Balaram Basu (1842-90)—“The Master’s foremost lay disciple” according to the Holy Mother (The Gospel of Holy Mother) and acknowledged by the Master himself to be one of his four “rasaddars” (supplier of stores). Balaram’s residence in Calcutta, being the Master’s seat in the city, was the scene of much singing, dancing and sublime discourses, the divine playground of the Master’s divine play. Born in a wealthy and distinguished Vaishnava family of Baghbazar on 5.12.1842, second son of Radhamohan and grandson of Guruprasad, from whose installation of the images of Radha and Shyam in his house, “Shyambazar” presumably got its name. Guruprasad being dispossessed of his ancestral home, sons Radhamohan and Bindumadhab built up the estate at Kothar in Orissa. The Basus established temple at Kothar, Puri and Vrindavan, also guesthouses “Shashi Niketan” and “Kshetrabasis’s Math” at Puri. Krishnaram Basu, one of their ancestors, initiated the Rathayatra at Mahesh, built a wide road from Cuttack to Puri, set up alms-houses and shrines. Balaram himself was the image of simplicity, humility and piety. Married to Krishnabhabini, elder sister of Baburam Maharaj. Having heard about the Master at Kothar was fascinated by the Master on his first visit to Dakshineswar. Visits became frequent and regular. He sensed the presence of Sri Chaitanya in the Master and surrendered himself body and soul to the service of the Master. His relatives initially disapproving, by and by the Master commanded the reverence and devotion of the entire family.
Their residence (57, Ramkanta Bose Street) became the Master’s resting place in Calcutta, the only place where he had his meals and passed nights in Calcutta, except Rani Rasmani’s Janbazar residence during the lifetime of Mathur Babu. Whenever the Master arrived at Balaram’s house he would send word to devotees of his presence there and they flocked to him. Met important personages too there. On his last visit to Calcutta, dissatisfied with the house first rented for him, he lived in Balaram’s residence till he moved to Shyampukur. The Master had “seen” Balaram among the followers of Sri Chaitanya with “naked eyes” (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 332). Every year the Master enthusiastically observed Rathayatra at Balaram’s. Once the Master sent the Holy Mother from Dakshineswar to Baghbazar to visit Balaram’s ailing wife, as reported by Latu Maharaj. Till the Master’s last day Balaram bore most of his expenses. At Cossipore, expressing distaste for contributory arrangements, the Master had directed Balaram to provide his food. After the Master’s passing the young devotees preserved a large part of his relics in an urn and kept it in Balaram’s house with his other belongings till they were taken to Baranagore Math. At Baranagore Balaram supported his brother-disciples as well as he could. Even after the Master had gone his house continued to be the Calcutta centre of the Math’s activities. The Master’s monastic disciples used the house as their very own place, where they came and went, lived and worked as they pleased, it being their second home. Swamiji founded the Ramakrishna Mission at a meeting held in this house. The monks came there to recuperate during illness, Swamis Brahmananda and Premananda died there. When Holy Mother had to leave Cossipore soon after the Master’s passing, she found shelter there. Till the construction of her own house, the Udbodhan, she often put up at Balaram’s house when in Calcutta. The house, which the Master is said to have visited at least 100 times, came to be known as Balaram Mandir. The news of Balaram’s critical condition brought Swamiji post-haste to his bedside. With Swami Shivananda and other monks nursing him, Balaram died on 13.4.1890. After his demise, the house continuing to be used by the monks, finally went to the Order. His grandson, son of Krishnamayi, was Swami Akunthananda, a monk of the Order.