Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, Allahabad (Estd.1910)
Swami Vivekananda’s Visit to Allahabad
With his mind longing for Varanasi in late December 1889, Swami Vivekananda left the Baranagar Monastery for Vaidyanath. At Vaidyanath, Swamiji learnt that Swami Yogananda, one of his brother-disciples, was struck withchicken-pox at Allahabad. He arrived at Allahabad and he was relieved to find that Swami Yoganandahad completely recovered, having been cared for by the local doctor and his Bengali friends. Charmed by Swamiji’s personality, the gentlemen pressed him to spend a month.
Swami Vivekananda came across a Muslim saint — Pavhari Baba — the famous saint of Ghazipur, of whom he had learnt years earlier at Dakshineswar. He had a longing to see him, and so he left Allahabad for Ghazipur in the third week of January 1890.Swamiji’s short stay at Allahabad paved way to establish a centre in the future by Belur Math.
Significance of Allahabad
It was Swamiji’s vision to start a centre at Allahabad — the ancient pilgrimage —well known as Prayag.
Allahabad represents the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the “invisible”Saraswati rivers — the Triveni Sangam— and is considered holy by Hindus since the Vedic times. It is also the site for the historic Kumbh Mela held every 12 years on the banks of the Triveni Sangam.
We get the first glimpse of Swamiji’s plan to start the centre in His letter written from London on 20 November 1896 to Alasinga Perumal, his ardent disciple at Madras (Chennai).
My present plan of work is to start two centres, one in Calcutta and the other in Madras, in which to train up young preachers. I have funds enough to start the one in Calcutta, which being the scene of Shri Ramakrishna’s lifework, demands my first attention. As for the Madras one, I expect to get funds in India.
We will begin work with these three centres; and later on, we will get to Bombay and Allahabad. And from these points, if the Lord is pleased, we will invade not only India, but send over bands of preachers to every country in the world. That should be our first duty.
Foundation of the Centre — A Brief History
When the construction of Belur Math was completed on advice of Swamiji, Swami Vijnanananda came to Allahabad in 1900 to start the Allahabad Centre. At Allahabad, Swami Vijnanananda became the guest of a friend, Dr.Mahendra Nath Odedar.
During this time, there was a group of young men including Sri Manmathanath Ganguly, a homoeopathic doctor and a disciple of Swamiji,who were earnest followers of Swami Vivekananda. The group rented two rooms on the upper floor of a two story building (see picture) at Station Road — a small one for the shrine and a larger room for a library and meeting room, which they named ‘Brahmavadin Club’.
The members of the Club practised meditation and prayer, held classes on the scriptures, sang devotional songs and discussed spirituality.Initially, this group was organised by a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna who had come to Allahabad some years back. Since he left for Calcutta in the year 1900, the boys had to manage their own affairs without any proper guidance. When they heard that a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna had come to the city, they took it as their good fortune. At once, they approached SwamiVijnananandaji Maharaj and requested him to come and stay in their place for guidance and inspiration. The keen earnestness and sincere devotion of the boys convinced the Swami to visit their place. After seeing everything, he felt inclined to put up there for a period. In the Club,Swami Vijnananandaji Maharaj passed ten precious years of his life in hard austerity, study and meditation till he established a permanent centre.
At the Brahmavadin Club, Vijnananandaji Maharaj had to pass through much hardship—being his own cook and servant, depending for subsistence on what chance might bring. There was no water or electricity in the house. He had to collect water from the street supply of the municipality. But he hardly felt the suffering, for his mind and thought were centred on a plane where these things could not reach. He spent mornings and afternoon in worships, japam, meditation and study in the shrine room. In the evening, the club members conducted prayer. Vijnananandaji Maharaj also gave Gita classes in the library hall. He slept in the hall at night.
Thus, through the silent influence of his example as well as through personal contact, Vijnananandaji Maharaj changed the course of many lives. It was only in the evening that outsiders were allowed to see him. For them, he would sometimes hold scriptural classes or would otherwise solve their problems through informal discussions.
To give the Club a fresh impetus, in the year 1910, and with public support, Vijnananandaji Maharaj procured funds and succeeded in erecting a permanent building for a Ramakrishna Math in the Mutthiganj area of the city. Keeping in touch with him, the Brahmavadin Club too continued its existence for some time.
Close by, at Jumna Mission College Road, Muthiganj, Vijnananandaji Maharaj bought a vacant plot of land and built a separate building. As there were only a few devotees, he had to take a loan of ₹4,100 in order to buy the plot.
Charitable Homeopathy Dispensary
In October 1910, Swami Vijnananandaji Maharaj started a Sevashrama and opened a charitable homoeopathic dispensary where medicines and medical advices were given free to poor patients, irrespective of caste, creed and other differences. Medicines were also supplied at their homes in case they were incapable to come to the dispensary, and had none to help.
The General Report: 1911-1912,
on the Sevashrama gives unmistakable evidence of the usefulness of the institution and of its growing popularity amongst the poor pilgrims and the general public of Allahabad, the capital of the then United Provinces. Altogether 5,856 poor patients were treated in the Sevashrama Dispensary,of which 5,111 were Hindus, 671 Muslims, 35 Christians and 39 belonging to other nationalities.
To raise funds for the Sevashrama, the Prabuddha Bharata — monthly English journal of the Ramakrishna Order — published an appeal (see picture) in 1913 April issue.
Swami Vijnananandaji Maharaj took Brahmachari Panchanan from the Varanasi Home of Service as his assistant. He worked in the dispensary and also served Swami Vijnananandaji Maharaj from 1910 to 1924. Brahmachari Panchanan later left the order. Vijnananandaji Maharaj there after appointed Beni, a local boy, as his personal assistant.
In the beginning, financial condition of the Allahabad Math was poor. A Muslim horse-carriage driver collected monthly subscriptions for the Ashrama from some of those devotees. In the early stages, there were no cooking facilities at the Ashrama. Some devotees took turns cooking for the Swami in their own homes. Beni would collect the food in a tiffin-carrier. He asked the devotees to cook simple meals for him, so they cooked only rice, lentils, and a vegetable. Later, when the Ashrama grew he established cooking facilities and hired a cook. Swami Vijnananandaji Maharaj was so fond of tea that he took it several times a day and would invite every visitors, servants, sweepers, and carriage drivers to his tea parties.
Occasionally, the Sevashrama had to accommodate some extremely helpless cases as indoor patients. Consequently, during 1925-27, construction of indoor hospital buildings were undertaken at an estimated cost of ₹10,000 and it was completed in December 1928.
During the Kumbha Mela in 1930-31, an outdoor dispensary was opened in the most crowded area of the Mela grounds for rendering first aid to the pilgrims. Altogether 6,210 patients were treated; and as a prevention against cholera, the Mission with the help of the Bengal Health Department inoculated 6,375 pilgrims on board the steamers and at the railway stations. In connection with the Mela, Swami Vijnananandaji Maharaj issued an appeal in the January 1930 issue of Vedanta Kesari published from Chennai Math.
Development over the Years — An Overview
In 1958, the construction of a library building and lecture hall (at a total cost of
₹49,762) was completed. The library with a reading room had 5,465 books 5465, 20 magazines 20 and 3 newspapers.
The Union Minister of Scientific Research and Cultural Affairs inaugurated the new library building on 19 October 1958.
In December 1959, construction of the shrine and prayer hall was completed. The General Secretary performed dedication of the new shrine with its prayer
hall on 16 December 1959.
On 29 November 1970, the President of Ramakrishna Math & Mission, Swami Vireswaranandaji Maharaj laid the foundation for the new dispensary building.
On 7 January 1972, the General Secretary, Swami Gambhiranandaji Maharaj opened the newly constructed two-storied dispensary building and unveiled a life-size photo of Sri Ramakrishna in its lecture hall.
The mobile medical unit of Allahabad Ashrama was inaugurated on 13 September 1998.
During 1971-72, a new two-storeyed dispensary building was constructed in the premises, which was in use from January 1972.
A bookstall of the centre was opened on 12 August 2001 at the Allahabad Railway Station.
The then Uttar Pradesh Governor, Sri Vishnukant Shastri, visited Allahabad Centre on 21 April 2002 and laid the foundation stone for the proposed extension to library-cum-lecture-hall. Revered President Maharaj inaugurated the restored Swami Vijnanananda Kutir on 8 April and laid the foundation stone for the proposed temple on 11 April 2008.
Further, the centre set up a bookstall at the Allahabad Railway Station, which was inaugurated on 8 August 2008.
Sri Ramakrishna Temple at Allahabad Math was remodelled during the Ashrama’s centenary celebrations. Revered President Maharaj Swami Atmasthanandaji consecrated the temple, with a marble image on 17 January 2010 — the birthday of Swami Brahmanandaji Maharaj. Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj also addressed a public meeting organised on this occasion and released the commemorative volume. In all, about 120 monastic and several hundred devotees attended the function.
The Allahabad Centre organised the closing function of its centenary celebrations from 13 to 24 November 2010 with a devotees’ convention, a public meeting and religious discourses.
Swami Gautamanandaji inaugurated the newly built kitchen-cum-dining-hall at Allahabad Centre on 13 February 2016.
Kumbha Mela &Magh Mela Medical Services
During 1976-77, the Sevashrama organised a medical relief at Purna Kumbha Mela. Again in 1981-82, the Centre conducted primary relief and medical relief during Ardha Kumbha Mela.
From 1983 onwards, on every Magh Mela, the Centre organises a camp. It consists of free outpatient medical service, exhibition of paintings depicting spiritual teachings, discourses, book stall, and shrine. In its starting year, 2,350 patients were treated. 4,981 patients were treated in the following year.
During the Purna Kumbha at Prayag on January-February 1989, the Sevashrama made elaborate arrangements for comfortable stay of about 10,000 pilgrims.
The latest Kumbha Mela was organised in 2013 where more than 13,000 devotees and monks received facilities of boarding and lodging.
Vivekananda Balaka Sangha
In 1985-86, Vivekananda Balaka Sangha was started to provide scope for recreational, cultural, moral and spiritual activities for youngsters at specified periods outside their school and college hours. The range of activities included: devotional songs, Vedic chanting, indoor and outdoor games. Films on religion, sports, science and health were screened to students. Free milk and snacks were given as well.
Later, the project was converted and named — the ‘Gadadhar Abhyudaya Prakalpa’ (Children Development Project)—where more than 100 students from nearby slums area receive uniforms, nutritious food, milk, stationary items, hygiene kits, school bags, winter garments. Preliminary education with computer training, training to knit and sew, drawing, physical education classes are held at regular interval for basic character building —the primary motto of the programme.
On 20 February 1983, a youth convention was conducted at the Sevashrama. Students and other youths in the age group of 18 to 35 —from different walks of life, and totalling 365— participated. Justice M.N. Shukla inaugurated it. The Presidential address was given by Dr.V.N.Singh, the then Vice Chancellor of the Allahabad University.
On 18 December the same year, the second Youth Convention was held, in which 450 youth delegates from Agra, Varanasi and Allahabad participated. Sri T.N.Chaturvedi, Home Secretary, Government of India inaugurated the convention. The presidential address was given by Sri Premshankar Gupta.
On 3 August 2003, a weeklong National Youth Convention was held at the Math and Sri Keshari Nath Tripathi, the then speaker of Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly, inaugurated it.
From April 1987 to March 1988, free milk and biscuits were distributed to 35 poor children. Scholarship and other aid were provided to poor and meritorious school and college students.
During natural calamities and winters, Ramakrishna Mission Sevashrama, Allahabad organises relief programme to provide relief to the affected people without discriminating caste, creed and religion. Almost 5,000 poor, needy people are benefitted (free distribution of blankets, cloth, garments, etc.) throughout the year.
In 2001-02, a bookstall of Ramakrishna, Vivekananda Vedanta literature was opened at Allahabad Railway Station. One bookstall is there in the Ashrama campus as well to spread the message of Swami Vivekananda.
Free Coaching Centre
During April 2006 to March 2007, a free coaching centre was started with 45 students. From 2010, this holistic project in the name of ‘Gadadhar Abhyudaya Prakalpa’(Children Development Project) was started for preliminary education of 100 students belonging to very poor, needy and under privileged section of families up to the eighth standard.
Children stay at the Mission during evenings — from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm—for six days in a week. They are provided uniforms, nutritious food, milk, stationary items & hygiene kits, school bags, winter garments. Preliminary education with computer training, knitting and sewing training, drawing, physical education classes are held at regular interval for basic character building which is the primary motto of the programme.
All facilities are provided free of cost.
Weekly Personality Development Classes
Since April 2011, personality development and value education classes are being held for the youth every Sunday. Per our estimates, every week, on an average 40 to 50 students take part in the class.
The Ramakrishna Mission , Allahabad runs a computer-training centre.
Per our estimates, during 2017-2018,885 boys and 762 girls received training. Of them, 123 trainees got part-free and full-free training.
This charitable dispensary has been in existence from the time of inception of the Ramakrishna Mission Sevashrama. It has both homeopathy and allopathy departments.
The allopathy department provides the following services:
Skin and eye treatment, and
X-ray and Ultrasonography.