Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Thakur (1836-1886)

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শ্রীরামকৃষ্ণ পরমহংস (১৮৩৬-১৮৮৬)

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (18 February 1836 – 16 August 1886), born Gadadhar Chattopadhyay, was a legendary mystic of 19th-century India. His religious school of thought led to the formation of the Ramakrishna Mission by his chief disciple Swami Vivekananda – both were influential figures in the Bengali Renaissance as well as the Hindu renaissance during the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of his disciples and devotees believe he was an Avatar or incarnation of God. He is also referred to as “Paramahamsa” by his devotees, as such he is popularly known as Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.
Ramakrishna was born in a poor Brahmin Vaishnava family of the village of Kamarpukur. He became a priest of the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, dedicated to the goddess Kali, which had the influence of the main strands of Bengali bhakti tradition. Ramakrishna also practised other religions, notably Islam and Christianity, and said that they all lead to the same God. Ramakrishna’s mother and his elder brother Rameswar arranged his marriage with five-year-old bride, Saradamani Mukhopadhyaya (later known as Sarada Devi) in 1859. After the marriage, Sarada stayed with her parents till the age of 18. By the time his bride joined him at Dakshineswar, Ramakrishna had already embraced the monastic life of a sannyasi; as a result, the marriage was never consummated.
In 1875, Ramakrishna met the influential Brahmo Samaj leader Keshab Chandra Sen. Keshab had accepted Christianity, and had separated from the Adi Brahmo Samaj. Keshab, under the influence of Ramakrishna, accepted Hindu polytheism and established the “New Dispensation” (Nava Vidhan) religious movement. Following Keshab, other Brahmos such as Vijaykrishna Goswami started to admire Ramakrishna, propagate his ideals and reorient their socio-religious outlook. Many prominent people of Calcutta—Pratap Chandra Mazumdar, Shivanath Shastri and Trailokyanath Sanyal—began visiting him during this time (1871–1885). Mozoomdar wrote the first English biography of Ramakrishna, entitled The Hindu Saint in the Theistic Quarterly Review (1879), which played a vital role in introducing Ramakrishna to Westerners like the German indologist Max Müller. Ramakrishna also had interactions with Debendranath Tagore, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. He had also met Swami Dayananda. Ramakrishna is considered as one of the main contributors to the Bengali Renaissance.
His chief disciples consisted of: Grihastas or The householders,like Mahendranath Gupta, Girish Chandra Ghosh, and Monastic disciples who renounced their family and became the earliest monks of the Ramakrishna order—Narendranath Dutta (Swami Vivekananda), Rakhal Chandra Ghosh (Swami Brahmananda), Kaliprasad Chandra (Swami Abhedananda), Taraknath Ghoshal (Swami Shivananda), Sashibhushan Chakravarty (Swami Ramakrishnananda), Saratchandra Chakravarty (Swami Saradananda), Tulasi Charan Dutta (Swami Nirmalananda), Gangadhar Ghatak (Swami Akhandananda), Hari Prasana (Swami Vijnanananda) and others.
According to the biographers, for hours Ramakrishna would reminisce about his own eventful spiritual life, tell tales, explain Vedantic doctrines with extremely mundane illustrations, raise questions and answer them himself, crack jokes, sing songs, and mimic the ways of all types of worldly people, keeping the visitors enthralled.
Ramakrishna expired in the early morning hours of 16 August 1886. After the death of their master, the monastic disciples led by Vivekananda formed a fellowship at Baranagar near the river Ganges that became the first Math or monastery of the disciples who constituted the first Ramakrishna Order.

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