This is Part 3 (final part) of Amma’s Biography (Timeline). If you have not yet read Part 1 and 2, kindly read them here
Amma Mata Amritanandamayi Devi’s Biography (Timeline)
continued (Age 61 onwards)
(Digital art Courtesy: Hiral Varun)
[Foreword: In this part 1 of Amma’s biography, we have covered her life and activities up to her age of 34. In part-2, age 35 to 60, and in Part-3, age 61 onwards are covered. Links to Part-2 and Part-3 are given at the bottom of this article].
. . . . . .
Smiling, She became a Divine Effulgence
And merged in me. My mind blossomed,
Bathed in the many-hued light of divinity
And the events of millions of years gone by
Rose up within me. Thenceforth,
Seeing nothing as separate from my own Self
And merging in the Divine mother
I renounced all sense of enjoyment
Mother told me to ask people
To fulfill their human birth.
Therefore I proclaim to the whole world
The sublime truth that She uttered
‘oh man, merge in your Self!”
. . . . . . . . .
Sudhamani resolves to dedicate her life totally to mitigate the suffering of the people and serve one and all as embodiments of God.
ஸ்ரீ ராமகிருஷ்ண பரமஹம்சர் ஒரு மகாத்மா மாத்திரமல்ல, அவர் ஒரு அவதார புருஷரும் கூட. தனது நெருங்கிய பக்தர்களுக்கு, தாம் ஒரு அவதாரம் என்பதை அவர் வெளிப்படுத்தியிருந்தார். இந்து மதத்தில், அவரைப் பெரிதும் போற்றுவதற்கான பல காரணிகள் உள்ளன, அவற்றில் சிலவற்றை இங்கே சுருக்கமாகக் காண்போம்:
“ஓம் நமோ பகவதே ஸ்ரீ ரமணாய“
இன்னும் சொல்லாமல் விட்ட சம்பவங்கள் பலவும் உண்டு.
மகாத்மாக்களின் வாழ்க்கை லீலைகளை நினைத்து நினைத்துப் பார்ப்பதே ஓர் ஆனந்தமான தியான அனுபவம் போலத்தான்.
“ஓம் நமோ பகவதே ஸ்ரீ ரமணாய“
Papa Ramadas was a saint, a God realized/ Self realized master, whose life stood as a standing example of the efficacy of chanting Rama Mantra as a sure means of realization. He was a saint who saw his beloved Ram inside him as well as in every living being outside. He lived an exemplary life of total surrender to his Ram and demonstrated to the world that a life of cent percent renunciation is possible and when such a surrender comes, the Lord takes care of everything for the well being of his beloved devotee.
Papa Ramdas lived a life of a wandering monk carrying no money or possessions with him during his early spiritual life and traveled the length and breadth of India. Later he established his Math Anandashramam at Kanhankad, (Kasargod district) in north Kerala.
He had thousands of followers who came to him for spiritual guidance. He blessed them with Rama Mantra :” Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram“. He recommended a sadhana practice of Nama (Chanting of the name of Lord Rama), dhyana (meditation) and Seva (selfless service for the well being of others) to his followers as the effective means of attaining spiritual progress and God realization in life.
Vittal Rao (later Swami Papa Ramadas) was born on the auspicious day of Hanumat Jayanti (the birthday of Lord Hanuman) on April 10th 1884 as the sixth son of the Saraswath Brahmin couple Sri Balakrishna Rao and Lalitha Bai, at Hosdurg in Kasargod district of Kerala. He had 9 brothers and three sisters. His parents led a simple life, full of devotion to God and dedication to austerities.
Vittal Rao had his primary education in Hosdurg and went to Mangalore and then to Udupi for higher education. Vittal Rao was a happy go lucky boy, enjoying games and swiftly climbing trees; though intelligent and quick to grasp things, he had no taste in formal education and he failed in his matriculation. As a boy, he was a free thinker, not conforming to mimicking the worldly; he loved simplicity and was pure in heart. He was quite humorous too. He learned English well. He also read bible during his high school days.
After failing in matriculation exams at Christian High School, Udupi, , he returned to Hosdurg and started showing interest in theatre and arts. He went to The School of Arts in Chennai to formally learn painting and screen printing. He then went to Mumbai to learn textile manufacturing at Victoria Jubilee Institute. He did not develop much of interest in it. He developed lots of interest in reading variety of books including English literature and was influenced by books on the life and teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Rama Tirtha. He read Bhagavad Gita and felt highly influenced by it. After finishing the diploma course of three years duration successfully in textile manufacturing, he started looking for jobs. After chequered start in making a career for life, he got a job Spinning Master in Gulbarga for a brief period.
At the age of twenty five, he was married to Rukma Bai. Because of high instability in his career, Vittal Rao was without job many times and it affected his family life too. Five years after marriage, Rukma Bai gave birth to a female child named Ramabai.
Vittal Rao worked as a Spinning Master in several mills at places like Coimbatore, Ahmadabad, Cuttack etc. He was disturbed by seeing the exploitation of workmen by higher management and got disillusioned with his job. He started his own business of dying clothes in Mangalore. But because of his generosity, compassionate nature and lack of calculative shrewdness, he failed to be a successful businessman and soon accumulated quite a loss. He had accumulated debts to be cleared; he was stressed out and he lead a life of worries, sorrows and desperation. Almost an year passed in this way.
In this process, he developed a deep longing for escape from the worldly life, which had no more attraction for him. He started praying to his beloved God Rama earnestly. He started chanting Lord Rama’s name and spent his time in prayer and meditation.
Thus Vittal Rao was turning inwards, developing discrimination and dispassion and longing for a spiritually dedicated life. Gradually he started gaining mental peace. He turned to simple living and started wearing khaddar; he lost interest in eating and simplified his intake to bananas and boiled potatoes, eating just one time only in a day. He relinquished cushioned bed and slept in mat. He reduced his sleep and spent the night in the contemplation of Lord Ram.
It was at this time that divine grace started working on him. A compassionate friend volunteered to become his business partner and paid back all of his the loans!
In the meanwhile, Vittal Rao’s father Balakrishna Rao, having lost his wife, opted to spend his older years dedicated to devotion to God; he went to stay with his eldest son at Kasargod. One day, as he was visiting the famous Udupi Krishna Temple, he got attracted by the radiating divinity of a sanyasi sitting in the shade of a tree in the marketplace. He went and surrendered at his feet. The sanyasi initiated Balakrishna Rao with the mantra “Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram“. Sri Rao was overjoyed by the unexpected divine grace and felt very blessed.
Since Balakrishna Rao knew of his son Vittal’s ardent yearning for a spiritually oriented life, he came to Mangalore to meet his son, with his heart full of compassion; he told Vittal Rao about the mantra he had received from the sanyasi and without delay, he imparted the mantra to his son and blessed him.
And that was the turning point in the life of Vittal Rao. It paved the way for Vittal Rao to blossom into Swami Ramdas sooner.
The moment Ramdas received the mantra, he felt enthralled. He felt he was now a bird released from the cage. He fell at the feet of his father and from that day, he treated him as his beloved guru, who, out of utmost compassion, came to give him the key to his liberation.
From that day onward, Vittal Rao immersed himself in chanting the Rama Mantra day and night. He added “Om” to the Rama mantra that his father gave. Rather, the mantra virtually caught hold of Vittal! The more he chanted the mantra, the more Vittal got immersed in the bliss of contemplation of his beloved lord Rama. Food and sleep became matters of irrelevance to him.
He started seriously thinking of leaving behind the worldly life altogether and take up Sanyas. He fervently prayed to Lord Rama for His guidance. On that day, as he was reading books like The Light of Asia (Buddha’s life), New Testament and Bhagavad Gita, whatever pages he opened and read contained sentences glorifying a life of renunciation. Vittal Rao took this as the answer from Lord Ram for his prayers. He wrote a letter to his friend who helped him out of his financial difficulty informing of his decision. He also wrote another letter to his wife.
The following is the translation of the letter written by Vittal Rao to his wife before he left his home for good. Notice how he addresses his wife in this letter:
To Srimati Rukmabai, Mangalore
From now onward, you will be my sister. I have surrendered myself totally at the feet of Sri Ram. He has redeemed me from my erstwhile life. Taking his holy name on my lips, I am going out into this vast world as a beggar. You know that I have no other desire in this life except striving for receiving His grace and love. I am dedicating the rest of my life for this lofty ideal. I am ready to face any amount of hardship for this purpose.
We are not going to meet as husband and wife hereafter. Lead your life dedicated to God and truth and also ensure that Rame (Ramabai) too follows it.
Never give up the spinning wheel. It will give you peace and bliss. Let Rame too do it.
Sriram’s blessings on you and Rame – He protects you both.
Taking two dhotis dyed in saffron with him along with a cash of about 25 Rupees and a couple of books mentioned above, he left at 5 AM on the next day from Mangalore and took a train that went up to Erode. Thus began his life of renunciation from family bonds, in December 1922, at his age of 38.
Vittal Rao then travelled to Srirangam in Tamil Nadu. He took bath in Kaveri river and took up Sanyas by wearing the ochre clothes, leaving his old clothes to the flowing waters of the Kaveri. He prayed to Lord Ram to protect him from the threats of leading a life of a renunciate. He took three vows: 1) To dedicate the rest of his life to the contemplation of Rama and in service of Rama. 2) To consider every woman as his mother and 3) To carry on with his physical needs by taking food only through begging or when someone offers it voluntarily.
Thus Vittal Rao, having opted to become a lifelong servant of his Lord Ram, took up the name Ramdas.
He donated some money to fellow mendicants. He decided to leave his future course of movement and actions totally to the prompting of Lord Ram or to whatever way the Lord lead him by circumstances, without much of a choice of his own.
And from then onwards, the wondrous ways of the Lord’s divine play started unfolding in his life. An enthralling life of a wandering monk began; Ramdas was always assisted, taken care of and lead by some stray sadhu or other who joined with him voluntarily (different persons at different journeys). Ramdas opted to call such a person as Sadhu Ram. According to him, it was verily Lord Ram who came with him to take care of him.
Ramdas travelled to Rameswaram, Madurai, Chidambaram, Thirupapuliyur, Puducherry and then to Thiruvannamalai. At times he travelled in train without tickets and had to face the wrath from the Ticket Checkers and Police. But through his radiating divinity and utter humility, he won the hearts of even the toughest officers and underwent no punishment. Rather they turned around and extended help to him to proceed with his travels!
Along with a sadhu Ram accompanying him, Ramdas went to the meet Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi, who was staying in a humble hut at the foothills of Arunachala (Thiruvannamalai). Ramadas surrendered at the holy feet of the saint and made this prayer: “Maharaj, here stands before Thee a humble slave. Have pity on him. His only prayer to Thee is to give him thy blessing.”
The Maharshi, turning his beautiful eyes towards Ramdas, and looking intently for a few minutes into his eyes as though he was pouring into Ramdas his blessing, then nodded his head to indicating that he had blessed. A thrill of inexpressible joy coursed through the frame of Ramdas, his whole body quivering like a leaf in the breeze.
After this darshan, Ramdas wanted to stay up in the in the Arunachala hill in a cave all alone, engaged in his japa and dhyana uninterrupted. Sadhu Ram made arrangements for it. He spent one month ther, deeply engaging in his sadhana and enjoying a divine bliss of Rama consciousness all the time. Every day, he went down to the town to beg some rice; he cooked it and ate it once a day and engaged rest of the day in his deep contemplation.
And one day, as Ramdas came out of the cave, got the exhilarating divine experience of seeing everything around him verily the manifestations of Rama and nothing else. Ramdas described his experience thus:
Once, during the day, when he was lost in the madness of Ram’s meditation, he came out of the cave and found a man standing a little away from the mouth of the cave. Ramdas felt an irresistible attraction towards this friend because it was due to the perception of Ram in him. “O Ram, You have come, you have come!” Unconsciously, he ran up to him and locked him up in a fast embrace. This action of Ramdas thoroughly frightened the friend who thought that it was a mad man who was behaving in this manner and so was afraid of harm from him. It was true that he was mad of Ram, a harmless madness that the visitor realised later. At times, he would feel driven to clasp in his arms the very trees and plants growing in the vicinity of the cave. Ram was attracting him from all directions. Oh, the mad and loving attraction of Ram! O Ram, Thou art Love, Light and Bliss!
After this experience, Ramdas continued his journey northwards. He went to Tirupati, Puri, Kolkata and Dakshineswar. He visited Dakshineswar Kali temple, the holy place where Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had lived.
A stranger voluntarily took care of his needs and also led him to the room where Sri Ramakrishna lived; Ramadas felt that the whole room was surcharged with divine vibrations. A divine bliss ran in his nerves wave by wave. Unconsciously, he started rolling over the floor of the room as if to charge him further with the dust of the room that had been purified with the holy feet of Sri Ramakrishna. The visitor was taken aback by the inexplicable divine madness and joy with which Ramadas was rolling on the floor for about half an hour.
Next he visited Tarakanath, Kashi and then reached Jhansi. There he met a businessman by name Mahadeva Prasad; the Moment Sri Prasad saw Ramdas, he was possessed by a great sense of devotion and surrender to the wandering saint. He forced Ramdas to stay with him and ensured that Ramdas’ physical being is taken care of and some health is restored, which had been battered by total discard due to cold, extreme physical strains, lack of nutrition etc.
Ramdas lived in Jhansi for more than a month. He started giving lectures on Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures to small group of devotees who gathered around him and revered him as their guru. Another devotee by name Ramkinkar became quite close to him.
Ramdas left Jhansi for travelling to holy places in Himalayas in the company of Ramkinkar. He visited Haridwar, Rishikesh, Kedarnath and Badrinath. All those places were covered by walk. The beauty of Himalayan mountains capped with snow, the holy rivers, the flora and fauna frequently brought Ramdas to rapture and he felt the presence of his Lord Ram everywhere. Ramdas, surcharged with energy like a Hanuman, climbed huge hills surrounding the holy places and took bath in ice cold waters.
After visiting Himalayas, he travelled to Mathura, Gokul and Vrindavan, Raipur, Ajmir, Junagadh, Dwaraka etc and came to Mumbai. He stayed with his erstwhile brother Ramakrishna Rao there. He continued his journey to Panchavati, Trimbakeshwar, Pandharpur, Bijapur and arrived at Hubli, to meet Sri Siddharoodha Swamy at the behest of his brother.
He stayed in the Mutt of Siddharoodha Swamy and enjoyed the company of the revered saint for a week.
By this time, the news of his arrival at Hubli reached his erstwhile family at Mangalore. His erstwhile wife along with the daughter came to meet him at Hubli. She prayed to Siddharudha Swami to impress Ramdas to return to Mangalore with her. As instructed by the saint, Ramdas accompanied her back to Mangalore. However he made clear to her that his return to grihasthashram (worldly life) was unthinkable as his life had been possessed by Rama irrevocably.
He stayed with his eartwhile brother Sitarama Rao and also met his father who was his guru too.
Thus the first phase of Ramdas’ spiritual life of intense period of Rama Consciousness in which Ramdas lived the life of a wandering monk for a period of about one year, came to an end.
Ramdas explains his temperament and state of being during this one year period as below:
During this period, Ramdas’ mind was totally in peace and his life was one of total surrender. The world was dreamlike to him and was virtually non existent. He travelled from one place to another like a machine. Lord Rama was obviously taking care of him with love and protection. In his exclusive world, only Ram and Ramdas were existent. There was unequivocal bliss in that state. Ramdas was free from dualities — pain and pleasure, heat and cold, good and bad. His mind was always at peace, rest and silence; it was sort of empty too.
At times, he would suddenly slip to the external world with all its associated dualities, but Ramdas would be attentive enough to notice it and withdraw his mind inward again.
Ramdas disliked crowd. He always tried to escape to places of loneliness. Ramdas was totally free from any fear — fear of any danger or even death. He had the strongest conviction that he was in the protection of his Lord.
Rama’s name was constantly on his lips. He kept chanting it mechanically at all times. North Indian acquaintances that became close to him felt that he was totally free from any attachment.
Ramdas was virtually like a child; he was extremely humble and obedient towards others. He was taken care of by others as if he was a child and they assisted him in taking bath, dressing up, eating and so on.
He was never attracted or distracted by anything happening in the world. Both his mind and intellect had stopped working. There was no more the false sense of “I” in him. It was Rama who occupied that space. Ramdas spoke very little in this period.
He was simply like a dry leaf, swept this way and that way by the wind.”
From his brother’s house, Ramdas then shifted his residence to the Pancha Pandava Cave at Kadri Hills, two miles away from Mangalore. He stayed alone with bare minimum needs and totally immersed himself in meditation and contemplation of Ram there, for a period of about three months. He ate just fruits and drank milk twice a day. His day would start at 3 AM and after ablutions, he would sit chanting japa and soon lose himself in deep meditation for hours at stretch with little external consciousness. He undertook vow of silence for a week.
It was the second phase of his spiritual quest. During this period of sadhana, Ramadas had visions of inner light; he delved deeper into his Self, transcending name, form, thought and intellect. He could experience the purity, silence and the bliss of his Self inside. Gradually, this state became permanent that there was no longer any fall of the mind into the external world.
Next he could feel that the Self (Atman) that was an internal experience of bliss and light was gradually expanding to cover the external world too. His Self bloomed like a flower and in its light, the whole external world was embraced by pure love and light. This bliss that he experienced this way was much more powerful. Even though he had bouts of this experience earlier too, during his days of austerities in Pandava Caves, it became a permanent nature of him. Ramdas became one with Ram. Ramdas realized that he had now got transformed into a state brimming with energy, love and bliss. The fruit was totally ripe now. He was now fully ready to share that sweet bliss to all those who came into contact with him.
People started coming in large numbers to have his darshan at the cave. Ramdas interacted freely with them and shared his wonderful experiences with them. He spoke on the glory of God and His infinite compassion. He attracted people from all religions. He could instantly communicate with Muslims and Christians too and spoke with them as though he was verily one among them. His radiating divinity broke all boundaries.
During his stay in the caves, Ramdas wrote all the thrilling experiences of his previous one year journey in the book “In Quest of God” which got published first in the year 1925.
During this period at Pancha Pandava Caves, Ramadas served with love a group of beggars suffering under acute leprosy for a brief period.
Ramdas’ spiritual life now entered into the third phase. Ramdas decided to take up the life of a travelling mendicant once again. But this time, he was on a different mould. He was bent upon sharing his divine bliss to all those seekers who, attracted by his divine radiance, mobbed him wherever he went. Ramdas visited Kasargod and Kollur. Through the association with a Yogi, he learned and practiced Pranayama. He had mixed experiences — positive and negative through this practice. After practicing it intensely for some during his stay at Kudlu (near Kasargod) and grasping its efficacy, he discontinued this practice.
During his lonely stay at Kudlu, Ramdas got an inner urge to outpour his spiritual bliss through writing: He wrote poems, prayers and articles which later in 1928 got published in the form of a book ‘At the feet of God‘.
Ramdas returned to Kadri Hills and stayed there again for about two months. This time, a young man by name Madhav (later Ramas called him Ram Charan Das) started staying with Ramdas and serving him with love and devotion.
Ramdas began his next round of journey towards north by walk and Ram Charan Das joined him, despite Ramdas’ advising him against it.
Ramdas visited Gokaran, Shetphal and Pandharpur. Ramdas now insisted Ram Charan Das to undertake his own journey independently in order to personally taste the bliss of Lord Ram and understand how His love always protected a hapless devotee. Thus they parted ways.
Ramdas travelled alone to Bijapur, Hubli, Bangalore and then went Mangalore and Ernakulam. Ramdas was taken care of very well by so many people in all the places he visited. People vied with each other to feed him and take spiritual advice from him. Unlike the past, Ramdas was quite open to talk freely with people on matters of God and spirituality and was giving lectures and invited talks to amidst gathering of devout people.
He again travelled northward to Goa, Mumbai, Wadhwan, Surat and many other places in between. In Wadhwan, Ram Charan Das joined him. Later, again leaving Das to chart his own course, Ramdas left for Jhansi. There his old acquaintances who had become his devotees — Mahadev Prasad and Ramkinkar were emotionally overwhelmed to see him again and happily took care of him. Ramdas conducted satsang amid his several Jhansi devotees.
He then went to Chitrakoot, Bhanda and Gokar Parvat. He travelled to Lalitpur, Rajkot, Sattarpur, Kanpur and then returned to south. He witnessed the marriage of his erstwhile daughter Ramabai at Kasargod and felt happy to feed about 400 poor people as part of the ceremony.
He travelled again to Jhansi and then to Haridwar and Rishikesh. Purely driven by divine will, he travelled up in Himalayas to Vashistha Ashram which was not easily accessible to travellers. Despite his sparse food-intake, Ramdas was at the brim of his energy; climbing trees, cliffs and mountains were like child play to him and he was in constant bliss as he undertook his lonely journey by foot to various places in Himalayas. Everywhere Sadhus and poor villagers took abundant care of him with reverence.
Ramdas next took his journey to Pathankot, Jammu and Kashmir. He travelled to Amarnath Cave and had the thrill of seeing the ice linga there. He reached Srinagar and met many sadhus. He returned to south via Amritsar, Sattarpur, Mumbai, Sholapur and finally returned to Kasargod. Several miracles happened by the will of the divine around Ramdas and Ramdas took them matter-of-factly with the mood of a witness. Wherever Ramdas went, crowds swelled; Bhajans, Satsangs and feeding of the poor happened.
At Kasargod, Ramdas stayed with his eldest brother Ananda Rao. Ananda Rao was very eager to construct an Ashram for Ramadas and a nice place was located at Bilkunchi hill nearby. A devotee leased the land free of charge. Soon construction of a humble Ashram began there in that picturesque surrounding. The ashram was inaugurated on 3rd June 1928 in the presence of lots of devotees and well wishers, including the aged father and guru of Ramdas.
It was in the year 1928 that Ma Krishnabai first met Ramdas, at her 25th age. Soon she surrendered totally at the holy feet of Ramdas and became his foremost disciple and future caretaker of Anandashram. She got spiritual enlightenment by the blessings and guidance of Ramdas through her dedicated practice and surrender; she was held in the highest regard by Ramdas himself for her life totally spent in loving and serving all. He wrote about Krishnabai at a future occasion: “Krishnabai’s life presents a practical illustration of how an individual can live a life of spontaneous and intense activity while ever fixed in the Divine Consciousness born of complete self-surrender.”
Krishnabai, a very pious and God-loving brahmin girl right from childhood, had a very troubled and grief stricken past. She got married at the age of 12 and widowed at the age of 20, having two young boys to take care of. After a failed attempt of suicide, Krishnabai developed dispassion for worldly life and she longed for peace and spiritual guidance to remove her grief and progress in a life dedicated to God. She got her Mantra initiation from Siddharudha Swami of Hubli. She also had a few other Mantra initiations from others. She was very dedicated and systematic in practicing mantra japas, without any selfish motive. Yet not finding peace in her life, she stared searching for a Guru who should be a jivan mukta (as per advice given to her by an astrologer).
Her ardent prayers were answered and her life took her to Kasargod. A few days after the Ashram was inaugurated, the caretakers of Krishnabai, who were devoted to Ramdas brought her to the Ashram. Krishnabai felt instantly at peace at her meeting with Ramdas. Ramdas’ divine attraction brought her back to Ashram again and again and she enjoyed Ramdas’ satsang immensely.
Soon she received Mantra Diksha from Ramdas and started actively engaged in japa as per his guidelines; she continued to be a regular visitor to the ashram ; however, Ramdas did not permit her to stay in Ashram, despite her deep wish to do so. She got closely acquainted with the esrtwhile family members of Ramdas (wife Rukmabai and daughter Ramabai) who too were now earnest devotees of Ramdas.
During the early stages of Ashram, Ramdas stayed fully in the Ashram and several earnest devotees too stayed with him. After about a year, Ramdas heeded to the repeated plea of his devotees from North India to visit them.
Mother Krishnabai, could not bear the idea of getting separated from her guru and she pleaded to Ramdas not to leave devotees like her to despair through the separation. She wanted to stay in the Ashram permanently. But Ramdas was firm that her duty to her children demanded her presence at home. One day, she left the ashram late in the evening with lot of reluctance. The next morning news came that she had spent the whole night alone at the adjacent hill and she was bitten by a snake in her leg and her leg was fully swollen.
Ramdas rushed to see her at the hills and brought her to the Ashram; he chided her for her obstination and then arranged to send her back home. After treatment Krishnabai became alright.
Ramdas visited Bangalore, Sholapur, Pandharpur, Anchor and Osmanabad. Old acquaintances and new devotees surrounded him wherever he went; bhajans and satsangs happened amid huge gatherings. In Osmanabad, people belonging to cobbler class (considered untouchables those days) invited Ramdas to attend a devotional function at their place. Ramdas visited them along with several brahmin devotees. A massive crowd of cobbler community had gathered there to have a darshan of Ramdas. They conducted pada puja to him and offered prasad that even the brahmins took along with him.
From there, Ramdas proceeded to Mumbai, Wadhwan, Rajkot, Ahmadabad, Agra and Jhansi. He briefly returned to Kasargod to see his seriously ailing father and then started again to the disappointment his close devotees at home. Ramdas travelled to Chennai, Nagpur, Jhansi and Rawalpindi. Everywhere his old eager devotees were overwhelmed to meet him again and enjoy his divine company. Next Ramdas went to Srinagar and then returned to Rawalpindi. Then he visited Dhanbad, Katrasgarh, Chennai, Kumbakonam, Ernakulam and finally returned to Kasargod.
During the period of his absence, Krishnabai lovingly took care of and nursed the aged and ailing father of Ramdas and also Rukmabai who was suffering from Asthma.
After his return, Krishnabai had to accompany her relatives to Dharwar, which she did extremely reluctantly due to her unwillingness to part with Ramdas. She went to Mumbai, entrusted her children to her close relatives and then took a firm decision to leave worldly life and return to Ramdas. She arrived at Kasargod by train virtually empty handed and decided to walk straight to the ashram all alone in the night. By a divine miracle, she was guided to the ashram in total darkness through a mysterious light emanating from her feet; thus, she presented herself before Ramdas unawares at about 9 PM at the Ashram! Ramdas was undertaking a vow of silence and fasting those days and he burst out into laughter upon seeing Krishnabai there at those odd hours. Krishnabai too had a hearty laugh!
Ramdas wrote in a piece of paper “Mother, you have come to your own home now; the ashram shall, in future, be your permanent place of residence“. Krishnabai felt a great relief and joy on seeing the welcome note.
As expectable in a conservative society, a young widow leaving behind her family and staying permanently and interacting actively with Ramdas, created slanderous talks and gossips. Other residents in the ashram were threatened by their families and most of them left. Regular visitors to the ashram too started dwindling.
Krishnabai immersed herself to active sadhana under the guidance of Ramdas at the Ashram. When Ramdas asked Krishnabai as to what sort of spiritual attainment she was keen to get, Krishnabai replied: “Papa, I want to be one with your eternal and infinite Being and know you and I are one. Besides, nobody should know that I have realized your immanent and transcendent Being.”
Ramdas engaged Krishnabai to practice deep meditation for the first time. With total dedication and mental strength Krishnabai immersed herself deep into her inner being and soon realized her individual self merging with Universal self, which, according to her experience was nothing but the all pervading formless aspect of her beloved Papa Himself. This happened in the year 1930. After she got that experience, Krishnabai lost interest in all her service activities including serving Papa and she was content to remain immersed in divine bliss.
During a brief period, when only Ramdas and Krishnabai stayed alone at the Ashram, thieves and thugs came to the Ashram at one night. One of them tried to misbehave with Krishnabai; fortunately, by chanting Rama nama loudly, both Ramdas and Krishnabai got protected by the power of Lord Rama and the thieves ran away, totally scared.
This incidence made Ramdas to take a decision that such a secluded place away from any residences nearby was not safe for women devotees. He decided to abandon the ashram and leave Kasargod immediately, leaving future things to unfold as per the will of Rama. But Krishnabai pleaded to him again and again not to forsake her and she begged him to take her along wherever he opted to go. After refusing for a while, Ramdas ultimately decided not to forsake his ardent disciple. He took her to Hosdurg and stayed with devotees.
Based on the suggestion and requests by earnest devotees, Ramdas decided to start a new Ashram close to Manjapathi hill which was also close to Kanhangad town and yet a picturesque and extremely peaceful place, surrounded by natural greenery, fertile fields and the hills.
Ramdas wrote to all his acquaintances across India for their help in starting the new ashram. Money flowed in generously from eager devotees. Without any delay, construction of the new ashram premises started. The new Anandashram was inaugurated on May 15h, 1931. Ramdas dedicated the Ashram to the service of the people cutting across all barriers of caste, religion, age, sex or creed and the two guiding principles of the Ashram would be Universal Love and Service. Krishnabai gradually was able to a return to a state of active life (yet blissfully remaining in sahaja samadhi state) and was in the forefront of the inaugural function and all the other activities of the new Ashram. She was a born administrator and showed her mettle in facing all hardships with smile and serving everyone with love and care like a mother.
Ramdas considered all religions equal and respected all the great spiritual masters of the past. The Ashram sported the pictures and portraits of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Saradadevi, BHagwan Ramana Maharshi, Saibaba, Jesus Christ, Sri Aurobindo, Lord Buddha, Jorastra, Swami Vivekananda, Gurunanak and Ramdas’ own guru — his father.
Soon Rukmabai and also Ramdas’s father and Guru left their worldly life.
Soon the Anandashram became the center of attraction to so many devotees; people and spiritual aspirants from all walks of life came to Anandashram to take part in japa, meditation and satsangs. Several distinguished Sadhus from other religious maths too regularly visited the Ashram to be in the divine company of Ramdas.
The Ashram’s monthly English Magazine ‘The Vision’ with Ramdas as its editor started its publication in the year 1933. The magazine continues to be published even today.
Ramdas’ second round of travelling experiences were written by him in the form of a book ‘In the Vision of God’ which got published by Anandashram in the year 1934.
Ramdas’ physical body had got considerably weakened on account of his incessant travels totally ignoring proper food and rest; he was affected by rheumatism and exhaustion. Krishnabai took extreme care and concern on his physical frame by providing him with essential minimum comforts and rest which he was all along negligent of. Ramdas, by this time was also free from his erstwhile tendency to wander with total freedom except for two tours done during 1931 to 1938, done in the company of his caretakers. He stayed put in the Ashram between 1938 to 1949. Consequently, more and more of his devotees and new visitors started visiting the Ashram and the Ashram had to expand.
Ramdas made it a point to feed the poor in large numbers particularly at the times of religious festivals, cutting across all barriers of caste, religion or creed.
From the generous contribution from devotees, new buildings to house the printing activities, kitchen, guest house, residential quarters for the staff, Cowshed and so on.
An elementary school under the care of the Ashram (Sri Krishna Vidyalaya) was started in the year 1942. In the year 1946, Sri Krishna Udyogshala, an institute for vocational training was started. A small hospital was also run by the Ashram from 1952. (All these institutions were handed over to Government in later years).
It was in the year 1947 that Ananta Sivan at his age of 28 met Ramdas at the Ashram for the first time. As a young brahmin boy of 5 to 6 years, Ananta Sivan had lost his mother and did not have a happy home at his childhood. After his education he joined defence services. He had deep spiritual inclination and was searching for meaning to his life. After having a few bouts of depression, he was guided to meet Ramdas by divine dispensation. He was instantly attracted by the divinity of Ramdas and the bountiful motherly love from Krishnabai. He felt that his real home was Anadashram and he became its permanent resident from 1949.
He served Ramdas as a secretary and took care of his personal needs. He also assisted in the hectic activities of Krishnabai. Due to an inner urge, he felt the need to go to Himalayas and do intense spiritual practice so as to qualify himself better for a truly devoted selfless service at the Ashram. Despite Krishnabai’s objections, he went to Rishikesh and started practicing meditation in solitude.
However, after about 8 months, he was called back by Ramdas to accompany them on an Indian tour. Circumstances developed in such a way that he could not return to Rishikesh and he understood clearly that his life and spiritual progress was linked to serving Ramdas and being a right hand to Krishnabai in her administrative work. Parallely progressing in his spiritual quest, Ananta Sivan was given Sanyasa Diksha with a name Satchidananda. He too became a self-illumined disciple of Ramdas and the future head of the ashram after the departure of Ramdas and Krishnabai from the world.
Anandashram Trust was formed in the year 1954. Ramdas accompanied by Krishnabai and Swami Satchidanda undertook a world tour from August 1954 until January 1955.
His world tour covered Switzerland, Germany, France and England at Europe. At france (Gretz) he visited Ramakrishna ashram and met Swami Siddeshwarananda. At Sussex in England, he met the famous Christian mystique Henry Thomas Hamblin. Papa also visited Shakespere’s birthplace. Ramdas conducted Satsangs and spread the message of Universal love and God consciousness in all the places he visited, which were attended by avid spiritual seekers cutting across religious barriers.
His tour continued to USA and Hawaii; He then proceeded to Japan and met the famous Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki there. The tour continued to Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, Cylon and back to India.
On the evening of July 25th 1963 at Papa’s 80th year, he had a severe heart attack. He was collapsing and Mother Krishnabai and Swami Satchidananda managed to take him to his cot. While lying down there, he suddenly sat up chanting “Hari, Hari, Hari Ram.” With the name of God on his lips Papa breathed his last.
While his divine presence without his physical body continued to be felt in the Ashram, Krishnabai carried on with the running of the Ashram with her motherly love and care and continued to guide avid seekers in the spiritual path of Nam-Dhyan-Seva for the next 26 years. After her passing away, Swami Satchidananda took care of the Ashram and continued to inspire avid seekers till he breathed his last in 2008.
Reverberating ever with the chanting of Ram nam and surcharged with the subtle presence of these three great spiritual masters, Anandashram continues to be the place of attraction for sincere seekers of Spirituality at Kanhangad, Kerala.
Shirdi Sai Baba (~1838/42-1918) was a very unique Avatar of God; he was a realized saint who knew his oneness with God. His Avatar perhaps was ordained to foster Hindu Muslim unity, though a vast majority of his devotees were essentially Hindus even during his times, as it is now; he lived in Shirdi (which was not his birthplace) for almost 60 years. Shirdi is in Marathwada region where Islamic population too is considerable.
He emphasised ‘Sabka Malik Ek‘ (God of all people is one). Saibaba was, in all probability, had no formal education, but he had extensive knowledge on Bhagavad Gita. His life and utterances reflected the highest truth of Vedanta. He was also very knowledgeable in Koran.
It is widely believed that his Guru was a Muslim fakir (a Sufi saint), who too was a knower of God. Sai Baba dressed up like a Fakir and lived in a dilapidated mosque. That lead some people to think that he was a Muslim Fakir.
Sai Baba did not put any of his teachings in writing; he never gave any discourses; however, his sayings have been recorded by his followers.
Sai Baba often hinted that he did not come to teach, but to awaken. He brought this awakening through his unconditional love towards his followers. Surrender to him unconditionally and he will never let you down –that was the level of confidence he imbibed into his devotees. Baba’s response to his devotee’s call for help is as eager, as ardent and as urgent as the devotee’s call itself. His sayings too stand testimony to this. It is true even today.
The way devotees throng at Shirdi in thousands on a daily basis and in lakhs on festive occasions despite the passage of more than a century after his departure from the world stand testimony to this assurance and faith.
Little information was available from Sai Baba about his origins. Connecting historical happenings during his period, it is believed that he was born somewhere between 1838 to 1842.
There was no solid proof available about Sai Baba’s place of birth, religion or caste during his lifetime. Sai Baba never revealed anything about his origins to his devotees.
Two evidences from people who lived close with Sai Baba at Shirdi lead researchers to believe Sai Baba was a Hindu — one, he had his ears pierced and two, he was not found circumcised. In later period, researcher (Shri V.B,Kher, a Sai devotee and a biographer of Sai) based on several hints collected from Sai Baba’s conversations with devotees in his authentic biographies, by visiting places mentioned there, meeting people etc, was able to reasonably deduce where his birth place is.
It is believed to be villege Pathri, situated in Parbhani district of Maharashtra, some 150 km south east of Daulatabad. Connecting events of the distant past with family histories learned from aged residents of the village, the researchers also felt that a boy born in a Brahmin family of Bhausaris (Shukla Yajurvedi Brahmins of Koushika Gotra) who had reportedly left his home at an age of about five with a Muslim Fakir was Sai Baba in all probability. They also located the ruined house of the Bhausaris at Pathri. The name of the Sufi Fakir who became the custodian and spiritual master of the young Brahmin boy was (deduced to be) Roshan Sha Mia.
The family deity of Bhausari family was Hanuman. After picking up bits and pieces from Sai Baba’s utterances, Baba’s deep knowledge of Hinduism, his practice of celebrating Ram Navami regularly at Shirdi during his final years and the liking he had on Hanuman and a couple of other coincidences, Shri V.B. Kher satisfied himself on his findings. Shri Kher bought the piece of land in 1978 from a descendent of Bhusari Brahmin family at Pathri. Construction of a Sai temple there began in 1994 and On 19th October 1999, the Sai Janmasthan Temple was inaugurated.
So, it is now more or less an agreed belief that Sai Baba was a Brahmin by birth. Even if he were to be a Muslim, Islam does not have any scope or provision to worship any person as God.
Saibaba reportedly traveled across several places of Marathwada along with his Fakir Guru. He (according to his own statements) was under the care of his guru for 12 long years and served him with love and humility and received love and blessings from his guru in abundance. It is also believed that Sai Baba was indeed ‘born perfect’ and his innate divinity got just rekindled by association with such a formal Guru. Several statements of Saibaba reveals that he remained in a state of Advaita (a state of non-duality — being one with God) and uttered them with utmost authority and assurance.
It is learnt that Baba, after remaining a wandering monk upto his age of 25 to 30 and before coming and settling Shirdi, was staying in Aurangabad and he was the spiritual master of a fakir by name Bade Baba or Fakir Baba for 12 years. Incidentally, many years later, Bade Baba returned to stay with his erstwhile master at Shirdi in the year 1902.
Sai Baba arrived for the first time at Shirdi some time the year 1868-1872, when he was around 25 to 30 years old. He was a serene looking young man, tempered by a disciplined life of tapas and austerity. He came to Shirdi along with a marriage party of Chand Patil of Dupkhed; Chand Patil (a muslim) had brought Sai Baba along with him, to attend the marriage of his sister with one one Hamid of Shirdi.
How did Chand Patil get acquainted with Sai Baba?
The story goes that Chand Patil met Sai Baba on his way from his village towards to Aurangabad while going by walk after he unfortunately lost his mare. He met this young man (Baba) looking like a fakir under a tree, who told him that his lost mare was just in the nearby vicinity, close to a stream there. Patil went in search and was surprised to find his mare there. As he returned to the young Fakir to thank him, he found him preparing his hookah by getting a piece of burning charcoal and also some water by simply digging into earth! The fakir shared the smoke with the traveller too. Impressed by these miracles, Chand Patil took the Fakir reverentially with him to his home to be his guest. Subsequently, he also took him to the marriage ceremony at Shirdi to bless the couples.
No one knew the name of this Fakir. The story goes that when he arrived at Shirdi and got down from the cart, the local Khandoba temple owner and priest Bhagat Mhalsapati saw him first and welcomed him “Ya Sai!” (Welcome Sai) and this name Sai stuck. (The word Sai or Sain/ Sayi denotes Lord,God, saint, husband (beloved) or Fakir. Baba means father). Incidentally, after a couple of years of arrival of Sai Baba, Mhalsapati accepted Sai Baba as his Sadguru and became a lifelong devotee to serve Him.
After the marriage, the party with Chand Patil left Shirdi, but Sai Baba stayed back. Initially, Saibaba stayed at the outskirts of Shirdi in Babul forest for nearly 2.5 years, then under a neem tree for four to five years. During this period, he was deeply immersed in Self, ignoring rain and shine and living day and night in the open.
According to another version of the story , it is said that he came to Shirdi much earlier, when he was about 16 or 17 years old and lived with his Guru near the neem tree without much of public gaze across 12 years.
Sai Baba had mentioned about the existence of the tomb of his guru underground adjacent to the neem tree. When dug, four earthen lamps and a japa mala were found there. Baba prevented further digging as the tomb of the guru existed further below. Sai Baba mentioned the existence of a tunnel there where he did his tapas without getting disturbed from the outer world. His utterances on this matter were not so clear whether he was mentioning about his Guru and his life in the present Avatar or in his previous birth. This tunnel reportedly extended upto the Masjid to which Saibaba shifted to live later.
Later he shifted to the dilapidated Masjid where he lived permanently thereafter.
During these early years, Sai Baba had no proper food. He would go for alms and be content to eat whatever people gave him. However, a kind-hearted lady by name Bayajabai somehow seemed to understand the high spiritual status of Sai Baba and she took a vow to feed Baba before she ate her food. She would take the meals for Baba. go in search of him near the neem tree oand surrounding places in the jungle, locate him and feed him.
People by and large thought he was a mad Fakir, till a well known Vaishnava Saint by name Gangagir Bua, who often visited Shirdi, met Baba; he could grasp Baba’s true stature of divinity and he spread word. Two other sadhus who lived in Shirdi at that time by name Devidas and Janakidas too started liking the company of the saintly Sai Baba. Soon, one by one people started going to him and were amply rewarded by his blessings.
Mhalsapati, Kashiram Shimpi and Appa Jagle of Shirdi were the earliest disciples of Sai Baba, who surrendered to him and served him with devotion. It is by their efforts that Sai Baba shifted from the neem tree to the dilapidated Masjid in Shirdi; This masjid became his permanent abode till the end of his life, spanning about 60 years. He named the place Dwaraka Mai. Mhalsapati became the closest of all and he served his Master till Baba left his mortal body.
In fact, it was Sai Baba who attracted devotees and ardent seekers living in distant places by creating circumstances in their lives or by sending word to them to come and meet Him. He said that his relation as Guru with some of his disciples started a couple of births ago and he was duty-bound to take care of them and lead them to enlightenment across births.
After his permanent occupation at Dwaraka mai, more spiritually inclined seekers like Appa Kulkarni, Nana Saheb Dengle, Chidambar Keshav, Madhav Rao Deshpande, Nanasaheb Nimonkar, Nanasaheb Chandorkar, Das Ganu and others frequently visited Sai Baba and accepted Him as their Sadguru and surrendered to him.
By the grace and blessings of Sai Baba, Das Ganu (real name Shri Ganapat Dattatreya Saharabuddhe) a former policeman left his job, surrendered to Sai and later blossomed into a great poet, singing the glory of his guru through his kirtans. He was hailed as a santkavi.
It was through Nanasaheb Chandorkar (a well educated person in Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures) that the outer world came to know of Sai Baba’s extensive knowledge on Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures of Hinduism.
Abdul, the Muslim disciple of Sai Baba too came to Sai Baba through his calling. Abdul was earlier a servitor of Amiruddin fakir of Nanded. It was through Abdul that the world came to know of the extensive knowledge Sai Baba had on Islam, the Koran, Sira— the life of Mohammad, Sunna (code of conduct) , hadith (traditions), sharia (laws) and so on.
Common people started coming to Sai Baba in large numbers for curing them of their ailments and seeking solutions to their worldly worries. During his early days, Sai Baba prepared some indigenous medicines and gave to them. People got cured miraculously and they spread words; more and more people came to him for the purpose.
At Dwaraka mai, Sai Baba started a Dhuni — a fire place where he arranged to keep a sacred fire burning perpetually. Baba stopped preparing and giving medicines; instead, he started giving the ash (Udi) from the Dhuni as his prasad. Sai Baba’s udi prasad soon became a ‘cure all’ medicine for many people, including people having mental problems. Through the udi, what they really received was the unconditional love and divine blessings from Sai Baba.
As Baba’s popularity grew, people started bringing food for him to the Masjid and gradually, the need for him to go around the village for seeking alms came down.
Baba radiated divine love; his compassion flowed unconditionally towards all those who came to him with faith and trust hoping their problems to get solved. Spiritually inclined seekers who came to him, grasped his divine nature and surrendered to his feet considering him to be their Sadguru.
Baba remained a unique blend of all religious faiths and he did not discriminate people based on religion, sect, caste, race, sex or language. He strengthened the faiths of devotees to their respective religions and guided them individually on spiritual practices suited to each one’s capacity, calibre and taste.
He taught his devotees self-restraint, detachment, faith in God and faith in guru.Without being preachy, he taught philosophy, devotion, spiritual discipline, morality, right conduct for daily life and fellow-feeling towards all living beings.
He encouraged sadaks whose worldly duties were over, to live with him and concentrate on sadhana for spiritual enlightenment. He discouraged youngsters from relinquishing worldly life out of over-enthusiasm without the necessary mental strength for renunciation.
Many devotees of Lord Dattatreya who came to him considered him to be an avatar of Dattatreya. Akkalkot Swami (Shri Swami Samarth) was a highly revered and a contemporary saint of Sai Baba who was considered an Avatar of Dattatreya. Many of his devotees held Sai Baba in very high regard. It is said that Akkalkot Swami directed some of his disciples to go to Sai Baba for guidance after his departure.
Likewise devotees of other God forms (Lord Ganesha, Hanuman and so on) too considered Saibaba as the divine Avatar of their personal Gods. Some such devotees, who had taken vows to make certain money offerings to their deities in times hardships faced in their lives, conveniently forgot to make the offerings to their deities once they came out of the difficulties. When they came to Saibaba, there were several instances where Baba asked for and collected such money from them!
Sai Baba strongly condemned religious conversions. Once a person who had converted to Islam from being a Hindu came to Sai Baba for his darshan, Sai Baba slapped him on his face saying, “Are you not ashamed of changing your father?”
Saibaba always donned a Kafni (long full sleeved kurta), wore a langot (waist band) and covered His head with a piece of cloth. He sat on a piece of sackcloth, and his bed too was a sackcloth. He wore his dress till they were torn and turn to become rags. He always said “Poverty is better than Kingship, far better than Lordship. The Lord is always brother of the poor.”
During his early years, Saibaba went out for begging his food; whatever solid and liquid food items he was given, he collected them separately, brought them to the Masjid, kept them in open pots and ate from them. Those who came to him and those who did service to him (like cleaning the masjid premises) could also partake the food from the pots. Dogs too came to him and had their share from the collection.
In later periods, as the number of close devotees increased, devotees brought food for him from their homes to the masjid and the need for going out for daily alms stopped. Using the provisions that people brought, Saibaba sometimes cooked the food and offered it as prasad to the devotees. The prasad he made at times contained meat too that non-vegetarians devotees partook from him.
Baba’s close devotees always worshiped him and revered him as God. As part of the daily routine in Dwarakamai, an aarati (formal worship with lighted lamp) in the noon and one aarati at night was performed to Sai Baba by close devotees (like Mhalsapati) amidst chanting of hymns. Of course, this practice was not to the liking of some people of the Muslim community in and around Shirdi.
Baba had no personal wants or needs. For so many years, Baba never had any need for money. During his later years in life, Sai Baba accepted dakshina (offering of money) from his devotees. Whatever Sababa received — be food, provisions or cash, he distributed amidst the visiting needy devotees and also to his close associates who served him and had families to take care of. Many devotees observed that the money Sai Baba distributed daily to others appeared to be more than what he used to receive as dakshina!
When Sai Baba attained Samadhi, a Policeman present on duty at Dwarakamai at that time officially took charge of Sai Baba’s possessions and according to the report, Sai Baba had just 16 rupees with him in his possession!
Baba in numerous miraculous ways played the role of God, a mentor, a Guru, a guide and a savior in the lives of devotees who surrendered to him with unflinching faith. Practically all devotees of Baba had some miraculous experience or other in their lives to come out of worldly worries and calamities. Such experiences redoubled their faith on His divinity and helped them to tread the path of dharma and spirituality.
Baba’s devotees experienced that He knew every detail of their lives without the need of telling him; Baba read their good and bad thoughts and constantly warned them from going astray. When caught up in deep troubles, Baba heard their prayers and came to their rescue in some way or other, in some human form or other wherever they were. Sai Baba willingly took up the bad prarabdhas (effects of bad karmas of the past) of some of his devotees on himself in order to reduce their suffering and burden.
There were many instances when Sai Baba blessed progeny to childless couples, saved devotees from accidents and life threatening diseases, protected them from financial disasters, helped them in getting the right match in marriages and so on. Reviving the dead to life was also performed by Sai on one or two rare occasions.
Very occasionally, Baba also openly displayed a few miracles. Here are a few of them:
Shri Govind R Dabholkar was a Brahmin by birth and he was a 1st class Resident Magistrate in Borsad before he retired. Nana Saheb Chandorkar was his friend and due to the later’s insistence, he came and met Sai Baba initially with some reluctance in the year 1910. He was bowled by Sai Baba’s radiating divinity and his thirst to have a guru came to an end. He started visiting Baba regularly. in 1916, a year before Sai Baba’s departure, Shama, a friend of Dabholkar and an ardent devotee of Baba convinced Baba for the need of having an authentic biography of Him written and Baba gave his blessings to Dabholkar for writing it.
With the help of all close Sai devotees, Dabholkar collected information about Sai Baba’s sayings, leelas and miracles from the real life experiences of many devotees for 13 years from 1917 to 1929. He wrote Shri Sai Satcharitra in Marathi in the form of verses and they first got serialized in Sri Sai Leela magazine from 1923 (6 years after Sai Baba’s Maha Samadhi). Shri Sai Satcharitra complete in book form came out 1929. Sri Dabholkar passed away in the same year.
After his retirement, Dabholkar served Sai Baba very sincerely till Baba’s Mahasamadhi and afterwards managed very skillfully and efficiently Sai Baba’s Shirdi Sansthan till his death in 1929.
Shri Sai Satcharitra was the first authentic source book on the Avatar and leela of Shirdi Sai, and it was written not as a biography in chronological order, but in the form of a Pothi, a religious book. It contained 53 chapters and 9308 verses. This book, in later years, got translated into English and other Indian languages.
Sri Vaman Prangovind Patel (Later Swami Sai Sharan Anand) was one of the most faithful and true disciples of Sai Baba. He was a Gujarati Brahmin by birth, studied B.A., L.L.B and worked as a solicitor at Mumbai. When Vaman was five, Sai Baba (identified by his mother as an unknown person who appeared before her as a Fakir) saved his live from acute diarrhoea by giving sacred udi. Vaman as a youth longed for getting a Guru who can assure him of getting direct perception of God; he first met Sai Baba at Shirdi when he was 22 years old, in the year 1911.
He visited Sai Baba again in 1913 and was was retained by Baba to be with him for 11 months. Baba engaged Vaman in reading scriptures like Jnaneshwari under his guidance, made him do Gayathri Purascharan and seek alms from the local households.
Again in 1916, Vaman stayed with Baba for 3 weeks when he was blessed with valuable spiritual experiences. In 1946 (some 28 years after Sai Baba’s maha samadhi) Vaman wrote two books in Gujarati on the life of Baba — Sai Leelakhyan and Shri Sai Baba. After his wife and daughter passed away, Vaman took up Sanyas (with the monaistic name Swami Sai Sharan Anand) at the age of 64. He lived to ripe old age (93 years) and passed away in 1982. 3 more books of him Sainathne Sharane, Brahma Parimal and Siddhamrit got published posthumously.
His books exemplify his great devotion to Sai Baba and they remain one of the best sources of information on Shirdi Sai.
Over years, as Sai Baba’s residence in the Dwaraka Mai Masjid became permanent and devotees from outstation started coming in large numbers, Baba’s devotee Hari Vinayak Sathe bought the land covering the sacred neem tree, Gurusthan and adjacent areas. In 1908, he constructed a wada (traditional mansion) there which was called Sathe Wada. The wada served as the sole resting place for visiting devotees, till the time Dixit Wada too came up.
Kaka Saheb Dixit, a rich solicitor from Mumbai first met Sai Baba in the year 1909. He became an ardent devotee of Sai Baba and decided to settle in Shirdi to live the rest of his life in the holy company of Baba. He bought land adjacent to Gurusthan and constructed Dixit Wada, to be his residence as well as a resting place for people visiting Sai Baba from distant places. The Wada was constructed and inaugurated on the day of Ram Navami in the year 1911.
As we saw already, Sai Baba had two earnest devotees who stayed with him were Muslims – Abdul and Bade Baba (Fakir Baba).
Sai Baba had many other Muslim devotees who considered him as a Pir (A Sufi Saint) or Awliya (An Islamic guardian/ protector).
From 1911, when Ram Navami celebrations (with a procession ending at Dwaraka mai masjid) became an annual festival celebrated with fanfare at Shirdi as per suggestion of Sai Baba, some Muslim devotees headed by one Amir Shakkar too pitched in with a Sandal Procession (Urus festival) on the same day; Hindus and Muslims participated in both processions, thereby building a good interfaith comradery.
In 1894, some intolerant Muslims with the support of Kazi of Sangamner assembled with lathis in order to attack the devotees who worshiped Sai Baba as God inside the masjid. Mhalsapati, who used to do the daily aarati was in a fix and he did not know what to do. However, Sai Baba summoned him inside and asked him to proceed with his daily worship. The militant assembly of armed Muslims stood there transfixed, unable to move their limbs! They got scared of Sai Baba’s divine power and retreated never to attempt any such move there after.
Some 20 years after this incidence, a fundamentalist Pathan was dead against Hindus worshiping Sai Baba and he sought Sai’s permission to massacre all the Hindus sleeping at the Chavdi. Sai Baba told him to cut His throat first before attempting to do any harm to Hindus. A few days later, with hatred brimming on Baba, the Pathan came to attack Sai Baba with a large stick. Sai Baba simply caught him by his wrist and the pathan fell to ground losing all his power.
Muslims also created trouble when Sai Baba attained Maha Samadhi. (This is covered later in the article).
Gopalrao Buti was an extremely rich devotee of Sai Baba who hailed from Nagpur met Baba in 1907. From 1910, he shifted to Shirdi permanently to live with Sai Baba and was contemplating to build a house for him there. One night, Baba appeared in Buti’s dream and asked him to construct a Wada (Mansion) with a temple in it. Very surprisingly, in the same night, Baba appeared in Madhavrao Deshpande’s dream and said “Let there be a wada with temple so that I can satisfy the desires of all”. Both were sleeping in Dixit Wada when this happened.
When they shared the experience with each other, Buti decided to build a grand mansion with black stones. With Sai Baba’s blessing and also approval of the building plan, the construction started in 1915. Buti wanted to install, in the sanctum sanctorum, Lord Muralidhar (Krishna playing flute) there.
Madhavrao supervised the construction of the ground floor. Sai Baba visited the site while construction was in progress and offered some suggestions too. Sai Baba once said “When the temple is built, we shall inhabit it and ever live in joy there!”
While the construction was nearing the end, Sai Baba fell sick and his condition started deteriorating. Gopalrao Buti became restless. He wondered whether Baba would live to see the temple, let alone come and stay there as promised by him. “If Baba is not going to live there, what is the point in constructing this wada and temple?” he thought.
Baba’s close devotees nursed him with all love and care, but there was so sign of recovery. Baba’s last words were: “Take me to the wada. I would feel better there”. But before his devotees could shift him, He breathed his last at 2:35PM on 15th October 1918 at the Masjid. News spread quickly and all close devotees of Sai Baba thronged at the Masjid.
Unfortunately, there were discordant opinions in conducting the last rites for Baba’ body between Sai’s Hindu devotees (who were in majority) and the Muslims. The Muslim devotees headed by Bade Baba did not want Hindus to touch Sai Baba’s body and they wanted to take the body to kabari-sthan as per Islamic rites. Against Muslims’ stiff resistance, Sai’s devotee Laxman Bhat performed puja to Sai’s body as per Hindu traditions and applied tilak at Sai’s forehead. Hindus planned to shift Sai’s body to Buti Wada and place it in a samadhi and started necessary digging work work there.
Mamledar (Revenue administrative officer) of Kopargaon mediated between Hindus and Muslims and a compromise was arrived. Muslims finally yielded and allowed the Hindu devotees to proceed with their Samadhi plan at Buti Wada on the condition that Muslims would be given continued access to Masjid and also to Sai Baba’s samadhi, to which Hindus gladly agreed.
On 16th October evening, Sai Baba’s body was taken ceremoniously in procession to Buti Wada and placed in the sanctum sanctorum where originally an idol of Lord Muralidhar had been planned to be installed. Saibaba’s body was laid and a samadhi was built there.
Sai Baba had said earlier:
It is indeed true — even after passage of a century!
Ramana Maharshi was a true gyani – the knower of self. He was a jivan mukta – one who attained liberation even when he was alive. For his bhaktas who adored him as God, he was an Avatara Purusha – God descended in human form, though for Ramana, as a true Gnyani, the idea of avatar was of least significance. For him everything existing is verily the Self (atman).
Ramana’s philosophy reaches out to all segments of spiritual seekers irrespective of their religious moorings. Ramana attained his liberation purely by a simple self-inquiry “Who am I?” It is this simple self-inquiry technique that he preached to all spiritual seekers too. Am I the body? Am I the mind? Am I the intellect? This body perishes. This mind always seems to be wandering aimlessly. The intellect gets confused by contradictions. But behind all this, “I” exist. That “I” exists when I am awake, when I sleep with dreams and when I sleep deep without dreams. Even when I sleep like a log without any bodily conscience, this “I”, though not ascertaining its presence at that time, is very much there, it understood its natural blissful state, to declare when awake saying “I slept so blissfully”.
It is this “I” that Ramana wants everyone to identify. One who has grasped the true nature of that “I” knows Self (Atman). It is none other than the all pervasive Brahaman, that Upanishads talk of. You are that – “Tat twam asi” One who truly experienced it, states by virtue of his personal attainment, “Aham Brahmasmi” (I am Brahman). In Ramana’s scheme of things, there is really no need of any personal God for worship. No need of names and forms. No chanting of mantras. No need of worship. No need of accepting Jesus Christ and the holy trinity. No need to worship in the direction of Mecca and Madina. But Ramana acknowledges the fact that such religious and spiritual practices, widely practiced by many, have their utility in purifying the mind and aiding progress in the spiritual path, “the path of self-inquiry is straight” in his opinion and experience.
No wonder Ramana’s philosophy, which was none other than the ancient Hindu philosophy of Advaita, was lapped up by spiritually earnest seekers, who had their disinclination towards formal and institutionalized form of religions and worships.
Venkataraman (later Sri Ramana Maharshi) was born on December 30, 1879 at Tiruchuzhi, a small village in Tamil Nadu, some thirty miles off Madurai to Sundaram Ayyar and Alagamma. He was the second child. He had one elder brother and one younger brother and a younger sister.
When Venkataraman was twelve, Sundaram Ayyar died. He and his elder brother were sent to live with their paternal uncle, Subbier, at Madurai. Here, Venkataraman studied upto ninth standard. He was an average student, but had a good memory. He was much interested in sports.
In his boyhood years Venkataraman was prone to abnormally deep sleep. He could not be easily awakened from his sleep.
An elderly relative who visited their house mentioned to Venkataraman about his visit to Arunachala, the sacred hill in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu. The word ‘Arunachala’ somehow had evoked in him since childhood an inexplicable awe and love. He enquired more from the relative the whereabouts of Arunachala and his inexpicable curiosity and awe over the place increased.
A little later, young Venkataraman came across a copy of the Periapuranam, which contains stories of sixty-three Tamil saints who received Lord Siva’s grace and vision by their exemplary devotion. As Venkataraman read the book, he was overwhelmed with ecstatic wonder that such deep faith, and bhakti was ever possible in him too.
Sometime in the middle of July 1896, when he was just sixteen and a half years old, Venkataraman realized the Self in a totally unexpected and miraculous manner. Years later, he explained to his devotees what happened that day in the following words:
“About six weeks before I left Madurai for good, a great change took place in my life. It was quite sudden. I was sitting alone in a room in my uncle’s house, when a sudden fear of death overtook me. There was nothing in my state of health to account for it. I just felt, ‘I am going to die’ and began thinking about it. The fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, ‘Now that death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? Only this body dies.’ And at once I dramatized the occurrence of death. I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed and said to myself, ‘This body is dead. It will be carried to the cremation ground and reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body am I dead? Is this body ‘I’? I am the spirit transcending the body. and I am perceiving it now without any doubt. That means I am the deathless Atman.’”
Venkataraman seemed to fall into a profound conscious trance wherein he became merged into the very source of his Self, the very essence of Being.
Venkataraman emerged from this amazing experience an utterly changed person. He lost interest in studies, sports, friends and so on. His chief interest now centered in the sublime consciousness of the true Self, which he had found so unexpectedly. He enjoyed an inward serenity and a spiritual strength, which never left him. In his words: “Another change that came over me was that I no longer had any likes or dislikes with regard to food. Whatever was given to me, tasty or insipid, I would swallow with total indifference.”
Venkataraman’s uncle and elder brother noticed the nonchalant behavior of Venkataraman and were critical about it. Then came the tangible turning point on August 29, 1896. Venkataraman was then studying in tenth standard, preparing for his public examination. His teacher had given him an exercise in English grammar to be written three times. He copied it out twice and was about to do so for the third time when the futility and meaningless of such an exercise stuck him; he pushed the notebooks aside and sitting cross-legged, abandoned himself to meditation.
His elder brother Nagaswamy who was watching this, scolded him for behaving like a yogi while still staying in the family and pretending to study. “Yes”, thought Venkataraman, “What business do I have here?” And immediately came the thought of Arunachala that had caused such a thrill in him a few months ago. He decided then and there to discover the fabulous and mystic hill Arunachala himself.
Venkataraman knew that without a little lie, he would not be allowed to escape from home. So, he told his brother that he had to attend a special class at the school. Unintentionally providing him with funds for the journey, his brother said, “Take five rupees from the box and pay my college fees.” Venkataraman took only three rupees, no more than what he thought was necessary for reaching Tiruvannamalai. In the note he left (which fortunately is still preserved), he wrote in Tamil:
“ நான் என் தகப்பனாரைத் தேடிக் கொண்டு, அவருடைய உத்தரவின்படி இவ்விடத்தை விட்டுக் கிளம்பி விட்டேன். இது நல்ல காரியத்தில் தான் பிரவேசித்திருக்கிறது. ஆகையால் இதற்காக யாரொருவரும் விசனப்பட வேண்டாம். இதைப் பார்ப்பதற்காக பணமும் செலவு செய்ய வேண்டாம். உன் சம்பளத்தை இன்னும் செலுத்தவில்லை. ரூ. 2 இதோடு கூட இருக்கிறது.
“I have set out in quest of my Father in accordance with His command. It is on a virtuous enterprise that ‘this’ has embarked, therefore let none grieve over this act and let no money be spent in search of ‘this’. Your college fees have not been paid. Two rupees are enclosed.” The note ended with the word ‘Thus’, and a dash — in place of his signature.
The way this letter had been written has its own significance – opening sentence in the note began with ‘I’, but later Venkataraman used ‘this’ in reference to himself. Thus, what left Madurai for Tiruvannamalai was not the spirit, which had already got absorbed in the Lord, but the body, now viewed as distinct from the spirit. The personality which began with ‘I’, got merged into ‘this’, and at the end there was no person left to sign.
Venkataraman reached Tiruvannamalai in a journey involving two trains, a long walk and a couple of trials and tribulations en route on the early morning of September 1, 1896. He went straight to the great Arunachaleswara temple and stood before his Father. His cup of bliss was now full to the brim with inexplicable surge of bliss. The journey’s end, and his homecoming at last.
Coming out of the temple, the youth got his head shaven and threw away all his belongings and clothes except for a strip he tore off his dhoti to serve as a loincloth. Thus renouncing everything, he went back to the temple complex and got immersed in the Bliss of Being, sitting motionless, day after day, night after night without any concern about his body, the need for food or drinking.
Local urchins thought he was a madman and started throwing stones at him wherever he was in the temple complex. To escape from their teasing, the young ascetic took shelter in the Patala Lingam, an underground small Siva shrine within the enormous temple complex, where ants and vermin fed on his flesh during the weeks he spent there. But the young Swami, absorbed in bliss, remained unmoved.
Seshadri Swamigal who was a well known saint and a resident of Thiruvannamalai recognized the young ascetic’s spiritual status and soon words spread about the missing young brahmin Swamy. Some devotees discovered the Swami in the vault, oblivious of the dreadful condition he was in, with worm-infested wounds and oozing pus. they removed him to a nearby shrine within the temple complex. From then on, he continued to move within the complex to various other shrines and groves away from curious onlookers. In all these places, he was looked after by mendicants, devotees from the town, temple functionaries and others. He continued to remain absorbed in the Self and was forcefully fed with a glass of milk obtained after doing abhishekam to the divine Mother’s deity or a few morsels of cooked rice.
In February 1897, the young Swami was removed to the Gurumurtam – a math, some distance away from the town, where he lived for about nineteen months. He continued to remain Self-absorbed and was looked after mainly by a sadhu named Uddandi Nayanar and his friend Annamalai Thambiran.
About this time, a Malayalee sadhu named Palaniswami, living in great austerity, was devoting his life to the worship of Lord Vinayaka. He came to know of the Brahmin ascetic and as he saw the Swami for the first time, he was stirred to his depths and had discovered his saviour. He devoted the remaining twenty-one years of his life serving the Maharshi as his attendant.
Very slowly and unwillingly, Venkataraman started responding to the prodding of his devotees and aftair their persistent efforts, he wrote his name ‘Venkataraman, Tiruchuzhi’ in English. His knowledge of English came as a surprise. He became well known as Brahmana Swamy in Thiruvannamalai town.
In the meantime, Venkataraman’s relatives were making anxious enquiries and searches at various places, but he could not be traced in the next couple of years. Finally, hearing about a famous young brahmin Swamy at Thiruvannamalai, his paternal Uncle Nelliappa Iyer came to Thiruvannamalai. At first he could not identify him, as the young Swami was with long matted hair, beard and totally unkempt remaining with just a loin cloth. But later, confirming with his birth marks, he pleaded in vain for the Swami’s return and then left for Madurai empty-handed.
After sometime, the young Swami began to reside at the Pavalakunru shrine on the Arunachala hill, his mother Alagamma came and met her son. With a mother’s love and concern, she lamented over his condition and pressed him to go back with her, but he sat unmoved despite her repeated entreaties. Based on repeated appeals by devotees to communicate something to his mother, Brahmana swami wrote in Tamil:
“அவரவர் பிராரப்தப் பிரகாரம் அதற்கானவன் ஆங்காங்கிருந்து ஆட்டுவிப்பன். என்றும் நடவாதது என் முயற்சிக்கினும் நடவாது; நடப்பது என் தடை செய்யினும் நில்லாது. இதுவே திண்ணம். ஆதலின் மெளனமாயிருக்கை நன்று.”
“The Ordainer controls the fate of souls in accordance with their prarabdha-karma.Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, try hard as you may. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to prevent it.This is certain. The best course, therefore, is to remain silent.”
His mother too had to return dejected, but she was later quite determined to live with her saintly son. Future events unfolded towards her will.
Early in 1899, the young ascetic, accompanied by his attendant Palaniswami took up his residence in the Virupaksha Cave, a cave situated behind a solid rock en route to the top of Arunachala hill. He stayed in this cave for the next seventeen years.
Here also the young Swami maintained silence for the first few years. His radiance had already drawn a group of devotees around him and an ashram of hardly any facilities had come into being at the cave. The young swamy gradually started speaking a few words to his devotees. Curious and sincere seekers like Palaniswamy brought spiritual books from the local library and started reading them in front of the swamy and demanding his explanations for their doubts.
It was then that the young swamy really came across formal scriptures like Upanishads and other Vedantic scripts in Tamil. It was rather surprising to them that whatever spiritual experiences he personally had were being mentioned in the scriptures!
Some time during the year 1912, Brahmana Swamy had a second experience of confronting death. This time, it was not an imagined one, but a real death experience when his heart beat stopped totally and his skin turned blue. He remained in that state for about 15 minutes, totally conscious of his unchangeable status as Atman. In a way, it can be said that this second death experience confirmed his unshakable status of Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi. After this experience, The Brahmana Swamy’s life became more normal and his interaction communication with his devotees became much freer and easier.
Sivaprakasam Pillai , an officer in the Revenue Department and an intellectual, heard of the young Swami residing on the hill. At his very first visit in 1902, he was captivated by the Swami’s aura and became his life-long devotee. As the Swami was maintaining silence he answered fourteen questions of Pillai by writing in Tamil on a slate. These were later expanded and arranged in a book form “நானார்?” Who am I? This is perhaps the most concise and most widely appreciated prose exposition of the Maharshi’s philosophy, given by the Maharshi at his age of 23, which got widely published much later, in the year 1923. Ramana’s another devotee Sri Gambhiram Seshayya too jotted down Sri Ramana’s answers to his queries sometime during 1900-02 and got it published much later as booklet titled “விசார சங்கிரகம்” (Self inquiry) in the year 1930.
The teachings contained in these 2 small small books remained authentic, needing no future revisions by Bhagvan. In his long life spanning 71 years, Sri Ramana wrote so many other poetic works in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Sanskrit, but this Tamil prose version still remained the basic teaching that found more exposition in those future works.
Kavyakanda Ganapati Muni , a renowned Sanskrit scholar and poet, was another devotee (much elder in age to Sri Ramana) who visited the Swami from 1903 onwards and accepted him as his guru in 1907. It was who who christened the name Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi to his Guru. He sang of him as an incarnation of Lord Subrahmanya (Muruga). The Maharishi’s answers to the questions put by the Muni and his disciples, largely constitute the well-known work Ramana Gita in Sanskrit.
The earliest Western seeker to come under the Swami’s influence (in 1911) was F.H. Humphreys.
Several householder devotees started taking care of Sri Ramana by offering food. Echammal and Alakaraththammal (Mudaliar patti) were two ardent lady devotees of Ramana who started sending food to him to Virupaksha cave and their dedicated service of offering food to Bhagwan continued uninterrupted for almost 50 years!
‘The knower of Self becomes the knower of all’ — so goes the saying.
It was during the years in Virupakshi cave that the hitherto unknown face of Sri Ramana — as a mystic poet, came to the fore. Some of the devotees who came to Ramana were Tamil scholars. By way of association with him and by the exposure he got into the poetic devotional works like Thevaram and Thiruvasagam and also Vedanta Tamil texts like Kaivalya Navaneetam etc through the books brought by his devotees, Bhagwan Ramana got an irresistible inner urge to pour out his supreme knowledge in the form of poems.
Sri Ramana wrote the Tamil poetic works Arunachala Pathikam and Arunachala Ashtakam, praising the glory of the Arunachala Hill. (Related reading —> Bhagwan Ramana’s attraction towards Arunachala Hill)
Several earnest devotees started staying with him and they used to go begging for food at the town once a day. They requested for an exclusive song to be sung by them as a sign of identification with Sri Ramana when they go around begging at the streets. During one of the Girivalam (circumambulation of Arunachala), Bhagwan composed Akshara mana Maalai song. It was a wonderful piece of poetry, written in devotional Nayaki Bhava (as if a woman expressing her love towards her sweet heart) containing the yearning of Jivatma towards Paramatma (represented by Arunachala Hill) for union. Despite being a Jyani par excellence, Sri Ramana’s tender heart brimmed with emotional bhakti too when he composed Aksharamana Malai as he revealed to his devotees in later years how he was overwhelmed with tears of divine love flowing from his eyes and his throat choking with uncontrollable emotions when he composed those songs.
Ramana’s later poetic works in Tamil covered உபதேச உந்தியார், உள்ளது நாற்பது, உள்ளது நாற்பது அனுபந்தம், தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி ஸ்தோத்ரம், பகவத் கீதா சாரம், அத்தாமலகம், அருணாசல நவமணி மாலை, ஆன்ம வித்தை, அப்பளப்பாட்டு (Upadesa Undhiyaar, Ullathu Narpathu, Ullathu narpathu anubhandam, Dhakshinamoorthy sthothram, Bhagavad Gita saaram, Hasthamalakam, Arunachala nava mani malai, Anma vidyai, Appala paattu etc) etc. Ramana’s ardent devotee and a great Tamil Scholar Muruganar was in a way instrumental in goading Bhagwan Ramana to write many of the later poetic works in Tamil.
Through the association with Ganapathi Sasthri, Ramana picked up sanskrit. Likewise by the association with Telugu and Malayalam devotees, Ramana quickly mastered the nuances of these languages and became adept in even writing poetry in these languages. Yielding to appeal of these devotees, Bhabwan Ramana translated many of his Tamil works to corresponding poetic works in Telugu and Malayalam too.
During 1914, Alagammal, Ramana’s mother came again to see her son, on her way back from a pilgrimage to Tirupathi. Alagammal fell seriously ill at that time and Ramana took care of her; he fervently prayed to Arunachala for mother’s recovery and composed 4 songs of prayer. His mother soon recovered and went back to live with her other sons.
A little later after his mother’s arrival, Ramana’s younger brother Nagasundaram, who lost his wife at early age took up renunciation (with a monostic name Niranjanananda) and he too arrived at Thiruvannamalai to live with his saint brother. With a few sadhus already staying with Ramana permanently and with the arrival of the mother and brother, Virupaksha cave which was very small in size became rather over-crowded and there came a need for a bigger ashram.
Further up in the hill from Virupaksha cave, there was a natural spring that gave water perennially right throughout the year. Ramana’s ardent devotee Kandasamy took up a great task of levelling a small plot of land in the hilly slopes adjacent to the spring, planted several trees and then with herculean efforts built a small tiled brick building to serve as the new ashram. To acknowledge Kandaswamy’s efforts, Ramana named the ashram “Skandashram” and shifted to that place along with all his companions in the year 1916.
During 1922 after leading a life of strict austerity under her son for 6 years in Skandashram, mother Alagammal became seriously ill with no signs of recovery in the year 1922. Ramana nursed her with utmost care but he was resigned to the fact that her life was nearing end. During her final hours when she was breathing heavily, Ramana sat next to her, put one hand on her chest and another hand on her head. Ramana was determined to grant her moksha and he subdued all her vasanas that ebbed from her heart as her prana was attempting to get released from her body. Finally Ramana ensured that her soul dissolved in her heart without the scope of escaping through any of the openings of her body and granted her samadhi.
He stood up and declared the fact that there was no need to follow the customary acharas (like not eating food when there is a dead body) as his mother had attained liberation from birth/ death cycle and asked everyone to take their food.
Alagammal’s body was taken down hills and was buried at the foot hills and a Shiva Linga (Matrubhuteswar) was established at the place of burial (adjacent to a water tank called pali thirtham) as per norms followed for those who attained samadhi. Minimal ritualistic worship of the Matrubhuteswar lingam was getting carried out by Niranjananantha for a while by visiting from Skandasram daily.
A few months later, one early morning Sri Ramana visited mother’s samadhi down hills and he opted to remain there without returning to Skandasram. It happened by the end of December 1922.
The establishment of Ramanashramam adjacent to the mother’s samadhi began in the form of a thatched hut. (See picture).
Ramanashramam was growing slowly and steadily as more and more spiritually earnest people started coming to meet Sri Ramana and many of them started staying in and around the ashram. One of Ramana’s prime disciples Sri Muruganar, a great Tamil Scholar came and met Bhagwan in the year 1923. He was overwhelmed by Bhagwan’s divinity and within the next few years he came and stayed permanently at Thiruvannamalai.
By the divine influence of Bhagwan, pristine Tamil poetry flowed ceaselessly from the heart of Muruganar. He wrote “Guru Vachaka Kovai” (குரு வாசகக் கோவை) containing the teachings of his guru in poetry form. Inspired by Thiruvachagam, he wrote “Ramana Sannidhi Murai” (ரமண சன்னதி முறை). He had written more than 30,000 Tamil verses in his life.
The disciple in turn, considerably influenced the guru to write more works in Tamil. Bhagwan Ramana wrote Upadesa Saram (உபதேச சாரம்/ உபதேச உந்தியார்) that contained in a nutshell all his teachings, as an extension to a poetic work on a story based on Lord Shiva’s divine play wrote half way by Muruganar, in the year 1927. Later Bhagwan himself translated this work into Malayalam and Telugu. Kavyakanta Ganapathi Shashtri wrote the translation of Upadesa saram in Sanskrit.
Paul Brunton (Raphael Hurst) was a curious seeker of Indian mysticism who met Bhagwan Ramana in 1930. He stayed in Ramanashramam for a few days and practiced Self-Inquiry based on Ramana’s teachings and he could get a glimpse of his Self by the grace of Bhagwan. He wrote about Bhagwn in his famous book A Search in Secret India. In a way, this book paved the way for many western and earnest seekers of spirituality to visit Bhagwan.
In later years Major Chadwick (Sadhu Arunachala), Arthur Osborne, SS Cohen, Maurice Frydman, Robert Adams and such westerners became devotees of Ramana and practiced Ramana’s Self-inquiry as a spiritual method for self-realization.
Like a beacon in the sea shore, Bhagwan Ramana stayed put in Thiruvannamalai al through his life (since his arrival to the holy town in the year 1896). Bhagwan’s ardent devotees decided to celebrate the 50th year (Golden Jubilee) of Bhagwan’s arrival to Arunachala on 1st September 1946). Ramana’s devotees from across the country including several dignitaries participated in the grand function.
The ashram grew gradually into brick and mortar buildings. In the year 1939, Bhagwan laid the foundation stone for constructing Matrubuteshwar Temple at the samadhi of his mother. It took 10 years of yeomen efforts by Swami Niranjanananda to bring the temple to a compact and yet beautiful shape. The consecration ceremony (Maha Kumbhabishekam) of the temple took place in a grand scale in the year 1949. A granite Shree Chakra Meru was established behind the Lingam in the temple as per Sri Vidya Tantra shatras and Sri Bhagwan sanctified it by touching it by his hand before consecration.
By the end of year 1948, a small tumor appeared at the left elbow of Bhagwan Ramana. The Ashram doctor decided to cut and remove it. After a few days, the tumor appeared again. Surgeons from Madras were called and it was removed by operation again. But as the tumor resurfaced, every one got alarmed. It was causing considerable pain but Bhagwan did not seem to mind it. Soon it was diagnosed as Sarcoma. A couple of operations were followed and Bhagwan remained just a witness to all the suffering allowing the doctors to do their duty in their own limited judgement. The malignant tumor at one stage grew and looked like a small cauliflower and oozed lot of blood. Bhagwan’s body was going weaker by the day. Bhagwan allowed other types of treatment like Ayurveda, Unani, Homeopathy and so on done onto him by experts from the respective fields but to no avail.
Devotees shed tears to see Ramana’s physical body suffering but they were at a loss what to do further. Bhagwan stoutly refused a suggestion to amputate his left arm. He said, ” “They take this body for Bhagavan and attribute suffering to him. What a pity! They are despondent the Bhagavan is going to leave them and go away — where can he go, and how?”
Despite all the physical suffering and the efforts of his associates to give him seclusion from the disturbances of visiting devotees , Bhagwan insisted that all those who are thronging to see him be allowed to have his darshan. Bhagwan’s eyes were glowing like powerful lamps while his body was undergoing pain and suffering beyond measure. He continued to glance and bless his devotees as they queued up and passed one by one by having a last glimpse outside the entrance of his room.
Finally, Bhagvan breathed his last at 8:47 PM on 14th of April 1950. At that very moment, a comet moved slowly across the sky, reached the summit, of the holy hill, Arunachala, and disappeared behind it.