So often it has perplexed me how special days, places connected to my hero and idol have been hijacked one after another: first was 9/11 or September 11, always remembered as the day when a saffron clad Hindu monk burst on to the world scene with his historic speech at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, became a sad reminder to a world under the scourge of terrorism since 2001. Now, the second: the place of Hathras where an event nearly 130 years back was to change a lesser known Assistant Station Master’s life forever has come under media glare for all the wrong reasons.

Without mincing words, let’s jump straight to our story about Hathras more than hundred yeard old. The time was sometime in 1888.  In present day UP’s Hathras station, the Assistant Station Master was then one Mr Sarat Chandra Gupta. He was on his regular duty when his eyes caught something startling: as if the resplendent morning Sun had suddenly burst forth on to the earth – a Hindu sanyasi, saffron-clad with strikingly attractive eyes was waiting for his train (to Haridwar). Captivated by the bright eyes of the young monk, the Assistant Station Master urged upon the young sanyasin to delay his journey and be his guest for sometime. The young Sanyasin was none other than Swami Vivekananda, then an unknown monk and his host, the Assistant Station Master was to later become Swami Sadananda.

Within seven months of his first meeting with Swami Vivekananda in Hathras station, Assistant Station Master Sarat Chandra Gupta left his job and took initiation into the Ramakrishna order by Vivekananda himself and became Swami Sadananda.

In March 1897, he was sent by Swami Vivekananda to assist Swami Ramakrishnananda in setting up a monastery in Madras. In 1897 Swami Sadananda accompanied Swami Vivekananda to Northern India and in 1898, he visited Almora along with his Master and Sister Nivedita. He also penned an article in Brahmavadin in January 1898 describing the Swami’s visit to Khetri.

Swami Sadananda was the first person to introduce the term “Maharaj” to address the monks in the Ramakrishna fold.

Swami Vivekananda had deputed Swami Sadananda to the task of looking after Sister Nivedita and he followed the same religiously: shaping her ideals and supporting her in her work to promote education among Indian women. He was tasked with familiarizing Nivedita with the traditional customs of India, introducing her to the local people and by ushering in the first three girls who joined her school.

When the Great Calcutta Plague seemed to sweep everything in its path, Swami Vivekananda entrusted upon Swami Sadananda the responsibility of supervising the plague relief work which started in March 1899 in Calcutta. The plague manifesto drafted by Swami Vivekananda during this time was distributed amongst the masses by none other than Swami Sadananda and Sister Nivedita. He led volunteer work of the youth who were inspired by the ideals of Swami Vivekananda and valuable service was rendered by him during the plague relief operations later (1904) in Bhagalpur as well.  

Swami Sadananda accompanied Sister Nivedita in some of her travels to Mumbai and South India in 1902. He also supported Nivedita in the running of Vivekananda Students Home for a year and also took the young boys to trips in the Himalayas. After the passing away of his Master, Swami Sadananda travelled to Japan in 1903.

Swami Sadananda played a stellar role in the early history of the Ramakrishna movement through his twin ideals of service and renunciation. A leader of the Ramakrishna Mission, he rendered services to the poor and affected in the early days. Sister Nivedita distanced herself formally from the Ramakrishna Order owing to her political activities but Swami Sadananda stayed back to take care of her.

When the Swami passed away on February 18, 1911, in Calcutta, an obituary was published in Prabuddha Bharata with these immortal words:

There was no work so hard, no difficulty so insurmountable, no word of command so impracticable, that he could not carry into effect for the sake of Swami Vivekananda.

Lives of the great can hardly be told in few words but such was the start of a glorious journey from Hathras – a life of renunciation and service to humanity. And unlike anything how Hathras is getting painted now…

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