Gauri-Ma (1857? – 1938)—Founder of Sri Sri Saradeshwari Ashrama, Baghbazar. Monastic name Gauri Puri. Born Mridani to parents Parvati Charan Chattopadhyay and Giribala Devi. Called Gaur-dasi by the Master and Holy Mother. In her childhood while playing on the road had met a holy man who had touched her head and blessed her. Feeling an irresistible attraction for him and learning that he had an ashrama at Nimta, secretly went there on foot. Met the holy man who initiated her. Studied in a Christian missionary school but later left it for a Hindu School. A nun from Vrindavan gave her a Damodar Shila, a stone image of Vishnu, worshipped by her. This she had all her life. Developed intense distaste for domestic life and fled from home when on a pilgrimage to Ganga Sagar. After extensive pilgrimages and practice of severe austerities went to Vrindavan where she lost consciousness after a vision.
Taken by Balaram Basu to the Master whom she believed to be an avatar of Chaitanya. Introduced by him to Holy Mother and thereafter stayed frequently at Nahabat. At the Master’s behest set up an institution for women in Calcutta, Sri Sri Saradeshwari Ashrama. She strove hard to raise funds and built a house for the Ashrama close to Holy Mother’s residence at Baghbazar where more than 50 women lived and were trained by her. Holy Mother’s comment, “Gaur-dasi takes wonderful care of the girls at her ashrama…. The Master is making her do all this, this being her last birth.” After the Master’s demise, in a vision he forbade Holy Mother to remove her bangles as a mark of widowhood, asking her to consult “Gaur-dasi”. She explained to Holy Mother that the Master being a divine incarnation, therefore eternal, she could never be a widow.
Met Mahatma Gandhi at the residence of Chittaranjan Das. Both leaders were deeply impressed by her personality and appreciated her work among women. On the occasion of the Master’s birth-centenary (1936) she broadcast an address in Bengali on All India Radio. Died on 1.3.1938, having forecast her death the previous day and duly prepared herself for the event, putting on ceremonial clothes, uttering “Guru Sri Ramakrishna” three times and engaging in japam till the end came (Condensed from They Lived With God, pp. 155-71). A shrine was built and dedicated to her memory on 14.4.1952 at Vrindavan. A mausoleum stands on the site of her cremation at Cossipore burning-ghat.
Mother of Gauri-ma, a spiritual aspirant. Upon her request both the Master and Holy Mother graced her residence by their presence. The Master enjoyed listening to the self-composed devotional songs sung by her (Gauri-ma, p. 101). Giribala Devi, on a visit to Holy Mother, was overwhelmed seeing her chosen deity standing before her in the form of Holy Mother (Sarada Ramakrishna, pp. 123-24).