Sri Ramakrishna’s Childhood
Chandramani has a Strange Vision
One morning, when Gadadhar was seven or eight months old, he fell asleep. Chandra put him to rest under a mosquito net and went out of the room to attend to her household duties. Shortly afterwards, when she happened to come back to the room for something, she found that, instead of the child, a strange tall person was lying under the net, filling the whole bed. In great alarm Chandra rushed out of the room and called out to her husband. As soon as he came, she told him what she had seen, but on examination they found none except the child sleeping on the bed as before. Even then Chandra’s fears did not abate. She went on repeating, “I am certain that it was a mischievous spirit who did it. I distinctly saw a tall person lying in the bed where our son lies. It was certainly not a delusion. How could it be? Do call immediately an experienced exorcist to examine the child. Otherwise, some harm may befall him.” Kshudiram consoled her, saying; “There is nothing strange in your getting visions even now about our son; for we were blessed with them even before his birth. So drive away the idea that it was the doing of a spirit. With Raghuvir in the house, is it ever possible for spirits to come here to harm the boy? Therefore be at rest and do not speak to anyone about it. Rest assured that Raghuvir always protects him.” Although for the time being Chandra was pacified by her husband’s words, the fear of harm befalling the child still haunted her mind like a shadow. For a long time that day, with folded hands, she poured out to Raghuvir the anguish of her heart.
As Gadadhar grew up, Kshudiram was filled with wonder and delight at noticing the development of the boy’s remarkable memory and intelligence. Sometimes he would take the lively boy on his lap and repeat to him a long list of names of his ancestors, or short hymns to gods and goddesses and the various ways of paying homage to them, or wonderful stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. He found that Gadadhar could grasp and remember, hearing only once, most of what he was told, and that, when asked to repeat them, he could do so without faltering. At the same time, he discovered that, just as the boy learnt and remembered some things with great eagerness, he also remained indifferent to certain other things, which did not appeal to him, in spite of all efforts to rouse his interest in them. He noticed this when trying to teach him arithmetic, especially the multiplication table, and thought it unnecessary to force the impatient lad, still so young, to learn those lessons. But finding that the boy was becoming more and more restless, he sent him to a school after the usual ceremony. Gadadhar was then five years old. He was very happy to meet boys of his own age, and his loving ways endeared him to them and to the teacher.
The school was held in the spacious theatre-hall in front of the house of the Lahas, the landlords-of the village. A teacher, paid mainly by them, taught their own children and those of the neighbourhood. In fact, it was the Lahas who were chiefly responsible for starting the school. It was not far from Kshudiram’s cottage, and was held in two sessions daily, both morning and evening. The children attended the classes for two or three hours in the morning and then returned home for bath and food. They came again at three or four in the afternoon and remained till sunset. Very young boys like Gadadhar had not, of course, to study for so long a period, but they too had nevertheless to remain in the school. After finishing their lessons, the little boys stayed in their places or sometimes went to play. The older boys helped the newcomers with their lessons and also saw to it that they went through their old lessons every day. Thus, although the school had only one teacher, the work went on smoothly. One Jadunath Sarkar was in charge when Gadadhar first entered the school, but he retired shortly afterwards for various reasons, and one Rajendranath Sarkar was appointed in his place.