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Seshadri Swami, like Ramana Maharshi, came to Arunachala in his youth and stayed there till his death. In his wanderings around the town of Tiruvannamalai he generally behaved in such an eccentric way, many people thought he was mad. However, he redeemed himself in the eyes of the local people by having an astonishing array of supernatural powers which he openly flaunted. Though some of his power was used in traditional ways such as performing miraculous cures, he was more inclined to display it in a bizarre and unpredictable fashion. For example, he would sometimes vandalise shops in the Tiruvannamalai bazaar as an act of blessing. Shop owners welcomed his destructive behaviour because they had found from experience that the damage would be more than paid for in the weeks that followed by either a vast increase in profits or by the repayment of long-forgotten loans.























When Ramana Maharshi came to Tiruvannamalai in 1896, Seshadri Swami was one of the first people to recognise his greatness. He tried to protect Bhagavan from unwanted disturbances and sometimes referred to him as his younger brother.


Bhagavan held Seshadri Swami in high esteem. After Annamalai Swami had told Bhagavan about his meeting with Seshadri Swami (which is described in the next few paragraphs of Annamalai Swami’s account) Bhagavan commented, ‘There is not a single place in this town that has not been visited by Seshadri Swami, but he was never caught in maya [illusion]’.


Seshadri Swami died in January 1929, a few months after Annamalai Swami arrived in Tiruvannamalai. His samadhi, which still attracts large crowds, is about 400 metres from Sri Ramanasramam.


In his account of their meeting Annamalai Swami mentions that he met Seshadri Swami in a mandapam. A mandapam is a Hindu architectural structure, usually a hall supported by stone pillars. A mandapam always has a roof but the sides are generally open.


Seshadri Swami did not stay in any particular place but I soon managed to locate him in a mandapam which was near the main temple. He was easy to find because there was a crowd of about 40-50 people outside the mandapam waiting for him to come out. He had apparently locked himself in. When I peeped in through one of the windows I saw him continuously circling one of the pillars inside. After doing this for about ten minutes, he came outside, sat on a rock, and crossed his legs. I had brought a laddu [a large spherical sweet] which I wanted to give him but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Seshadri Swami must have sensed my indecision because he looked at me and indicated by a gesture that I should place the laddu on the ground in front of him.


Seshadri Swami had obviously been chewing betel nut for some time. A mixture of the red juice and his saliva was dribbling out of his mouth, soaking his beard, and dripping onto the ground.


Betel is a hard, dark-red nut. Its juice is supposed to aid digestion. It is often eaten along with a lime-coated green leaf. In this combination it is known as ‘pan’.


Seshadri Swami picked up my laddu, smeared it with the saliva-and-betel juice that was staining his beard, and threw it onto the nearby road. As it broke on the ground, the crowd raced towards it and collected the pieces as prasad. I also managed to collect and eat a piece.


Anything which is offered to a deity or a holy man becomes prasad when it is returned to the donor or distributed to the public. Food is the most common form of prasad.


A group of local people appeared to be angry with Seshadri Swami. He silenced them by tossing some stones in their direction. These stones, instead of following a normal trajectory, bobbed and danced around their heads like butterflies. The men he had thrown the stones at got afraid and ran away. They clearly didn’t want to tangle with a man who possessed supernatural powers of this kind.


When I went back and stood before Seshadri Swami again, he started to shout at me in a very abusive way.






The slide show comprises images of Annamalai Swami taken during the last few years of his life.

The three known images of Seshadri Swami

David Godman Books


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

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