Swami Atmananda (Shukul Maharaj, 1868-1923)
Pre-monastic name Govinda Prasad Shukul, disciple of Swamiji. Born in paternal home at Devipur village in Malda. Grandfather had hailed from Purnea in Bihar and settled in Malda. A brilliant student, passed Entrance Examination (1890) from Chanchal Raj High English School with scholarship. Passed FA from Ripon College with distinction and studied there up to B.A. Govinda, brought up by his uncle Guruprasad, a priest, had been deeply influenced by the piety of the latter. At Ripon College his close friends were some boys of a religious bent of mind, all of whom later were disciples of Swamiji. He lived in the house of Khagen, later Swami Vimalananda. The others were later known as Swamis Virajananda, Bodhananda and Shuddhananda (Sudhir from City College). With these friends he visited the Kankurgachi Yogodyan, Baranagore Math, and Dakshineswar. They also met close devotees of the Master. Mantra-diksha from Holy Mother while a student. To guard against his spiritual tendencies parents resorted to early marriage. Govinda began frequenting Alambazar Math and under the spiritual guidance of Swami Ramakrishnananda joined the Math (1896). Initiated into sannyasa by Swamiji (22.2.1898). Practised spiritual disciplines at Vrindavan. Rendered valuable service during plague epidemic at Calcutta (1899), helped Swami Kalyanananda in conducting drought relief at Kishangarh in Rajputana (1900-1901). Grief-stricken upon Swamiji’s passing away, dwelt for some time in a thatched hut beside the cremation site (1902). At the behest of Swamiji had learned to play the tabla and accompanied Swamiji on the tabla on several occasions. Trustee and Member of Governing Body of the Math and the Mission (7.5.1903). Head of Bangalore Ashrama (1904-1909), impressing devotees by his spirituality. Accompanied Holy Mother on pilgrimage to Rameswaram (1911) and returned to Belur Math with her. His health having given way, lived in Sambalpur (1916-19). Helped Swami Trigunatitananda in the publication of the monthly Udbodhan for some time. Head of the Dhaka centre (1919-21). Health having declined again, spent a year at the Bhubaneswar Math (1922). Upon Swami Turiyananda’s death, sent to Varanasi to nourish the spiritual life of monks and brahmacharis and died at the Sevashrama on 12.10.1923. Considered Swamiji’s Works, which he had read 24 times, to be commentaries on the Gospel, which was to him the Vedas in a new form. Used to discourse on these. His wife, Brahmamayee, obtained the grace of Holy Mother and passed her life in prayers and meditation.