History of Sri Ramakrishna Advaita Ashrama,
Kalady, Kerala, India.

About Kalady

According to historians, Sri Sankaracharya, the great exponent of Advaita Vedanta, was born at Kalady in A.D.788 and attained mahasamadhi at the age of thirty-two at Kedar in the Himalayas. He left Kalady at the age of eight, met his guru Govinda Bhagavatpada on the banks of the river Narmada, and took sanyasa from him. It is believed that Sankara completed his bhashyas (commentaries) on the prasthana-traya (the Gita, the Brahmasutras, and the Upanishads) before he was sixteen years of age. Tradition has it that the omniscient sage Vyasa granted him a lease of sixteen years of extended life. He traveled the country extensively, propagating Advaita Vedanta, silencing his opponents in the debate. To perpetuate his teachings, he established four maths (centres) at the four cardinal points of his motherland, installing each of his four disciples as head of each centre. He returned to Kalady only once in response to the last wish of his mother. His masterly commentaries establishing and defending Advaita Vedanta remain unchallenged even in this post-modern age.

Swami Vivekananda says about Sri Sankaracharya, “… The writings of this boy of sixteen are the wonders of the modern world and so was the boy. He wanted to bring back the Indian world to its pristine purity… Materialism came to the fore, taking the form of license with higher classes and superstition with the lower. Then Sankaracharya arose and once more revivified the Vedanta philosophy. He made it a rationalistic philosophy… He worked out, rationalized and placed before men the wonderful, coherent system of Advaita.”

 Kalady surprisingly remained unknown and unrecognized for more than a thousand years after Sankara’s passing. The ritualistic and caste-ridden Brahmins of Kerala did not accept his philosophy; neither did they give him due respect. It was left to the great Sri Nrisimha Bharati Swamigal of Sringeri Math to resurrect Kalady from oblivion. He saw to it that all disputes were set at rest. He established a branch of the Sringeri Math at the very birth place of Sri Sankara. He also constructed two temples dedicated to Sri Sankara and Saradamba in 1910. Kalady since has become a reputed centre for pilgrimage.

River Purna in meditative mood






Sri Ramakrishna Advaita Ashrama

The Kalady Sri Ramakrishna Advaita Ashrama was established in 1936 by Swami Agamananda, disciple of Swami Brahmananda, the first President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. Swami Agamananda arrived in Kalady as if by divine dispensation to wipe out the blot on Keralites--their neglect of Sri Sankara by doing nothing to perpetuate his memory. The swami made a pilgrimage to Vaikom in 1935. Being a disciple of Swami Brahmananda who was the “spiritual son” of Sri Ramakrishna, and being a highly educated Kerala Brahmin, he possessed the authority to declare that the then existing caste system was not a part of true Hinduism, nor the creation of Sri Sankara. Sri Sankara always strived for the emancipation of people of all classes. As a follower of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, Swami Agamananda believed and preached that all men and women, regardless of caste, creed and social status, are heirs to Self Realization, or God Realization. The swami worked tirelessly to spread education among the masses and especially to teach them Sanskrit, which would give them direct access to the teachings of Vedanta. His mission was to carry out the exhortation of Swami Vivekananda: “The first work that demands our attention is that the wonderful truths confined in our Upanishads, in our Scriptures and in our puranas must be brought out from the books and broadcast all over the land. Peach! Preach into the world the great truths of your religion. The backbone and life-centre and foundation upon which the national edifice has been built is religion alone.”

Swami Agamananda’s speeches and conversations, sincere and powerful as they were, won him many followers and friends in Kerala. Starting with Vaikom, he lectured at temple festivals all over the erstwhile Travancore state and outside too. The support he received helped create a favorable environment for establishing a permanent centre. Sri Parayath Govinda Menon, an ardent admirer or the swami, invited him to Kalady and gifted him a piece of land with a building to establish a branch of the Ramakrishna Math, Belur, West Bengal. Thus, on April 26, 1936, Swami Agamananda, with the assistance of Swami Tyagisananda of Thrissur, inaugurated the Kalady Sri Ramakrishna Advaita Ashrama. As an experiment for a period, the Ramakrishna Math’s headquarters in Belur allowed the swami to run the ashrama in order to assess the public response.

The swami was an excellent speaker and organizer. After two years of hard work, he opened the Sanskrit High School and Gurukula on April 4, 1938. The building was inaugurated by Sir C. P. Ramaswamy Iyer, the Dewan of Travancore. Realizing the scope and possibilities of a thriving centre, the headquarters at Belur Math recognized the ashrama as on of its branches in 1941. The very same year, the swami, with financial aid from the Central Government, established an orphanage. A free ayurvedic dispensary was also started. National leaders like Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Jayaprakash Narayan and Vinoba Bhave visited the ashrama and encouraged the swami to continue its many-sided activities. During his visit to the ashrama in February, 1956, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, made the following remarks: “Kalady is a place of historic importance, and it is only in the fitness of things that, now that we are free, every effort is being made to revive its old glory and re-establish the place which it ought to have in our national life.”

Encouraged by public support, Swami Agamananda took up the establishment of the Sri Sankara College, a first grade educational institution with facilities for specialization in Sanskrit and Vedanta, coupled with science subjects. A publication wing was also started to bring to the public the works of Sri Sankara, Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. In 1958, a beautiful bathing ghat and embankment was constructed with Central Government aid. In 1961, the Sankara College, which the swami had started under an association, was handed over to His Highness the Sankaracharya of Sringeri Math.

Amidst the hectic activities of organizing the silver jubilee of the ashrama, Swami Agamananda passed away due to a sudden heart attack on April 17, 1961. Swami Vimalanda succeeded him from June 1961 to July 1963, followed by Swami Antaratmananda who functioned as the president until his demise in May, 1966. Under the swami’s supervision, the orphanage, established by Swami Agamananda, was upgraded into a two-storied building and converted into the present Tribal Hostel.

Swami Antaratmananda was succeeded by Swami Ganananda. The swami took over the ashrama during a crucial period of its history. The then State Government had cancelled the lease right of the ashrama’s 128.26 acres of revenue land given in 1943, which was a permanent source of income for its various welfare activities. The government later assigned 32.26 acres of land to the ashrama on permanent registry. This land is now being cultivated, and the proceeds are used for welfare activities.

Under the swami’s leadership, the ashrama undertook large-scale welfare activities for Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe people. A Community Centre and Children’s Library was established in 1971 for the Schedule Caste people. A typewriting training centre, a tailoring school, and a Crećhe for children of working women were also added in subsequent years, all located in Mattoor, within one km of the ashrama.

In addition to running three schools, a hostel, a free Ayurvedic dispensary, a publication department and lectures and classes in and outside of the ashrama, Swami Ganananda now embarked on the project of building a universal temple of Sri Ramakrishna in the ashrama campus. The temple was inaugurated on April 14, 1976 by Revered Swami Vireswaranandaji Maharaj, the then President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. The temple is a magnificent structure that attracts pilgrims from all over.

Swami Ganananda also raised funds and purchased a new plot of land situated across from the ashrama, and the school, which was situated next to the temple until then, was shifted to a new three-storied building constructed on the newly acquired land. The building, declared as a Golden Jubilee Memorial, was inaugurated by Swami Bhuteshanandaji Maharaj, the then President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in 1986.

Swami Purandarananda succeeded Swami Ganananda. During the swami’s presidency which lasted for four years (1998-2002), a new Higher Secondary School was established.

In May, 2002, Swami Amaleshananda was appointed president. The swami continues as the spiritual head of the ashrama to date. Under his supervision, a Homoeopathic dispensary and a Computer Training Centre have been established. A new building is currently under construction for the Primary, Middle, and English Medium schools. r