Childhood

All creation is the sport of my Mother Kali;
By her maya the three worlds are bewitched.
Mad is she and mad is Her Husband; mad are her two disciples!
None can describe Her loveliness, Her glories, gestures, moods;
Siva, with the agony of the poison in Her throat,
Chants Her name again and again.

- Ramprasad

Sri Ramakrishna was born in a pious Hindu family His parents were Khudiram Chattopadhyaya and Chandra Devi. In the beginning Khudiram was living in his ancestral village of Dereypore. In 1814 he was ordered by his landlord to bear false witness in court against a neighbor. When Khudiram refused to do so, the landlord brought a false case against him and deprived him of his ancestral property. On loosing all his property he arrived at Kamarpukur at the invitation of a neighboring landlord. Here he was given a dwelling and about an acre of fertile land. This was enough to meet the needs of his family and he lived here in simplicity and contentment. In 1835, at the age of sixty he made a pilgrimage to Gaya. At this holy place Khudiram had a dream in which Lord Vishnu promised to be born as his son. At the same time Chandra Devi too had a vision in front of the Siva temple at Kamarpukur, indicating the birth of a divine child. When Khudiram returned from his pilgrimage, he found that his wife had conceived. On February 18, 1836, she gave birth to the child, who would later on be known as Sri Ramaksishna. The child was given the name Gadadhar, the “Bearer of the Mace”, another name of Lord Vishnu. Of his parents Sri Ramakrishna once said, “My mother was the personification of rectitude and gentleness. She did not know much about the ways of the world; innocent of the art of concealment, she would say what was in her mind. People loved her for her open-heartedness. My father, an orthodox Brahmin, never accepted gifts from the sudras. He spent much of his time in worship and meditation, and in repeating God’s name and chanting His glories. Whenever in his daily prayers he invoked the Goddess Gayatri, his chest flushed and tears rolled down his cheeks. He spent his leisure hours making garlands for the Family Deity, Raghuvir.”

Gadadhar was intelligent and had a very good memory. He loved to listen to stories from Hindu mythology and the epics and these he would afterwards recount from memory, to the villagers. He learnt the hymns to the gods and goddesses from his father and he learnt to read and write at the village school. He enjoyed painting and learnt the art of molding images of gods and goddesses from the potters. Because of his sweet temperament everybody in the village liked him.

From a very Oung age Gadadhar experienced spiritual ecstasy. When he was six years of age he had his first such experience. One summer day as he was walking along a narrow path between two paddy-fields, eating puffed rice that he carried in a basket, he happened to look up at the sky when he saw a beautiful, dark thunder-cloud. As it spread across the blue sky, a flight of snow-white cranes passed in front of it. The beauty of the scene so overwhelmed him that he fell unconscious to the ground. Some villagers found him and carried him home in their arms.

When Gadadhar was seven years old his father passed away. He was deeply affected by this incident. He realized that life on earth was impermanent. Now he began to spend hours immersed in his own thoughts either at the mango orchards or at one of the cremation grounds. He became more and more interested in wondering monks and pilgrims who would stop at Kamarpukur on their way to Puri. He served these monks and pilgrims in various ways and they in turn entertained little Gadadhar with stories from the Hindu epics, stories of saints and prophets, and also stories of their own adventures.

When Gadadhar was nine years of age he was invested with the sacred thread. At this ceremony a very interesting incident happened. During the ceremony of investiture Gadadhar shocked all his relatives by accepting food cooked by his nurse, a sudra woman. Once in a playful mood he had promised this woman that he would accept food cooked by her at the time of his thread ceremony. Now he was fulfilling that promise. To Gadadhar the piety and sincerity of this woman were more important than the social conventions.

Because of his innocence, purity and guilelessness, Oung Gadadhar became the pet of the women of the village. They loved to hear him sing and recite from the holy books. He was very good at imitating voices. He liked to put up plays. He organized a dramatic company with his friends. They enacted stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Once on a Sivaratri night, a dramatic performance was arranged. The actor who was to play the part of Siva fell ill and Gadadhar was persuaded to play his part. When his friends were dressing him as Siva he started becoming more and more absorbed in the Siva consciousness. When he was taken on the stage he was totally lost in meditation. Tears were flowing from his eyes. This had a tremendous effect on the audience. People felt as if they were having a vision of Siva Himself. The performance had to be stopped. Gadadhar was in this Siva consciousness till the following morning.

Ramkumar, Gadadhar’s elder brother, went to Calcutta to improve the financial condition of the family. When Gadadhar was sixteen years of age, Ramkumar summoned him to Calcutta to help him in his priestly duties. He also wanted to turn Gadadhar’s mind to education. Ramkumar also started a Sanskrit academy to supplement his income. Gadadhar became a family priest to a number of families in Calcutta. His way of performing the priestly duties was quite different from that of the professional priests. He spent long hours decorating the images and singing hymns and devotional songs; He performed the priestly duties with love. People were impressed by his devotion.

Gadadhar paid scant attention to his studies. This worried Ramkumar. After all, in the near future Gadadhar must as a householder, earn his livelihood through the performance of his Brahminical duties which required a thorough knowledge of Hindu law, astrology etc. Therefore he asked Gadadhar to pay more attention to his studies. At this the boy replied,”"Brother, what shall I do with a mere bread-winning education? I would rather acquire that wisdom which will illumine my heart and give me satisfaction for ever.”"