A brief History of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission Sevashrama, Bankura
Most of the Math and Mission Centre of Ramakrishna Order evolved out of the temporary relief cerntres organized by the Belur Math, Head Quarters to serve the victims of the natural calamities. The Sevashrama at Bankura is no exception. In 1915, a famine relief centre was started by The Belur Math authorities under the supervision of Brahamachary Dhruba Chaitanya (Swami Vasudebananda). The centre was located at a small godown at Dutta Bandh, Lal Bazar, Bankura, belonging to Gopinath Dutta, one of the founders of the present Sevashrama. The relief work was carried out at Indpur village, about 15 kilometers away from Bankura for about a year until October 1916. Swami Premananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna sanctified Bankura by his presence there when the Mission was conducting the famine relief work.
The Missionary zeal and spirit of service of the disciple of Ramakrishna Order inspired the local devotees who enthusiastically took up the work. Gopinath Dutta, Bibhuti Ghosh* (June 26, 1884, to 01, 1975), Ashutosh Adhurya (Swami Swaswarupananda)*, Kumuk Krishna Bandyopadhyay, Nirmal Ch Chattopadhyay*, Satya Kr Saha, Sanatan Chattopadhyay*, Heramba Sarkar (Headmaster), Amarnath Chattopadhyay*, Manmathanath Mukhopadhyay, Chinmoy Mukhopadhyay*, Rajendra Nath Dutta*, Yugal Chandra Mallik*, Nagendra Nath Mukhopadhyay* reorganized the Sevashrama and gave it a firm footing. It functioned from a rented house at Kamar para (2kms from the present site)in 1916, which was originally started in 1910. (* denoted disciple of Holy Mother)
Baikuntha Nath Mitra (15th September 1890 – 28th 1973, died at Varanasi) a leading physician and surgeon of Bankura become a disciple of the Holy Mother in 1915. Soon thereafter in addition to his rolling practice Dr. Mitra took upon himself the service to mankind and joined the Sevashrama as a visiting doctor. In 1915, the Sevashrama got a gift of land about 5 cottahs (369 Sqm) at Satighat on the bank of river Gandheswari from Gopinath Dutta, which he had purchased from a Marwari Businessman. A brick build house with three-room was constructed there to accommodate an allopathic dispensary in addition to the homeopathic dispensary. Dr. Baikuntha Mitra, Dr. kalikrishna Mitra, and Dr. H Mukhopadhyay attended the dispensary regularly. The Sevashrama also had a small shrine where the pictures of Sri Ramakrishna, the Holy Mother, and Swami Vivekananda were worshipped. Dr. Baikuntha Bihari Mitra took independent charge of the Sevashrama on the advice of Swami Premananda in 1917.
The Sevashrama continued its philanthropic activities at Satighat till the heavy flood of 1922 washed its house away. The Sevashrama was then temporarily shifted to a small house at Schooldanga, about 5 km away from the present site belonging to Gopinath Dutta. In 1923 this benevolent gentleman again came to its rescue by his generous gift of a vacant bungalow, and a tank along the adjoining land measuring 2 bighas at Kethardanga, the present site of the Math (the old bungalow along with the old shrine still exist). Gopinath Dutta purchased the bungalow and the adjoining land from an Anglo-Indian Railway Officer. Dr. Baikuntha Bihari Mitra by this time renounced his family life for the cause of humanity and became a monk (Swami Maheshwarananda, affectionately known as Doctor Maharaj) of the Ramakrishna Order in 1918. With his unbounded enthusiasm and unremitting toil, he organized and conducted activities of the Sevashrama after rendering invaluable service to the Sevashrama for 48 years.
With the blessings of Swami Shivananda (a direct disciple of The Master) the Sevashrama got its footing at the present site. On Buddha Purnima Day the 30th April 1923 Swami Saradananda, the then General Secretary of the Order consecrated the small shrine of Sri Ramakrishna which still exists. Another direct disciple of The Master, Swami Vijnanananda along with Sister Lalita (Mrs. Carrie Moad Wyckoff, Swami Vivekananda’s American disciple) visited the Sevashrama on November 14, 1935. The Sevashrama was affiliated to the Head Quarters Belur Math by the end of 1930 after a fruitful existence of 14 years.
The Ramakrishna Temple:
The main attraction for the people of Bankura is the beautiful temple of Sri Ramakrishna and its spacious prayer hall where devotees and dedicate and pray peacefully. Swami Virajananda, the 6th President of the Order laid the foundation stone of the temple in February 1942. The temple enshrines the beautiful marble idol of Sri Ramakrishna, which truly depicts the poise and divine grace of the Master. Swami Vishuddhananda, the then Vice-President of the Order consecrated it on 18.06.1943.
The sacred ceremony was performed with all the Shastric rites and Vedic performances suitable for the occasion. The festivities, extended over about two weeks. 16000 people were fed sumptuously. Religious lectures and drama performances were attended by a large number of people and great enthusiasm prevailed amongst the people of the locality.
But although the temple and the prayer hall was opened, it contained no image suitable for such a noble edifice, the cost of a life-size marble idol of Sri Ramakrishna Deva was very high and we did not know how to overcome the situation. At last, our wishes were fulfilled through the generous donation of an ardent devotee, Sri Bipin Bihari Dutta of Bankura, who agreed to bear the entire cost of the idol. On 8th April 1946, Swami Madhabananda, the then General Secretary of the Order consecrated the Idol placed on the altar of the temple. All the solemnities and religious rites enjoined for the occasion were scrupulously performed under the direct supervision of Vedic Pundits from Benaras.
Religious discourses, lectures, drama performance, demonstration of physical fits, etc. also form parts of festivities on this occasion and largely attended by the public.
The main campus of the Sevashrama covering an area of about 4 acres of land comprising a big tank, the temple, the monks’ quarter, the library, and a reading room (Purusottam Kuthis and Ananda Kuthir are now used as office room, guest house, kitchen, and dining hall.
Notes: Sacred relics (asthi of Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother placed inside the alter.)
Outside the Math campus, on the other side of the road in the Mission Sevashrama Campus there we have one homeopathic and an allopathic dispensary, one pathological laboratory, one Kinder Garten School, One library and reading room, one eye clinic with 30 beds.
Beside daily worship and holding of the religious class, the Math conducts religious discourses in and around the town and nearby villages, celebrates birthdays of The Holy Trio, religious saints and direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, preforms Sri Sri Kali Puja, Maha Shiva Ratri, Ratha Yatra, Bhakta Sammelan, monthly retreats in a befitting manner.
On 21.12.1941 Swami Madhabananda came here to celebrate the opening ceremony of the new dispensary building and Mr. A.K Ghosh, I.C.S. the District Magistrate was present at the ceremony.
Saradananda Student Home:
The Revenue Secretary Mr. B P Singha Roy laid the foundation of the Chahatrabas (student home) on 16.02.1941. The said Chattrabas was completed in 1943. At present, the Chhatrabas does not exist.
The Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission is located at Kethardanga on the Southern side of the Bankura Railway Station. The distance between Howrah railway station and Bankura (Station) is 146 km. The road distance is 165.7 km respectively.