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In September 1923 Bhagavan was still living in a small thatched hut that had been erected over his mother’s samadhi. Muruganar felt unsure of the correct way of approaching him, so he remained for some time outside the hut. Bhagavan solved the problem by coming outside and saying ‘Enna?’ [‘What?’]. In Tamil Nadu, this is a standard way of ascertaining what business a new visitor has.

 

In response to this query Muruganar began to sing the verses that had been composed by him in the temple, but emotion got the better of him. Tears welled up in his eyes and he was unable to proceed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Can’t you read?’ asked Bhagavan. ‘Give it to me. I shall read it myself.’

 

Bhagavan then read out the poem. Up till this time Muruganar had been very particular about annotating his poems with a specific raga or melody, since it was traditional that metres or themes had to be sung in a particular way. After this first encounter with Bhagavan, he was never able to sing his poems again.

 

Muruganar stayed for several days on this first visit, and during this period he had several ecstatic and visionary experiences. These experiences were so intense, Muruganar felt that if he stayed in the ashram any longer, he might abandon his family life and stay with Bhagavan full-time. Not wanting to leave his mother without any means of support, he went back to his job in Madras.

 

He returned three months later, in December 1923, with more poems for Bhagavan. One of them was entitled ‘Tiruvembavai’, which is the name of a very famous poem that Manikkavachagar composed in Adi-annamalai, on the Arunachala pradakshina road, more than a thousand years ago. Muruganar’s version began with the words, ‘Let us bathe in and sing the glories of Annamalai Ramana who bestows his grace through his eyes...’.

 

Siva had appeared before Manikkavachagar in the form of a human Guru to grant him liberation from bondage. As an expression of his love and gratitude, Manikkavachagar praised the grace and greatness of Siva, his Guru, in Tiruvachakam, one of the great classics of Tamil devotional literature. Muruganar had long hoped that Siva would fulfil this same role for him, and that he too would be allowed to sing the praises of Siva in the form of his own Guru. Muruganar had decided that Bhagavan was Siva in the form of his Guru even before he first met him in September 1923. This is clear from the first verse that Muruganar composed in the Arunachaleswara Temple while he was on his way to meet Bhagavan:

 

Guru Ramana, Siva, as once you left

Mount Kailas and the company of the gods

And came to cool Perunturai to drink in

The sparkling words of Vachagar,

Now again you have come to fair Aruna town

Wishing to hearken to this fellow’s puerile words.

(Homage to the Presence of Sri Ramana, verse 184 of Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai, tr. K. Swaminathan)

 

‘Vachagar’ is Manikkavachagar, and Perunturai was the coastal port in Tamil Nadu where Siva chose to manifest in a human form for him.

 

When Muruganar showed up at Ramanasramam with a poem in praise of Bhagavan that had the name of one of Manikkavachagar’s most famous works, it was clear that Muruganar had begun to fulfil his long-held desire of having a relationship with Bhagavan that was similar to that which Manikkavachagar enjoyed with Siva. Sadhu Om has described what happened next:

 

He [Muruganar] one day composed his ‘Tiruvembavai’ beginning with the words ‘Annamalai Ramanan’. Seeing that the verses of that song were replete with many sublime features similar to Manikkavachagar’s Tiruvachakam, Sri Bhagavan playfully asked, ‘Can you sing like Manikkavachagar?’ Though Sri Muruganar took these words to be a divine command from his Guru, he prayed to him, ‘Where is Manikkavachagar’s divine experience of true jnana, and where is my state of ajnana? Only if Bhagavan removes my ajnana by his grace will it be possible for me to sing like Manikkavachagar; by the mere talent of this ego, how is it possible to sing like him?’

 

Referring to the grace which Sri Bhagavan bestowed on him the moment he prayed thus, Sri Muruganar sings in the ‘Nul Varalaru’ of Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai:

 

...I said, ‘Where is my ignorant mind, which is like an owl blind to the bright sunlight, and which is darker than even the darkest darkness, and where is his experience of Self [atmanubhuti] which surges as true jnana devoid of dark delusion? To compare me with him is like comparing a firefly with the sun!’ As I said thus I languished, and as I languished that Lord who shines in my heart stirred my mind and made it blossom by his grace, and thus without my doing, he composed the work Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai so that his true glory should flourish and shine exalted.

 

Thus, becoming a target of Sri Bhagavan’s divine love, Sri Muruganar was transformed into an exalted divine poet. Just as Lord Siva made Manikkavachagar sing Tiruvachakam, having bestowed upon him atmanubhuti, so Sri Bhagavan made Muruganar sing Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai like Tiruvachakam having in a single moment stirred his mind by his grace and having thereby bestowed upon him that same anubhuti. (Ramana’s Muruganar, pp. 57-8)

 

 

 

The slide show comprises photos of Muruganar, the author of the first part of Ramana Puranam.

Muruganar sitting next to Bhagavan, sometime in the late 1920s

David Godman Books

 

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

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