This part of Ramana Maharshi's biography deals with His early stages of His life in Thiruvannamalai.
Venkataraman discovered on getting into the train that he had purchased ticket for a wrong station, not very near Tiruvannamalai. He had to walk most of the way. Pledging his ear-rings he secured passage money for the last leg of his journey, and reached Tiruvannamalai on 1 September, two days after he left. He went straight to the great temple of Arunachala, whose gates stood wide open for him. There, overcome by the Lord's presence, he announced his arrival to Father Arunachaleswara.
On coming out of the temple he had his head shaved. He threw away whatever money was left with him into the temple tank. Never again in his life he touched money. He tore off a strip of his dhoti to serve as loin cloth and threw the rest away. He cast off his sacred thread also into the tank. Considering a bath after the shave to be too much of a luxury to his body he proceeded back to the temple without a bath. There was, however, a sharp shower immediately so that he had his bath before entering the temple. He went to the Thousand-pillared Hall and sat there immersed in the bliss of his Self.
He was disturbed there by school boys who threw stones at him. He then shifted to Patalalingam, an underground cell where sun's rays never entered. The ants, vermin and mosquitoes feasted on his flesh until his thighs were full of blood and pus. The young tormentors did not leave him alone here too. Some devoted people shifted Venkataraman to a nearby shrine. He would sit there motionless in samadhi. Some kind souls would thrust some morsels of food into his mouth now and then. After staying in two or three more places he shifted to a shrine called Gurumurtham in February 1887 about six months after his arrival at Tiruvannamalai.
Devotees and pilgrims would throng to him at Gurumurtham, prostrate before him and ask for boons. He had a regular attendant here, Palaniswamy by name. Impressed by the appearance of the young ascetic—they had begun to call him 'Swami'— Palaniswamy consecrated the rest of his life to his service, staying with him for twenty one years. The Swami utterly neglected his body, permitting it only a cupful of food in the noon for subsistence. He was silent all the time. An elderly man who used to come to him every morning and sit before him for meditation requested him to write down his name and place of origin on a piece of paper. Though the Swami did not yield at first, he finally wrote 'Venkataraman, Tiruchuzhi.'
In May 1898 the Swami moved to nearby mango orchard, whose owner was devoted to him and thought that the orchard would offer him more privacy. Palaniswamy guarded him all through the six months of his stay at the orchard. Palaniswamy would bring books on philosophy now and then for the Swami to study. His prior spiritual experiences enabled him to grasp the essence of the teachings at a glance and his wonderful memory retained what it saw once. The Swami thus gradually picked up Sanskrit, Malayalam and Telugu by reading books brought to him in these languages.
Word spread of the Swami's stay at Tiruvannamalai and the first to call on him from his family was his uncle from Manamadurai. He made no sign of having even heard his uncle's eloquent pleadings to return home. He shifted from the orchard to different temple shrines in the hill. He would be immersed in samddhi most of the time and obtained his food by begging. He never used a begging bowl but ate out of his hands.
To be continued
About the author
Swami Yuktatmananda of Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya, Coimbatore, is a monk of the Ramakrishna Order. This article is an excerpt from His 'The Holy Beacon of Arunachala,' which is a narration of Ramana Maharshi's biography. In this article he describes about the early stages of Ramana's life in Thiruvannamalai.