The Apostle Monks :

Swami Vivekananda
Swami Brahmananda
Swami Ramakrishnananda
Swami Saradananda
Swami Premananda
Swami Akhandananda
Swami Adbhutananda
Swami Turiyananda
Swami Shivananda
Swami Abhedananda
Swami Trigunatitananda
Swami Yogananda
Swami Advaitananda
Swami Niranjanananda
Swami Subodhananda

The Apostles - House Holder :

Mahendranath Gupta (Sri ‘M’)
Surendra Nath Mitra
Girish Chandra Ghosh
Balaram Bose
Gopal Chandra Ghosh
(Hutko Gopal)
Chunilal Bose
Bhavanath Chattopadhyay

A handful of college students with unshakeable faith in Sri Ramakrishna, founded the Ramakrishna Order of monks in a dilapidated building at an abandoned garden-house. Their eagerness to realise the ideal which had sustained them when the Master was alive, grew stronger when he was no more. The intensity of their effort to realise the truth demonstrated by Sri Ramakrishna became more and more keen day by day. After the demise of the Master, for a short while, this band of young men who had renounced the world in every sense, were left with neither money nor any other possessions. They were helpless and without any support.

The sacred ashes of Sri Ramakrishna collected from the burning ghat in a copper urn were placed on the bed used by the Master when he was in the garden-house at Cossipore. They assembled there to discuss the holy life of Sri Ramakrishna, meditated on him and some of them even passed nights there. Earlier, it had been agreed by all that the ashes would be enshrined for service on a plot of land to be purchased on the bank of the Ganga. But owing to the requirement of a huge amount of money for this purpose and for various other reasons, the householder devotees backed out of this agreement.

Naren and the young group referred to the ashes as “Sriji”. To them the urn became the “Atmaramer kouta” (container of relics of the Master). “Sriji” was a radiant and living reality to them. Naren swallowed a little bit of the ashes crying, “Victory to Sri Ramakrishna” while his brother-disciples followed suit and they all felt blessed. Ramachandra Dutta and others organized a grand celebration on the occasion of bringing a portion of the ashes to the Yogodyan at Kankurgachhi (Kolkata) on 23rd August, 1886. It was the birthday of Lord Sri Krishna according to the lunar calendar. The young group of all-renouncing devotees joined the celebration.

Around this time two incidents transpired at Cossipore. The first was the vision of Sri Ramakrishna which Naren and Harish had one evening. The other was the appearance of Sri Ramakrishna and His forbidding the Holy Mother from removing the bangles off her hands. Pressing the Holy Mother’s hand, he said, “Have I died that you are going to remove the marks of a married woman?” Everyone was convinced that Sri Ramakrishna existed in a subtle body.

The young band of disciples had unstintingly served Sri Ramakrishna all these days. There had developed among them a strong bond of brotherly love, difficult to cut asunder. They were haunted by this thought: “How can we live the worldly life after seeing and serving such a living example of renunciation and realisation? Was not His teaching, the renunciation of ‘Kamini – Kanchana’? Are we not taught never to think of the morrow? Who cares for money? We will beg for our food from door to door leading a wandering life of non-attachment. Surely the Master will take care of us.”

Some of the youngsters decided first to sit the University examinations and then return to monastic life. Some went back to their homes to continue their studies. Naren, the leader of the group, for a while remained at his house but always reminded the others of the vanity of the world. Tarak also went away to Vrindavan. From the very beginning, Balaram, Girish, Master Mahashay and Surendra, the householder devotees, sided with the young group in their desire to found a monastery.

At this juncture all problems were solved by a mysterious event. Surendra, one of the suppliers of want (Rasaddar) of Sri Ramakrishna, had a vision one evening when he was in his shrine after returning from office. Immediately he went to Naren and told him in tears, “Naren, can you help me in a particular matter?” “Certainly,” replied Naren, “We can do anything you want us to do. Who does not know how generously you spent for our Master and of your services to Him?” Surendra said, “As if Sri Ramakrishna is saying to me - ‘What are you doing Suren? My devotees who did so much for me are roaming about helplessly. Help them to remain together so that they can be successful in their quest.’ So I beg of you to unite those young devotees who served the Master. Find a place in between Dakshineswar and Kolkata at a low rent and get them together there.” Naren replied, “For these few days I also was deeply thinking of how to bring them together and you, by the grace of the Master, have shown us a way. I will do it this very day.” Surendra promised to attend to the financial requirements. He said, “I will give the amount I used to spend for Cossipore.” Surendra himself named this place, “A cool haven for the unfortunate ones being roasted in the crucible of the world.” Overwhelmed with joy over Sri Ramakrishna’s unbounded love for them, Naren embraced Surendra with tearful eyes. Long afterwards, referring to this event Swami Shivananda, one of the apostles, said at Belur Math, “Look, how infinite is the grace of the Master. He saved us unseen.”

The search began for a suitable house. As a result of the sincere efforts of Bhavanath Chattopadhyay, a resident of Baranagar, who was intimate with Naren and a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna, a deserted house near the Ganga was found. It belonged to one Bhuvan Dutta. Its monthly rent was eleven rupees. The actual owner of the house was Sri Kalinath Munshi, a landlord of Taki. Hutko Gopal, a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, cleaned the place and began living there. Naren cabled Tarak who was at Vrindavan for the last twelve days, asking him to come to the monastery.

Tarak (later Swami Shivananda), became a permanent resident of the monastery. Getting this news, Burogopalda (later Swami Advaitananda) joined him. A photograph of the Master on the bedding used by him began to be worshipped daily with flowers and burning incense. The date of the founding of the Baranagar Math was 19th October, 1886 or 3rd Kartic 1293 B. S. according to Swami Tejasananda as given in his book “The Ramakrishna Movement: Its ideals and Activities.” It is corroborated by Swami Prabhananda in his book “Brahmananda Charit” (Life of Brahmananda in Bengali, p-72).* 

Tarak, Burogopalda and Hutko Gopal became the permanent residents of the new monastery. Up to December that year other devotees visited the monastery frequently. Naren, as the leader, inspired them and when the litigation in connection with his house was over, he renounced home. He gave up his desire to sit for the Law Examination. He visited the houses of the young devotees to remind them about the ideal of the Master and His renunciation. He exhorted them thus, “Do you think that the Master loved you so much so that you might lead a family life?” That young group who had the ideal of renunciation strong in them, heard this from Naren’s lips day after day. We find in M’s ‘Gospel’, “After a short time Narendra, Rakhal, Niranjan, Sharat, Sashi, Baburam, Yogin, Tarak, Kali and Latu renounced the world for good. Sarada Prasanna and Subodh joined them some time later. Gangadhar, who was very much attached to Narendra, visited the Math regularly. Having returned from Tibet, he lived at the monastery. Hari and Tulsi, who were at first only visitors at the monastery, soon embraced the monastic life and thus completed the list of the Master’s Sannyasin disciples.” In the reminiscences of Swami Abhedananda we find, “One day Naren asked Hutko Gopal and me to accompany him to Sharat’s (later Swami Saradananda’s) house. We went with him. Going there, we asked Sharat to join the monastery permanently. Sharat agreed to come with us. Sashi (later Swami Ramakrishnananda) also lived there. We invited him to the monastery to stay for that night alone. He accepted the offer. Sharat and Sashi spent that night at the Math. Naren too spent that night there. Sashi did not want to go back home; from that day he remained there. Although Sharat returned home the next day, after a few days he forsook it for good and joined the monastery. By and by Naren, Yogin, Niranjan, Rakhal and the others started staying at the Math.” In this way, eleven of the sixteen Sannyasin disciples of Sri Ramakrishna became permanent inmates of the Baranagar monastery in between late December, 1886 and early January of the next year. Those eleven were Naren, Rakhal, Tarak, Baburam, Sashi, Sharat, Burogopalda, Kali, Niranjan, Sarada and Hari. Gangadhar, Subodh, Latu and Yogin became inmates of the monastery later. Hari Prasanna was the only exception. He joined the Alambazar monastery after Swamiji’s return from His first visit to the West in 1897. The Math was at Baranagar for a period of about five years and four / five months; from September / October, 1886 to February, 1892. It was here that the firm foundation of the Ramakrishna Order was laid.

* According to other opinion, the date of foundation was sometime in September, 1886 (According to “The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna – The Later Part written by Sri M” [Bengali], a collection by ‘Madhukar’, the date of first description of Baranagar Math by Master Mahasay was 12th October, 1886 (P-12). Taking this in view, the collector guesses that the Baranagar Math was founded before 12th October, 1886. In this context, it may be mentioned here that Swami Gambhiranandaji has opined at the footnote at page 203-204 of the 1st Part of his “Yuganayak Vivekananda” [Bengali] that the Baranagar Math was founded in the month of Ashwin (according to Bengali Calendar - between the middle of September to the middle of October), in 1886. But no one could confirm the exact date).