AkhandanandaBholanath DidimaGurupriya Didi Paramananda
HaribabaBhaijiGopinath KavirajAtmananda
Swami SwarupanandaSwami ChinmayanandaSwami VirajanandaSwami Vijayananda
Swami BhaskaranandaSwami SivanandaSwami BhajananandaSwami Omkarananda
Br KamalakantaBr YogeshdaBr AtuldaBr Hari Harda
Br TanmayanandaPanudaSwami Keshavananda

didi

Gurupriya Devi (Didi)

A woman of imposing presence, she evoked strangely mixed feelings of resentment and love. Her forbidding exterior concealed a kind and sympathetic heart, ready to render help to those in distress. Behind the facade of her sternness lurked a generous hostess who rejoiced in entertaining guests to sumptuous feasts. Her frowning look, which sometimes kept people at arm’s length, now and again wreathed in smiles of disarming simplicity carrying a gesture of warm welcome.

Sri Gurupriya Ananda Giri was known to all devotees of the Mother as “Didi”, that is “elder sister”. She, in fact, held this position amongst the conclave of devotees for more than fifty years by virtue of her complete all-absorbing dedication to the Mother and her joyful acceptance of all those who were similarly oriented.

Her world began and ended with Ma Anandamayi. She has left for us an ideal of one-pointed devotion, unquestioning obedience, and an unwavering attention toward the kheyala of the Mother. From the moment of her first darshan to the moment in which she breathed her last, she was as if in the presence of God. She never deviated from this level of awareness by a look, word or gesture.

The priest at the temple of Rameswaram was so struck by her air of constant waiting upon the kheyala of the Mother that he exclaimed, “Surely, you are the Nandi for the Devi (Goddess).” This indeed, was high praise for Didi Gurupriya because since her childhood she had been very fond of the statue of Nandi, exemplifying one-pointed devotion to Siva.

The life of Gurupriya Devi was a saga of sacrifice, service and surrender. She was born on February 14/15, 1899 (Maghi Samkranti day) in a respected and affluent family of Dacca, her father the late Dr. Sashanka Mohan Mukherjee (later known as Swami Akhandananda Giri) being a Civil Surgeon.

She was given in marriage, much against her will, at the age of eleven, but she refused to live in her husband’s home—an act of daring defiance, inconceivable in the context of the conservative society of the time. This was not due to perversity—it was the spontaneous reaction of a born Brahmacharini. Not for her were the joys and sorrows of a housewife: unknown to her, a higher destiny awaited her.

She remained with her parents and served them with all the devotion of a dutiful daughter. She abjured the luxuries of life and spent her time studying at home. Though self-taught, her knowledge of the contemporary Bengali literature was very wide. She wielded a facile pen, and the volumes that she later wrote on Sri Ma describing all the minute details of Her daily activities and varying moods are a priceless mine of information for scholars doing research on Mataji’s life and philosophy.

Several years later Sashanka Mohan happened to come in contact with Sri Ma and was so attracted by Her charm that, one day in December 1925 or early January 1926, he brought his daughter along with him to have a darshana of Mataji. As soon as Gurupriya Devi saw Her, she came under Her spell—in fact, it was a case of love at first sight—and both Ma and Gurupriya Devi felt as if they had been waiting for each other all those years.

Thenceforward she became Mataji’s prime Sevika and life-long companion. The love that would have been confined within the narrow limits of a domestic home was transmuted into veneration for, and surrender to, Ma; it widened into warm affection for all of us, and in no time she made her way into our lives as our beloved Didi. It may be noted here that her original name Adarini Devi was changed into Gurupriya Devi by Sri Ma who used to call her Khukuni and also Didi.

Didi followed Mataji everywhere like a shadow. Mataji was the very breath of her life and Ma’s slightest little hint was a command to Didi. The unquestioning obedience and the fervid zeal with which she carried it out to the letter and the passionate, almost fierce determination with which she defended Sri Ma’s interests have passed into a legend.

She was a terror to anybody daring to disturb Mataji’s peace or to upset Her routine, and Didi’s wrath fell upon him or her with remorselessness of an inexorable destiny. Hers was a loyalty that never wavered, a courage that never faltered, a devotion that never waned and a love that shone like the flame of a steady light at the feet of Sri Ma. She was truly cast in a heroic mould, her greatest act of heroism being the total surrender of her ego at the altar of Mataji. It was a formidable task to keep pace with Sri Ma’s multi-dimensional activities and Her unscheduled programs made up on the spur of the moment, but Didi was equal to it, ever ready to train her course to Mataji’s kheyala.

Out of a shy, a little self-willed girl, Ma forged an instrument of invincible strength to carry out Her purpose. A woman of imposing presence, she evoked strangely mixed feelings of resentment and love. Her forbidding exterior concealed a kind and sympathetic heart, ready to render help to those in distress. Behind the facade of her sternness lurked a generous hostess who rejoiced in entertaining guests to sumptuous feasts. Her frowning look, which sometimes kept people at arm’s length, now and again wreathed in smiles of disarming simplicity carrying a gesture of warm welcome. She was struck down by a serious illness in 1954, which kept her confined to bed for some years, but such was her devotion and spirit of surrender to Sri Ma, that she cheerfully accepted it as a gift from Her and bore the protracted agony with remarkable fortitude and resignation. What was an unbearable wrench to her was the enforced separation from Mataji that it entailed. The illness robbed her of much of her former activities, nevertheless she was by Sri Ma’s side whenever possible, ready to carry out Her wishes. Didi’s life unfolds before us an endless vista of wide-ranging activities.

A towering personality, bending before none but Sri Ma, she dominated the scene for more than five decades, and has now passed into the beyond. With her has passed away a shining symbol of service and surrender that will remain an undying source of inspiration to all. Till a few years before her death, she remained the picture of weathered but enduring, though a trifle subdued vigour.

During her declining years, her aggressiveness gave place to a measure of tenderness, the blazing heat of the noonday sun shading off, as it were, into the mellow tints of the sunset. Her end came about as follows: on hearing that Didi Gurupriya Devi had been lying critically ill in Bombay, Sri Ma rushed there from Vrindavan and with doctors and nurses in attendance, brought her to Varanasi in the small hours of September 15th, 1980. Sri Ma returned to Vrindavan shortly after midday to attend the Bhagavata Saptaha which was being celebrated there.

The following day after Sri Ma had left and surrounded by the revered Sannyasis of the Ashram, her near relatives and dear Kanyapeeth girls, Didi breathed her last at 8-53am. on September 16th, amidst the singing of Kirtan and recitations from scriptures by the inmates of the Kanyapeeth, which had been going on continually since her arrival. Sri Ma revealed after Gurupriya Devi’s death that she had been given Sannyasa by Her—her Sannyasa name being Gurupriya Ananda Giri—and under Her instruction Jala-Samadhi (immersion in water) was arranged for Didi.

On hearing the news of Didi’s death, Mataji arrived in Varanasi in the early hours of September 17th and went straight to Her room in the Kanyapeeth where She stayed till Her departure for Vrindavan shortly after the completion of Didi’s Jalasamadhi. On September 17th the day dawned on a most touching scene. Didi’s mortal body which had been preserved in ice, was brought down in the morning from her room near the Gopal Mandir and placed in front of the Chandi Mandap. One of the senior girls of the Kanyapeeth worshipped her and did Arati. The grief-stricken girls paid their final homage to her and bade her tearful farewell—a solemn and fitting finale to the life of one who had been the guardian angel of the Kanyapeeth.

Her body was then taken down to the Ganga where, after a ceremonial bath, it was draped in new clothes and decorated. Eventually, after appropriate religious rites and puja by Swami Chinmoyananda, it was placed on a Bajra (boat) by which Didi set out on her final journey. The immersion ceremony took place at 8-15 A.M. Thus ended the colourful and, in many respects, unique career of one who braved many daunting challenges of life and always presented an image of indomitable courage, prodigious energy and selfless service.