History of Sri Ramakrishna Sharadashrama, Ponnampet

Ashram Origins
The sprawling and majestic present day Ashram had its origins way back in the year 1927. Swami Nirmalanandaji, a monk of the Ramakrishna Order, was instrumental in setting up the ashram in Ponnampet. The generous act of Sri Achianda Kalammaiah, in donating 1.57 acres of land for the Ashram when Swami Nirmalananda visited Ponnampet, set into motion Sri Ramakrishna’s divine leela in spreading divinity in this divine land of Kodagu. In the annals of Indian history, we have found many instances of kings, queens and rich nobles wholeheartedly donating for religious ventures. Donating for religious causes is deemed to be one of the noblest acts as per Indian tradition. In the modern age when acts of generosity are few and far between, it was indeed a divine ordination that this Ashram was to be set up in Ponnampet.The Ashram’s foundation stone was laid on 7th of February, 1927. Within a span of 6 months, a lovely Ashram had sprung up amidst mystical surroundings of the Ashram. Swami Nirmalananda consecrated the Ashram on 10th of June, 1927. The newly set up Ashram had a small pooja room, a prayer hall, a kitchen and a couple of rooms to accommodate resident monks.Swami Nirmalananda’s message and vision, when the new Ashram was set up, has been fructified during the course of time. The various religious and social activities undertaken by the Ashram as years have rolled by, bears ample testimony to the realization of the vision, as envisaged by Swami Nirmalananda. Swami Nirmalananda had said in 1927 – “Now by the grace of Sri Gurumaharaj, you have got an Ashrama. This will be Premier Ashrama in Coorg…the other Ashramas will come up..….the ideas of Sri Gurumaharaj must be spread.”
Divine is this land of Kodagu, where River Kaveri takes its origin from the calm and serene Talakaveri, nestled in the Brahmagiri hill ranges and flows through nature’s creation, serving humanity on its long course of 765 kilometers, before merging itself into the vast embracing reserves of the Bay of Bengal. Divinity always beckons divinity, and it is no surprise that Sri Ramakrishna chose this divine land to sport his divine play. The charm and mysticism entwined with divine aura of the Ashram, provides a perfect setting for the spiritual vibrations to reverberate in all its splendour in the Ashram environs.

Mahatma Gandhiji, one of India’s greatest social and political reformers, enjoyed the Ashram’s gracious atmosphere in the year 1934. Acharya Vinobha Bhave, another of India’s foremost social reformers, too graced the Ashram, in the year 1957. One of India’s most celebrated soldiers, and Kodagu’s proud son, Field Marshall K M Cariappa, was a regular visitor to the Ashram.

Distinguished Visitors
The Ashram had the good fortune to be a host to Swami Bhuteshanandaji in the year 1932, who in the later years was to become the 12th President of the Ramakrishna Order, in the year 1989. Swami Bhuteshananda had this to say about the Ashram – ‘The Ashram’s annual events had a feel of Kodagu’s major festivals being celebrated. Multitudes of people from various places made the Ashram as their place of stay, in spite of severe space crunch. Discounting rain, these people sat on the floor, in rapt attention to listen to the religious discourses. I had a firsthand experience of witnessing the utmost discipline of the Kodava people. I was a witness to the Kodava people, listening to the discourses with undivided attention, without highlighting any organizational shortcomings, and without showing the slightest hint of discomfort. One thought which came to my mind after witnessing this spectacle was – “Many great things can be achieved in a Human life through Discipline”’ Thousands of seekers, crossing the barriers of caste and creed, have graced the Ashram during the passage of time.
Ashram Activities
A few of the landmark events and activities of the Ashram are Setting up a grand Universal Temple for Sri Ramakrishna, was a long cherished dream for every ardent follower of the Ashram. The realisation of this dream was seen in the year 2009, when the Universal Temple for Sri Ramakrishna was consecrated with all pomp and grandeur, befitting the stature of Sri Ramakrishna.To facilitate the various Ashram activities, an open air auditorium, just next to the Universal Temple, was constructed in the year 2004.To disseminate the teachings of the Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Math, there is a book store in the ashram vicinity.There is an allopathic hospital for needy patients, which started in the year 1958.A Naturopathy, Physiotherapy and Yoga unit was set up in the year 2011, to cater to enthusiasts who would like to benefit from alternative systems of healing.Free medical camps are held regularly for needy patients.Various social welfare projects have been implemented.Relief and rehabilitation activities are held as and when required.Financial and moral support is provided to needy students.Spiritual retreats are held regularly to inculcate moral and spiritual values to young and old a like.
The Ashram, with its rich history behind it, saw another milestone being reached when the Universal Temple was consecrated in the year 2009. The Universal Temple is dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna, the revered God realized saint of modern day India. Sri Sharada Devi, who was the Spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, who was the chief disciple of Sri Ramakrishna too are worshipped in the Universal Temple. The venerable and revered Holy Trio’s spirits reverberate in the Ashram atmosphere, savouring the divine prayers and soulful music, emanating from renditions of monks and devotees alike. Blessed indeed are the souls who drown in the outpouring of divine grace in the Universal Temple.The beautiful Universal Temple, set amidst the serene and peaceful environs of the Ashram is a sight to behold. The beautifully maintained garden in front of the Universal Temple, with its ever blooming flowers and vividity of colors, showcasing nature’s benign salutations to the Holy Trio, is a sight to behold for the connoisseur’s eye. The tall, majestic trees that line both sides of the pathway leading to the temple, is nature’s own way of celebrating the Holy Trio’s ever relevant , ever shining and ever green message of peace and love to humanity. The picturesque surroundings, crowned by coffee plantations on the outskirts of the Ashram, serve as the perfect backdrop to the magnificence of the Ashram.This architectural marvel was a dream come true for resident monks of the ashram. They, along with ever helpful volunteers toiled day and night to make this magnificent spectacle to materialize. Senior monk of the Ramakrishna Order, Swami Jagadatmananda, and Swami Bodhaswarupananda amongst other monks in the ashram were the chief visionaries of this modern day marvel.The celebrations to consecrate the Universal Temple, spanning 3 days, starting from the 27th of October 2009, was attended by over 3000 devotees including many from overseas. Over 180 monks from the Ramakrishna order, graced the occasion. The Sarvadhyaksha of the Ramakrishna Order, Paramapoojya Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj and the Vice President of the Ramakrishna Order, Paramapoojya Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj were among the blessed souls to grace the occasion.Apart from catering to the multitudes of people seeking divine grace, many facilities and activities have been in place to serve society.Various religious and social service activities, dot the Ashram’s itinerary throughout the year. The Ashram’s resident monks and selfless volunteers, make it a point to uphold the Ashram’s primary motto of service in action.Sri Ramakrishna’s ideals are being religiously practiced in the Ashram, with unending regularity and sincerity. Sri Sharada Devi’s message of love, renunciation and purity, which have a profound relevance in this age, is being set into motion by the activities of the Ashram. The Ashram continues to be a shining beacon, carrying forward the message of Swami Vivekananda, who formulated the motto of the Ramakrishna Math – Atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha – ‘For one’s own salvation and for the welfare of the world’.