Ramakrishna Paramhansa is perceived to be
one of the most popular and important saints of
India during the nineteenth century. He was also
one of the great persons who inspired and shaped
the life of Swami Vivekananda, another great
monk of India.
Sri Ramakrishna was born on 18 February 1836 as Gadadhar Chattopadhyay in Kamarpukur, in the Hooghly district of West Bengal. His parents, Khudiram Chattopadhyay and Chandramani Devi, were orthodox Brahmins. Sri Ramakrishna was not good in the academics, but he had god-gifted talent of creating clay models and painting. He was an excellent learner and a good story teller. Ramakrishna Paramhansa loved nature and used to spend long hours along the river-banks and in orchards.
After the demise of his father, Ramkumar, Sri Ramakrishna's elder brother, took up the responsibilities of the family. Ramkumar used to teach Sanskrit in a local school in Kolkata and also served as a priest at several socio-religious events. During this period Sri Ramakrishna started to regularly worship their family-deity.
Rani Rasmoni, a widow and the founder of the Dakshineswar Kali temple, invited Ramkumar to serve as priest in the temple. He later became the chief-priest of the temple. After the death of Ramkumar in 1852, Sri Ramakrishna was appointed the chief-priest of the Dakshineswar Kali temple. It was during this time that he was conferred the name "Ramakrishna" by the son-in-law of Rani Rasmoni.
After becoming the temple chief-priest, Ramakrishna Paramhansa used to spend most of his time in the "Thakur-Ghar" (abode of the deity). He believed that Goddess Kali was the mother of all and desired to witness the divine being. The saint used to go into the jungle and spend the whole night adoring goddess Kali. It is believed that the goddess revealed herself to Ramakrishna when he was on the verge of annihilating himself in order to get a glimpse of the supernatural being. Ramakrishna's parents got him married to a five year old girl, named Sarada, to restore him into normal life. Sarada joined her husband at Dakshineswar temple at the age of eighteen. Sarada Devi is regarded as the first disciple of Ramakrishna.
Ramakrishna met Vivekananda in November 1881 when the latter visited the Kali temple to find out whether god really existed or not. After meeting Ramakrishna, Vivekananda started to believe in the existence of God and also accepted Ramakrishna as his "Guru" or master.
Ramakrishna Paramhansa was suffering from throat cancer and finally breathed his last on 16 August, 1886 at the Cossipore garden house, West Bengal. After he died his wife continued with the works of Ramakrishna. The monastic disciples of Ramakrishna, under the leadership of Vivekananda, formed a fellowship at a partially ruined house at Baranagar. This was the starting point of the Ramakrishna Mission which later gained worldwide recognition.