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A Visit to Sri Ramanasramam

Tiruvanamalai

Entering the Ashram
The New Hall
Matrubhuteswara Temple
Sri Maharshi’s Samadhi
The Old Hall
The Dining Hall
The Nirvana Room
Guest Rooms
Sri Ramana Library
Ashram Schedule and Festivals
Daily Schedule of the Ashram

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A VISIT TO SRI RAMANASRAMAM

Although Sri Maharshi’s physical presence no longer graces the Ashram, his spiritual presence is as alive as ever; thus, devotees and aspirants who attune themselves to the silent teaching can derive considerable spiritual benefit from a visit to the Ashram. The following is furnished for the guidance of such visitors.

Tiruvanamalai

The town of Tiruvannamalai is 120 miles southwest of Chennai. It is situated on the Villupuram-Katpadi branch line of the Southern Railway. Buses connect it to most of the important places within a radius of about   130    miles.

Taxis are also available for visitors traveling to the Ashram from different points in South India. Sri Ramanasramam is situated at a distance of two miles from the railway station and the chief bus terminus on what is known as the Chengam Road. It is a prominent landmark on the north side of this road and a new visitor will experience no difficulty in locating it.

Entering the Ashram

After passing beneath the arch which announces the name of the Ashram, the visitor will cross a large open courtyard flanked by shady trees, one of which is a 400 year old Iluppai tree. Above him to the left arise two towers in the traditional Dravidian style of temple architecture. One surmounts the Matrubhuteswara    Shrine,

erected over the tomb of Sri Maharshi's mother, and the other is over the New Hall.

The New Hall

On entering the New Hall, the objects which 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.

Matrubhuteswara Temple

The door in the western wall of the New Hall leads directly ahead into the Matrubhuteswara Shrine. This imposing shrine was constructed under the personal supervision of Vaidyanatha Stapati, a famous temple sculptor and architect. The Garbha Griha (sanctum sanctorum) contains a sacred Siva Linga and a Sri Chakra Meru sanctified by Sri Maharshi’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.

Sri Maharshi’s Samadhi

Passing out of Mother’s shrine through a door in the northern wall one comes to the shrine built over Sri Maharshi’s tomb. This consists of a mantap (a large raised platform), with a vimana or tower surmounting it. Four large carved pillars of granite, polished to look like black marble, support this tower. The beams are similarly carved   and    polished.   A

lotus of white marble adorns the center of the mantap and over it is installed a sacred Siva Linga. A large, marble-floored meditation hall encloses this shrine.

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 Maharshi’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.

The Dining Hall

The dining hall and its new extension can accommodate nearly 800 hundred people and the kitchen is large enough to cook, on special occasions like the Jayanti (Sri Maharshi'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 storeroom from the room for men situated to the south of it. This passage leads to the Veda Patasala 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 Maharshi's younger brother and the Sarvadhikari or manager of the Ashram as long as he lived. A fine grove of coconut trees flanks this mantap and the Nirvana room and stretches to the east.


Guest Rooms

Since Sri Maharshi’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 Tirtham (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.

The Morvi compound just across the street from the Ashram contains numerous guest rooms and also Sri Ramana Library.

Sri Ramana Library

This library, located in the Morvi compound, has an extensive collection of books on spiritual matters in various languages. It is opened from 8 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.

Ashram Schedule and Festivals

At Sri Ramanasramam, visitors are at liberty to follow their sadhana in the way which appeals to them most; no one is required to follow a uniform routine or schedule. Before breakfast every morning verses in praise of the Maharshi and a short worship of the Lingam that adorns his Samadhi is performed. At 8 a.m. portions of the Vedas are chanted in front of Sri Maharshi's shrine just as they were chanted in his presence during his lifetime. This is followed by puja or ceremonial worship with offerings of flowers, fruits, etc., the waving of lights and the burning of camphor to the accompaniment of Vedic mantras. This is done both at the Maharshi's and the Mother's shrines. The program is repeated in the evening and on both occasions it lasts for less than an hour.

On the days of Sri Chakra Puja (see Ashram Schedule below) worship is more elaborate. It consists of the offering of the sixty-four kinds of adoration, the recitation of mantras appropriate for the Mother Goddess of the Universe and special offerings of sweetened rice and fried cakes. This puja is extremely colorful and impressive.

Navaratri or Dusserah, the ten-day festival in honor of the Mother Goddess, is celebrated with laksharchana, that is, the offering of flowers or kumkum (vermillion) a hundred thousand times to the accompaniment of names sacred to the Mother. On these days the image of the goddess, whose name is Yogambika, is suitably dressed and adorned with ornaments. Each day the goddess is dressed in a different way. This is also a colorful festival. It may be mentioned in this connection that when this image of Yogambika was being cast, Sri Maharshi threw into the molten metal a small quantity of gold and that that gold, to the surprise of everyone present, became a tilaka or the auspicious mark on the forehead of the image.

 

Jayanti or birthday of Sri Maharshi is celebrated every year in the solar month of Margasira on the day on which the moon is in the constellation known as Punarvasu. This generally occurs in December or January. The Aradhana or the day on which Sri Maharshi passed away is similarly celebrated on the thirteenth day of the dark half of the solar month of Chaitra, corresponding to April-May. On both these occasions devotees gather in large numbers to witness the elaborate pujas performed at Sri Maharshi's shrine and to partake of a feast specially provided for them. The days on which Sri Maharshi's mother and brother, Sri Niranjanananda Swami, passed away are also celebrated every year, though on a smaller scale. Days sacred to Sri Sankaracharya and other ancient Gurus are also occasions for simple, special pujas. An elaborate fire sacrifice known as Sri Vidya Havan is also conducted every year.

It is not the tradition of the Ashram to conduct religious or spiritual classes for the residents or visitors. However, there are daily readings of the Maharshi’s teachings in the Samadhi Hall and the works of the Maharshi are recited in the evenings by a large group of men and woman devotees. On special occasions competent persons deliver discourses.

As the teaching of the Maharshi is contained in the works composed by him and in the writings of his devotees, these have come out as books in English and in most major Indian languages. Many of the Ashram books have also been translated and published in foreign languages, and a number of these publications also can be found in the Bookstall, along with photos, audio CDs and DVDs. They are all moderately priced.

Since 1964 the Ashram has been publishing the Mountain Path, a quarterly journal devoted to the propagation of the traditional wisdom of all religions of all ages, especially as testified to by their saints and mystics, and to clarify the paths available to seekers in the conditions of our modern world.

Daily Schedule of the Ashram

6:30 a.m. Chanting and Milk offering to Sri Bhagavan in the Samadhi Hall
7:00 a.m. Breakfast
8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Chanting of the Vedas in front of Sri Bhagavan's Shrine
8:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. Puja at the Shrine of Sri Bhagavan followed by Puja at the Shrine of Mother
11:30 a.m. Lunch
4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m Tea or hot milk served in the dining hall
4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Reading in Tamil and English in the Samadhi Hall
5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Chanting of the Vedas in front of Sri Bhagavan's Shrine
5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Puja at the Shine of Sri Bhagavan, followed by Puja at the Shrine of Mother
6:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m Tamil Parayana on Monday through Saturday
7:30 p.m.
Dinner
   
Sri Chakra Puja in the Mathrubhuteswar Shrine is performed between 5 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. every Friday, full moon day, and the first day of each Tamil month.

No charges are levied for any of the services provided by the Ashram, including board and lodging, though voluntary donations are accepted.
 
Copyright © 2007 Sri Ramanasramam. All Rights Reserved.