Brief Biography of Swami (Papa) Ramdas (1884-1963)

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What is Swami (Papa) Ramdas’ uniqueness amid Hindu spiritual masters?

Papa Ramadas was a saint, a God realized/ Self realized master, whose life stood as  a standing example of the efficacy of chanting Rama Mantra as a sure means of realization. He was a saint who saw his beloved Ram inside him as well as in every living being outside. He lived an exemplary life of total surrender to his Ram and demonstrated to the world that a life of cent percent renunciation is possible and when such a surrender comes, the Lord takes care of everything for the well being of his beloved devotee.

Papa Ramdas lived a life of a wandering monk carrying no money or possessions with him during his early spiritual life and traveled the length and breadth of India. Later he established his Math Anandashramam at Kanhankad, (Kasargod district) in north Kerala.

He had thousands of followers who came to him for spiritual guidance. He blessed them with Rama Mantra :” Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram“. He recommended a sadhana practice of Nama (Chanting of the name of Lord Rama), dhyana (meditation) and Seva (selfless service for the well being of others) to his followers as the effective means of attaining spiritual progress and God realization in life.

Birth and early years

Vittal Rao (later Swami Papa Ramadas) was born on the auspicious day of Hanumat Jayanti (the birthday of Lord Hanuman) on April 10th 1884 as the sixth son of the Saraswath Brahmin couple Sri Balakrishna Rao and Lalitha Bai, at Hosdurg in Kasargod district of Kerala. He had 9 brothers and three sisters. His parents led a simple life, full of devotion to God and dedication to austerities.

Vittal Rao had his primary education in Hosdurg and went to Mangalore and then to Udupi for higher education. Vittal Rao was a happy go lucky boy, enjoying games and swiftly climbing trees; though intelligent and quick to grasp things, he had no taste in formal education and he failed in his matriculation. As a boy, he was a free thinker, not conforming to mimicking the worldly; he loved simplicity and was pure in heart. He was quite humorous too. He learned English well. He also read bible during his high school days.

After failing in matriculation exams at Christian High School, Udupi, , he returned to Hosdurg and started showing interest in theatre and arts. He went to The School of Arts in Chennai to formally learn painting and screen printing. He then went to Mumbai to learn textile manufacturing at Victoria Jubilee Institute. He did not develop much of interest in it. He developed lots of interest in reading variety of books including English literature and was influenced by books on the life and teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Rama Tirtha. He read Bhagavad Gita and felt highly influenced by it. After finishing the diploma course of three years duration successfully in textile manufacturing, he started looking for jobs. After chequered start in making a career for life, he got a job Spinning Master in Gulbarga for a brief period.

At the age of twenty five, he was married to Rukma Bai. Because of high instability in his career, Vittal Rao was without job many times and it affected his family life too. Five years after marriage,  Rukma Bai gave birth to a female child named Ramabai.

Dispassion

Vittal Rao worked as a Spinning Master in several mills at places like Coimbatore, Ahmadabad, Cuttack etc. He was disturbed by seeing the exploitation of workmen by higher management and got disillusioned with his job. He started his own business of dying clothes in Mangalore. But because of his generosity, compassionate nature and lack of calculative shrewdness, he failed to be a successful businessman and soon accumulated quite a loss. He had accumulated debts to be cleared; he was stressed out and he lead a life of worries, sorrows and desperation. Almost an year passed in this way.

Vittal Rao, the family man under mental turmoil, longing for a journey in quest of God…

In this process, he  developed a deep longing for escape from the worldly life, which had no more attraction for him. He started praying to his beloved God Rama earnestly. He started chanting Lord Rama’s name and spent his time in prayer and meditation.

Thus Vittal Rao was turning inwards, developing discrimination and dispassion and longing for a spiritually dedicated life. Gradually he started gaining mental peace. He turned to simple living and started wearing khaddar; he lost interest in eating and simplified his intake to bananas and boiled potatoes, eating just one time only in a day. He relinquished cushioned bed and slept in mat. He reduced his sleep and spent the night in the contemplation of Lord Ram.

It was at this time that divine grace started working on him. A compassionate friend  volunteered to become his business partner and  paid back all of his the loans!

In the meanwhile, Vittal Rao’s father Balakrishna Rao, having lost his wife, opted to spend his older years dedicated to devotion to God; he went to stay with his eldest son at Kasargod. One day, as he was visiting the famous Udupi Krishna Temple, he got attracted by the radiating divinity of a sanyasi sitting in the shade of a tree in the marketplace. He went and surrendered at his feet. The sanyasi initiated Balakrishna Rao with the mantra “Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram“. Sri Rao was overjoyed by the unexpected divine grace and felt very blessed.

Getting Mantra Diksha

Since Balakrishna Rao knew of his son Vittal’s ardent yearning for a spiritually oriented life, he came to Mangalore to meet his son, with his heart full of compassion; he told Vittal Rao about the mantra he had received from the sanyasi and without delay, he imparted the mantra to his son and blessed him.

And that was the turning point in the life of Vittal Rao. It paved the way for Vittal Rao to blossom into Swami Ramdas sooner.

The moment Ramdas received the mantra, he felt enthralled. He felt he was now a bird released from the cage.  He fell at the feet of his father and from that day, he treated him as his beloved guru, who, out of utmost compassion, came to give him the key to his liberation.

From that day onward, Vittal Rao immersed himself in chanting the Rama Mantra day and night. He added “Om” to the Rama mantra that his father gave. Rather, the mantra virtually caught hold of Vittal! The more he chanted the mantra, the more Vittal got immersed in the bliss of contemplation of his beloved lord Rama. Food and sleep became matters of irrelevance to him.

He started seriously thinking of leaving behind the worldly life altogether and take up Sanyas. He fervently prayed to Lord Rama for His guidance. On that day, as he was reading books like The Light of Asia (Buddha’s life), New Testament and Bhagavad Gita, whatever pages he opened and read contained sentences glorifying a life of renunciation. Vittal Rao took this as the answer from Lord Ram for his prayers. He wrote a letter to his friend who helped him out of his financial difficulty informing of his decision. He also wrote another letter to his wife.

The following is the translation of the letter written by Vittal Rao to his wife before he left his home for good. Notice how he addresses his wife in this letter:

To Srimati Rukmabai, Mangalore

Beloved Sister,

From now onward, you will be my sister. I have surrendered myself totally at the feet of Sri Ram. He has redeemed me from my erstwhile life. Taking his holy name on my lips, I am going out into this vast world as a beggar.  You know that I have no other desire in this life except striving for receiving His grace and love. I am dedicating the rest of my life for this lofty ideal. I am ready to face any amount of hardship for this purpose.

We are not going to meet as husband and wife hereafter.  Lead your life dedicated to God and truth and also ensure that Rame (Ramabai) too follows it.

Never give up the spinning wheel. It will give you peace and bliss. Let Rame too do it.

Sriram’s blessings on you and Rame – He protects you both.

Yours affectionately

B.Vittal Rao

27/12/1922

Taking two dhotis dyed in saffron with him along with a cash of about 25 Rupees and a couple of books mentioned above, he left at 5 AM on the next day from Mangalore and took a train that went up to Erode. Thus began his life of renunciation from family bonds, in December 1922, at his age of 38.

Travelling Mendicant Ramdas – ‘In Quest of God’

Vittal Rao then travelled to Srirangam in Tamil Nadu. He took bath in Kaveri river and took up Sanyas by wearing the ochre clothes, leaving his old clothes to the flowing waters of the Kaveri. He prayed to Lord Ram to protect him from the threats of leading a life of a renunciate. He took three vows: 1) To dedicate the rest of his life to the contemplation of Rama and in service of Rama.  2) To consider every woman as his mother  and 3) To carry on with his physical needs by taking food only through begging or when someone offers it voluntarily.

Thus Vittal Rao, having opted to become a lifelong servant of his Lord Ram, took up the name Ramdas.

He donated some money to fellow mendicants. He decided to leave his future course of movement and actions totally to the prompting of Lord Ram or to whatever way the Lord lead him by circumstances, without much of a choice of his own.

And from then onwards, the wondrous ways of the Lord’s divine play started unfolding in his life. An enthralling life of a wandering monk began;  Ramdas was always assisted, taken care of and lead by some stray sadhu or other  who joined with him voluntarily (different persons at different journeys). Ramdas opted to call such a person as Sadhu Ram. According to him, it was verily Lord Ram who came with him to take care of him.

Ramdas travelled to Rameswaram, Madurai, Chidambaram, Thirupapuliyur, Puducherry and then to Thiruvannamalai. At times he travelled in train without tickets and had to face the wrath  from the Ticket Checkers and Police. But through his radiating divinity and utter humility, he won the hearts of even the toughest officers and underwent no punishment. Rather they turned around and extended help to him to proceed with his travels!

Meeting Ramana Maharshi and Having the Universal Vision of Lord Ram

Along with a sadhu Ram accompanying him, Ramdas went to the meet Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi, who was staying in a humble hut at the foothills of Arunachala (Thiruvannamalai). Ramadas surrendered at the holy feet of the saint and made this prayer: “Maharaj, here stands before Thee a humble slave. Have pity on him. His only prayer to Thee is to give him thy blessing.”

Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi — his mere look is enough

The Maharshi, turning his beautiful eyes towards Ramdas, and looking intently for a few minutes into his eyes as though he was pouring into Ramdas his blessing, then nodded his head to indicating that he had blessed. A thrill of inexpressible joy coursed through the frame of Ramdas, his whole body quivering like a leaf in the breeze.

After this darshan, Ramdas wanted to stay up in the in the Arunachala hill in a cave all alone, engaged in his japa and dhyana uninterrupted. Sadhu Ram made arrangements for it. He spent one month ther, deeply engaging in his sadhana and enjoying a divine bliss of Rama consciousness all the time. Every day, he went down to the town to beg some rice; he cooked it and ate it once a day and engaged rest of the day in his deep contemplation.

And one day, as Ramdas came out of the cave,  got the exhilarating divine experience of seeing everything around him verily the manifestations of Rama and nothing else. Ramdas described his experience thus:

Once, during the day, when he was lost in the madness of Ram’s meditation, he came out of the cave and found a man standing a little away from the mouth of the cave. Ramdas felt an irresistible attraction towards this friend because it was due to the perception of Ram in him. “O Ram, You have come, you have come!” Unconsciously, he ran up to him and locked him up in a fast embrace. This action of Ramdas thoroughly frightened the friend who thought that it was a mad man who was behaving in this manner and so was afraid of harm from him. It was true that he was mad of Ram, a harmless madness that the visitor realised later.  At times, he would feel driven to clasp in his arms the very trees and plants growing in the vicinity of the cave. Ram was attracting him from all directions. Oh, the mad and loving attraction of Ram! O Ram, Thou art Love, Light and Bliss!

Travelling to North India

After this experience, Ramdas continued his journey northwards. He went to Tirupati, Puri, Kolkata and Dakshineswar. He visited Dakshineswar Kali temple, the holy place where Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had lived.

It is in this room that Ramdas rolled on the floors in an inexplicable divine bliss.

A stranger voluntarily took care of his needs and also led him to the room where Sri Ramakrishna lived;  Ramadas felt that the whole room was surcharged with divine vibrations. A divine bliss ran in his nerves wave by wave. Unconsciously, he started rolling over the floor of the room as if to charge him further with the dust of the room that had been purified with the holy feet of Sri Ramakrishna. The visitor was taken aback by the inexplicable divine madness and joy with which Ramadas was rolling on the floor for about half an hour.

Next he visited Tarakanath, Kashi and then reached Jhansi. There he met a businessman by name Mahadeva Prasad; the Moment Sri Prasad saw Ramdas, he was possessed by a great sense of devotion and surrender to the wandering saint. He forced Ramdas to stay with him and ensured that Ramdas’ physical being is taken care of and some health is restored, which had been battered by total discard due to cold, extreme physical strains, lack of nutrition etc.

Ramdas lived in Jhansi for more than a month. He started giving lectures on Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures to small group of devotees who gathered around him and revered him as their guru. Another devotee by name Ramkinkar became quite close to him.

Visiting Himalayas

Ramdas, the weather-beaten, travelling mendicant

Ramdas left Jhansi for travelling to holy places in Himalayas in the company of Ramkinkar. He visited Haridwar, Rishikesh, Kedarnath and Badrinath. All those places were covered by walk. The beauty of Himalayan mountains capped with snow, the holy rivers, the flora and fauna frequently brought Ramdas to rapture and he felt the presence of his Lord Ram everywhere. Ramdas, surcharged with energy like a Hanuman, climbed huge hills surrounding the holy places and took bath in ice cold waters.

After visiting Himalayas, he travelled to Mathura, Gokul and Vrindavan, Raipur, Ajmir, Junagadh, Dwaraka etc and came to Mumbai. He stayed with his erstwhile brother Ramakrishna Rao there. He continued his journey to Panchavati, Trimbakeshwar, Pandharpur, Bijapur and arrived at Hubli, to meet Sri Siddharoodha Swamy at the behest of his brother.

He stayed in the Mutt of Siddharoodha Swamy and enjoyed the company of the revered saint for a week.

Back home

Siddharudha Swamy, Hubli

By this time, the news of his arrival at Hubli reached his erstwhile family at Mangalore. His erstwhile wife along with the daughter came to meet him at Hubli. She prayed to Siddharudha Swami to impress Ramdas to return to Mangalore with her. As instructed by the saint, Ramdas accompanied her back to Mangalore. However he made clear to her that his return to grihasthashram (worldly life) was unthinkable as his life had been possessed by Rama irrevocably.

He stayed with his eartwhile brother Sitarama Rao and also met his father who was his guru too.

Thus the first phase of Ramdas’ spiritual life of intense period of Rama Consciousness in which Ramdas lived the life of a wandering monk for a period of about one year,  came to an end.

Ramdas explains his temperament and state of being during this one year period as below:

During this period, Ramdas’ mind was totally in peace and his life was one of total surrender. The world was dreamlike to him and was virtually non existent.  He travelled from one place to another like a machine. Lord Rama was obviously taking care of him with love and protection. In his exclusive world, only Ram and Ramdas were existent. There was unequivocal bliss in that state. Ramdas was free from dualities — pain and pleasure, heat and cold, good and bad. His mind was always at peace, rest and silence; it was sort of empty too.

 At times, he would suddenly slip to the external world  with all its associated dualities, but Ramdas would be attentive enough to notice it and withdraw his mind inward again. 

Ramdas disliked crowd. He always tried to escape to places of loneliness. Ramdas was totally free from any fear — fear of any danger or even death. He had the strongest conviction that he was in the protection of his Lord.

Rama’s name was constantly on his lips. He kept chanting it mechanically at all times. North Indian acquaintances that became close to him felt that he was totally free from any attachment. 

Ramdas was virtually like a child; he was extremely humble and obedient towards others. He was taken care of by others as if he was a child and they assisted him in taking bath, dressing up, eating and so on.   

He was never attracted or distracted by anything happening in the world. Both his mind and intellect had stopped working. There  was no more the false sense of “I” in him. It was Rama who occupied that space. Ramdas spoke very little in this period. 

He was simply like a dry leaf, swept this way and that way by the wind.”

Austere Life at Pandava Cave

Pandava Cave at Kadri Hill

From his brother’s house, Ramdas then shifted his residence to the Pancha Pandava Cave at Kadri Hills, two miles away from Mangalore. He stayed alone with bare minimum needs and totally immersed himself in meditation and contemplation of Ram there, for a period of about three months. He ate just fruits and drank milk twice a day. His day would start at 3 AM and after ablutions, he would sit chanting japa and soon lose himself in deep meditation for hours at stretch with little external consciousness. He undertook vow of silence for a week.

It was the second phase of his spiritual quest. During this period of sadhana, Ramadas had visions of inner light; he delved deeper into his Self, transcending name, form, thought and intellect. He could experience the purity, silence and the bliss of his Self inside. Gradually, this state became permanent that there was no longer any fall of the mind into the external world.

Next he could feel that the Self (Atman) that was an internal experience of bliss and light was gradually expanding to cover the external world too. His Self bloomed like a flower and in its light, the whole external world was embraced by pure love and light. This bliss that he experienced this way was much more powerful. Even though he had bouts of this experience earlier too, during his days of austerities in Pandava Caves, it became a permanent nature of him. Ramdas became one with Ram.  Ramdas realized that he had now got transformed into a state brimming with energy, love and bliss. The fruit was totally ripe now. He was now fully ready to share that sweet bliss to all those who came into contact with him.

Ramdas, the Tapasvi, radiating divine love — The fruit was totally ripe now.

 

People started coming in large numbers to have his darshan at the cave. Ramdas interacted freely with them and shared his wonderful experiences with them. He spoke on the glory of God and His infinite compassion. He attracted people from all religions. He could instantly communicate with Muslims and Christians too and spoke with them as though he was verily one among them. His radiating divinity broke all boundaries.

During his stay in the caves, Ramdas wrote all the thrilling experiences of his previous one year journey in the book “In Quest of God” which got published first in the year 1925.

During this period at Pancha Pandava Caves, Ramadas served with love a group of beggars suffering under acute leprosy for a brief period.

Spreading his message of Love and bliss – The second round of travelling

Ramdas’ spiritual life now entered into the third phase. Ramdas decided to take up the life of a travelling mendicant once again. But this time, he was on a different mould. He was bent upon sharing his divine bliss to all those seekers who,  attracted by his divine radiance, mobbed him wherever he went. Ramdas visited Kasargod and Kollur. Through the association with a Yogi, he learned and practiced Pranayama. He had mixed experiences — positive and negative through this practice.  After practicing it intensely for some during his stay at Kudlu (near Kasargod) and grasping its efficacy, he discontinued this practice.

At the feet of God

During his lonely stay at Kudlu, Ramdas got an inner urge to outpour his spiritual bliss through writing: He wrote poems, prayers and articles which later in 1928 got published in the form of a book ‘At the feet of God‘.

Ramdas returned to Kadri Hills and stayed there again for about two months. This time, a young man by name Madhav (later Ramas called him Ram Charan Das) started staying with Ramdas and serving him with love and devotion.

Continuing journey northward

Ramdas began his next round of journey towards north by walk and Ram Charan Das joined him, despite Ramdas’ advising him against it.

Ramdas visited Gokaran, Shetphal and Pandharpur. Ramdas now insisted Ram Charan Das to undertake his own journey independently in order to personally taste the bliss of Lord Ram and understand how His love always protected a hapless devotee. Thus they parted ways.

Ramdas travelled alone to Bijapur, Hubli, Bangalore and then went Mangalore and Ernakulam.  Ramdas was taken care of very well by so many people in all the places he visited. People vied with each other to feed him and take spiritual advice from him. Unlike the past, Ramdas was quite open to talk freely with people on matters of God and spirituality and was giving lectures and invited talks to amidst gathering of devout people.

He again travelled northward to Goa, Mumbai, Wadhwan, Surat and many other places in between.  In Wadhwan, Ram Charan Das joined him. Later, again leaving Das to chart his own course, Ramdas left for Jhansi. There his old acquaintances who had become his devotees — Mahadev Prasad and Ramkinkar were emotionally overwhelmed to see him again and happily took care of him. Ramdas conducted satsang amid his several Jhansi devotees.

He then went to Chitrakoot, Bhanda and Gokar Parvat. He travelled to Lalitpur, Rajkot, Sattarpur, Kanpur and then returned to south. He witnessed the marriage of his erstwhile daughter Ramabai at Kasargod and felt happy to feed about 400 poor people as part of the ceremony.

He travelled again to Jhansi and then to Haridwar and Rishikesh. Purely driven by divine will, he travelled up in Himalayas to Vashistha Ashram which was not easily accessible to travellers. Despite his sparse food-intake, Ramdas was at the brim of his energy; climbing trees, cliffs and mountains were like child play to him and he was in constant bliss as he undertook his lonely journey by foot to various places in Himalayas. Everywhere Sadhus and poor villagers took abundant care of him with reverence.

Ramdas next took his  journey to Pathankot, Jammu and Kashmir. He travelled to Amarnath Cave and had the thrill of seeing the ice linga there. He reached Srinagar and met many sadhus. He returned to south via Amritsar, Sattarpur, Mumbai, Sholapur and finally returned to Kasargod. Several miracles happened by the will of the divine around Ramdas and Ramdas took them matter-of-factly with the mood of a witness. Wherever Ramdas went, crowds swelled; Bhajans, Satsangs and feeding of the poor happened.

First Anandashram — at Kasargod

At Kasargod, Ramdas stayed with his eldest brother Ananda Rao. Ananda Rao was very eager to construct an Ashram for Ramadas and a nice place was located at Bilkunchi hill nearby. A devotee leased the land free of charge. Soon construction of a humble Ashram began there in that picturesque surrounding. The ashram was  inaugurated on 3rd June 1928  in the presence of lots of devotees and well wishers, including the aged father and guru of Ramdas.

Coming into the fold of Ramdas — Mother Krishnabai (1903-1989)

It was in the year 1928 that Ma Krishnabai first met Ramdas, at her 25th age. Soon she surrendered totally at the holy feet of Ramdas and became his foremost disciple and future caretaker of Anandashram.  She got spiritual enlightenment by the blessings and guidance of Ramdas through her dedicated practice and surrender; she was held in the highest regard by Ramdas himself for her life totally  spent in loving and serving all. He wrote about Krishnabai at a future occasion: “Krishnabai’s life presents a practical illustration of how an individual can live a life of spontaneous and intense activity while ever fixed in the Divine Consciousness born of complete self-surrender.” 

Krishnabai, a very pious and God-loving brahmin girl right from childhood,  had a very troubled and grief stricken past. She got married at the age of 12 and widowed at the age of 20, having two young boys to take care of. After a failed attempt of suicide, Krishnabai developed dispassion for worldly life and she longed for peace and spiritual guidance to remove her grief and progress in a life dedicated to God. She got her  Mantra initiation from Siddharudha Swami of Hubli. She also had a few other Mantra initiations from others.  She was very dedicated and systematic in practicing mantra japas, without any selfish motive. Yet not finding peace in her life, she stared searching for a Guru who should be a jivan mukta (as per advice given to her by an astrologer).

Her ardent prayers were answered and her life took her to Kasargod. A few days after the Ashram was inaugurated, the caretakers of Krishnabai, who were devoted to Ramdas brought her to the Ashram. Krishnabai felt instantly at peace at her meeting with Ramdas. Ramdas’ divine attraction brought her back to Ashram again and again and she enjoyed Ramdas’ satsang immensely.

Soon she received Mantra Diksha from Ramdas and started actively engaged in japa as per his guidelines; she continued to be a regular visitor to the ashram ; however, Ramdas did not permit her to stay in Ashram, despite her deep wish to do so. She got closely acquainted with the esrtwhile family members of Ramdas (wife Rukmabai and daughter Ramabai) who too were now earnest devotees of Ramdas.

During the early stages of Ashram, Ramdas stayed fully in the Ashram and several earnest devotees too stayed with him. After about a year,  Ramdas heeded to the repeated plea of his devotees from North India to visit them.

Mother Krishnabai, could not bear the idea of getting separated from her guru and she pleaded to Ramdas not to leave devotees like her to despair through the separation. She wanted to stay in the Ashram permanently. But Ramdas was firm that her duty to her children demanded her presence at home. One day, she left the ashram late in the evening with lot of reluctance. The next morning news came that she had spent the whole night alone at the adjacent hill and she was bitten by a snake in her leg and her leg was fully swollen.

Ramdas rushed to see her at the hills and brought her to the Ashram; he chided her for her obstination  and then arranged to send her back home. After treatment Krishnabai became alright.

Ramdas travels across North India again

Ramdas visited Bangalore, Sholapur, Pandharpur, Anchor and Osmanabad.  Old acquaintances and new devotees surrounded him wherever he went; bhajans and satsangs happened amid huge gatherings.  In Osmanabad, people belonging to cobbler class (considered untouchables those days) invited Ramdas to attend a devotional function at their place. Ramdas visited them along with several brahmin devotees. A massive crowd of cobbler community had gathered there to have a darshan of Ramdas. They conducted pada puja to him and offered prasad that even the brahmins took along with him.

From there, Ramdas proceeded to Mumbai, Wadhwan, Rajkot, Ahmadabad, Agra and Jhansi. He briefly returned to Kasargod to see his seriously ailing father and then started again to the disappointment his close devotees at home. Ramdas travelled to Chennai, Nagpur, Jhansi and Rawalpindi. Everywhere his old eager devotees were overwhelmed to meet him again and enjoy his divine company. Next Ramdas went to Srinagar and then returned to Rawalpindi. Then he visited Dhanbad, Katrasgarh, Chennai, Kumbakonam, Ernakulam and finally returned to Kasargod.

Krishnabai leaves her family and returns to Ramdas

During the period of his absence, Krishnabai lovingly took care of and nursed the aged and ailing father of Ramdas and also Rukmabai who was suffering from Asthma.

After his return, Krishnabai had to accompany her relatives to Dharwar, which she did extremely reluctantly due to her unwillingness to part with Ramdas. She went to Mumbai, entrusted her children to her close relatives and then took  a firm decision to leave worldly life and return to Ramdas. She arrived at Kasargod by train virtually empty handed and decided to walk straight to the ashram all alone in the night. By a divine miracle, she was guided to the ashram in total darkness through a mysterious light emanating from her feet; thus, she presented herself before Ramdas unawares at about 9 PM at the Ashram! Ramdas was undertaking a vow of silence and fasting those days and he burst out into laughter upon seeing Krishnabai there at those odd hours. Krishnabai too had a hearty laugh!

Ramdas wrote in a piece of paper “Mother, you have come to your own home now; the ashram shall, in future, be your permanent place of residence“. Krishnabai felt a great relief and joy on seeing the welcome note.

Krishnabai comes into the fold of Ramdas permanently and dedicates her life to serve him and the Ashram.

As expectable in a conservative society, a young widow leaving behind her family and staying permanently and interacting actively with Ramdas, created slanderous talks and gossips. Other residents in the ashram were threatened by their families and most of them left. Regular visitors to the ashram too started dwindling.

Krishnabai’s self-realization

Krishnabai immersed herself to active sadhana under the guidance of Ramdas at the Ashram. When Ramdas asked Krishnabai as to what sort of spiritual attainment she was keen to get, Krishnabai replied: “Papa, I want to be one with your eternal and infinite Being and know you and I are one. Besides, nobody should know that I have realized your immanent and transcendent Being.

Ramdas engaged Krishnabai to practice deep meditation for the first time. With total dedication and mental strength Krishnabai immersed herself deep into her inner being and soon realized her individual self merging with Universal self, which, according to her experience was nothing but the all pervading formless aspect of her beloved Papa Himself. This happened in the year 1930. After she got that experience, Krishnabai lost interest in all her service activities including serving Papa and she was content to remain immersed in divine bliss.

Kasargod Anadashram abandoned

During a brief period, when only Ramdas and Krishnabai stayed alone at the Ashram, thieves and thugs came to the Ashram at one night. One of them tried to misbehave with Krishnabai; fortunately, by chanting Rama nama loudly, both Ramdas and Krishnabai got protected by the power of Lord Rama and the thieves ran away, totally scared.

This incidence made Ramdas to take a decision that such a secluded place away from any residences nearby was not safe for women devotees. He decided to abandon the ashram and leave Kasargod immediately, leaving future things to unfold as per the will of Rama. But Krishnabai pleaded to him again and again not to forsake her and she begged him to take her along wherever he opted to go. After refusing for a while, Ramdas ultimately decided not to forsake his ardent disciple. He took her to Hosdurg and stayed with devotees.

New Anandashram comes up at Manjapathi (Ramnagar), Kanhangad

Based on the suggestion and requests by earnest devotees, Ramdas decided to start a new Ashram close to Manjapathi hill which was also close to Kanhangad town and yet a picturesque and extremely peaceful place, surrounded by natural greenery, fertile fields and the hills.

Anandashram (1933)

Ramdas wrote to all his acquaintances across India for their help in starting the new ashram. Money flowed in generously from eager devotees. Without any delay, construction of the new ashram premises started. The new Anandashram was inaugurated on May 15h, 1931. Ramdas dedicated the Ashram to the service of the people cutting across all barriers of caste, religion, age, sex or creed and the two guiding principles of the Ashram would be Universal Love and Service. Krishnabai gradually was able to a return to a state of active life (yet blissfully remaining in sahaja samadhi state)  and was in the forefront of the inaugural function and all the other activities of the new Ashram. She was a born administrator and showed her mettle in facing all hardships with smile and serving everyone with love and care like a mother.

Ramdas considered all religions equal and respected all the great spiritual masters of the past. The Ashram sported the pictures and portraits of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Saradadevi, BHagwan Ramana Maharshi, Saibaba, Jesus Christ, Sri Aurobindo, Lord Buddha, Jorastra, Swami Vivekananda, Gurunanak and Ramdas’ own guru — his father.

Soon Rukmabai and also Ramdas’s father and Guru left their worldly life.

Soon the Anandashram became the center of attraction to so many devotees; people and spiritual aspirants from all walks of life came to Anandashram to take part in japa, meditation and satsangs. Several distinguished Sadhus from other religious maths too regularly visited the Ashram to be in the divine company of Ramdas.

‘The Vision’ magazine

The Ashram’s monthly English Magazine ‘The Vision’ with Ramdas as its editor started its publication in the year 1933. The magazine continues to be published even today.

Ramdas’ second round of travelling experiences  were written by him in the form of a book ‘In the Vision of God’ which got published by Anandashram in the year 1934.

Ashram expands

Ramdas’ physical body had got considerably weakened on account of his incessant travels totally ignoring proper food and rest; he was affected by rheumatism and exhaustion. Krishnabai took extreme care and concern on his physical frame by providing him with essential minimum comforts and rest which he was all along negligent of. Ramdas, by this time was also free from his erstwhile tendency to wander with total freedom  except for two tours done during 1931 to 1938, done in the company of his caretakers. He stayed put in the Ashram between 1938 to 1949. Consequently, more and more of his devotees and new visitors started visiting the Ashram and the Ashram had to expand.

Ramdas made it a point to feed the poor in large numbers particularly at the times of religious festivals, cutting across all barriers of caste, religion or creed.

From the generous contribution from devotees, new buildings to house the printing activities, kitchen, guest house, residential quarters for the staff, Cowshed and so on.

An elementary school under the care of the Ashram (Sri Krishna Vidyalaya) was started in the year 1942. In the year 1946, Sri Krishna Udyogshala, an institute for vocational training was started. A small hospital was also run by the Ashram from 1952.  (All these institutions were handed over to Government in later years).

Coming into the fold of Ramdas — Swami Satchidananda (1919-2008)

It was in the year 1947 that  Ananta Sivan at his age of 28 met Ramdas at the Ashram for the first time. As a young brahmin boy of 5 to 6 years, Ananta Sivan had lost his mother and did not have a happy home at his childhood. After his education he joined defence services. He had deep spiritual inclination and was searching for meaning to his life. After having a few bouts of depression, he was guided to meet Ramdas by divine dispensation. He was instantly attracted by the divinity of Ramdas and the bountiful motherly love from Krishnabai. He felt that his real home was Anadashram and he became its permanent resident from 1949.

Swami Satchidananda with Mother Krishnabai 

He served Ramdas as a secretary and took care of his personal needs. He also assisted in the hectic activities of Krishnabai. Due to an inner urge, he felt the need to go to Himalayas and do intense spiritual practice so as to qualify himself better for a truly devoted selfless service at the Ashram. Despite Krishnabai’s objections, he went to Rishikesh and started practicing meditation in solitude.

Swami Satchidananda

However, after about 8 months, he was called back by Ramdas to accompany them on an Indian tour. Circumstances developed in such a way that he could not return to Rishikesh and he understood clearly that his life and spiritual progress was linked to serving Ramdas and being a right hand to Krishnabai in her administrative work. Parallely progressing in his spiritual quest, Ananta Sivan was given Sanyasa Diksha with a name Satchidananda. He too became a self-illumined disciple of Ramdas and the future head of the ashram after the departure of Ramdas and Krishnabai from the world.

Ramdas undertakes World Tour

Anandashram Trust was formed in the year 1954.  Ramdas accompanied by Krishnabai and Swami Satchidanda undertook a world tour from August 1954 until January 1955.

His world tour covered Switzerland, Germany, France and England at Europe.  At france (Gretz) he visited Ramakrishna ashram and met Swami Siddeshwarananda.  At Sussex in England, he met the famous Christian mystique Henry Thomas Hamblin. Papa also visited Shakespere’s birthplace. Ramdas conducted Satsangs and spread the message of Universal love and God consciousness in all the places he visited, which were attended by avid spiritual seekers cutting across religious barriers.

His tour continued to USA and Hawaii; He then proceeded to Japan and met the famous Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki there. The tour continued to Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, Cylon and back to India.

During world tour – Swami Satchidananda with Papa Ramdas

 

End of Papa

On the evening of July 25th 1963 at Papa’s 80th year, he had a severe heart attack.  He was collapsing and Mother Krishnabai and Swami Satchidananda managed to take him to his cot. While lying down there, he  suddenly sat up chanting “Hari, Hari, Hari Ram.” With the name of God on his lips Papa breathed his last.

At the feet of Ramdas…

While his divine presence without his physical body continued to be felt in the Ashram, Krishnabai carried on with the running of the Ashram with her motherly love and care and continued to guide avid seekers in the spiritual path of Nam-Dhyan-Seva for the next 26 years. After her passing away, Swami Satchidananda took care of the Ashram and continued to inspire avid seekers till he breathed his last in 2008.

Reverberating ever with the chanting of Ram nam and surcharged with the subtle presence of these three great spiritual masters, Anandashram continues to be the place of attraction for sincere seekers of Spirituality at Kanhangad, Kerala.

….Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram….

-=0O0=-

REFERENCES:

  1. Anandashram – official website
  2. In Quest of God – by Papa Ramdas — free pdf download from Anandashram website
  3.  “Introduction to The Essential Swami Ramdas” by Susunaga Weeraperuma – free pdf: World Wisdom, Inc.
  4. In the vision of God – by Papa Ramdas — free pdf download (from Anandashram website)
  5. My beloved Papa Ramdas by Swami Satchidananda — From Divine Life Society web page
  6. Guru’s Grace — Life of Mother Krishnabai – Free pdf download
  7. Video — Swami Ramdas’ World tour

 

 

The story of Krishna – Krishna Avatar – The enchanting avatar of Vishnu

One of the very basic and important aspects of Hinduism is the concept of Avatar. It is the fundamental belief in Hinduism that God descends to earth from time to time to take birth as Human or other forms; it happens whenever good and pious people suffer and evil ones have an upper hand. God protects the good, destroy the evil and restore dharma (righteousness). Such a divine being / person is known as an Avatar.

The 10 Avatars

In Hinduism, Lord Vishnu is the “God who protects”. He is attributed with taking 10 such avatars. They are Matsya, Varaha, Koorma, Vamana, Narasimha, Rama, Parasurama, Krishna, Balarama and Kalki. Rama and Krisha Avatars are considered to be the two greatest Avatars of Vishnu in human form.

The Greatness Of Krishna

The Avatar of Krishna is said to have taken place in Dwapara Yuga (a time period dating back to thousands of years). Very elaborate holy mythologies (Srimad Bhagavatam, Brahma Vaivarta Purana and Mahabharata) are available in Hindu scripture which contain the wonderful life history and details of the divine play enacted by Lord Krishna. Plenty of folklores and wonderful literary works too are available practically in all languages of India eulogizing Lord Krishna’s divine play, particularly His enthralling childhood pranks.

The avatar of Krishna is considered a “Poornavatar” — an avatar in which Godly qualities were found manifested in full. Lord Krishna is perhaps the most widely loved, adored and worshiped Avatar by Vaishnavaites (devotees of Vishnu) across the length and breadth of India. In fact, worship of Krishna has even transcended the boundaries of India, considering the global appeal of the ISKCON movement (International Society of Krishna Consciousness), spearheaded by Swami Prabhupada. It has happened because he is personification of love; Krishna is sweetness personified.

His attraction to devotees is magnetic. He is ever joyful; He is the preacher of Karma Yoga (the path for unification with God through work without attachment) and he is a perfect Karma Yogi himself, performing work ceaselessly all through his life with joyous detachment and abandonment, seeking no fruits of his actions for himself. It is with this practical authority that he delivered discourse to his disciple and close friend Arjuna on the eve of a grand Mahabharata war is Bhagavat Gita — one of the greatest scriptures of Hinduism; it is a philosophical treasure very widely read and adored by people across the world, cutting across religious barriers.

Unlike Rama, a greatly revered Avatar of the previous Yuga, Krishna was fully conscious of his divinity and he never tried to hide his divine prowess. At every right and opportune occasion, Krishna demonstrated his divinely attributes and super-human powers. He utilized them to humble his opponents, destroy the evil doers and to instantly come to the rescue of his devotees in distress.

He was all at once the player by the rules and also the lord of the rules — and by virtue of this lordship, a breaker of the rules too, for the goodness of the world.

The divine play of Krishna is something that can not be written across a few pages. It is extremely difficult to comprehend Krishna by a mere intellectual study of his life or through analysis of his speeches and actions. Krishna is more amenable for comprehension to those who love and surrender to him rather than to those who analyze him.

Krishna’s Birth

Let us now see very briefly, the life history of Lord Krishna:

In DwaparaYuga, the demon-like king Kamsa ruled the kingdom of Mathura (that belonged to the Yadava clan) by overthrowing his father and the king Ugrasena. He became too powerful and people on earth as well as Devas (the celestial beings) suffered immeasurably under his tyrannical rule. Moved by the earnest prayers of the sufferers, Lord Vishnu decided to take birth in human form and annihilate the evil forces headed by Kamsa.

Another reason for the descent of God as avatar was the problem of excessive population at that period (particularly accentuated by higher proportions of the wicked and evil ones over the righteous ones) and the Mother Earth suffered on account of it. God came to earth as Lord Krishna and one of his roles was to initiate large scale destruction of human race, in order to bring a manageable balance to the earthly resources and establish dharma.

The King Kamsa was forewarned by his astrologers that his death would be caused by the eighth son who would be born to his cousin Devaki. To prevent such a happening, Kamsa arrested Devaki and her husband Vasudeva and incarcerated them in his prison.

Immediately on birth, Krishna was carried stealthily by his father Vasudeva to Gokulam. It was a stormy night. The divine snake Adhisesha was there to act as an umbrella to protect the lord.

As and when a child was born to the couple, he would go to the jail and kill the child then and there. When the eighth child was born, it was Lord Krishna. By a dramatic divine play, at the midnight when the birth took place, the child was miraculously and secretively transported to Gokula (a community of cow herds belonging to Yadava clan at the banks of river Yamuna) to become the foster son of mother Yasoda and King Nanda. A female child born to them (Maya) at the same time was transported back to the prisons. It was Vasudev, Krishna’s father, who did the exchange of the babies at the behest of a divine command. All these took place without the knowledge of Devaki and Yasoda.

When Kamsa came to know of the birth of the eighth child, he came to the prison as usual and as he lifted the child to kill it, the girl child (Maya) got freed from his clutches and flew away laughing aloud that the king was cheated squarely and the child meant to kill him was safe and alive elsewhere. Kamsa was shell shocked.

 

The Child Krishna Brought up at Gokula

The baby Lord Krishna grew up joyfully in the company of cow herds at Gokula. He was dark skinned and was the most beautiful and charming boy of the community. Whoever came across him fell in instant love with him. He was full of childhood pranks. He loved to steal butter and eat it in the company of fellow cow herd boys. He became the prince charming for all the young girls and women folk (Gopis) of the community.

 

Little Krishna, so calm and charming in the affectionate embrace of Yasoda…

In the meanwhile, Kamsa sent several powerful demons in varying disguises to search for, locate and kill the boy-who-escaped from the prison. Little Krishna encountered all of them (Putana, Sakatasura, Bakasura, Trinavarta, Vatsasura, Aghasura etc) and killed them all as a matter of child play.

Child Krishna kills Putana, a woman demon sent by Kamsa to kill him by feeding him her breast milk. But Krishna suckled and sucked her life!

 

Krishna is not all that nice boy after all! He loved butter and never hesitated to steal it from the house of Gopies…

 

at times, he gets shocked when he is noticed…

 

and when the Gopis complain to Yasoda about Krishna’s behavior, can she afford to leave him scot free?

 

Krishna kills Bakasura

Further, little Krishna killed a very ferocious and poisonous Snake Kaliya who lived in the river Yamuna. He extracted the snake from the river and danced at his hood to the awe of one and all. When the celestial lord Indra created heavy rains at Gokula because a worship due to him was denied at the behest of Krishna, Krishna protected the entire community by lifting up the hill Govardhan by holding it like an umbrella at his little finger.

He killed the most dreaded poisonous snake Kaliya who lived in Yamuna.

 

Liffting Govardhan Hill is just a child play for him.

Krishna and Gopis

Right from his boyhood, Krishna started playing flute. His music was exremely captivating. Not only human beings, but animals too were attracted by his flute.

When the young boy Krishna played his flute, none can resist his musical charm.

When Krishna was in his early teens, his attraction to the womenfolk of Gokula (Gopis) was divine. Their love towards Krishna was so intense that they even ignored their duty and allegiance to their husbands and went madly behind Krishna. Hindu spiritual masters interpret that this love of Gopis towards Krishna was never carnal, but it was the spiritual longing of the individual souls (jivatmas) towards the divine soul (paramatma).

Krishna and Radha 

It was during this phase that Radha (or Radhika) of Brindavan developed a deep rooted love for Krishna. The divine love between Radha and Krishna (which was never consummated in a marriage), though not found mentioned in Srimad Bhagavata, is dealt with elaborately in Brahma Vaivartha Purana and several folklore and Sanskrit literary works. Radha-Krishna love has always been a source of inspiration for the Bhakti movement of Vaishnavaites (worshipers of Vishnu) of eastern India as this love symbolically represents the longing for “yoga” (union) of the individual soul with the Supreme soul.

According to Brahma Vaivartha Purana, Krishna is considered the Paramatma (Chidatma) and Radha his Chit Sakthi.  He is the creator-Sustainer-Distructor of the Universe and he is verily tha Brahman (Ultimate God).  He is not considered as an Avatar of Vishnu unlike other Purnas.

No wonder the Gopis were mad after him.

 

But it was Radha who stole the heart of Krishna. Radha-Krishna love transcends human love. On this unique painting, at the right side, is Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Gouranga, who spread bhava bakthi on Krishna) and at the left, Sri Prabhupada (ISKCON movement).

Krishna Returns to Mathura

When Krishna became a matured boy, it was time for him to go to Mathura and take the bull by its horns — to face his uncle Kamsa and destroy him for all his vengeful deeds. Krishna overcame several obstacles at Mathura and finally killed his uncle in a ferocious combat. He released his parents from the jail and re-throned Ugrasena as the king.

Krishna killed Kamsa in a ferocious battle.

Over a period of time he got married to Bhama and Rukmini. The story goes that Krishna later got married to 6 more women. At later period of his story, he killed a demon king by name Bhaumasura and he had to marry 14000 women who were earlier abducted by the demon king. This he did at the behest of the women, who would otherwise lose their honor in society for having been in the custody of the demon king. The story goes that Krishna used his divine maya to be simultaneously present with all his wives in their respective homes and lead happy life with all of them.

 

Rukmini lovesKrishna; Krishna abducts Rukmini against stiff opposition from her brother and warriors.

Krishna with his consorts – Bhama & Rukmini

Krishna And The Pandavas

In the meanwhile, his maternal cousins — the Pandavas (5 sons of the kind Pandu headed by Yudhishtira) of the Kuru clan at the kingdom of Hastinapur were facing lots of difficulty in claiming their rightful share to their kingdom. It was due to certain acts of omissions and commissions done by themselves as well as due to the vengeful and treacherous acts of their unrighteous cousins — the Kouravas headed by Duriyodhan (who too claimed the throne of Hastinapur) that the peace-loving Pandavas were facing insurmountable difficulties in life.

Krishna and Arjuna developed close friendship. Krishna later became his spiritual guru at the battle field.

Krishna developed a bosom friendship with Arjuna the most powerful archer and the younger brother of Yudhishtra. Whenever they found time, they spent time together and enjoyed the friendly company of each other. Arjuna fell in love with Krishna’s sister Subhadra and Krishna arranged their marriage secretively against stiff resistence from his clan.

The Pandavas were fairly knowledgeable of the divinely nature of Krishna;  The Pandavas surrendered to Krishna and sought his help and guidance in overcoming their problems. Krishna intervened frequently in the lives of Pandavas to protect them from innumerable personal problems. He also used his diplomatic skills and tried his best to bring in a truce between the Pandavas and Kouravas. But Kouravas had neither respect for Dharma nor for Krishna’s counseling.

The Kurukshetra War And The Birth Of Bhagawad Gita

Finally a grand war erupted between Padndavas and Kouravas. Numerous kings of the entire subcontinent virtually sidelined and supported either Pandavas or Kauravas according to their relationships and temperament and took part in the great Mahabharata war. Dharma was obviously on the side of Pandavas. Krishna, as the king of Mathura and a blood relative of both Pandavas and Kouravas, offered his entire army to take part in the war on one side and he himself without taking-up arms on the other side. He left the choice to Arjuna (of the Pandavas) and Duryodanan (of Kouravas) to choose any one between the two. While Arjuna instantly and gladly opted to have Krishna on their side as a non-fighting companion, Duryodanan was too happy to accept the huge and powerful army of Krishna. Krishna offered his services to be the charioteer of Arjuna during the war.

Just before the beginning of the war at Kurukshetra, Arjuna became jittery. He felt it was futile to wage war against his own blood relations and other seniors, respectable elders and teachers and masters in the opposite camp. It was at this juncture, that Lord Krishna gave one of the greatest sermons to Arjuna. His utterances form the holy scripture Bhagavat Gita. In this great spiritual discourse, Lord Krishna predominantly teaches Karma Yoga – the path of attaining the greatest goal of life though self-less action by surrendering all the fruits of actions at the feet of lord. In Bhagavad Gita, he also elaborates the other spiritual paths — Bhakti Yoga and Gnyana Yoga.

Krishna’s discourse to Arjuna at war front – Bhagavad Gita

 

Vishwarupa Darshanam – Krishna revealing his cosmic form.

Krishna, as part of his effort to teach Arjuna during his discourse, gave a divine vision to Arjuna an revealed his Vishwarupa (his cosmic form that transcended the creation, births deaths and time, space and causation) and Arjuna was overwhelmed with awe to see this form of the Supreme Lord Krishna.

Krishna acted as a charioteer to Arjuna and saved his life under many tricky situations. In a couple of occasions Krishna even used dubious means (that his enemies accused him as acts of adharma) in order to tilt victory in favor of the righteous Pandavas. The war ended with the annihilation of Kouravas and the rule of the Pandavas was established.

Krishna – the overseer of massive destruction

The Kurukshetra war, though ended as a victory to Padnavas, in fact turned to be a divine act supervised by Krishna without his direct participation to result in the destruction of millions and millions of soldiers and warriors, thousands of kings / people of ruling class, and countless numbers of horses and elephants.

Despite the win, Pandavas too were virtually emotionally wrecked, as practically all their offspring (5 children born to their wife Draupati) and several other children born to them from other wedlock got annihilated. Arjuna’s brave young son and a wonderful archer Abhimanyu (born to Arjuna-Subhadra)  too got killed in the war.  Lord Krishna ensured that the progeny of Pandava’s clan was not cut, by using his divine power to protect a fetus in the womb of Arjuna’s daughter-in-law Uttara, wife of Abhimanyu. Later in history, her son Parikshit became the king.

Krishna And Dwaraka

At his own Kingdom at Mathura ruled by Ugrasena, Krishna had to face a very tough war against Jarasandha, the father-in-law of the slain king Kamsa. The war was waged 18 times by the extremely powerful king Jarasandha and Krishna had to play hide and seek with the king.

After the last attack, Krishna convinced King Ugrasena and his father, Crown-Prince Vasudeva to rescind the land and establish a new Kingdom at Dwaraka, due to strategic reasons. All the Yadava subjects were shifted to Dwaraka and Krishna lived and ruled there for about 38 years. Krishna utilized the services of Bhimasena (one of the Pandavas, who was extremely strong and powerful) to finally kill Jarasandha.

Bhima kills Jarasandha with Krishna’s tactical support.

The End Of Krishna

Yadavas fight with each other in line with a curse they received from a sage and the entire clan gets annihilated.

As Krishna advanced in age, the Yadava clan grew too arrogant, morally weak and got in the grip of vices. By an act of mischief, Krishna’s descendants and their clan got a curse from sages that paved for their annihilation. Lots of bickering happened between the members of families and the ruling class and they grew out of control of Krishna’s divine and moral influence. Time soon came when they were destined to get wiped out entirely on account of a verbal dual that started between two drunken relatives of Krishna. It grew into a bloody fight and Krishna took up the role of a destroyer now and he personally killed many yadavas using pestles that grew out of wild grass near seashore.

Krishna knew that it was time to draw curtains to his divine plays in his present Avatar. He retired to forest and was engaged in deep meditation. He was finally slain by an arrow which was mistakenly aimed at his foot by a hunter who thought it was a deer.

 

 

Krishna was attacked unknowingly by a hunter. The hunter gets blessed by Krishna before he leaves the earth.

Soon a great tsunami came and the surging sea waters submerged the entire city of Dwaraka.

Krishna’s entire life was one of an exuberant display of divine play. Krishna’s childhood life at Gokula and Vrindavan where he became the very soul of all the lives of Gopas and Gopis and his divine love with Radha continues to be the source of inspiration of Bhakti movment for the Vaishnavites.

Krishna’s Bhagavat Gita reins as a supreme reference book of all the various paths of Yoga (Karma, Bhakti, Gnyana and Raja Yoga) for earnest seekers of Hinduism for guidance and enlightenment.

 

A note of thanks:

The beautiful pictures appearing in this article are all sourced from various websites and since all of them appear to belong to public domain and found freely used in several sites, I too have used them accordingly. I sincerely thank the various websites that have posted these pictures.

The story of Rama – Rama Avatar

The story of Rama  – Based on Valmiki Ramayanam

Introduction

One of the fundamental facets of Hinduism is the faith that God descends to earth as an Avatar at appropriate times for the benefit of humanity; He comes to eradicate  evil doers and safeguard good and pious people, to uplift dharma (righteous living), to curtail adharma (anarchy), to give divine bliss to His earnest devotees and to preach dharma suited to the times of the arrival and to the imminent generations to come.

Rama  Avatar

Out of the human forms of Avatar that Lord Vishnu had taken according to Hindu scriptures, Rama Avatar that took place in Treta Yuga and Krishna Avatar  that happened later in Dwapara Yuga are considered to be the two greatest  avatars, wherein divinely qualities of the Avatara purushas (incarnated persons) were exhibited in a vast measure.

Treta Yuga was a time period in Hindu belief that dates back to several thousands of years and it is the second yuga after Satya Yuga. Unlike Satya yuga when people in earth were mostly leading highly righteous lives, Treta yuga saw a gradual deterioration in the practice of dharma; it is said that in Treta yuga, three quarters of the people in earth were righteous and a quarter of the population followed unrighteous ways in life. And it was at appropriate time in Treta Yuga  that Lord Vishnu descended on earth as Rama Avatar. Ramayanam is the life story of Rama, a very revered king of Ayodhya, whose very life exemplified dharma. Ramayana was originally written in twenty-four thousand Sanskrit verses by Saint Valmiki, who was a contemporary of Rama and a caretaker of Sita, Rama’s wife, during her exile to forest.  Ramayanam is one of the two great itihas (epics of historical happenings) of Hindu scriptures.

The purpose of Rama Avatar was primarily to eradicate the evil Asura (demonic) king Ravana and his associates. However, In this process,  Lord Rama lead such an exemplary life — as a youth, as a prince, as a house holder, as a devoted son, as an affectionate brother, as a loving husband wedded to just one woman, as a humble and spiritually evolved human being, as a great and powerful warrior,  as a great king and as a non-compromising stickler to dharma — that throughout his very life, he set innumerable examples on righteous living for people to emulate.

The Beauty and Greatness of Rama

Another striking feature of Rama’s life is that despite his innate awareness  that he was an Avatar with a divine mission, Rama (except on a very few occasions) opted to live just as a human being, exhibiting human nature and human emotions, always trying to hide his divinity and insisting on being just ‘Rama, the son of Dasaratha’. This is in total contrast to his next Avatar in the following Dwapara Yuga where he came as Krishna and openly demonstrated his divinity through  extraordinary display of unearthly powers at every occasion of need. Unlike Krishna, Rama did very little preaching of dharma, but lived it in day to day life. The beauty of Rama avatar does not end with Rama alone. There are so many relatives and associates of him that too lead lives of stellar values and extraordinary human qualities worthy of inspiration for generations to come.

Let us now briefly see Rama’s wonderful life story as narrated in Valmiki Ramayana. The story spreads through 6 major chapters (Cantos), called Kandams.

 Part 1   BALA KANDAM (Boyhood of Rama)

King Dasarata was a very reputed king of the Sun Dynasty, who ruled the kingdom Kosala from its capital Ayodhya in the northern part of India. He had three queens — Kousalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi. Kaikeyi was the youngest and was particularly the sweetheart of king Dasarata. The king had no offspring.

As the king advanced in age, he was tormented by worry about the lack of progeny. He consulted his ministers, priests and sages and he was advised to conduct a grand Ashwameta Yaga (Horse sacrifice ritual) as a “Putra Kameshti Yaga” — a sacred fire sacrifice aimed pleasing celestial Gods specifically to get a boon of children. He invited a famous saint Rushyasringa to conduct the yaga. A very grand yajnya  (yaga – fire sacrifice) was conducted inviting kings, priests and brahmins from all over the sub-continent. People were fed sumptuously and gifts were given lavishly. The fire sacrifice was conducted faultlessly as per rules of the scriptures, to the satisfaction of all.

Ravana the Demon king – the Cause of the Avatar

During that period, down south in the country Lanka (now Srilanka),  Ravana, an extremely powerful demonic king was ruling the country. He was born with 10 heads (and hence known as Dasagriva). Early in his life, he did intense austerities by undertaking total fasting for many years aimed at pleasing Lord Brahma;  by cutting off his heads one by one and sacrificing them into the fire, he did terrific tapas (penance). Pleased, Lord Brahma appeared before him and gave him the boon he wished: no being in earth, in heavens or in nether worlds (excluding a human beings, whom he thought too insignificant to pose a threat to him) could ever kill him. Brahma also restored his 10 heads and voluntarily gave him the power to assume any physical form he liked.

Having acquired such unearthly powers , Ravana became extremely arrogant, unlawful and adharmic (unrighteous). He was an incurable war monger and whomsoever was known to be very powerful in all the three worlds, he would challenge them for fight . He grew into such a big threat that he attacked and conquered many celestial Gods, many rulers in the higher worlds ,earth and the nether world and killed many saints and sages.  He was a womanizer too and he captured beautiful women from all the worlds for his enjoyment.

As the celestial Gods with their king Indra could not bear the onslaught of Ravana any longer, they, along with Lord  Brahma, met Lord Vishnu (the Lord of protection) and poured out their woes. Hearing their plight, lord Vishnu said “I shall take birth as the son of King Dasarata at appropriate time and annihilate Ravana; Don’t worry”.

As King Dasaratha’s Yagna was brought  to a successful completion by saint Rushyasringa through the chanting appropriate mantras and offerings to the fire precisely as stipulated in the scriptures , an effulgent divine messenger sent by Lord Vishnu emanated from the sacrificial fire. He handed over a golden pot containing sweet pudding to Dasarata and said “Please give this pudding to your wives and they will bear children for you”.

Very pleased, Dasarata gave half the contents in the pot to his first wife Kousalya to drink. He shared the balance equally and gave to Sumitra and Kaikeyi to consume. Noticing some pudding still sticking to the pot, he wiped it and gave it to Sumitra again.

The Birth of Rama and his three brothers

Soon the three wives became pregnant . In due course, Kousalya gave birth to Rama, followed by Kaikeyi who gave birth to Bharata. Shortly soon,  Sumitra ,who got the sweet pudding twice, gave birth to twins who were named Lakshmana and Shatrughna . The royal family and the entire people of the country were overwhelmed with joy upon the arrival of the divinely children.

The four  royal children were very beautiful and charming. They were of very refined manners, intelligent and obedient.  The first son Rama was rather dark skinned, but his aura was so powerful that everyone who came to contact with him felt instantly attracted by his charm, pleasing manners, humility  and poise. The children underwent formal education, scriptural study and also in practice of armory and weaponry under Saint Vasishta. Rama particularly excelled in archery. King Dasara’s love on Rama was very intense. Right from early childhood, Rama and Lashmana became very close to each other and likewise, Bharata and Shatrughna always sought each other’s company.

Saint Vishwamitra’s request

Some time before Rama reached his 16th age, a very revered sage Vishwamitra visited Ayodhya. King Dasarata received  him at his palace with lots of respect and reverence. The purpose of visit of the sage was to seek a help from the king and Dasaratha promised to offer him whatever Vishwamitra  asked for. The sage wanted help to protect a Yaga (fire sacrifice) he was conducting at the forest which was frequently disturbed by Asuras (demons) and he asked for Rama to be sent with him to fight the demonic forces and protect his yaga. This request was rather shocking and unpalatable to Dasaratha, as he could not bear getting separated from Rama even for a short while; he was also concerned that the young boy may not be equipped enough to fight with demons and he offered his own services instead.

But the sage was adamant and was getting angry about Dasarata’s refusal to send Rama. Vasishta, the saintly minister intervened immediately and counseled Dasaratha that he should keep his promise and that the saint’s request was indeed a blessing in disguise for Rama. He made the king  agree to send Rama with Vishwamitra. The king summoned Rama and Lakshmana. Lakshmana, as his wont, accompanied Rama whom he could not get separated from. The young princes soon departed with the saint after paying obeisance to parents and elders.

On their way they stayed at the banks of River Sarayu for the night and the sage taught 2 mantras — Bala and Athibala to Rama that could give him lots of strength even when he had to go without food or water for days.

Killing of Tataka, the woman giant

On their way through a very dense forest, they encountered a female giant called Tataka who loved devouring human beings . She and her son son Maricha were constant trouble makers to hermits and the Saint Vishwamitra wanted Rama to kill her. Rama was reluctant at first,  because he did not want to kill a woman, as a matter of principle ordained in dharma.

Tataka ferociously charged towards all of them and rained huge boulders over them . Rama sent powerful arrows to thwart the boulders and chop her limbs with the intention of crippling her totally without the need of killing her.  However, Tataka had occult powers to take any form she liked ; chopping off her limbs had no effect on her. The saint advised Rama that it was indeed a dharma to kill such a horrendous female devil and Rama consented; he sent another powerful arrow that pierced through her chest and killed the woman giant. The sage appreciated Rama for his valor.

As they travelled further, stopping at various hermitages en route, the sage gave Rama several Divyastras (powerful celestial arms which were used as missiles that can cause varying degrees of destruction when deployed in a warfare ) and taught the specific Mantras to activate each of them. This way he equipped Rama to face powerful demons whom he had to face very soon. Based on Rama’s request, he also taught mantras on how to restrain the missiles once they were deployed.

Protecting Vishwamitra’s Yaga

Finally they reached Vishwamitra’s hermitage in the forest known as Siddhasramam, a very holy and sacred place where Lord Vishnu in his previous incarnation as Vamana had stayed there for long years and done austerities. All the hermits received Rama and Lakshmana with love. The saint decided to start the Yaga meant for the welfare of the mankind immediately, which would go on over 6 days and nights continuously. As  Rama and Lakshmana kept a wakeful vigil, the Rakshasas lead by two demons Maricha and Subhahu arrived at the scene on the sixth day, floating high on the sky. They had brought flesh, bones and blood to be dropped on to the sacrificial fire and mar the holy proceedings.

Rama and Lakshmana started their fight with the Rakshasas using their bows and diyastras (power packed arrows). With a mighty knock Rama hit Maricha and sent him skywards in exile miles and miles beyond the seas. He killed Maricha on the spot with another arrow. Rama and Lakshmana then killed all the other evil rakshasas and ensured that the yaga was completed successfully without any hitch.

Saint Vishwamitra and his associates were extremely happy and they profusely showered their praises on Rama and Lakshmana for their dedication, alertness and valor.

Right at that time, in the city Mithila, the capital of the country of Vidheha, the saintly king Janaka was preparing to conduct a grand Ashamedha Yaga ; Viswamitra decided to attend the grand ceremony along with his fellow hermits  and he wanted Rama and Lakshmana to accompany them. He was desirous of showing to Rama a very holy Danus (Bow) of Lord Shiva that king Janaka possessed which no human being was ever able to lift. En route, they stayed at the banks of holy river Ganga and also at several other holy places. To keep the young boys entertained, Vishwamitra told them several mythological stories including the story of  Himavan and his two daughters Uma and Ganga. He also told the elaborate story of how the holy river Ganga came to earth by the untiring efforts of king Bhagiratha.

Vishwamitra also told the famous mythological story of churning of milky ocean by Devas and Asuras together to get the nectar of immortality.

Rama resurrects  Ahalya, the cursed wife of saint Gautama

As they reached the outskirts of Mithila, Rama noticed a deserted Hermitage on their way. Vishwamitra told him that it was once a holy ashram of Saint Gautama who lived there with his beautiful wife Ahalya and practiced austerities. The king of devas, Indra once got lured by the captivating beauty of Ahalya; One day at predawn hours,  when the sage was away for his early morning ablutions,Indra came to the ashram in the disguise of the sage Gautama. He lured Ahalya to have a sexual union with him, and Ahalya, in a moment of mental weakness yielded to him, though she sensed that it was Indra, the celestial chief who had come in the guise of her husband.

The saint came to know of the happenings and he cursed his wife to remain there incognito for years; however, he told her that her sin would be washed away when Rama would visit the hermitage in the distant future.

As Rama walked in there, suddenly a lady sprang up to life. She was indeed Ahalya. Rama and Lakshmana paid their respects to the saint lady and she extended her hospitality to the princes. Saint Gautama too appeared there and paid his respects to Rama. Purified of her sin, Ahalya got reunited with her husband. The visitors bade farewell to the saintly couple and proceeded to enter Mithila.

Rama Lakshmana at Mithila

As they arrived at Mithila, they were pleased to notice that very elaborate arrangements had been made for the comfortable stay of visitors who had arrived there to attend the king’s grand yaga. King Janaka came personally along with his minister Satananda to pay respects to Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra introduced Rama and Lakshmana to the king Janaka.

Satananda was the son of Saint Goutama and he felt extremely pleased to learn that his mother Ahalya was resurrected by Rama and got reunuited with his father; he could immediately grasp that Rama was a divine personality.  Satananda felt that Rama was indeed very blessed to get the association, guidance and blessings of Saint Vishwamitra and he took the opportunity to narrate to Rama the captivating life history of Vishwamitra (a former king who through his unceasing practice of severe austerities amidst so many trials and tribulations attained the knowledge of Brahman).

The next day, king Janaka invited his distinguished guests to his palace. Upon Vishwamitra’s request, he narrated how his ancestors got the possession of Shiva Danus.

He continued, “Years ago, when I ploughed a piece of land as a preparatory ritual for conducting a Yagna there, my furrow got stuck and as I dug the spot I noticed a box buried there that contained a very beautiful and live female infant there.  I was overjoyed to get the baby as a divine gift to be my daughter and named her Sita (furrow). Knowing that she had divine qualities, I wanted to get her married only to a truly valiant King. I made an announcement that anyone who can lift up the Shiva danus and tie the bow-string to it can get married to my daughter. Kings from far and wide came to my court and none of them could lift the bow.  In fact I had earned the wrath of many kings on account of it and waged very taxing and tiring wars against them to drive them away”.

Rama breaks Shiva danus and weds Sita

“Would you please arrange to bring the bow of Shiva  to the Yagnya Hall so that the princes of Dasarata and the various kings and guests arrived here could have a look?” asked Vishwamitra.

The king ordered for it immediately. The sacred bow, kept in a large iron box fitted with 8 wheels was rolled in to the Yagnya Hall, pulled strenuously my numerous soldiers. King Janaka announced that anyone in the gathering was welcome to try lifting and tying the string to the holy bow and the one who succeeds could get wedded to Sita.

“Rama, you can try and see whether you can succeed” said Vishwamitra.

Rama got up, sought the blessings of the saint and went near the bow. He bent and picked up the mighty bow with his left hand as if it is a child play. As the whole gathering watched with abated breath, Rama held one end of the bow with his toe fingers, bend the bow and pulled the string so as to tie it to the other end. Suddenly the bow broke at the middle with a thunderous noise.  Cries of cheer from the whole gathering rent the air. Vishwamitra beamed joyously and king Janaka went speechless, shedding tears of joy, for he had now got the right match for his beloved daughter Sita.

After getting Vishwamitra’s consent, king Janaka  despatched fast travelling envoys to Ayodhya to inform  king Dasaratha of the joyful happenings at Mithila, seek his consent for the marriage and invite the king, his royal family and all other distinguished guests to come to Mithila and conduct Rama’s marriage in their presence with their blessings.

After eight days, King Dasarata arrived at Mithila with all his family members, priests and ministers ; they were  given a grand and royal reception. The Ashwamedha Yaga was also completed successfully by that time. Considering the greatness of the lineage of the two emperors, elders discussed and decided that along with Rama’s marriage, the marriage of the other three princes too were to be conducted then and there; brides of right age and beauty from the royal family of Janaka were indeed available as if by divine dispensation. It was decided to marry king Janaka’s (second) daughter Urmila to Lakshmana; Janaka’s younger brother Kushadhvaja’s elder daughter Mandavi to Bharata and the younger daughter Srutakirti to Shatrughnan.

Without delay, the grand marriage function was arranged. With moist eyes, king Janaka took the hand of his daughter Sita to gave to Rama’s hand and solemnized the marriage saying “Here is my dear daughter Sita, who will share the sacred duties of your life; she is blessed; please accept  her hand and take care; she will be most faithful to you as wife and follow you as your shade; “. The marriage of the other three princes too were solemnized next.

Having accomplished his divine task, Vishwamitra bid farewell to one and all and departed to the northern mountains. Soon it was time for King Dasaratha’s family to depart. King Janaka gifted his daughters lavishly with gold, jewels, servant maids and so on and honored the all the guests.

Rama subdues Parashurama

As the journey towards Ayodhya was going joyfully, suddenly the sage Vashishta noticed some bad omens. A storm rose up, uprooting trees and whipping up dust.  And right in front of the caravan, there stood Parashurama (considered as another Avatar of Vishnu, in the role of a destroyer), the notorious slayer of numerous kings and destroyer of the ruling class.

Saint Vashishta extended a formal reception to the Brahmin. Ignoring the formalities, with his famous weapon axe hanging on his right shoulders and a mighty bow on his left hand, Parashurama, the son of saintly Brahmin Jamadagni addressed Rama “Hey Rama, I heard the news that you broke the bow of Shiva at Mithila. Yeons ago, the celestial Architect Vishwakarma once made two identical bows and presented to Lord Shiva and Vishu. Do you know that it was that bow that Lord Shiva discarded after he failed in a combat against lord Vishnu? The bow used by Vishnu is here with me which is far more powerful. Now show me your real valor by holding this bow and shooting an arrow from it!”

Dasaratha, gripped in fear said, “Oh mighty Brahmin; I have heard that you had stopped your killing spree, donated the kingdoms won by you to saint Kashyapa  and retired to Mahindra hills to engage in austerities. I beg you not to harm my son and if done, none of us would live any longer”.

However, totally unperturbed, Rama accepted the challenge. He picked up the Vishnu Danus with ease from the hand of Parashurama, mounted the arrow, pulled the string and aimed it against Parashurama. With words brimming with anger, Rama addressed Parashurama: “Now I have done what you have challenged me to do. The arrow mounted  and drawn on this great bow shall not go waste without hitting a target. Great Parashurama, tell me what should I hit with it; I don’t want to kill you because you are a Brahmin and hence respectable; with this I can either destroy the power you have attained to be a deathless and swift wanderer or the privilege of higher worlds you are entitled to enjoy  gained by you through your austerities”

Parashurama  stood stupefied; his pride thus crushed by Rama, he became sober; he immediately understood that the person who handled Vishnu Danus with such an ease  was none other than lord Vishnu in human form. He prayed to Rama: “Hail, hail, Oh Vishnu, the lord of all Gods! I wish to retain my prowess to be a swift wanderer on this earth. You may please destroy my path to reach the higher worlds with arrow!” Rama shot the arrow and destroyed the fortune of higher worlds and Parasurama. After reverently circumambulating Rama, Parashurama swiftly left the place to return to Mehendra hills where he was meditating earlier.

The marriage party soon returned to Ayodhya. A grand reception awaited them there.

Happy life at Ayodhya

The newlywed royal couples settled in their palaces in Ayodhya and enjoyed their life thoroughly. Sita, who was verily the incarnate of Lakshmi ( the consort of Lord Vishnu) showered love on Rama with her beauty, behavior and words;  She was so much tuned to Rama that she could read Rama’s mind and act according to his wish without the need of words. Rama with his pleasing manners and manly personality loved Sita from the bottom of his heart.

After some days passed, Yudajith, the maternal uncle of Bharata visited Ayodhya with the intention of taking Bharata with him to his father’s kingdom Kekeya. Accompanied by Shatrughna, Bharata bid farewell to parents and brothers and left for Kekeya.

Rama assisted his father in the administrative aspects of Government. King Dasaratha was captivated by Rama’s maturity, mental poise, care and concern for the welfare of citizens and so on. King Dasaratha seemed to be the happiest of all.

End of Bala Kandam.

To be continued in Part:2  Ayodhya Kandam