Ramprasad Sen

Ramprasad Sen

Ramprasad Sen

Ramprasad Sen was born in a small village north of Kolkata around the year 1720.  His bhakti song-poems, called Ramprasadi, are sung throughout Bengal to this  day. Although he is seen by many people as a simple lover of God, he was also a practitioner of an esoteric tantra yoga path of Divine Mother worship. One biographer of Paramhansa Yogananda said that as a teenager he often carried a book of Ramprasad’s songs with him.

Yogananda introduced the West to Ramprasad with this chant:

Will that day oh come to me, ma? Will that day oh come to me, Ma?
When saying, Mother dear My eyes will flow tears
When saying, Mother dear, My eyes will flow tears
Widsom’s lotus will blossom forth, Darkness will steal away
Heart’s lotus will blossom forth, Darkness will steal away
Steal away, steal away, steal away Ma steal away
Steal away, steal away, steal away Ma steal away
A thousand Vedas do declare Divine Mother’s everywhere!
A thousand Vedas do declare Divine Mother’s everywhere!
Sri Ram Prasad says, Divine Mother everywhere stays
Sri Ram Prasad says, Divine Mother everywhere stays
Blind eyes, see the Ma, hiding everywhere
Blind eyes, see the Ma, hiding everywhere

Ramprasad’s songs combined folk melodies with classical ragas, forming a new type of music that became popular in Bengal. His bhakti poetry was influential in the bhakti movement in Bengal in the 18th century, taking an approach t0 the Divine Mother as Kali that was at times intimate and personal,  at other times teasingly scolding Her, and at times deeply esoteric and symbolic.

Many stories are told of his life. As a young man, in order to support his family he moved from his village to the city of Kolkata to work as an accountant. His coworkers discovered that he was writing poems to Divine Mother in the margins of his account books and told their employer, who was so impressed with the poems that he insisted on supporting Ramprasad as a full time poet instead of an accountant.

Back at his village home one day he was building a fence and called his daughter to help him. While working, she asked him ‘why do you always sing to Divine Mother if She never comes?’ and then mischievously left him. Later he learned that his daughter had been at a distant village all day long, and realized that his helper was Divine Mother herself, teasing his child.

Once he was walking to the river to perform his morning rituals. On his way there a radiant young woman asked him if he would sing some of his songs for her. He told her that his religious duties called, and so he must go to the river, but he would sing to her on the way back. When he returned, she was gone. He realized that it must have been Divine Mother, confirmed when he was surrounded by a radiant light, and heard her voice saying, “I am Annapurna (…) I came all the way from Varanasi to hear your songs but, alas, I had to leave disappointed.”

Feeling chagrin for ignoring the much higher religious duty of singing to Divine Mother, he immediately embarked for Varanasi. Taking rest by the Ganges on the way there, at Triveni, he was surrounded by light and heard the Divine Mother playing with him again, this time telling him, “Stay here and sing for me. Varanasi is not the only place where I live; I pervade the whole universe.”

Poems

Further Resources

  • More Poems
  • Divine Songs of Sage Poet Ramprasad bt Shyamal Banerjee
  • Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kali and Uma from Bengal by Rachel Fell McDermott
  • Grace and Mercy in Her Wild Hair by Leonard Nathan and Andrew Schelling
  • Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar, by Elizabeth U. Harding
  • Ramprasad Sen on Wikipedia
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