Kolkata : Swami Gahanananda, the 14th president of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, died here Sunday evening after a protracted illness. He was 91.
The end came at 5.35 p.m. at the Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan hospital, the Ramakrishna Order said in a statement.
His body would be kept at Belur Math, the global headquarters of the order on the banks of the Hooghly in Howrah district near here for the visitors to pay their last respects. He would be cremated at 12.30 p.m. Monday.
Gahanananda had been suffering from various old-age ailments.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi mourned the death of the monk on whose passing away a pall of gloom descended the Order.
An able administrator, Gahanananda became the president of the Order on May 25, 2005 after serving as its vice-president for several years.
He was born in Paharpur village of Sylhet district (now in Bangladesh) in October 1916.
Known as Naresh Ranjan Roy Choudhury in his pre-monastic days, Gahanananda joined the Ramakrishna Order at its centre in Bhubaneswar in January 1939. He received diksha or initiation in 1939 and took a vow of brahmacharya (celibacy) in 1944 with the name ‘Amrita-chaitanya’.
He was greatly influenced by the dedicated lives of some of the monks of Ramakrishna Order, especially Swami Prabhananda (Ketaki Maharaj), who was his cousin in his pre-monastic life.
Gahanananda had once met Swami Abhedanandaji Maharaj, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. He served at the Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, from 1942 to 1952.
From 1953 to 1958, he was in the Shillong centre, where he worked under the guidance of Swami Saumyanandaji Maharaj. During this period he also organized flood relief operations in Assam a couple of times.
Keenly interested in service to sick and suffering people, Gahanananda was posted to the Mission’s hospital centre, Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan here, in 1958.
He headed the hospital for 22 years and worked tirelessly to develop the services of the Seva Pratishthan to cater to the medical needs of more and more people belonging to poor and low-income sections of society.
The small maternity hospital was converted into a huge 550-bed, well-equipped hospital that it is today.
Gahanananda was elected a trustee of the Ramakrishna Math and member of the governing body of the Ramakrishna Mission in 1965. In 1979, he was appointed an assistant secretary of the twin organisations.
He became the general secretary of the Math and Mission in 1989 and continued in that post for three years till 1992 when he became vice-president of the Order.
In 1993, Gahanananda represented the Ramakrishna Order at the commemorative function organised in Chicago to celebrate the centenary of Swami Vivekananda’s historic appearance at the World Parliament of Religions.
From 1992, he was also simultaneously the head of Ramakrishna Math (Yogodyan) at Kankurgachhi, Kolkata.
As vice-president of the Math and Mission, Gahanananda travelled extensively in India and abroad.
Swami Vivekananda had founded the Ramakrishna Mission Association in 1897. The body received a legal status and was registered as ‘Ramakrishna Mission’ in 1909.
Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission are together referred to as the Ramakrishna Order.
There are over 138 official centres of the Ramakrishna Order and many more unofficial or unaffiliated ones in the Indian subcontinent, Europe, Russia, Japan, South America, Africa, Canada and the US.