Friday 5 August 2011

Sri Sarada Devi

Sri Sarada Devi and Communal Harmony
The great historian, Dr. R.C. Majumdar, wrote in ‘Glimpses of Bengal in the Nineteenth Century’,
“In all vital matters affecting culture, the Hindus and Muslims of Bengal, as elsewhere in India, lived in watertight compartments as it were.”
There was no ill feeling between the Hindus and Muslims, but Dr. Majumdar said, “A fundamental and basic difference between the two communities was apparent and with respect to social ideas and institutions, “the two differed as poles asunder.”
Gradually, social degeneration precipitated the extensive spread of blind superstitions and inhuman customs. In the name of religion, many ill practices and objectionable rituals prevailed in society. Things changed for the worse after the partition of Bengal in 1905.
Sri Ramakrishna’s wife, Sri Sarada Devi was born in a village in an orthodox Brahmin family in such a conservative society. She was a simple girl without the basics of schooling. Somehow, she could write her name. At a very early age, with her marriage to Sri Ramakrishna, the whole day she was busy doing household work. But she was very much aware of the condition of society.
Sri Sarada Devi did not like the division of society on the basis of religion. She heard her husband say, “Purify the spectacles of your mind and you will see that the world is God.” Each and every one was her child, irrespective of caste, creed and religion. She believed in oneness with every being on earth. She did not preach this ideal, but practised this in her day to day life.
Being a widow of a Brahmin family, Sri Sarada Devi was not allowed to maintain relations with people of other castes and religions.
According to Rasan Ali Khan, a villager (who met Sri Sarada Devi in his youth), Sri Sarada Devi had very good relations with the Muslim community of Shiromonipur, Paramanandapur and many other villages. Amzad and his wife Motijaan Bibi and Amzad’s mother, Fatema Bibi were very close to her.
The Holy Mother once called poor, hungry Amzad, a Muslim labourer, for food. Her niece, Nalini Devi was assigned to serve him lunch. Owing to her narrow caste prejudice, she stood at a distance and threw the food on to his leaf-plate.
Displeased with her niece’s actions and attitude, the Mother herself served him food with a lot of affection. She also cleaned up the place where Amzad had eaten.
Nalini was shocked at this act of unorthodoxy and exclaimed to her aunt, “You will become an outcast with this act!”
On hearing this, Sri Sarada Devi calmly explained her own view and said, “Amzad is also my son, exactly as Sarat (Swami Saradananda, Sri Ramakrishna’s disciple) is.”
During the British rule when poor farmers were forced to grow indigo instead of rice and other food crops, they became poorer. These farmers were mostly Muslims. The upper classes of society did not bother to help them or to improve their condition.
Sri Sarada Devi was the only one who stood by them.
Hamedi Shaikh, Mafeti Shaikh, Nafizan Bibi, Majiran Bibi and many others used to come to the Holy Mother’s house and she fed them. She packed their tiffin with whatever she had. She gave them sarees, dhotis, oil etc. She could not bear the miseries of farmers.
The Hindus did not allow Muslims to enter their homes. But when Swami Saradananda started building a new house for the Mother in Joyrambati, Muslims worked there. Conservative Brahmins criticised Sri Sarada Devi and her relatives requested her to change the workers.
The village Mukhiya filed a penalty on her. She paid the fine, but continued to employ them to build the house.
Dudu Fakir and Salim Fakir were regular visitors of Sri Sarada Devi. She used to offer sirni at mosques. A Muslim asked her that, being a Hindu, why she sent sirni to mosques.
She replied, “God is one. The only difference is in the name.” She said that holy men are born on earth to show people the different paths leading to God. They only teach differently.
Sri Ramakrishna said that a truly religious man should know that other religions are many paths leading to the Truth. One should always maintain an attitude of respect towards other religions.
The poor Muslims of the villages used to call Sri Sarada Devi the ‘Messenger of Allah.” When the British were ruling over India she realised the sufferings of Indians but even then she said, “They (the British) are also my children.” Hindus, Muslims, Christians all were her own and she was the Mother of all. She had high regards or ‘Shraddha’ for all religions.
Sri Sarada Devi’s most important teachings were: “we should give everyone his due” and “it is through love that the Master’s (God) family has taken shape.” She wanted to unite all religions through the deep bond of Mother and Child. A mother is always impartial to her children.
She tried to bring perfect harmony in society with mutual cooperation and understanding, which are important for the healthy growth of society.  Sri Sarada Devi spread the message of love.
To the Holy Mother, religion meant sacrifice, self-restraint, humility, love and compassion for others. She had equal love for all. She said, “In the fullness of one’s spiritual realisation, one will find Him who resides in one’s heart and also in the hearts of others – the oppressed, the persecuted, the untouchable and the outcast. This realisation makes one truly humble.”
Sri Sarada Devi embodied true religion, exemplifying love and peace, not hatred or conflict. She wanted to banish all differences which separated one human being from another. She wanted us not to find fault in others but to work and live for others – that was the best way to realise God.
National integration can be achieved if we realise that the world does not belong to us, it belongs to the Almighty.
He is all pervasive. ‘Isa Vasyamidam Sarvam …’ Isa Upanishad, verse I.
The Manu Smriti (II-145) says: ‘the teacher of scriptures (Vedas) is ten times more venerable than an ordinary teacher; a father, a hundred times more than the teacher, but a mother, a thousand times more than the father.’
Article by : Dr. Sushmita Ghosh
Source: Bhavan's Journal 28 February 2009
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