The early name of Swami Brahmananda was Rakhal Chandra Ghosh. He came of an aristocratic family in Basirhat in the district of twenty-four Parganas.
His father Ananda Mohan Ghosh was a landlord. His mother was a pious lady and a devotee of Shri Krishna. Perhaps it was she who gave her son the name
Rakhal (meaning the boy-companion of Shri Krishna) when the latter was born on 21st January 1863. Unfortunately, the mother died when Rakhal was only
five years old. Soon after, his father married a second wife who brought up Rakhal.
Rakhal grew up a very healthy and fine-looking boy. There was something in his very appearance which endeared him to one and all.
His education began in the village school which was started hy Ananda Mohan chiefly for the sake of his son. During those days the
village schoolmasters were famous for using their rods. Rakhal would feel pained if any of his class-mates had to undergo corporal punishment.
This attracted the notice of the teacher, who afterwards gave up the practice of caining altogether. As a student Rakhal was remarkable for his intelligence.
But even as a boy he had varied interests in life. Physically he was much stronger than the average boy of his age. His companions found it hard to
cope with him in wrestling or at play. He would take part in many village games and show unsurpassed skill in them. But play and games did not absorb
the whole of his attention. Nearby was a temple dedicated to the Goddess Kali. Often enough, Rakhal would be found in the precincts of the temple.
Sometimes he would play at Mother-worship along with his companions. Sometimes he would himself form a beautiful clay image of the Mother and remain
absorbed in worship. Even at an early age, Rakhal had great devotion to gods and goddesses. During the time of Durga Puja in the family, he would be
found seated still and calm witnessing the ceremony, or at the hour of darkness, when the evening service was being performed, Rakhal would be seen
standing before the Deity in great devotion.
Rakhal, from his boyhood, had instinctive love for devotional music. When begging friars sang songs in praise of Krishna the Flute-player of Vrindaban,
or when anyone sang songs about the Divine MQther, he would become lost to himself. Sometimes he would go with his companions to a secluded spot
in the midst of the field close to the village, and they would sing devotional songs in chorus. In the course of singing, he would occasionally
lose almost all outward consciousness, his mind soaring up to a higher region. After he had finished the primary education, Rakhal was sent to
Calcutta in 1875 and admitted into an English High School. In Calcutta he came in contact with Narendra Nath, afterwards known as Swami Vivekananda,
who was then leader of the boys of the locality. Narendra, with big dynamic spirit and born leadership, cast his influence over others and carried
them along the path he thought right. Rakhal, meek, quiet and soft-natured as he was, easily came under his spell, and there grew a close friendship
between the two which culminated in a common discipleship at Dakshineswar and bore far-reaching results.
After the passing of the Master, Rakhal joined the monastery at Baranagore along with the other young disciples. Subsequently,
they took Sannyasa ceremonially and changed their family names. Thus Rakhal became Swami Brahmananda. But his brother-disciples
preferred to address him as "Raja", as a mark of deep love and respect, and in subsequent years, he was known in the order as
Raja Maharaj or simply Maharaj. If the period of stay in the company of the Master was one of supreme bliss, the days at Baranagore
were of hard Tapasya. The young disciples were ready to lay down their lives, as it were in search of the great Unknown. They did not
care about physical comforts, they did not care about food and drink the one supreme thought of their lives was how to realise the
Self or rather how to make the realisations they had in the presence of the Master a permanent factor in their lives.
After some time even the life at Baranagore seemed to them too secure for their spiritual growth. They wanted to be lost in the wide unknown world with
no help and guide excepting God. Some of them began to go to places of pilgrimage to practise Tapasya in seclusion. Maharaj (Swami Brahmananda),
spurred by such a spirit of renunciation, went to Puri. He stayed there for some time begging his food here and there and passing his days in the
thought of the Lord. The devotees and disciples Qf the Master could never bear the idea that Maharaj should suffer any hardship, for was he not the
special care of the Master? So when Balaram Bose, who had a big estate in Orissa and a rich establishment at Puri, heard that Maharaj was undergoing
great austerities, he began to press the latter to stay with him in more comfort. Maharaj, finding thus, that at Puri he could not follow his own way
of life, returned to Baranagore. But he was seized with intense longing to make harder efforts to realise the goal of life. He expressed his desire
to go to North India and to practise Tapasya somewhere there. The leader, Narendra Nath, reluctantly agreed to allow his beloved brother-disciple to
embrace the wandering life. But he directed another brother-disciple, Swami Subodhananda, to accompany him, so that "Raja" would not have to suffer
much inconvenience. Swami Brahmananda went to Varanasi via Deoghar and stayed there for some time. From Varanasi he went to Omkarnath on the bank of
the Narmada. It is said that while practising Tapasya on the bank of that holy river, he was once, for six days at a stretch, in an ecstatic mood,
almost oblivious of the outward world. After Omkarnath, he with his brother disciple and a devotee visited other places of pilgrimage like Panchavati,
holy with the association of Ramachandra and Sita, Dwaraka, where there is the famous temple of Shri Krishna, Porbandar, Girnar, Ajmer, etc.,
and afterwards returned to Vrindaban.
At Vrindaban he heard the news that the great devotee Balaram Bose had died. This upset him so much that he left Vrindaban and went to the Himalayan region
at Hardwar for greater solitude. He stayed at Kankhal near Hardwar for a period. Afterwards, he would say that the atmosphere of
Kankhal was very favourable for spiritual growth. While he was living there, Swamiji (Vivekananda), with Turiyananda, Saradananda,
and Vaikuntha Sanyal unexpectedly came from Almora to meet him. The joy of such a meeting can be better imagined than described.
'Swami Viveka- nanda feared that perhaps Swami Brahmananda would impair his health by hard Tapasya and living alone so he compelled him to accompany
him on his way to Meerut. After some time, when Swamiji left his brother disciples in order to wander alone, Swami Brahmananda, accompanied by
Swami Turiyananda, started on a pilgrimage to Jwalamukhi and from there he visited various other sacred places in the Punjab, Sind, Bombay,
and Rajputana. At Bombay they met Swamiji who was then preparing to sail for America to attend the Parliament of Religions at Chicago.
With the Swami they travelled up to Abu Road station from where he returned to Vrindaban.
After Swami Vivekananda's coming back from America, repeated requests began to come from Swamiji, as also from the monastery which had now been removed
to Alambazar from Baranagore, asking the two brothers at Vrindaban to return to Bengal, so that all might organise themselves together into a band for
future work. At first Swami Turiyananda returned, and he was followed also by Maharaj the end of 1894.
When the Ramakrishna Mission Soctety was formed, Swamiji became the General President and Maharaj was made the President of the Calcutta centre.
But in the beginning of 1902 Swamiji relinquished his position. Swami Brahmananda was then elected to that place and he worked as the President of
the Ramakrishna Math and Mission till his last day.
After the passing away of Swami Vivekananda, in 1902, the first thing that Maharaj gave his attention to was the consolidation of the work at the headquarters.
After about one year, when he had put the day-to-day work of the organisation in the hands of Swami Saradananda and the management of the Belur Math in charge
of another Gurubhai, Maharaj left for Varanasi. From Varanasi, he went to Kankhal and again to Vrindaban where Swami Turiyananda was practising tapasya.
From Vrindaban, he went to Allahabad and in 1906, to Puri.
In October 1908, at the request of Swami Ramakrishnananda, head of Ramakrishna Math at Madras, Swami Brahmananda started for South India.
During his stay in South, he went for pilgrimage to Rameswaram and Madurai.
In 1916, he went to Dhaka in eastern bengal to lay the foundation stone of the local Ramakrishna Mission on a new site. From there he visited Mymensingh and Narayangunj.
The last important act of Maharaj was to build under his personal supervision an Ashram at Bhubaneswar in Orissa.
He was of the opinion that Bhubaneswar had such a congenial atmosphere that progress would be very rapid if one undertook spiritual practise there.
In March, 1922, he had a severe attack of cholera. He had hardly recovered from the attack when symptoms of diabetes showed up and things took an alarming turn.
The following April, Swami Brahmananda closed his eyes in deep Samadhi and the spirit which had put on mortal flesh for the benefit of humanity, passed away.