The Ramakrishna Movement in Mumbai

  • Old Shrine (now Mother’s Temple)

  • Students’ Home accommodating 15 students (1933)

  • The Universal Temple (built in 1965)

  • Charitable Hospital & Dispensary

  • Rural welfare & service center catering to thousands of villages

Origins of the Mumbai Ashrama

Origins of the Mumbai Ashrama

Swami Shivananda – Mahapurush Maharaj and his party – arrived in Bombay in 1925 in the second week of January. He was given a tremendous ovation by a large gathering at the Victoria Terminus Railway Station and then taken to the Ramakrishna Ashrama started at Khar, a suburb of Mumbai. The Ashrama, started some time previously by Swami Shravanananda with the help of local devotees had been operating from rented quarters at Khar Road.

Soon after his arrival, Mahapurush Maharaj resolved to put the Ashrama on a permanent footing, and he urged the devotees to get busy. It was not long before a piece of land was purchased, the lot forming a part of the new developing tract of Khar, which when completed would be an ideal residential suburb of Mumbai. On an auspicious day the foundation stone of the Ashrama was laid on the plot of land by Mahapurush Maharaj.

As a first step towards the consolidation of the activities of the Order, Swami Vivekananda had decided to establish four monasteries at the four strategic spots of India, namely, the Himalayas, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai. Swamiji had succeeded in establishing the first three of these during his lifetime, but it was left for Mahapurush Maharaj to inaugurate the last one in Mumbai. It made him very happy to think that at last Swamiji’s wish was fulfilled and that he had been made the instrument. Instinctively he felt confident about the future of this Ashrama. He once said: “In times to come the Lord’s work here will have splendid success. He is managing His work; we are simply instruments”.

Mahapurush Maharaj stayed at this time in Mumbai for over a month. Every day he met a large number of seekers of Truth who came from the many suburbs of Mumbai and from the city itself. Patiently and with great solicitude he talked to them on spiritual matters and helped them, thus influencing their lives. Many received initiation from him. He was presented with addresses of welcome by different groups in the city. Unfortunately, he had to hurry back to Belur to attend to certain important organizational matters at the headquarters. He made the trip via Nagpur, arriving at the Math just before the birthday of Sri Ramakrishna.

The construction work on the Ashrama at Khar progressed and was completed in about two years. Mahapurush Maharaj was invited again to come and perform the dedication to which he readily agreed. On 26th of December, 1926, the Swami dedicated the Ashrama, installing Sri Ramakrishna’s picture in the Shrine Room. The ceremony, consisting of worship, prayers, devotional music, feasting and lectures, was quite imposing, and was attended by a large number of distinguished and representative citizens of Mumbai. It was indeed an important event in the annals of the Mission’s activities in Western India.

During his first visit, there was devotional singing and discussion at the Ashrama almost every day. If the weather permitted, he would go on long walks for relaxation, accompanied by some monks. The Juhu beach, not very far from the monastery, was a favourite place with him. Sometimes on the way he visited the Shiva temple founded by the fishermen of Juhu, who reverently greeted the Swami, addressing him as “Father”. They talked to him about their problems and troubles in life, and the Swami always treated these simple people as genuine friends.

Extract from “The Saga of a Great Soul”
Ramakrishna Math Mylapore

The chronological history

The chronological history

Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission in Mumbai are branches of the twin organizations Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission of Belur Math, Howrah.

When Swami Ramakrishnananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, came from Chennai to Mumbai in April 1905, it was Lokmanya Tilak who appealed to the Swami and the public to start a centre in Mumbai.

An influential committee was formed for the purpose with Sir Bhalachandra Kirshna as President and Dr. Gaida as Secretary. But the matter rested there.

Nearly fifteen years later, a second attempt was made by the Western India Vivekananda Society with Hon’ble M. R. Jayakar as its President. They invited Swami Shravananda, the then President of Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, to deliver a series of lectures in Mumbai, when the people became much interested in having a permanent centre here. They requested the Headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission to send some Swamis for the purpose.

With the munificence of the late Sri Junwalla who promised full financial help for the new centre for one year at Rs. 500 per month, Swami Viswananda with a Brahmachari from Belur Math hired a small house opposite to the Lakshminarayan Temple, Santacruz, in May 1923. Thus 18 years after the first attempt, the nucleus of the Ramakrishna Math Ramakrishna Mission, Mumbai was started.

About a year later, in 1924, the Math was shifted to another house on Ghod Bunder Road (now Swami Vivekananda Road). Swami Yatiswarananda was in-charge of this centre for a year after which, as we shall see, the centre was shifted to its own premises at Khar.

Extract from the History of the Ramakrishna Math &
Ramakrishna Mission Mumbai, Platinum Jubilee brochure

Ashrama at its present site

Ashrama at its present site

Srimat Swami Shivanandji Maharaj, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and the second President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, laid the foundation stone for the Ashrama’s main building on the 6th February, 1925 at a site purchased for the purpose at Khar. He was present to inaugurate the new Math (now containing the Holy Mother’s temple). He also laid the foundation stone for the Library building.

Two other illustrious direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna both presidents of the order sanctified this Math by their visits. Swami Vijnanananda (the 4th President of the Ramakrishna Order) visited the Ashram in 1932 and Swami Akhandanandaji (the 3rd President of the Order) in November 1934. The latter established Holy Mother’s relics in the shrine on the Jagaddhatri Puja day in 1934. (Read about this incident here).

Visit of Swami Virajananda

Visit of Swami Virajananda

In 1939, from Swami Sambuddhananda in Mumbai came a letter urging the President Maharaj visit that city. It read:
Maharaj, you promised when you were in the Math at Belur that after a few months’ stay at Shyamala Tal, you would try to come here. I am merely reminding you of our request. Pray, come for a few weeks and give us your blessing!

The Sangha Guru’s experience in Chennai had been most revealing: There he had perceived that hundreds of men and women from far and near were intensely hungering for spiritual counsel in order to mould their lives after the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. There he had also comprehended that Sri Ramakrishna, the supreme prophet of this age, was subtly working through the minds and hearts of numberless people – for that had been the true purpose of the Master’s earthly incarnation. Reflecting on this, Virajanandaji remarked softly to himself, “How fortunate it is to be of some assistance in this ennobling work! We are mere tools in the hands of the Lord! Indeed, with no other outlook my predecessors in office have all faithfully served the Sangha! They may not be alive in the flesh now – but their ideas are here and will remain. And through a succession of new personalities, those ideals will continue to manifest…” Thus realizing with humility the rare privilege bestowed upon him by the great Master Sri Ramakrishna, the Swami replied that he would gladly make the trip to Mumbai.

In Mumbai Swami Sambuddhananda, Head of the Ramakrishna Ashrama, had arranged an impressive reception for the President of the Order. Several motor cars had been handsomely decorated with the flowers and in these Virajanandaji and his party were conveyed to the Ashrama about ten miles away.

A brief chronicle of events

A brief chronicle of events

In 1929, Library and Reading Room was started. The Dispensary with allopathic and homeopathic treatments started functioning in their own buildings.

In 1933 a Students’ Home accommodating 15 students was started in its own building.

In 1931 and 1932, during the birthday anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, the Ashrama organized for the first time, an exhibition of arts and crafts.

In 1936 – Sri Ramakrishna Birth Centenary: A 3-day long Parliament of Religions was organized all over the country. On the first two days – 7th & 8th May, the convention was held at Cowasji Jehangir Hall and on the 9th at Bombay University.

In 1945 an Inter-Religious Conference was organized.

In 1951, new buildings came up for the Dispensary, Students’ Home and Library. The foundation stone was laid by the then Chief Minister – Hon’ble B.G. Kher and was inaugurated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, on the 4th March 1951. A statue of Swami Vivekananda (marble bust) was unveiled by Swami Madhavanandaji, the then General Secretary on 11th March 1951. (This has since been replaced by the bronze bust of Swamiji)

1951 also marked the first celebration of the annual Durga Puja in the Ashrama which has continued down the years.

In 1953, year-long celebration of Holy Mother’s Birth Centenary was inaugurated by Lady Bajpai on 29th December. All-Bombay essay competition in different languages, Women’s Conference, poor feeding, exhibition of Rangoli, Arts and Crafts were the highlights.

In 1963-64, Swami Vivekananda Centenary was celebrated with a 3-day programme.

In 1965, the new Universal Temple of Sri Ramakrishna was completed and the opening was ceremoniously performed by Swami Madhavanandaji Maharaj – then President of the Math & Mission.

Extract from the History of the Ramakrishna Math &
Ramakrishna Mission Mumbai, Platinum Jubilee brochure

Mumbai Math and Mission today

Mumbai Math and Mission today

From then to now, the Mumbai Math and Mission have flourished and has seen many a spiritual personages visiting the Math.

Click here to see some of the activities conducted Math & Mission today.