Born: February 18, 1836
Died: August 16, 1886
Achievements: Provided spiritual enlightenment to the people of
Bengal and played a key role in the social reform movement in Bengal in
Ramakrishna Paramhansa was one of the foremost Hindu spiritual leaders
of the country. His teachings are still deeply revered by the people. He
also played a key role in the social reform movement in Bengal in 19th
Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa's original name was Gadadhar Chattopadhyay.
He was born on February 18, 1836 in the village of Kamarpukur, in what
is now the Hooghly district of West Bengal. Gadadhar Chattopadhyay's
parents were Khudiram and Chandramani. Ramakrishna was born in a poor
family and his parents were hardly able to make both ends meet.
Ramakrishna disliked going to school, and was not interested in the
pursuit of money. Ramakrishna loved nature and liked meeting monks who
stopped at his village on their way to Puri.
Right from childhood Ramakrishna Paramhansa was an iconoclast. At his
investiture ceremony (Upanayna) he shocked everyone when he declared
that he would have his first alms as a Brahmin from a certain Sudra
woman of the village. No argument or appeal was able to budge him from
his position. Finally, Ramkumar, his eldest brother and the head of the
family after the passing away of their father, gave in.
Ramakrishna's elder brother Ramkumar ran a Sanskrit school in Calcutta
and also served as priest in some families. During this time, a rich
woman of Calcutta, Rani Rashmoni, founded a temple at Dakshineswar. She
approached Ramkumar to serve as priest at the temple of Kali and
Ramkumar agreed. Ramakrishna decorated the deity and when Ramkumar
retired, Ramakrishna took his place as priest.
When Ramakrishna started worshipping the deity Bhavatarini, he began to
question if he was worshipping a piece of stone or a living Goddess.
This question disturbed him day and night. He prayed to Goddess Kali to
reveal Herself to him. One day he was so impatient to see Mother Kali
that he decided to end his life. He seized a sword hanging on the wall
and was about to strike himself with it, when he is reported to have
seen light coming from the deity in waves. He is said to have been soon
overwhelmed by the waves and fell unconscious on the floor. Ramakrishna
prayed to Goddess Kali for more religious experiences and he is believed
to have experienced number of them.
Soon he became popular and drawn by the magnetism of Sri Ramakrishna's
divine personality, people flocked to him from far and near. People of
all ages, caste, and religion visited him. Ramakrishna Paramhansa's small
room in the Dakshineswar temple garden on the outskirts of the city of
Calcutta became a veritable parliament of religions.
Ramakrishna emphasised that God-realisation is the supreme goal of all living beings. Hence, for him, religion served as a means for the achievement of this goal. Ramakrishna's mystical realization,
classified by Hindu tradition as nirvikalpa samadhi (constant meditation),
led him to believe that various religions are various ways to reach the
Absolute, and that the Ultimate Reality could never be expressed in human
Ramakrishna Paramhansa taught ceaselessly for fifteen years the basic
truths of religion through parables, metaphors, songs and by his own
life. He developed throat cancer and attained Mahasamadhi on August 16,
1886, leaving behind a devoted band of 16 young disciples headed by the
well-known saint-philosopher and orator, Swami Vivekananda.