Project Description

“I am indebted to my mother for the efflorescence of my knowledge.”

Swami Vivekananda

It was customary in those days—and still is—for one living a long distance from Varanasi who was in dire need, or desirous that some special event should come to pass, to make offerings and sacrifices to Shiva through any relatives and friends who might be residents of Varanasi. So Bhuvaneshwari Devi wrote to an old aunt of the Datta family in Varanasi to ask her to make the necessary offerings and prayers to Vireshwar Shiva that a son might be born to her. When word came that this was being done she was content to wait in perfect assurance that the prayers would be answered. She spent her days in fasting and meditations, her whole soul given over to constant recollectedness. her entire heart fixed in love on the Lord Shiva. Often did her mind go to Varanasi, uniting in thought with the venerable aunt as she poured the sacred water of the Ganga on the symbol of the Most High or as she worshiped Him with flowers and Mantras. One night she had a vivid dream. She had spent the day in the shrine, and as evening deepened into night she fell asleep. Hushed in silence was the household, hushed in silence and rest. Then in the highest heavens the hour struck—the time was come for the saintly woman to touch the feet of the Lord. And in her dream she saw the Lord Shiva arouse Himself out of His transcendent meditation and take the form of a male child who was to be her own son. She awoke. Could this ocean of light in which she found herself bathed be but a dream? Shiva! Shiva! Thou fulfillest in various ways the prayers of thy devotees! From the inmost soul of Bhuvaneshwari Devi a joyous prayer welled up, for she was confident that her long months of expectancy were over and that the vision was but an announcement that her prayers were to be answered. Her faith was justified. And in due time her son was born.

Swami Saradananda wrote of Bhubaneswari and the period of time following her husband’s untimely death in February 1884:

“Fallen on bad days after her husband’s death, she was put on her mettle and showed wonderful patience, calmness, frugality and adaptability to sudden change of circumstances. She who was used to spending a thousand rupees monthly to manage the household had now only thirty rupees to maintain her sons, daughters, and herself. But never for a day was she seen dejected. She managed all her family’s affairs with that meagre income in such a way that those who saw how things went on took her monthly expenditure to be much higher. One shudders indeed to think of the miserable condition into which Bhuvaneshwari fell at the sudden death of her husband. There was no certain income with which to meet the needs of her family; yet she had to maintain her old mother her sons and daughters brought up in opulence, and meet the expenses of their education. Her relatives, who had lived well by her husband’s generosity and influence, now found an opportunity to their liking and, far from helping her, were even determined to deprive her of her just possessions. Her eldest son, Narendranath, possessed of many good qualities, failed to find a job in spite of his best efforts in various ways; and losing all attraction for the world, he was getting ready to renounce it for ever. One naturally feels respect and reverence for Bhuvaneshwari Devi when one thinks of the manner in which she performed her duties even in these straitened circumstances.”