The Headquarters of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission

Belur Math, sprawling over forty acres of land on the western bank of the Hooghly (Ganga), in Howrah district, an hour’s drive from Kolkata, is a place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world professing different religious faiths. Even people not interested in religion come here for the peace it exudes.

It was at Belur Math that Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), the foremost disciple of Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886), lived the last years of his brief life. He consecrated the grounds in 1898 by worshipping the urn containing the sacred relics of Sri Ramakrishna, which he himself carried on his shoulders to the place of worship. On that occasion he uttered these prophetic words about Belur Math: “The blazing light of universal harmony that will emanate from here will flood the whole world.” On another occasion he said that “the power that will have its rise from here [Belur Math] will flood the whole world and turn the course of men's lives into different channels; from this place will spring forth ideals which will be the harmony of Knowledge, Devotion, Yoga, and Work ... all true seekers of spirituality will in course of time assemble here.” True to that prophecy, Belur Math has become the hub of a worldwide spiritual movement known as the Ramakrishna Movement.

The serene campus of Belur Math on the Ganga includes temples dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda, in which their relics are enshrined, and the main monastery of the Ramakrishna Order. The place has been sanctified by the stay of Swami Vivekananda and most of the monastic disciples of Sri Ramakrishna who spent several years here. Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi also visited this place on several occasions. The room in which Swamiji attained Mahasamadhi has been preserved here. The headquarters of the worldwide twin organizations known as Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission are also situated here. An added attraction is the Museum which contains articles connected with the history of Ramakrishna Math and Mission. The green lawns and lush growth of trees and bushes everywhere add to the serenity and beauty of the place. All this has contributed to an elevating spiritual ambience that has made Belur Math an important place of pilgrimage for people all over the world. A degree college, a polytechnic, and several other educational institutions of the Ramakrishna Mission are situated in the vast campus adjacent to Belur Math.

The following units belong directly to the main monastery:

  • The MONKS’ QUARTERS : Apart from the main Monks’ Quarters, there are a few other buildings in which the monks and novices stay permanently. These quarters are out of bounds for visitors and even to lay devotees.
  • MATH OFFICE : This is the main office of Belur Math. Situated behind the main temple, it is the nerve centre of all the activities concerning worship in the temples, annual celebration of Durga Puja and other festivals, maintenance of the premises, maintenance of monks, taking care of devotees, distribution of prasad, etc. Pranami (offerings) for worship and contributions for the maintenance of monks are received at the Math Office.
  • SACRED SHRINES : The imposing sandstone temple which enshrines the sacred relics and a beautiful marble statue of Sri Ramakrishna is one of the most unique temples built in modern times. It combines the architectural features of a Hindu temple, Buddhist cave, Christian church and Islamic mosque. There are also smaller temples dedicated to Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Brahmananda. A few other buildings associated with the early history of Ramakrishna Math are:
    • the Old Shrine where worship to Sri Ramakrishna was conducted for more than three decades;
    • the room in which Swami Vivekananda spent his last years;
    • the ‘Old Math’, earlier known as Nilambar Mukherjee’s Garden House, which was sanctified by the Holy Mother’s stay on several occasions, and which served as the monastery of Ramakrishna Order for a short period.
  • PROBATIONERS’ TRAINING CENTRE : All the Probationers of the Ramakrishna Order have to stay for two years at the Training Centre before they are given Brahmacharya Ordination. It is a three-storied building where the novices and Acharyas (teachers) stay. In this institution regular classes are conducted for the novices on basic Hindu scriptures, lives and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda and other incarnations and prophets, Indian philosophy, Western philosophy, Comparative Religion, etc. The novices are also given training in music, Vedic chanting, performing Puja, keeping accounts, gardening, etc. During 2004-05 there were 94 Probationers and 7 resident Acharyas at the Training Centre.
  • MATH LIBRARY : The Math has a library, meant for the use of monastics and lay Mission members; it has 21,481 books and 79 periodicals, including a collection of books used by the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna.
  • CELEBRATIONS : Apart from the celebration of traditional Hindu festivals such as Durga Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja, Saraswati Puja, Shivaratri, and the birthdays of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother and Swami Vivekananda, Belur Math also observes in a solemn way the birthdays of Sri Krishna, Buddha, Jesus Christ and Chaitanya. The Christmas Eve celebration with the singing of Carols and reading from the Bible is very impressive.

Math and Mission Headquarters Office

Apart from the institutions mentioned above, which belong to the Belur Math Monastery, the Secretarial Office of the Headquarters of the worldwide Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission is also situated on the grounds of Belur Math. The work of coordinating and supervising the innumerable activities of the 161 branch centres of the Math and Mission is carried on in this office by the General Secretary, assisted by four Assistant Secretaries. The Secretariat has various departments such as Central Office, Cash, Accounts, Investments, Audit, Law, Relief and Rehabilitation, Welfare, Construction and Maintenance, etc.

The Headquarters office also directly conducts the following activities.

  • CHARITABLE DISPENSARY: Begun on a modest scale with free allopathic and homoeopathic sections in 1913, the dispensary started functioning in its own building in 1938. At present the allopathic section has several departments such as general, dental, ophthalmology, ENT, dermatology, gynaecology, radiology (including ultrasonography), pathology and biochemistry. During the year it treated 7,53,216 cases.
  • HELP TO THE POOR : The Headquarters did considerable work in this respect this year by giving regular monetary help to 309 families and 2340 students and one time help to 338 families and 253 patients, incurring a total expenditure of Rs. 22,72,378. Besides this monetary help, 9717 pieces of clothing, 3 tricycles and one Caliper Shoe were distributed to needy persons.
  • RELIEF AND REHABILITATION : During the period under review, the Mission and the Math undertook relief and rehabilitation works, involving an expenditure of about Rs. 13.05 crore, in response to the cry for succour from thousands of distressed people affected by Tsunami, devastating floods, cyclones and other calamities in several parts of India. These activities have been mentioned in greater detail Types of Service under the head Relief and Rehabilitation Work.
  • PALLIMANGAL: (Integrated Rural Development): The Math and the Mission centres continued the project, started in 1980, in and around Kamarpukur and Jayrambati. Various programmes such as agriculture, cottage industry, mobile medical service, and so on were implemented, the details of which have been mentioned in Types of Service under the head Work in Rural and Tribal Areas.
  • VEDA VIDYALAYA : Started in August 1993 in the same campus, the Vivekananda Veda Vidyalaya imparts Vedic education to the young. The students reside and study in an atmosphere similar to the ancient gurukula system. This year there were 22 students. Its library had 3389 books and 4 periodicals. Competent teachers taught the boys Vedic chanting and the rudiments of vedangas.
  • RAMAKRISHNA MUSEUM : In this Museum articles and artifacts closely associated with Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother, Swami Vivekananda and other direct disciples of the Master have been exhibited.

  • The Headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math maintains four monastic retreats (kutias):

    • Ramakrishna Kutir, Mayakund, Rishikesh, Dist. Dehra Dun, Uttaranchal 249201;
    • Ramakrishna Kutir, Ganganagar P.O. & Dist. Uttarkashi, Uttaranchal 249193;
    • Ramakrishna Swargashrama, Lalgarh, Dist. Paschim Medinipur, West Bengal 721516; and
    • Sri Ramakrishna Kutir, P.O. Athanavur, Yelagiri Hills, Dist. Vellore, Tamil Nadu 635853.