Annada Thakur

Religion

Annada Thakur

Annada Thakur

"It was (really) the mother who posed as Annada. Mother Adya was in the form of Annada (She came) to console her children. She wanted her created beings to do karma yoga and sakti sadhana. "

 

Annada Thakur was an Ayurvedic doctor. He and his wife, Manikuntala Devi, are portrayed as emotional devotees and incarnation of Adya Shakti Kali. Annada Thakur's main guru was Ramakrishna Paramhans who died shortly before Annada was born. He saw his guru only in dream and vision. Adyapeeth has published a book of songs, Guruguna Gan, which contains a variety of hymns. One of the songs, "Annadakirtana" is:

 

Let us all sing the song of Annada

And cry while chanting his praises,

He gave the treasure of Adya Ma

By (the grace of) his guru Ramakrishna.

He was a child in the lap of his mother

He would laugh, weep, dance and sing

He lost himself in the mother, and gave the mother's mantra

He gave the mother's love to earth.

It was (really) the mother who posed as Annada

Mother Adya was in the form of Annada

(She came) to console her children.

She wanted her created beings to do karma yoga and sakti sadhana ... o mind, remember the words of Annada, which bring us merit

''You will have countless experiences of devotional love (prema bhakti)

Your purified mind will be filled with love

Because you have done meditation in the mood of the mother (matribhava)

You will see the image of the couple before your eyes." Annada Thakur's wife, Manikuntala Devi, is regarded as a goddess. It is apparent from a song "Matritarpana" dedicated to her.

Come, all who are devotees of the mother, disciples and servants, Sing the mother's glory.

Annada's devotee, Manikuntala Devi, lovingly called Mamami

Was both a householder and a yogini.

Chant her praises from the center of your heart.

She married Annada at the will of his dying mother

Because of his devotion to the mother

When her mother-in-law saw her standing to the left of Annada

The critically-ill woman was cured.

The world became full of joy

And Yama (lord of death) left the village ....

Mother, you are an equal partner in Annada's spiritual life.

 

The influence of Annada Thakur is quite clear as one travels through the streets of Kolkata and observes the picture of Adya Shakti displayed on altars in many shops and homes. People's respect and admiration for him, the form of goddess he popularized, and the institution he founded shows the power of religion in their lives and their close connection to the goddess.

 

Annada Thakur was born on October 12, 1891 in the village of Raujan (Noapara), district Chitta gong, now in Bangladesh. He was second of the five children of Abhoy Charan Bha ttacharya and Tilottama Devi. Abhoy Charan hailed from a lineage of respected scholars. Tilottama Devi dreamt that the goddess Chandi brought her a gift of a lovely fruit that she was to share with the world. When born, the child was named Annada Charan, he who is at the feet of the goddess Annada, the one who feeds the world. In later days, Annada was given the title of Thakur in recognition of his saintly life. His mother was subject to revelatory dreams and claimed to know herbs and medicines from her dreams. When Annada had a severe illness as an infant, and doctors had given up hope, she sat before a statue ofMangalachandi (a form of the goddess) andhad a vision. She saw a woman beckoning, who said that Annada would be cured if she would offer her ritual worship. She later recognized this figure to be the goddess Adya Shakti Kali.

 

As a child, Annada attended the local village school (pathshala). He was an able pupil and his teachers recommended him for admission to high school but his father decided to send his son to Kashi (varanasi) to learn Sanskrit. In this process, his father thought that his 13-year old son would be able to carryon the family tradition. In Kashi, Annada was enrolled in Sarvamangalla Chattuspathy of Professor Kamalkrishna Smritirtha where he spent almost six years. The boy led a simple life and was quite concerned with social evils. He rescued a number of families from their plight.

 

Annada was conferred with the title "Thakur" in recognition of his saintly life. With a view to helping his parents financially, Thakur decided to undergo a professional course. He felt that Ayurvedic medical practice could allow him to help him in supporting his parents. He, therefore, decided to go to Calcutta (now, Kolkata) to learn Ayurveda, though many in his family believed that such a profession was against the tradition of his scholarly Brahmin family. He was in Calcutta in 1910 with the blessings of his mother.

 

While Thakur was with his family in Chittagong, one night, he dreamt of a saffron-clothed monk asking him to return quickly to Calcutta. He saw Sri Ramakrishna in a dream. Rammkrishna asked him to shave his head and bathe in the Ganges. He told Thakur to bring back a statue, which he would find hidden at Eden Gardens, a park in Calcutta, beneath linked pahur and coconut trees. He was to take along three other devotees, observe silence, keep the image as concealed as far as possible, and await future instructions. The statue turned out to be made of black marble, a nude Kali about one foot high. Though covered with mud it was intact. She had her hair in three matted locks, and wore a crown and carried a scimitar. People in the vicinity heard about it and came to see it. Thakur said that the statue was alive, and that its eyes were sparkling. He did ritual worship or puja to the statue, and gave out the goddess' sacred food (prasada). Suddenly, he found that everybody had become an image of the goddess, and even children looked like her image in miniature. His friends apprehended that Thakur would go insane. When his friend's wife, Bimlala Ma, puta garland around the statue, he cried out and prostrated himself and stayed in the room for two days. His friends fed him with the goddess's food, but his mind was elsewhere. He got up and locked the statue in a trunk, and again fainted.

 

He then saw a dream vision of the goddess Kali in the form of a 16-year old girl. Her eyes were as bright as those of the statue, and she wore a red-bordered sari and shell bracelets. She commanded Thakur to immerse the statue in the Ganges the next day. He awoke, and refused to do it, and dreamt again of Kali as a woman with loose hair and bloodshot eyes, angry and dreadful, with a newborn baby in her lap. She threatened him, and told him that disaster would befall him if he did not immerse the statue. She dashed the child against the floor, breaking its skull, so that it lay in a pool of blood. This, she told him, would happen to him. The goddess then appeared in the form of his aunt, Chhoto Ma, whom he had always liked. She told him to get the statue photographed, and then immerse it afterwards. When he asked why, she said:

 

I do not like to be worshipped at one place only. So, I don't remain installed at a particular place. I shall be with all my devotees. Have me immersed in the Ganga ... .I do not want to be worshipped according to the shastric (formal) rites alone. If anyone pays homage and gives offerings to me saying in the simple and sincere language of the heart (something) such as "0 my Mother, take this food, wear this garment, and then uses these things himself it will be regarded as an act of worship. The prayer of a simple and sincere heart constitutes my worship.

 

She further said:

I am your antagonistic force. If you keep me, the strength of your enemies will increase, your (goals) will not be fulfilled .... and your family line will be extinct.

 

However, she said:

If you desire to worship me in this particular form, go to Varanasi, build a new temple there and have, an image like this made of eight metals installed in the temple and then worship that image .If' you do so, I shall reveal myself there in that image      .I will reveal myself in any image you may invoke me with devotion.

 

On the following day, a number of devotees came to the house to see her. A couple of officials from the Calcutta Museum also came and observed that the murthi (statue) appeared to be of the time of the Buddha, about 2,500 years old. Thakur announced his decision to immerse the statue the next day. He was met with resistance from his friends and their relatives. Some of them told him to keep the statue and get money from the people who would visit it. Arrangements were made to take a photograph of the murthi. Then Thakur took her in the evening followed by a large crowd of people. He sang, "Dwell in my heart, 0 Mother Bhavani." He dropped the statue from a boat into the middle of the river Ganges. He fainted afterwards, and was in bed for three days. His friends, who fed him periodically, awakened him, and then he went back to sleep. The goddess appeared to him in dream, again in the form of his aunt, Choto Ma, and announced, "My name is Adya Shakti. I should be worshipped as Adya Ma." When he was awakened, he told his friends about the dream. They said that many people, who had taken photographs of the statue, had dreams telling them to immerse the photographs in the Ganges.

 

Thakur planned to go to Varanasi and set up a new temple of Adya Shakti there. She appeared to him in a dream in the form of a 16-year old girl, telling Annada Thakur that serving parents is the duty of a son. "Father is religion personified and is as high as heaven itself," but "superior even to father is mother, for bearing the child in her womb and bringing it up. So the mother is the highest object of reverence in the three worlds." He was asked by the goddess not to go to Varanasi, but to stay in Calcutta and worship her there. He, therefore, stayed in Calcutta and periodically visited his parents. He started his practice, but felt frightened when he thought of following that profession.

 

Annada Thakur discontinued his clinic and spent the next few years in great turmoil. He wrote a play but he went insane for sometime. The play was never staged and produced. A large number of devotional songs and poems were attempted. He lived mostly with friends, as a sort of informal house priest. He would pray for the good of the household. In one case, when a child fell ill, he used the goddess technique of coercion. He prayed, "Mother, if any calamity befalls this household then you also will get involved. Your holy name shall be disgraced; and nobody will keep your photo or worship you any longer." Adya answered him in a dream, appearing as an old woman with ragged clothes and dishevelled hair. She said, "I am meting out the punishment they deserve for keeping me neglected. They took my picture for worshipping; but they left it in a most wretched condition; how can they avoid the consequences thereof?" He later found the neglected photo under a pile of clothes, partly eaten by white ants. The picture was framed and worshipped, and the ailing son recovered.

 

Thakur also had dream revelations, which predicted births and deaths, and showed cures. It is understood that his wife got upset at times. Their relationship appeared to have been a celibate one. His major emotional involvement seems to have been with Adya Shakti Kali. Once he saw his sacred thread catching fire. He pulled it off, and then he fainted. At another time, Thakur awoke to find himself being taken care of by a sadhu. The sadhu asked him to stay alone and meditate for three days. He did so and had a dream revelation. In the dream, he learned that the statue that he found at Eden Gardens was originally called the Mother of Gayadham, who presided over a temple on a hill in Gaya, a holy city of Buddhism located in Bihar. An epidemic broke out among the hill tribes, and the hill men threatened to shatter the statue and burn it if the Mother would not save them from the disease. He saw the same sadhu who had cared for him in this dream. In his previous life, the sadhu, who had lived in Gaya, had received a dream command to save the goddess's statue, and take it to Bengal. He did so, and hid it in the jungle, which later became Eden Gardens. It remained hidden there until it was found by Annada Thakur, and revealed to be Adya Shakti Kali.

 

Annada Thakur travelled throughout India. He visited both Shakta and Vaishnava religious sites. He spent six years in Varanasi. Towards the end of his life, Thakur had a dream vision of Ramakrishna, who told him that his life would soon end. Thakur asked his master how he might best serve humanity. Ramakrishna told him to serve his parents for ten years and be a householder, and then practise sadhana while living on the banks of the Ganges.

 

In 1918, he was asked by Ramakrishna in a dream to be present at Lachmanjhoola in Haridwar on the day of the Jhuolan Purnima (full moon) to await further instruction. There, in a vision, Ramakrishna showed him a complex image of three temples. The first was on the back of a large swan, with a golden spire and gems in the walls. On the altar was a living statue (jagat murti) of Ramakrishna. The second temple was on the chest of Shiva, who was lying like a corpse, and Adya Shakti stood upon him. The third temple was on Garuda, with Radha and Krishna standing within the OM symbol. The three temples then merged into one temple, and the three images at the altar fused into one joint statue. Ramakrishna was at the bottom, with the word "Guru" written, then in the centre above him was Adya Shakti, with the words "Knowledge and Work", and on top were Radha and Krishna in the OM, with the word "Love". The temple was made of marble. Ramakrishna instructed that the temple be built in West Bengal and "Kalisthan", the land of Kali, between the temples of Nakuleshwar Shiva at Kalighat and Dakshineswar Shiva at Ariadaha. He felt that it would establish faith in people and that at least three devotees a year will see manifestations of the divine there. He gave instructions how the temple ritual should be performed, and a variety of ashrams built. He wanted that while the image of the Guru and Radha and Krishna may be of wood, stone, metal or clay, the Adya image must be made of eight metals. Ramakrishna predicted that when religion fades away from the world, only Adyapeath would remain as a place where God might manifest. Ramakrishna also told Annada Thakur to cut down his penance to one year with his family, and then spend one year on the Ganges with his wife. After that he should start building the temple.

 

He wrote down some teachings about mental training, which he had received in a series of dreams from Ramakrisha. Later, they were published as Ramakrishna Manoshiksha. In 1913, the first religious festival to the goddess was held on Makar Sankranti day on the land proposed for the construction of the temple. Annada set up a missionary society, the Ramakrishna Sangha at Dakshineswar, and officially established Adyapeath in 1914. Land was bought at Dakshineswar and the foundation was laid in 1920. Annada Thakur expired in 1921. His wife oversaw the work on the temple and added a Matri Ashram for elderly women renunciants. In 1926, construction of marble-faced temple started and in 1959 the images were consecrated and installed. Many more buildings have been added. It has become a major tourist attraction, part of the "holy trinity" of religious sites of Dakshineswar, Belur Math and Adyapeath, near Calcutta. It is a large temple complex with a Mother Theresa hall, large enough to feed 2,000 people in long rows on the floor each day. Monks and nuns offer prayers at dawn, evening and at night, deliver lectures, work at the clinic, teach religion, take classes, edit their journal, Matripuja, do cooking and serve meals. Only Brahmins work in the temple. Both Annada Thakur and his wife Manikuntala are worshipped at Adyapeath.

 

It is because of the efforts and influence of Annada Thakur that Adya Shakti Kali has become a popular deity in West Bengal. Annada Thakur will continue to be remembered and worshipped because of intense devotion to Adya Shakti Kali.

 

 

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