Sonntag, 14. September 2008

16.4. 14th April 1950 and Funeral

On the night before the 14th April Sri Ramana asked everyone to go to bed or to meditate and leave him alone. Even his attendants he sent away. The next morning he said in English to his attendant Rangaswami, who had just finished massaging him, “thanks”. Rangaswami, who knew no English, looked astonished, so Sri Ramana smiled and explained the meaning to him, “The English have a word ‘thanks’, but we only say ‘santosham’ (I am pleased).”

In the morning and afternoon devotees passed by his open door in long queues. His tormented body was emaciated, his ribs were clearly visible and his skin had darkened, what people saw was a deeply distressing vision of suffering.

At midday when some liquid food was brought to him, he asked how late it was, but then added that henceforth time would no longer matter.

Until the last Sri Ramana showed his concern for the animals. Some hours before his death he asked if the peathingys, whom he heard screeching, had had their food. The animals reacted to his approaching end. The peacocks walked round his room, the cows, dogs, monkeys, birds, all showed their affection in their own way. But the white peacock stood on the roof of the Nirvana room screeching uninterruptedly.

After the evening darshan everyone realized that this had been the last one. The devotees stood in small groups outside, not leaving the small room, where the master lay, out of sight, and waited silently and in mourning for the end. Many eyes stared spellbound at the small window of the room in which he was dying. They could not see the Maharshi from here, but they could watch the movement of the two large fans, which were creating a slight breeze for him. As long as these fans continued to move, he was still alive. Inside the room there were about a dozen people, doctors and assistants. Ramana’s body was supported by large cushions, so that he was almost sitting upright with his head leaning back and his mouth open. Two attendants were fanning him steadily to try and help him to breathe freely, as he had now started to struggle for breath. At 7 p.m. he was given oxygen for approximately 5 minutes, but as he felt that it brought no relief he asked for it to stop. Then he asked his attendants to sit him up straight. A group of sadhus and devotees who were sitting on the veranda of the Temple of the Mother opposite the small room, started to sing Akshara Mana Malai with the refrain ‘Arunachala Shiva’ and others joined in. When Sri Ramana heard the singing, he opened his bright, clear eyes, smiled briefly with an expression of indescribable goodness and tears of bliss rolled down his cheeks. At 8.47 p.m., without any struggle, his breathing stopped. There was no other sign of death, only that the next breath did not come.

At the exact minute of his death an object variously described as a shooting star or a meteor appeared on the horizon, moved slowly across the sky in the direction of Arunachala and disappeared be-hind its peak. The French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson127, who had been staying at the Ashram for two weeks, rushed into the Nirvana room shortly after the moment of the Maharshi’s death and asked those present for the exact minute of his death. He later reported, “I was in the open space in front of my house, when my friends drew my attention to the sky, where I saw a vividly-luminous shooting star with a luminous tail, unlike any shooting star I had before seen, coming from the South, moving slowly across the sky and, reaching the top of Arunachala, disappeared behind it. Because of its singularity we all guessed its import and immediately looked at our watches – it was 8.47 – and then raced to the Ashram only to find that our premonition had been only too sadly true: the Master had passed into mahanirvana at that very minute.”128

This unusual phenomenon was witnessed by large numbers of people over a wide area. On 16th April all English and Tamil newspapers published reports on the death of the Maharshi and also about the appearance of the shooting star.
Those devotees who had been waiting outside thronged towards the small room where the dead body lay. Many lost all self-control. The police immediately closed off the area. Later the corpse was placed in yoga posture in the middle of the big darshan hall, so that everyone was able to pay their last respects to the Maharshi. The news spread rapidly to the town and the surrounding villages, causing thousands of people to flock to the Ashram. S.S. Cohen reports about the following day, “The singing and chanting of Vedas continued throughout, as did the queue of worshippers till 11.30 a.m. today when the body was taken out to the South veranda for puja and abhishikam. Sri Niranjanananda Swami [Chinnaswami], the Sarvadhikari, assisted by his son Sri T. N. Venkataraman, poured over the sacred head dozens of pots of milk, curds, buttermilk, orange juice, mashed bananas and jackfruits, coconut water, etc., followed by many bottles of rose-water, attar, perfumes of all kinds and sweet smelling oils. Then enormous garlands of fresh roses and jasmines were placed round the neck and strewn all over the body.”129

The place for the burial (samadhi) was dug out between the Old Hall and the northern wall of the Temple of the Mother. This spot had been agreed upon after a heated argument the previous night. The pit measured approximately 10 ½ feet by 10 ½ feet and was seven feet deep. The stonemasons isolated a small section in the middle with a wall. The rest was filled with several cartloads of sand from the sacred Ganges and the Narbada valleys.

At 6.30 p.m. the corpse was carried to the samadhi place in a decorated palanquin normally used for the temple goddess. It was placed in yoga posture in a bag made of the finest khaddar (home-spun cotton cloth) which was then filled with pure camphor and lowered into the walled area. The pit was then filled to the edge with camphor, salt and sacred ashes to protect the sacred body from worms and rapid decomposition. Finally the pit was bricked up. The crowd of people was so large that the twenty policemen were barely able to keep them under control. Cohen reports that about 40,000 people came during the day to pay their last respects to Sri Ramana.

127 The famous photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who took the last pictures of Sri Ramana, also photographed the funeral of Gandhi. His photos can be seen in the copiously illustrated book ‘In India’.128 Cohen: Guru Ramana, p. 144
129 dto., pp. 144ff

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