A one-act play in five scenes
Characters in order of speaking:
First Lady (Urmilla)
Sri Sarada Devi
Ramchandra Mukherji (Sarada Devi’s father)
Kali as Girl
You came back to earth to remove our tears,
To sooth our hearts burning in the fire of worldly desire,
To take away our burden of sin and sorrow.
You come in every age, suffer birth, disease and death for our sake
To demonstrate the way to divine life.
As Sita you taught the world steadfast patience and forbearance.
As Radha you showed the glory of pure, self-forgetful love of God.
In this age, fulfilling the divine play of Ramakrishna
You manifest the Motherhood of God:
Refuge of the erring and the suffering, compassionate to all,
You accept everyone.
You have come to redeem us.
We are full of fear and wand’ring helplessly.
Dispelling the mirage of maya, you bring light to our hearts
— NY Vedanta Society Choir book # 48,
from a Bengali hymn adapted by Swami Chandikananda;
music by John Schlenck
Narrator: Sri Sarada Devi Joins Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar. A one-act play in five scenes. This play is based on historical fact and some of the conversations come directly from the biographies. However, many are products of the author’s imagination. The author has strived to make them true to the spirit of the actual facts. In Scene One, the village ladies gossip. It is February, 1872. Several ladies in Jayrambati are at the tank drawing water. They are talking.
The village ladies gossip
Frist Lady (Urmilla): Oh it is unseasonably hot today. But I think we will soon get some rain. I can feel it in the air.
Second lady: Yes, I can feel it in my arthritic knee. Rain is definitely coming. Have you heard the news?
Third lady: What news?
Second lady: You know Hriday of Shihar?
Third lady: Of course. How could you ask such a question?
Second lady: Never mind. Well he has been visiting home and I heard he said about Gadai that he’s going into the jungle at night and spending the whole night there stark naked. It’s as if he is in a trance — unaware of the danger of snakes and scorpions. Sounds like Gadai’s definitely gone crazy.
Urmilla: We had already heard Hriday’s previous report that he was lying on the ground calling for his mother and rubbing his face until it bled. Poor Shyamsundari. She married her daughter to a lunatic.
Third lady: Gadai was so much fun when he was younger. Insanity sometimes shows up in early adulthood.
Second lady: And to think he stooped to working as a priest for a lady belonging to the fisherman’s caste. Maybe the humiliation of this has led to his derangement.
Urmilla: You barely ever see Sarada anymore. It’s as if she is hiding herself in shame. Do you think it would be a good idea for me to visit her and try to comfort her?
Second Lady: I’m sure she’d appreciate it.
Third Lady: Yes, that’s a kind thing to do.
Narrator: It is later that afternoon. It has rained and things have cooled off. Urmilla comes to Sarada Devi’s parental home.
Urmilla: O Sarada, it is Urmilla. May I come in?
Sarada Devi: Of course, Urmilla. Please come in and have some refreshments.
Urmilla: Namaskar Sarada.
Sarada Devi: Namaskar to you.
Urmilla: You keep your house so spic and span. You’ll be a credit to your husband, Gadai.
Sarada Devi: That’s kind of you to say. Here have some moori. Mother just made it.
Urmilla: O how nice. I love moori.
Narrator: She eats some.
Urmilla: Very nicely spiced. Speaking of Gadai, I’ve heard the sad news about his derangement. I heard he’s going about stark naked. Oh what pain you must be feeling. I wanted to come by and give you my sympathy.
Sarada Devi: I appreciate your concern. Yes, these reports are very painful. I just can’t get myself to believe that he is really insane. He was so levelheaded and wise when we were together, but that was four years ago.
Urmilla: Yes I agree. Something terrible must have happened. Poor Sarada. I really feel for you.
Sarada Devi: How kind of you. Well Urmilla, I’m glad you could come by to convey your concern.
Urmilla: Bye, Bye and let’s hope he gets well soon.
Narrator: Sarada speaks to herself.
Sarada Devi: I can’t bear this cruel gossip. Why doesn’t he call for me to join him? Will he never call?
Narrator: Sarada gives vent to her feelings with a song.
O Lord, must all my days pass by utterly in vain?
Down the path of hope I gaze with longing day and night.
Thou art the Lord of all the worlds, and I but a beggar here.
How can I ask of Thee to come and dwell within my heart?
My heart’s humble cottage door is standing upon wide.
But once be gracious, Lord, and enter there and quench my thirst!
— From the CD, All that Exists Art Thou;
words from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna;
music by John Schlenck
Narrator: The next day Sarada Devi visits her beloved aunt Bhanu, who greets her with a song.
Aunt Bhanu: She sings (repeat three times):
O thou beautiful maiden, born with pure-hearted love,
Thou hast won a groom who is both naked and mad.
O thou Parvati, he is none other than Shiva
— Words adapted from Sw. Gambirananda
biography and music by Bill Davis
Sarada Devi: O Aunty, how could you tease me like this? Naked and mad. That’s exactly what they’re saying about Gadai. I can’t bear it. They mean well but it’s as if, with their so-called sympathy, they are stinging me like scorpions. (pause) I’ve been waiting for him to call me to his side. I miss him so much. Why doesn’t he call for me? What joy I felt in his company. Whatever is going on with him he seems to have forgotten me. If he is really insane shouldn’t my place be by his side to nurse him back to health. What do you say?
Aunt Bhanu: That’s what I would do if I were in your place. But if he is mad, it’s a divine madness, not an ordinary madness. The people of this village don’t have the intelligence to understand this. Mark my words; some day when big babus honor him, the villagers will be smitten with shame at their current disrespect.
Sarada Devi: You always make me feel better when I visit you. Aunty let me tell you what I have been thinking. You know the Chaitra-samkranti day is coming up — just a month away. So many people from the village are planning to walk to Calcutta for a holy bath in the Ganga near Calcutta on this occasion. They’ll even be visiting the Kali temple where Thaakur is living. I so wish that I could also go, but how could I possibly bring this up with father?
Aunt Bhanu: O Sarada. That would be wonderful. But you’re so bashful. Well, run along. I have things to attend to.
On the way to the Ganga
Narrator: Scene two. On the way to the Ganga. Sarada Devi and her father have joined the pilgrims on their way for a holy dip in the Ganga. It is the third day of the walk. She and her father are trailing behind the other people. They are passing through a wide field.
Sarada Devi: What a beautiful field this is with clouds stretching forever in all directions. Father, I’m so grateful that you suggested joining this pilgrim party. What made you think of it?
Ramchandra: Darling daughter, Aunt Bhanu shared with me what was on your mind and in your heart. When I heard it I was glad. I said to her, “Does she want to go? Very Good.” (pause) It’s right for you to be with your husband and I am very happy to bring you to him.
Sarada Devi: Aunt Bhanu is such a good friend to me. Thank you father. For some reason I just couldn’t bring it up myself. (pause) I’m sorry I’m walking so slowly. Actually I’m feeling rather sick.
Ramchandra: Let me feel your forehead. (pause) Why daughter, you are burning with fever. Why didn’t you say something sooner? Let’s stop so you can rest.
Narrator: Ramchandra finds shelter in a nearby hut and Sarada is able to lie down and rest. She falls into a deep sleep. Then suddenly a dark-complexioned girl of peerless beauty sits by her. She caresses Sarada’s head and body with her soft cool hands. This removes all her pain and lessens her fever. Sarada notices that her feet are covered with dust.
Sarada Devi: Dear child, did not anybody offer you water for washing your feet?
Kali as girl: No mother, it doesn’t matter. I shall leave in a moment. I came to see you.
Sarada Devi: Where do you come from, dear?
Kali as girl: I come from Dakshineswar.
Sarada Devi: (in a tone of amazement) From Dakshineswar! (sadly) I thought I would go there, see him, and serve him. But as I am laid down with fever on the way, I fear this may never come to pass.
Kali as girl: Don’t you worry! You will certainly go to Dakshineswar; you will recover soon and see him. It is for you that I have been holding him there.
Sarada Devi: Indeed! How kind of you. Are you related to us, my dear?
Kali as girl: I am your sister.
Sarada Devi: O ho! That’s why you have come.
Narrator: After this conversation she again falls asleep. The next morning her fever is gone and they resume their journey. Sarada is still weak and, as the some fever returns, Ramchandra engages a palanquin.
Arriving at Dakshineswar
Narrator: Scene three. Arriving at Dakshineswar. They are able to catch up with the other pilgrims from Jayrambati and cross the Ganga with them. It is nine o’clock at night. It is dusk. Sri Ramakrishna and his nephew Hriday are standing on the embankment looking down. Hriday, speaks.
Hriday: Look, Gadai. So many people are arriving from Jayrambati. Your father-in-law and wife are among them.
Ramakrishna: O Hriday, I hope the time is not inauspicious. This is her first visit.
Hriday: No, the inauspicious time has just passed.
Sarada Devi: Father, that’s Thakur’s voice. Did you hear what he just said? He still cares about me.
Ramchandra: I’m happy for you, daughter.
Narrator: Sarada Devi and her father go strait to Sri Ramakrishna’s room.
Ramakrishna: Ah, Father! Welcome! Thank you for bringing your daughter here. O Sarada, you are here at last! That’s well done. Hriday, take Sri Mukherji to the Khuti. Hopefully you will be able to stay in my old room there. I don’t believe it is in use. I’m sure the temple manager, Trailokya, will be honored to have you as his guest
Ramchandra: Thank you for your kind consideration. It is good to see you after such a long time. Where will Sarada stay?
Ramakrishna: Right here in my room with me.
Ramchandra: Wonderful. Well, daughter I see you’re comfortable. I’ll see you in the morning and take my leave after paying my respects to Mother Kali.
Narrator: Hriday and Ramchandra leave.
Ramakrishna: Well dear, how was your journey coming here?
Sarada Devi: O Thakur, I became very ill but now I’m feeling somewhat better. I had an amazing experience. I was comforted by a stunningly beautiful girl of black complexion. She said she came from here.
Ramakrishna: O how fortunate! That was Mother Kali. But you are still sick. You must be nursed back to health. Alas! You have come so late! Would that my Mathur were here now to serve you! My right arm is broken now as it were. He was the manager and would do anything to serve me.
Sarada Devi: What a relief it is to be with you. The villagers were saying all sorts of things about you, calling you deranged. But I see you are as sane and considerate as ever. Now that I’m here I will serve you and your mother with my whole heart.
Together at Dakshineswar
Narrator: Scene four. Together at Dakshineswar. With help from a physician who came to treat her, Sarada soon recovered. From then on she would spend the days in the Nahabat with her mother-in-law. But at night she would share a bed with Sri Ramakrishna. One night he asked,
Ramakrishna: Well my dear, have you come to drag me down to the worldly level?
Sarada Devi: No, Thakur. Why should I drag you to worldly ways? I have come to help you in your chosen path.
Ramakrishna: After we married I prayed over and over to Mother Kali to make your mind immaculate. I see she has answered my prayer.
Narrator: A few days later they were talking during the day.
Ramakrishna: Dear, do you know the aim and purpose of human life?
Sarada Devi: Please tell me.
Ramakrishna: Just as the moon is the beloved uncle of all children, so also is God the nearest one to all. Everyone has an equal right to call on Him. If you call on Him you too will see Him. (pause) To see God. That is the aim of human life. Here is how the divine Sri Krishna summed up his message to mankind in the Bhagavad Gita:
Give me your whole heart.
Love and adore me.
Worship me always
Bow to me only
And you shall find me.
— NY Vedanta Society Congregational Songbook #9,
set to music by John Schlenck
Narrator: One night while Sarada was messaging his feet she asked
Sarada Devi: How do you regard me?
Ramakrishna: The same Mother that is in the temple, who gave birth to this body and now resides in the Nahabat, she, again, is now messaging my feet. Truly do I see you as a veritable form of the Blissful Mother!
Narrator: One night when Sri Ramakrishna had come down from ecstasy he looked at the youthful, charming person of the Mother lying asleep by his side. He engaged himself in self-examination speaking to his own mind.
Ramakrishna: Here is a woman’s body which the world holds so dear. People think of it as a thing of supreme enjoyment and wistfully run after it. But he who takes pleasure in it is confined to the body and cannot realize God. Don’t be insincere to yourself; don’t have a hidden hankering and yet make false professions. Oh mind, tell me frankly whether you want this or God. If you want this, then here it is before you; take it.
Narrator: He actually stretched out his hand to touch her body, but no sooner than he did, his mind recoiled so strongly that it got lost in the higher reaches of ecstasy. It didn’t return to the ordinary plane that night. The next day, only with great difficulty, was his mind brought finally down after repeating the Lord’s name in his ear for a long time.
The Shodashi Puja
Narrator: Scene Five. Final scene. The Shodashi Puja. One and a half months have elapsed since Mother’s arrival at Dakshineswar. It is early evening. Sri Ramakrishna sees Hriday as Hriday passes his southern veranda in the courtyard of the Kali Temple. He calls out to him.
Sri Ramakrishna: Hriday, I needs some help. Tonight, as you know is the new moon and a special worship of mother Kali. I will worship her in her Shodashi form in my room. Please help me prepare.
Hriday: I have only a little time before I have to go to the temple for the worship. I can do a little but I will send your nephew Dinu to help after he finishes the Radhakanta worship.
Sri Ramakrishna: I wish to worship Her with 16 articles.
Hriday: Well that’s a tall order. Let me see what I can do.
Narrator: Strangely, everything needed comes quickly to hand and Dinu helps with the flower and Bel leaf offering. Sri Ramakrishna himself beautifully paints the seat for the goddess with rice powder pigment. It is now nine o’clock at night. Sri Ramakrishna speaks to Dinu.
Sri Ramakrishna: Dinu, please tell your aunt that I would like her to attend the worship. I hope she can come right away.
Narrator: Dinu goes to the Nahabat.
Dinu: O Sarada!
Sri Sarada Devi: Yes, Dinu. What is it?
Dinu: The Master would like you to attend a worship of Shodasi that is starting now in his room. Can you come right now?
Sri Sarada Devi: Yes, brother. I’ll be right there.
Narrator: Sarada Devi enters his room.
Sri Ramakrishna: Good. You are here. Have a seat and observe.
Sri Sarada Devi: Who is Shodashi?
Sri Ramakrishna: She is also called Mother Tripurasundari. She is mother Kali is her most beautiful and benevolent form. She is a young maiden in the full bloom of youth. She is very gracious to all those who take refuge in Her. That decorated wooden seat there facing the north is where Shodashi will sit.
Narrator: Sri Ramakrishna invokes the Devi:
Sri Ramakrishna: Salutations to the Mother Tripurasundari. (repeat three times).
Waken O Mother, O kundalini
Whose nature is bliss eternal.
Thou art the serpent, coiled in sleep
In the lotus of the muladhara.
(repeat five times)
— Words from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna;
music by Bill Davis
Narrator: Mother becomes semiconscious. The Master motions her to take the wooden seat where the Devi is to sit. She obeys as if bewitched without any sense of embarrassment. Then the Master sprinkles her with Ganga water again and again. He paints her feet with red dye and puts vermillion on her forehead. He adorns her with a new cloth. He invokes the Deity in her with this prayer:
Sri Ramakrishna: O Divine Mother Tripurasundari! O Eternal Virgin, possessor of all power! Please open the gate of perfection. Purify her body and mind, and manifest Yourself through her for the welfare of all.
O Eternal Mother, Giver of refuge
Perfect wisdom and beauty, From you all blessings come,
All good is done by you, All desires fulfilled in you.
Accept this homage and love from us your children.
O Eternal Mother, Giver of power,
Source of all, yet beyond all, From you creation springs,
And is preserved by you, Till at last dissolved in you.
O Eternal Mother, full of compassion,
Ever eager to save the poor and afflicted
Who come to you for shelter,
Remover of the misery of all.
O Eternal Mother
Refrain 4 times.
— NY Vedanta Society Choir book # 36;
both the adaptation from “Sarvamangala Mangalye,”
and music by John Schlenck
Narrator: They are both now in Samadhi – at one with each other on the transcendental plane. This lasts a long time. Finally the Master comes down sufficiently to speak.
Sri Ramakrishna: O thou Sarada, who art Tripurasundari, I offer myself to you. I offer to you the fruits of all my spiritual practices. I offer my rosary at your feet. O Consort of Shiva, the most auspicious of all auspicious beings! O Doer of all actions! O Refuge of all! O three-eyed goddess of golden complexion! O Power of Narayana, I salute Thee again and again.
Narrator: (pause) Years later, after the passing of Sri Ramakrishna, Swamiji wrote from America to his fellow disciples about Holy Mother. Since this day is dedicated to Swami Vivekananda, let us conclude our play by quoting from that letter:
Swami Vivekananda: You have not yet realized how precious Mother is. People will not understand her now, but they will, gradually. Brother, there will be no salvation of the world without the help of Shakti.… None of you has understood Mother. Her grace upon me is 100,000 times greater than that of the Master. . . . About Mother I am a little fanatic. I can do anything if she gives the order. I shall give a sigh of relief when you purchase a piece of land and install this living Durga there. . . . Whether Ramakrishna was God or man – you may say whatever you like. But, Brother, shame upon him who is not devoted to Mother.
Om, shanti, shanti, shanti.
Jai shri guru maharaj ji ki jai
Jai mahamayi ki jai
Jai Swamiji maharaj ji ki jai
Bill Davis, a disciple of Swami Pavitrananda, came to the Vedanta Society of NY in 1972. After a career as a psychologist, he retired in 2007. Bill now lives at Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely, where he serves as a handyman. He also still offers service at the Vedanta Society of NY. Email Bill at email@example.com.