At his birth, Nigamananda was named Nalinikanta (নলিনীকান্ত, ନଳିନୀକାଂତ, नलिनीकांत – in Hindu meaning is: Lotus, water), per the wishes of his father, Bhuban Mohan and the advice of his father’s guru, Swami Bhaskarananda Saraswati. At the age of thirteen (1893) Nalinikanta lost his mother Manikya Sundari Devi to cholera, pushing him into depression. In 1894-95 he passed the student scholarship examination and studied at Meherpur High School. In 1895 he entered Dhaka Asanulla Engineering College. In 1897 his father married him to a thirteen-year-old girl named Sudhansubala Devi of Halisahar. He completed his study in 1899 and joined a service in the District Board of Dinajpur, the estate of Rani Rashmoni. At the end of Vadra, 1901 (approximately five years after marriage) when he was serving as the supervisor of the Narayanpur Estate (Zamindari), Nalinikanta saw the shadowy image of his wife standing at the table glowering and silent while she was away at Kutabpur (Nalinikanta’s village). He went to Kutabpur to inquire and learned that she had died just an hour before his vision. He unsuccessfully attempted to reach his wife through occult science.
Until he lost his wife, death Nalinikanta had seen death as the ultimate end. Losing her led him to believe that there must be life after death. Nalinikanta became obsessed with this question. His inquiry took him to Madras (now Chennai) to study theosophy at the Theosophical Society at Adyar. Through a medium, he was able to talk to his wife, but remained unsatisfied. His discussions at the society led him to search for a yogi who could fulfill his desire to meet his dead wife and educate him in the true philosophy of “life after death”.
Spiritual experience (1902—1905
“Nalinikanta” took to asceticism and named after Nigamananda in 1904
I had ramble like a mad chap caring little for bodily comforts for god and guru(master). God never descended for a moment to assist me. The day I traced my guru and received His blessings, things turned in my favour. Prior to that although I had undertaken various practices they did not yield any result. As soon as I come under the guidance of my gurudev(master) whatever practices I followed, I got success in each of them. It is therefore very importance that a blessing of guru is very essential for success in spiritual sadhana – SWAMI NIGAMANANDA
One night Nalinikanta dreamed of a sadhu with a brilliant aura. He woke up to find the sadhu standing beside his bed. The sadhu handed him a bael leaf with a mantra written on it and then vanished. Nalinikanta asked many to help him understand its meaning. Finally he met Bamakhepa, a famous tantrik of Tarapith, Birbhum district. Nalinikanta took initiation (dikhshya) from Bamakhepa and was directed to chant his mantra for 21 days. Under Bamakhepa’s guidance he had physical darshan of Tara Devi in the form of his wife.
This darshan led him to another mystery. He saw Tara Devi coming out of his body and mingling with him. To solve this mystery, Bamakshepa advised Nalinikanta to attain the knowledge of Advaita from a vedantic guru. In 1902 he searched for a jnani guru. He met guru Satchidananda Saraswati at the holy place of Pushkar in the Indian state of Rajasthan. He realized that Satchidananda Saraswati was the sadhu who had given him the Tara mantra in his dream. Nalinikanta became his disciple, and learned the theories of Brahma (god as the formless one), Brahma sutras and vedanta. He was initiated by the Satchidananda into renunciation and according to that principle changed his name to Nigamananda.
Satchidananda directed Nigamananda to undertake pilgrimages to the four institutions (Char Dham) of religious seats and realize for himself the significance of each, as the Hindus held these places of worship sacred. After these pilgrimages, he returned to the ashram.
On his arrival at the ashram, Sachidananda reviewed Nigamananda’s pilgrimages and said: “My boy! You have travelled widely and seen the religious places and acquired knowledge and experience. All that I had to teach you has been accomplished but it is for you now to put my teachings into practice. You have to experience for yourself the truth of your being and this can only be done through concerted efforts as well as the practice and observance of you yogic principles. Thus you now have to seek out a guru who will provide you the proper guidance in this line.
Gauhati(Assam)-Kamakhya Hill: This is the place, where Nigamananda experienced Nirivikalpa Samadhi (निर्बिकल्प समाधि)and the place is identified by government of Assam in 2012.
Again Nigamananda went out to seek a guru. In 1903 he met a “yogi guru” (yoga master) – whom he called “Sumeru Dasji” (otherwise known as Koot Hoomi Lal Singh or Kuthumi). Nigamananda was accepted as his disciple. Under Das’s guidance he learned yoga. After hard practice, in the month of Poush 1904, Nigamananda was able to master Savikalpa samadhi (the trance in which the yogi loses his body consciousness and acquires a transcendental consciousness while retaining his individual identity). Soon after Nigamananda desired to experience the state of Nirvikalpa – the most advanced of yogic samadhis at Kamakshya, Guwahati Assam (Nilachal Hill). Nigamananda followers believe that he did enter by way of this samadhi and was returned into his body with the residual consciousness of “I am the master or guru” and in yoga he had visualized and practically understood in his own body his guru’s vedic knowledge.
(The place “Nirvikalpa samadhi” exprienced by Swami Nigamananda has been identified. Assam Governor Janaki Ballav Patnaik inaugurated the Nirbikalpa Sidhi Sthal of Swami Nigamananda at Nilachal Hills in Kamakhya Dham, Guwahati on 20 December 2012.
In 1904, he was in Kashi (now known as Varanasi), when goddess Annapurna appeared in another dream and told him that his knowledge was limited to formless god and not gone beyond that, hence he was still incomplete. He accepted her challenge and traveled to Gouri devi (a siddhayogini) to learn bhava sadhana. Gouri devi accepted him as disciple and taught him bhakti or prem (eternal nature of divine love play) to understand the physical world as the transformation of god in bhava sadhana
Nigamananda’s long and continued search for his guru, resembled the search undertaken by his future disciples to find him.
Recognition as paramahamsa (1904
In 1904 Nigamananda went to Allahabad to see kumbha mela and learned that his master Sachidandand was in the area, staying with Sankaracarya of Sringeri Matha. He found Sankaracarya (mahant or superior) sitting on an elevated throne surrounded by 125 monks, including his guru. Seeing him, Nigamananda went first to pay his respects to his guru, and then to the higher-ranking mahant. The sadhu were upset by this perceived disrespect in not honoring the “mahant” first, but in response Nigamananda quoted the scripture: “Mannatha shri jagannatha madguru shri jagadguru madatma sarvabhutatma tasmai shri gurave namaha (मनाथह श्री जगन्नाथ मदगुरु श्री जगदगुरु मदात्मा सर्वभूतात्मा तस्मै श्री गुरवे नमः)”, meaning, “My guru is highest in whole world, hence I should respect my guru first”. Nigamananda further explained to the sadhu assemblies that “on the basis of the vedanta philosophy there was no difference between his “Guru” (Shri Sachidanand Saraswati) and “Jagadguru” (Shri Shankarcharya)”.
Jagadguru Sankaracarya endorsed this response and recognized Nigamananda as one who had achieved spiritual enlightenment. Jagadguru conferred him with the title “paramahansa” and came to known as “Paribrajakacharay Paramahansa Shree Mad Swami Nigamananda Saraswati Deva” (परिब्राजकचार्य परमहंस श्री मद स्वामी निगमानंद सरस्वती देव).
Nigamananda spent the last fourteen years of his life in Puri. He died in Calcutta on 29 November 1935.
Nigamananda’s followers honor his memory, and gather at annual congregations (sammilani),[5 and other ceremonial occasions.