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Balu Mama 6.

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Periyava once asked me, Do you know of Mukkurui1 Piayr?
There is one in Madurai, one in Kumbakonam, one in Kalahasti, only in a few places.
We must make a mukkurui koukaai2 and offer it to Piayr!
So we got all the things necessary, so many kilos of rice . . . Tamarai3 grated ninety coconuts and
prepared the pram. We did not have a vessel big enough to prepare it in, so we borrowed a
gigantic cauldron from Varadarjaswmi temple4. The koukaai was a single immense piece.
We tied it in a white cloth and put it to steam in the vessel. From nine in the morning till about
eight in the night, it was cooking. It has to be well done, you see, you cannot offer it half-cooked.
What must we do now?
Take it Tenampakkam said Periyava, and leave it in front of the Piayr there!
So we transported the massive koukaai in its container to the Piayr temple in Tenampakkam
by cart and left it in front of the shrine.
The next morning, the people around the place came to the Piayr temple as usual. Sighting the
huge cauldron and the giant koukaai, they ran away saying that it was the handiwork of ghouls.
After a while they returned armed with sticks to investigate and discovering the contents of the
cauldron for it was, were reassured. The koukaai was duly distributed and everyone ate it,
complementing us on its taste. Its excellent, they said.

Kuppu approached Periyava for help after the Ki ytra was completed and Periyava
returned to the Maha.
What do I possess? I have neither money nor possessions of any kind. What can I do for you?
Kuppu persisted in his prayer, saying he had no one else to turn to. Kuppu was a brilliant man
and knew many languages. He had a Bachelor of Honors degree. He wrote a poetic text on the
significance of the mahmagham over night in verse in chaste Sanskrit. He was well versed in
Tamil and his English was very good.Finally he was given a job in a bank on Periyavas
recommendation. A year might have passed.
One day while Periyava was camping in Thanjavur a gentleman was seen sitting at the far
end, almost outside the thatched shed erected for the pja. He had his shirt on and was shortly
before seen smoking. Periyava wanted him to be fetched. The gentleman himself did not seem
1

Mukkurii is three kuruis, one marak or kurui is equal to 8 padis / big measures, each padi being about one and
a half kilos, thus, three maraks are 12 Kilos; massive sculpted figures of Gaea are seen in these holy places
2
Also called modaka; dough of rice flour shaped like a coconut, stuffed with sweetened filling called pram [or
completion] & steamed; made as an offering to Piayr; generally made in very small sizes for offering at home;
koukaai, itself is a visual metonym of the completion within, that is the fruit of grace and sought from the divine
in worship. Symbolism in offerings forms an integral part of ritual worship
3
Tamaraipakkam Thiagarajan, who served Periyava for some years
4
Varadarja Perumal temple or Hastigiri, also known as Attiyurn; located in Viu Kchi

In the Presence of the Divine


2
disposed to come near, but Periyavas command had to be obeyed, so one of the attendants went
near the person and requested him to present himself to Periyava. The gentleman came forward
at once.
I did not come forward since I was not suitably attired said the gentleman apologetically.
Periyava chatted with him for a while and then enquired after Kuppu.
The man seemed to hem and haw and with some prompting simply said, Oh, that it was like
this and did not give a satisfying answer. Kuppu is on leave . . .
Finally, in stages it was learnt from the gentleman that Kuppu, who was given the office of
cashier in the bank, had misappropriated funds from his office and so had been placed under
suspension.
After the days pja was over, Periyava announced that he was going to Kuppus village.
Its a small village and they may not be equipped to host us. Besides we cannot move camp
immediately from here argued the Manager.
I am leaving with the pja said Periyava and started for the village.
One remarkable trait about the people of Thanjavur is that if the situation so demands,
they will all get together at once. Literally overnight, they pooled in resources, put up a pandal,
garnered thing together for the pja and other necessities, and transformed the small village into
a festive locale. As for Periyava, he went straight up to the house immediately opposite Kuppus
and sat down. Kuppu was inside his house, in the attic, lying down with the sheet over his head,
not daring to stir out. For his part, Periyava waited patiently, not budging from the house. Two
days passed and on the third day when Kuppu came out cautiously at midday to take a peep,
Periyava, who had been always on the watch, spotted him and commanded that he be brought. A
few men went across the road and with a slap or two, brought Kuppu to Periyava. Kuppu fell
down flat, in prostration, begging for Periyavas forgiveness. He caught hold of Periyavas feet.
None could be more forgiving, none as ready to protect one who seeks refuge in him, as Periyava
is. Verily he is Rama5 in this vow to protect anyone who takes refuge at his feet . . . Carnagata
vatsala!6
Kuppu had misappropriated something like five thousand, if I remember right. To offer
bhikavandana, one had to pay thirteen rupees in the Maha at that time. So you can imagine, five
thousand rupees was a large sum of money. This happened in the forties. Periyava did not
admonish Kuppu or ask him a word. The Manager was called and commanded to pay the sum to
the bank at once.
Periyava next shifted camp to Tiruchirappalli, at National College grounds. In those days,
the Teachers Council would meet on the second Saturday at the end of the year. That was during
the white-mans times. Periyava spoke to the Chairman. This young man holds a Bachelors

Ramas vow: sakdeva prappanya tavsmi iti ca ycate|| abhayam sarva bhtebhyo dadmi etad vtam mama|.
He who seeks refuge just once saying, I am yours I will give assurance of safety, against all types of beings.
This is my vow. (Canto VI, Yuddha Khnda / Book of War, Chapter/Sarga: 18, verse 330).
6
He who takes as (a mother does her) infant the one who seeks refuge at his feet.

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degree and is well versed in several languages. Can you give the job of a teacher in your
school?
As Periyava commands! I am ready to offer ten jobs if Periyava so wills it!
So Kuppu was resettled in life. He would come occasionally for daran. Not once did Periyava
speak of the unhappy incident, Periyava was always so polished in speech, so refined in his
transactions with people. Towards the end of his life, Kuppu had no control over his bowels. It is
said that a person who dies in this condition will never again be born. Kuppu did not once hear a
word of reprimand from Periyava.
A young couple from Tirunelveli had once come for daran. They were ordinary people
and had not been married long. They moved away after daran. I was standing a little away from
Periyava, when I felt someone touching me on my shoulder. I turned around and saw the young
lady who had minutes before prostrated to Periyava along with her husband.
You must not touch me, child I said.
Forgive me, but I look upon you as an elder brother and pray to you. Only you can help me
now. I came here wearing a gold chain of two strings, now its missing. My husband is a ruffian
and I dread my mother in law. What am I to tell them? My father is a poor man and he went from
door to door asking for help to get me married off. He cannot replace it either. Please help me,
said the young lady tearfully.
I was not sure what ought to be done except convey her state to Periyava. I went around through
the side door and reached Periyava from the rear side.
The young girl who came with her husband now says she has lost her gold chain of two strings,
which she was wearing minutes ago. Her husband is a ruffian and she is from a very poor family.
Periyava must be gracious to her.
Do I own a jewelry shop or do I hoard gems and gold in a box to pick out what you want and
give it to you for the asking?
Everything is possible with Periyava. The child is in distress and Periyava must be gracious!
Fetch a basin!
I went in and brought a large basin.
Now fetch some cow dung! I did.
Mix the cow dung in water in the basin and leave it there. Call for a few guards. Tell everyone
here, that no one must leave without first dipping their hands into the basin!
Having given this instruction, Periyava withdrew and sat with his eyes closed in meditation.
Pawar was there, Kannaiyan and a couple of others. I parked them nearby and placing the basin
at a distance, made the announcement.
Everyone here must first dip their hands into the basin and only then leave Periyavas presence!
This is Periyavas command!
All the devotees went to the corner where I had put the basin and dipped their hands into it.
After a while Periyava called me and told me to look into the basin. There it was, lying inside at
the bottom of the vessel, the two-strand gold chain which the young lady had lost. I quietly took
it to Periyava.

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Wipe it and hand it over to the girl!
The couple were then called forward and in an unusual gesture Periyava lavished a lot of
attention on them. They were both adorned with sandal-wood garlands and their hands filled
with fruit and other prasda.
I have come to Tirunelveli, Rameswaram. Such holy places, so beautiful!said Periyava. Then
to the young man, Periyava said, Take care of your wife. She is a good child. May you both live
prosperously and happily Periyava blessed them profusely. They were treated as a special case.
When Periyava was camping in Tenampakkam, I was also serving him there. My elder
brother informed me that my fathers annual obsequies were to be performed on a certain date. I
went to Periyava and sought permission to leave, the day before the event.
Why do you have to go? Your elder brother is going to perform the obsequies. You have me
here! Periyava would at times speak like a child.
I will be back the same day, by night.
Periyava asked for a lemon and was holding it in his hand and intermittently smelling it.
Early next morning I prepared to leave and prostrated to Periyava. Periyava gave me the lemon
fruit and I left. I boarded the bus which was scheduled to leave at half past five and took a seat.
Minutes passed but there was no sign of the bus moving. An hour went by and still nothing
happened. My aged mother and brother were waiting at home for me and here I was waiting
endlessly. I was restless. So I went up to the conductor and asked him the reason for the delay.
Its like this. I want a lemon. Only after we take a lemon7 for the bus, do we start for the day. I
have sent a boy by cycle to fetch the shop man who is late today!
Here is your lemon and lets go I said.
Did Periyava give this? Surely the Samiyr8 must have given this! The driver took the lemon
fruit with visible reverence and got ready for his duty.
What a prank Periyava had played with the lemon since the previous day!
A girl-child of about five came for daran one day with her parents. She had a little book
in her hand and going right up to Periyava sat on his lap! Her parents tried in vain to call her
back. Periyava did not show the slightest annoyance.
Write you name in this book she demanded, again and again. Its an autograph book she
explained.
I have not held a pen and written for so long now, I have even forgotten how to. I do not write
my name!
The child was adamant. Periyava then called the Manager and told him to place the seal of the
Maha and write Naryaa smrti9 as done in the official communications from the Pontiff.
The child was satisfied and left with her parents.

A lemon fruit is kept in the vehicle to ward off mishaps during the day.
A colloquial, but respectful manner of referring to an ascetic.
9
Lit. Remembering Naryaa ; In Naryaas name
8

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The family would have hardly left the Maha, when Periyava wanted the child to be called in
again.
There is a big book in your office where VIPs and Ministers and Collectors write a message
when they come here. Take the child to the office and give her the book to write her name in it.
She too is a VIP. Children are divinity incarnate.
So the child was taken to the office and given the Visitors Book to write her name on it.
Kannadasan10 used to come for daran. I am not worthy of your daran he would tell
Periyava. I have led a dissipated life. There is no vice I am not guilty of. I have broadcasted
atheism from every public platform. Yet I have come to you after wasting my life like this!
Periyava would converse with him for hours. His Arthamua Hindumatam11 was the outcome of
these meetings.
A Bhgavata12 once came to Periyava. He was attired in a silk dhoti and had several
gem-studded rings upon his fingers. His attire and the manner in which he carried himself,
excluded an air of haughtiness. He said I have completed the exposition of the Rmyaa! I
have been discoursing upon the Bhgavat at RR Sabha in Madras!
Say that you have completed the exposition up to the pabhiekha13! It is only when you
complete the discourse of the Uttara Khnda14 can you say that you have discoursed upon the
Rmyaa! Tell me, Bhgavats narrate the life of Krishna and celebrate his birth every year on
a grand scale. Many gifts are obviously made to you. You accept the saree and dhoti given to you
as gifts. Why is it you do not celebrate the jayanti of his elder brother Balarama? After all
Krishna follows Balarama!
The Bhgavata had nothing to say in reply.
One day about thirty or forty devotees from Tirunelveli district, came for daran. They
seemed to have visited some temples of Kanchipuram and announced, We have seen all the
temples in Kanchipuram!
Which ones? asked Periyava.
Kamakshi, Ekambareswara,Varadaraja . . . they continued listing out the popular names.
You have not seen all the temples of Kanchi. There are hundreds of temples here, one hundred
and eight for iva alone. Until you have seen Piravthnam and Iravthnam you have not
visited the temples of Kanchi. These temples are close by, near the Railway station.

10

A famous lyricist, known as kavingnar/poet, who penned songs for films apart from his insightful essays,
particularly on the significance of Hinduism, on ancient history of Tamil Nadu and devotional poems.
11
Hinduism: A Meaningful Religion.
12
Signifies one who discourses upon the sacred epics, rmad Rmyaa and rmad Bhgavata.
13
The coronation of r Rm
14
The Last Canto, narrating events following the coronation, such as Stas banishment and Rmas eventual
ascension to his divine abode.

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Piravthnam and Iravthnam are most important. It is this that we must pray Paramevara to
grant us after all! 15
We were once walking down the street from Tenampakkam when we happened to cross
a tea-shop run by a Muslim. The shop man hurried out on spotting Periyava and held out some
hot milk in a glass tumbler.
Swami must drink this he said.
Periyava told me to take the glass from him. I took it but wondered what we would do with milk
offered in a glass tumbler used by others to sip and drink from. I put it away in a corner in the
hall. Later in the evening Periyava was sitting on the pyol.
Fetch me that glass of milk. That is my bhika today. No puffed rice soaked in milk or curd.
You people may have all that. Not for me!
I brought the glass from where I had put it away and handed it over to Periyava.
Look here, he gave it so affectionately. I must drink it he said and did so.
When the camp was in Guntur, a farmer brought a basket filled with chillies from his
harvest and offered it to Periyava.
You must accept this bhika he said.
It was only chilli that day in the menu for Periyava, cooked in many ways according to his
instructions. Chilli chutney, chilli with lentils, chilli cooked as curry, chilli spiced and mixed in
curd, chilli sauce with tamarind, chilli fried in fritters, chilli roasted, chilli sauted, chilli boiled
and flavoured, chilli in thirty different ways, believe me! Periyava ate every single item calmly
and finished it all off. Nothing at all happened to him.
A devotee from Kerala once brought a huge jackfruit and offered it to Periyava.
15

1) pirav/birthless + thnam/ sthnam/place : ivaliga consecrated by of the seer Vmadeva who feared repeated
birth even when a foetus in his mothers womb; also known as Muktvaram;
irav/deathless+ thnam/ sthnam/place: worshipped by seers and celestials seeking immortality;
in Canto 47,Verses 1640 to 1650 & Canto 48, Verses 1651 to 1658, respectively, of ivajnasvmigas
Kacipuram (Ta).
2) See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTLwFZIBGF0 for Periyavas own words on the absence of a
separate shrine for Amb in the iva temples of Kanchi. In temples where one does find them, they are later
additions to the main structure.
3) The esoteric map of Kanchi forms a logarithmic spiral with r Kamakshi temple as the central point with the
108 iva temples positioned on the successive curves , all within a radius of less than ten kilometres from the
centre, with r Kamakshi as the consort of iva in his multiple abodes.
4) The stationary point of the One Pure Consciousness with multiple manifestations as forms of energy is seen on
the reverse in the map, with the One Divine Energy radiating multiple manifestations of its inner, static state
of Pure Consciousness.
5)Piravthnam and Iravthnam are 8th century Pallava temples, maintained by the Archeological Survey of
India, along with five others in Kanchipuram.

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Periyava must eat this, not give it away. It is from my garden at home and I tended it with such
care to offer it to Periyava, he said.
Later when I was busy with something else, Periyava sent for me.
Fetch that jackfruit!
I placed the fruit before him.
Cut it and scoop out the fruit.
I cut the jackfruit and little by little Periyava ate the whole of that big jackfruit all by himself.
Sitting back he said, Do you know that everything contains its own anti-dote?
He picked out two big seeds of the jackfruit, lying amidst the peel and fibre and gave it to me.
Roast these over the fire!
I roasted the jackfruit seeds over the fire and brought them back. Peeling off their skin, Periyava
ate the seeds and said, Roasted jackfruit seed will help the fruit to digest and reverse any ill
effects of too much fruit!
This was in Sevilimedu16. It was Aippasi17 and raining incessantly. We were walking past
a molasses mill. The owner of the mill came running out when he saw Periyava and held out a
pot of sugar-cane juice in offering. Periyava signaled to me to accept it. He drank the whole pot
of sugar-cane juice all by himself in such wet weather and did not so much as catch a cold.
Shankar Dayal Sharma18was a sdhu19. He was so unassuming. He would come for daran
and there was no fuss over it at all. Periyava would chat with him for long. During one of his
visits, Cadi homa20was in progress. Shankar Dayal Sharma sat down and taking a copy of the
Saptaati chanted along with the others, leaving only after he received prasda, following the
completion of the homa. He was a r Vidya worshipper.21
Goplakrishnaiyer of Sringeri Maha would come every year, stay on for a month and have
daran every day. When he fell ill, Periyava arranged for his care and in his old age, ensured that
he received a sum of money every month as a kind of a pension, to sustain him. Periyava never
differentiated between devotees of this Maha and those of others. Periyava showered his grace
on all. He gave his love to all people, all creatures, cow, dog, birds, anything and everything.
Everything in existence was important to him.
The boyis who carried his palanquin those days would say that whenever Periyava
16

Colloquial for ivaliga medu (Tamil) or Mount Kaila; on the outskirts of Kanchipuram.
October-November
18
Former President of India
19
One having a pious and pacific nature.
20
Worship of the primordial energy as Goddess Cadi embodying all the divine forces in creation and as the
Mother of the Universe, through fire- sacrifice and chanting of Durga Saptaati, the700 divine verses on Durga, in
Devi Mahtmyam (The Saga of the Goddess Greatness) revealed by the Goddess herself.
21
One who worships the Divine Mother ritualistically in the esoteric diagram of r Yantra or in an idol with
appropriate mantras, after due formal initiation.
17

In the Presence of the Divine


8
rode the palanquin it would be very light. When it seemed heavy they would set it down and just
as they had guessed, they would find it empty when they opened the closed doors. Periyava
would have vanished from the closed and moving palanquin! Then the search would begin. He
would be somewhere near his destination already, or at times, seated smilingly on the branch of a
way side tree. Periyava once sent for journalists and reporters. He said, You people write that I
walk from place to place. One must not lie. I must tell you that in the earlier days I have gone by
palanquin. So add that to your reports about me.
In those days when I was serving in the pjakau, one morning when Periyava was
in pja, we brought a big vessel of milk and set it down before him. It was as usual meant for the
abhieka of r Candramouivara. Periyava signaled to us to pour it away and replace it with a
fresh pot of milk. We could not fathom why but we placed a fresh pot of milk for the abhieka.
When we poured out milk that was rejected by Periyava we found a small lizard lying dead in it.
A young mother was trying in vain to soothe her child which was crying non-stop.
Nothing would quiet it. Periyava asked for some milk. I brought some in a silver tumbler.
Periyava gave it to the mother. She took her child to a corner and sitting down fed it with the
milk. The child had been crying because it was hungry and the mother could not ask for
anything, but Periyava knew and so gave it some milk, silver tumbler and all!
One day Periyava was sitting under the pavaamalli22 tree, and devotees were
thronging on all sides. A young mother was trying everything she knew to quiet her baby which
was screaming. Periyava called the couple closer and said, Remove the babys close and look at
its back!A large black ant had fixed itself to the tender skin and was biting the infant! The baby
stopped screaming after the ant was removed.
One day there was a lot of chaos among the devotees assembled for daran. I was sent
to find out what the matter was. A little girl was the centre of attention. She had been holding a
coin and now she seemed to have put it into her mouth and swallowed it. Her hands were empty.
I came back and told Periyava about it.
Take a lady with you and tell the mother to take the child behind the enclosure. Let them
undress the child and shake her clothes well!
The coin which was lodged in between the pleats of the childs skirt, much to the relief of all!
B.Ramamurthi, the famous neuro-surgeon, never came for daran because he had married
in an wrong manner, that was not acceptable and so feared to see Periyava face to face. A couple

22

Parijata (Nyctanthes arbor tristis) or Night-flowering Jasmine; considered a celestial flower &used in worship

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once came for daran with their only son whose headache tormented him. We have tried
everything, visited every doctor, Periyava said the father tearfully.
Go to Madras and meet Ramamurthi. Tell him that I directed you to go there!
The couple did as they were told. Ramamurthi examined the boy and exclaimed, You have just
about made it! Had you come later, your sons life might have been at stake!
The boy was saved from suffering a severe hemorrhage in the brain.
Ramachandariyer he was from Kerala - had three daughters. He prayed for a son. He
used to come every Sunday. Periyava had begun to perform mnaska pja23 those days. That
day he had decided to grant the gentleman his prayer, perhaps. Periyava took some sandal paste
after placing it upon his own head for a few seconds gave it to the gentleman. The devotee was
blessed with a son. The infant had a huge black patch exactly on top of his head. His parents took
him to the doctor who said that it was a tumour. Periyava brushed aside this diagnosis. The child
simply bore the mark of Periyavas gesture of grace upon his own head. He was invested with
the sacred thread in due course and lives quite happily even now.
When I lived in Mylapore, I used to know a gentleman of my age, Venkatachalam, who
lived in the same street. He had two little children, daughters. We used to go for daran together.
Periyava was then in Sunguvarchatram. Venkatachalam prayed for a son.
If you are blessed with a daughter, will you refuse the child?asked Periyava.
He was indeed blessed with another daughter. I did not see Venkatachalam for many days. One
day I ran into him and was shocked to see his appearance. He was looking haggard and drawn.
Balu, this child is always in and out of the hospital. Death would be a relief to the child and to
us he said and wept. Let us go to Periyava and ask him to relieve the child of suffering and
bless it with death.
The child was born with a number of congenital problems.
We cannot make such a prayer to Periyava. It is wrong to presume life and death and speak thus
to Periyava. Let us pray to him for cure and relief from illness!
The infant did not live long. Some time passed.
Periyava was then camping in Kattupalli, near Ennore. I went for daran. It was Vinyaka caturti.
Venkatachalam accompanied me. Periyava was giving daran after the worship of a massive
Ganapati was completed. Periyava gave Venkatachalam a wood-apple. A year later he was the
proud father of a fine baby boy, whom he named Ganapati.
There was a very learned Sanskrit scholar in Vyasarya agrahram, in Kumbakonam. He
had only one daughter, named Dharmambal, who was married at eight and widowed at ten. The
scholar brought up the child with great care and groomed her into an exemplary scholar in
Sanskrit. She was so learned. She had a striking personality, was lustrous in appearance and lived
a life of great piety. She would remind you of di ankara in her appearance. Such a sdhu she
23

Ritualistic worship done in the mind/manas

In the Presence of the Divine


10
was. She willed the house she inherited from her father to the Maha. She would stay on with the
camp and come for daran as did several other pttiamms, wherever Periyava camped. We were
instructed to give them milk, charcoal stove and some small provisions. They lived a rigorous
life with a meager meal to pull them through. Periyava always took great care of them.
One day, it was two days to go for Deepavali, sometime before Periyava began the
practice of lying-down24. He had not accepted any bhika at all. He was giving us many signals
about his final departure but we did not understand them well. Dharma ptti came there.
What news today? What have you been doing?
I have been reading the Bhgavata.
What is the Lord doing in the Bhgavata?
Bla Lla! He is playing about.25
I too am going to play a lla, do you know? said Periyava, but we did not take it so seriously.
That was the first point, the first question.
Periyava had not taken any bhika at all. He was running high fever and was wheezing.
He seemed emaciated and was lying down. During such moments, Kannan Mama is the ideal
attendant. He had the strength of an elephant. We lacked the intelligence he had.
What is this? If Periyava does not accept bhika must we sit back and allow it? Prop Periyava
up. Wet a towel and wipe him with it. Fetch the vibhti. Smear the sacred ash on Periyava!
I did everything, wiped Periyava with a wet towel and smeared sacred ash on his forehead.
Go in and tell Srikantan to mix some rice in a bowl and bring it here. Call Vengudi Doctor!
Periyava is so weak. His pulse must be checked!
Srikantan would be frightened to go near Periyava on such occasions and assert himself. I had
more access to Periyava. I got the rice, the doctor was fetched and Periyava accepted bhika in
front of the doctor. That was the beginning. That was the first time that Periyava ate in front of
someone, the doctor.
A little later, Thirukadavur Ramamurthi, Arakonam Balu and I were there with Periyava.
What are you going to do for yourself?
What do I know? Periyava is here and what have I to worry about, I said and laughed, not
understanding the import of his question.
What about you asked Periyava looking at Thirukadavur Ramamurthi.
The one who has planted the sapling, will also water the tree he said, parroting Vedanta.
What is he saying, what about trees?Periyava asked me. I repeated Ramamurthis words.
Periyavas dada was lying there. One must not go between Periyava and his dada. We could
not go near Periyava, without walking in between.
Arakonam Balu said, The dada is here . . .
The dada has no role to play now, replied Periyava.
24

Bed-ridden is what is meant, but not quite because Periyava neither slept on a bed, but only on the floor and also
Periyava at all times was fully conscious, before withdrawing his physical body.
25
The childhood pranks of Krishna; philosophically lla refers to the Divines conscious play of creation,
sustenance and destruction.

Vol. II/ Article 6, Part Four-Balu Mama


11

Periyava never touched the dada from that day on ward. He had subtly conveyed his message
that he was going to withdraw.
Periyava had long ago told Rajamani Sastri of Kumbamonam, I wish to lie down like the
python for a while26. Lie down with my mouth wide open and eat what falls into it, lie down
unmoving for some time.
Periyava did that for three years, just as he had said he would. In the third year, again it was
Deepavali we have the tradition of lighting a lamp for Yama27 on Deepavali, chanting his
names such as yamya, dharmya and so on. Unhusked paddy would be filled in a huge iron
cauldron, a smaller cauldron of clay placed above it, filled with ghee, a large wick placed in it
and invoking the presence of Yama, the lamp would be lit. On that night, Telugu people offer
oblations to Yama, we do not do that. The lamp would burn for five or six days at a stretch, with
so much of ghee fed into it. That year the lamp crackled noisily and within an hour the clay lamp
burst to bits. We knew it was a bad omen. That following mrghai28 Periyava left.
Periyava had the reading of r Krinakarmrutam29 done by a scholar. As we walked,
the sloka blam mukundam manassmarmi30 was being chanted, and a couple approached
Periyava. The lady said, We have been married for some years but have no children. Periyava
must be gracious and bless me!
Periyava laughed and went in.
Why do you say that you have no child? The Lord is your child.
Periyava stretched his hand and as if searching for something moved it inside the mena. Periyava
then picked up a small bronze idol of baby Krishna, in a crawling posture. Handing it over to the
lady said, Here is your child. The Lord is your child!
I had myself cleaned the mena that morning and put a fresh spread in it and cleaned the shelf
inside. There never was any idol of Krishna in Periyavas mena. The couple was very happy.
They ornamented the idol with many jewels and cherished it believing that they had been blessed
with a divine child. Periyava did not tell them that they would not have a baby, and yet he made
them happy too.
26

In Indian philosophy ajagarasthit/the state of the python, is a traditional simile, for the Enlightened One who is
unmoving both within and without, not seeking even sustenance, just as the python lies with little vestige of life.
27
Yamadharma, God of Righteousness and Death.
28
December-January.
29
A poem of more than 300 hundred verses, expressing love of Krishna, composed by the 13 th century saint Lla
Sukha (Bilva Mangala (1220-1300 ), of Trichur region, Kerala), so called because he reveled in the bliss of the
play of the divine; a contemproary of Swami Desikan (AD 1268-1369); SKK Precedes r Jayadevas GtaGovinda and is considered the latters model; The text was carried from the south to Bengal by the saint Chaitanya
Maha Prabhu after his pilgrimage and its northern recension is a part of daily reading along with Chaitanya
caritmruta (The Nectar of Chaitanyas Life).
30
The lines quoted are from Lla Sukhas Balamukundtakam (Eight Verses in Praise of Infant Krishna)
karravindena padravindam mukhravinde viniveayantam |
vaasya patrasya pueaynam blam mukundam manas smarmi||
I remember the infant Mukunda, who sleeps in the hollow of a banyan leaf, and who, with his lotus-like hands,
puts His lotus-like feet into His lotus-like mouth.

In the Presence of the Divine


12
Periyava was camping in Madurai then, long back, in those days. There were
many forests around Madurai then. Somehow a fox-cub followed Periyava and stuck on to the
camp. It began to howl. The guards had planned to kill it. Periyava called Krvr Venkataramaiyer and said, Take this little one and hide it in some ante-room, or else those guards will
finish it off. Keep plenty of milk there. Neither should we harm it nor should it harm us.
The fox-cub stayed on in the camp for four days.
Then Venkataramaiyer asked Periyava, What are we to do with it now?
Periyava sent for Marudamuthu, a guard from Kumbakonam who served Periyava for many
years. It was decided to take away the fox in the dark of the night and leave it in a forest.
Leave it in the forest. We cannot take it along or bring it up said Periyava.
C.S.Ramachandraiyer had a fever that would not subside for days at a stretch. His
wife did not get along with him. She was in Delhi and so was his son Rajendran, his daughter
Gayathri was in Manila. He had two houses in Madras, one was Gayathris. He lived in one of
them. He had no one to take care of him. He was admitted in the General Hospital. He did not
get better. Someone was needed to take care of him. So Joshi was called to help. Joshi carried
CSRs diet and took care but the fever did not subside, may be for twenty days or more.
Someone came and informed Periyava.
Who is taking care of him?
Joshi . . .
Tomorrow I shall suggest something. Will you do it?
Periyava suggested that jiggery be mixed into curd, something forbidden by the stra.31
As a medicine or cure, it may be mixed and taken said Periyava.
This was administered to CSR just once. The fever subsided and the very next day he was
discharged.
There was another gentleman who suffered from severe chest congestion and
phlegm. It was very severe, unbearable. He tried everything. He was brought to Periyava and his
condition explained.
I too suffer from severe chest congestion and phlegm. What am I to do? asked Periyava and
then said, Fetch some lemon fruit.
On Periyavas direction, four lemon fruits were squeezed and their juice extracted. Srikantan
removed the seeds.
Look who is there outside and send him to fetch some ice!
Periyava commanded that the ice be added to the juice and given to the gentleman, who drank it.
The next day when he came for daran, it was difficult to believe that he had ever suffered from
phlegm. The ice had melted it completely, with Periyava administration of iced lemon. I had in
fact worried what ice might do to the gentleman.
31

The Dharma stra comprising of dietary rules and regulations or ahraniyama, forbids this.

Vol. II/ Article 6, Part Four-Balu Mama


13

During the last days, the doctors got together and said,Periyava is very weak.
You give him so little gruel or half an idli. That is not sufficient nutrition. We give him plenty of
antibiotics through drips. I do not know the names of those medicines. What you give is not
enough. His nutrition should support the medication, so you must follow our instructions. You
must give him Complan.
Periyava was going to attain siddhi the next day. No sooner did we try to place a little of the
Complan into his mouth, not only did he spit it out with a roar but vomited everything else that
had been given. Till the last moment Periyava was Sarvewara32. He never compromised with
the purity of his dietary habits. I do not know, perhaps Complan had egg in it perhaps. Periyava
reacted so vehemently the moment it was brought close to him and vomited with such force!
Periyava alone was purity embodied all the twenty four hours, all the hundred years of
his life! No one else, nobody else, neither before nor after! Barely twenty four hours before
siddhi, he was so alert and conscious! Even a wise man does not remain alert till the last breath,
as Periyava was. The scene is still fresh before my eyes. Arakonam Balu will break down and
weep when we recall this incident. Only the two of us were with Periyava when this happened.
He was the Lord himself.
Periyava would visit the santharpaa often. Not only that, he would serve the devotees as
well. Bananas of a special variety would come from Thiruneermalai in massive bunches. We had
to pluck them and pile the fruits in a basket. We would walk along carrying the baskets and
Periyava would serve a fruit each on the leaves. One day in the year is celebrated as
Candramouvara santharpaa, when the Lord himself serves his devotees a meal. Huge laddus
like the ones made in Tirupathi would be served. Nowadays they are small in size, not like
before. This was on Vasanta Pancami33 and it was known as laddu santharpaa. We would
carry the basket of laddus and Periyava would serve one on each leaf. Most of the days, he would
go and sit inside the santharpaa. Pala Venkataraman, Kannan, I, we had all to pick up a
bucket each and serve as he watched.
One day Periyava completed the first kla pja and assigning the second to be done by
Pudu Periyava, suddenly rushed to the santharpaa. A sadhu was being beaten there. He was clad
in ochre, very ordinary looking - nothing to distinguish him from others, a man from the North.
There was one Ramakrishnan in the santharpaa, a Kailasam and Margam. The three of them
were beating this man who was sitting for the meal.
Ah, ah . . .ah . . . . . shouted Periyava and ran in. Periyava slapped himself on his forehead and
upon his head and said, Sinners that you are, this is a great man! A sanyasi! He is the disciple of
Kadapathi Swami and is a great authority on r Vidya. He has come to Kanchi because he had
some doubts and wanted to clear them. I have not seen him yet. You fools have beaten him! Go
on, fall at his feet and beg his forgiveness! He is going to be here for twenty days. You must, the
32

33

Lord of All
celebrated in January and February, welcoming the coming of spring

In the Presence of the Divine


14
three of you, wash his ochre cloth, make tea for him in the morning, prepare rotis for his meal
and fan him during the day! He is a saintly person. What a great blunder you have done!
On another occasion, Periyava went to the santharpaa from Sarva trtha tank, all of a
sudden. Ramakrishnan was dicing pumpkin for the cooking. Kailsam was cutting the countrybeans and telling Ramakrishnan, Mama! A cockroach has fallen into the curd. What are we to
do?
Pick it out with a ladle, fling it away and churn the curd into buttermilk!
Periyava entered as he was speaking and said, Why, you wretch! The santharpaa was set up to
serve the Brahmins! You wish to serve them curd into which a cockroach has fallen! What sin
that will accrue and to me too! Periyava was so disturbed that he slapped himself on his mouth
and on his stomach. Go and pour out the curd! The insect runs on filth!
The big cauldron of curd was emptied outside. Even then Periyava was not satisfied.
Now take some sand and pour it on top of the curd he said. We poured sand over the curd.
Periyava returned to the Maha. There must be plenty of curd for Candramouvara! Churn it
and thin it into buttermilk and let that be served today!
Periyava knew where to be and when. On another occasion a man was being beaten he was a
Brahmin for vomiting on the road at the entrance to the santharpaa. Periyava went there too
and said, Give him some buttermilk! We learnt that buttermilk stops vomiting due to nausea.
Periyav would occasionally suffer from physical ailments. But not once has the
Candramoulvara pja ever been stopped because of that. Never did he rush through the worship
or ignore any detail. In 1945, Periyava suffred a heart-attack. Mylapore Dr. T.N. Krishnaswami
he was from North Arcot, his son Ramanan is also a doctor now - attended on Periyav. The
doctor said, Periyavas pulse is weak and the heart is affected. I cannot assure anything but shall
do my best.
Periyav preferred Ayurvedic treatment and sent for Melagaram Ganapiga who
was a person of many talents- he had acquired complete scholarship in the Veda, ayurvedic
medicine, astrology and so on. The Ganapi checked Periyavs pulse, holding his wrist. These
people have a hereditary knowledge of reading ones health by simply holding ones hand. The
tension and volume of the hand would reveal the condition of the person. This was called ddu,
reading the pulse. They would hold lightly the left palm of a lady within a month of conception,
even before the doctors confirm the pregnancy, and say at once, A grandson for your family or
granddaughter, accurately, as the case would turn out to be. By calculating the ddu, they would
say precisely how for many more days or weeks or years the person would live. To decipher the
condition of health, for men the right hand and for women the left would be held.
The Ganapi held Periyavas hand and said, Seven days left! Then calling for Periyavas
horoscope, he read it and making precise calculations, said, The horoscope points to eight days
from now!

Vol. II/ Article 6, Part Four-Balu Mama


15

Periyava was then in the Maha at Chinna Kanchipuram. That was a very long time
back. The Maha was then a simple tiled house. It was only later that it was renovated and the
pyol was demolished then. Periyava gave so much of importance to the pyol. If anyone said that
he was building a house, Periyava would ask, Is there a pyol in front of the house? At least ten
people must be able to find shelter. Goats may seek shelter in rain, beggars and mendicants!
A pyol is not an insignificant structure at all. Giving shelter to someone in need accrues the
merits of performing an avameda yga, Periyava would say.
The Ganapi said, I am willing to treat Periyava. My prescription must be followed to the
letter. The four Vedas must be chanted in Periyavas presence! The hours of the night belong to
the titans and the hours of the day to the celestials. So Vedic chanting had to be done both day
and night. A cow must be fed with the leaves of the Jamun tree34 and nothing else. Only Jamun
leaves and water, no other cattlefeed. Periyav should take only the milk of that cow for his
diet.
Periyav was worried. Should a cow be tortured and fed only on the leaves of the Jamun tree so
that I am cured? Will that be sufficient fodder for the cow? What if something untoward
happened to the cow? Why invite that sin upon ourselves?
I have the power of mantra within my means to ensure the life of the cow, said the Ganapi.
Periyava need not concern himself with that issue. Its my responsibility to keep the cow alive.
The prescription was for a certain number of days, I dont recall exactly how many.
Periyava went on with the pja and the regular worship, taking nothing but this milk. The Veda
paryaa went on. The Ganapi had given a certain day with the time specified, to be crossed.
When the prescribed period ended, the diet came to a stop. That particular day was extraordinary.
Exactly at that time, that day, fore-told by the Ganapi, the figure of a huge ghoul was seen
standing between the earth and the skies. At least by ten people, Ptala Venkataraman, Simizhi
Vanchi Iyer, Kulla Cheenu and some others saw it. Sethuraman was a youngster then, he too saw
it. This is satya, it happened just as I have said now. People like the Ganapi were greatly
evolved souls, divine and full of penance. Many men of great penance flanked to Periyava.
Periyava was always surrounded by scholars. Now we are sitting empty-handed. The Ganapis
son Gemini is here now.
Now there is nothing to worry about. The ghoul has run away. Periyava will live for a hundred
years! said the Ganapi.
By Gods grace, the cow came to no harm. It fed on the leaves of the Jamun tree and
water and continued to be in good health.. Some devotees who greatly loved Periyav were
moved by all this. They said, Of what use is this human birth? Salvation would have been ours
in this very birth if only we had been blessed with a birth such as this cow. Who could say how
much of merit that cow had accumulated from its past lives?
********

34

Java plum, also known as jambul, jambolan, jamblang; Syzygium cumini

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