’s most devoted followers joined him at Adyapeath. Sri Nandadulal Chatterji gave up a successful career and was initiated by Thakur as Sadhu Ananda Bhai. Thakur’s close friend Sri Kumud Mitra became Brahmachari Gyan Bhai. With them, Brahmacharis Shanti Bhai, Dayal Bhai, Satya Bhai, and others joined the Ashram.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre of April 13, 1919, when British troops fired on an unarmed rally and left over 350 dead and 1200 wounded, fuelled the effort towards Indian independence
[2]. Mahatma Gandhi had introduced satyagraha (sat=truth, agraha=firmness) as a movement, in Johannesburg on September 11, 1906 against the Natal government. “Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong; it admits of no violence under any circumstance whatever; and it ever insists upon truth.” [3] This non-violent protest was being also used for other institutional remedies. In 1924, a satyagraha started against an autocratic leader of the famous temple at Tarakeswar [4]. Sri Thakur decided to join in the protest together with a few of his disciples. Some of his associates did not agree with his decision. In spite of that, Thakur went forward and was later arrested by the British government. He went up for trial in the Serampore[5] court and was sentenced to two months of imprisonment. He was first sent to Hooghly jail for a few days and later transferred to Behrampore. Thakur set up an altar in his jail ward and organized daily puja and kirtan services. This episode in his life brought a number of leading political leaders and religious figures in contact with Thakur. Many of them gave their support to Adyapeath for the rest of their lives. A number of satyagrahis, who met Thakur in jail, later joined the Sangha.

By this time, some women devotees had gathered around Thakur’s wife Ma Manikutala Debi. Thakur started a boarding school for their daughters in a house in Bhadrakali, on the other side of the Ganges. At first, Manikuntala Ma took care of them. Srimati Shova Debi (later known as Brahmacharini Ma) took over and took care of the girl’s home to the last days of her life. In 1928, Thakur moved the home to a rented house near Adyapeath. Ten years later, it was moved to a small building inside the temple compound.

From November of 1926, Thakur carried out a ten-month period of severe austerities. During this period, he went into samadhi while attending a kirtan meeting in Bhadrakali. This state of bliss went on and off for a week. Some of his friends and associates, fearing he might leave this world, came to see him. On the seventh day, Thakur visited Dakshineswar. In a state of ecstasy, he ran towards the grove where Sri Ramkrishna used to meditate. One of Thakur’s friends held him before he crashed into the trees. Later he entered Sri Ramkrishna’s room next to the Temple courtyard and danced in joy, singing songs in praise of Ramkrishna that he had composed.

A number of young men in their late teens had gathered around Thakur during this period. Many of them gave up home and family to join the Sangha. Some of them have been known to visitors of Adyapeath as Brahmachari Sudhir Bhai, Niranjan Bhai, Mani Bhai, Panchanan Bhai, Hemanta Bhai, and Siddheswar Bhai. During 1927, Thakur traveled to different parts of Bengal to spread the word of Adyama. In the same year, with the help of many small donors, the present property of Adyapeath was purchased. The property had to be mortgaged for a small loan that was needed. Because of this, the young Brahmacharis had to go through a period of severe trial after Thakur passed away.

In July of 1927, Manikuntala Debi passed away. Although Thakur had not lived the usual family life, spending most of his time in the ashrams and in travel, he felt this loss severely. His deep sorrow is expressed in a book of verse, Manihara (Mani = jewel, hara = lost), telling the story of the last few years of their life. In the same year, Thakur moved the home for women to Adyapeath. Thakur’s devotee, Bimala Ma, wife of Sadhu Ananda Bhai, took over care of the home in the absence of Manikuntala Ma.

The new property at Adyapeath had six dilapidated Shiva temples on one side. It was decided to tear them down before any construction began. This plan was dropped when Thakur had a vision, asking him to rebuild the temples before he started any other work. One by one, the Shiva temples were renovated with help from friends and devotees. They now form the phalanx of temples on the Western side as one enters into Adyapeath.

In a space between the Shiva shrines, a small temple was built to house an altar in the style ordained by Sri Ramkrishna. Services were started here while awaiting the building of the main temple. This structure is now known as the temple of the ‘young’ Mother. Even from the early days, many visitors and neighbors had miraculous visions around this temple. During this time, Thakur had a dream of Vishnu as Narayan, asking Thakur to bring him to Adyapeath. While on a visit to XXX the host showed him a murti among the shrubs in the courtyard. Thakur recognized the murti of Narayan from his dream and arranged to bring him to Adyapeath. This Narayan murti was placed in another small temple next to the small Adya temple. It was at this time that Thakur started writing swapnajiban, about his life since he moved to Calcutta in his youth.
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Notes:

1. Sangha: Literally, community of both lay and monastic persons. From the Buddhist perspective, term is used exclusively in reference to a community of monks.
2. Amritsar, Punjab, India.
3. Mahatma Gandhi
4. Tarakeswar; 24 miles from Kolkata, largest Shiva shrine in Eastern India.
5. Serampore; 15 miles North of Kolkata (Calcutta), was a former Danish colony.


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