The Math Complex

Old Math Building on the Left and Swamiji's House on the Right
Belur Math, Old Buildings and Courtyard

Behind the Main Temple, towards the south-east, is the Math Complex, which includes two of the earliest buildings.

Belur Math land came in possession of the Ramakrishna Math in February 1898. In the northern side of that land existed a dilapidated single-storeyed building. This was renovated under the supervision of Swami Vijnanananda. The expenses were borne by Mrs. Ole Bull, an associate of Swamiji. The project took a year to complete.

Mother visited this Math on 12 November 1898 when the renovation work was still in progress. She brought with her the picture of Sri Ramakrishna that she used for daily worship and worshipped him in some part of the building after duly cleaning the place.

Mrs. Ole Bull, a disciple of Swami Vivekananda
Math Office

We now enter the Math courtyard. The complex in front of us and the building to our right form the Belur Math, of Swamiji’s time. The complex on our left, presently known as the Math Office, is a later addition.

This courtyard is a sacred place. In a vision Swami Shivananda saw Sri Ramakrishna walking here. After this experience he ensured that this place was always kept clean and well maintained. To a brahmacharin who was cleaning the courtyard he said: ‘My boy, you are not doing it properly; there is still some dust here, and some burnt matchsticks scattered there. Sri Ramakrishna walks here. Clean the place carefully so that nothing pricks his feet and he is able to walk unhurt.’

This courtyard is associated with Mother too. Mother visited the Math in 1916 during Durga Puja. Monks and devotees were busy cutting vegetables in the hall below the old temple, which is now part of the Math Office. In those days this place was used as a general store, kitchen and dining hall. Mother was then walking by the hall. Seeing the devotees and monks busy dressing vegetables, she remarked, ‘How nicely my children are dressing vegetables!’ Ramani (later Swami Jagadananda) replied, ‘Our aim is to attain the grace of the Divine Mother—be it through meditation or by dressing vegetables.’

Swami Jagadananda

This courtyard is also eternally associated with Swamiji. On 4 July 1902, the last day of his earthly life, he meditated in the bedroom of Sri Ramakrishna in the morning for about three hours. Then ‘descending the stairs of the shrine, he walked back and forth in the courtyard of the monastery, his mind withdrawn. Suddenly he let out a whisper loud enough to be heard by Swami Premananda, a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, who was nearby: “If there were another Vivekananda, he would have understood what Vivekananda has done! And yet, how many Vivekanandas shall be born in time!”

 

Old Temple Stair Case

 Swamiji’s Mango Tree

Swamiji's Mango Tree, Frontview

On the eastern end of the courtyard stands a mango tree. This is one of the trees that has existed from the time the land was purchased. Swamiji’s biography records: ‘Another favourite seat [of his] was under the big mango tree in the courtyard between Sri Ramakrishna’s shrine and the monastery building. Here he would usually be found in the morning hours, seated on a canvas cot and attending to his correspondence, or writing articles, or reading, or engaged in conversation.’ And, thus this tree is sacred to devotees and is known as ‘Swamiji’s mango tree’. This tree has witnessed many incidents connected with Swamiji’s life. Let us see a couple of them.

It was one evening. Swamiji was on the banks of the Ganga. Chanting the Gayatri avahana mantra he was returning towards the Math. Everyone around there remained spellbound hearing his enchanting voice. When he came to the mango tree he stood motionless in a trance. After a while he started pacing up and down under the tree raising loud noise ‘hum’, ‘hum’. His steps faltered as if he was drunk and his eyes turned red like hibiscus flowers. All stared at him in awe and wonder. After some time he became normal. Those around there felt an extraordinary spiritual power manifesting in him. They felt that the power could attract not only human beings but even animals and birds.

Swamiji's Mango Tree, Sideview
Math Compound

Another day Swamiji displayed extraordinary spiritual power while sitting under this tree. He was sitting on the canvas cot, facing west. His eyes were luminous; his whole frame seemed to be animated with some strange spiritual consciousness. ‘Pointing to the sannyasins and brahmacharins about him, he exclaimed: “And where will you go to seek God? He is immanent in all beings. Here, here is the visible God! Shame on those who, disregarding the visible God, set their minds on other things! Here is God before you as tangible as a fruit in your hand! Can’t you see! Here—here—here is God!” He spoke these words in such an inspiring way that peace and insight of deep meditation came over all present there. They stood like statues, so motionless and hushed in silence had they become! Swami Premananda, after his bath in the Ganga, was on his way to the shrine for worship.

Hearing the words of Swamiji he fell into a state of absorption and became motionless. After a quarter of an hour Swamiji said to him, “Now go for worship.” Only then did Swami Premananda regain normal consciousness. That scene was unforgettable. Everyone in the Math was struck with amazement at the power of Swamiji who, with a word, could raise the minds of all present to the heights of Supreme Insight.’