The First Hindu Women Monastery in Kerala completes 62 years.

published on August 26, 2010

Sashtanga Pranams at Mother’s feet !

Sree Sarada Ashram in Sree Ramakrishna Nagar, Near Ottapalam has completed its 62 years of existence on 24th this month. Founded by Swami Vishadananda in 1948, Sree Saradashram is the first convent for Hindu nuns in modern times.  This was before the establishment of the Shri Sarada Math of Dakshineshwar and was in response to the need of such a facility at that time.

Bharatham – the land of Rishies and incarnations is also the land of pure and brave womanhood.  Damayanti, Savithri, Seeta, Gargi and Mythreyi are few  among them. However in the flow of time Hindu women were pushed to nothingness and were made mere slaves of men. In 1853 the Indian womanhood – the sheer energy which permeates all elements re-incarnated as Sree Sarada Devi in West Bengal. She was Sree Ramakrishna Deva’s wife, companion as well as disciple. She lived like a simple householder at the same time seen as a paradigm of monasticism. After Sree Ramakrishna’s Mahasamadhi she became the Guru and guiding light for all devotees and admirers of Sree Ramakrishna.

After Swami Vivekananda founded Sree Ramakrishna Mission it was his desire to have a women’s monastery obtaining inspiration from the life and teaching of Sree Sarada Devi. It was after many years his wish came into life at  Sree Ramakrishna Nagar, near Ottapalam in Kerala.

It was in 1911 Swami Nirmalananda – a direct monastic disciple of Sree Ramakrishna and gurubhai of Swami Vivekananda visited Haripad in Kerala accepting an invitation from the local Vedanta Society. It was only a beginning as far as Ramkrishna Mission activities and Hindu resurgence in Kerala was concerned. Soon Swami Nirmalananda visited again and in the years to come he established 16 Ashrams in Kerala.  He attained Mahasamadhi in his favorite Ramakrishna Niranjan Ashram in Ottapalam in 1938.

During his days in Ottapalam he gave importance to refining children in and around the Ottapalam ashram and gave them all round education. He spent most of his later days playing with them, teaching and taking care of their wellbeing. As a true disciple of Ramakrishna Deva and follower of his Gurubhai Swami Vivekananda, Swami Nirmalananda encouraged everyone connected with the Ashram to cut across all dogmas related to narrow minded castism and sectarianism and made parya, moopan, nair and namboothiri children play and learn together under him as children of God.

Many of these children at the time of Swami Nirmalananda’s  Mahasamadhi in 1938 were in the age group of 5-15 years. His monastic disciple Swami Vishadananda soon become the guardian and guide for these children and under him many pursued their school and college education. Few among them were girls from orthodox namboothiri background and Swami Vishadananda encouraged them to go for higher studies. Few of them became graduates. In fact one among them Pallatheri Manakal Bhuvaneswari became one of the first namboothiri women graduate in the history.  Later she along with 6 other educated girls firmly decided to embrace monastic life and resolved to lead a life in  service of humanity and spreading the message of Ramakrishna-Sarada-Vivekananda. Thus the Sarada Ashram in Ottapalam came into existence.

Among the first 7 monastic members of the ashram today one is still alive and active among us. She is Swamini Bodhananda. Other monastic inmates of the Ashram are Swamini Paramanda, Swamini Prasananada & Swamini Amibikananda.

This Ashram is unique in its own way. No unwanted hustle and bustle or propaganda. The Sisters apart from dedicating their lives in service of the Ashram deities  ( Sree Sharada Devi & Sree Ramakrishna) also give education to many children in the village, most of them from the economically backward families. While we see many Hindu Women Monasteries cutoff from public and reluctant to interact with male devotees. Swaminis here make everyone feel at home and one really feels the motherly love and true Hindu hospitality.
A mystifying silence and tranquility always surrounds this ashram and anyone entering the Ashram compound instantly feels at peace

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