(Last Updated on : 16-02-2011)
Swami Akhandananda was the direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. He served as the third president of the philosophic organization, Ramakrishna Mission. Swami Akhandananda was born into a strict Calcutta (Kolkata) Brahmin family in 1865 as Gangadhar Gangopadhyaya. He was introduced to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa in 1877. Since then he became attracted to a life of austerity and joined the band of young disciples in 1883.
After becoming a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, he was encouraged to seek out the company of Swami Vivekananda also called Narendranath Datta. Thus, eventually Swami Akhandananda became immersed in the delivery of organized service to humanity. After the demise of the Master, Sri Ramakrishna, Gangadhar, took monastic orders and became 'Swami Akhandananda'. He wandered in the Himalayas and visited Tibet and gathered experience of a monk. His services to the society included educational initiatives on behalf of low-caste boys in Khetri with the financial support of the Maharaja of Khetri during 1894-1895. In addition to that, Swami Akhandananda was instrumental in feeding deprived Bhils, starting more schools and religious discussion groups in 1895. At the end of 1895, he ventured forth to nurse cholera victims. It was in the year, 1897, Akhandananda became the spearhead of the newly formed Ramakrishna Mission Association's first systematic attempt at famine relief and orphan care in Murshidabad.
Swami Akhandananda was renowned for his commitment to the practical delivery of service to humanity and his personal devotion towards Vivekananda. Swami Akhandananda is considered to be the first monk of the Ramakrishna order. He was a wandering monk like Swamiji and this helped to remove the misery of the masses. One of the major contributions of Swami Akhandananda ji was his services in Khetri, Rajasthan during 1894. He went on to bring awareness in the people about the utility of education, and it was because of his efforts that the number of students in the Khetri Rajya English School became two hundred from eighty students. A permanent Education Department was set up in Khetri to open schools in the villages. Akhandananda also arranged for the publication of a newspaper on agriculture to educate the farmers of that area. He established the first Rural Branch Centre of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission at Sargachi in 1898. In 1899, he opened a free school there to deal with the problem of illiteracy in the locality. Carpentry and weaving section were added to the Rural Branch Centre in order to revive perishing village industries and making the boys self-reliant. Cotton-cultivation too was taught to the village ladies to enhance their family income.
Swami Akhandananda had gained popularity due to a number of literary works.
His creative works included books such as:
In the Lap of the Himalayas
From holy wanderings to the service of God in man -
The call of the Spirit: Conversations With Swami Akhandananda - Swami Nirmayananda
Swami Akhandananda's progression to a life of service portrays his dedication as a disciple to Ramakrishna. In this way he guided the other disciples of Sri Ramakrishna with his teachings and services. Swami Akhandananda left for heavenly abode on 7th February 1937.