Dr. Devaki Kutty Mataji
Disciple of Swami Sivananda Saraswati
Born: Dt. 8th October 1924
Dr. Devaki Kutty-A Legend In Her Own Life Time
(Sri Swami Chidananda)Worshipful homage to the Eternal and Infinite Supreme Universal Spirit, the Param-Atma.
This is a tribute to Dr. Devaki Kutty, my spiritual sister due to her discipleship to our most revered Guru Bhagavan, H.H. Parampujya Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. This special tribute is upon her completing her 75th Birthday Anniversary on 8th October 1998. But, if she told someone she was 75 years old, they would immediately retort, "Impossible! Don’t pull my leg! Tell me truly, what is your age?" Because, in her appearance Dr. Kutty belies her age. No one would believe that she is even a day older than the early sixties. She is a slim, trim and active person who even today puts in a 5-6 hours work schedule 6 days in a week from 8 am to almost 2 pm in the women section of her Gurudev’s Sivananda Charitable Hospital at Sivananda Ashram, on the sacred banks of holy river Ganga near Rishikesh. She is something of a mini-phenomenon in her own personality and daily activities.
All religions in our human world believe that God, the Supreme Universal Spirit, is an ocean of compassion. God is the all-merciful, says the Holy Koran. He is ever gracious. He is infinite Love. These are the terms by which scriptures refer to God. He rescues those who are in danger. He is the reliever of pain and suffering. He removes the distress of those who are in distress. He is solace and hope to those in grief and despair. He is all these and much more. Therefore, the sorely afflicted beings fervently pray to the Lord for succour. He is the answer to our prayers. He is the one Being to whom we can turn when we have no one else to turn to. This is the truth. This is also the fact.
However, in this world of human beings the Supreme Universal Spirit does not personally come down and attend to all our aches and pains and problems and life’s complications. It is only upon very very rare occasions, when some extremely grave situation arises in this world, that we hear of an incarnation taking place in order to set right such a situation by doing the needful at that critical juncture. Otherwise it is the divine plan that He manifests His divine grace, compassion and active help by and through chosen human agencies and instruments, that have proved worthy of being thus used as channels by their exemplary lives and their exceptional character, conduct and their noble and benign nature. Dr. Devaki Kutty Mataji is one such worthy person, whom the Lord Almighty decided to make a channel and an instrument for the manifestation of His kindness, compassion, solace and succour. He chose her as an instrument for the active expression of His healing, curing and pain relieving grace. He made her a super person par excellence for presiding over His work of creating new life in this human world. He blessed her with great skill in the field of Gynaecology and Obstetrics. Thus, she became well known as a top surgeon and an expert maternity specialist in the greater part of North India in Uttar Pradesh as well as in several neighbouring States. Countless couples flocked to the King George’s Hospital where she worked as well as to her residence on Jagat Narayan Road in Lucknow. They were prepared to wait for hours together for obtaining even 5 minutes of her personal professional attention.
Hailing from Kerala, graduating from Madras Medical College, destiny made North India the field of her work. To her parents she was one among three sisters and two brothers, she being the eldest among the sisters. Her career took on a dual capacity as a member of the teaching staff of the Lucknow Medical College and at the same time as a member of the medical staff in the King George’s Hospital. Soon she became well known both for her academic as well as for her Hospital work. Her parents decided to live with her, because she had determined to be single in order to dedicate herself totally to her dual work as mentioned above. While living thus, a wish arose in her to take her parents on a pilgrimage to holy Badrinath in the Himalayas during her annual leave. In those days Dr. Kutty used to have an annual leave period of about 40 days. Little did she know that the wish in her mind was prompted by the Divine Indweller, Antaryami Bhagavan. For, the time had come for a transformation in her life. It was a moment of destiny in which she was to be blessed by a glance of grace from a towering spiritual personality of this Himalayan location. This great soul was no other than the saint and sage H.H. Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj of Muni-Ki-Reti, Sivananda Ashram, a couple of km further from Rishikesh on the road to Badrinath Dham.
You might have heard about the brief Latin saying "Veni, Vidi, Vinci", ascribed to Julius Caesar, implying "I came, I saw, I conquered". Similar was the experience of Dr. Kutty but with a slight difference. Namely when she came into the presence of H.H. Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, she came, she saw. But here the similarity ended. She came, she saw, but she DID NOT conquer. Instead she was conquered by the magnetic divine personality of worshipful Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji within moments.
She had the feeling that she was not before a stranger whom she was meeting for the first time in her life. She felt that she was in the presence of a person whom she had known all her life. After making kind enquiries about her and her professional work, Gurudev said: "Remain here. We have our hospital in this Ashram. Do some Seva there for some weeks. Then have a period of Satsang and study before you return to Lucknow to resume your duty after your vacation. I shall give you some books. You can study them while here. This is a very sacred place. You can go to Badrinath later. Badrinath is always there. You will not miss the darshan." Thus, a link came into being between the famous doctor from Lucknow and this Himalayan saint and sage who was soon to become her spiritual preceptor. This meeting was like the resuming and renewing of a relationship that had already existed in a previous birth also. Very soon the Sivananda Ashram and the radiant personality of worshipful Swami Sivanandaji himself were to become her Badrinath, Kedarnath and all the other Himalayan Dhams. Added to it was the pleasing knowledge that Swami Sivanandaji himself was a practicing doctor in his pre-monastic days. Here she was not only before a Swami, but also before a very senior professional colleague. She felt she was on familiar ground, professionally at least. Naturally, the first conversation touched upon medical matters as well.
Dr. Kutty postponed her trip to Badrinath. Her parents were also fascinated by Gurudev’s cheerful, friendly and enthusiastic personality. Dr. Kutty was soon to discover that the work at the Ashram hospital was not merely a professional technical functioning, though a relationship between doctor and patient was there, but it was a spiritual process in which one encountered God. Swami Sivanandaji’s approach to all activity was WORK IS WORSHIP. He approached the world seeing God in all beings. Any act of service was an act of adoration to God in man. This was the opening up of a new vision in Dr. Kutty as a result of her meeting with this renunciate Himalayan sage, who still occupied himself with ceaseless selfless service unto all beings with the inner attitude of worship. For him everything was spiritual. Nothing was merely secular and worldly. When the time came for Dr. Kutty to return to Lucknow, Gurudev presented to her a whole lot of books and also some Chyavanprash, Himalayan honey and Brahmi-Amla cooling oil etc. He said: "When you go back, this is how you must work. This is your Sadhana. Do it with devotion and dedication. You will simultaneously achieve both ends, the secular as well as the spiritual."
His idealistic approach revolutionised the life of this Lucknow doctor. His simple yet sublime teachings proved to be the commencement of a gradual subtle inner transformation in her lifestyle.
God had prepared her for this. Because, she had the right background in her upbringing as both father and mother were deeply religious persons. Their piety, their intense faith in God and their daily devotional practices at home had made a deep impression on the daughter’s mind. Gurudev imparted a spiritual impulse to her life and set into activity her latent spirituality. The devotee in her also became a Sadhika. She returned to Lucknow with this spiritual gift and Gurudev’s charming invitation, "Ojee! Come again!" She did not need this invitation! She had already decided that she would return to this wonderful spiritual environment during the next year’s annual leave. Then onwards every year, year after year, she would depart from Lucknow the evening of the very day her annual leave commenced and arrive in Rishikesh the next morning and immediately start her Bhakti and Karma Yoga Seva at the Ashram for 30 days. After a month’s Seva the last ten days were quiet days of Darshan, Satsang, spiritual Sadhana, Japa and study etc. Gurudev asked her to open a Branch of the Divine Life Society in Lucknow. Her house at Jagat Narayan Road itself became the venue for the spiritual gatherings and Satsang and Bhajans for the devotees of the Lucknow DLS Branch. One year her pilgrimage to Badrinath and Darshan and worship of Lord Badrinarayana was also achieved. Her name became a by-word all over this hill area. Countless patients eagerly awaited her annual arrival. During the years from 1953 to 1963 she became a regular "visiting doctor" at the Ashram. She was looked upon as a ministering angel bringing healing and relief to eagerly awaiting patients. Gurudev was full of appreciation and admiration for her expertise and her untiring service to the sick and to the ailing. After Gurudev attained Mahasamadhi in July 1963, Dr. Kutty’s dedicated work at the hospital continued without a change as her Guru-Seva. Meantime her parents gradually became old, and her old father began to feel a little anxious about his favourite daughter’s future. Because, his other two daughters were both married and well settled with their spouses. The elder brother made his career in England as an expert Neuro-surgeon. The younger brother got good service in the city of Madras, South India. Dr. Kutty’s old father was determined that when he passed on, his daughter should no longer continue in Lucknow. He used to tell me that Lucknow was not a good city. He said that Dr. Kutty must settle down in the Ashram permanently when he is no more. He approached me with a sense of urgency, requesting me to identify some suitable location where he would arrange to have a cottage constructed for the comfortable stay of his daughter. He very much wanted to see the completed cottage with his own eyes before he departed from this world. He had the immense satisfaction of seeing this accomplished in his lifetime well before his departure. As he felt his end approaching, he suggested to Dr. Kutty that she might take voluntary retirement. But, this was not so easy, because the governor of U.P. would not allow this step. The Medical College where Dr. Kutty worked was part of the Lucknow University. According to the government act pertaining to the universities, the governor of any province (state) was ex-officio the chancellor of the university. The Vice-Chancellor was the second in status to the governor or Rajyapal as they used to refer to him. He turned down Dr. Kutty’s request to relieve her. Things were at a stalemate. The old father was insistent. Then matters took an unexpected turn when the chief administrator of the hospital was soon due to retire, having reached the ceiling age of government service. The governor sent for Dr. Kutty and informed her that he had decided to make her the chief administrator. Dr. Kutty was taken aback. As much as she liked her teaching work in the college and her medical and surgical work in the hospital, she was quite against entering into any administrative function. She politely refused to succeed the outgoing administrator. The governor insisted. Not wanting this confrontation to continue, Dr. Kutty applied for long leave, left Lucknow and went away to the South. Her leave could not be refused. Because, she had never taken leave and as such she had accumulated considerable leave which was her rightful due. On his part the governor could not keep the administrator’s post vacant when the incumbent retired. So he was obliged to appoint the administrator’s immediate subordinate next in status to her. Thus, Kutty Mataji was able to circumvent this distasteful situation. At the end of her leave period, Dr. Kutty submitted her resignation. This could not be rejected. At long last her secular medical career concluded.
Dr. Kutty had already made up her mind that the last chapter of her life was to be her own sacred Guru-Sthan, i.e. Gurudev’s Ashram on the holy banks of Mother Ganga. She had made this her "inner Sankalpa". So when the Lucknow chapter closed, a new era began for the Sivananda Charitable Hospital of this Ashram. Dr. Kutty took charge of the hospital, streamlined it and plunged into the hospital work with unsparing zeal and dedication. The medical work at the Divine Life Society got a fillip. The hospital had the great good fortune of having an expert surgeon and a top maternity specialist at its head. The work progressed by leaps and bounds. Soon the hospital became the destination of countless couples from all walks of life and all strata of society. There is a old adage "All roads lead to Rome". Similarly it could be said with equal truth that "all roads lead to Sivananda Ashram Hospital". Private cars, jeeps, motorcycles, taxis, vans and all manners of vehicles began to be parked in a long line before the hospital, long before its opening time. You wouldn’t believe it, even as early as 4 am and 4.30 am in the morning when it was still dark, these vehicles were already arriving to obtain priority numbers in the queue when the registration work started before the opening of the hospital.
The Birth Centenary of Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was to occur in the year 1987. It was decided by the Trustees of the Ashram to observe this great event for a full year with 12 month long on-going programmes in different parts of India. Gurudev’s disciples and devotees were all over India. Nationwide programmes had to be planned and celebrated. A Swami Sivananda Celebration Central Committee was constituted in Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh. The unanimous choice of the General Secretary for this Committee was Dr. Kutty. She was the chief executive to direct all the plans and programmes. This dimension of her work commenced from September 1985. The big hall next to her residence upstairs of Sivananda Bhavan became her office. With the active assistance of many colleagues taking up the responsibilities of different aspects of this eventful work, Dr. Kutty was able to make the Centenary Celebrations an admirable success. This experience made her the right person to function in a similar capacity when the Amrita Mahotsava, the 75th Birthday Anniversary of Pujya Swami Krishnanandaji Maharaj took place in 1997. Naturally, as was expected Dr. Kutty rose to the occasion once again and fully proved her worth by making it a wonderful success, as everyone saw it for themselves as they participated in this event of last year. We have in Dr. Kutty "a gem of purest ray serene". Thus, I drop my cap and bow down in obeisance to her upon this present most auspicious event, her own Amrita Mahotsava. Long may she live and prosper and be an inspiration and light to many many aspiring souls. May God and Gurudev shower their grace and blessings upon her. Hari Om! Jai Vishvanath! Jai Sri Gurudev!
Dr. Devaki Kutty
(Sri Swami Krishnananda)
When I was in the Roorkee Cantonment, living in the house of a Lieutenant Colonel who was the Chief of the Military Hospital of the Cantonment of Roorkee where I went for medical treatment many many years back, I received from the Ashram a small magazine called Wisdom Light, on the front cover page of which there was a photograph of Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj with an unknown lady doctor, whose name was inscribed there as Dr. Devaki Kutty. From the way she was described in that magazine, I felt that she should be some important person. After the treatment was over, I came back to the Ashram. This Doctor was a Reader/Professor in the King George’s Medical College and Hospital Lucknow, associated with the University of Lucknow. She used to come to the Ashram regularly, now and then, and meet me whenever she happened to pay a visit to the Ashram. What I gathered from people in Lucknow is that she was a strict disciplinarian in the Hospital. I also heard that she was a kind of fear to people working under her or with her, due to extreme strictness and punctuality. I came to know from stray reports that she was an experienced Doctor.
Those days Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was all in all and no visitor would visit personally any inmate of the Ashram. All visitors would go straight to Gurudev since he was the central spiritual figure and the inmates in the Ashram had nothing to do with the visitors. But Dr. Kutty somehow seemed to have come to know that I am a person of some significance in the Ashram and so, she used to have some Satsanga with me very often. All the talks between her and myself were totally spiritual, pertaining to different aspects of spiritual life.
During that time, Dr. Swami Hridayananda Mataji was the Chief in the Hospital. Later on, Dr. Hridayananda Mataji left on visit abroad and Dr. Devaki Kutty who was here, was requested to take charge of the Hospital, to which she very graciously acceded.
Dr. Kutty became all in all in the Ashram’s Hospital—though she is specially qualified in Gynaecology and Obstetrics. The other Doctors in the Hospital worked under her instruction and guidance. During the occasion of my 75th Birthday Anniversary which was vigorously proposed by Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj, Dr. Kutty Mataji voluntarily took up the charge of a chief organiser of the function, which she did so excellently and so perfectly that one may say that she exhibited her Administrative capacity. The role she played by bringing out a beautiful Souvenir on the occasion, revealed her many hidden capacities, both literarily and executively. Dr. Mataji has a special regard for me and considers my opinion on any matter as practically conclusive. As a person with a conscience of responsibility, she makes it a point never to go out of station without informing me through a letter. She would not even go to Hardwar or Dehra Dun without giving me intimation. I asked her one day why she writes a note to me whenever she goes to Dehra Dun, her answer was "How will anyone in the Ashram know where I have gone? I did not want to cause anxiety to anybody."
At the present moment she has given up the responsibility of managing the Hospital, though she is doing the service of Gynaecology. At present, the Chief of the Hospital is Dr. Samatvananda (Dr. B. Babu). Dr. Mataji is a non-interfering person, does not come in conflict with anybody. On this occasion of the 75th Birthday Anniversary of Dr. Devaki Kutty Mataji, for whom Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was all in all, we invoke upon her the benedictions of God Almighty!