Pilgrimage Puri

Holy Mother (Sri Sarada Devi) made two pilgrimages to Puri, the holy land of Jagannath, Lord of the Universe. She visited it a third time on a return trip from South India.

On her first visit she was accompanied by Swami’s Brahmananda (Rakhal), Saradananda (Sarat), and Yogananda (Yogen), Golap-Ma, Lakshmi-didi (Sri Ramakrishna’s niece), Yogin-Ma and Yogin-Ma’s mother. They departed from Kolkata on 5 November 1888 and since there was no railway system available at that time, they traveled by steamer and bullock cart to reach the seaside town of Puri. Upon arriving, they went directly to the temple of Jagannath to see the Lord.

Holy Mother visited the temple daily in the mornings and evenings and although a priest offered to carry her in a palanquin, she preferred to go on foot as a humble devotee to visit Jagannath.

As Sri Ramakrishna had never been to Puri, Holy Mother one day carried his photograph to the temple to show him Jagannath. She believed the picture and the person it portrayed were the same and had said, ‘The body and the shadow are the same. And what is his picture but a shadow?’ Describing her darshan (holy sight) of Jagannath, she said, ‘I saw Jagannath to be like a lion among men, seated on his altar of jewels and I was attending on him as his handmaiden.’

While in Puri, Holy Mother also spent much time meditating in the shrine of Lakshmi. She resided at the Kshetra-basir Math, a house belonging to Balaram Bose’s family and returned to Kolkata 12 January 1889.

In addition to Swami Premananda (Baburam) many devotees and relatives joined Holy Mother on her second visit to Puri in November 1904. Among them were her uncle Nilmadhav, Surabala (Radhu’s mother), Radhu, Lakshmi-Didi (Sri Ramakrishma’s niece), Golap-Ma, Nikunja Devi (wife of Master Mahashaya, Mahendranath Gupta), wife of Chunilal Bose, Kusumkumari, the attendant Ashutosh (Swami Trigunatitananda’s brother). Holy mother and her companions travelled by the Bengal Nagpur Railway and on their arrival in Puri went, as on their previous visit, directly to the temple of Jagannath.

One day a Katha was arranged whereby a priest read to Holy Mother from the Punthi (an ancient text) the story of Jagannath. For this event about fifty temple priests were fed the mahaprasad, food prepared and offered to Jagannath. The sacred food was purchased from the temple as was Holy Mother’s daily meals.

It is a long standing tradition at Puri and the temple that the prasada fed by another’s hand may not be refused. There is no caste, creed or status distinction observed. Holy Mother honored this tradition and placed prasada in the mouths of many devotees and they in turn placed prasada in hers. This was a small illustration of how throughout her life she lived serving, feeding, caring for and receiving everyone and refusing no one.

Later in her stay, Holy Mother invited her mother, Shyamasundari and her brother, Kalikumar to Puri to give them an opportunity to see the Lord. Uncle Kali’s father-in-law, wife, and two sons, and a villager named Sitaram also came. They returned to Jayrambati a few days later after visiting Lord Jagannath and other important temples. Shyamasundari remained with Holy Mother for some time more.

Holy Mother again resided at the Kshetra-basir Math and humbly payed homage to Lord Jagannath every day. Her rheumatism was not acute and her body was in good health so she was able to move about easily and visited the sacred places such as the kitchen of Jagannath, Gundicha Temple, Narendra Sarovara, Govardhana Math and Haridas Thakur’s Samadhi place where she went into bhava samadhi. She also circumambulated the Jagannath temple and a few times bathed in the sea.

When she’d visit the seashore her companions and others listened intently to her inspired talks and children would ask her to play with them. Watching the children play joyfully, she commented that the joy of children is like the joy of God.

After spending about two months in the holy atmosphere of Puri, Holy Mother returned to Kolkata at the end of January.

As a place of rest on her return trip from South India, Holy Mother visited Puri for the last time, arriving 3 April 1911. She stayed at the Sashi Niketan, another house belonging to Balaram Bose’s family and returned to Kolkata 11 April 1911.

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