Chandipur, Purba Medinipur
The area of MidnaporeThe year was 1912. The area of Chandipur in the Tamluk sub-division of Midnapore was iniundated by heavy flooding of nearby rivers like Kangsabati, Keleghai, Haldi and Rupnarayan with coastal waves from the Bay of Bengal. Under the stewardwhip of Swami Nirvanananda, Swamis Abhayananda (Bharat Maharaj), Tapananda, Atmaprakashananda and Girijananda arrived with relief materials on boat braving the gushing flood waters. A relief camp was opened at the residence of Sri Girish Chandra Karan. With active help of some local volunteers distribution of relief was organized at Chandipur and some of the adjoining affected villages. Prior to this, people of the area had neither heard about Ramakrishna Mission nor Belur Math. It was through servince of the distressed that locals came to know about the ideal of serving God in the form of Man. The relief operations continued for about six months. In the meantime, the holy birth tithi of Sri Ramakrishna approached. It was decided to celebrate the occasion at Chandipur in a befitting manner. Once again with the active participation of local devotees amongst whom prominent being Sri Chandra Mohan Bera, Sri Golak Chandra Mondal and Sri Satish Chandra Bej, the monks celebrated the tithi at Chandipur where people cutting across religion, caste and creed enjoyed sumptuous prasad sitting together. The monastics while conducting relief work had also begun a medical centre, a free school and a book bank.
View of the old templeDuring those days communication was not easy. In order to reach Chandipur from Kolkata one had to arrive at Geonkhali-Tamluk by steamer, then from Tamluk proceed to Norghat by road, cross the Haldi river by boat and once again proceed to Chandipur by road. Nowadays, one can travel directly to Chandipur by road crossing the Norghat bridge spanning the Haldi.
Witnessing the welfare work being undertaken under the Ramakrishna Vivekananda idelogy, some of the local residents came forward with a proposal to give the act of serving humanity a formal shape by establishment of an Ashrama centre. On the auspicious day of Rash Purnima in 1914, the Ashrama centre was opened at the residence of Sri Pratap Chandra Bej, named the Ramakrishna Sevashrama. Sri Chandra Mohan Bera of the adjoining village Kalikakhali donated a plot of about 4 bighas with a brick-hut where the Ashrama shifted. The local devotees who were runningt the Ashrama centre had begun to frequent Belur Math being attracted to the Ramakrishna Vivekananda ideology. Acceeding to their repeated requests the authorities of Belur Math agreed to accept responsibility of the centre and with the blessings of Swami Shivananda and Swami Premananda, Swami Tapananda arrived at Chandipur in 1914 to take charge. The guest book comment by Sri Subhash Chandra BoseA charitable dispensary was begun as one of the initial efforts. At times, Swami Tapananda used to travel 3-4 miles every day in the villages around to treat patients. During those years Chandipur was a remote area with ditches flowing on two sides of the Ashram and communicable pathways only on the other two sides. Water was salty owing to the proximity to the Bay of Bengal and thus undrinkable. Drinking water had to be fetched daily from the homes of nearby devotees. After Swami Tapananda, the Ashram was put in charge of Bhola Maharaj and thereafter Swami Bhaskarananda (Sadhan Maharaj) in 1917 for the next nine years. Therafter, Swami Ameyananda (Moksha Maharaj) was in charge for the next eighteen years. During his tenure, additions were made in the form of a charitable homeopathic dispensary, a library, a primary school (upgradation from lower primary school), dairy, kitchen and living quarters. The first temple of Sri Ramakrishna was built during this time. In 1930, the Ashrama was formally recognized as a branch centre of Belur Math (Ramakrishna Math & Mission). Some local youths joined here as Brahmacharins. While on a visit probably to meet the revolutionary Asnushilan Samity groups of the area, Sri Subhash Chandra Bose came to the Ashrama in 1938 and penned down his valuable comments. Post independence, the Ashrama was visited by Governor Sri D. N. Singh and Chief Ministers Sri Prafulla Chandra Sen and Sri Ajoy Mukherjee.
The clarion call of Quit India!An untoward incident happened in 1942. The country was in the midst of Quit India Movement with revolutionary activities sweeping across many places of which the district of Midnapore assumed a very significant place. The revolutionaries had planned an attack on all police stations in the Tamluk sub division. Accordingly, the groups based in nearby Ishwarpur and Brindabanpur were preparing an attack on Nandigram police station. The British police received information beforehand. A police force despatched to take action forcibly took shelter in the Chandipur Ashrama to avoid rain and storm on the night of 26th September 1942 and on the following early hours of 27th September attacked the revolutionary groups and satyagrahis at Ishwarpur. In the ensuing firing by the police, few were killed and many injured. The next action tokk place on 28th September at Brindabanpur where again police firing resulted in casualties, thwarting the attempt on Nandigram police station. Based on a wrong notion that the Ashrama had deliberately assisted the police the night before the action, a hostile crowd raided the Math premises and set fire to the buildings - library, school, living quarters, et all. The then in-charge Swami Swamsiddhananda (Jyotish Maharaj) left for Belur Math with a broken heart and the authorities of Belur Math subsequently declared the Ashram centre closed. Sadhan Maharaj was sent to carry back the enshrined photograph of Sri Ramakrishna. It was then that with overflowing sentiment that the local devotees blocked carrying back of the photograph. For the next one year, the devotees themselves looked after the burnt down property in whatever way they could. Then came the famine of 1943. At the repeated pleas from local devotees, famine relief was organized at Chandipur under Swami Buddhatmananda (Sashi Maharaj) who once again took up the reins of the Ashrama centre. In the later years, one by one, the school, the library and the dispensary buildings were re-constructed. The monks' quarters becam a two-storied building. Guest house facilities came up for devotees seeking recluse.
The Math centre was sanctified by visits of the Presidents of the Order - Swami Vireshwarananda, Swami Bhuteshananda, Swami Gambhirananda, Swami Gahanananda and Swami Ranganathananda who initiated local devotees. A lot of philanthropic activities were undertaken by the Ashrama centre, the gamut of which is ever increasing since the initial years. The sapling planted in 1916 has today indeed grown into a great tree spreading its branches.