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9. Seppu Ramamurthi

I was known as Seppu Ramamurthi 1 to distinguish me from the other Ramamurthis in the Maha Kārvar Ramamurthi, Thirukavoor Ramamurthi, pāṭśāla Ramamurthi ,Khaddarkadai

This is how Periyava called me and the name stayed. I went to

Periyava when I was twenty-four. I was put in the Mahadanapuram pāṭśāla. I studied in the pāṭśāla for ten years and completed the kramānta Yajur Veda śākha allotted to us. My native village is Krishnarayapuram.

Mayavaram

In those days, Periyava was camping in Nattam 2 across the river. When the upanayanam of my father and my uncle was to take place, my grandfather went to Periyava and submitted this to him and prayed for his blessings and prasāda. Since my mother was given in marriage to my father in kanyāvivāha, born of such a marriage, I was called to serve Periyava. I was born in 1933. I am now seventy nine years of age. My father and his younger brother, my paternal uncle had both completed Vedadhyayana. My uncle, Ramaswami Sastrigal, had studied both Veda and Śāstrās, was sought by scholars, and would participate in all the sadas and scholarly events of the Maha. He was wholly dedicated to the Maha. He received initiation into pancadaśākṣari mantra 3 from Periyava himself and was adept in the worship of Ambāḷ. He was also directed to worship Dakiṇāmurthi, which he did in the prescribed manner. He was teacher at the Mahadanapuram pāṭśāla, which was run by one Subbulakshmiammal, an old lady from Kerala. I was sent to there after my upanayanam. I studied there for ten years.

The shock following a fall in childhood led to a speech problem. I could not speak even a few words together without stammering. I remember falling and then not being able to talk, and then stammering. I remember all of it. But I never stammered when I recited the Veda. So I completed the kramānta adhyayana. I was not very quick at grasping what was taught. Coupled with the stammering, it meant I could never teach, because I could not explain a text at length in Tamil. I would have to explain the meanings and commentaries in Tamil. It was only when I chanted the Veda I could articulate the words without stammering. My uncle‟s contention was that, it was enough that I served Periyava to be cured of my stammering. “Serve Periyava! That will cure you of all deficiencies and fetch you grace.” I agreed. Generally once the adhyayana is completed, the pupils disperse and seek their livelihood officiating as priests and participating in Vedaparāyaa. Few would continue their studies to complete jaa and ghanaparāyaa. It was Periyava who gave a new lease of life to Vedaparāyaa - jaa and ghana and then the bhāṣya Periyava promoted all these and took them to great heights.

It was in Orirukkai that I joined the service of the Maha. My father took me to Periyava.

Periyava was camping there for Vyāsa puja.

The pūja was being performed on the pyol of

1 Lit.‟red‟/ very fair Ramamurthi 2 First ati rudram performed from 14-9-1942 to 24-9-1942; Periyava camped in this village from July 1942 for several months and performed Vyāsa pūja and Cāturmāsya

3 Fifteen syllable mantra in Ambāḷ‟s worship

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Kannadi house. This was in the mouth of Vaikasi in 1957, the Tamil year was Hevilamba. My father wished to go on a pilgrimage to Kāśi. Periyava blessed him and sent him away with the assurance that he would take care of me. I had seen Periyava several times in my native place. When Periyava camped in Nattam, during the ati rudram, every morning my father would take me along, with him. We would cross the river by parisal - a bamboo float, like a huge round dish - there were no boats those days. We would stay there throughout the day and come back in the evening. I saw Periyava then, though I did not go near him and speak to him.

Left me in the Maha, Periyava told me to chant the Rudrakrama which I knew well and which I did well too. Periyava told me to chant it every day and because of this excelled in it. Then he commanded me to chant a śloka from vya, I recited a verse from Raghuvamsa. It meant, Vasishta and Arundhati performed agnihotra, the fire rites, in the evening and as they gave darsan to the inmates of their hermitage who circumambulated them and prostrated to them, they appeared like the fire-god Agni and his consort Swāha‟. 4

Then Periyava said “Will you wash my ochre cloth everyday? You may have to do so many times in the day! The people here will teach you all the rules of orthodoxy. Learn it from them and do your work.

Periyava bathed several times during the day. I began to wash Periyava‟s ochre cloth from that day onwards. I had to dry the washed cloth, then put it away in the woolen bag called the „madi- sanchi‟ 5 . This is how I began my service to Periyava.

Some time passed. Periyava called Krishnapuram Venkataramaiyer, known as pāṭśāla Venkataraman and later as Pazhakadai Venkataraman, who cooked the bhika for Periyava and told him to teach me how to prepare bhika. So I washed Periyava‟s ochre cloth and also became Pāṭśāla Venkataraman‟s assistant. I learnt the nuances of cooking from him and for sometime only helped in various ways. I had to watch and learn and then do things in exactly the same way as he did. Once the bhika was ready, a portion would be kept in a small silver bowl and purified with some ghee offered to Candramouiśwara and only then would Periyava eat his meal. This apart, a full naivedyam would be prepared and offered to Candramouiśwara. The devotees would get their meal at the santharpaa which has its own kitchen. In those days, at the camp in Orirukkai, Periyava and Pudu Periyava used to take their bhika together.

4 Canto I of Kalidasa‟s Raghuvamsa; lines 139-142 vidhesāyantanasya ante sa dadarśa tapo nidhim | anvāsitam arundhatyā svāhāyā iva havir bhujam || When the evening rites were over, he (Raghu) saw sage supreme; close at his side Arundhati was seated; and the saint shone like the Sacred Fire, she like his consort, Svaha. 5 Lit. orthodox bag; a woolen bag used to keep washed clothes, as wool does not conduct electricity and so does not transfer bodily vibrations on to it; orthodoxy about clothes is to avoid both physical contact and bodily vibrations of another.

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Periyava‟s bhika had no salt, spice or chilli and tamarind, it was bland. I trained as cook with Venkataramaiyer for almost a year. Gradually my share of work was stepped up, and one day he said “You do the cooking now”. I did so under his eye, obeying him to the letter.

Periyava would say “Can you make adai in such a way that it sticks to the pan?”

“No

I don‟t.”

“When the batter is cooked, add some ghee and even if it is well cooked, allow it to stay on for a while. It will stick to the pan and when you scoop it, the portion underneath would be roasted. Then serve it to me.”

Periyava taught me everything I know. Today if I speak well it is because of Periyava‟s grace.

From Orirukkai, the camp shifted to Chinna Kanchipuram where Pudu Periyava performed kanakābhiekam - the first one - for Periyava. It was on the occasion of Periyava‟s satiabhdapūrti. At that time an aottaram was written in adoration of Periyava we chant it even today - wherein the line „murtīryukta anekaloka vākpradaya namo namah6 occurs. Periyava is the one who cured me of my stammering, gave me all the knowledge I have. Periyava told me to do the parāyaṇa of Mūkapancastuti which I did. For fifteen days parāyaṇa took place on that occasion. Periyava told me to sit with the vaidiks in the parāyaṇa. Since I had completed Yajur Veda parāyaṇa I was able to do the eleven āvartīs of Śrī Rudram every day.

My uncle maintained that no parāyaṇa of any kind was needed. It was enough if one served Periyava, he said, in spite of the fact that he was himself well versed in both the Veda and Śāstrās. He would tell me that I could get no greater good fortune than serving Periyava. My uncle came to Periyava frequently. He has said many a time that Periyava would ask him, “Can you bring me a boy as pious as you are and who will serve the Maha? Why don‟t you bring me your son?” I have not heard Periyava say this, in my presence, I have only heard it from my uncle and that is how I went to Periyava.

From Chinna Kanchi, the camp shifted to Madras. Pāṭśāla Venkataraman suffered from diabetes-he already this ailment- and could not manage the kitchen. So he left, set up a fruit shop and sold Periyava‟s pictures also. I was to take care of the kitchen where bhika was prepared for both the Periyavas. Gopalaiyer who was Manager of the santharpaa he remained a bachelor - would come every day after Periyava accepted bhika to eat the prasāda. He ate there every day and would always tell me “Your cooking is exactly like Venkataraman‟s, it is so good, none can tell the difference.” By that time I was fully in change of the bhika.

Periyava stayed mostly in Sanskrit College. Pudu Periyava was camping in Sowcarpet. I ran the bhika-kitchen. It was here that Krishnaiyer joined and stayed with us. Krishnaiyer who had prepared the bhika in the earlier days, was then a very old man. He joined the camp in

6 „The one who grants insightful speech to all worlds‟.

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Madras. He would sit in the kitchen and give me directions. I would do exactly what he directed me to, so much so that when the camp left Madras, he said “This boy is so obedient and pleasant. Leave him with me.”

Peiyava then shifted camp to Chromepet. On rtika Amavāsya Periyava tool a holy- dip in the lake at Chromepet. Someone took this picture, framed it and brought it to the camp at Mambaam. Look, Periyava has taken his bath and I am wringing the wet cloth. Periyava is in the river and I am standing behind him. P.D.Pani, who ran a Press, and who also hailed from Krishnarayapuram saw it when it was given to Periyava. He asked Periyava for it, to print it and distribute it widely because according to him, his interest in the matter lay in my presence in it. The gentleman, also being a native of Krishnarayapuram, mentioned this as the reason to Periyava. Periyava was firm in his reply. “It need not be printed for public distribution” he said and gave the photograph to me. “Keep it with you, carefully.” So I put it away in my trunk, safely, taking it along with me from camp to camp. It was Kumaresan who got it recoloured and enlarged, making it what it is now.

In 1960, Periyava came to Krishnarayapuram, our native village. Our village had two very learned and pious gentlemen. They were Venkatarama Dikshitar and Sankara Dikshitar, both agnihotris, and savants in the Veda and Śāstrās. An elderly Swamigal his adiṣṭānam is there in our village, he was, I think, from Tirunelveli- who stayed in our village explicated the Bhāṣya in the evenings. After bathing in the Caveri and completing the anutāna, at about half past five, scholars and a few laymen alike would assemble to listen to his expositions. Venkatarama Dikshitar was landed and well to do. He was a kind of a leader for the Vaidiks and scholars in our village. He would instruct them where they had to go for parāyaṇa or other duties. If he said “Everyone must assemble by the Cauveri at five tomorrow,” all the Vaidikis and scholars would be there, ready after their daily ablutions and anuṣtāna. He would organize Gāyatri japa on the banks of the Caveri, thus. In those days the offering made to Brahmins was a quarter of an anna or a half anna with betel leaf and areca nut. Venkatarama Dikshitar promoted parāyaṇa and organized the work well. Our village regularly conducted „Vāra parāyaṇa‟ that is, during the month of Kārtika, for a week at a stretch, parāyaṇa would be organised. I have also been included in „vāra parāyaṇas‟ and have received the honorarium of a quarter of a rupee.

During Periyava‟s stay there, almost every evening Periyva discoursed on the Bhāṣya. These scholars of the Maha, the scholars of our village and Pudu Peiyava would listen. This took place on all days except on those days when Periyava was otherwise occupied. Those of the Sri Maha like Ramaswami Sarma and Ramakrishna Sastri, - all of whom were learned, who resided in the Maha and taught Pudu Periyava, Mudikondan Periya Vanchinatha Sastri also, who was very learned, would gather along with the elders in the village and listen to Periyava. Every day before bhika, for about ten minutes Bhāṣya would be chanted. So too Gītaparāyaṇa and chanting of the Viṣṇu sahasranāma were performed every day. Later on, as the years passed others were added, Hanuman Chalisa, Nārāyaṇīyam and so on,one by one.

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Suddenly one day, when the Bhāṣya-pāṭa was going on, Periyava said, “Wear yoga veṣti!”

So I draped the upper cloth in the prescribed manner as it ought to be when Vedic chanting is done.

“Sit down!”

I was made to sit with the Vedic scholars and chant with them. Till then I was known only as the Bhika-cook‟. Periyava gave me this honour, in my own village, amidst all the learned there. Everyone was surprised.

Periyava camped in Krishnarayapuram for twenty one days. He visited every house he was invited to. Ours was in the West Street. I prayed to Periyava to visit our house, and when he did, my father, my uncle and I did pāda puja, the three of us. To his feet, directly, not to his wooden sandals. We had one hundred and eight rupees in one rupee coins. I neither knew the aṣṭotram of Periyava nor that of the Ācārya. I knew the twenty-four nāmāvais of the Ācārya which we chanted every morning. We had to start with the verse „svāmi puṣkaraitīrtham‟ in Kamakshi Vilāsa stotram and then chant the twenty-four names of the Ācārya. This was a practice initiated by Pudu Periyava. Right from Orirukkai we followed this practice. By four or so, at dawn, Mannathi who was in charge of the danka and the danka-cart, would beat the danka- drum. It would boom very loudly and could be heard even at a distance. You cannot sleep after that. We would clean our teeth, have a quick wash and assemble before Periyava. If someone was missing Periyava would turn and look at the entrance pointedly. Everyone who served in the Maha in various capacities assembled to chant the sloka beginning „svāmi puṣkaraitīrtham‟ and the twenty-four names of the Ācārya. So I knew all this by-heart. I asked my father and uncle if I could chant the nāmāvai of twenty-four names, because I did not know what had to be chanted during pāda puja. They agreed and over and over again I chanted these as we offered the coins, not to the pādukas, as it is usually done, but directly to Periyava‟s feet. After this we circumambulated Periyava, chanted the Totakāṣtakam, offered coconut and fruits and our prostrations. This is how we performed pāda puja to Periyava.

From Krishnarayapuram we went to Nerur. Rama Sarma of our Maha and Panchapakesaiyer of the Sringeri Maha led two groups of devotees there who were in constant rivalry with each other. So much so that matters went to court and when Rama Sarma won, he was able to visit the aditanam 7 . Rama Sarma gathered all evidence to show the authenticity of the Kanchi Maha.This happened before Periyava‟s visit. Periyava was never in favour of these

7 Of Sadasiva Brahmendra; Born Sivaramakrishna, in Tiruvisainallur near Kumbakonam, a great mystic and Yogi par excellence. Legends about him prevail to this day all over Tamil Nadu. Author of Ātma Vidya Vilāsa and innumerable devotional compositions in Sanskrit in his early life, he lived for more than a hundred years in absolute silence in a state of complete self-absorption. He has five samadhis - Nerur and Manamadurai in Tamil Nadu, Puriin Orissa, Kāśi and Karachi in Pakistan – for he appeared simultaneously to his devotees in many places and announced his intention to withdraw his physical body. He was interned in these five places at about the same time.

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rivalries. We camped there for three days. Periyava held Bhāṣya lessons near the vilva tree at the adiṣtānam. A house was dedicated to the Maha and a memorial stone put up by Rama Sarma, which marked the details of Periyava‟s visit. There was a Maragata liñgam, a liñga of green jade from Periyava‟s pūja box and a picture of Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra made of mustard seed. Both were given by Periyava to be housed there and worshipped. Later, whenever anyone came from Nerur Periyava would ask. “How is the mustard-seed Brahmendra?” Mani Sastri was appointed for a monthly salary to go and perform puja everyday.

The camp then shifted to Ilayathankudi, where Periyava stayed and for long. Ponnamma paati from Kumbakonam did „puṣpa kainkarya‟ bringing flowers to Periyava for pūja everyday. One day, she brought a big bamboo flower-bucket filled with tumpai 8 flowers. She wanted to have abhieka performed for Periyava with the tumpai flowers. She placed it in front of the Candramouḷiśvara pūja altar, but said that it was for Periyava. Periyava went to a small room adjacent to the adiṣtānam, it had a small window- and except for a few of us and a few devotees, none were there. I was called to perform the abhisheka. Periyava said, “Pour these flowers on me!” and I poured the basket of the tumpai flowers on Periyava. Ponnamma and may be ten of her pupils, whom she had trained in „puṣpa kainkarya‟ were there. No photos were taken and no one even knew of this event.

Ramlinga Sastri who was a great scholar, advanced in years, was at the Maha‟s camp. He could not eat the food served to devotees. So he presented his difficulty to Periyava. Periyava called me and instructed me to cook his meal first, just as he wanted, serve it to him and then begin the cooking for his own bhika. Periyava never ate before three or even four of clock in the afternoon, so it was not difficult for me to manage both. The Sastri had many specifications no asofoetida or mustard was to be used in his meal. By eight in the morning I would give him a meal. He later went to live in Kasi in his last years and passed away.

This happened at the camp in Narayanapuram. When Periyava went for his bath to the river, whoever took care of his ochre cloth and was responsible for its orthodox maintenance would go along with him. Periyava finished his bath in the canal and got ready. This photo was taken in Narayanapuram when Periyava bathed in the canal there. Two of us are draping a shawl around Periyava‟s shoulders with a strong wind blowing. You can see the pāṭśāla Venkataraman also in the picture. An Iyengar from Tiruchi took this photo. He took many photographs of Periyava. Another devotee from Pudukottai - he was deaf- he took many pictures of Periyava. Devotees would take photos of Periyava with great trepidation.

This picture is of Periyava taking a dip in the old river of Madras, when he was camping in Vanagaram. A spring was dug in the Coovam river for Periyava‟s bath. Vriddhakīra- that is

8 Leucas aspera - commonly found throughout India; flowers are white & tiny; the plant is an under-shrub that grows up to a feet or more only; replete with medicinal properties, juice of flowers considered antidote for snake- bite, used for fever and cough; known as Dronapushpi in Sanskrit

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the traditional name of the river Coovam. It was a beautiful river then, and the name meant „The Ancient River of Milk‟, whereas the „Kṣīranadi‟ or „Pālār‟ in North Arcot is „The River of Milk‟. When sañkalpa is done, the river of the place in Madras is referred to by its ancient name of Vriddhakīra nadi. When Periyava camped in Sivasthanam, he bathed in Veghavathi when it was in floods in 1974.

Prathyangara Sastri, Ramaswami Sarma and Ramakrishna Sastri, the latter two residing in the Maha‟s itself were among Pudu Peiyava‟s teachers. Pudu Periyava had his quarters separately in Ilayanthangudi, a hall and room on the other side of the pūja. His routine centered only around studies. After the first pūja followed by bhika, he would go for his studies.

After the Chettinad camp, Periyava went to Rameswaram. The kumbhābhiṣeka of the Rameswaram temple was performed then. We crossed the waters in three of four boats to take the holy dip at Sethu. When he reached the other side, Periyava waited for almost an hour to make sure that all those who served in the Maha had come. Only then did he take the holy dip. All of us were blessed to take the holy dip along with Periyava because he waited for us. Of course many devotees joined us. Kumaresan‟s grandfather Appakutti Sastri was there, Gudalur Sastri and Abbayi sastri were also there. A fit person had to be appointed to look after the pūja when the Maha camped there. I was standing close by. Periyava asked me,

Have you received initiation into the pancākara 9 ?”

“Periyava has to be gracious” I said in reply. He listened to my reply and made note of it in his mind. The next day when Periyava was distributing tīrtha, I went up to get it. Usually those who seved in the Maha would be given tīrtha first. We would take it and get back to our allotted duties. Even as he gave me the tīrtha-prasāda thrice, Periyava taught me the pancākara right there in front of Candramouiśwara, without any paraphernalia or fuss. Periyava gave me the mūlamantra, the pancākara and told me to go to Ramaswami Sarma for details. Many had received pancākara mantra from Periyava - Vishnupuram Chandrasekhara Sastri, Sundaresaiyer they were house-holders - were among them. I sought them for guidance and learnt the meaning and methods of the practice of the mantra. It goes on to this day.

In Ilayathangudi Periyava again taught me, this time a dhyāna śloka 10 . He was seated in a small room. He called me in and recited a verse which was the taught me the specific way in which Periyava had established the pancākara tradition, as well as the addition Periyava had made in the dhyāna śloka. To this day I chant this śloka just as do the pancākara japa.

When we were in Ilayathagudi, eminent Vedic scholars like assembled there, Sattanur Krishnamurthi Sastrigal, Ambi Ghanapathigal, Musiri Anantarama Dikshitar. That was a big set. Tiruvaiyaru Balakrishna Sastrigal came to Periyava, and submitted that he had no students to

9 The five syllabled mantra, „na ma śi vā ya10 Invocation of the deity‟s presence for the forth coming adoration, through its mantra and description of form.

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teach. Karuppur Chandrasekhara Ghanapatigal, Venkatakrishna Sastri, grandson of Venkatarama Sastri, Sambhu or Sambasivan who had completed adhyāyana and I were there. Periyava told Tiruvaiyaru Balakrishna Sastrigal “Take these four with you.” I told Periyava “I wish to serve Periyava.” Periyava replied, “Go and study first. You can serve later. So we left for Tiruvanaikoil.

Before the Bhāṣya-pāṭa, some preliminary courses are taught. Of these Tarkam or Logic is one. I could understand nothing of Tarkam. I struggled for a few months. I began to develop serve pain in the left side of my chest. I must have stayed there for less than six months, perhaps only three months. I do not remember very well now. But it was not for long. I came back to Ilayathangudi and told Periyava that I had pain in the chest. At first I had chest pain, stomach ache followed. When I told Periyava that I had pain in the chest, he said, “Alright, stay here!” So I returned from where I had gone to study Bhāṣya to stay on with Periyava. The other pupils too discontinued soon after. Once more I was given the responsibilities of the kitchen and the preparation of bhika.

It was during the period in Ilayanthankudi that Periyava taught me a sloka. Periyava was sitting in a small room. He called me in and told me to sit down. I was frightened to sit before Periyava but he told me again, so I prostrated and sat down. Then Periyava chanted a verse from Soundaryalahirī and told me to repeat it. I did. Once again Periyava chanted it and I repeated it. This was done several times. Periyava said, “Only when you know this verse by-heart can you leave this room!” So I repeated it several times and memorized it. It begins “kadā kāle”. 11

“This is your learning. Chant this all the time!”

Till today I continue to chant this sloka all the time along with the pancākara mantra. This happened in the room where Periyava took his bhika. The verse means something like “I have come to you as pupil. When will you be gracious to me and bestow knowledge upon me?” and is addressed to Ambāḷ. Then he allowed me to leave the room.

My wife was born in our house in Krishnarayapuram. In those days the house would be referred to as the Eastern house and Western house on either side of the entrance. Periyava used to sit on the pyol outside the Eastern house. I do not know where I was born. Either in Mysore from where my grandmother came or in our house at Krishnarayapuram. My wife‟s naming ceremony was held there. Neither our, nor their family was well-off and even our day to day

11 kadā kāle mātaḥ kathaya kalitālaktakarasam pibeyam vidyārthii tava caraanirnejanajalam | prakṛtyā mūkānām api ca kavitākāraṇatayā yadādhatte vāṇī mukha kamalatāmbūla rasatām || O mother, when in proper season the the nectar-like water - mixed with reddish lac applied- in which your feet have been washed, may I drink, thirsting for knowledge, which water, from its quality of turning even born mutes into poets, has the character of betel juice from Vani's lotus mouth? Verse 98.

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existence was a struggle. Only the prescribed rituals were to be done and only vaidiks were invited. It was a simple affair. I was then in the pāṭśāla at Mahadanapuram, which was two kilometers away. I was closer to my grandfather than to my father and he loved me very much. He did not have good vision and as a child I took him to the Cauveri for his bath and took care of him. My grandfather wanted me to come home and said that he would not eat his meal unless I was brought back for the event. I was not invited and had not gone home. I do not remember who it was, but someone came to fetch me. I went home and only after that did my grandfather sit down for his meal and the two of us ate together. In those days there was wide spread talk that the Dharma Śaśtra does not permit one to marry one‟s neice. But in practice it was prevalent. It was when the camp was in Madras that the wedding was fixed. The wedding took place at a house which was barely a furlong away from the Śrī Maha at Thambu Chetty Street in Tondaiarpet in Madras. Periyava gave the tirumāñgalyam.

Devotees who saw me serving Periyava would come forward proposing an alliance. A lady from Tiruchi, Rajalakshmi, said “It is enough that the groom serves Periyava. Nothing else matters. We would like to give our daughter in marriage to Ramamurthi.” Periyava listened to everything. He would always listen patiently. But it did not get his approval. A lady Rajam, I think it was, I don‟t recall the name now, offered to give her daughter, Rajeswari, in marriage to me. She said her only desire was to give her daughter in marriage to someone who served Periyava. After the lady finished speaking he asked, “What is your gotra?” and so on. The lady said that they were Bhacaraṇam. Periyava said “You are Bṛhacaraam and they are Vadamān. You had better leave”. Here in Kanchi, there was another lady who wished to give her daughter in marriage to me. Proposals such as these fell through. Finally, when Periyava was camping in Madras, my father said “He is already thirty. Nothing seems to come through. There is this girl,” and so on. Both our families were in straightened circumstances - my wife family was also going through difficult times - so we that it would be best to marry within the family. Periyava said “Ask them and if they agree, go ahead”. Periyava gave a thirumāñgalyam and a saree for the bride. Devotees who came to the camp for darśan that day were directed to the wedding. R.Venkataraman‟s wife Janakiamma, Nangavaram Babyamma and several others were sent by Periyava to the wedding. Everyone who came gave some monetary gift and blessed us. After the wedding Periyava gave us his blessings and told me to go home for a while. I went back to Krishnarayapuram and stayed on for two months, did aupāsana and other daily obligations before I returned.

We shifted to Tiruvidaimarudur when the teacher at the pāṭśāla there left - it was Cheenu Ganapāṭigal - and there was no one to teach at the pāṭśāla. My father was posted as teacher there and my uncle who was teaching in Mahadanapuram was asked to join my father at Tiruvidai marudur. Our family was given quarters opposite the Bhajana Maha in Mahadana street, in the house of Sambamurthi Sastrigal, Periyava‟s younger brother. I stayed there for some time and then developed severe stomach ache. I went to Periyava and he said I could stay with him and visit Tirudaimarudur alternately. So I spent twenty days or a month here and at home alternately.

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In the Presence of the Divine

I named my son Chandrasekhar. Periyava was camping in Karvet Nagar at that time. When my son was seven years old I took him to Periyava, at Sivasthanam. I prayed to Periyava to accept my son in his service. Periyava said “Invest him with the sacred thread.” So we came back to Tiruvidaimarudur and performed his upanayanam. Then we put him in the pāṭśāla under Cheenu Ganapāṭi. My son was very difficult to handle. At Tenampakkam he was pampered by the elders of Kumaresan‟s family. Kumaresan‟s mother was always kind-hearted and fed everyone generously. None could serve food like her. Not only that, she would cook for us and send it across to us in the camp, fifty or sixty dosas for all of us serving Periyava. This apart they tended to cows and were devoted to their protection. There were at least ten cows in their house at any time.

[Here Seppu Ramamurthi‟s wife takes over the narration. Seppu Ramamuthi‟s wife narrates the following.]

Every morning I would get our son ready and take him to the pāṭśāla. I would come back home, bathe and get ready to start the cooking and other household chores. Within minutes of my coming back, he would be at home. If I took him back, he would again come running home. The teacher at the pāṭśāla said, “Put him in another pāṭśāla. I am not able to control him!” We put in school at first, but he was adamant that he would study only the Veda. When we put him in the pāṭśāla, he would not sit there. He wanted to play all the time. I was very worried about his future.

That year my father in law and husband prepared to leave for Tenampakkam for Periyava‟s darsan on Vyāsa pūja. I said I would also go along with them. After we prostrated to Periyava I began to weep. I presented our son‟s case to him. “He does not stay in the pāṭśāla. Nor does he go to school. His teacher is not able to manage him and does not want him in his pāṭśāla anymore. I am worried about his future. I am frightened that he will be fit for nothing.

Periyava asked Mouli what I was saying. Mouli presented my submission to Periyava who said Tell her to leave the boy with me.

“Periyava must be gracious to him. I don‟t even know what to say. I am much worried about the boy” I said.

“Don‟t worry. He will study much more than his father or grandfathers did. He will come up well in life!” I felt reassured and leaving my son behind with Periyava, came back.”

Years later, when my son finished his studies and became a ghanapāṭi, when all of us went for darśan, Periyava called Mouli and said, “His mother was so worried about her son‟s future and wept to me when she left him here. She will not weep now, she will be happy, won‟t she? Ask her!”

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Volume II-Article No 9/Seppu Ramamurthi

I replied, “I came here worried and left my son in Periyava‟s care. Now I am relieved and so happy, Periyava! By Periyava‟s grace my son is now so accomplished!” He has gone to many places for Ati Rudram

Ten or more years would have passed between my earlier visit when I left our son there and this visit. Periyava repeated my words verbatim.

[Seppu Ramamurthi continues]

Sekhar was put in the Tenampakkam pāṭśāla under Rama Sarma. Periyava left Tenampakkam for Kalavai early one morning. A short while later Sekhar ran away from the pāṭśāla and followed us. Eight kilometers away, at a Siva temple, Periyava halted for a while. All of a sudden the boy appeared. He was found standing near the temple tank.

He came running away behind Periyava. At Tenampakkam they had been searching everywhere, in wells and ponds as well. They were so worried. When a messenger arrived at our camp where Sekhar had joined us, we learnt of this.

[Seppu Ramamurthi‟s wife says “That was the only time his father beat him.”]

[Kumaresan continues the narrative:So Periyava came back, for his sake. Periyava came back all the way the next day, stayed on in Tenampakkam for a day, comforted Sekhar and then again left. Every night one of us Mouli, Srikantan Mama or I would take him on a cycle to the next camp, so that he could sleep there. In the morning we would bring him back and hand him over to Sarma. Before we got back, he would be back at the camp. Once more we would have to take him back. Today he is a Ganapathi only by Periyava‟s grace. ]

[Seppu Ramamurthi continues]

Sekhar made friends with the bus drivers. There were just one or two plying to Tenampakkam those days. One morning he boarded a bus bound to Arcot, obviously because the driver had became his friend. He was nowhere to be seen. During that period Periyava had instructed that Sekhar had to perform puja at the adiṣtānam. Periyava said “Sekhar must come back and do the puja. Everything else bhika – only after that.” I offered to do the puja at the adiṣtānam that day. But Periyava wuld not allow that Sekhar returned at two in the afternoon when the bus came on its return trip. He announced that he had gone to Arcot with the driver of the bus. After that he was made to bathe and do the puja. Periyava took his bhika only after that. Periyava has made him what he is.

All the three children were settled

in life, by Periyava‟s gace. A gentleman, originally from Sirghazhi, working in Delhi, had come

for darsan. He prayed to Periyava that he wished to give his daughter in kanyāvivāha to a Vedic

Sekhar‟s marriage was fixed in Periyava‟s presence.

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In the Presence of the Divine

scholar. Sekhar was standing there. The gentleman said “I will give my daughter in marriage to this boy!” S.R.Krishnamurthi Sastrigal was there and Periyava told him to look up the almanac for an auspicious day. So Vasanta pancami was chosen for the wedding and was approved by Periyava. Similarly, my elder daughter‟s marriage was performed by his grace. Periyava told me to give my eldest daughter in marriage to my sister‟s son in kanyāvivāha. My sister‟s family declined the proposal, because it was kanyāvivāha, though my sister was very devoted to Periyava.

Periyava said, “Go back and ask them. If they refuse, fetch a boy from the pāṭśāla at Tiruvidaimarudur and have the wedding performed on the third of the Āni month!”

[Seppu Ramamurthi‟s wife continues]

His sister‟s husband had refused, because the boy was still only a student then. But Periyava sent Vedapuri Mama with a pūrṇaphalam and prasāda, all the way from Mahagaon to hand it over to my sister in law‟s family and conveyed Periyava‟s wish. Vedapuri Mama told the family that Periyava‟s words must be accepted. My sister in law who is deeply devoted to Periyava, convinced her husband. Then the wedding took place. Somehow they changed their mind and the boy consented to marry and continue his studies. He changed his mind at least thrice before it actually took place. The wedding took place at Tenampakkam.

[Seppu Ramamurthi continues]

When my second daughter was to be married, it was fixed suddenly in Periyava‟s presence. I was in Triuvidaimarudur and had come for darśan. A family of devotees, who came regularly, had come for darśan. It happened like this. I had gone for darśan and was sitting at the back, behind Periyava. A gentleman sought Periyava‟s blessings for his son‟s marriage. Periyava told him to wed his son to our daughter. I myself learnt of it from the gentleman. Then and there the wedding was fixed and hereceived a pūrṇaphalam from Periyava. All the three daughters were married in this way.

[Seppu Ramamurthi‟s wife continues]

One Friday night, my husband back came with a pair of brass lamps, fruit and flowers and other auspicious things and announced the wedding of my daughter. We never worried about horoscopes. Whenever I told my husband that we had to look for good alliances for our children, he would say “What do I know? I shall do what Periyava says .I will give my daughters to the grooms he points to. Nothing else but Periyava‟s words matter.”

[Seppu Ramamurthi continues]

After this house was built- it was given by Periyava. Periyava came here and told Sekhar, “Tell your father that I have visited your house. Write to him.It was after we learnt that Periyava had blessed the house, we shifted here from Tiruvidaimarudur.

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Volume II-Article No 9/Seppu Ramamurthi

When the camp was at Palakad, I suffered from cough. The doctor there told me that it may be due to asthma. Vaidyanathaiyer of Madras examined me and said it was nothing to worry about. At Illayathankudi, there were a few attendants who drank coffee. Periyava never encouraged coffee-drinking. One day Periyava called all the coffee-drinkers and told them to confess and leave the camp. Only some of us were left behind, those that did not drink coffee Melur Mama, Kannan, Sankaranarayanan, Janakiraman‟s younger brother and myself. We had to prepare the naivedyam. I did not know how to. Periyava himself would sit at the threshold of the kitchen and direct me step by step. Once done, the naivedyam had to be carried to the pūja altar.

When Periyava gave tīrtha, people would rush forward in an undisciplined way. This would anger Periyava and getting up and standing, he would shout in a loud voice. He would simulate anger. This would discipline the crowd and then they would all receive the prasāda. Once at Triuchi, he came in for bhika in the same angry mood. I was all ready to serve him.

“What do you think of yourself? Do you think that I will take my bhikṣa only if you are here?”

Periyava turned his anger on me, I thought.

“I only obey

.”

Later Periyava asked me, “Was I angry with you?”

“Periyava was gracious to me” I said. He was gracious to the attendants and took care that we never became egoistic.

There was Periyava nothing was not aware of, he was like a statue during the one hour japa. After mahāsiddhi, I had a dream when Periyava asked me for an ochre cloth. “Everyone is offering me a shawl. Why don‟t you get me an ochre cloth?” he said. So I got a shawl and offered it at the adiṣṭānam.

At Srisailam, there were plenty of avāram 12 flowers. Periyava taught me to brew it and make a decoction of it. “Give me some and you drink some too! Don‟t drink coffee.”

At Karvet nagar, Periyava went and lay down near an anthill. He lay there for quite a while, like a log. We don‟t know why he did so. When he got up and went in, his back was covered with ants. He did not shake them off.

Periyava never let me leave the camp. My father would write letters asking me to come home for this or that event, but Periyava never allowed me to leave the camp.

12 Tanner's cassia; full of medicinal properties; cooked as side dish with lentils

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In the Presence of the Divine

The last three years before mahāsiddhi, Periyava went into mouna. He was not moving about, but laid up.When Periyava attained siddhi, I could not bear it. I sat there the whole day. Later I continued to do pūja at the adiṣṭānam.

In 1958, Periyava made Pudu Periyava serve in the pūjakattu. The training he gave was rigorous.

During the camp at Mambalam in the bhika room, Periyava played the nāṭa ragam without opening his mouth as if it were played on the nāgaswaram. Only the two of us were there. During navarātri, Periyava would play on the veena.

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