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How Hathras gave Vivekananda his first disciple 132 years ago | India News

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NEW DELHI: Around the same time of the year, 132 years ago, Hathras – an industrial hub in the British Raj known for its cotton mills, asafoetida and desi ghee production – became the meeting point of two great spiritual minds.
Swami Vivekananda, then an itinerant monk, was travelling from Vrindavan to Haridwar in September 1888 when he decided to take a train from Hathras.
A young station master from Jaunpur, Sharat Chandra Gupta, who had recently joined duty, took note of the young monk’s fascinating appearance, particularly his “devilish eyes” and invited him to his quarters.
A well-built man, Sharat – though originally from Bengal – was brought up in North India and was proficient in Hindi and Urdu.
According to the legend, a day later when Vivekananda boarded the train for his further journey, Sharat had already quit his job to join him. Popular as Gupta Maharaj in the Ramakrishna Order, he was a direct monastic disciple of Swami Vivekananda, often referred to as his first disciple. Credited with the establishment of the order in Madras, Gupta travelled to Japan in 1903 to spread Vivekananda’s teachings. His later days were spent in the company of Sister Nivedita as her protector and guide.
In his book ‘Life of Swami Vivekananda by His Eastern and Western Disciples’ (1947), Swami Virajananda writes, “When Swami Vivekananda had asked Sharat (in Hathras that day) as to what he had to offer as food to the guest, the latter replied quoting from a Persian poem, ‘Oh Beloved, you have come to my house, I shall prepare the most delicious dish for you with the flesh of my heart’.”
In the monastic life, Sharat, later Swami Sadananda, was very close to Vivekananda and he joined him in his tour of Northern India in 1897.
During his initial days in the Ramakrishna Math in Calcutta, Sadananda faced some difficulty owing to his lack of knowledge in Bengali but he overcame these challenges and devoted himself to his life as a monk.
After returning to Calcutta from his Kashmir trip (1897-98), Swami Vivekananda deputed Sadananda to the task of looking after Sister Nivedita.
Elsewhere in his book, Swami Virajananda writes that Sadananda was a daredevil, much in line with what Swami Vivekananda preferred his disciples to be. During his stay in Khetri with Swami Vivekananda, he mounted on an unruly horse and tamed it. Similarly, in Almora, he once rode the most spirited horse and tamed it. Swami Vivekananda admired his daredevilry on both occasions.
Sadanand died in 1911 in Calcutta.

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