“Atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha” (For one’s own salvation and for the welfare of the world). With this motto in mind, Swami Vivekananda, the famous monastic disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa founded the Ramakrishna Mission and Math. Belur Math is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission and Math. The sprawling campus of Belur Math with beautiful and well-pruned garden is located on the bank of river Ganges. This is a tranquil place close yet but away from the hubbub.
For the most visitors, the Dakshineshwar temple and the Belur Math trip comes in a combo pack. Read about Dakshineshwar Temple. At a small distance apart, these two places are located on either bank of the river. It can be traversed by the pleasant ferry ride. One destination often attracts visitors headed for the other. Thus the combo pack makes one’s journey even more delightful.
Same happened to us. After our religious visit to Dakshineshwar, we were intrigued by the jetty and the bulging Ganges for a nature walk to visit Belur Math. Or rather a nature float. The previously operating small motorised boats (locally called ‘bhut bhuti’) with a carrying capacity of 30 to 40 head have now been upgraded to big launch boats with a carrying capacity of more than 100 heads. We boarded one such big boat, with a handful of co-passengers.
I fondly recollect some of my memories of my earlier visits, whenever I head to Belur Math. The most memorable among them was the visit on the last day of my 10th standard board exams. After writing our papers, me and my classmates and most of our mothers (who used to accompany us to the exam) visited the Math. It was a taste of freedom from studies for few days. It was a picnic time munching on the ‘jhalmuri’, ‘bhelpuri’, ‘fuchka’ and when we could not stuff ourselves any further we ended slurping on the cheapest stick ice cream from the roadside trolley.
The other instance which I remember – a Maharaj (as the monks of the Math are called) rebuked me after I took out my first camera mobile to steal a shot of this beautiful monument. The campus has placards saying ‘Photography Prohibited’, placed everywhere. I was baffled and embarrassed for being chided among so many people around.
I remembered the incident even on my recent visit and made it sure not to even think of pictures within the no photographic area. I did not carry the camera for the same reason, as well I did all the capture from the boat itself on my way to the Math. The compound as always is clean and well maintained with beautiful flowers and manicured hedge plants. One one side the stairs leading down to the flowing Ganges. The other side houses the temples, museum and other educational institutions affiliated to the mission.
The soft green lawn under the shade of the old trees spreading its umbrella-like foliage, provide an excellent spot for the visitors to sit and relax in the cool breeze from the Ganges. A variety of Hibiscus with multicoloured flowers surrounds the temple area. The main entrance gate from the G. T. Road holds a resemblance to the Buddhist architecture and has symbols of all religions inscribed in it. Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa has always preached the unity of all religion. The construction of this monument was done keeping this in mind.
The architecture of the main temple bears the consolidated resemblance of a temple, mosque and a church. The design of the temple was contemplated by Swami Vivekananda and was constructed to transmit the concept of universal faith. He also introduced the Kumari Puja during Durga Puja to propagate the sense of respect for women. Read about Durga Puja. The temple is the best place to meditate and attain divine peace. The tranquil green surrounding by the holy Ganges also erase the sombre mood of the visitors and leads them to a spiritual ecstasy. The place is the same as I have seen it in my childhood. But my state of mind has matured with time and now I can derive more of peace from the solitude that sheer fun in visiting this angelic destination.