The history of how the Belur Math came about is incredibly interesting. In January 1897, Swami Vivekananda arrived in Colombo with his small group of Western disciples. He founded two monasteries; one at Belur, which became the headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission, and the other at Mayavati in the Himalayas, in Champawat District, Uttrakhand, called the Advaita Ashrama. These monasteries were meant to receive and train young men who would eventually become sannyasis of the Ramakrishna Mission. The same year the philanthropic activity was started, and relief work for the famine was carried out.
Swami Vivekananda’s days as a parivrajaka (wandering monk), before his visit to Parliament of Religions, took him through many parts of India. And he visited several architectural monuments like the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri palaces, Diwan–I–Khas, palaces of Rajasthan, ancient temples of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and other places. During his tour in America and Europe, he came across buildings of architectural importance of Modern, Medieval, Gothic and Renaissance styles. It is said that Vivekananda incorporated these ideas in the design of the Belur Math Temple.
Swami Vijnanananda, a brother-monk of Swami Vivekananda, and one of the monastic disciples of Ramakrishna, who was, in his pre-monastic life, a civil engineer, designed the temple according to the ideas of Vivekananda. Swami Shivananda, the then-President of Belur Math laid the foundation stone on 16 May 1935. Martin Burn & Co handled this massive construction.
The sanctum sanctorum of Sri Ramakrishna Temple is closed at 11.00 am for ritualistic food offering to the deity and opened at 11.40 am for about five minutes. All other temples are closed at 11.30 am.
At the time of sunset, when the arati (evening service) begins, a bell is rung to indicate that visitors are not allowed to loiter on the Math grounds and that they are also not permitted to visit any of the temples other than Sri Ramakrishna Temple from then on. They may sit inside Sri Ramakrishna Temple and join the arati. They may also spend their time in meditation and silent prayer in the main temple (Sri Ramakrishna Temple) after the arati till the garbha mandira is closed for the ritualistic food-offerings at 8.30 pm from April to September or 8 pm from October to March.
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