The Wikipedia article on Ramakrishna Paramahansa says:

By the time his bride joined him, Ramakrishna had already embraced the monastic life of a sannyasi; as a result, the marriage was never consummated.

If Ramakrishna was not serious about marriage why did he agree to marry in the first place?

Also, it appears Sarada Devi was only 5 years old at the time of marriage. And 5 years seems too low even according to Manusmṛti:

A man thirty years old shall marry a charming maiden twelve years old; or one twenty four years old, a damsel eight years old; in the event of his duties suffering, he may do it sooner.—(94)

Wasn't Ramakrishna already serving as a priest at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple at the time of his marriage? Wasn't he aware of what the dharma śāstras said on the purpose of marriage, the marriageable age of girls, etc?

  • His parents probably made him. Forced marriages were common in 19th century India.
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 2:26

3 Answers 3


First, your question title contains an underlying assumption - that 'he had no intention of leading married life before he got married'.

The same wikipedia article you linked states :

Ramakrishna's mother and his elder brother Rameswar decided to get Ramakrishna married, thinking that marriage would be a good steadying influence upon him—by forcing him to accept responsibility and to keep his attention on normal affairs rather than his spiritual practices and visions

in 1856, Ramakrishna took his place as the priest of the Kali temple

Ramakrishna himself mentioned that they could find the bride at the house of Ramchandra Mukherjee in Jayrambati

..marriage was duly solemnised in 1859

In 1861..the Bhairavi initiated Ramakrishna into Tantra.

In 1864, Ramakrishna practised vātsalya bhāva under a Vaishnava guru

In 1865, Ramakrishna was initiated into sannyasa

After the marriage, Sarada stayed at Jayrambati and joined Ramakrishna in Dakshineswar at the age of 18.

Yes, he was a priest before marriage. It is quite possible that he was not inclined towards married life, but on the behest of his mother & brother, decided to accept it. It would be another 9-13 years before his wife joined him. In the 6 years between his marriage-date and sanyasa-date, he had undertaken severe spiritual practices, which could have firmed his resolve to sanyasa. Hence, his mind could have changed after marriage.

Then, what about the plight of the wife ? It is accepted in shastras to take sanyasa if mother accepts it (during brahmacharya) and wife accepts it (during gruhastashrama). In this case, we don't know whether he consulted his wife or not. But if the wife does not raise any issue after coming to know about it, there is no problem. There is also the famous history of a sanyasi returning to married life at the behest of his guru who had met the wife praying for progeny (can add source when I find it). In this case, the same wikipedia article says :

Ramakrishna became a very influential figure in Sarada's life, and she became a strong follower of his teachings

It is also very well known that she undertook teaching his philosophy after his passing, so there is no evidence that she was against his decision.

Second, your 2nd question also contains an assumption/opinion, disguised as scripture ('putting words in mouth') that '5 years seems too low even according to Manusmṛiti'

Short note - The intent of child marriage (for a girl) is the same as that of child upanayana (for a boy) - both used to happen around age 7. The boy surrenders to a guru, and the girl to her husband, before kama (lust) enters the heart around puberty. But the difference is that, while the boy immediately leaves to gurukul to live under Guru's tutelage, the girl usually does not join her husband's home until she comes of age at menarche (Source - Hindu Dharma)

The same Manusmriti verse you quoted regarding the age of marriage says:

in the event of his duties suffering, he may do it sooner

It says the man may marry earlier than 24. Clearly, Manu Smriti is not specifying a hard minimum age. and based on the previous 2 lines of this verse, it may be inferred (assumption, could be right or wrong) that the corresponding age of the girl can be lower. There is no verse that sets the hard lower-bound at 8 years. Case in point - there is a similar Manu Smriti verse about the age of upanayana for boys :

In the eighth year after conception, one should perform the initiation (upanayana) of a Brahmana, in the eleventh after conception (that) of a Kshatriya, but in the twelfth that of a Vaisya.

(The initiation) of a Brahmana who desires proficiency in sacred learning should take place in the fifth (year after conception), (that) of a Kshatriya who wishes to become powerful in the sixth, (and that) of a Vaisya who longs for (success in his) business in the eighth.

Normally, upanayana is done at age 7. But Advanced souls can have the samskaras done earlier. Adi Shankara had upanayana at age 5. Ramakrishna was well-known for his mystic visions from quite an early age. It is possible he knew in advance about his would-be-wife's spiritual characteristics. Even if not, shastras do not forbid early upanayana (or by corollary, marriage).

  • 3
    Ramakrishna offered himself to Sarada when she came to live at Dakshineswar, but she saw how consumed he was with his spiritual practices that she told him it was not necessary and instead offered to be his helpmate and disciple. She was his first disciple. Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 4:57
  • Is there any age limitation for upanayana samskara ?
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 6:38
  • See this: hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/20362/… @TheLittleNaruto
    – Rickross
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 7:07
  • @TheLittleNaruto, yes there is a maximum age limit. here we are talking about minimum. obviously, it is not zero, and the child must have at least learned to control nature calls, and understand basic sanskrit language. so it is set around 7, but can be earlier, like 5.
    – ram
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 14:12
  • 1
    @sv - none of those speculations detract from the fact that he himself specified the bride to be found, and from the fact that the decision to take sanyasa was taken long after marriage, and from the fact that his wife did not object to it. the speculations were made to highlight the point that even in the worst case of not being inclined before marriage, and not consulting his wife, there were no issues reported by his wife in their marital life, which is actually the purport behind your question. neither your acceptance of an answer nor your decline is of any relevance here.
    – ram
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 15:58

Here is a partial answer ..

If Ramakrishna was not serious about marriage why did he agree to marry in the first place

It is only partially true or not true at all that he was not serious. In fact it was him only who told his mother and brother as to where to find the suitable bride for him, when the two were desperately searching for a bride but without any success.

From "A short life of Sri Ramkrishna (Swami Tejasananda)":

Sri Ramakrishna was now twenty-three years of age, and he was as indifferent as ever to all worldly concerns. His mother and brother wanted to get him married so as to interest him in domestic affairs, and began to search for a suitable bride. The search was vigorously made but with no definite result. Sri Ramakrishna, finding his mother and brother in a dejected state, said to them in a semiconscious mood: ‘It is useless to try here and there. Go to Jayrambati (a village three miles to the northwest of Kamarpukur) and there you will find the bride providentially reserved for me in the house of Ram Chandra Mukhopadhyaya.’ His prophetic words proved true to the letter. A girl was found there who was five years and a few months old. But Chandra Devi agreed to accept the girl as no other bride was available, and the happy nuptial ceremony was performed without delay. After his marriage Sri Ramakrishna stayed at Kamarpukur for about a year and a half, as Chandra Devi would not allow him to leave her until he was completely cured.

So, it was not that he was not serious.

Although he might not have said that explicitly, but he must have realized that for his spiritual journey to be complete, it was necessary that he finds his spiritual soul-mate.

And his consort Mother Sarada was his ideal companion in his spiritual journey. Moreover, he also wanted her to be free from any sort of desires. So, basically he wanted to get married but for reasons other than the usual reasons like creating progeny etc.

Months passed in this way, but not once did the minds of the divine couple come down to the sense-plane. This was possible, because both husband and wife had their minds attuned to the Infinite. In later days Sri Ramakrishna complimented Sarada Devi in unequivocal terms. He used to say: ‘After marriage I anxiously prayed to the Divine Mother to root out all sense of physical enjoyment from her mind. That my prayer had been granted I knew from my contact with her during this period

Also, it appears Sarada Devi was only 5 years old at the time of marriage. And 5 years seems too low even according to Manusmṛti:

See the following verses from Samavarta Smriti's 1st chapter:

By seeing a maiden in menses, her mother, father and eldest brother these three go to hell. (67)

Therefore one should espouse a maiden before she has menstruated ; the marriage of an eight years old maiden is most preferrable. (68)

So, the injunction is to marry the girl before she menstruates, so 5 years does not seem to be a wrong age. According to Samvarta, 8 years is the most suited age but doing it few years earlier is ok too.

  • "it was necessary that he finds his spiritual soul-mate" - why does someone need a spiritual soulmate when they intend to lead an ascetic life? Do dharma śāstras recommend this sort of "marriage"? Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 17:33
  • Spiritual soul mate is needed .. if u see all the gods are with their consorts... Also he was not a Sannyasi as the scriptures describe one ... he was not shaven headed for e.g... He was a Yogi and a highly evolved soul... Also mine is only a partial answer.. I am simply saying "he was not interested" is not true..@sv.
    – Rickross
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 7:29
  • @sv - since you are all for citations, provide proof for your claim that 'he intended to lead an ascetic life' (before he got married). even questions need to be backed up by sources. It's like you asking 'Why did Krishna kill Kamsa when he had no intention of killing Kamsa? Source - Imagination'
    – ram
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 2:16
  • @ram The same Wiki article says: 'Ramakrishna's mother and his elder brother Rameswar decided to get Ramakrishna married, thinking that marriage would be a good steadying influence upon him — by forcing him to accept responsibility and to keep his attention on normal affairs rather than his spiritual practices and visions.' - This means he was not serious about getting married/settling down as a householder. This also explains why the marriage never consummated. Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 2:25
  • @sv, your last sentence is your opinion. SwamiVishwananda has given comment above that he was willing for it, but his wife preferred that he follow spiritual path. also, there is a degree of interest/seriousness in married life for each person. some are 100% invested, some are 70%, it varies.
    – ram
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 5:21

To answer this question, let me humbly remind Sri Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi were no ordinary human beings.Their holy lives and activities make it clear that they descended to earth to save Dharma and show us the right paths.

This becomes clear when Sri Sarada Devi at the age of two indicated that She will marry Sri Ramakrishna.

After the completion of a kirtana, a village-woman who was holding Sarada on her lap, asked Her: Whom would you marry, my daughter? Sarada raised Her Hands and pointed towards Sri Ramakrishna.

Let us now see some of the incidents of Their lives starting from Their marriage to make our idea clearer.

Sri Ramakrishna became immersed in spiritual practices and became God-intoxicated in His teens. On His mother's order, He came to Kamarpukur at the age of twenty-four. Her mother and elder brother were eager to get Him married, but failed to get a suitable bride.

Knowing this, Sri Ramakrishna asked them to go to Jayrambati where Sarada, the daughter of Sri Ramachandra Mukhopadhyay has been providentially reserved for Him ('kuto-bnadha' in bengali) had been staying. Sarada was only five years old at that time.

Sri Ramakrishna went joyfully to marry. On the very first night they were together after marriage

He told Sarada: You see, I can not tolerate the smell of the coconut oil.(Bengali girls used coconut oil for their hair-care at that time). Please place a mat on the floor and I shall sleep there. Sarada immediately came down Herself and slept on the mat.

Sri Ramakrishna returned to Dakshineswar and again dived deep into His sadhana. Sarada had been staying with Her parents. When She was thirteen (May, 1867), Sri Ramakrishna came to Kamarpulkur with His Tantra-Guru (Bhairavi Yogeswari) and summoned Her immediately.

Sri Ramakrishna on the one side held His ideal shining with the spirit of renunciation in front of Her, and started Her training all the worldly duties in detail on the other. He taught Her ideal acts and behaviour in each and every aspect of life. Sarada started feeling 'a ghata filled with bliss' had been established in Her heart.

Staying few months at Kamarpukur, Sri Ramakrishna returned to Dakshineswar and again forgot the world in love of God. She came to Dakshineswar with His father after four years.She was eighteen now. She had to walk sixty miles to reach Dakshineswar. She fell sick on the way and was very anxious as covering such a distance would be impossible with ill heallth .

Mother Kali taking form of of a girl appeared in front of Her and told Her: Do not worry. You will be alright very soon. I have kept Him confined at Dakshineswar for you.

Sarada Devi safely arrived at Dakshineswar and Sri Ramakrishna welcomed Her heartily. Now She stayed for few months with Sri Ramakrishna in the same room.

Sri Ramakrishna asked Her one day : Have you come to make me walk on the wordly path? Sarada Devi replied :Absolutely not. I have come to help you to reach your desired goal. Another day Sarada asked Her: Who am I to you? Sri Ramakrishna replied : A form of My blissful Divine Mother.

After few days, Sarada Devi was worshipped by Sri Ramakrishna as The Mother Goddess on the night of 5 June 1872 (Phalahaarini Kali-Puja). Sri Ramakrishna offered His sadhana and His japamala at Her feet.

He often used to sing a song : I have come to the world with a responsibiliy. Then He used to tell Sarada: Is it mine alone? No. It is yours as well.

Sarada Devi started serving His husband and His devotees maintaining an unthinkabke austere life.

In later years, Sri Ramakrishna told His devotees:

"A Paramahansa has to pass through all stages of life to reach the peak". "Marriage is one of the Ten sanskaras of human life and so it was necessary"."Every act of mine is to set some ideal. I do not like anything except God.It is His will".

When He was asked why He did not have any physical relation with Her wife in spite of this being the Law of God? Sri Ramakrishna replied : Its His will. Do you think He creates all justto lead life like animals?

Sri Ramakrishna gave up His body in 1886. But He remained alive in form of Sarada Devi. He had earlier told His devotees: "She (Sarada) is not an ordinary woman.She is my Shakti"."She is Mother Saraswati Herself, descended to give jnana to all". He had been keeping constant communications with Her till Her Mahasamdhi . She had been the Support of all the disciples and devotees of Sri Ramakrishna.It is She whose instructions were blindly obeyed by all the monk disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. The History shows that without Her, the Ramakrishna Movement would have drowned in Ganges very soon after Sri Ramakrishna's Mahasamadhi.

So the intention of their married life was something totally beyond imagination of the normal individuals like me.Our scriptures say :Achintya khalu ye bhaavaa maa taan tarkena yojayet" :( Do not apply logic in discussing topics beyond perception)

Reference: 1. Sri Sri Ramakrishna-Leelaprasanga, Swami Saradananda, Udbodhan, vol 1 & 2. 2.Sri Sri Ramakrishna -Kathamrita,Sri M, Udbodhan 3. Sri Ramakrishna Bivashita Maa Sarada, Swami Budhananda,.Udbodhan

  • "He also told that marriage is needed because it is one of the ten compulsory sanskars." If u can quote where he said that then this will be a very good answer..
    – Rickross
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 11:25
  • Okay now it's good ...
    – Rickross
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 11:29
  • Welcome to Hinduism.SE."What to do you mean by 'no intention of leading a married life'? Where is it written that a married life must mean physical relations?" – clarifications regarding the question should be asked as comments under the question. "Where is it written that a married life must mean physical relations?" - see this answer. Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 17:18
  • You are using circular reasoning (begging the question), which is a fallacy. If I ask "Is what person A did wrong (according to dharma shastras)?" you can't cite person A's words to validate them. You have to find another source. Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 18:11
  • To me and many, Sri Ramakrishna is NOT just a person.
    – user17294
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 18:13

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