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Puja and bhandara on June 30

Swami Atmasthananda, the 15th president of Ramakrishna Math and Mission who passed away yesterday, was cremated tonight after a gun salute in front of thousands of devotees standing in rain to witness the last rites at Belur Math.

By Our Bureau
  • Published 20.06.17
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June 19: Swami Atmasthananda, the 15th president of Ramakrishna Math and Mission who passed away yesterday, was cremated tonight after a gun salute in front of thousands of devotees standing in rain to witness the last rites at Belur Math.

The mortal remains of the swami, who had been at the helm of the order since December 2007, were taken from the cultural hall on the Belur Math premises to in front of the Sri Ramakrishna Temple at 8.15pm amidst chantings from Gita and the Upanishads by monks.

From there, the swami's body was taken to the Main Courtyard, Old Shrine, Swami Bramhananda Temple and the Holy Mother Temple. The mortal remains were then bathed at the Holy Mother's Ghat and placed for the final darshan before being taken to the Swami Vivekananda Temple. The funeral pyre was lit at 9.45pm.

Swami Atmasthanada had been undergoing treatment for age-related ailments at Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan since February 2015. He breathed his last at 5.30pm yesterday.

Swami Suvirananda, the general secretary of the Math and Mission, urged the departted monk's disciples to stick to vegetarian food and chant the deeksha mantra for three days. "A puja and bhandara will be held in his memory on June 30. All disciples are welcome," he said.

Through the day, devotees came in waves to pay their last respects. "Our gates were open all night. There was steady stream of visitors till 12.30am or so. From 5am today, there has been no let-up," said Sunil Ash, who had been volunteering at the shoe deposit counter since 6am yesterday.

"I have not been home since. I just sent a message that President Maharaj is no more. My family understood what that meant for us," he said.

The Math office sent out word yesterday evening to affiliate institutes seeking volunteers. "About 200 more have come from various places to work here today," Ash said.

Such was the turnout that the khichudi prasad, which is served till 1pm daily, had to be made available for another hour and a half.

"Though there was no plate count as lunch was free today, we must have served to more than 4,000 devotees. But unlike on other days, many did not eat here today," a Math official said.