Intro: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is candid about his religious identity, unlike several other political leaders of India. He wore his religious identity without shame and visited the famous Dakshineshwar Temple, Ramakrishna Mission & Math at Belur during his recent visit to Kolkata. Prime Minister is proud of being a Hindu; which every Hindu should be. Modi never tries to go out of his way to flaunt ‘secularism’, the way many from the so called ‘intellectual class’ or ‘civil society’ do.
During his recent visit to Kolkata, where he had shared a dais with his opponent, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Modi ensured that he made time to visit the famous Dakshineshwar Temple in Kolkata and Ramakrishna Mission and Belur Math.
Without being a hypocrite, the PM exhibited his joy and happiness without any inhibition in the company of the monks of Ramakrishna order. He became the first PM to visit the temple of Bhavtarani, a form of Goddess Kali at Dakshineshwar, where he performed Aarti and sought blessing of the Goddess by touching her feet.
Critics may say that Modi by being ‘politically correct’ tried to appease the Bengalis by displaying his devotion, because the community holds Dakshineshwar Temple in high esteem in their lives.
But, what can be said about Modi’s visit to Ramakrishna Mission at Belur Math?
Expressing his deep affinity with the monks of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, he told them that he was their Ghar La Ladka (member of the family).
Modi went to meet the President of the Mission and Math, Swami Atmasthananda at Ramakrishna Seva Prathisthan, a hospital run by the mission in Kolkata. It was his visit to his ‘guruji’. It was a long-awaited reunion of a guru and his shishya (disciple).
It wasn’t a public function, so the strongest critics of Modi shouldn’t attempt to claim that Modi had tried to woo the residents of Kolkata by displaying his love and respect for Swami Atmasthananda.
Modi’s visit to Belur Math or Atmasthananda Maharaj was not a clever move to gain political mileage.
The ‘guru-shishya’ relationship goes back to the early days of Modi when he wanted to join the Ramakrishna Mission as a volunteer but Swami Atmasthananda, who then was in-charge of the Mission's Rajkot Centre in Gujarat, suggested Modi to look for an alternative career.
After Modi’s visit to the Belur Math was announced, 97-years old Swami Atmasthananda had written to the PM, “I am eagerly looking forward to your visit to Belur Math as the Prime Minister of India. I am happy to learn that you have got a thumping majority. Sri Ramakrishna has given you the opportunity to serve the people of India irrespective of caste, creed and religion.”
When they met, Modi touched the feet of Swamiji and asked in Gujarati “Kem cho?” (How are you)? In response, the president maharaj replied “Saru Che” (I’m good).
Modi’s private moments at Dakshineshwar Temple and Belur Math
Modi’s visit to the historical Dakshineshwar Temple by the river Hoogly (another form of Ganges), where Sri Ramakrishna was a priest and had realisation of Goddess Mother Kali, was not merely customary.
Amidst chanting of mantras, he performed aarti for ten minutes inside the sanctum sanctorum. He took out his fountain pen from his pocket and placed it at the feet of the goddess. He then visited the room and library in the temple premises, where Sri Ramakrishna had spent 16 years. Here the PM touched the bed of Sri Ramakrishna to seek blessings. It’s the same room where another Narendra (Narendranath Datta, who later became Swami Vivekananda) had met Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa for the first time about 135 years ago and this meeting was a turning point in the life of one of the greatest Hindu monks that Bharat has produced.
After crossing the Bali Bridge over the Hoogly River, at 8 AM Modi reached Belur Math—the headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda. He was greeted by the monks of the Ramakrishna Order led by the general secretary Swami Suhitananda Maharaj, with bouquet of flowers.
The PM was quick to say that he was one amongst the monks and shouldn’t be accorded a special welcome.
“Ghar ka ladka agar ghar aaya hai to uska swaagat kiya jata hai kya? (If a member of the family visits his house, do you welcome him)?” – The PM asked them.
Modi was quite at ease amongst the monks and spent nearly an hour at the Math. After offering prayers at the main temple of Sri Ramakrishna, he went to the house, where Swami Vivekananda had spent his life. Without any pretentions, Modi spent some time meditating alone inside the room. According to eye-witnesses, the PM was visibly emotional and touched the articles used by Swami Vivekananda to seek blessings. Before leaving Belur Math, he also offered prayers at the temples of Maa Sharada, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Brahmananda.
The monks gifted Modi a dhoti and shawl, along with prasad made of 'Payesh' (Bengali sweet dish) and fruits. They presented the PM memorabilia related to Belur Math and books like Bible, Gospels of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.
A Lesser Known Fact
As a young boy, Narendra Damodardas Modi was deeply influenced by the ideals of Swami Vivekananda and was keen on joining the Order as a monk. He expressed his desire during his first visit to Belur Math. But he was advised by the then president to concentrate more on his education. He was also below the minimum age required to join the Order.
Again in 1966, Swami Atmasthananda had come to Rajkot in Gujarat to head the city's Ramakrishna Mission ashram. During his stint in Rajkot, the young Narendra (today’s PM), inspired by the life of Swami Vivekananda, reached his doorstep to take refuge at the ashram. He had already spent some years wandering and wanted to train himself for a spiritual life.
During those days, Modi used to regularly meet Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, but the latter told him that his calling lay elsewhere.
Later Modi went to the Ramakrishna Mission centre in Almora, where his request was reportedly turned down again. It’s said that Modi then went to the Himalayas for two years and after that he came back to his village and subsequently started visiting Mission’s Rajkot centre. Here, Modi developed a guru-shishya relationship with Swami Atmasthanand and used to take spiritual guidance from the latter. After Modi expressed his desire once again to be a monk, he was discouraged by the Swami and was told that he needed to experience more of the world.
“When Modi visited Belur Math in 2013, as the Gujarat Chief Minister, he reportedly told the Swami, ‘Aapne mujhe bhaga diya tha us samay isiliye main aaj mukhyamantri hu’ (You had told me to go away that time and that is why I am the chief minister now),”—the monks of the Mission recalled.
— Organiser Bureau