Swami Nirmalananda

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Swami Nirmalanda
Born Tulasi Charan Dutta
(1863-12-23)23 December 1863
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India
Died 26 April 1938(1938-04-26) (aged 74)
Ottapalam, Kerala
Guru Sri Ramakrishna
Philosophy Vedanta

Swami Nirmalananda, born as Tulasi Charan Dutta in Calcutta, was a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna,[1] the 19th century mystic and Hindu saint from India, and took Sanyasa (monastic vows) from Swami Vivekananda along with Swami Brahmananda and others. He was initiated by Sri Ramakrishna, on which fact a few later day antagonists tried to cast doubt in the Bangalore Court but into which question the Court refused to get into. Swami Nirmalananda played a key role in establishing Ramakrishna Math and Mission chiefly in South India, in Kerala and Bangalore and Tamil Nadu and also in U.S.A. (in Brooklyn), Burma and Bangladesh (Life of Swami Nirmalananda and old issues of Prabuddha Bharata)


Initial days[edit]

He was born on 23 December 1863, in Bosepara Lane in the Bagbazar area of Calcutta, to Debnath Dutta and Thakamani Devi. Tulasi was the youngest among his brothers. At a very young age he was very delicate in health. He was sent to the school at a very late age. His family had establishments in Benaras and Calcutta. Tulasi lost his mother at the age of 10 years. Subsequently he got admitted to the Bengali Tolla High School in Benaras and became the classmate of Hariprasanna Chattopadhyay who subsequently came to be known as Swami Vijnanananda, another great monk of Ramakrishna Mission and a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. At home he learnt Sanskrit. And later he taught the Upanishads, Brahmasutras and Gita to the Brahmacharins at Belur, and he was also able to converse fluently in Sanskrit with the scholars who visited South India. Tulasi also visited Trailinga Swami in Benaras. His father died in his Calcutta residence in November 1877, while Tulasi was still in Benaras. Thereafter Tulasi came to Calcutta to appear for the Entrance examination of Calcutta University. He also engaged himself in physical training and became an able gymnast and athlete and also trained other young men in physical exercises. He passed the Entrance examination in 1883 and got a certificate of appreciation and a medal from Raja of Talcher.[2]

He first met Sri Ramakrishna in the house of Balaram Bose, a lay disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, who was also his neighbour, in 1882, when he was eighteen years of age. He visited Dakshineswar temple to meet Sri Ramakrishna, first with his friend Harinath and later alone. In the second visit he met Sri Ramakrishna. Tulasi used to meet Sri Ramakrishna occasionally in the house of Balaram Bose and got his initiation from him.[2] He also met Sri Ramakrishna when the latter was lying ill in Cossipore garden house.[3] After the death of their master the a few of the future monastic disciples, led by Narendranath Dutta, later Swami Vivekananda formed the Baranagar Math which Tulasi would visit now and then. The brother disciples also used to spend some time in his house in Bagbazar. Later in early 1887. Tulasi joined the Baranagar Math as a permanent resident and became the right hand of Sashi.

Monastic life[edit]

Tulasi, like several of his other brother disciples, got his monastic vow from Swami Vivekananda and got the new name Swami Nirmalananda (Nirmala - without blemish/pure, Ananda - bliss, "The pure and untarnished joy and bliss").[4] Swami Nirmalananda assisted Swami Ramakrishnananda in serving the brother disciples in both Baranagar and Alambazar Math and was a tireless worker.[5]


In 1888, Swami Nirmalananda went out as an itinerant monk along with a few of his brother disciples. He first went to Kamarpukur, the birthplace of the Master to stay for a few days with Sri Sarada Devi,[6] the wife of Sri Ramakrishna. They went to Ghazipur by foot and met monk Pavhari Baba and Hariprasanna, later Swami Vijnanananda. They also went to Benaras, Ayodhya, Rishikesh, Uttarkashi, Devaprayag, Kedarnath and trekked up to Gomukh. On their way back they met Swami Vivekananda in Rishikesh. Later he travelled with Sarada Devi, Swami Saradananda (Sarat Maharaj), and Swami Yogananda (Yogin Maharaj) to Koilwar on Sone river. He stayed for some time in caves of the Himalayas during winter, and travelled in Tibetan hills. Later in 1899 he travelled to Rajputana for famine relief work. At the time of the death of Swami Vivekananda he was in the Himalayas. After his return from the Americas he travelled first to East Bengal and Assam and then to Kashmir. That was his first visit to Kerala, where he would spend his later life. Swami Nirmalananda travelled to Trivandrum in response to the invitation of the Vedanta society of Trivandrum in 1911. There he stayed for some time and delivered several lectures. He travelled to Kanyakumari the same year. Early next year he went to Ootacamund in Nilgiris to preside over the third anniversary of Vivekananda Association, Kaity. He also met a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna from Malabar, and on his invitation visited Badagara in British Malabar. From there he travelled to Calicut; in 1914 he travelled to Ottapalam, which was to be his future place of work. He travelled once or twice a year to Kerala and Malabar to establishing ashramas, meet devotees and deliver lectures.

Relations with Swami Vivekananda[edit]

When Swami Vivekananda returned to India from West in 1897, Nirmalananda was very devoted to the leader and rendered many a service to him, like cooking for him, working as his private secretary and tending to his needs. Tulasi Maharaj arranged for the initiation of Swami Shuddhananda, from Swami Vivekananda.,[7] Tulasi often accompanied the leader in playing percussion instruments like Pakhawaj while the latter sang devotional songs. He was deeply affected by the demise of the latter in 1902.

Major work[edit]

On 10 February 1901, when Swami Vivekananda wanted to register the Ramakrishna Math as a Trust, while all other living disciples of Sri Ramakrishna agreed, Swami Nirmalananda and Swami Adbhutananda refused to become Trustees. At Swami Vivekananda's and other disciples' insistence Swami Nirmalananda became the assistant secretary of the newly established Ramakrishna Math and Mission. After the demise of Vivekananda, Nirmalananda was sent to Americas by Swami Brahmananda in 1903 upon a call from Swami Abhedananda. He taught Yoga classes in New York, and started a Vedanta centre at Brooklyn. He also gave lectures and taught Sanskrit and the Upanishads. He stayed in America for two and half years, then returned to India, when Swami Brahmananda called him for 'the regeneration of the Motherland'.[8] Swami Nirmalananda helped in developing and establishing the Ramakrishna Mission centres in Bangalore and Kerala. He was also instrumental in getting Sri Sarada Devi to Bangalore Ramakrishna Math. In 1904 the Bangalore centre was established by Swami Ramakrishnananda and an Ashrama was built there by Swami Brahmananda, the then president. Nirmalananda was sent to head the Bangalore Ashrama in 1909. He delivered many lectures and also looked after the day-to-day affairs of the Ashrama. In 1911 when Sarada Devi travelled to Rameswaram, Nirmalananda brought her to Bangalore for a visit. The Ashrama in Haripad was opened on 4 May 1913. Swami Nirmalananda established strict observance of the end of all caste-based discrimination, usual in Kerala at the time, in this Ashrama.,[6] In 1916 Swami Nirmalananda began constructing an ashrama near Trivandrum. He desired to have the foundation stone laid by Swami Brahmananda, president of Belur Math. On 26 November, Swamis Nirmalananda along Brahmananda reached Kerala. They travelled to various places including Ottapalam, Kottayam, Haripad, Quilon, and reached Trivandrum on 8 December, and on 9 December Swami Brahmananda laid the foundation for the ashrama.,[9]

In March 1924 the main building of the ashrama in Trivandrum was completed. The consecration was on 7 March, the birthday anniversary of Sri Ramakrishna. In 1925 he stayed in Trivandrum Ashram for about a month and gave Sanyasa to seven disciples namely Swami Nrisimhananda, Swami Ojasananda, Swami Oorjasananda, Swami Puranjanananda, Swami Balakrishnananda, Swami Arjavananda and Swami Umeshananda.[10] In December 1926, The Ramakrishna Niranjana Ashrama was opened in Ottapalam. Foundation stone for Ashrama at Coorg was laid on 7 February 1927. He also established schools for the education of children in Palaparam - sarada Vidyalaya and Niranjana Vidyalaya,[11] and continued acting against caste discrimination. He also gave Sannyas or the supreme vow of renunciation to many of his followers and attendants. He started the Kumari Puja and worked for the betterment of women of Namboodiri caste who were socially oppressed.

He established the Ramakrishna Sarada Math at Baghbazar and became its first president. The corresponding philanthropic mission was named Vivekananda Mission.


He performed many of the household chores in the monasteries and also taught Sanskrit grammar and other scriptures to the new members in the Math.[12] He nursed sick patients, including those suffering from contagious diseases. When the new Math was established in Belur, Tulasi Maharaj worked in gardens and fields together with the new inmates, helped in training them in physical exercises, taught them scriptures and used to play with them.[13] He played musical instruments and would often accompany Swami Vivekananda's singing on percussion instruments.


Swami Nirmalananda died in April 1938 in the Ramakrishna Ashrama near Ottapulam, Kerala.


  • To make real progress in meditation, a part of the mind should always be given to God, whatever be the work you are engaged in. If you are able to do that, your mind will get concentrated as soon as you sit down for meditation. The thought of God can be kept continuously under all conditions, by a little practice. Suppose you have a tooth-ache. Are you not able to attend to all your daily duties in spite of the continuous pain. Similarly by a little practice you will reach a state in which you cannot give up the thought of God even for a single moment.

Books and references[edit]

  • Life of Sri Ramakrishna with a Foreword by Mahatma Gandhi published by Advaita Ashrama
  • Sri Ramakrishna the Great Master by Swami Saradananda published by Ramakrishna Math, Madras
  • Sri Ramakrishna Kathamritam by 'M' published by Sri Ma Trust, Chandigarh
  • The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by 'M' translated by Swami Nikhilananda, the First edition, Ramakrishna Vivekananda Vedanta Society, New York
  • Swami Nirmalananda (Tulsi Maharaj), a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna: a focus on facts and facets, by Brahma Gopal Dutt, Ajoy Kumar Basu, Amal Narayan Datta



  1. ^ "Swami Nirmalananda: His life and teachings". vivekananda.net. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Swami Nirmalananda, his Life and Teachings". vivekananda.net. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  3. ^ The Memoirs of Sri Ramakrishna, by Swami Abhedananda, 1907, an English translation of the Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita by M, page 454
  4. ^ "Swami Nirmalananda, his Life and Teachings, page 26". vivekananda.net. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  5. ^ "Swami Nirmalananda, his Life and Teachings, page 27". vivekananda.net. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Swami Vivekananda in India: A Corrective Biography, p85
  7. ^ Swami Vivekananda in India: A Corrective Biography, p43-44
  8. ^ "Swami Nirmalananda, his Life and Teachings". vivekananda.net. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  9. ^ Swami Vivekananda in India: A Corrective Biography, p 102-108
  10. ^ "Swami Nirmalananda, his Life and Teachings". vivekananda.net. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  11. ^ Swami Vivekananda in India: A Corrective Biography, p147
  12. ^ "Swami Nirmalananda, his Life and Teachings, page 30". vivekananda.net. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  13. ^ "Swami Nirmalananda, his Life and Teachings, page 45". vivekananda.net. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 

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