HIS LIFE AND TEACHINGS
The most important and urgent work then was the opening of the Trivandrum Ashrama.
It took seven years to complete the Ashrama building, a magnificient granite structure, situated on a retired hill-top commanding extensive views of inspiring landscapes on three sides.
"So much money need not have been spent on the building", observed Sir Puttanna Chetty of Mysore who visited the Ashrama while Swamiji was in Bangalore. "The Ashrama is finely situated and commands a very charming view, but so much money need not have been spent on the building. A smaller building costing much less would have been sufficient. The surplus amount collected could have been invested for carrying on the work of the institution." These words of his were reported to the Swamiji. His comment was: "Yes, yes, men are of different views. A pucca granite building in the name of Sri Gurumaharaj will stand for years and will serve as a source of inspiration and means of spreading his ideas to many. Do you not see the grand old temples in South India? They remain intact to this day, while hundreds of smaller ones have all perjshed. Don't think that the Ancients were wasting money on temples. That also has its use.
"Further, I do not want to make the Sadhus Babus. If they find the Ashrama well endowed, they naturally turn Babus and become victims to the evils of wealth. That is why I did not try to provide funds for future management. The Sadhus must lead ideal lives and command the hearty support of the people and then the institution will run smoothly. If they are unfit and fail to get such support let them starve."
The plan of the work was elaborate and many thousands of rupees were spent upon it. Thanks to friends and sympathisers and the indefatigable exertions of the Swami, the construction of the main building was completed in March 1924. The consecration was fixed for the 7th of March, the 89th Birthday Anniversary of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna. The ceremony was imposing. Early that day, Bhaktas flocked from all parts of the land and spiritual fervour permeated the atmosphere. At the appointed hour, amidst prayer and music the Swami within closed doors solemnly installed the portraits of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, the Holy Mother, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Brahmananda on the altar prepared in the worship room. The doors were then opened and he performed the arati. All those who wanted to worship at the feet of the Lord were allowed to do so. Vedic Homa was also performed. The festival continued up to Sunday the 16th March, when the Ashrama was publicly opened in the presence of a large gathering. At the meeting held in the evening, the Swami presided and delivered a stirring speech in the course of which he referred to the munificence of Mr. Kulakkunnath Raman Menon in constructing the worship room floored with marble slabs in memory of his patron, A. R. Rajaraja Varma, and sinking a well in the Ashrama compound in memory of his deceased mother. He also referred to the sacrifice worthy of record, of a poor woman who, having nothing else to give, sent her nosering as her offering for the worthy cause. The Swami dedicated the Ashrama to the memory of Swami Brahmananda, the spiritual son of Sri Ramakrishna.
Just after the installation of the Ashrama at Trivandrum, the Prabuddha Keralam Office (the Ver- nacular Organ of the Centre) had to be shifted to another place. The late lamented P. G. Govinda Pillai (Sirkar Vakil), who had fought many an intellectual battle with the Swami and had at last become deeply convinced and devoted, gladly placed a garden and building of his in Alleppey at the disposal of the Swami. The P. K. Office was transferred and Sri Ramakrishna was installed there by Swamiji in June of that year. The Swami dedicated the Ashrama to the memory of Swami Yogananda.
Coming under the influence of this Ashrama, certain Bhaktas of the fishermen caste of the neighbouring village founded a Sri Ramakrishna Chaithanya Math and began to conduct Bhagavat-seva regularly. They too invited the Swami. He was so pleased with their work and devotion that he heartily invoked the blessings of Bhagavan on them.
It was here that the Swami had the great devotee, Seth Khatawoo Khimjee, who supplied thousands of rupees worth of coir mats to several Ashramas in Kerala, Bangalore and Calcutta.
In this trip the Swami also laid the foundation for the Ashrama at Muttom. It was formally opened on the Paurnima day in October 1925 and named Premananda Ashrama in memory of one of the great Iswara-koti disciples of Sri Ramakrishna.