An Avatar is not only a Redeemer of humanity but also a Teacher of humanity. He comes with a new
message suited to the needs of the new age. He also gathers around him a chosen band of apostles who
spread his message far and wide. This was true of Sri. Ramakrishna also. He trained sixteen young
disciples to become torchbearers of his message. Each of these apostles was endowed with unique
traits of greatness, and played a significant role in furthering Sri Ramakrishna’s mission on earth.
Among these apostles, Swami Ramakrishnanandaji, endearingly called Shashi Maharaj, occupies an
He distinguished himself by his devoted service to Sri Ramakrishna during the latter’s
illness at Cossipore garden house. After Sri Ramakrishna’s passing away, Shashi Maharaj took charge
of the copper urn containing the sacred relics of Sri Ramakrishna, known as atmaramer kauta, and
started worshipping it in the shrine-room of the dilapidated house at Baranagore which served as the
first monastery of the Ramakrishna Order. During the early years of the newly founded monastic
brotherhood Shashi Maharaj remained its sheet anchor: his steadfast devotion to the worship of Sri
Ramakrishna and his loving concern for the health and welfare of the brothers gave to the fledgling
monastic institution the much-needed stability. About this role of Sashi Maharaj, Swami Vivekananda
Shashi was the main pillar of the Math. Without him life in the monastery would have been
impossible. Often the monks would be lost in prayer and meditation, with no thought of food and
Swami Ramakrishnananda would wait with their meals or even drag them out of meditation.
It is well known that Swami Ramakrishnanandaji’s main contribution to the establishment and
development of Ramakrishna Movement is his institution of the worship of Sri Ramakrishna as an
essential and integral aspect of the Movement. Simple as it might seem, this statement has two deep
implications. In the first place, although Shashi Maharaj followed rituals, his worship was not puja as it
is ordinarily performed or even understood. His worship was real seva, actually serving a living Person.
Through sheer intensity of Bhakti, he had transcended the limits of ritualistic worship and even all
forms of sadhana and had attained the capacity for direct communion with God.
Secondly, he saw in worship not only personal fulfillment but also the satisfaction of the
collective need of the Ramakrishna Order. The majority of people need a visible focus for their quest
for, and adoration of the Invisible Reality. Such a common focus has great integrating power. At
present, thanks to the farsightedness of Shashi Maharaj, worship of Sri Ramakrishna serves as the
bed-rock of Ramakrishna Movement and is a powerful force unifying the diverse streams of the
Another, no less important contribution of Shashi Maharaj to the development of the
Ramakrishna Movement was his pioneering efforts in spreading the life and message of Sri
Ramakrishna in South India. Although he was intensely devoted to the worship of Sri Ramakrishna at
Alambazar Math, when Swami Vivekananda asked him to go to Madras (now known as Chennai) and
start a new centre there, he obeyed without the least hesitation. The saga of his efforts to secure a firm
foothold for Ramakrishna Math in the erstwhile Madras Presidency forms a luminous chapter in the
annals of the Ramakrishna Movement.
With Madras as the base, Shashi Maharaj traveled to neighbouring states and sowed the seeds
of the Ramakrishna Movement in the neighbouring states of Karnataka and Kerala. In response to a call
from Rangoon (now Yangon) he traveled to that place and also gave several lectures there. Considering
the limited funds at his disposal and the difficulties of travel in those days, he must have borne
considerable hardship. His devotion to Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, was matched only by his devotion
to Sri Ramakrishna. When Mother visited South India, Shashi Maharaj accompanied her all through her
Swami Ramakrishnanandaji was a scholar with a deep knowledge of Sanskrit. Being trained in
mathematics, he had a clear logical mind. His lectures, published in the form of books bearing the
titles, The Message of Eternal Wisdom, Sri Krishna the Pastoral and King-maker, The Ancient Quest
and so on, show that he was a deep thinker also. His Life of Ramanuja in Bengali is a masterpiece.
His utter purity, guilelessness and his overflowing love for others drew many close friends,
admirers and followers to him. Like all the other disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, he combined Jnana,
Bhakti, Yoga and Karma in his life. Indeed, his saintly life represents an ideal which should be more
widely known and followed.
The present book, photographic Biography of Swami Ramakrishnananda [now renamed as
Swami Ramakrishnananda, A Portrait in Pictures], is sure to make more widely known the dedicated
life, lovable personality and inspiring ideal of one of the great disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. Books of
this kind are very much needed in today’s world.
Picture speak more eloquently than words whereas words only try to draw a picture. But at times,
pictures need explanations, and when both, words and pictures, join together, they produce a marvelous
result- a portrait in pictures.
Swami Ramakrishnanandaji or Shashi Maharaj, whose portrait this book tries to portray,
lived for just 48 years, blazing a silent trail of deep devotion, intense activity and unshakable conviction
in the living presence of Sri Ramakrishna in all that he planned, did or encountered. Though Shashi
Maharaj stands at a distance of barely 95 years, what he accomplished in his short life looks like a
mythological tale. He came from Bengal, steeped in his orthodox beliefs and habits, devoted to a
monastic ideal of life, to Sough India (at the instance of Swami Vivekananda) where the language and
people were unknown to him, circumstances were mostly unfriendly and life, hard. Despite all hurdles,
he worked hard to spread the message of Sri Ramakrishna wherever he went. His extensive travels took
him as far as Rangoon. He enthusiastically went wherever he was invited – be it interior Tamilnadu or
Andhra Pradesh or the Court of the King of Mysore or a public meeting in Bombay. And it is to Swami
Ramakrishnanandaji that all devotees and admirers of Ramakrishna Movement in South India remain
eternally indebted for bringing Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi on a pilgrimage to South India.
Though he came from a small, non-descript village in rural Bengal, Shashi Maharaj lived an
extraordinary life and rose to become an Apostle of Sri Ramakrishna to the Sough. He always felt that
Sri Ramakrishna had a specific mission to accomplish through him which he called latter’s ‘a little
message’ for him-the message of serving his beloved Master through a life of devotion and
This is not a biography but a portrait. A biography contains all the facts and events related to
a person’s life. A portrait, on the other hand, tries to put together facts and events to portray his
personality-to reveal his defining presence that grips our attention and inspires us. In this portrait of
Shashi Maharaj, this is what is intended. Photographs of the temples he visited or the institutions he
spoke at or other things related to him-are mere assistants in this act of portrayal.
We are glad to place this revised and enlarged edition of his biography before the devotees
and general public. Though the narrative is chronological, the focus of the book is more on drawing the
portrait of his life and personality, that to draw a biographical sketch. Numerous monks, devotees, and
admirers have contributed to the procurement of the photographs published here. We thank them all.
During the preparation of the book, unexpected help came from unknown quarters at the opportune
moment. This testifies to the Divine Will in bringing out this book.
Besides photographs. We have used many line-sketches in order to aid visualization of
certain important events in Shashi Maharaj’s life. Our thanks to all those who have supplemented our
May Shashi Maharaj’s burning devotion to God, untiring spirit of service and purity of life
inspire us !
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