In Search of Unbroken Joy
The story of a young man who left everything behind to wander through the steep hills of the Himalayas and deep jungles of northern India is a true one. Learn what prompted him to begin this journey.
The journey from a man to a monk; Image Source: Belurmath

Born on 30th September 1864

An orthodox and respectable brahmin, Gangadhar Ghatak as he was named, lived in the Ahiritola area of Kolkata. Early on, he was always a man with principles who dearly admired the beauty of Hindu customs and traditions. Not just this, this lively and disciplined boy believed in simplicity and always felt affectionate towards humankind. He thus, considered it his sole responsibility to serve those whom he can help. Even as a child, he would often give his food to beggars without a thought and help his mates in any form of assistance like once he gave his shirt to a poor classmate who wore a torn shirt. Thus, his spiritual and religious inclination was intense, right from the beginning.

Gangadhar along with his friend Harinath once visited Dakshineswar Kali Temple, where he met Sri Ramakrishna, the greatest Hindu religious leader. The young man at that point was fascinated by his words and longed to learn more from the master. Because of this interaction, he even began to visit his place more frequently and formed a close association with other young disciples including Narendranath Dutta (later, Swami Vivekananda).

As a matter of fact, in later years, this place changed Ganghadhar for real good as he could channelise his energy more towards service rather than bending towards spiritual practices.

While being under his tutelage, Gangadhar served the master for years including the last days of his life when he was sick, but things changed after the death of Ramakrishna.

When the first monastery of Ramakrishna, Baranagar math was formed, many of the close disciples immediately joined the mission. However, Gangadhar decided to renounce his family life and embraced the idea of travelling across the subcontinent in search of truth. As a mendicant, he eventually set out on a long pilgrimage with an ochre cloth that was once gifted to him by the master himself.

In this journey on foot, which began in Bodh Gaya where Buddha first attained Nirvana, Gangadhar continued along deserted Himalayan paths for three and a half years and covered over a thousand miles. Despite the hardships of the journey, he even visited Tibet, met many of the great saints of his time, and did all of this without any assistance, map, money, or additional clothing. Between the woods, Gangadhar was all alone, but he survived because he assimilated with everyone by being one of them.

A record of Gangadhar's journey with his own anecdotes and personal experiences from the travel has been included in Smriti-Katha - From Holy Wanderings to the Service of God in Man.

With his thought rooted in both Vedanta and his personal experience, he yearned to be lost in the solitude of the Himalayas. Gangadhar once was able to meet Bhaskarnanda, a great Sanskrit scholar, during this time who offered his services to teach the Vedas to him. He however replied— ”The power of sight which I would use for attaining knowledge by reading books, please turn it inward, so that I can experience the Atman.” In admiration of his profound thoughts, the scholar was left speechless.

On Gangadhar's return to Baranagara Math, the disciples were amazed at how he had managed to complete this adventurous journey. Following this, the young man took monastic vows and was baptised as Swami Akhandananda. From renouncing materialistic culture to enduring every challenge and serving people during his travels, he was regarded as the ideal candidate to have been associated with the supreme bliss of the universe in a rather absolute form. Hence, the name literally meant Unbroken joy i.e. happiness in its purest form, while he officially committed himself to live a monastic life until eternity.

In the year following his return, he went on more travel journeys to the Himalayas along with Swami Vivekananda this time and was even honoured as the third president of the Ramakrishna Mission.
Ishita Gupta Author
While I write life stories of others, make sure to get me the perfect 30 words that define me. Otherwise, I will mess it up with my own silly jokes.

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