Why did Ramkrishna Paramhansa choose Kali as his deity?
Can you imagine Ramkrishna Paramhansa, the saint whose name is inseparable with Maa Bhabatarini of Dakshineshwar Kali Temple came from a family who were a devout follower of Sri Ramachandra? His family had worshipped Lord Ram for generations and his father also worshipped Goddess Sitala and Shiva in Kamarpukur. Ramakrishna Dev’s Tantrik guru was Bhairavi Brahmani, a Vaishnavite Tantrika and Ramakrishna Dev worshipped both Krishna and Kali.
In the initial years of his life, he had no special inclination towards Maa Kali, the Divine Mother. It was after he accompanied his elder sibling Ramkumar to Jhamapukur, that he began spending hours in the Siddheshwari Kali Temple at Thanthania. He worked as a priest in the house of Raja Digambar Mitra and spent the rest of his time in front of the Siddheshwari Temple. Locals knew about his mellifluous voice and often requested him to sing and he was happy to oblige.
Meanwhile, Ramkumar was drawn to the worship of the Divine Mother after reading scriptures and later sought a spiritual guru who initiated him to Shakti Puja. When Ramkumar and Sri Ramakrishna were living at Dakshineswar Temple, Ramkumar asked Sri Ramakrishna to formally take diksha from a guru and get initiated to Shakti mantra. An enthused Ramakrishna Dev decided to take initiation from Kenaram Bhattacharya, who often came to the temple and was respected as a devout spiritual aspirant. Swami Saradananda writes: ‘We have heard that as soon as the Master was initiated he went into ecstasy and that Kenaram was amazed by his extraordinary devotion.’ He would often sit on the banks of the Ganga spending hours talking to the Divine Mother.
He cared only for Maa Kali and his heart ached for her vision. So great was his longing, that one day he ran blindly towards a sword on the wall to kill himself. But before the blade pierced his body he collapsed and his consciousness was flooded by wave upon wave of crystal clear blissful light. Thus, the Divine Mother became alive within him. One evening Rani Rashmoni’s son-in-law, Mathur babu watched Sri Ramakrishna pacing up and down outside his room. As he walked one way, he took the form of Kali. As he turned and walked back, he assumed the form of Shiva. Mathur fell at his feet in awe.
Sri Ramakrishna Dev himself considered to be a child of the Mother and often said he was simply an instrument in the hands of the Mother, and She blessed the devotees through him, and it was She who laid out the plan for his life such as practicing sadhanas of various religious paths. As Swami Saradananda writes: ‘The Mother had made him understand clearly that it was She who had put that desire into his mind (to see Her in various forms and by different spiritual paths) on many occasions.’
On his death-bed, one day at the Cossipore Garden House, Sri Ramakrishna Dev said: ‘There are two people residing here. One, the Divine Mother … Yes, one is She. And the other is Her devotee. It is the devotee who broke his arm, and it is the devotee who is now ill. Do you understand?’