History Of Thiruvalla Ashrama

Sri Ramakrishna taught that God exists and the goal of human life is the realization of God; that God can be attained serving God in man. Swami Vivekananda encapsulated the idea in the motto of Ramakrishna Mission, “Atmano Mokshartham Jagat Hitaya Cha”, “for the liberation of the Atman and the welfare of the world”. Sri Ramakrishna declared with the conviction of a man who had seen God face to face that all religions are valid paths to God. “As many faiths, so many paths” This is a restatement of Vedanta for the modern age, and has been verified in the life of Sri Ramakrishna and his great disciples. Swami Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897 to spread this message. Sixteen years later, the foundation stone was laid for the Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama Thiruvalla and in 1913 a small temple of Sri Ramakrishna was consecrated. The Ashrama attracted a large number of young men who later joined the monastic order of Sri Ramakrishna, and grew up to become leaders of the movement. So the Ashrama can justly claim to be the source from which the unique message of Sri Ramakrishna streamed forth and spread to nourish the spiritual and intellectual life of Kerala and leaven a great social transformation that followed.

The Thiruvalla Ashrama was consecrated on 9th May which was the auspicious day of Akshaya Thritiya, only five days after the Haripad Ashrama. In the morning the pictures of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda were brought to the Ashrama building, mounted on elephants with the usual paraphernalia, in a procession led by Swami Nirmalananda and Swami Vishuddhananda, from a Bhagavathy temple about two kilometers away. Swami Nirmalananda himself placed the two pictures on the altar and Swami Vishuddhananda performed the Puja. In the afternoon a lay devotee spoke inspiringly on Sri Ramakrishna and the Swami followed. All the artisans and laborers who were engaged in the building work were blessed and given gifts of clothes by the Swami himself. Swami Nirvikarananda had recorded an interesting incident at the function. The chief carpenter asked the Swami, “We carpenters are according to the Puranas descendants of God Viswakarma. Why then are we unable to enjoy an exalted position in society?” The Swami’s reply was greeted with a burst of laughter from everybody. He said, “This very thought is the reason. Your pride that you are greater than others is downgrading you.” This was a new message to the caste ridden society of Kerala, in which each group in the hierarchy presumed themselves to be superior to all the strata below theirs and looked down upon them and in their turn was despised by those above.


The Ashrama was in an upper caste enclave and that too near the temple. This area was out of bounds to outcastes. So the next day a feast was arranged for them on the farther side of the river on land belonging to one Krishna Pillai. The Swamis and devotees walked to the place. People living on the way had cleaned the path and decorated their doorways on either side with lighted lamps and flowers. The two Swamis were welcomed respectfully by the family of the owner. Pictures of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda were decorated and kept on two seats with lamps lit before them. Swami Vishuddhananda waved incense before the pictures and offered raisins and sugar candy which were distributed among the people. The outcastes were fed sumptuously. That afternoon there was a meeting at the Hindu Girls’ School, when Swami Nirmalananda and a lay devotee spoke.

 

Swami Nirmalananda and the founding of the Thiruvalla Ashrama
Swami Nirmalananda was one of the earliest members of the brotherhood of monks that Swami Vivekananda organized in a dilapidated and reputedly haunted building soon after the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna in a Kolkata suburb. It was his tireless work that firmly established the Ramakrishna movement in Kerala. On 29th October, 1911 Swami Nirmalananda laid the foundation stone for the Ashrama. His arrival in this small town with its centuries old religious heritage that dated back to the very beginning of the Common Era and beyond, was culturally and historically a significant event. He bore the message of a new Hinduism revivified and shorn of all the social constraints that marked out exclusive preserves for a privileged few kept out the masses from its sanctuary. It was warmly welcomed and gradually assimilated by the people of this region. The Swami’s visit to Thiruvalla had an abiding impact. It was manifest especially in the English educated people who had listened to the Swami’s stirring speech, followed by a question answer session at M.G. M. School. A group of students acquired a copy of Swami Vivekananda’s speeches compiled under the title “From Colombo to Almora” and assembled at some place regularly for reading and discussion.

SRIRAMAKRISHNA DEV

If you meditate on your ideal, you will acquire its nature. If you think of God day and night, you will acquire the nature of God.