Friday, March 11, 2016

Annamalaiyar Temple – Sri Ramana Ashram

Annamalaiyar Temple – Sri Ramana Ashram
Sri Ramana Ashram, also known as Sri Ramanasramam, is the ashram which was home to modern sage and Advaita Vedanta philosopher Ramana Maharshi from 1922 until his death in 1950. It is situated at the foot of the Arunachala hill, to the west of ThiruvannamalaiTamil Nadu, where thousands of seekers flocked to be in his presence. His Samadhi shrine continues to attract devotees from all over the world.

History
Ramana Maharishi was born on December 30, 1879, in a small village near Madurai in Tamilnadu. Venkataramana had his schooling in his native village and his high school education in Madurai. When he was in teen he lost his father. He, along with his mother, moved to his uncle's house in Madurai.

One day a guest came to his uncle's house from Arunachala. When Venkataramana heard that the guest was from Arunachala, he became very enthusiastic to know more details about the place. Venkataramana was so impressed that he made up his mind to visit it somehow. His firm and curious mind took him to the holy place. Though he did not have enough money to meet the travel fare to Arunachala, he left the house, leaving a small note saying "I have left to see the father. Nobody should worry about me. No one should try to find me".

He left for Arunachala by train. Since he did not have enough money for his travel, he had to get down in the middle and then walk a long distance. He ultimately reached the Arunachaleswara Temple in Thiruvannamalai. His joy knew no bounds when he saw the holy place. Days rolled by and he became a sanyasi in the sacred place. His Meditation and prayers were intense. Questions such as what would happen to the Atman after the death of the body and is the Atman also subject to death like that of the body, or is it immortal come to his mind.

Venkataramana offered solutions to people's problem patiently and relieved them of their sufferings. The number of people visiting him with difficulties and sorrows grew every day. People who came to visit the Lord Arunachala shrine came to pay homage to the sanyasi without fail.

Ramana Maharishi was an embodiment of love and compassion. He was not only sympathetic towards the poor and needy but also towards those who where in sorrow. He showed care, concern and pity even towards birds and animals.

Ramana Maharishi led a very simple life. He only pitied those who were evil. His conviction was that "The wise should not punish bad people but should correct them through gentle persuasion ". Ramana's constant teaching to his devotees was that the way to clean the mind of its impurities was meditation. According to him "The mind becomes pure by over and over again about the source of evils."

In his last days Ramana Maharishi fell ill. Inspite of a group of doctors attending him, he did not recover. When people from far and near flocked to the ashram to have last darshan of Ramana Maharishi, He said to them "Everyone who is born must die. The body is not the soul. Therefore nobody needs to feel miserable for the death of the body". It was April 15 in the year 1950 that has moral body passed away. His spirit merged with divinity at the same time.

The ashram gradually grew in its present location after Ramana Maharshi settled near the Samadhi shrine of his mother Alagammai, who died on May 19, 1922. In the beginning, a single small hut was built there. By 1924 two huts were set up, one opposite the Samadhi and the other to the north.

Amongst its early western visitors were British writer Paul Brunton in 1931, who is credited with introducing Ramana Maharshi to the West through his books "A Search in Secret India" (1934) and "The Secret Path". Writer W. Somerset Maugham visited the ashram in 1938, and later used Ramana Maharshi as the model for the holy man, Shri Ganesha in his novel, The Razor’s Edge (1944). Other visitors included Swami SivanandaParamahansa YoganandaAlfred Sorensen (Sunyata) and Wei Wu Wei.

Arthur Osborne stayed at the Ashram for twenty years, and edited the Ashram's journal, The Mountain Path, besides writing several book on Ramana Maharshi and his teachings. Mouni Sadhu had spent several months at the Ashram in 1949. David Godman came to the ashram in 1976, and has since written or edited fourteen books on topics related to Sri Ramana Maharshi. He continues to live near the ashram.

Niranjananda Swami, younger brother of Ramana Maharshi, who had moved to the ashram along with his mother in 1916, stayed at the ashram for the rest of his life and handling its management. His son and grandson have looked after the ashram in turn.

Ramana Ashram
A beautiful arch at the main gate welcomes all the visitors to the Ramanashram. There is a big courtyard with plenty of old trees and one among them is said to be around 450 years old. Next to attract the attention of the visitor to the Ramanashram is the two imposing tower built in temple and it is in Dravidian style. One of the towers is built over the tomb of Ramana’s mother and the other over the new hall.
The New Hall:
On entering the New Hall, the objects that first attract the visitor’s attention are a life-sized statue of Sri Maharshi and a large yogasana, or couch, beautifully carved from a single stone and polished to look like black marble. This hall was specially built to accommodate the increasing number of devotees for whom the Old Hall, described below, was found to be too small. But Sri Maharshi used the New Hall and the couch for only the few months leading up to his Mahanirvana. Open Daily 5am-12:30pm/2-9pm.
Mathrubhuteswara Temple:
The door in the western wall of the New Hall leads directly ahead into the Mathrubhuteswara Shrine. This imposing shrine was constructed under the personal supervision of Vaidyanatha Sthapati, a famous temple sculptor and architect. The Garbha Griha (sanctum sanctorum) contains a sacred Siva Linga and a Sri Chakra Meru sanctified by Sri Maharishi’s own touch. A special worship known as the Sri Chakra Puja is conducted here on all Fridays, full moon days and the first day of all twelve solar months. On the outer walls of the Garbha Griha are the sculpted images of Dakshinamurti, Lingodbhava Murti, Vishnu and Lakshmi. At the southwest and northwest corners one finds two diminutive shrines dedicated to the gods Ganesa and Subrahmanya, respectively.
There is a similar shrine to Chandikeswara on the northern side. The Nava Grahas (nine planets) find their place in the northeast corner. The pillars supporting the roof contain several images of gods and goddesses. A small Nandi or bull is placed on a high pedestal facing the entrance to the Garbha Griha. The entire shrine is built of superior granite. Open Daily 5:30am-12:30pm/3:30-8pm
Sri Maharishi’s Samadhi:
Saint Ramana Maharishi’s Samadhi has a tomb on which there is a raised mandapam. A vimana is mounted on top of this mandapam that is supported by four huge pillars. These granite pillars are exquisitely carved and superbly polished. A beautiful lotus is carved out of white marble is placed in the centre point of this mandapam. Over this marble lotus a Shivalingam is perched. This Samadhi also has a large meditation hall for devotees to sit in meditation. The old hall comes next where Ramana Maharishi spent his last years before attaining nirvana.
This hall is quite sought after by devotees who sit here for penance continuously for many hours. There is a large garden to the north of this hall. A free dispensary is located on the west side which offers medical facility for the poor and the needy. A path on the east leads to the kitchen and the dining hall. This path also leads to the skandasramam that is located in the north Arunachala hill.
This huge dining hall is convenient enough to serve 1000 devotees at a time. Mostly on the Ramana Maharishi’s birth day this hall is utilized along with the big kitchen to cook food for the visitors. From this dining hall one can reach the Veda Paadasalai meant to teach small boys the chanting of Vedas and its meanings. Open Daily 5am-12:30pm/2-9pm.
The Old Hall:
Passing through the door of the Samadhi Hall on the north side the visitor comes to the Old Hall. This and the Nirvana Room, to be described shortly, are regarded as spots particularly sanctified by the Maharishi’s presence. In this hall thousands of devotees had his darshan (seeing a holy person or an image). It was on the couch in this hall that he spent almost all his time until about a year before his passing. It was here that devotees experienced year after year the potent peace that emanated from his presence. To this day the Old Hall remains a favorite place for meditation of visitors and inmates alike.
To the north of this hall is a large open area with some shade trees. This space is flanked by a flower garden and a dispensary on the west, a large dining and kitchen block on the east and the path which leads to Skandasramam on the Arunachala Hill to the north. Open from 4am-12:30pm/2-9pm.
The Dining Hall:
The dining hall and its new extension can accommodate nearly 800 people and the kitchen is large enough to cook, on special occasions like the Jayanti (Sri Maharishi’s birthday), meals for as many as two or three thousand people. The place where Sri Maharshi used to sit for his meals in the dining hall is indicated by a large photograph of him that rests on a marble platform. Passing through the old dining hall and out the door on the north side we enter the new dining hall, which was built in recent years to accommodate the ever-increasing number of pilgrims. To the east of the kitchen and separated from it by a passage is a storeroom for provisions. Another passage separates the store room from the room for men situated to the south of it. This passage leads to the Veda Patashala or the boarding school where young boys are taught to chant the Vedas and further on to the Gosala in which the Ashram cows are kept. Further east are placed the bathrooms.
The Nirvana Room:
The small Nirvana Room situated to the east of the New Hall and north of the office is the room in which Sri Maharshi spent his last days and is thus a spot viewed with special reverence. It is kept as it was in his time. To the south of this sacred spot and facing the Mother’s Temple is the shrine erected over the Samadhi of Sri   Niranjanananda Swami, the Maharishi’s younger brother and the Sarvadhikari or manager of the Ashram as long as he lived. A fine grove of coconut trees flanks this mantapam and the Nirvana Room and stretches to the east. There is a nice library with plenty of books written on Saint Maharishi’s teachings and that has immense spiritual values.
Guest Rooms:
Since Sri Maharishi’s Mahanirvana many new guest rooms have been constructed in and around the Ashram. Additional guest rooms and cottages have been built to the west of the Pali Thirtham (tank), which during the early days constituted part of Palakuttu, a forested area where the Maharshi often walked. All the guest rooms are clean with simple beds, bathroom, overhead fan and screened windows and doors. To preserve the quiet and intimate experience of a visit to Sri Ramanasramam, the administration decided to halt new construction of guest rooms within the Ashram borders. Instead ashram has built guest facilities outside of its premises within walking distance.
Dispensary:
Free medical aid for the ashram inmates and local people.
Book Store: 
Available are Sri Ramana literature, including original works, biographies, commentaries and reminiscences, in various languages. Also photographs, souvenirs, audio-tapes, videos, CDs and The Mountain Path, the quarterly journal published by Sri Ramanasramam and circulated worldwide. Open Daily: 8am-11am/2pm-6pm.
Sri Ramana Library:
This library, located in the Ashram compound, has an extensive collection of books on spiritual matters in various languages. It is opened from 8.30 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the morning and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the afternoon. Visitors are welcome to browse; membership is required to borrow books.
Skandasramam:
This lovely tree-shaded hermitage on the Hill overlooking the Big Temple is where Bhagavan lived from 1916 to 1922;
Virupaksha Cave has the shape of the sacred “Om” and contains the Samadhi of Sage Virupaksha. Bhagavan Sri Ramana lived here from 1899 to 1916. Both caves are historical sites preserved and maintained by Sri Ramanasramam for the benefit of visitors. Daily: 8am-4:00pm
Ashram Timings & Daily Rituals
At 6.30 A.M. – Vedic chanting begins at Samadhi hall and followed by milk fed to Ramana.
At 7.00 A.M. - The serving of breakfast
At 8.00 A.M. - Vedas are chanted in front of the Ramana’s Shrine
At 8.30 A.M. - Followed by pooja at Bhagavans tomb and his mother’s tomb
At 11.30 A.M. – Lunch 
At 4.00 P.M. – Milk and tea are served to the visitors
At 4.30 P.M. – Visitors read Tamil and English religious books at Ramana’s Samadhi 
At 5.00 P.M. – Veda chanting at Maharishi’s shrine
At 5.30 P.M. – Pooja performed at Maharishi and his mother’s shrine
At 6.45 P.M. - Reading Prayana from Monday to Saturday
At 7.30 P.M. – Concludes with the dinner
Every Friday, full moon day and the first day of each Tamil month, Shri Chakra pooja is performed at Mathrubhuteswara shrine.
Special Events
Bhagavan’s Jayanti: (Dec-Jan) The Maharishi’s birthday, celebrated by a great family gathering of devotees, elaborate pujas and special biksha, all in homage to Bhagavan, as during his lifetime.
Pongal: (Jan 13th-15th) Harvest festival followed by Maattu Pongal, the festival of cows.
Sri Vidya Havan: (Jan-Feb) A full-day homa (fire worship) to rededicate the Meru-Chakra of Mother’s Shrine.
Mahasivarathri: (Feb-Mar) This ‘Night of Siva’, Lord Siva manifested as Arunachala on earth for the benefit of all humankind. Observed by an all-night vigil, pujas, and recitation of mantras and circumambulation of the Hill
Bhagavan’s Aradhana: (April-May) The anniversary of Sri Bhagavan’s Mahanirvana with special Abhishekam and puja.
Mahapuja: (May-June) Observance of Bhagavan’s mother’s Mahasamadhi.
Advent: (Sept 1st) Annual celebration of Sri Bhagavan’s arrival at Arunachala on this day in 1896.
Navarathri: (Oct) Nine-day festival in adoration of Holy Mother. Each day the beautifully decorated deity depicts a different aspect of the Divine Mother, culminating with a procession around the Ashram on Vijayadasami, the tenth day, marking the victory of light over darkness.
Karthikai Deepam: (Nov-Dec) This spectacular ten-day festival, witnessed by hundreds of thousands, is the glory of Arunachala. The gigantic temple chariots are led in procession through the town streets. At sunset on the final day, the beacon atop Arunachala is lit and is visible for miles around, burning for 7 days or more.
Sri Chakra Puja: This powerful Devi puja is performed in the Mother’s Shrine at 6pm-8:30 each Friday evening, as well as on full moon days and the first day of each month, according to the Tamil calendar.
Details & Procedures
Purpose of visit and the availability of accommodation is the main criteria for Ashram accommodation.
Ashram accommodation is exclusively for fellow devotees of Sri Bhagavan. Visitors coming for general purpose/visits for temple, giripradakshina/full moon walk and pilgrimages should plan alternate accommodation.
Fellow devotees are advised to choose days avoiding in and around full moon/festival days for their visits.
Fellow devotees who have read about Sri Bhagavan and His teachings after a few visits if they intend to stay in Ashram for their meditation/personal sadhana are welcome. On an average three (3) days/nights stay is permitted.
Accommodation will be provided to single/couple/family (maximum: five (5) members) as per above regulations.
Request for revisits shall be made after a gap of at least four to six months.
Request over telephone or on arrival basis or request in shorter notice will not be considered. Request for few hours/one day/overnight stay will not be entertained. Visits by large group are not encouraged.
There are no charges for ashram accommodation/food. It is also not extended on rental/commercial basis. Ashram food is restricted to room guests/inmates.
No visitor has a right to accommodations, especially a particular accommodation. The allotment of accommodations is entirely at the discretion of the management.
Visitors wishing to see places on and around the hill associated with the life of the Maharshi should ask in the office for guidance. They should also, especially if new to India, be cautious in dealings with outside vendors and contractors.
Accommodation
Visitors wishing to stay at Sri Ramanasramam should send an email to stay@gururamana.org one month in advance to check on the availability of accommodation. Emails are instantly acknowledged. Please check your spam folder also for the auto reply from the ashram to make sure that your email request was properly received by the ashram. Some email providers routinely put them in spam folder. You can also request accommodation by writing a letter about six weeks in advance to  The President, Sri Ramanasramam, Thiruvannamalai – 606 603, Tamil Nadu . 
There are rooms to suit individuals, couples and families. Each room is furnished and most rooms have attached bathrooms. Hot water for bathing is available during winter. South Indian-style vegetarian food is served in the Ashram dining hall: breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea/milk, and dinner. Filtered drinking water is available. Medical attention can be arranged when required.
Contact
Sri V.S.Ramanan, President
Sri Ramanasramam P.O.
Sri Bhagavan Ramana ashram
Thiruvannamalai - 606 603, India
Phone: +91 – 4175 – 237200  
Mobile: +91 - 9244937292
Connectivity
The town of Thiruvannamalai is located about 120 miles away from Chennai. It is exactly in the south west direction to Chennai. One can reach Ramana Maharishi ashram that lies mere two miles from the Thiruvannamalai railway station lying between Villupuram and Katpadi in the South India. Ramana Ashram can be easily reached via bus and private cabs.

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