Sonntag, 14. September 2008

3.2 The Journey

Route to Tiruvannamalai

So, at around twelve noon on this fateful Saturday, Ramana left his family and Madurai and set off to take the train to Tiruvannamalai which was approximately 250 miles away. He was never to return. The railway station was almost one mile away. According to the timetable, the train to Tindivanam left at 11.45. Though he hurried as fast as he could, he expected, of course, to be too late, but fortunately the train was also late. He bought a ticket to Tindivanam for 2 rupees 13 annas, boarded the train, and lost himself in thoughts on Arunachala. He paid no attention to either his fellow passengers or to the beautiful and varied landscape through which he travelled. A Moulavi (a Muslim wellversed in religious lore), who was sitting in his compartment, finally asked him where he was travelling. A short conversation ensued, in which he learned that there was also a railway station at Tiruvannamalai and that he needed to change trains at Villupuram.

The train reached Tiruchiappalli at sunset, and as he felt hungry he bought two of the big country pears which grow in the hilly regions of Southern India, but after the first mouthful he felt full and had no desire to eat any more. As he had always had a healthy appetite this was something quite new to him. Again he sank into a kind of waking sleep (samadhi) and in this way he arrived at Villupuram at around 3 a.m., where he alighted.

Having hardly any money left he decided to walk the remaining distance. At daybreak he started out to town to search for the road to Tiruvannamalai. He was too shy to ask the way, so, tired and hungry from his search, he finally entered a hotel for food. He had to wait until noon however to receive a meal. The hotel-keeper told him that Mambalapattu was a railway station on the way to Tiruvannamalai.

Ramana went back to the railway station and purchased a third-class ticked to Mambalapattu, for which he had just enough money. He arrived there that same afternoon at 3 p.m.There were still approximately 30 miles remaining, which he had to cover on foot. Under the burning August sun he presumably followed the railway track so as not to lose his way. In the evening he had covered about 10 miles and reached the temple of Arayaninallur, which is situated on a big rocky plateau. From here Arunachala is visible in the distance.

Exhausted, Ramana rested at the outer temple gate. The temple was soon opened for worship (puja). Ramana took his seat in the open pillared hall and sank again into samadhi, while the priest and the faithful celebrated the puja. As he sat like this a dazzling light suddenly appeared to him, flooding the whole temple. At first he thought this must be the appearance of the deity there. He rose to look in the inner sanctuary, where the image of God was situated, but all was dark there. So he found that the light had no natural origin, but, as suddenly as it had appeared, it vanished. Ramana sank back into samadhi. He had no idea that he was sitting next to the statue of Jnana Sambandar, one of the 63 Tamil saints. It is written that this saint, who lived in the early 7th century A.D., once saw a similar light at the same place.

Soon he was disturbed by the temple cook who wanted to lock the temple doors. Ramana asked for some food and to be allowed to spend the night there. Both were refused. The other visitors suggested that he should come with them to Kilur, a place approximately six furlongs away, where they were going to celebrate the puja again. There he could be given something to eat. So Ramana accompanied the group.

At the Viratteswara temple in Kilur the priest celebrated the second service of the evening together with the faithful and Ramana again sank into samadhi. By the time the ceremony came to an end it was already about 9 p.m. Again he asked the priest for something to eat from the offered food (prasad) and again his request was refused. The temple drummer, who had been watching the young Brahmin, felt sorry for him and said to the priest, “Sir, give him my share.”

There was no drinking water available in the temple, so Ramana was sent to the house of a neighbouring scholar (sastri). He was totally exhausted and while he was waiting there for water, holding his leaf full of cooked rice, he either fell asleep on his feet or fainted and fell to the ground. Some minutes later, when he awoke, a crowd of curious onlookers had gathered round him. The rice was scattered on the dirty road. Because nothing of the blessed prasad was allowed to be spoiled Ramana collected each grain of it, ate, drank the water which had been brought to him and laid down on the bare ground to sleep.

The next morning, Monday 31st August 1896, Gokulashtami, Sri Krishna’s birthday, one of the main Hindu festivals throughout India, was celebrated in the temples and houses of the believers. Tiruvannamalai was still around 20 miles away. Again Ramana could not find the right road and being exhausted and hungry he felt that he just would not be able to get to Tiruvannamalai on foot. He needed something to eat and some money for the train. He reflected that his gold earrings set with rubies (such earrings are worn by Brahmins) must have been worth about 20 rupees. The idea arose that he could pawn them. But how and where? Finally he went at random to the house of a man named Muthukrishna Bhagavatar and there begged for food. The dame of the house was taken with the appearance of the young Brahmin and as it was Sri Krishna’s birthday she warmly welcomed the guest and served him a copious meal. Although he felt full after the first mouthful she pressed him with motherly care to eat everything.

Then Ramana asked the head of the household if he would give him four rupees in exchange for his earrings. To prevent all suspicion he found himself forced to tell him the following story - he said he was on a pilgrimage and had lost all his luggage on the way and in order to be able to continue on his travels he now needed to pawn his earrings. Muthukrishna Bhagavatar examined the earrings and finding them to be genuine gave the youth the four rupees. He noted his address on a slip of paper and asked for his address in return, then the couple asked him to stay for lunch. Ramana agreed and stayed with them until midday. The housewife gave him a packet of sweetmeats for his journey, which had been originally prepared for Sri Krishna as a food offering, but which had not yet been offered. He had to promise to come back and redeem the earrings. But as soon as he left their house he tore to pieces the slip of the paper with the address. Of whatever value the earrings might have been, there was no question of him returning for them.

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