Tuesday 16 April 2024

Nava-Ratri Special : Devi Sarada - 6

After Sri Ramakrishna's mahasamadhi, Holy Mother was about to remove the bangles in conformity with the status of widowhood. At that moment Sri Ramakrishna appeared before her in a tangible vision and asked if she thought he had actually died. He instructed her to continue wearing the bangles, and she did so until her growing un- ease over public disapproval and ridicule led her to remove them. Again he appeared, this time telling her that Gauri Ma would set things right. That very afternoon Gauri Ma came to visit and explained that Sri Ramakrishna's physical death had no bearing on his divine being, and that as his consort, Holy Mother was herself Lakshmi. As the goddess of prosperity, she was not only entitled, but duty-bound, to wear the bangles. Her doubt removed, Sarada Devi wore the bangles for the rest of her earthly life as a symbol of her divine nature.16

Devi Bagala

When Sri Ramakrishna fully awakened the Divine Mother's presence in his wife through the Shodashi Puja, he consecrated every part of her body with mantras infused with the Mother's manifold
powers.17 Shodashi, or Tripurasundari, is one of the ten Mahavidyas or wisdom aspects of the Divine Mother, which include Kali. Since they are all ultimately one, it can be said that Tripurasundari
contains the other nine within herself. Among them is Bagalamukhi, one of Mother's fierce forms. On rare occasions Sarada Devi would reveal a fiercer aspect of her divine motherhood, and in one
such incident she showed herself in the form of Bagalamukhi,18 whose unique power is to immobilize the evil impulses of an enemy.19 Bagalamukhi's dhyanamantra describes her as of golden complexion, dressed in yellow, and adorned with ornaments and a yellow garland. Serious in demeanour, she holds a club in her right hand, poised to strike, while with her left hand she grasps the
tongue of the enemy (193).

Holy Mother revealed herself in this startling form once while staying at Kamarpukur. At that time a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna, named Harish, came to the village. His constant visits to Dakshineswar
and the Baranagore monastery had led him to neglect his wife and family. To turn his mind back to his worldly responsibilities his wife had administered drugs and spells, and now he was clearly
deranged. One day, when Holy Mother was on her way home after visiting a neighbour, Harish began to chase her. Entering the family courtyard, she found that no one was at home. She began to
circle the granary, all the while with Harish in pursuit. After she had gone around it seven times, she stopped, unable to run any longer. What happened next is best told in her own words: 'Then I stood
firm working myself up to my full stature (lit., assuming my own form). And then, placing my knee on his chest and taking hold of his tongue, I slapped him on his cheeks so hard that he began to gasp
for breath. My fingers became red.20 Not long afterward, Harish left Kamarpukur and went to Vrindavan, where he regained his sanity.21 This incident illustrates that even the Mother's fiercer powers
are in fact benevolent.

While Sri Ramakrishna made no attempt to hide his spiritual moods and would frequently go into samadhi before the eyes of astonished onlookers, Holy Mother made every effort to keep her powers well under control. However, hiding her true identity was more than a matter of mere reticence or modesty. There can be no doubt that the cloak of motherhood that concealed her divinity made her 
more accessible to her children.22 Even so, she would reveal a momentary glimpse now and then, as the recollections of many disciples and devotees show.

Devi Kali, Devi Ma

A particularly charming incident took place soon after Sri Ramakrishna's death in 1886. Holy Moth- er was travelling on foot from her native village of Jayrambati to Kamarpukur, accompanied by her young nephew Shivaram, known affectionately as Shibu. The boy was carrying her bundle of clothes, and when they came near to Jayrambati, he sud- denly stopped. When Holy Mother urged him on, he replied that he would continue only if she told him something.

She asked what he wanted to know, and Shibu said, 'Will you tell me who you are?'

She replied that she was his aunt. Who else could she be? At this response, the nephew told her that in that case she could go on by herself. She reasserted that she was his aunt and a mere human
being, and he told her again that she could go on alone. At his unwillingness to budge from the spot, Holy Mother said at last, 'People say I am Kali'.

'Are you really Kali? Is it true?' Shibu asked.
'Yes', Holy Mother replied, and then the two continued on to Jayrambati, the delighted young Shibu contentedly following the Mother of the Universe.23

References :

16. Swami Atmajnanananda, 'Sri Sarada Devi's Bangles, Samvit 54 (September 2006), 22-25. 17. 'Sarada Shodashi', 31.

18. Swami Nikhilananda, Holy Mother, 106.

19. David Kinsley, Tantric Visions of the Divine Femi- nine: The Ten Mahavidyas (Berkeley: University of California, 1997), 199.

20. Swami Gambhirananda, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi (Madras: Ramakrishna Math, 1969), 157-8. 21. Swami Nikhilananda, Holy Mother, 106.

22. 'The Fulfilment of Sri Ramakrishna's Mission', 77. 23. Swami Nikhilananda, Holy Mother, 185-6.

23. Swami Nikhilananda, Holy Mother, 185-6

-by Devadatta Kali (courtesy : Prabuddha Bharat 2007 April)

To be continued ...

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