Bhavanath Chattopadhyay (1863–98)
One of the young devotees designated by the Master to be “Iswarakoti”. Handsome, devout youth belonging to the close circle of young devotees at Dakshineswar, very dear to the Master for his faith, devotion, humility and simplicity. Only son of Ramdas and Ichamoyee of Kolupara, Baranagore (presently Atul Krishna Banerjee Lane). In his youth engaged in welfare activities. Association with Brahmo Samaj followed by friendship with Narendranath. In the holy company of the Master in 1881 and considered by him to belong to the class of “nityasiddha”, whose “spiritual consciousness has been awake since their very birth” (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 182). “They are eternally free. Religious practise on their part is superfluous” (Ibid., p. 279). The Master looked on him as the embodiment of Narayan and once said to him, “The very sight of you inspires me” (Ibid., p. 194). His intimacy with Narendranath led the Master to compare their natures to Prakriti and Purusha (Ibid., p. 279). The Master also advised him to renounce wealth and sex rather than give up certain varieties of food. Bhavanath accompanied the Master to the Danda Mahotsava at Panihati with others (1883). On 25.4.1884 on the occasion of the Master’s birthday celebrations at Dakshineswar Bhavanath gently supported the broken arm of the Master, then in a state of samadhi, on his shoulder. During the same celebrations in February 1885 had the rare fortune to feed the Master with his own hands. While teaching at a school Bhavanath married eleven-year old Kiranshashi. In time ties with the Master weakened and he also lost contact with Narendranath. On 22.4.1886 the Master urged him by signs to be a great hero and advised Narendranath to give him a lot of courage (Ibid., p. 965). However, in view of his conduct during the Master’s illness the latter revised his opinion of Bhavanath, counting him among those devotees who belonged to the outer circle and stating that he was not in the Master’s thought any more (Ibid., p. 933).
Nevertheless, Bhavanath’s invaluable achievement was to have the Master photographed at Dakshineswar by an acquaintance of his, Avinash Dam of Baranagore, and give the world the photograph worshipped everywhere today. After the Master’s demise he found the house at Baranagore for his brother-disciples. Selling his own property at Baranagore moved to a new residence on Bihari Doctor Road in Bhawanipore. Serving as an Inspector of Schools, died of Kala Azar on 14.7.1897 (or 8.3.1898) leaving behind only daughter Pratibha. Having a sweet voice often sang for the pleasure of the Master. Baranagore People’s Library on Kuthighat Road is a memorial to him.