Our History /

From humble beginnings

Early days

Early Ramakrishna Missionaries in Africa Swami Adyananda and Swami Ghanananda, both of the Ramakrishna Mission, India, each stayed in South Africa for a few months at the invitation of the local community in 1934 and 1947, respectively. From 1959 Swami Nihshreyasananda, stayed in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) moving about the neighbouring countries. However, it was left to a South African born young man, Mr Dhanagopal Naidoo (later Swami Nischalananda – 19251965) to conceive, establish and strengthen the Vedanta Movement in South Africa and give it a firm footing in Africa by forming the Ramakrishna Centre in 1942, when he was 17 years old.

Swami Nischalananda

From his youth Mr D C Naidoo was inspired by the life and message of Swami Vivekananda, characterised as it was by Renunciation and Service. He travelled to India in 1948 to the International Headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission where he was initiated into spiritual life by Swami Virajananda, the 6th President of the Ramakrishna Order. He undertook further training under Swami Purushottamananda in a cave, Vasistha Guha, on the banks of the Ganga at the foothills of the Himalayas. He returned to South Africa in 1953 as the first South African born Hindu monk. He recognised that selfeffort and an indomitable will to succeed were the essential ingredients that were needed if the disadvantaged and marginalised people of South Africa were to overcome the negative effects of decades of political, cultural and economic servitude. To this end, he worked with a missionary zeal to arouse Hindus to take their rightful place in society. Renaissance Swami Nischalananda heralded an epoch of spiritual renaissance never before seen among the Hindus in South Africa. His depth of understanding, masterful oratory, tireless work and compassionate heart made the Centre the focal point of Hinduism. In 1959 he acquired a property in the Glen Anil suburb of Durban. A worship hall, clinic, printing press, bookshop, outdoor auditorium and residential quarters for monks and novicesintraining were part of this initial Ashram premises. This came to be known as the local Headquarters of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa.

Swami Shivapadananda

Swami Nischalananda was succeeded by his only monastic disciple, Swami Shivapadananda in 1965. The present Ashram campus in Durban, comprising a Universal Temple to Sri Ramakrishna and ancillary buildings for the humanitarian projects of the Centre was initiated by Swami Shivapadananda (1938 – 1994). The charm of his unassuming personality and the silent influence of his deep spirituality left a lasting impression on all who came in contact with him. Administrative Reorganisation Under Swami Nischalananda’s inspiration, Prayer Groups were established in almost every village, suburb and town where Indians had settled. The local community would meet at weekly intervals in congregational worship using private homes or any other local amenity. This pattern has now become the norm on the South African Hindu religious landscape. Many of these groups have matured into independent societies with their own constitutions and premises. Among these local organisations were those that had imbibed the spirit and ethos of the worldwide Ramakrishna Movement. Swami Shivapadananda nurtured these and brought them under the umbrella of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa as ‘branches’ under a unified constitution.

Words of Wisdom

"They alone live who live for others. The rest are more dead than alive." - Swami Vivekananda

"Japa (i.e. the repetition of the name of God) leads to perfection" - Sri Sarada Devi

"Not even the God's can harm my children" - Sri Sarada Devi

"He finds God quickest whose concentration and yearning are strongest" - Sri Ramakrishna