The first time I came to Kolkata for darshan of Sri Path Bari Ashram, I was hosted by my gurubhai Subrata Ji at the home of his in-laws in Dakshineswar. I recall that right away a photo of a sadhu that was hanging on a wall caught my attention. He had quite a striking appearance. I asked what his name was and in reply I was told, “Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath”. His picture also graced the family altar. I don’t know why, but I never really got around to inquiring very much about him.
The last time I was in Kolkata was in March of this year for the tirobhav utsava of my gurudeva. One day during the utsava my gurubhai, the Mahanta, Raghunath Dada suggested I go to Mahamilan Math for darshan. It sounded fine to me, though I had no idea what the place was, so I got a rickshaw and after about a ten minute ride I was there. It turns out that it is the headquarters for the mission of Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath. It was a lovely and well maintained ashram with an Asta-sakhi Mandir. It was quite a pleasant surprise to see such beautiful Sri Murti’s of Radhey Shyam surrounded by Their dearest sakhis. Today, I came across some information about the life and teachings of Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath and was amazed by him and his accomplishments, so I thought I would write a little bit about him.
The life of this great Mahatma is astonishing and full of miraculous occurrences. To many people he was known as “Nam Avatar” because of his potency in spreading the practice of kirtan and Nam japa. At one point there was even a movement where people wanted to label his as a divine avatar, but he did not allow that to happen. Personally, I feel that he, like Sri Anandamayi Ma that I wrote about recently, is a special manifestation of divinity. I believe he came to spread the glories of Sri Nam as the best spiritual sadhana and in a way that could easily appeal to people following all sorts of spiritual paths and traditions. To aid his preaching he even started his own sampradaya known as the Akhil Bharat Jaiguru Sampradaya, which is still alive and active.
He took birth on the bank of the Ganga in a village named Keota in the Hooghly district on February 17, 1892, and was named, Prabodh Chandra. His great-grandfather was an astrologer and when he did the horoscope of the child he exclaimed, “Look here! A Mahapurush has come! Blow the conch shell! Wherever this child will go, annadAna, (distribution of prasad) on a vast scale will follow him.” He was born in an orthodox Brahman family. His father was named, Pranhari Chattopadhayaya and his mother was Malyavati Devi. In 1897 as a six year old child he was lying in bed with his father and pointed his finger towards a large window and said, “Father, look! Shiva is standing over there!” The startled father questioned, “Where is Shiva? Where is He, my son?” His son replied, “There He is standing in front of me!” His father then said, “What does Shiva look like?” And the boy replied, “He has a fair complexion, is wearing tiger skin, has matted hair on head, three eyes, in the left hand a trident and in the right hand he has a damaru.” His father didn’t see anything and Shiva vanished. That young boy Prabodh Chandra Chattopadhyaya turned into Sitaramdas later in his life. And his mission since the age of six was to awaken the sleeping masses and show them pointing his finger– “Look, there is Shiva!”
In April of 1943, in Jagannath Puri a sadhu was going around the Mandir of Jagannath Dev with a large group doing Nam Sankirtan. He was lean, had crown of matted hair adorning his head, a beard and a divine appearance. On his chest he wore the wooden sandals of his gurudev. Some local people joined his party and they were distributing some pamphlets. The sadhu did not know what was written in the pamphlets, nor were the local crowd known to him. After asking, he came to know what was being announced in those pamphlets–his own presence at Ankara Math in Cuttack at the akhaNDa nAm kIrtan. He was greatly surprised, and he found out from further questioning that they had come to know of his arrival in Orissa at this precise time from a 400 year old book maintained in the Ashram. One of the pancha sakhas of Mahaprabhu, Achyutananda, had predicted that a preacher of the Mahamantra wearing his Gurudeva’s sandals around his neck, would come to Jagannath Puri at that predicted time for preaching and spreading Sri Nam. As soon as he heard this, he went into samadhi. The detailed descriptions of his family name, the story of his life, as well as his sect etc., were all written within that book. Not only him, but the descriptions of other great saints, both predecessors and contemporaries and their lives were described in that book. The book had said about this sadhu, “God Himself will assume the body of a man and appear as an incarnation through him. You should wait for his arrival.”
The sadhu who appeared before the eyes of the omniscient saint, Achyutananda four hundred years ago, is the loving guru of thousands of devotees, Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath.