An excerpt from the Prabhupada Lilamrta about Srila Prabhupada’s mother, Srimati Rajani Devi.
Abhay’s mother, Rajani, was thirty years old when he was born. Like her husband, she came from a long-established Gaudiya Vaisnava family. She was darker-skinned than her husband, and whereas his disposition was cool, hers tended to be fiery. Abhay saw his mother and father living together peacefully; no deep marital conflict or complicated dissatisfaction ever threatened home. Rajani was chaste and religious-minded, a model housewife in the traditional Vedic sense, dedicated to caring for her husband and children. Abhay observed his mother’s simple and touching attempts to insure, by prayers, by vows, and even by rituals, that he continue to live.
Whenever he was to go out even to play, his mother, after dressing him, would put a drop of saliva on her finger and touch it to his forehead. Abhay never knew the significance of this act, but because she was his mother he stood submissively “like a dog with its master” while she did it.
Like Gour Mohan, Rajani treated Abhay as the pet child; but whereas her husband expressed his love through leniency and plans for his son’s spiritual success, she expressed hers through attempts to safeguard Abhay from all danger, disease, and death. She once offered blood from her breast to one of the demigods with the supplication that Abhay be protected on all sides from danger.
At Abhay’s birth, she had made a vow to eat with her left hand until the day her son would notice and ask her why she was eating with the wrong hand. One day, when little Abhay actually asked, she immediately stopped. It had been just another prescription for his survival, for she thought that by the strength of her vow he would continue to grow, at least until he asked her about the vow. Had he not asked, she would never again have eaten with her right hand, and according to her superstition he would have gone on living, protected by her vow.
For his protection she also put an iron bangle around his leg. His playmates asked him what it was, and Abhay self-consciously went to his mother anddemanded, “Open this bangle!” When she said, “I will do it later,” he began to cry, “No, now!” Once Abhay swallowed a watermelon seed, and his friends told him it would grow in his stomach into a watermelon. He ran to his mother, who assured him he didn’t have to worry; she would say a mantra to protect him.
Srila Prabhupada: Mother Yasoda would chant mantras in the morning to protect Krsna from all dangers throughout the day. When Krsna killed some demon she thought it was due to her chanting. My mother would do a similar thing with me.
His mother would often take him to the Ganges and personally bathe him. She also gave him a food supplement known as Horlicks. When he got dysentery, she cured it with hot puris and fried eggplant with salt, though sometimes when he was ill Abhay would show his obstinacy by refusing to take any medicine. But just as he was stubborn, his mother was determined, and she would forcibly administer medicine into his mouth, though sometimes it took three assistants to hold him down.
Srila Prabhupada: I was very naughty when I was a boy. I would break anything. When I was angry, I would break the glass hookah pipes, which my father kept to offer to guests. Once my mother was trying to bathe me, and I refused and knocked my head on the ground, and blood came out. They came running and said, “What are you doing? You shall kill the child.”
Abhay was present when his mother observed the ceremony of Sadha-hotra during the seventh and ninth months of her pregnancies. Freshly bathed, she would appear in new clothing along with her children and enjoy a feast of whatever foods she desired, while her husband gave goods in charity to the local brahmanas, who chanted mantras for the purification of the mother and the coming child.
Abhay was completely dependent on his mother. Sometimes she would put his shirt on backwards, and he would simply accept it without mentioning it. Although he was sometimes stubborn, he felt dependent on the guidance and reassurance of his mother. When he had to go to the privy, he would jump up and down beside her, holding her säré and saying, “Urine, mother, urine.” “Who is stopping you?” she would ask. “Yes, you can go.” Only then, with her permission, would he go.
Sometimes, in the intimacy of dependence, his mother became his foil. When he lost a baby tooth and on her advice placed it under a pillow that night, the tooth vanished, and some money appeared. Abhay gave the money to his mother for safekeeping, but later, when in their constant association she opposed him, he demanded, “I want my money back! I will go away from home. Now you give me my money back!”
When Rajani wanted her hair braided, she would regularly ask her daughters. But if Abhay were present he would insist on braiding it himself and would create such a disturbance that they would give in to him. Once he painted the bottoms of his feet red, imitating the custom of women who painted their feet on festive occasions. His mother tried to dissuade him, saying it was not for children, but he insisted, “No, I must do it, also!”
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Our respectful obeisances to Srimati Rajani Devi who so tenderly raised “Abhay” who went on to became the Founder Acarya of ISKCON, the greatest Acarya of modern times