A Branch Centre of Ramakrishna Math, Belur Math

History of Ooty Math

Nestled amidst the sylvan surroundings of the Nilgiris, the Ramakrishna Math, Ooty, is one of the oldest centers in South India. It became part of the R.K.Math in 1926, though started in 1924. It was meant to be a Retreat center and had an invaluable library.

Considering the spiritual atmosphere of the place Mahapurush Swami Shivanandaji Maharaj, a direct disciple of Sri RamaKrishna, who was recuperating in the Nilgiris after an illness wished to start a center in Ooty. His wish was fulfilled by a Divine act. 

A so-called untouchable washer man donated 2 acres of land, after having a dream in which his favorite diety Sri Sri Mariamma appeared and said, “Look, some people will approach you for a piece of land on which to build a monastery, give them that land”. He had the dream on 3 consecutive nights.

He was waiting for them and when he met some people searching for a land to build a monastery he donated it. The person was Sri. Thiruvengadan Pillai of Kil Kodappamund.

Liberal subscription came from the local devotees and some rich people from Madras, Rajas of different provinces. Work was started by Swami Shivananda himself. The building had a shrine opening into a hall 20’x30’ and two living rooms flanked by a veranda and office, a separate kitchen block. It was surrounded by a beautiful garden, grass banks and trees. The sadhus carried out their spiritual and religious activities and also visited the Badaga Villages and educational institutions.

A very significant and attractive event is the observation of public celebrations of the birthdays of the Holy Trio. It attracts large crowds from all over Nilgiris. The program consists of Puja, bhajan, public meeting, cultural presentation and Annadanam. The event still continues.

The consecration ceremony took place on 24/09/1926. The pictures of the Holy Trio was ceremoniously brought in procession amidst Vedic Chanting from Godavari House to the new building and installed. On that day Swami Yatiswaranandaji and a host of others were present.

Srimath Swami Vijnananandaji, another illustrious disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and 4th president of the order visited Ooty in 1931.

J.J Goodwin, stenographer by profession to whom we owe much for making available many of Swami Vivekananda’s previous lectures which now form part of Swamiji’s 9 volumes of complete works, came to ooty for rest and recuperation but passed away at the young age of 28 on 02/06/1898. His mortal remains were interred at the St. Thomas church Cemetry, Ooty.

Way back in 23/04/1967, the Ooty Ashrama did him honor by a reverent dedication of his tomb by most Rev. Dr. Lakdasa de Mel, Lord Bishop of Calcutta and Metropolitan of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon. The tomb 10’ high is made of polished grey granite is a conically shaped pillar and marble cross embedded & on the marble tablet the poem Requiescat in pace written by Swami Vivekananda engraved.

Swami Ranganathanandaji the then secretary presided over the function

Important Details of Ooty Math

Ooty : The Queen of Hill Stations
Queen of Hill Stations

Ootacamund abbreviated as Ooty is a popular hill-station nested in the Nilgiris, in Tamil Nadu. The town of Ootacamund is also referred as Udagamandalam (Udakamandalam) or Udhagai, in short. The Nilgiris are a range of mountains part of the Western Ghats to the South-West of the Deccan Plateau. The name Nilgiri Hills (Blue Mountains) is perhaps derived from the rare blue colored “Kurunji” flowers blossoming in the hills once in every twelve years, appearing to be a blue carpet over the hills. Dotted by hills, dales and several water bodies, the Nilgiris are a sight t behold. The presence of water bodies may be a reason for the region to get its name as “Udakamandalam”(in Sanskrit, Udaka means Water and Mandala means the geographical region).

Located at an altitude of 7500 feet above the Sea-level, with around 24 enchanting peaks, each soaring above 6000 feet, the climate is very salubrious during summer. The splendor of nature, the splendid green deep valleys, the cool healthy climate give Ooty the reputation of being,’The Queen of Hill Stations’.

Ramakrishna Math, Ootacamund :

Ramakrishna Math, Ootacamund

The genesis of Ramakrishna Math, Ootacamund is attributed to the second president of the Ramakrishna Order Swami Shivanandaji Maharaj (Mahapurush Maharaj) who was one of the sixteen direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna.Mahapurush Maharaj, during his visit to South India contracted malaria at Madras and travelled to the Nilgiris for recuperation.During his stay at Asphalt Lodge P.O Springfield in Coonoor, Swamiji visited Ootacamund many times. Mahapurush Maharaj was enthralled by the spiritual atmosphere of Ooty, He was mostly found to be in deep contemplation. When alone in his room or in the garden, he would be in deep mystical moods, enjoying the bliss of union with God. He seemed to be profoundly affected by the spiritual atmosphere of the Nilgiris. He once said, “And Ooty was a place as good as theHimalayas”.

Mahapurush Maharaj’s arrival at Ooty

Mahapurush Maharaj’s arrival at Ooty

Mahapurush Maharaj’s arrival at Ooty resulted in the spiritual renaissance at Nilgiris.The establishment of the ashrama was part of a predestined celestial plan; as Maharaj writes in his letter dated 13th June 1926 :

This(Ooty) is a lovely and cool hill station. It is the summer capital of the Madras government and it is about eight thousand feet above the sea level and full of vegetation. We are occupying a house belonging to the abbot of the most important holy place of South India, dedicated to Tirupathi Balaji, or Venkateswara. The abbot uses this house in the summer, but he has not come here this year. As Sri Ramakrishna willed, he has lent us the use of the house for some time. It is beautiful house, very well furnished. There are flower beds all around, and also a variety of trees, especially eucalyptus, and it occupies a large area. It is a healthyplace…

You will be glad to hear that a small monastery is in the process of being built even here. The construction is nearly complete. I laid its foundation-stone when I came here the last time. A so-called untouchable washer man donated two acres of land for this purpose. It is indeed wonderful!. It is Sri Ramakrishna’s glory! The man had a dream in which his favorite deity, Sitala Devi, appeared and said:

“Look, some people will approach you for a piece of land on which to build a monastery. Give them that land.”He had this dream two or three consecutive nights. But nobody approached him for land, and he began to wonder why nobody approached him for the land, and why nobody came. Meanwhile, some devotees from here and from Madras had gone out looking for a suitable plot of land for a monastery. It so happened that they came very close to the land belonging to that washer man-devotee, and they met him there. He asked them, “What are you looking for?” They said,” We are looking for a plot of land where we can build a small monastery dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna.” The washerman-devotee’s startling reply was: “Why, I have been looking for you for the last few days. Here you are at last. I have thirty-two acres choose any two acres you like”. None of us understand anything. Glory to him! Glory to the Incarnation of God, to the Prophet of the new age, the Saviour of Humanity, the ocean oflove!”

The details of the washer man referred to in the above letter are thus :

The person who gave the land was Sri Tiruvengadam Pillay of Kilkodappamund from Ooty town. A humble and religious washer man by profession, he was greatly devoted to Divine Mother Shitala (called in South India Mariamman). Mahapurush Maharaj accepted the offer of about two acres of land with the remark,’Thakur is great. He gets his work done. None can know it,’ Mahapurush Maharaj laid the foundation for the ashrama, sometime in the third week of June 1924, on the very site donated by Sri Pillay.

Through the efforts of local devotees who had formed a committee to carry out the construction of the temple and monastery, the work was finally accomplished after two years of the laying of the foundation stone. Swami Shivanandaji Maharaj was again invited by the committee to consecrate the temple and declare it open to all. Finally on 24th September 1926, the pictures of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda were ceremoniously brought in a procession amidst Vedic chanting to the newly constructed temple building and installed in the shrine on a decorated throne.After completing the rituals like Puja, Homa and Bhoga, the temple was formally consecrated by Rev.MahapurushMahraj and declared open to all.

Thereby the establishment and the functioning of Sri Ramakrishna Math, Ootacamund is the brain child of Swami Shivanandaji Maharaj, who through his intense spiritual power made available the message and company of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa to the people of Nilgiris. As envisioned by Him, the Ooty Math has been functioning as a retreat place for monastic members of the Order who come here from different active centers to spend some days or weeks in the quiet solitude and serene sylvan surroundings. The Nilgiris shall always be indebted to Rev.MahapurushMahraj who increased its spiritual wealth a thousand folds by creating an abode for Sri Ramakrishna and for devotees to avail this priceless opportunity of availing Holy company.

My Faithful Goodwin :
My Faithful Goodwin :

Ooty is also the resting place of Swami Vivekananda’s Stenographer JJ Goodwin. Bhagavan Sri Krishna taught the immortal Bhagvad Gita to Arjuna, his friend and disciple, for a specific purpose; and it was Vyasa who preserved it to the world. In our times, as well, Sri Ramakrishna just gave out his remarkably illuminating and universal teachings to the devotees who sat at his feet. If they have reached posterity in any measure, it is due to the diaries of his faithful disciple ‘M’, who recorded the talks he happened to hear. In case of Swami Vivekananda too it is to an intermediary that we owe the record of most of his great Vedantic and Patriotic lectu res that have opened a new era not only in Indian cultural life but also in the world. It was providential that Mr.J.J Goodwin was engaged for steno graphing Swamiji’s speeches.

An English man by birth, Goodwin first met Swami Vivekananda in New York in December 1895, and became devoted to him for the rest of his life. Goodwin was a professionally trained Stenographer and came forward to take down Swamiji’s lecture in short hand. Goodwin travelled

with Swamiji in America and India and we owe much to Goodwin for making us available many of Swamiji’s precious lectures which now form part of Swamiji’s nine-volume Complete Works. The book contained Swamiji’s Indian lectures given in 1897 titled Lectures from Colombo to

Almora, owes much to Goodwin’s effort.

Sometime after coming to India,he took upa job on the staff of the Madras Mail. Unfortunately he could not bear the hot climate of India. He came to Ooty for rest and recuperation but passed at the young age of 28, on 2nd June 1898.

Swami Vivekananda’s Tribute to Goodwin :
Swami Vivekananda’s Tribute to Goodwin
    Swamiji was deeply moved by Goodwin’s death and wrote the following poem to his mother :

“Speed forth, O soul! upon thy star-strewn path, Speed, blissful one, where thought is ever free, Where time and sense no longer mist the view,

Eternal peace and blessings be on thee! Thy service true, complete thy sacrifice,

Thy home the heart of Love transcendent find ;Remembrance sweet, that kills all space and time,Like altar roses fill thy place behind!

Thy bonds are broke, thy quest in Bliss is found,And one with That which comes as Death and Life ;

Thou helpful one! Unselfish e’er on Earth,Ahead, still help with love this world of strife!”

Swamiji also wrote :

“With infinite sorrow I learn the sad news of Mr. Goodwin’s departure from this life, the more so as it was terribly sudden and therefore prevented all possibilities of my being at his side at the time of death. The debt of gratitude I owe him can never be repaid, and those who think they have been helped by any thought of mine ought to know that almost every word of it was published through the untiring and most unselfish exertions of Mr. Goodwin. In him I have lost a friend true as steel, a disciple of never-failing devotion, a worker who knew not what tiring was, and the world is less rich by one of those few who are born, as it were, to live only for others. “

J.J Goodwin’s final resting place

Dedication Of Goodwin Memorial :

A beautiful Memorial came into existence by the sustained efforts of Rev. Swami Ranganathanandaji Maharaj on 23rd  April 1967 with a significant message ‘Reaquiescat in pace’ engraved on a Marble slab at a prominent place in the cemetery, ina function presided over by Metropolitan of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon. This was the honour done by an appreciative posterity by a reverend dedication of his tomb to a life of sacrifice and service such as Goodwin, the solemn celebration was held on April 23rd  1967 at 4 p.m. in St.Thomas Cemetery amongst a gathering of over 400 people belonging to Christians, Hindus, Tourists and Monks of the Ramakrishna Order.

The Goodwin Memorial at Ooty occupies a very special place in the hearts of all the people who have been inspired by Swami Vivekananda and His works, because it was Goodwin who penned down Swamiji’s ideas so that future generations of India and the world could read and understand Swami Vivekananda as message of Universal brotherhood and spiritual progress.

Goodwin is etched eternally into the Ramakrishna Movement and its stride over the past and future timelines.

Sister Nivedita

Sister Nivedita

Nivedita wrote books on Indian cultural heritage. She encouraged gifted artists like Abanindranath Tagore,Nandalal Bose and funded their study of the works of art of Ajanta, Ellora and other great Indian artists of the past. From 1902 to 1904 she went on extensive lecture tours, urging people to strive to make India free: addressing meetings in Patna, Lucknow, Varanasi, Bombay, Nagpur and Madras. The colonial British rulers grew furious, but could not silence her. On the contrary, several distinguished Englishmen like Ramsay Macdonald, who was to become Britain’s Prime Minister, and Lady Minto, whose husband became the Viceroy of India, visited her school and commended its work.

When the British Government partitioned Bengal which resulted in a great agitation, Nivedita jumped into the fray. Soon after, there was a devastating flood in East Bengal. This was followed by famine. Nivedita waded through the water for miles to see the plight of the flood victims and report it in newspapers and journals, pointing out the gross negligence and failure of the British-Indian government to undertake relief measures. She harnessed the youth of Bengal into relief work. Incessant work and lack of rest took its toll on Nivedita’s health. But she would not rest and at last, she made a legal Will in which the property, the little money she had and the copyright of her writings she left to the Belur Math to be used for the national education of Indian women. She breathed her last on the 13th October, 1911 at Darjeeling, leaving behind her name as the deathless symbol of sacrifice and service.