In this post, I will associate feminism with regard to women. A woman, who breaks away from patriarchy, leaves all shackles behind, looms up like strength personified by constantly challenging the stupid norms of the society is known as a strong feminist and Maa Sharada was one such feminist too, a rebel of her own kind.
Married at a tender age of pre-pubescent, Maa Sharada decided to move in with her husband, her spiritual consort Sri Ramakrishna only at the age of eighteen. All these years before she finally moved in, she would stay with her parents and occasionally would visit Thakur. Thakur too, waited for this right time where she would turn eighteen to welcome her and always respected her choices and wishes. A lovely couple who had immense respect for each other, always taking care to the utmost, Maa Sharada and Sri Ramakrishna lived like monks with sheer detachment in their hearts and immense love overflowing from their being, they loved each other in the most divine way. Maa Sharada was eighteen years old when she moved in, a rightful example for those who consider women as burden and want to get rid of them as soon as possible. Maa Sharada loved Thakur and Thakur loved Maa, yet, it was only after she turned eighteen that Maa started staying near Thakur. Child marriage was common during that time but Maa despite being married to the love of her life at an early age, only moved in at the age of eighteen. Now, child marriage is a punishable offense in India and I will say, Maa Sharada was way ahead of her times!
Back in the eighteenth-century India, giving education for too long to women was not a norm and when Radhu created a ruckus over the decision of elders of not sending her to school as she was grown up, Maa stepped in. Going against the norm like a propagator of women’s education, Maa said, ‘She is not quite grown-up. Let her go to school. She can do immense good to others if she gets education and learns some useful arts at the school. She has been married in a backward village. Through education she will not only improve herself but will be able to help others too.’ The Holy Mother was herself not educated but by the later half of her life, she began to pick up words and read a little herself. A woman who herself had no formal education, had given up her life for spiritual purposes, never discouraged women from giving up education or earning for themselves. Sarajubala, a dear devotee of Maa, was an actress of her own times and never did Maa tell her to leave her earnings and follow a hollow propagation of religion garbed in a dystopic spirituality which is heavily dependent on men. Maa Sharada never propagated such a lopsided and biased view of spirituality or religion which had patriarchy as its backbone, instead of devotion. Maa whole-heartedly supported Sister Nivedita’s cause to help women earn their education and often, Maa used to send Sarajubala to Sister Nivedita’s school to give lectures. Challenging the way things were, a feminist who rightly stood for women’s education not only in dry lectures, Maa also learnt to read to her best capacity too.
When we look at how most of the world religions have evolved, we see men taking up a central position owing to their privilege. Notice the present-day religions of the world, key positions have been obsessively taken over by heterosexual men who have time and again written about books, rules and regulations which are clearly pro-heterosexual men. Leave that, women haven’t been given any position equal to even the Divinity in their books! And dare you publish a book by changing the ”He/Him/His” of the Divine God to “She/Her/Hers” of Divine Goddess, I am sure, many people will lose their minds even in twenty-first century! Whereas, Maa Sharada was the foremost among all in the Ramakrishna Mission despite existence of so many male monks! After Thakur attained his mahasamadhi, Maa became the central figure around which the Ramakrishna Mission revolved. She became the head of the Mission of all monks and the cause of Sanatana Dharma. She was a great bhakta of Maa Dakshineshwari Kali, the figure of The Divine in feminine form, whom she worshipped. Her being the head of Ramakrishna Mission which is majorly devoted to the worship of Devi, the Divine Mother, is a tight slap to the conservatives who don’t think women to be capable of being intelligent and rational. Certain religious organizations don’t dare to make women a part of their summit-stature even today and there was Maa Sharada, back in the eighteenth century, making herself stand out among all the staunch conservatives who were there! Such was the strength of her personality, sadhana and bhakti, that even Sri Ramakrishna could not stop himself from performing Shodashi Puja to her. It was not a dry ritual of ego and superiority, but a recognition of a humble human being who had pure intentions and an unshakable devotion, who carried in her the Divine essence all the time. Yes, she was a woman, who carried the Divine Mother in her even during menstruation. So fierce was she, a real devotee of Maa Dakshineshwari, she proceeded to say. “Do not make any distinction between Shri Ramakrishna and me.” Well, to be frank, I am scared to imagine what the consequence would be, if any woman even now, of any religion would equate herself to the level of a spiritual male despite having all those qualities! A being in her own way, an overflowing cup of Divinity, Maa Sharada did not give two hoots to people who came to challenge her as her own Divine presence and a strong personality coupled with crystal clear mind was never won over by any of the egoistic ignorant fools!
Further will be written in next post.
No copyright violation or plagiarism intended.
Devi, Sarayubala. First Series Recorded by Sarayubala Devi. The Gospel of The Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi. Recorded by her devotee-children. Sri Ramakrishna Math Printing Press, Mylapore, Chennai. 2008.