Girishchandra Ghosh (28.2.1844 – 9.2.1912)—Outstanding lay disciple of the Master, sinner turned saint. Poet, playwright, actor, one of the founders of modern Bengali theatre. As actor and playwright sustained the Bengali stage for about 50 years. Born at paternal home at 13, Bosepara Lane, to pious parents. Father, Nilkamal, an employee of a mercantile firm with sharp intellect, mother, Raimani, a devout woman with love for literature. Lost mother at the age of 10 and father at 14. Married at 15. Studied up to Entrance class and turned wilful, reckless and dissolute, leading a life of drunkenness and debauchery. Continued reading privately, well-versed in history, logic, philosophy, English literature, the Indian epics and mythology. Predilection for literary pursuits and fascination for the amateur theatre. Evolved into actor and playwright of rare talent, the theatre being his profession from 1881. First saw the Master probably at Dinanath Basu’s residence (1877), meeting him again at Balaram Basu’s house. On 21.9.1884 the Master visited the Star Theatre to witness a performance of “Chaitanya-lila” and was received respectfully by Girish who made arrangements for a comfortable viewing. The Master attended four more performances at the Star. Meanwhile Girish drawn imperceptibly and irresistibly to the Master, visited Ramchandra Datta’s residence unasked on learning of the Master’s presence there and then began visiting Dakshineswar. Remorse had set in. With firm faith in the Master’s being an incarnation of God, surrendered himself heart and soul at his feet, giving him “power of attorney” at his behest over his worldly and spiritual life (Sri Ramakrishna, the Great Master, Vol. I, p. 376). On the night of Kali Puja (6.11.85) led other devotees in worshipping the Divine Mother in the Master with flowers, fruits and other offerings, chanting hymns, singing songs (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, pp. 923-30). On 1.1.86 at Cossipore Girish’s words of exalted adoration induced in the Master the divine mood in which he bestowed his grace on all and sundry.
In appreciation of Girish’s unswerving faith the Master commented, “Girish has more than a hundred per cent faith” (Sri Ramakrishna, the Great Master, Vol. 1, p. 448). Assured him, “You will be purer day by day. People will marvel at you” (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 735). Visited Girish’s residence several times, three being recorded in the Gospel (pp. 699, 732, 762) and one mentioned in the memoirs of Latu Maharaj (Smritikatha, pp. 156-57). At Cossipore the Master blessed Girish with two garlands worn by him and refreshments were brought and offered to him at the Master’s behest. The Master, unable to stand, somehow crawled to a pitcher and poured out a glass of water, offering it to Girish (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, pp. 955-56). Of the 12 pieces of ochre cloth brought by Gopal Ghosh (later Swami Advaitananda) at Cossipore, the Master had one put by for Girish, giving the others to his band of young devotees. Regarding Girish’s association with the theatre the Master declared, “It is doing good to many” (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 735). In a state of samadhi the Master had seen Girish to be a “bhairav”, one of Shiva’s fierce followers. After the Master’s demise Girish wished to embrace monastic life but the Holy Mother and brother-disciples at the Baranagore Math dissuaded him. Visited Jayrambati with Swami Niranjanananda (1891) and discovered the Holy Mother to be “the goddess” whom he had seen in his youth in a vision, by whose grace he had survived a severe attack of cholera. It was in response to Girish’s question, “What kind of mother are you?” that Holy Mother’s celebrated declaration had been occasioned: “I am the true mother, not the guru’s consort, not a mother through a chosen relationship, not a mother merely by name, the true one, the true mother.”
About Girish, Swamiji had said, “In G.C. alone I have seen that true resignation—that true spirit of a servant of the Lord. And was it not because he was ever ready to sacrifice himself that Sri Ramakrishna took upon himself all his responsibility? What a unique spirit of resignation to the Lord! I have not met his parallel. From him have I learnt the lesson of self-surrender” (The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. 7, p. 271). Died on 8.2.1912, last words: “Master, you have come, please destroy my worldly intoxication.”
Many of Girishchandra’s plays praised by the Master himself, deserve to be read for their literary excellence. Out of his 29 plays on religious themes 15 had been written after contact with the Master. Some articles by him compiled and published under the title “Thakur Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda” (1388, according to the Bengali calendar). Among memorials instituted in his honour are the guest house at Belur Math named Girish Memorial Building, the G. C. Ghosh Memorial Lecture at the Calcutta University, “Girish Bhavan” at 13, Bosepara Lane replaced by the “Girish Memorial” on Girish Avenue and his statue installed in Girish Park in north Calcutta.
Once during the Master’s visit to the theatre to attend a performance of “Nimai Sannyasa”, Girishchandra, in a drunken state, prayed to him that he be born as Girish’s son so that he may serve the Master to his heart’s content. The Master not consenting, Girish abused him in filthy language, an angry Latu being prevented from assaulting him by Devendranath Mazumdar. The Master, however, forgave him. Within a year of the Master’s demise his second wife gave birth to a son and died a year later. Girish, believing the child to be the Master, reared him not only with great care but also deference. He took the 3-year old child to the Holy Mother then residing in a rented house in Baranagore (1890) where the child, impatient to see her, climbed upstairs alone and prostrated at her feet. He then went down and dragged Girish to the Holy Mother and, in tears, Girish fell at her feet. The boy died after some days. Earlier, the child, suffering from a liver ailment had once been given up for dead. Girish had been weeping inconsolably when Swamiji had arrived and, moved by Girish’s grief, spent some time in the dead child’s room with all windows and doors shut. When he left the room the child had revived. A year later the child being again critically ill, in the absence of Swamiji, Girish appealed to the Swamis Saradananda and Niranjanananda to save him but they being powerless to do so the child eventually died. Grief-stricken, for some time Girish gave up the theatre. Visited Kamarpukur, Jayrambati and Varanasi, devoting himself to spiritual practices. Upon his return from Varanasi resumed his association with the theatre which lasted till the last days of his life. It is said that upon the request of Girish, Swamiji had initiated the child into sannyasa before he died (Swami Vivekanander Jibaner Ghatanabali).