Wednesday, October 28, 2009


The very mention of the place 'Thirunallaru' brings about the thought of Shani Bhagavan (the planet Saturn) in an instant. The disciplinarian of the Navagrahas, Lord Shani graces all those afflicted who throng at His feet in Thirunallaru. The very mention of the word 'Shani' brings about a reverential fear in oneself. However here, His form in Thirunallaru features, Abhaya Varadha hastam, or His hand bestowing blessings. The temple of Thirunallaru thronged by thousands has been associated with Lord Shani as His abode rather than even the presiding deity, Lord Shiva, otherwise called Dharbarenyeswaraswamy.

The main deity or Moolavar, Lord Dharbarenyeswara is a Swayambu Linga (come on its own). Originally the place was a forest with a flourishing growth of Dharba grass or Kusa grass. The impression of the grass on the body of the Lingam still stands as a testimonial fact to the truth. The Lord is also worshipped as Adhimoorthy or Nalarar. Mother Parvati is worshipped as Pranamambika in Sanskrit and Bogamartha Poonmulai-ammai in Tamil.

The most ancient legend has Lord Brahma and other sages who worshipped Lord Shiva here. Lord Shiva appeared before them and taught the Vedas, after which He assumed the shape of a Lingam. Brahma then had the divine sculptor to construct a temple which was called 'Adhipuri'.

As per the guidance of the sage, Nala dipped himself in the Brahma theertham of the temple and entered the sanctom to offer worship to Lord Shiva. It was then that Lord Shani let go off him.

Thirunallaru is also the place where Sambandhar's hymns on Dharbarenyeswara was thrown into the fire and was revived without even a slightest burn during a religious duel that took place between the Jains in Madhurai and Sambandhar. Hence the place also came to be known as 'Pachai Padhigam Petra Thalam’ Sundarar and Appar have also sung the praise of the Lord here.

The most famous legend of the temple has King Nala, afflicted by Shani who went through untold miseries. He lost his kingdom, and was separated from his wife and children and Shani's impact took a toll on his appearance as well when he was bitten by the snake Karakodagan. It was pity that being a king himself, he assumed the role of a charioteer for King Irudhupannan. However he was recoganised by his wife Dhamayanti in the Swayamvaram ( the ceremony of choosing a groom ) arranged by her father in order to track Nala. Nala regained his old form and was reunited with his family. Despite the reunion, Nala bore the torment of a troubled mind and hence sought the guidance of Sage Bharadwaja who directed him to worship Lord Dharbarenyeswara in Thirunallaru. As per the guidance of the sage, Nala dipped himself in the Brahma theertham of the temple and entered the sanctom sanctorum to offer his worship to Lord Shiva. It was then that Lord Shani let go off him.

As per another legend associated with the temple, a shepard who was tended the cattle belonging to the temple was once accused of not handing over the milk to the official of the temple. The official took the issue to the king who ordered to take action against the innocent Shepard. The shepard prayed to Lord Dharbarenyeswara who furiously threw His trident towards the official which severed his head. The place where the severed head fell is called Mandaikulam. Further due to the beseech of the shepard, the dead official was revived. A shrine where the idols of the shepard, his wife and the official stand as a testimony to the event. The balipeedam and the Lord's vehicle, Nandi are found to be placed a little away, so as to not to block the trident in hitting its target.

Shani Bhagavan

Lord Shani Bhagavan, can be rightly described as the disciplinarian among the Navagrahas. He sculpts one and all to perfection, that the course of His moulding seems to be too arduous for one to go through. However He is also known to shower His blessings abundantly over His devotees. Despite being one of the noted temples of Lord Shiva, Thirunallaru is better known as the abode of Shani Bhagavan. People afflicted by Sadhe Sati, Ashtama Shani and who are going through the phase of Shani Dasa flock here to offer prayers to Shani. Hence it is hailed as a 'Navagraha Sthalam' Sanipeyarchi or Saturn transit is celebrated grandly with special poojas for Shani Bhagavan. It is also a belief that though Shani gets one to work out the results of one's karma, He is also known to treat the righteous without inflicted much suffering. He presents Himself in a pleasant form as a 'Anugraha Murthi’ (one who bestows pleasant things).

Method Of Worship

Kuvalai flowers are used for the worship of Shani while gingelly oil lamps are lit to appease Him. Small packs of black sesame seeds wrapped in a small piece of cloth dipped in gingelly oil are burnt before Shani Bhagavan as a form of worship.

About the temple

People afflicted by Sadhe Sati, Ashtama Shani and who are going through the phase of Shani Dasa flock here to offer prayers to Shani.

Thirunallar is located 5 kilometers west of Karaikal in the bus route of Karaikal-Mayiladuthurai and Kumbakonam in the state of Tamil Nadu, South India.

Thirunallaru is also one of the seven temples, 'Saptha Vidanga Sthalams', located near Thanjavur. Each Murti or the idol in these seven has the Lord representing a unique dance form. The processional deity or the Somaskandhar is 'Naka Vidangar' and the unique dance He performs here is 'Unmatha Nadanam'. Hence the place is also called as 'Nakavidangapuram'

The Sthala Viruksham or the holy plant is Kusa grass (Darbha). The temple's holy water source is the 'Nala Theertam' along with thirteen other Theerthams.

Any details and information with regards to the temple can be accessed from the Executive Officer, Sri Darbaranyeswara Swami Devasthanam, Thirunallar 609 607 (Tel: 04368-236530 or 236504).

Let us hence surrender to Lord Dharbarenyeswara of Thirunallaru to bestow His blessings over us to lead a righteous life to keep the wrath of Shani Bhagavan at bay. Let us beseech the Lord to grant us the supreme state where one transcends both pain and pleasure and thus abide in the state of everlasting bliss.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Suyambu Arulmigu Annai AdhiParasakthi Siddhar Peetam

Suyambu Arulmigu Annai AdhiParasakthi Siddhar Peetam


The Holy Shrine is situated about 92 Kilo meters from Madras on the Madras - Trichy National Highway[N.H.45] in a place called MelMaruvathur in Tamil Nadu, India.

This is the place where 21 Siddhars(saints) men as well as women from different religion, had their Jeeva-Samadhis (meaning, where the Siddhars left their human forms behind, while they are still alive as holy spirits).

Principles of the Siddhar Peetam

The basic tenet of Melmaruvathur Adhiparasakthi Siddhar Peetam is "One Mother, One Humanity", means the whole human race is one and all the human beings who inhibit this vast earth are children of Mother Goddess and therefore there is no distinction amongst the human beings on any basis, be it religion, race, creed, community, caste or even gender.

             The main objective for which the Siddhar Peetam strives is "the cult of Sakthi" that is, the whole humanity is born of one omnipotent Mother and hence the whole humanity is one, should be upheld, and each ane everyone's grievances should be removed.

Unique Features of AdhiParasakthi Siddhar Peetam

Here in Melmaruvathur AdhiParasakthi Siddhar Peetam, the Divine Mother AdhiParasakthi transmigrates into Arulthiru Bangaru Adigalar thereby promoting spirituality and devotion. During the transmigration Adigalar(AMMA) tells Arulvakku(oracle).

Through the "Arulakku(oracle)" AdhiParasakthi herself speaks to her devotees, this is the unique speciality of this Siddhar Peetam. Hearing the Goddess Adhiparasakthi's oracle is a great spiritual experience, this miracle takes place at Siddhar peetam.

Arul Thiru Bangaru Adigalar is called by his devotees as AMMA(means Mother), here in Siddhar Peetam whatever "AMMA" says is the law and it is administered under the guidance of 'AMMA' which is a divine administration.

All at Siddhar Peetam are allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum irrespective of caste, creed, gender and religion. Only at Melmaruvathur, women are permitted to perform poojas in the sanctum sanctorum.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


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Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Grace and Guru

I have not said that a Guru is not necessary. But a Guru need not always be in human form. First a person thinks that he is an inferior and that there is a superior, all-knowing, all powerful God who controls his own and the world's destiny and worships him or does Bhakti. When he reaches a certain stage and becomes fit for enlightenment, the same God whom he was worshipping comes as Guru and leads him on. That Guru comes only to tell him that ‘God is within yourself. Dive within and realize.’ God, Guru and the Self are the same.

Self - Realization

The state we call realization is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything. If one has realized, he is that which alone is, and which alone has always been. He cannot describe that state. He can only be That. Of course, we loosely talk of Self-realization for want of a better term.

That which is, is peace. All that we need do is to keep quiet. Peace is our real nature. We spoil it. What is required is that we cease to spoil it.


In the center of the cavity of the Heart, the sole Brahman shines by itself as the Atman (Self) in the feeling of 'I-I'. Reach the Heart by diving within yourself, either with control of breath, or with thought concentrated on the quest of Self. You will thus get fixed in the Self.


Asked “How does a grihastha (householder) fare in the scheme of Moksha (liberation)?” Bhagavan said, “Why do you think you are a grihastha? If you go out as a sannyasi (ascetic), a similar thought that you are a sannyasi will haunt you. Whether you continue in the household or renounce it and go to the forest, your mind goes with you. The ego is the source of all thought. It creates the body and the world and makes you think you are a grihastha . If you renounce the world it will only substitute the thought sannyasi for grihastha and the environment of the forest for that of the household. But the mental obstacles will still be there. They even increase in the new surroundings. There is no help in change of environment. The obstacle is the mind. It must be got over whether at home or in the forest. If you can do it in the forest, why not at home? Therefore, why change your environment? Your efforts can be made even now - in whatever environment you are now. The environment will never change according to your desire.”

Fate and Free Will

Free will and destiny are ever existent. Destiny is the result of past action; it concerns the body. Let the body act as may suit it. Why are you concerned about it? Why do you pay attention to it? Free will and destiny last as long as the body lasts. But jnana transcends both. The Self is beyond knowledge and ignorance. Whatever happens, happens as the result of one's past actions, of divine will and of other factors.
There are only two ways to conquer destiny or be independent of it. One is to enquire for whom is this destiny and discover that only the ego is bound by destiny and not the Self and that the ego is non-existent.
The other way is to kill the ego by completely surrendering to the Lord, by realizing one's helplessness and saying all the time, 'Not I, but Thou, oh Lord' and giving up all sense of 'I' and ‘mine’, and leaving it to the Lord to do what he likes with you. Complete effacement of the ego is necessary to conquer destiny, whether you achieve this effacement through Self-enquiry or bhakti marga (path).

The Jnani

The jnani has attained Liberation even while alive, here and now. It is immaterial to him as to how, where and when he leaves the body. Some jnanis may appear to suffer, others may be in samadhi; still others may disappear from sight before death. But that makes no difference to their jnana. Such suffering is apparent, seems real to the onlooker, but is not felt by the jnani, for he has already transcended the mistaken identity of the Self with the body.
The jnani does not think he is the body. He does not even see the body. He sees only the Self in the body. If the body is not there, but only the Self, the question of its disappearing in any form does not arise.


Ramana was a silent Teacher, if there was one. It would be more appropriate to call him the Silent One, for teaching denotes duality, the teacher and taught, while Ramana was, as a devotee wrote, “the Pure Non-dual Essence.” His most direct and profound teaching was transmitted in silence.

However, how many were there that could immediately hear or experience the unspoken, the unwritten word? Devotees and visitors asked questions and out of his boundless compassion Bhagavan answered them in his own inimitable way, as the following excerpts will show. 


All beings desire happiness always, happiness without a tinge of sorrow. At the same time everybody loves himself best. The cause for this love is only happiness. So, that happiness must lie in one self. Further, that happiness is daily experienced by everyone in sleep, when there is no mind. To attain that natural happiness one must know oneself. For that, Self-Enquiry 'Who am I?' is the chief means.


Existence or Consciousness is the only reality. Consciousness plus waking we call waking. Consciousness plus sleep we call sleep. Consciousness plus dream, we call dream. Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go. The screen is real, the pictures are mere shadows on it.


Mind is a wonderful force inherent in the Self. That which arises in this body as 'I' is the mind. When the subtle mind emerges through the brain and the senses, the gross names and forms are cognized. When it remains in the Heart, names and forms disappear. If the mind remains in the Heart, the 'I' or the ego which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self, the Real, Eternal 'I' alone will shine. Where there is not the slightest trace of the ego, there is the Self.

Who Am I ? Enquiry

For all thoughts the source is the 'I' thought. The mind will merge only by Self-enquiry 'Who am I?' The thought 'Who am l?' will destroy all other thoughts and finally kill itself also. If other thoughts arise, without trying to complete them, one must enquire to whom did this thought arise. What does it matter how many thoughts arise? As each thought arises one must be watchful and ask to whom is this thought occurring. The answer will be 'to me'. If you enquire 'Who am I?' the mind will return to its source (or where it issued from). The thought which arose will also submerge. As you practise like this more and more, the power of the mind to remain as its source is increased.


There are two ways of achieving surrender. One is looking into the source of the 'I' and merging into that source. The other is feeling 'I am helpless myself, God alone is all powerful, and except by throwing myself completely on Him, there is no other means of safety for me', and thus gradually developing the conviction that God alone exists and the ego does not count. Both methods lead to the same goal. Complete surrender is another name for jnana or liberation.

The Three States :

Waking, Dream and Deep Sleep

There is no difference between the dream and the waking states except that the dream is short and the waking long. Both are the result of the mind. Our real state, called turiya (fourth), is beyond the waking, dream and sleep states.


He was but a young man in his early twenties, yet Sri Ramana Maharshi had already the serene countenance and radiant eyes of a Sage. He lived in a cave on the sacred mountain, Arunachala, beside the town of Tiruvannamalai in Madras State. He sought solitude and maintained silence to discourage visitors. Nevertheless, disciples gathered round. He was already known as ‘Maharshi’, the ‘Great Sage’; devotees addressed him in the third person as ‘Bhagavan’ (Lord).
After some years the cave became too small and the Maharshi and his followers moved to Skandasramam, a little higher up the mountainside. This also was a cave but was enlarged and built out to give more accommodation. His mother renounced the world and came to join him there. She began to cook for the little group, whereas previously they ate only what was given in charity by the pious when some of them daily begged for food in the town.

The Mother died in 1922, attaining Liberation at the moment of death, through persistent effort fortified by the concentrated grace of her son. As tradition demands in  the case of a Liberated Being, the body of Mother  was not cremated but
buried. As no burial is allowed on the sacred mountain, she was buried at its foot, at the southern-most point where a cemetery already existed.
It was less than half an hour’s walk from Skandasramam and the Maharshi would go there daily. Then, one day, he stayed. It was here that Ramanasramam sprang up.

Sri Ramana Maharshi was already over forty at the time and had spent twenty-six years at Tiruvannamalai as a Self-realized sage; and yet he was not widely known outside of South India. He had avoided publicity and had done nothing spectacular to attract people, such as cures or miracles. There was no Ashram office, no correspondence, no facility for visitors, no publicity.

An Ashram did not spring up immediately. At first there was only a shed with bamboo uprights and a roof of palm leaves. The Maharshi himself maintained the same aloof attitude, and he continued to live in utmost simplicity. He asked nobody to come and told no one to go;

if any wanted to come they could, if any wanted to settle down there they could, but each had to make his own arrangements. Ashram organization was not his concern. If rules were made he would be the first to abide by them, but he himself did not make any. His work was purely spiritual: silently guiding the ever-growing family of devotees that gathered around him and radiating his Grace upon them. To all appearance, he was aloof, but his love was all embracing and utterly overpowering. Everyone felt the subtle, ever-watchful power and grace of his guidance.
It was his younger brother, Sri Niranjanananda Swami, who oversaw the construction of buildings and the growth of the Ashram. He became its sarvadhikari or manager. As the Maharshi became more widely known, donations flowed in and a whole complex of buildings arose. Particularly dear to the sarvadhikari’s heart was a temple that he built over the Mother’s shrine and a large new meditation hall, known as the New Hall, adjoining it.
The focus of all attention was, of course, the meditation hall where devotees sat with the Maharshi. There was a couch there where he sat in the daytime and slept at night. Devotees would sit before him on the floor, men on one side of the hall, women at the other. During the early years the doors were never closed, and even at night people could come and lay their troubles at his feet. In later years, because of age and failing health, the Ashram management decided that hours of privacy would be necessary for him.
Concerned that he should be accessible to all comers at all hours, Sri Bhagavan never left the Ashram except for his daily walk on the mountain and palakothu, morning and evening, and in the early years, an occasional walk on the nine-mile road around the mountain. This is said to be particularly meritorious and should ideally be done barefoot, as a pilgrimage. The Maharshi always encouraged it.

People would sit in meditation while the Maharshi watched over them, guiding them wordlessly. However there was no rigidity about it, no rule that every one must meditate at a given time or in a certain manner. Accommodation was sometimes difficult to find. It was never a residential Ashram in the usual sense; nevertheless, a large dormitory was put up where men could spread their bedding on the floor. There were also a few private rooms for guests. However, all this proved insufficient, and was of no help to women, who were not allowed to stay overnight in the Ashram premises. A number of devotees built their own houses round about, and thus a housing estate grew up. Sadhus made a colony near the Ashram and lived in caves and huts. A Maharaja donated a guesthouse. In spite of all this, difficulties in finding accommodation persisted.

All of this suddenly changed in 1950. After a long and wasting illness the Maharshi attained Maha Samadhi. The crowds of devotees dispersed and it seemed for a while that the Ashram might come to an end or survive only as a relic. However, contrary to what had been feared, there was no feeling of void. Indeed, never    had   the  atmosphere
more vibrant with the Maharshi’s effulgent Presence and Grace. The power of his presence seemed not to have been withdrawn but, on the contrary, to be stronger and more potent than ever. Such grace was there that those who stayed on could not even feel sad. There was nothing to grieve about, no sense of loss or privation. More and more, people came to feel the Maharshi’s continued presence at Sri Ramanasramam. Devotees who had left returned. The flow of visitors resumed. It was recalled that the Maharshi himself had given many indications of his continued presence. In approving a Will that was drawn up he had stated that this Ashram was to continue as a spiritual center. Shortly before his death he had said: “They say that I am going away, but where could I go? I am here.” On the one hand, this was a purely metaphysical statement. For the Sage who has realized his identity with the universal Self there is no coming or going, no change or becoming, no here or there, only the changeless Here and Now. And yet, his words had physical implications as well. They applied to his Ashram at Tiruvannamalai. During his lifetime, the Maharshi had often said that only the body travels; the Self remains unmoving. This was one aspect of the truth which would be a consolation to those not destined to go to Tiruvannamalai. But the other aspect was no less true: that it was and is a great blessing to be able to go to Sri Ramanasramam at the foot of the sacred Arunachala Mountain, and that powerful spiritual help will be found there for those who come. While Sri Ramana is universal and ever present in the hearts of those devotees who dedicate their lives to him, there is, at the same time, no denying that his power and guidance are concentrated at his Ashram at Tiruvannamalai.
There were other confirmations of Sri Bhagavan’s continued Presence. When some devotees complained before his death that he was leaving them he answered cryptically: “You attach too much importance to the body.” The implication was obvious. The body was leaving them; he was not. He would remain the Guru as before.

There is no spiritual head of the Ashram, no lineage successor to Bhagavan in human form. The Presence of the Maharshi is so intensely powerful and all-pervasive that it is clear to all his devotees that the Mighty Impersonality that Ramana was is the eternal Guru and presiding deity here. The spiritual instructions that he has left behind are complete in every way and spiritual support comes directly from him; all that is needed is practice.

The sarvadhikari died in January, 1953 and his son, T. N. Venkataraman, took over the management of the Ashram as President. In 1994, T. N. Venkataraman retired and, as enjoined by Bhagavan’s will, entrusted his eldest son, V. S. Ramanan, to serve as the Ashram President.


The circumambulation of Arunachala (Giripradakshina) has been prescribed as a panacea for all the ills of life. The Maharshi encouraged all of his devotees to make the nine-mile circuit, even those who were infirm, knowing for certain that the spiritual benefits of giripradakshina far outweighed any physical hardships. He said, “The greatness of this giripradakshina has been described at length in Arunachala Puranam. Lord Nandikesa asked Sadasiva about its greatness and Sadasiva narrated as follows: “To go round this hill is good. The word ‘pradakshina’ has a typical meaning. The letter ‘Pra’ stands for the removal of all kinds of sin; ‘da’ stands for the fulfillment of desires; ‘kshi’ stands for freedom from future births; ‘na’ stands for the granting of deliverance through jnana. One should go round either in mouna (silence) or dhyana (meditation) or japa (repetition of Lord’s name) or bhajan (singing praises) and thereby think of God all the time. One should walk slowly like a woman who is in the ninth month of pregnancy.”

Another day while describing its benefits, the Maharshi was recorded to have said, “Really, it is difficult to describe the pleasure and the happiness one gets by this pradakshina. The body gets tired, the sense organs lose their strength and all the activities of the body become absorbed within. It is possible thus to forget oneself and get into a state of meditation. As one continues to walk, the body automatically gets harmonized as in the asana state. The body therefore becomes improved in health. Besides this, there are several varieties of medicinal herbs on the hill. The air that passes over those herbs is good for the lungs.

“Pilgrims become absorbed in their Atma by walking with no other thought than that of God. Giripradakshina is also the same thing. The body becomes light and walks of its own accord. There will not be the feeling that we are walking. The dhyana that you cannot get into while sitting, you get into automatically if you go for pradakshina. However unable a person is to walk, if he once goes round the hill he will feel like going again and again. The more you go, the more the enthusiasm for it. It never decreases. Once a person is accustomed to the happiness of Pradakshina, he can never give it up.”

These days it is a common sight to see hundreds thousands of pilgrims piously treading the pradakshina route on purnima, the full moon night, and there are also a good number of devotees that make the circuit daily. The Maharshi often walked around the hill taking a whole day, several days or sometimes even a week. This came to an end in 1926 when he felt that the attention he attracted while doing pradakshina inconvenienced others. But of the early days of his wanderings he has said that there was not a single spot on the hill where he had not set his foot.

The Maharshi’s “Five Hymns to Arunachala” are the ecstatic outpourings from the spiritual heart of a fully illumined sage united forever with his beloved, Arunachala. There is immense inspiration and guidance on the path in each and every stanza of these poems.

When I approach Thee regarding Thee as having form, Thou standest as a Hill on earth. If with the mind the seeker looks for Thy (essential) form as formless, he is like one who travels the earth to see the (ever-present) ether. To dwell without thought upon Thy (boundless) nature is to lose one’s (separate) identity like a doll of sugar when it comes in contact with the ocean (of nectar); and when I come to realize who I am, what else is this identity of mine (but Thee), O Thou Who standest as the towering Aruna Hill. — Sri Arunachala Ashtakam, verse 3

Map of Arunachala and Shrines [Click on map to enlarge the size]


Arunachala : The Spiritual Center of the world

Each of the spiritual centers of India has its own character and its own line of tradition; and among them all it is Tiruvannamalai (Arunachala) that represents the most direct, the most formless and the least ritualistic of paths, the path of Self-enquiry, whose gateway is silent initiation. This is expressed in the old Tamil saying: “To see Chidambaram, to be born at Tiruvarur, to die at Banaras or even to think of Arunachala is to be assured of Liberation.” “Even to think of” because in the case of the direct path physical contact is not necessary. Hence, it was no accident that the Maharshi made Tiruvannamalai and its sacred Arunachala Mountain his home.

When the Maharshi attained Self-realization through a swift, spontaneous act of Self-enquiry while yet a lad of sixteen, he left home and set out as a sadhu for Arunachala. He remained there for the duration of his life. At the time of his passing, more than fifty years after his arrival, a bright star was seen moving slowly across the sky and sinking behind the peak of the holy mountain. This was a clear indication not only of his devotion to Arunachala but also his Oneness with it. Through his compositions, his sayings and his life the importance of Arunachala as a spiritual center has once again risen to eminence. The Maharshi called Arunachala the spiritual Heart of the world. Aruna, which means ‘red, bright like fire’, does not signify the mere fire that gives off heat. Rather, it is Jnanagni, the Fire of Wisdom, which is neither hot nor cold. Achala signifies hill. Thus, Arunachala means the ‘Hill of Wisdom’

Tiruvannamalai, at the foot of Arunachala, is a town of medium size, 120 miles southwest of Chennai, an ancient village with a large and splendid temple. Certain yearly festivals draw large crowds of pilgrims to Tiruvannamalai from all over South India. This is especially so at Karthigai (known also as Deepam), which usually falls in November. On this occasion a beacon light of clarified butter (ghee) is lit at nightfall on the summit of the mountain. At the Ashram itself, of course, the greatest festivals are the anniversaries of the birth and passing of the Maharshi (Jayanti and Aradhana), which fall respectively at the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

Although associated with the most simple and direct spiritual path, Tiruvannamalai is not the most famous of India’s holy places, for the direct path can never be the most popular. It is more austere than some other paths and hence it is perhaps rather for the intrepid few than for the many. Indeed, the method of Self-enquiry had almost gone out of use in recent centuries. It was the Maharshi who revived it, gave it a new directness, simplicity and universality and made it accessible to all seekers through his grace and guidance.

There is a Puranic story about the origin of the hill. Once Vishnu and Brahma fell to disputing which of them was the greater. Their quarrel brought chaos on earth, so the Devas approached Siva and besought him to settle the dispute. Siva thereupon manifested himself as a column of light from which a voice issued declaring that whoever could find its upper or lower end was the greater. Vishnu took the form of a boar and burrowed down into the earth to find the base, while Brahma took the form of a swan and soared upwards to seek its summit. Vishnu failed to reach the base of the column but “beginning to see within himself the Supreme Light which dwells in the hearts of all, he became lost in meditation, oblivious to the physical body and even unaware of himself, the one who sought”. Brahma saw the flower of an alse plant falling through the air and, thinking to win by deception, returned with it and declared he had plucked it from the summit.

Vishnu admitted his failure and turned to the Lord in praise and prayer: “You are Self-knowledge. You are OM. You are the beginning and the middle and the end of everything. You are everything and illuminate everything.” He was pronounced great while Brahma was exposed and confessed his fault.

In this legend, Vishnu represents the mind and Brahma the intellect, while Siva is Atma, the spirit.

The story continues that, because the lingam or column of light was too dazzling to behold, Siva manifested himself instead as the Arunachala hill, declaring: “As the moon derives its light from the sun, so other holy places shall derive their sanctity from Arunachala. This is the only place where I have taken this form for the benefit of those who wish to worship me and obtain illumination. Arunachala is OM itself. I will appear on the summit of this hill every year at Kartigai in the form of a peace-giving beacon.” This refers not only to the sanctity of Arunachala itself but also to the pre-eminence of the doctrine of Advaita and the path of Self-enquiry of which Arunachala is the center. One can understand this meaning in Sri Bhagavan’s saying, “In the end everyone must come to Arunachala.”


Early Years

The Scriptures tell us that it is as difficult to trace the path a sage pursues as it is to draw a line marking the course a bird takes in the air while on its wings. Most humans have to be content with a slow and laborious journey towards the goal. But a few are born as adepts in flying non-stop to the common home of all beings - the supreme Self. The generality of mankind takes heart when such a sage appears. Though it is unable to keep pace with him, it feels uplifted in his presence and has a foretaste of the felicity compared to which the pleasures of the world pale into nothing.

Countless people who went to Tiruvannamalai during the life-time of Maharshi Sri Ramana had this experience. They saw in him a sage without the least touch of worldliness, a saint of matchless purity, a witness to the eternal truth of Vedanta. It is not often that a spiritual genius of the magnitude of Sri Ramana visits this earth. But when such an event occurs, the entire humanity gets benefited and a new era of hope opens before it.

About thirty miles south of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, India, there is a village called Tiruchuli with an ancient Siva temple about which two of the great Tamil saint-poets, Sundara-murti and Manikkavachakar, have sung. In this sacred village there lived in the latter part of the nineteenth century a pleader, Sundaram Aiyar by name,    with

his wife Alagammal. Piety, devotion and charity characterised this ideal couple. Sundaram Aiyar was generous even beyond his measure. Alagammal was an ideal Hindu wife. To them was born as their second son, Venkataraman ? who later came to be known to the world as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi - on the 30th of December, 1879 was an auspicious day for the Hindus, the Ardra-darsanam day. On this day every year the image of the Dancing Siva, Nataraja, is
taken out of the temples in procession in order to celebrate the divine grace of the Lord that made Him appear before such saints as Gautama, Patanjali, Vyaghrapada, and Manikkavachakar. In the year 1879 too, on the Ardra day, the Nataraja Image of the temple at Tiruchuli was taken out with all the attendant ceremonies, and just as it was   about to re-enter, Venkataraman was born.
There was nothing markedly distinctive about Venkataraman’s early years. He grew up just as an average boy. He was sent to an elementary school in Tiruchuli, and then for a year’s education to a school in Dindigul. When he was twelve his father died. This necessitated his going to Madurai along with the family and living with his paternal uncle Subbaiyar. There he was sent to Scott’s Middle School and then to the American Mission   High        School. Though   highly intelligent, with a powerful memory, he was an indifferent student, not at all serious       about    his
studies. He was a strong, healthy lad, and his schoolmates and other companions were afraid of his strength. If some of them had any grievance against him at any time, they would dare play pranks with him only when  he was asleep, for his sleep was unusually deep: he would not know of anything that happened to him during sleep. He would be carried away or even beaten without his waking up in the process.
From his childhood, Venkataraman intuitively felt that Arunachala was something grand, mysterious and almost unreachable. One day, in his sixteenth year, an elderly relative of his called on the family in Madurai. The boy asked him where he had come from. The relative replied, “From Arunachala.” The very name ‘Arunachala’ cast a spell on Venkataraman, and with an evident excitement he exclaimed, “What! From Arunachala! Where is it?” And he got the reply that Tiruvannamalai was Arunachala.
Referring to this incident the Sage says later on in one of his hymns to Arunachala:

Oh, great wonder! As an insentient hill it stands. Its action is difficult for anyone to understand. From my childhood it appeared to my intelligence that Arunachala was something very great. But even when I came to know through another that it was the same as Tiruvannamalai I did not understand its meaning. When, stilling my mind, it drew me up to it, and I came close, I found that it was the Immovable.

Quickly following the incident, which attracted Venkataraman’s attention to Arunachala, there was another event that aroused his deep spiritual leanings. He happened to see a copy of Sekkilar’s Periyapuranam which relates the lives of the famous sixty-three Saivaite saints. He read the book and was enthralled by it. This was the first book of religious literature that he read. The example of the saints fascinated him; and touched a deep chord in his heart. A longing arose in him to emulate the intense spirit of renunciation and love of God that marked the life of those saints.