Christmas eve celebrations at Ramakrishna Mission Belur Math
“Blessed are the ones who know how to forgive”. This echoes inside my mind when deep down I feel hurt. Hurt by people, I’ve often referred to as family and I simply wanted to escape. I have been rude and I have had my share of mistakes in the past. “Do not say – I am a sinner. Say – I’ve chanted the Holy name. How can there be any sin in me?”
Given my weak health and my elder sister wishing to join in the last moment, we were late. I could not see properly and my head was bursting with pain. The two friends who were supposed to manage the permissions from the Vice President of the Ramakrishna Mission Headquarters could not turn up. Photographers are generally not allowed inside the main shrine of the temple. I kept praying to God, “Do something, do anything. I want to photograph this.”
“Pray to God in a closed room, in private. Your conversation with the God. He already knows what you want.”
The moment I entered Belur Math, I rushed to the main office, clueless whom to seek permission from. A person came forward and asked, “What are you doing here? I know you.” I froze for a moment. “You came during the Durga Puja right? Would you like to photograph this as well?” I just could not react. “Go straight, take a left turn, second last room. I’ll send instructions. You’ll write about it right?” Time stood still for me. “Go! It’ll start within the next few minutes. Take the Press card.” I could not even manage a smile. I wanted to thank him from the bottom of my heart.
He (The Almighty) already knows what you want!
The hallowed hall, the statue of Sri Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa Deb in front of me. Framed images of Mother Mary and Jesus Christ, decorated with lights, candles, flowers. The monks hurriedly brought the platform where they offered food welcoming the King. The innermost circle was slowly filled with the monks who would worship or sing hymns. Further beyond was the place for visitors, very very crowded.
Surya, who was with me writes, “The intricate patterns on the walls, the embellished pillars standing tall, and the huge hall echoing the murmurs of devotees wove a web of enchantment, softly embracing me. I sat towards the end of the hall; I couldn’t see what was happening up ahead. It was more magical this way as only the music of the hymns reached my eager ears. Christmas carols I had listened to in school, “Joy to the World”, “O come all ye faithful”, and “Silent Night” enraptured me, as the beautiful voices of the choir reminded me of my school, and the morning assemblies during winter.”
They worshipped Jesus Christ before the sermons started. Texts from the Gospel were read out. Parallels and comparisons were made with the Hindu Texts. They re-emphasised on the fact that all religions lead to the same God. It was peaceful.
যত মত, তত পথ।
Sri Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa Deb had realised and preached that – the more the beliefs, the more are the ways to reach the same God. No way is in anyway inferior or superior to the other. To serve humanity is to serve God. There could possibly be no second alternative to that.
“I have practiced”, said Ramakrishna Thakur, “all religions. Hinduism, Islam, Christianity -and I have followed paths of the different Hindu sects. I have found that it is the same God towards whom; we all are directing their steps though along different paths.” (Source: Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by “M”)
I saw that the tip of the nose was a little flat.
When Sri Sri Ramakrishna Deb was around thirty eight years of age, he wanted to learn about Christianity and made one of his disciples to read out the Holy Bible to him. Intensely interested by the knowledge, he wanted to “see God through the Christian path”. He came across the painting of Mother Mary with child Jesus at Jadunath’s residence. One day he felt that the painting illuminated itself and light came out of it, entering into his body and started changing the ideas of his mind. In this trance, he even forgot to offer prayers to Maa Kali at the Dakshineshwar temple. This continued for three days. At last, at the end of the third day, Thakur Sri Ramakrishna Deb saw a marvellous God-man of a very fair complexion walking towards him, looking into his eyes. Very soon he realised and from the core of his heart cried out “Jesus, Jesus Christ! The great Yogi, the loving son of God.”. The God-man embraced Ramakrishna Deb and disappeared into his body.
Many years later, in a conversation with his disciples Ramakrishna Deb asked, “You’ve read the Bible. How did He look?” Then came their answer, “Sir, we have not seen this mentioned anywhere in the Bible; but as he was born a Jew, he must have been very fair in complexion, with long eyes and an aquiline nose to be sure.”
When told so, Ramakrishna Deb said, “But I saw that the tip of his nose was a little flat; I don’t know why I saw him like that.”
They came to know, shortly after Ramkrishna Deb passed away, that there were three different descriptions of Jesus’ physical features; and according to one of them the tip of his nose was a little flat. [Re-phrased from “Sri Ramkrishna the great master” written by Swami Saradananda.]
Christmas eve & Belur Math.
Nine of Sri Sri Ramkrishna Deb’s disciples were taking vows of renunciation, slightly after His death when Swami Vivekananda told them the story of Jesus Christ. He asked them to be like Christ, to pledge themselves to help in the redemption of the world and to deny themselves – like Jesus had done – for a greater good.
This day was later found out to correspond to 24th December by the English calender, the Christmas eve – the Holy Day of their renunciation of family life. Thus, this elaborate celebration.
Believers and the social impact.
Many of my friends do not believe in God. Neither do they believe in these stories. I do. What all of these could have done is blur the religious lines and unite the society on humanitarian grounds. The earliest Baul philosophy of Bengal knew no God. The Baul philosophy mixed with Bengal’s own version of Vaishnavism and came down the ages. The concept of “One God”. During that phase in Indian history, their were many social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy who had renounced multiple Gods. Swami Vivekananda established Belur Math’s “Temple of Universal Religion”. Different societal practises were abolished. People felt liberated from the bondages the religion, might had to offer.
I still am in awe. I feel blessed that I had witnessed this, photographed this evening, felt it and would take it with me a long way. Do ask me questions if you have. If you find this interesting and you feel this should be shared, please share this with your friends. Please leave a very honest comment on this post. Stay connected.