13th December, 1946
On the 28th day of last month, corresponding to Suddha Panchami in the month of Karthika, the Dhvajarohanam (flag hoisting ceremony) was performed in the temple of Sri Arunachaleswara in connection with the commencement of the Brahmotsava festival. In the evening of the tenth day of that festival the sacred light is lit on the peak of Arunachala mountain. This year that was done on the 7th of this month.
Like the full moon, his face was beaming with smiles and spreading an air of benevolence and happiness to those around him.
During the ten days of the annual festival, the whole town bustles with the crowds of pilgrims that come and go. It is usual for them to come for darshan of Bhagavan. The Deepotsavam (lighting festival) is on the day of Karthika Nakshatra (star). As the crowds begin gathering even four or five days earlier, it is usual for Bhagavan to be seated in the thatched shed in front of the Mathrubhuteswara temple to facilitate darshan to the people. This year however the devotees felt that it would be better to seat Bhagavan in the Golden Jubilee Hall* and so made all necessary arrangements to prevent rain coming in by erecting tatties all around.
(* A thatched shed constructed to the north of the Old Hall in connection with the Golden Jubilee celebrations. )
Bhagavan shifted into the hall three days after the commencement of the Brahmotsavam, a day or two earlier than usual. It was raining heavily. Most of those who came were poor people. And amongst them were the old, the decrepit and women with babies in arms.
As the evening of the tenth day is the festival of the Sacred Light, people who set out on Giri pradakshina (going round the holy mountain) from about 2 a.m. on that day come to the Ashram in groups with wet clothes. To enable them to have darshan without any difficulty Bhagavan used to have one of the doors of the hall closed and the sofa on which he reclined, placed across the door. We thought the same thing should be done now also. “Why?” said Bhagavan.
“It is all right here.” Throughout that night, there was a stormy wind and rain. My timepiece stopped. I therefore got up without knowing the exact time, bathed and sat up thinking of going to the Ashram early. There was no noisy movement of crowds on the road. I thought it was too early and so felt like resting for a while. I fell into a nap. Suddenly I heard the voices of the crowds as in a dream. I got up in confusion. The rain had decreased. Owing to the strong winds the clouds had dispersed. The moonlight was shining in the room through the windows. Feeling that I might be late, I got ready hurriedly and went out only to find that rivulets from the mountain were flowing rapidly making a gurgling noise. The road was a sheet of water. I hastened into the hall and saw the time by the Ashram clock. It was 4-30 a.m. Bhagavan was not to be seen in the hall. When I asked someone where he was, he said, “There, in the shed.” Exclaiming, “In the shed, in this rain and wind!” I went there and saw Bhagavan sitting on the sofa without even a duppatti (sheet of thick cloth) over his body. Like the full moon, his face was beaming with smiles and spreading an air of benevolence and happiness to those around him. The smoke of the scented Agarbathis (incense sticks) filled the whole place with a sweet smell as if it were the perfume of the sandalwood trees of the heavenly Nandavana. The Puranas say that somewhere lies the ocean of milk, that there in that ocean lies the island of Sweta Dwipa, that there in that island Sri Maha Vishnu has His abode and that all the devatas (heavenly beings) surround Him there, offering their homage to Him in enjoyment of bliss and happiness. To me the vast sheet of rain water that surrounded the hall appeared to be the ocean of milk, the Golden Jubilee Hall flooded with electric lights appeared to be the Sweta Dwipa, this Ramana Paramatma seated on the sofa to be Sri Maha Vishnu, and the devotees that surrounded him and offered their homage to be the Devatas. My heart swelled with blissful happiness at that sight.
As I approached Bhagavan with many similar thoughts crowding into my mind, he began to smile. I did not know why. When I bowed before him and got up, he said, “The Vedic recitation is all over.” Two months back, during the Golden Jubilee celebrations, the programme relating to Veda Parayana was gone through an hour earlier than usual and so it was all over when we went there, at the usual time. I thought that the significance of Bhagavan’s smile was that the same thing had happened this time also. Ashamed at my own carelessness, I asked Bhagavan, “Have you been here all night?” Bhagavan replied, “No. Every year people used to come group after group from 2 a.m. onwards. So, I came here at 2 a.m. Because of the rains, they have not come yet.” “You will be fined for having come late,” said one of the devotees to me. We all laughed.
While we were all seated there chatting, Ramaswamy Pillai and Kuppuswamy Iyer came and stood before the sofa.
“Why? Is there any parayana?” asked Bhagavan. “Yes. It is not yet time for a bath. We shall recite Thevaram (Hymns of Lord Siva by three Tamil saints),” said Pillai. Bhagavan agreed and they started to recite. As soon as it was over Ramaswamy came there, saying that it was time for his bath. Pillai said he would recite the Thiruvembavai written by Saint Manikkavachakar.
“It has twenty stanzas. How can I wait till it is all recited? It is time to go,” said Bhagavan, and got ready to go by massaging his legs. “We shall stop presently.” So saying Pillai started reciting one stanza beginning with ‘Annamalaiyan’. The idea contained in it is this:
“Oh! Sakhi (lady companion)! Just as the glitter of the precious stones in the crowns on the heads of the devatas who bow to the lotus feet of Lord Arunachala get dim and hidden by the shining of those lotus feet of the Lord, in the same way the rays of the rising sun dispel darkness (in the universe) and dim the light of the shining stars. At that hour, let us sing the praise of those sacred feet of the Lord. Let us bathe and swim in the tank full of flowers, singing in praise of those lotus feet.”This recital just ended as Bhagavan placed his feet on the ground to go for his bath. As the recitation ended with the words, “Let us bathe! Get up!” Bhagavan got up from the sofa, saying “Yes! Here I am, getting up for my bath.” We all laughed.
Though the Paramatma who is neither man nor woman manifested Himself in this universe in the shape of Bhagavan, still in the worship of Lord Arunachaleswara, Bhagavan addressed the Lord with abala bhava (feelings of a woman towards her husband). I therefore felt indescribable pride at this. It appears Manikkavachakar sang those songs when he got abala bhava towards the Lord. Bhagavan too wrote his Aksharamanamalai with the same abala bhava. Do you see how exalted a place is accorded to the abala bhava! I started writing to you this series of letters last year just after the festival of Karthika, on the occasion of the arrival of the procession of Lord Arunachala in front of the Ashram while going round the sacred hill (Giri pradakshina) and in the spirit of the Lord’s saying that the child is beholden to the father. All those letters were sent for printing a few days back.