Swami Nirvedananda was a pioneer and a great educationist in India, who took the important role in implementing the educational ideas set forth by Swami Vivekananda. He was initiated in spiritual life by the first President of Ramakrishna Math and Mission Srimat Swami Brahmanandaji Maharaj. And he had sannyasa from Srimat Swami Shivanandaji Maharaj. Swami Nirvedananda (popularly known as Anadi Maharaj) was a lustrous star in renunciation and realization in the sphere of spirituality. A vastly erudite scholar, an eminent writer, a profound thinker and an eloquent orator, the Swami wrote a number of books on eternal values. Some of the books --- ‘Sri Ramakrishna and Spiritual Renaissance’, ‘Hinduism at a glance’, ‘Our Education’, ‘Religion and Modern Doubts’, are still adorable today to the societies of men of letters.
He was born on 19th July in the year 1893 at Bowbazar area in Calcutta. He was formerly known as Surendranath Mukherjee. He was a brilliant student and got a B.Sc degree in Physics in the year 1913 from Presidency College, Calcutta and passed M.A. in English in 1916. His father Rajchandra Babu must have had a dream of a prosperous and affluent future for his youngest son. But ‘samsara’ did not bind him in its illusion. A life predestined to sacrifice and service at the altar of God flourished in its own way. He responded to the call of his inner voice and cut all the family entanglements. He realized that he had to mould his life of renunciation and service with the ideal of ‘Atmano Mokshartham Jagad Hitaya Cha’, an ideal laid down by Swami Vivekananda.
Just after graduation, towards the end of 1913, he left his home permanently and started a coaching class in the ground floor of a two-storied house of 32, Jeliapara Lane, Boubazar, Kolkata. The seed he had sown that day needed proper nourishment to sprout its twig with the dream of a full-fledged grown up tree in future. And the Almighty arranged everything in a perfect sequence! During this course, his close contact and association with the illustrious group of Sri Ramakrihna’s apostles --- Srimat Swami Brahmanandaji, Swami Shivanandaji, Swami Saradanandaji, Swami Premanandaji and Swami Turiyanandaji – brought benediction to his own life, as well as to that infant institution. This coaching class started with two members gradually took the shape of a Students’ Home.
The unfathomable love and blessings of those enlightened souls melted all his doubts and queries and illumined his heart. They continuously exhorted him to stick to the work of ‘Man Making’. Later on the point of affiliation of the Home to Ramakrishna Mission the young tutor gave his solemn word to Srimat Swami Saradanandaji, “So long as it will be physically possible for me, I’ll be at the work.” Ramakrishna Mission Calcutta Students’ Home started its journey and Swami Nirvedananda was made its first Secretary.
The 24th December, 1920, was a red-letter day in the annals of Students’ Home. That day, the Home was sanctified by the holy presence of Srimat Swami Brahmanandaji. About this visit, he wrote, “as if the son of God descended and ‘baptized’ this infant Students’ Home.” And the assertion of Swami Turiyananda ‘ Thakur himself will be here and look after the spiritual growth of the inmates’ has been sustaining the most essential life force, the élan vital, for the Ashrama-life.
The Students’ Home is the reflection of his innermost core and for the past hundred years or so of its glorious existence has been a source of shade and shelter to many people. Amidst the hectic, tiring and congested urban life, the Home, with its scenic beauty, summons innumerable promising youths as an oasis in a desert. His vivid presence is felt in every impulse of Students’ Home even today. In fact Revered Anadi Maharaj and the Students’ Home --- the Creator and his creation have merged with each other beyond our notice.
The higher a tree grows up the more intense blows of nature it has to face. More than nine decades of the Home’s existence was not all smooth and covered with roses. It had to survive many perils and dangers too. Several uprootings had taken place right from the beginning – from Jeliapara Lane, Bowbazar, to Corporation Street, Banka Rai Street, Halder Lane, Abhoy Halder Lane, Gouripur, Hasnabad, Garpar Road, Upper Circular Road, Harinath Dey Road … and having finished its nomadic life finally it settled permanently in its own premises at Belgharia in the year 1954.
His indomitable spirit and unflagging endeavour were always soaked in the aspiration of giving the practical shape of Swamiji’s ideas about education. He always kept his pragmatic gaze at every aspect of the Students’ Home --- designing the site plan of the temple and other brick-built structures, gardening, farming, maintaining the milieu of the Students’ Home… everything he had executed perfectly. Even the tiniest matter did not escape his grasp. Making the daily diet-chart for the inmates or looking after their physical, mental, moral and spiritual growth… whatever it might be, he left a very poignant stamp of his deep thinking, refined likings and profound understanding of the reality. He assimilated the idea ‘simple living and high thinking’ in himself and it became the living ideal of Students’ Home. As he has been fond of freedom he cherished the idea “maximum of freedom, minimum of restraint” for the inmates too. The compliment made once by Revered Mahapurash Maharaj (Swami Shivananda) about him – “you have become one with us” confirms and reinforces his legacy and spiritual fervor.
Not only within the campus; he had dedicated himself in so many other services outside the Students’ Home. He was a trustee of Ramakrishna Math and a member of Governing Body of the Ramakrishna Mission. His contribution towards shaping the educational policies of Ramakrishna Mission is outstanding. It was he, who introduced ‘Vidyarthi Vrata Homa Ceremony’ for all Ramakrishna Mission Educational Institutions. His participation in setting up Deoghar Vidyapith of Ramakrishna Mission and Sarada Math (Women’s monastic Organisation as envisaged by Swami Vivekananda) as well as spreading women-education also deserve mention.
Swami Nirvedananda kept his solemn promise given to Srimat Swami Saradanandaji by staying at and serving the Students’ Home till the last day of his earthly existence. He had left his mortal frame on 15th November, 1958. A great karma-yogi and an ideal monk, the Swami earned everybody’s love and respect. His sacrifice, love and blessing to the Students’ Home will be a perpetual source of inspiration for the upcoming generations.