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After Bhagavan's 1945 trip to Skandashram to inspect the work of the ashram painter, many devotees, who had been unable to come on the first trip, wanted Ramanasramam to organise another visit so that everyone would have a chance to be there with Bhagavan. Chinnaswami received Bhagavan's permission for a second trip, which was then scheduled to occur in November. This allowed two months for Bhagavan to recover from his toe injury. Suri Nagamma has described the preparations and the visit itself in Letters from Sri Ramanasramam:


Tomorrow (26th November 1945) is the auspicious day fixed for Bhagavan to go to Skandasramam with devotees and hold a feast there. All the brother and sister devotees residing in and around the Asramam were busy the whole day making a fuss about arrangements for the trip. Bhagavan was however sitting as usual, dignified, calm and unconcerned. If all ask him to go, he may do so; if they say no, he will stay away. Is there anything for him to pack up or worry about? The kamandalu (water bowl), the karra (walking stick), the kaupeena (loin-cloth) and the towel over him are all the things about him. The moment he thinks of it he could get ready to start… I shall write to you again about tomorrow’s happenings.


26th November 1945


When I went to the Asramam for the early morning Vedaparayana [chanting of the Vedas] everyone was terribly busy. The kitchen presented a picturesque appearance, some cooking, some cleaning, some giving orders, everyone busy with one thing or another. Pulihodara, dadhyodhanam, pongal, vadai, chips, poories and kootu and ever so many eatables were filled into baskets and sent up the hill. The Sarvadhikari  [Chinnaswami, the ashram manager] does not appear to have had a wink of sleep the whole night. He is the person who has taken all the trouble…


After Vedaparayana, Bhagavan had his bath and breakfast and started for Skandasramam accompanied by Rangaswami who is like Nandi to Lord Siva. Leading the way, Bhagavan went up the hill to Skandasramam as if he was going to his own home.


Without giving the least inconvenience to Bhagavan the devotees proceeded in several groups and reached Skandasramam. Aunt Alamelu (sister of Bhagavan) and myself followed. Some other women got to the destination a little late. Being surrounded by the devotees Bhagavan was seated comfortably under the pleasant shade of the trees just in front of the Skandasramam building…

After the meal, his sofa was set up on the verandah which has an iron-grating enclosure. The devotees were at first at a distance but in a few minutes came near to Bhagavan. Aunt Alamelu and I with some other women were seated in an adjacent room looking at Bhagavan through a window just opposite to his lotus feet. He then began to talk, telling us short stories about his past life on the mountain, relating the arrival of the mother, the construction of Skandasramam, the water supply, the supply of provisions, the rule of the monkey kingdom, the peacock dances, his association with serpents and leopards. During this discourse he greeted a new entrant, the poet Naganarya, by enquiring 'When did you come?' Turning towards me he observed, 'Here he comes'. I replied, 'Yes'. Then something was recalled to his mind and he said, fixing his resplendent gaze, 'There mother had her nirvana (left her mortal frame). We made her sit there outside. Still no mark of death was visible in her face. Like one seated in deep samadhi, divine light was seen in a holy dance. There, just there, where you are now sitting.'


His enchanting words entered my ears like the sweet note of the Venu (the divine flute). I stood at this place worth seeking and heard the words worth hearing. What a glorious day is today!


In the meanwhile various kinds of delicacies were served. Half an hour after we ate them, poori and koottu were given. After helping ourselves we began to go back. After seeing us all off one after another, Bhagavan came down from the throne of Arunagiri accompanied by his attendants and, walking slowly, reached the Asramam at its foot just as the sun sank behind the mountain on the west. Then the routine programme of Vedaparayana etc. was gone through as usual.

Two photos of Alamelu, Bhagavan's sister, with an unknown child. The photos were taken in the mid-1930s. At that time the ashram dining room was located where the mantapam over Bhagavan's samadhi now stands. Access to it from the old hall was through a covered walkway that can be seen behind Alamelu's head in the photo on the left. The dining room is on the left; the old hall is on the right.

Apart from the many sadhakas and sannyasins present, lawyers and doctors, engineers and artists, newspaper correspondents and poets, songsters and a good many others arrived from Madras, Pondicherry and Villupuram. The young and old, the men and women and all without distinction of high and low, squatted on the ground around Bhagavan looking at him with a fixed gaze.


Brother! [This is from a letter written to her brother] How can I draw that picture for you? The Maharshi is calm and his serene gaze, coming from the source, pervades all corners. His gentle smile shone like the cool rays of the moon. His words simply rained amrit. We sat there like statues without consciousness of the body. The photographers then attended to their job.

After 9-30 a.m. the usual daily programme of the Asramam below, relating to mails, newspapers, etc. was gone through as in a Maharaja’s durbar. The clouds then increased and the wind blew heavily. The devotees gave Bhagavan a shawl with which he covered his whole body except the face. Then Bhagavan, in his sitting posture, looked like his mother Alagamma incarnate. Aunt and myself were of the same opinion. This scene was also photographed.

Left: Bhagavan entering Skandashram with a smiling Kunju Swami, one of the devotees who had lived with him there.


Right and below: Bhagavan sitting on a sofa outside the entrance to Skandashram.

Sri Bhagavan preached for some time in silence in the ‘gurosthu mowna vyakhyanam’ (the Guru explaining by mere silence) way. There may certainly be some pure-hearted souls that could all become ‘chhinna samsayah’ (cleared of all doubts). But in my case, my mind ran to the preparations like pulihodara and dadhyodhanam etc., as it was dinner time. The question was whether everything was offered to the hill or anything was left behind. The doubt was solved after 11-30 in the forenoon. My brethren wished to arrange the delicacies for Bhagavan separately in a comfortable place. But would he agree to that? He got a table arranged by his sofa and feasted there in the midst of all.

Left: Bhagavan on the kitchen courtyard steps at Skandashram with (on his right) T. V. Venkataraman and his son V. Ganesan. On his left are (at the back) T. P. Ramachandra Iyer, (foreground) Rangaswami) and (right) Doraiswami Iyer.


Below: the Skandashram kitchen where meals were prepared when Bhagavan lived there.

Bhagavan returning alone from a walk on the hill sometime in the 1930s. A group of devotees is waiting for him at the back gate. Devotees were not allowed to accompany Bhagavan on his walks unless invited to do so.

David Godman Books


Books by David Godman on Ramana Maharshi, his devotees and his teachings

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