Phalaharini Kali puja is observed on a new moon day and has gained popularity because it was on this day that Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa offered all the merits of his spiritual practice at the feet of his consort Devi Sarada, invoking the ‘Divine Mother’ within Maa Sarada, as ever forgiving and being gracious. The word Phalaharini means ‘the female, who takes away the fruits of our actions’. ‘Phala’ means fruit (the fruits of our actions). Whenever we do something, it creates a fruit in the form of tendencies in the mind and that fruit leads us to do another action. Suppose one listens to something good, it leaves a good tendency in the mind and it makes one listen to more good things. This cycle makes one come back over and again to this world, because one has to exhaust one’s mental tendencies. Phalaharini removes all these tendencies by taking away the fruits of one’s actions. ‘Harini’ means a female who takes away. One continues to get the result of one’s actions because of the thought : ‘I am the doer and I am the enjoyer’. The goal of a spiritual life is to remove this thought – this process is hastened by ‘Phalaharini Kali’.
PHILOSOPHICAL CONTEXT : All of us are here in this world because each one of our actions produces an impression on our minds and that impression propels us to do more actions. If one does a good action, it leaves a good impression on my mind, which is called ‘samskara’ (also called ‘karma’ or ‘karmafala’) – this would make one to do another good action, which goes on and on till understanding oneself as a doer. Till having the sense of doership, this ‘samskara’ or ‘karmafala’ is generated. ‘Phalaharini Kali’ is named in the context of having the power to destroy all the karmas or samskaras of our lives. Phalaharini Kali has the power to give all of us in this world, the liberation from the cycle of repeated births and deaths (repeated coming and going). So, it is quite significant that Sri Ramakrishna surrendered all the fruits of his spiritual austerities on the day of Phalaharini Kali puja, at the feet of his wife Sarada Devi. This is not only significant but it is unprecedented and unparalleled in the spiritual history. Never has any spiritual personality, a prophet or an ‘avatara’ given so much importance to his wife, to the extent that he has surrendered all the spiritual austerities to her. Sarada Devi was not a wife with whom Ramakrishna had some kind of supernatural or miraculous connection, but ‘she’ was a wife very much in flesh and body, whom ‘he’ was married to; and to this person he surrendered all his spiritual austerities.
In the life of Sree Ramakrishna Paramhansa, we see a strong connection with the Goddess Kali. Later on, we see the same connection in the life of Swami Vivekananda and for many reasons it was very important for Sri Ramakrishna, that Swami Vivekananda accepted the divinity of Goddess Kali – Ramakrishna was extremely overjoyed and started clapping his hands and singing songs. Sarada Devi was supposed to be given some ornaments at the time of her marriage. But after the marriage these ornaments were removed. Ramakrishna funnily remarked that now the bride’s family could do nothing as the marriage was already over. During those times, that incident would probably not have passed off so simply but that was a remark made in those gone times. However, later, Ramakrishna got some ornaments, made for Sarada Devi because it is known that women love ornaments. Even today women love ornaments - may be the forms of the ornaments have changed.
THE EVENT OF PHALAHARINI KALI PUJA : A unique event took place on the day of Phalaharini Kali puja according to ‘The Gospel of the Holy Mother’. Regarding the exact date of this event, there are two versions – 1) The Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi arrived at Dakshineswar for the first time in March 1872. According to the version of Swami Saradananda Maharaj in his biography of Sri Ramakrishna, the worship took place about one year after this i.e. on the Phalaharini Kali puja of 1873 ( the date of it being 25th May). 2) In the Bengali book entitled ‘Mayer Kotha’ – the Holy Mother is reported to have said that it took place about a month and a half after the arrival of Maa Sarada at Dakshineswar. In that case, it would be on the occasion of Phalaharini Kali puja of June 1872. A little more than half of the month of Jaistha (according to Bengali calendar) had elapsed. It was the new moon day – the holy occasion for the worship of Phalaharini Kalika Devi. It was the day of the special festival at the Dakshineswar temple. Sri Ramakrishna looked upon Sarada Devi as a special manifestation of Divine Mother of the universe. On the night of the Phalaharini Kali puja, Sri Ramakrishna rituistically worshipped Sarada Devi as the Divine Mother, thereby awakening ‘Universal Motherhood’ to latent in her. Ramakrishna Paramhansadeva had made special preparations on that day with a view to worship ‘The Mother of the Universe’ (Devi Sarada). These preparations, however had not been made in the temple but privately in Ramakrishna’s own room at his desire. It was 9 pm when all the preparations for the mystery-worship of the Devi were completed. In the mean time, the Master (Sri Ramakrishnadeva) had sent word to the Holy Mother (Sarada Devi) to be present during the worship. Sarada Devi came to the room and then Sri Ramakrishna started worshiping her. The articles for worship were purified by the Mantras and all the rites preliminary to the worship were finished. The Master beckoned to the ‘Holy Mother’ to sit on the wooden seat decorated with ‘Alpana’. Sri Ramakrishna identified Sarada Devi as ‘Holy Mother’ with the deity through the ceremony of ‘Nyasa’, which consists of touching different parts of the deity. After that Ramakrishna offered her worship with sixteen items, as one does before the divine image. In the course of it, Ramakrishna applied red paint to the sides of Sara Devi’s soles, put the vermilion mark on her forehead, dressed her with a new cloth and placed a little of sweets and betel leaf in her mouth. Knowing that Sarada Devi was naturally of a very bashful disposition, a disciple once asked her whether she did not feel any hesitation or shyness when the Master did all this to her. She replied, “No, I saw him, no doubt, doing all this, but I had no inclination to utter a word even.” While witnessing the worship, the ‘Holy Mother’ (Devi Sarada) had already entered into a divine semi-absorption state (at the close of deep Samadhi). During that entire process, Sarada Devi sat facing north to the right of the Master (Sri Ramakrishna), who sat facing to east. In that transcendental union of the spirit, the worshipper and the worshipped realized their identity of being as ‘Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute’.
According to scriptural injunctions, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa (the Master himself) sprinkled the Holy Mother repeatedly with the water, purified by mantras from the pitcher placed before him, then uttered the ‘Mantra’ in her hearing and then recited the prayer : “ O Lady, O Mother Tripurasundari who art the controller of all powers, open the door to perfection! Purify her (the Holy Mother’s) body and mind, manifest Thy-self in her and be beneficient.” Afterwards the Master performed the ‘Nyasa’ of the mantras in the Holy Mother’s person according to the injunctions of the Shastras and worshipped her with the sixteen articles, as the Devi herself. He then offered food and put a part of it into her mouth with his own hand. The Holy Mother lost normal consciousness and went into Samadhi. The Master too, uttering the mantras in the semiconscious state, entered into complete ‘Samadhi’.
A long time passed in that state of spiritual absorption. The second quarter of the night was over and the third had far advanced, when the Master, whose delight was only in the self, showed a little sign of regaining normal consciousness. Returning to the semi-conscious state again, Ramakrishna offered himself to Devi Sarada. He now gave away forever at the lotus feet of Sarada Devi – the results of his Sadhanas, his rosary etc – alongwith his self and saluted her uttering the Mantras : “O Thou, the auspiciousness of all auspicious things! O doer of all actions! O refuge! O the three-eyed one! O the fair complexioned spouse of Siva! O Narayani! I bow down to Thee, I bow down to Thee!” The worship was finally at the end. The Master’s sadhana reached its culmination with the worship of the ruler of the Universe, the Divine Mother in the body of a woman, the embodiment of spiritual knowledge itself.
Ofcourse Sree Ramakrishna did not consult scriptures nor did he do any ‘sadhana’ after knowing fully well of its purpose. His life itself comprises scriptures. As we have seen, after the realization of the Divine Mother of the universe ‘Devi Kali’, it is actually the Divine Mother who led him, one after another, through various forms of sadhana. Through his life, the truths of the scriptures and objectives of various sadhanas were re-verified. One after another these sadhanas came in, to the life of Sri Ramakrishna spontaneously and in natural course. Ramakrishna Paramhansa attained ‘siddhi’ in the sadhana of Kali-kula. He attained the vision of Mother Kali and then performed the Upasana of Sri Vidya in any clay image. Sri Vidya found Her incarnation in the body and mind of one divine woman. That Divine woman is Devi Saradamani, who is identical with ‘Sri Vidya’. Sannyasin Sri Ramakrishna worshipped this ‘Divine Mother’ as the highest manifestation of the ‘Primordial Energy’. The entire philosophy depicted regarding this, has given Phalaharini Kali puja, a special bearing on the Ramakrishna order.
TERMINOLOGICAL ANALYSIS : The form of worship performed by Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, is technically called ‘Shodasi Puja’. The term requires a little explanation. It does not mean, as is sometimes interpreted – ‘the worship of a girl of sixteen only’. For the matter of that, the Holy Mother was eighteen or more at the time of worship. It really means the worship of the ‘Divine Mother’ as Shodasi – the third form of the ‘Ten Mahavidyas’ known as Kali, Tara, Shodasi, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagala, Matangi and Kamala. The Divine Mother is called ‘Shodasi’ in this aspect, probably because Sarada Maa is depicted as a wonderfully beautiful girl always aged sixteen only. In this worship, one can use the emblem of worship either as a picture, a pitcher, an earthen image, a Yantra (a ritualistic drawing). Towards the close of it, Hriday came into the room. After regaining normal consciousness, the Holy Mother saluted the Master mentally and walked away to her room at the ‘nahabat’. The significance of this great rite on the lives of these two souls can hardly be over-estimated. For Sri Ramakrishna, it signified the final triumph of the spirit over the body, the destruction of all that is ‘animal in man’ – the recognition of Divinity even where the ordinary man is least disposed to see it. It marked the successful conclusion of Ramakrishna’s spiritual strivings as well as his establishment of the status of a ‘Divine Man’. In the life of the Holy Mother too, it had a significance of equal importance. It symbolized Maa Sarada’s participation in Sri Ramakrishna’s life in a twofold sense. It has already been stated how the Master, at the very time of his marriage gave a powerful stimulus to his wife’s spiritual growth by the prayer, that was addressed to the Divine Mother. This prayer had brought about a gradual transformation in life of Sarada Maa – oblitering from her mind even the last vestiges of the lower nature, so that when she again reappeared in the conducting act of the drama of his spiritual endeavours, Ramakrishna found in her a fitting partner in life, well-matched with him in every respect. ‘Shodasi puja’ is a landmark in the life of Maa Sarada. Her future actions were all, therefore, devoid of any personal object but meant to fulfil the great mission that was being worked out through the Master. She and the Master could henceforth be described as two bodies actuated by the same spirit – the Divine Mother. Through the rest of her life, Maa Sarada helped her Master in his work through personal service. After Ramakrishna’s passing away, his mantle fell on Maa Sarada and through a long period of spiritual ministry she fulfilled what he had left unfinished.
Why the Holy Mather (Devi Sarada) did not perform the various forms of devotional practices like her Master (Sri Ramakrishna) ? : The answer to this apparently puzzling questionis to be found in the Shodasi puja, by virtue of which the Holy Mother became a full sharer in the spiritual glory of the Master. Indeed, Sarada Maa practised a good deal of austerities afterwards but those austerities were so far not for any mental purification or spiritual attainment – those were mainly intended as example to others or for the benefit of her disciples. To use an analogy of the Master Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa , Sarada Maa resembles in this respect the type of plant that bears fruits first and then the flowers. As the spiritual counterpart of the great world-teacher Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Sarada Devi had no need to re-enact the same scenes of the common drama which they were together staging before mankind. She had other parts to play by way of fulfilling and supplementing the Master’s work.
MARKING OF PHALAHARINI KALI PUJA EVERY YEAR : The Phalaharini Kali puja is performed every year in many centres of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, to mark this auspicious day. This Kali puja has a special bearing on the Ramakrishna Sangha. On this day Ramakrishna Paramhansadeva observed the end of his ‘sadhaka’ life in a special way. Ramakrishna worshipped ‘Adyashakti’ (the Goddess of the Universe or the Primordial Energy) through the manifestation of the ‘Vidyarupini’ (a female human form embodying the transcendent knowledge) on the day of Phalaharini Kali puja. Then Ramakrishna surrendered himself, his rosary and all other aids to his sadhana at Maa Sarada’s feet and thus drew an end to his long, historic and all-encompassing ‘sadhana’. Thus on the day of Phalaharini Kali puja every year, devotees worship Goddess Kali and offer special pujas and special bhog every year to please the goddess. In Bengal on this day, Kali temples and Durga temples are decorated with garlands and light.