A group photo taken on the hill sometime between 1916 and 1922, the period when Bhagavan was living at Skandashram. The lone woman in the photo is Bhagavan's mother Azhagammal. Sitting next to her on the floor is Chinnaswami, her son and Bhagavan's younger brother. The other person seated is Iswara Swami, one of Bhagavan's early devotees. The men standing do not look like any of the other early devotees the ashram has photos of. It may have been a group that came to see Bhagavan and who also had their photo taken with him.
Bhagavan's mother came to live with her son in Virupaksha Cave in 1914. She moved up to Skandashram with him and remained with Bhagavan there until she passed away in 1922. Soon after she was buried at the foot of the hill, Sri Ramana moved to the small building that had been erected over her samadhi and effectively abandoned Skandashram.
Though Azhagammal appears in some of the photos of this period, the quality of the surviving pictures of her is not good. When her photo appears in Ramanasramam publications, the pictures are usually heavily edited to disguise the poor quality of the originals. The photo on the left, for example, comes from a murky, half-tone photo that appeared in an early ashram book.
Another photo that has appeared in many Ramanasramam books is the one featured below on the left. This has been taken from another poor-quality photo that (below on the right) originally had Bhagavan and his mother seated side-by-side at an unknown location on the hill. It includes the word 'restored' in its title, so the original must have been in an even worse condition.
The photo on the left was another attempt by devotees to manufacture an improved image of Azhagammal. A studio in Cuddalore took her out of the group photo at the head of this page, did some work on her face, and then superimposed the picture on an artificial studio background of a claw-footed chair, behind which appear to be columns and elaborate drapes. The studio also did some work on a photo of Bhagavan that dates from the same period. The two photos occasionally appear together (right) in frames that were designed by the studio.
David Godman Books
Books by David Godman on Ramana Maharshi, his devotees and his teachings