The Great Light that was Sri Ramakrishna Disappeared from mortal gaze in 1886. But before it went out, other lights had been kindled from that immortal Flame. They were Sri Sarada Devi and the sixteen disciples of the Great Master who received the impact of the brilliance of the original and who transmitted his gospel, enriched and made meaningful by their accordant lives, to thousands of their fellow –men both at home and abroad.
Among these was Swami Akhandananda who, to, spontaneously responded to the divine call of his inspired Teacher. Known to devotees as Gangadhar Maharaj, the Swami travelled with Swami Vivekananda to many places of India and also crossed the Himalayas and went to Tibet. He later became the third president of the Ramakrishna Order.
Swami Akhandananda was direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna , the world teacher who Romain Rollant called ‘the prophet of new India,’ It is not easy to understand the profound significance and the applicability of the messages of world teachers without studying the lives of their close associates and apostles who were also extraordinary spiritual personalities.
Swami Akhandananda was one such apostle. The Early part of his life was spent first in the holy company of Sri Ramakrishna, and then in pilgrimages and spiritual practices to realize the Divine. The latter part was devoted to activities performed in a spirit of worship in the interior villages of Bengal where he found an orphanage. There he lived amidst the poverty-stricken people, working to raise everybody around him to the highest possible level of material and spiritual development. He was an embodiment of the ideal of service to God in the poor and the afflicted-an ideal he inherited from both Sri Ramakrishna and swami Vivekananda.
Swami Akhandananda Maharaj, the third President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, passed away in 1937. Since then the need for a comprehensive biography of him has been keenly felt.
To write the life of such a great soul, dedicated to the ideals of renunciation and service and spent away from the gaze of the world, has been difficult because of the dearth of adequate materials, and also lack of my skill to depict it properly. Yet the work was taken up since we felt that reflection and meditation on such a life would do immense good to people living in a society presently passing through bad days.
Smrti-katha (Recollections), written by swami Akhandananda, is not an autobiography. It contains only some facts about his life, the rest being reminiscences of the contemporary events known to him and an account of the early history of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. The sequence of events that occurred between 11884 and 1897 us is partly available in that book, we have aso used excerpts from the book Tibeter Pathe Himalaye ( In the Himalayas, on the way to Tibet), In describing his wanderings.
After the passing away of Swami Akhandananda, we got an account of his childhood and youth from a chronicle written by his younger brother, the late HaridasGangopadhyay. Material was also obtained from letters Swami Akhandananda wrote to devotees, writers, journalists, monks, brahmacharins, and attendants of the Math, who camein direct contact with him. Many of these people gave us written accounts of their direct experiences with the Swami. Diaries of inmates of the Sargachhi ashrama where Swami Akhandananda spent most of his time also provided information. Since the author served the Ashrama at Sargachhi from 1917 to 1937, he had the privilege of witnessing many of the events that occurred during this period.
We now mention with deep respect and gratefulness the name of one who made the most significant contribution to the biography. Swami Sankarananda, the seventh president of the Ramakrishna math and mission. He vary carefully collected letters written by swami Akhandananda, and these were full of accounts of important events. While at Belur math, I had the good fortune if going through these letters, and was greatly inspired.
From these letters we came to know of the experiences and the events in which Swami Akhandananda was involved during the course of his wanderings. For maintaining a continuity in the biography, these unpublished letters were of great help to us. When the manuscript was completed, Swami Sankarananda went through portions of if with the help of a magnifying glass.
Valuable material for the biography was also collected from the report of
the sargachhi orphanage-cum-Ashrama for the period 1998 till 1913, published
by swami Saradananda, the then secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and mission.
Accounts of many events repeatedly heard directly from Swami Akhandananda himself
and his written articles form the basis of this biography. In spite of these
efforts, some errors and omissions might remain in the book. Sympathetic readers
may kindly draw our attention to them, so that they may be corrected in the
With Divine grace, I could complete the manuscript in 1955, in the calm and congenial atmosphere of the Manasadwip Ramakrishna, in Sagar Island, West Bengal.
Finally, Swami Madhavananda (The General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission till 1962), in spite of his heavy schedule , read the entire manuscript and edited its first portion, thus enhancing its elegance and charm. The rest was edited by Swami Niramaynanda, editor of Udhbodhan ( A Bengali Journal of the Ramakrishna Order.
Sri Bijoylal Chatterjee, a writer and a poet of eminence, has gone through the manuscript and made some changes, making it more pleasant . Many others, too, extended their helping hand in the preparation and publication of the work. The author greatefully acknowledges their help.
After crossing many hurdles, at long last, with the infinite grace of God, a complete biography of swami Akhandananda is being published. It will give us immense joy if from reading this book people become in bued with the lofty ideas it contains.
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