31 December 2006

Arunachala Ashrams

After Ramana Maharshi's mother Alagammal died on May 19th, 1922, Sri Ramana would often walk from Skandashram to her tomb, which was located on the banks of Pali Tirtham, a tank at the foot of the southern slope of Arunachala. It was at that point in time that Ramana came down permanently from Skandashram to settle at the base of the Hill.

A lot of the land that is now Ramana Ashram was originally part of a burial ground which slowly was acquired by his devotees and then amalgamated into the developing Ashram.

[In the above picture you can see the the Pali Tirtham and the Shrine built around the samadhi of Sri Ramana's Mother, Alagammal]

Coincidentally the spot that Ramana spontaneously selected for the shrine of his deceased Mother, was at a site which is almost directly South of the Hill. One can observe that it is no coincidence that most of the Ashrams and residences of holy personages and saints are located South of Arunachala.

Ancients, who perhaps had a stronger more developed connection with planetary and other worldly influences, believed that the cardinal directions of Arunachala correspond to certain qualities. The South is meant to be the most conducive to a spiritual life, the north to healing, the east to commerce and successful business enterprises and the west to strong earthly energetic influences.

In 1929 what is now Seshadri Ashram started to develop in a location next to Ramanashram. When Sri Seshadri Swamigal died that year in his small room near the main Gopuram of Arunachaleswarar Temple, it was originally planned to cremate his body until devotees intervened who wished to preserve it in the traditional method of entombing a saint in a samadhi shrine.

Thus his body was brought out in procession from his humble room near the Big Temple in town. The procession was said to have been so splendid that the entire stock of camphor in Tiruvannamalai shops was exhausted and all incoming buses were full and over crowded. The streets were jammed with devotees, the air was filled with devotional songs and the music of instrument players. At Agni Tirtham Sri Ramana Maharshi joined the procession and nearby a samadhi was constructed and Sri Swamigal's body interred with devotees purchasing the land bit by bit, much in the same way as Ramana Ashram. The Seshadri tomb is now enshrined within what was developed to become Sri Seshadri Ashram on Chengam Road, Tiruvannamalai.

[Sri Seshadri Swamigal Ashram, with his Samadhi enshrined in a small Temple in the Ashram which has frequent pujas and rites]

Both Ramana Ashram and Seshadri Ashram are popular places for pilgrims to stay and both have functions connected with the samadhis of their respective Saints that attract many visitors other than just those being accommodated at the Ashrams.

[The photograph is of the samadhi hall of Sri Ramana. At the top of the photograph is the Lingam which is directly above the samadhi of Sri Ramana Maharshi].

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