- Sarada Devi, Sri
- (1853–1920)incarnation of Holy MotherSri Sarada Devi, wife of the Kali priest Sri RAMA-KRISHNA, was a very popular teacher in her own right, considered to be an incarnation of Holy Mother. She became an important activist in help-ing the poor and in advancing educational oppor-tunities for women.Sarada Devi was born in the rural village of Jayrambati, west of Kamarpurkur in Bengal, on December 22, 1853. The eldest of seven children of Ram Chandra Mukhopadhyay and Shyamasun-dari Devi, Sarada was raised in a poor BRAHMIN household where she assisted her parents in household duties, worked in the fields, and cared for her younger siblings. She was described as a gentle, humble, hardworking, and diligent child. When time permitted, she attended school and learned to read and write.At the age of five, Sarada married Sri RAMA-KRISHNA, a Bengali priest of goddess KALI who was 17 years her senior. By that time, Sri Ramakrishna had experienced his first vision of the divine mother, the goddess KALI, and was living in an ecstatic state of communication with the divine. His mother, concerned with his strange behavior, sought to restore him to worldly life by finding him a suitable spouse. She found Sarada Devi in a neighboring village. After the marriage, Sarada Devi returned to her family and Sri Ramakrishna continued his spiritual practice and priestly duties at Dakshineswar Temple near Calcutta (Kolkata).At the age of 18, hearing rumors that her husband was suffering from mental illness, she went to him at the temple. Finding him deeply engaged in spiritual disciplines, she became his first disciple and began her own spiritual journey under his direction and care. He instructed her in the spiritual life as well as the importance of household duties and their role in the meditative life. Ramakrishna considered her an embodied representative of the Divine Mother. From this time forward, Sarada Devi became known as the Holy Mother and spent the rest of her life shar-ing the wisdom and insight of Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings to all who went to her.Sri Ramakrishna died in 1886, leaving the 33-year old Sarada Devi as the lineage holder of the Ramakrishna Order. In addition to teach-ing and caring for her disciples, she guided the activities of the Ramakrishna Organizations, spending most of her time in service to rural communities in Bengal and the disciples of the Ramakrishna Order in Calcutta. Serving the poor and disadvantaged women of Bengal, she became committed to advancing the education of women to promote women’s independence and social awareness.From 1886 until her death, Sarada Devi touched the lives of hundreds of devotees through her simple and pure devotion to the spiritual life. As Holy Mother, she never turned away anyone in need. She valued equality and did not discrimi-nate among disciples by caste, religion, gender, or nationality. Her unconditional compassion inspired a new spiritual movement. The core of her teaching, as of Ramakrishna’s, was the rec-ognition of the divine in everything. She died in Calcutta on July 21, 1920, 34 years after the death of her husband.The Sri Sarada Math, the world’s largest inde-pendent women’s monastic order, was estab-lished in 1954 as the women’s complement to the VEDANTA SOCIETIES RAMAKRISHNA MAT H AND MISSION, to perpetuate the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi, and Swami VIVEKANANDA. The math is located on the bank of the GANGES River near Dak-shineswar Temple, where Sri Ramakrishna served as priest. Sri Sarada Math has nuns in residence in centers throughout the world.See also Nivedita, Sister.Further reading: Amalaprana, Eternal Mother (Cal-cutta: Kolkata Paperback, 2004); Atmaprana, Sri Sarada Devi and Sri Sarada Math (New Delhi: New Delhi Paperbacks, 2003); Swami Gambhirananda, Holy Mother Shri Sarada Devi (Mylapore: Ramakrishna Math, 1955); Swami Nirvedananda, The Holy Mother (Calcutta: Calcutta Paperbacks, 1983); Lizelle Rey-mond, The Dedicated: A Biography of Nivedita (Madras: Sri Sarada Devi (1853–1920), wife of Sri Ramakrishna, incarnation of Holy Mother, and inspiration for Sarada Math/Monastery Samata, 1985); Swami Tapasyananda, Sri Sarada Devi: The Holy Mother (Mylapore: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1958).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.