For several years, the birth anniversaries of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda were celebrated at Shibnagar, the expenses being borne by the Maharaja of Kasimbazar, the Berhampur gentry, and the neighbouring Hindu and Muslim public. Since no deity has been installed ceremonially at the Ashrama, the anniversary food offerings were placed before the portrait of Sri Ramakrishna. The principal feature of the birthday observances was the feeding of the Lord in the poor. About this, Swami Akhandananda related the following:
‘The anniversary was being celebrated. Hungry men and woman in hundreds were sitting on the main road in front of the Ashrama, with leaf plates before them. The kitchuri had not been brought down yet. It was being offered before the Master’s portrait. The Master became impatient and said in my ears: “Look, they are sitting there with their leaf plates, eagerly waiting to be served. It is through their mouths that I shall eat. Serve the food to me on their plates.” As I heard this, I told the people to make haste. The serving began, and the people started to eat at once.’
Swami Akhandananda’s attitude, when offering food to the Lord in the poor on anniversaries, was just like offering it to the deity in the temple. When all had eaten, it gave him great satisfaction of heart to take a few grains left on their plates as prasada.