History Of Sri Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama
Enchanted by its beauty “See, see, it looks just like a picture!” exclaimed Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, while passing through Visakhapatnam onboard a southbound train to Chennai, in the month of February 1911. The Mother was attracted to a picturesque countryside, neither very cold nor very warm, but very fertile, neither excessively wet nor extremely dry weather, clear sky, sun sweet, hills wrapped in lush green forests, rivulets and brooks streaming, oceans tempestuous roaring and foamy, the ‘lighthouse’ – situated on a narrow headland, commanding an expansive view of the coast.
Now one also could get another panoramic view of the present city overlooking the concrete-clad Beach Road and Harbour Channel on one side of this hill and on the other side, all one can see is an endless streak of hills, greenery and bluish waters. That play of beauty in water and fascination in land, that madness in the air, that ecstasy in the sky! Nature is so lovely – the men are so fond of beauty! The whole countryside looked like a picture.
This Port Town is surrounded by the Simhachalam Hill Range to the west, the Yarada Hills to the southeast, and Kambalakonda Wildlife Sanctuary to the northwest. Situated between the Eastern Ghats and the Bay of Bengal, the city is rightly nicknamed as the “City of Destiny”and the “Jewel of the East Coast”. This old Port City also called as Vizagapatnam or Vizag which was a notable town in the erstwhile Madras Presidency is now a health resort, a metropolitan city, a prime-shipping port and headquarters for Eastern Naval Command.
The seed for Visakhapatnam Branch of the Ramakrishna Order was sown in the joyous exclamation of the Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi. Also in 1924, Swami Shivananda Ji Maharaj (Mahapurush Maharaj), enroute to Chennai, halted for a few days at Visakhapatnam on the request of local devotees. The Swami’s narration of the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna created a spiritual stir amongst the people present.
During this visit Mahapurush Maharaj also went to Sri Varahalakshmi Narasimha Swami temple in Simhachalam, eleven miles away from the place where Maharaj stayed. After having Darshan of the deity Varahalakshmi Narasimha, Mahapurush Maharaj said: “I saw as though a lion was standing there and filling the whole temple with its sparkling light. I never had a Darshan of Narasimha Swami before.”
During his second visit two years later in the month of May 1926, Mahapurush Maharaj along with Swami Sharvananda Ji, Swami Yatiswarananda Ji and others halted at Visakhapatnam spending there about three to four days. Mahapurush Maharaj delivered talks on these days and the local people felt happy to listen about Sri Thakur and Swamiji. The Swamis’ visits and Mahapurush Maharaj’s talks on Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda made a deep impression on the minds of the listeners.
Ashrama & Temple
The idea of starting a branch of Ramakrishna Mission could become a reality only twelve years after Mahapurush Maharaj’s visit to the town. Initially the ashrama was started in a rent-free house at Chengalraopet, and continued to function from there for the next three years before shifting to the present site that was procured from the government with the help of local devotees, well-wishers and admirers. In November 1939 the center was formally affiliated to Belur Math, the Headquarters of Ramakrishna Order. The foundation stone for the first building of the Ashrama was ceremoniously laid on the 5th May, 1940 and was inaugurated in October of the same year. The spacious building facing the beach had a Shrine Room, a Prayer Hall, two Living Rooms and an Office Room. The Prayer Hall and the veranda on either side of it had a few almirahs containing library books. A “Students’ Home” was also started to provide accommodation to the poor and deserving students. When the town was under the evacuation during World War II the Ashrama along with its activities functioned at Tanuku in West Godavari district where a residential high school was conducted. On the return of normalcy, the Ashrama was shifted back to its original site on the seashore. Some additions and improvements to the existing buildings were made in subsequent years, a primary school was started at a place a little away from the Ashrama and the activities of the Ashrama began to grow. Swami Virajananda Ji, the fifth President of the Ramakrishna Order chose Visakhapatnam for a long stay in 1946-47. This gave a considerable boost to spiritual service rendered by the Ashrama and enlarged the circle of devotees associated with it. A new building complex consisting of a Universal Temple and Auditorium, a Library, Monks’ Quarters, a Health center and Book Stall were built later as the old buildings constructed at the very inception of the center had become structurally unsound due to ageing.
Though the Ashrama in its initial years had obtained permission to start a school because of the paucity of the funds it could not materialize then. In 1957, the Hindustan Shipyard Limited requested the Ashrama to manage their Hindustan Shipyard Colony Elementary School, which is 16 kilometers away from the Ashrama. This was managed efficiently for some time benefitting their employees’ children. Eventually it was handed over to the Shipyard authorities in 1960.
In the meantime in 1958 the Ashrama started “Sri Sarada Bala Vihar”, a pre-primary school in the residence of a devotee. The same was shifted to small thatched huts in the Collectorate campus in 1960. In the same year the Government allotted a piece of land adjacent to the Collectorate and the pre-primary school was upgraded to 5th standard. Allotments of land by the Government in 1960 and subsequently in 1966-67, facilitated the construction of school buildings. In 1988 “Sri Sarada Bala Vihar” was renamed as Ramakrishna Mission High School. Now it has grown into a government recognized English medium co-education school from Kindergarten to 10th standard with the strength of 850 students.
Library, Exhibition & Bookstall
As stated earlier the library was accommodated in the prayer hall and in the veranda mainly benefitting the devotees. Later on during the construction of the Universal Temple and to cater the growing need a larger and full-fledged library was envisioned and the foundation stone for the same was laid in 1993 and the newly built Library was inaugurated on 25th May, 1997, having general section, children’s section, reference section and magazine section with a total number of over 19000 books.
A small but exquisite clay model exhibition, of 75 cubicles in all and with write-ups in English and Telugu on the lives and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda is housed on the first floor of the Library building. This entry-free exhibition is open during the library hours.
A book sales section with Ramakrishna-Vivekananda-Vedanta literature and other religious books is maintained by the Mission. There are also children’s books, books on morality and personality development. Along with religious articles CDs & DVDs, photos, posters, lockets etc. are also available in the Bookstall. The bookstall remains open from 9 a.m. to 12 noon and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
This Library, Exhibition & Bookstall functions on all days except Mondays.
Clinic & Mobile Medical Unit
Tribal Welfare is one of the important services of Ramakrishna Order from its inception. About 100 kms from Ashrama and surrounding the Anantagiri Mountain Range at Paderu and Chintapalli locations, the center conducts mobile medical camps once in a week for the benefit of the tribal people. At present these camps are conducted with a base location at ………….
Cerebral Palsy Clinic at Ashrama
In January 1992 a dispensary was opened in the Ashrama premises and special medical aid for speech impaired and spastic children was added later. This later facility grew into “MAA SARADA CEREBRAL PASLY CLINIC AND LEARNING CENTER FOR CHILDREN”, a specialized place to serve the palsied children providing therapeutic services for sensory motor and cognitive disorders in children below twelve years of age over the last twenty-five years. This free cum integrated center … Read More….. provides treatment to Cerebral Palsy, Nerve Palsy, Autism, Muscular Dystrophy, Down’s Syndrome, Global Developmental Delay, Learning Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. We offer these treatments.
Physiotherapy: Aquatherapy, Suspension Therapy, Spider Therapy, Treadmill Walking Training, Balance Training, Exercise Therapy, Muscle Stimulation.
Special Education: Early Intervention (0-5 yrs), Functional Academics, Self-care Training, Group Sessions for Speech and Social Skills.
Other Treatments: Acupressure, Sensory Stimulation (visual, tactile and vestibular), Sand Therapy, Yoga, Counseling, Behavior Modification Therapy.
Medical Observation: Regular health check-ups through Pediatrician, Orthopedist, Psychiatrist, Ophthalmologist, Rehabilitation Physiatrist, Ayurveda.
Nutrition: Nutrition is given in the form of ragi malt, sprouts, protein powder in milk, fruit juice, vegetable soup.
The mission of this clinic is to provide social independence through rehabilitation.
Since 2000 conducting free eye camps in Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam districts have been added to our medical services. While general treatments are done in the camps itself, operations are arranged at Visakha Eye Hospital, Sankar Foundation and others.
Rural Mobile Dispensary
Weekly mobile Medical camps are conducted in rural areas providing free treatment and medicines. At present it is catering in Vantlamamidi in Paderu Mandal and also occasionally Gatum Bamanapadu, Valabu Villages in Araku Mandal in Visakhapatnam District.