Aghormani was Ramakrishna's elder by about 14 years. She was born in 1822 in a Brahmin family in the village of Kamarhati. So she was known as the Brahmani of Kamarhati till the Great Master appropriately renamed her as Gopaler Ma. A child widow, she first lived in the house of her elder brother Nilmadhav Bhattacharya, a priest in the temple of Radha-Madhav in Kamarhati. The holy atmosphere of the beautiful temple fascinated her pure mind. Frequenting the temple for worship and meditation she came to cultivate the friendship of the proprietress of the temple, the widow of the founder Govinda Datta. The two women realized they were kindred spirits, interested only in religious practices.
Soon Aghormani (Gopaler Ma) moved into a small room in the temple garden on the river bank, graciously allotted to her by her affluent friend. The next thirty years she spent in that room and in the temple — getting up at three in the morning, meditating, doing some service at the temple, and doing Japa and telling her beads far into the night. She had been initiated by a Vaishnava Guru and had received the Gopala Mantra. So her Ishta-devata, Chosen Ideal, was Child Krishna (Lord Krishna).
Hearing about a God-intoxicated saint in the Dakshineswar temple, Aghormani (Gopaler Ma) in the company of her hostess and another lady, paid a visit to Sri Ramakrishna. The Master received them warmly, charmed them by singing a few devotional songs, and invited them to come again. It was not a routine, courteous invitation. The magnet was pulling the iron to itself.
Aghormani (Gopaler Ma) felt the pull and a few days later called on Ramakrishna again with a few sweets purchased from a wayside shop. While she was hesitating to place before him her poor offering, the Master almost snatched the sweets from her trembling hands, even as in an earlier incarnation he had wrested the ragged bundle of flattened rice from his(Lord Krishna) old classmate Kuchela. Sri Ramakrishna extolled the quality of the sweets and placed with her a standing order to bring with her every time coconut balls or vegetable curries cooked by her own hand. Aghormani's visits to Dakshineswar now became very frequent.
Her fascination for the Master, however, was a little shadowed by the puzzle why the saint talked to her mostly of food and not of spiritual matters. Many a time she resolved not to go to him again, but every time she found her legs automatically moved in the direction of Dakshineswar. How can the iron resist the magnet?
Six months passed by. Plunging deeper and deeper in the meditation of Gopala (Lord Krishna), Aghormani (Gopaler Ma) was basking simultaneously in the soothing presence of the Master, when a bombshell burst. In the early hours of one morning in the Spring of 1884 she had just finished telling her beads, when she was taken aback to find Sri Ramakrishna sitting to the left of her with his right hand clenched. When in tremulous curiosity she tried to touch him he vanished and in his place was baby Gopala(Lord Krishna) crawling towards her, with one hand clenched and imploring piteously for butter.
It never occured to this simple woman that what she was seeing could be a hallucination. Getting up hastily, she remonstrated with the child that she was too poor to get him butter or cream. But the Divine child (Lord Krishna) would not take a 'nay'. So she placed in his tender palms some dry sweetened coconut balls left in an earthen pot dangling from the roof. Gopala (Lord Krishna) ate them with relish and then, 'hunger' satisfied, began to play pranks. He would snatch away her rosary, jump on her shoulders and noisily run about in the room, making it impossible for her to do further Japa.
To be continued
About the author
Sri C.S. Ramakrishnan, a former Joint Editor of the Vedanta Kesari, is a longstanding devotee of Sri Ramakrishna, and is actively associated with the Ramakrishna Movement for nearly five decades. In this write up which is an excerpt from his article 'Gopaler Ma,' he explains the divine experience of Gopaler Ma of Lord Krishna.
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