Śrī Śāradā Maṭh
By Swami Harshananda
The sages of ancient country had given women equal opportunities, not only for higher education but also for spiritual evolution, including monastic life if necessary. Svāmī Vivekānanda had seriously thought of establishing a Maṭh for women also when he had established the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission for men-aspirants. At the behest of the Svāmī, Sister Niveditā came to India from London and established a school for girls in Calcutta, in A. D. 1898. This school gradually became the nucleus of the later organisation now known as the Śāradā Maṭh and the Ramakṛṣṇa Śāradā Mission.
Growth of Śāradā Maṭh
When Niveditā plunged into the political field of struggle for independence, the school was managed successfully by Sister Christine and later by Sudhīrā Bose. They added a new section to train adult women in various activities such as sewing and needle-work, along with the teaching of academic subjects like Beñgālī, Sanskrit and English.
Evolution and Growth of Śāradā Mandir
Sudhīrā also started an āśrama for dedicated women workers and also a boarding home for students and poor women. This āśrama, sanctified by the stay of Śāradā Devī was later named as Sāradā Mandir. Niveditā had named her school as the ‘Ramakrishna School for Girls.’ However, it was popularly called Niveditā School. Since she had been initiated into the Ramakrishna Order by Svāmī Vivekānanda himself, her school was legally affiliated to the Rāmakṛṣṇa Mission in A.D. 1918.
Gradually and especially after India gained political independence more and more educated girls, some of whom had taken spiritual initiation from the sanyāsin disciples of Śrī Rāmakṛṣṇa, started joining the school to dedicate their lives for self realization and service to mankind. The movement for a parallel monastic organisation exclusively for women, gained momentum when another group of inspired and dedicated women living in a place called Śāradā Āśrama joined those of the Śāradā Mandir. The centenary of the Holy Mother Śāradā Devī celebrated during the year A. D. 1953-1954 gave further fillip to their aspirations.
Beginning of Rāmakṛṣṇa Śāradā Mission
In January 1959 eight senior members of the Śāradā Maṭh were invested with sanyāsa by the then president of the Rāmakṛṣṇa Order and the Śrī Śāradā Maṭh was made legally separate and independent. A parallel organisation, but under the same management, known as the ‘Rāmakṛṣṇa Śāradā Mission’ was registered in A. D. 1960. Śrī Śāradā Maṭh and the Ramakrishna Śāradā Mission run on the same model including all the activities such as the Rāmakṛṣṇa Maṭh and the Rāmakṛṣṇa Mission. Their Headquarters are situated in Dakṣiṇeśvar with a massive and beautiful temple for Śāradā Devī and a building complex housing the offices and living quarters. They now have several branches all over India and one in Australia.
- He lived in A. D. 1863-1902.
- Maṭh means monastery.
- He lived in A. D. 1867-1911.
- It is present Kolkata.
- It refers to a semi-monastery here.
- She was the Holy Mother.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore