Friday, March 11, 2016

Annamalaiyar Temple – Athithi Ashram

Annamalaiyar Temple – Athithi Ashram 
Arunachala, the holy mountain in Thiruvannamalai has been drawing sages, saints and seekers of Truth since time immemorial. Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi made Arunachala his abode in 1896 and until his Mahanirvana in 1950, never left the precincts of this place. Like Arunachala, Bhagavan Ramana too draws seekers from all the nooks and corners of the world and by his benign Grace guides them to the Truth.

Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi received devotees and seekers with great love and made them feel at home. Athithi Ashram aims to follow the true spirit, loving concern and care that Bhagavan had for the devotees and visiting pilgrims. “ATHITHI DEVO BHAVA” signifies that pilgrims and guests are to be looked upon as the very embodiment of the Lord in human form.

One early morning, Kunju Swami, a devotee of Bhagavan, while washing vessels in the stream at the foot of the Arunachala Hill, heard a voice, “Is there something available for an Athithi?” Turning back, he found Bhagavan standing. Thus, Bhagavan came as an Athithi and stayed back in that place, which became the present Sri Ramanasramam.

“Thithi” means date and time, and “Athithi” means without date and time. That is, when a stranger comes without announcing the date and time of his arrival for a short stays, he is an Athithi. In a broader perspective, everyone who is born on earth, comes without announcing the date and time of arrival and so, everyone is an Athithi. If one learns to live as an Athithi (guest) in his own house, then there will not be any problems in life.
Festivals
The Ashram celebrates Bhagavan’s Jayanthi and Aradhana days with Vedic Chanting, Tamil Parayanam, Ashtothara Pooja and Satsang. Maheshwara Pooja is performed on a large scale. The salient feature is that His Holiness Yogi Ramsuratkumar attended the entire proceedings and joined the Sadhus in the Maheshwara Pooja once to the delight of all.

On Deepam day, thousands of devotees going round the mountain are fed. Six times in a year on particular auspicious days, Abhishekam is performed to Shivakami Sametha Lord Nataraja in the Meditation Hall. Once, Lord Nataraja appeared in a vision to Anathandavapuram Ramanatha Iyer and directed him to present the deities to Athithi Ashram. Since then, Poojas are offered.
Meditation Hall & Library
A rare statue of Bhagavan was installed in the Meditation Hall in 1992. The sketch for making this statue was drawn in the holy presence of Bhagavan in the late 1940’s by sculptor Sri Warkhede from Maharashtra. Tamil Parayanam consisting of Ramana Stuti Panchakam and Aksharamanamalai and Sri Ramana Ashtothara Pooja are performed everyday from 6:30a.m to 8:30a.m.
The Ashram Library has spiritual books in various languages. The Ashram Meditation Hall and Library are open from 4:30a.m till 9:00p.m.
Bhagavan’s Statue
Sri Warkhede, a sculptor from Mumbai came to Bangalore on an assignment and saw a picture of Bhagavan. On enquiry, he came to know that it was Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi’s picture and that he was in Thiruvannamalai. He came for Bhagavan’s darshan and sat in his presence. He felt an urge to take a sketch of Bhagavan to make a statue. (Due to language problem), he was struggling to communicate his wish to the attendant. Seeing this, Bhagavan graciously asked the sculptor to come between 12:00 noon and 2:00 pm. Devotees were restricted from entering the Hall during this period to facilitate Bhagavan to take rest. Sri Warkhede entered the hall at noon and Bhagavan, with great solicitude, asked him how he wanted him to sit (pose), to take the sketch.
Sri Warkhede was touched by the grace, and during the two hours, he was alone with Bhagavan, he made a sketch and later, made a statue of Bhagavan. Sri Warkhede later, in an interview, told that, of all the statues that he had made in his lifetime, this alone gave him satisfaction.
This statue, which was made by Bhagavan’s Grace in the late 1940’s remained unknown to Sri Warkhede’s family. Swami Hamsananda, during a visit, came to know about this by Divine Grace and requested Sri Warkhede’s son to cast the statue in bronze. This statue then came to Athithi Ashram and was installed in the Meditation Hall by priests from Sri Ramanasramam. Thus, Bhagavan came to Athithi Ashram and he bestows his abundant Grace on all those who seek him. Daily Poojas are performed to this statue.
Sadhu feeding
Sage Narada once met the ruler of Dravidian country, Chitrakethu on earth. Chitrakethu welcomed him. Narada observed that although Chitrakethu’s father Singadvajan had gifted away all riches of the world, because he had not performed Annadhanam, he did not receive the Divine Ambrosia. Chitrakethu then decided to perform Annadhanam.
Narada informed him that the merit one obtained by feeding a million people elsewhere on earth could never equal that of feeding a single human in Kashi. The merit gained by feeding just one Sadhu at Arunachala, will outweigh that of feeding a million, at Kashi. Chitrakethu then performed Annadhanam everyday at Arunachala.
By this act of the son, the father in the celestial region received nectar and in due course passed on to the various upper regions and finally merged in Shiva.
One should endeavor to perform annadhanams, particularly at Arunachala, for it benefits not only the person who does it, but also bestows great spiritual merit upon his kith and kin.
Athithi Ashram was the first Ashram in Thiruvannamalai to initiate feeding Sadhus in the evening. This was necessitated as many Sadhus were going to sleep without dinner.
This service has been going on for the past 15 years.
Maheswara Puja
Worshipping and feeding Sadhus, considering them as the embodiment of Lord Shiva in human form was started by the great Saiva saint Thirugnana Sambandhar and Saint Thirunavukarasar.
Bhagavan’s birth star is Punarvasu. And on this sacred day every month, Sadhus are invited, Bhagavan’s Ashtothara Pooja is performed, following which, Maheshwara Pooja is performed to the Sadhus, wherein they are worshipped as the embodiment of Lord Shiva . After this worship, the Sadhus chant Shivapurana and are sumptuously fed and offered dakshina.
Athithi Health Service
Thiruvannamalai, the sacred abode of Lord Shiva, has been attracting and sheltering Sadhus, devotees and destitutes. There are around 700 Sadhus who live on what chance brings them, and their number is increasing day by day.
Service done to the poor, particularly to the Sadhus, is the true service to Lord Shiva. These people live in the open, exposed to the vagaries of Nature in pitiable conditions. Most of them, in their advanced age, are afflicted with one or more diseases and there is no place for them to turn to. To fulfill the complete medical needs of sadhus and destitutes, Athithi Medical Care was instituted.
The Ashram periodically conducts medical camps in various disciplines. On screening, those who need surgical intervention are sent to various hospitals and on complete recovery they are sent back to their respective places.
Veda Samrakshana
Vedic chanting harmonizes the energy of the five elements and brings peace and prosperity to the entire universe. The Ashram runs a Yajur Veda Patashala, which is a residential school of eight years’ duration. The teacher and students live together and Vedic lessons are imparted in the Gurukula tradition. The students are provided with food and accommodation.
Athithi Cows Care
Cow is considered as the embodiment of all Gods and its worship is mandatory in all Hindu functions. The protection and worship of cows brings prosperity.
Go Samrakshana was a subject which was so dear to Maha Periyaval. Wherever he went, His Holiness Sri Maha Periyaval always chooses to stay in the cowshed. When Maathaji wished to have a cow in the Ashram, her wish was fulfilled almost at once, with the donation of a cow by Sri.Viswanthan of Tirupathur, a devotee of the Ashram. She was named Lakshmi by Maathaji and ever since the Goshala is growing day by day.

The born calves are christened in tune with their birth stars by Maathaji Sowmiya and it is a delight to be seen in person when the calves spontaneously respond when called by their names. The current strength of the Goshala is 30.
The milk from the Goshala is sent twice a day to Arunachaleswara Temple and neighbouring Ashrams for Abhishekam. The rest is used for Sadhus and devotees visiting the Ashram. Taking part in this noble activity brings all the virtues and merits to the devotees.
Accommodation
The Ashram provides visiting pilgrims and Ramana devotees with accommodation and simple South Indian vegetarian food.
Timings:
·        Tea: 6:00 am
·        Breakfast: 8:30 am
·        Lunch: 12:30 pm
·        Tea: 3:30 pm
·        Dinner: 8:00 pm
Ashram gates are opened at 4:30 am and closed by 9:30 pm. Devotees are requested to maintain noble silence, stick to the timings and keep their rooms clean. Devotees are requested not to entertain visitors and are advised strictly to avoid smoking, taking liquor and drugs.
Contact
Athithi Ashram
11G/1 Mannakula Vinayagar Street,
Sri Ramanasramam Post,
Thiruvannamalai - 606603
Tamil Nadu, India
Phone: +91 4175 237817.
Mobile: +91 – 9940231628
Email: athithiaashram@gmail.com

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