HEAVEN ON EARTH – Sri Ramanashram, Tiruvannamalai ! (part 1)

I have lived in Chennai for more than some 8 years now. Apart from adopting the language I have also tried to adopt the spirituality that this city reflects. There are various temples and places I have seen that leaves one awestruck. The gopurams and the beautiful architecture that makes one wonder about the creativity and the finesse of the craftsmen in our country. 

           Among all these places I had the chance of visiting one place that left me enchanted — Tiruvannamalai! 


THE JOURNEY….finally began….

                            The trip was being planned since a week and finally we started. It was a really long drive and somehow the climate favored us that day. It was sunny, however, surprisingly pleasant. We started as early as 6 am to beat the traffic and heat. As soon as we left the city and reached the highway the sun hid under the clouds. It was warm and cool at the same time. We stopped to eat on a deserted road amongst the trees and bushes. The serene weather made me wonder about the various problems we face in our living and my heart sighed with the relief it felt, as if it let go of many such deep emotions. There was absolutely no sound apart from the swaying of trees and a few vehicles that passed. If one is lucky they may get to see various colorful butterflies marking circles around them. What I really enjoy about long road trips, is eating on the roadside, alongside nature and isolation. Such road trips make you wonder about various abstract things that keep going on in our minds everyday but we suppress them due to work or some other commitments. I transform into a completely different world on such journeys. 

          After eating and relaxing our legs and backs, which had become stiff due to hours of sitting in one place, we resumed. We still had to go a long way. I gazed out of the window as we kept going. Suddenly I heard rhythmic songs from a distance. I pulled myself into reality from my thoughts to realize someone had started playing old songs in the stereo. Then it was perfect! Just like in a movie. I smiled. I hadn’t heard of the place we were going to go. But my grandfather wanted to visit an ashram, my cousins just wanted to go out and i didn’t mind accompanying them. Now I am glad I did ! 

NOW, A LITTLE ABOUT THE PLACE……. 

                                    I felt a little curious about the place and I wanted to know about it, but, everyone in the car was in a sleepy state and i had time to spare so I decided to Google about the place and the ashram. The ashram i was visiting is very famous in this district and named as “Sri Ramanashram” after maharishi (guru) ramana. Just like Buddha, he too attained enlightenment and devoted himself for the welfare of people. He eloped from his house when he was very young to attain self awareness and came to Tiruvannamalai. History, rather google has reported that maharishi ramana discarded clothing, neglected his body and also neglected ants or insects that would bite him. He practiced silence and frequently was found meditating. This attitude of his towards his physical appearance and the worldly beliefs, attracted many people to come visit him. I was awestruck by the determination, commitment and the courage that maharishi must have undergone. 

I researched about the temple, “Annamalaiyar temple or Arunachaleswarar”, is dedicated to the deity “Siva – Lord Shiva” and the five elements, specially, “agni or fire”. The significance of the temple are the four “gopurams or gateway towers”, and the tallest temple towers in India. The very holy “Karthigai deepam” is celebrated here. A huge beacon is lit atop the hill. There are many legendary stories about the deepam. 

             I was amazed at the information, the legend and was exited to visit the places soon. 

peacocks on the roof and all over the ashram. beautiful view!


SRI RAMANASHRAM……..pure heaven!

                        We finally pulled over in the city and found our way to the ashram of Maharishi Ramana. The ashram gave a very simple view from the entrance, just like other ashrams. We started proceeding inside. Although it had a very simple appearance, the ambiance had the essence of pure spirituality. There were animals freely roaming inside the ashram, dogs, cats and monkeys, without disturbing the people, busy in their own world. The view was rather pleasant. As I washed my feet to step inside the ashram, I heard it. I looked around and there they were, peacocks! AH! what a sight it was. The ashram had peacocks, not one but many. Some on the roof some on the

 ground, some opening their feathers and dancing. That is when it struck me, this was no ordinary ashram.  

Peacocks are now a very rare view and I saw not one, but two three of them. I couldn’t capture the ones dancing, but i knew that a camera was not going to do any justice to what I was seeing. 

the greenery will leave you wondering if all of this is real or imaginary…

  The ashram was huge yet very simple, needless to say, clean and beautifully maintained. Everything around me was green and fresh. There were tress and plants and colourful flowers on them. It had just rained, so there were water droplets on them. It looked like a painting if you kept staring at it for a while.

From the time i walked in I was so much in awe of the beauty of nature that i completely forgot to look around me to the people who visited this ashram. And again i was speechless! I had read earlier that maharishi attracted people from the west, but, the people here were large in number from the west alone. They obviously looked so distinguished from the regular local crowd that it was easy to spot them. 

The men wore lungis and shirts with a cloth or jute bag and the women wore salwar kameez or sarees in respect to the Indian tradition. 

I walked inside a huge hall were the samadhi of maharishi ramana was being worshiped by his followers. There was a yagna and brahmins were chanting mantras to remember the great rishi. The people sat surrounding the hall in meditation and praying. There was silence and the aura was filled in with so much purity that I didn’t feel like leaving the hall. 

Alongside the hall was a room that welcomed whoever wanted to learn about maharishi ramana. Close to the entrance of the room a kolam was made to invite people in with warmth and peace. Kolam (in south india) or a rangoli (in north india) is generally drawn by rice powder, drawn at the entrance of a door to invite people with warmth and love. A tradition in south india which is practiced rigorously. At times it is just white and at certain times colours are added to make it look pretty and attractive. 

          Next to the Kolam, was a wall which had all the details of maharishi ramana.  The room was rather dark and was lit with lamps and diyas which gave it a very peaceful feeling to the place. People come here in huge number to receive blessings from the rishi, however, today i was lucky to have very few people. 

                      The ashram provides accommodation for the people who wished to spend a few days here. They could stay there and help with th daily services of people, like preparing the food, taking care of the cleanliness etc. Everyone at the ashram is treated equally. Everyone stayed together and received the same attention as others. 

place of accommodation for the followers
in the woods!
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  Right behind the ashram is a forest area, which is open only till 4 pm and closed during the night. It was believed that maharishi ramana would go to the forest during the day and sit in long hours of meditation. As we went inside we were welcomed by thorns and dry leaves. The place looked very deserted. Tall trees and dry leaves and a deep forest area gave it a very scary appearance, although we weren’t afraid. It also had a holy aura to it. 

We stayed in the jungle for a while enjoying the peace and depth. I wondered about the courage the rishi would have possessed, to come to a deserted place such as this and meditate without the fear of being hurt.   

But again, the people who are on the path of salvation and self awareness are not afraid of anything. They are filled in with enormous, pure white light that removes all their fear away, taking them to a place so calm and so very pure! 

As we were sitting on a rock and enjoying the peace it starting raining out of no where. We made our way back to the ashram and moved towards the library where all the teachings of maharishi ramana were collected and published by several indian and western writers. They were available in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. There were various posters of the rishi. 

                           It poured very heavily and we waited at a nearby path, under a thatched roof for the rain to calm down so that we could proceed to the rest of our trip. Just sitting there and watching the rains made me smile and slowly made me feel lighter as if the rain was taking away all my pain and suffering. 

                   I took a last look at the ashram and we set off towards the temple. This place left me enchanted and filled me with purity!! 

this place left me enchanted!
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