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Sri Bamakepha Thakur

A divine madman (1837–1911)

Sri Bamakepha Thakur
It is thought that this picture is a copy from the wall of Sri Ramakrishna’s room at Dakshineswar

Bamakhepa Thakur was born Bamacharan Chattopadhyay on Shivaratri night near the pilgrimage place of Tarapith, Birbhum district West Bengal and he became popularly known as the "mad saint."

His father was a professional singer of religious songs and Bamakhepa would often join him in his work. As a child he displayed unusual devotional tendencies to the goddess Tara, sometimes making clay images and crying uncontrollably when she didn't answer him through the image. His unconventional behaviour was a worry to his mother and his neighbours, yet he came to be held in great reverence in Tarapith and his shrine is located in the vicinity of the Tara temple in Birbhum, West Bengal.

As a youth his family sent him for employment as a priest, but due to his oddness he was unsuccessful in making money, he found himself wondering to the Tarapith temple and nearby cremation grounds and spending most of his time there. He met his guru Brajabasi Kailasapati Baba who guided his spiritual practice under his tutelage he eventually gained employment at Tarapith as a priest. (Kailashpathi Baba is in some places also considered a saint).

There was an incident where it is said: he ate food intended as a temple offering and was beaten severely by the temple authorities for his unorthodox conduct. Consequently Goddess Tara appeared before the owner of the complex and warned her to leave him alone.

In another version of this story it is said: Tara appeared in the dream of Maharani ("Queen") of Natore and told her to feed the saint first as he was her son. After this incident, Bamakhepa was fed first in the temple before the deity and nobody obstructed him.

Tarapith Birbhum Darshan
Showing the locale, Bamakhepa shrine and other attractions.

It is believed that Tara gave a vision to Bamakhepa in the cremation grounds in her ferocious form and then took him to her breast. He perfected yoga and Tantric sadhana (worship), which resulted in his becoming the spiritual head of Tarapith. He was clearly a likeable and knowledgeable man as people came to him seeking blessings, cures for their illness or distress, or just to meet him.

He was a contemporary of another famous Bengali saint Ramakrishna and no pilgrimage to the shrine of Tarapith is undertaken without a visit to the samadhi Mandir or resting place of Bamakhepa. He had little or no regard to the external world he inhabited and was completely immersed in his unique relationship with Goddess Tara.

“A true devotee who has drunk deep of the Divine Love is like a veritable drunkard,
and, as such, cannot always observe the rules of propriety.”

Images thanks to Shatipeeth
Tarapith website

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