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Two old and somewhat grainy photos of Pavalakundru that probably date from the 1920s or 30s.

Bhagavan’s family had discovered that he might be in Tiruvannamalai when a devotee who had looked after him at Gurumurtham went to Madurai and said that there was a boy there of Bhagavan’s age who had said that he was from Tiruchuzhi, the town where Bhagavan was born. Nelliappa Iyer, Bhagavan’s uncle, was dispatched to Tiruvannamalai to confirm that the boy was indeed Venkataraman. He established his identity, but despite Nelliappa Iyer's repeated pleas to come home, his nephew refused to leave Tiruvannamalai and go back to Madurai to be looked after by his family.


In 1898 Azhagammal, Bhagavan’s mother, decided that she would go to Tiruvannamalai and make a renewed attempt to persuade Bhagavan to come home. This is how B. V. Narasimhaswami described Azhagammal’s expedition to rescue her son:


When Azhagammal learnt of the discomfiture of Nelliappa Iyer she must have put it down to his lack of will and courage. She would go herself and bring back her beloved son, she thought. So she told her first son Nagaswami to obtain leave for a week; but as that was not easy to get she waited for the Christmas holidays and then started for Tiruvannamalai in his company. When they reached the place and learnt that the Swami was at Pavazhakkunru, they climbed up and saw him lying on a rock. Azhagammal recognised her Venkataraman with true maternal instinct, despite his matted hair, dirt-laden body, overgrown nails and dirty loincloth. She bemoaned his condition, and requested him to go back; but the lad sat unmoved.


Azhagammal and Nagaswami day after day visited the boy, bringing him sweetmeats and their repeated entreaties to go back, but they were of no avail. One day, however, she used her sharpest weapon of attack. As she upbraided Venkataraman for his indifference she suddenly burst into tears. The young Swami could bear it no longer; he got up at once and went away.


Again on another day she sought him and pleaded hard. As the Swami sat still and stone-like, she approached the people who were there, mentioned her relationship, poured her tale of woe into their ears, and requested them to persuade the Swami to return home with her.


Then one among them, Pachaiyappa Pillai, said to the Swami: ‘Your mother is weeping and praying. Why do you not answer her? Whether it is ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ why not give her a reply? Swami need not break his vow of silence. Here are pencil and paper. Swami may at least write out what he has to say.’


Thus persuaded, the Swami took up the paper and pencil and wrote as follows in Tamil:


The Ordainer controls the fate of souls in accordance with their past deeds, their prarabdha karma. Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, try how hard you may. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to stop it. This is certain. The best course, therefore, is for one to be silent.


Whether this bit of her son’s philosophy was sound or unsound, convincing or unconvincing, she had no option but to go away. The holidays were over, and Nagaswami had to go back to his office.


‘Is it for this,’ sighed she, ‘that we came?’


So, with her first son, she came down the Hill and left for Manamadurai with a heavy heart.


Bhagavan's eventful stay at Pavalakundru only lasted about six months. At the end of that period he moved to the lower slopes of Arunachala and took up residence in Virupaksha Cave, where he remained for about fifteen years.

Because of its association with Ramana Maharshi, the temple of Pavalakundru was partially renovated by Sri Ramanasaramam about ten years ago. New statues of Ganesh and Subramanya were installed as part of the process. A kumbhabhishekam was performed on August 27th 2004.


This aerial view, with its newly painted walls, was probably taken just after the renovation had been completed.

David Godman Books


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

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