My visit to Sri Sundara Mandiram

The birthplace of Sri Ramana Maharshi

This day is a special, blessed and a memorable day for me! This surprise trip to Tiruchuzhi, which was arranged by my family, is the greatest gift they had ever given me! It is a milestone in my spiritual journey!

Sri Sundara Mandiram

My mother and I started our journey from our hometown and reached Tiruchuzhi at 10 am. Our first stop was ‘Sri Ramana Manthralaya’. This temple premises spread over a vast area, which is filled with a slew of trees. Birds were briskly and merrily chirping in the morning. I could immediately feel the peace and serenity of the place as we ambled down the path to the shrine. Gentle and cold breeze created a welcoming ambience! This beautiful temple is built with white stones. I was so entranced by the life-size, white statue of Sri Ramana Maharshi. We were the only devotees there. The priest was maintaining silence and there was total silence except for the rustling of tree leaves and songs of the birds. He gestured us to do milk abhishekam for the shiv lingam and aarthi for Maharshi. I hardly do religious rituals ever since I started practising meditation six years ago. But divine joy enveloped me while I was reverently doing those rituals! Later on, we circumambulated the sanctum sanctorum. After receiving vibuthi (holy ash) and prasad (divine offering), my mother and I meditated for a while. The silence and the tranquility of the temple were conducive for meditation. Though I wanted to meditate for some more time, due to time constraint, we had to leave. However, my heart was yearning to stay put in Maharshi’s temple.

Sri Sundara Mandiram

I told my mother that I would join her soon as I wanted to circumnavigate the temple. As she sauntered towards the exit, I saw an old man, walking towards the temple. When I was slowly circumnavigating, I inwardly thanked Maharshi for his blessings and also told him how much I would love to be there for some more time and meditate! As I started to walk slowly towards the exit, (nearly 100 meters) this desire to stay in the temple grew stronger and stronger! Out of the blue, I stopped short and intuitively had the feeling that I must turn back and see. What a surprise! The priest was standing on the steps and the moment I turned towards him, he gestured me towards him. The priest gave me gooseberries brought by the old devotee as offering. He also gave me more vibhuthi and other prasad.

After thanking both of them for the prasad and bowing reverently to Maharshi, I wended my way towards the exit. Lo and behold! The longing to stay in the temple had vanished into thin air. A deep contentment engulfed me! Also I was absolutely amazed to realise that I had ‘heard’ the ‘silent call’ of the priest! I also realized that if an external place could be so much peaceful because of meditation and prayers, how much peaceful should my inner being be, for, each one of us is peace! I resolved to meditate deeply! Our driver skillfully maneuvered through the narrow lane to the nearby ashram, Vidhya Peedom, which sprawls over a vast area. The vast canopy of the numerous trees provided cool shelter. The deer and cattle reared by the ashram were grazing on the rich grass.

We meditated for sometime in front of the huge pictures of Sri Ramana Maharshi and other saints. We were fortunate to attend a session of the weeklong retreat. We attended a talk on food. “Eat food with awareness; food is medicine; mind with tightness causes dis-ease”, was the gist of the talk. We had a simple, yet scrumptious meal, in silence and awareness. Our driver, a Christian, was so impressed by the talk on how to eat. He inquired about the program and said that he will attend the next retreat. It was so good to talk to the other devotees and the amicable people who run the ashram. I purchased a book and photos of Maharshi.

Our last stop was at ‘Sri Sundara Mandiram’, the house where, Maharshi was born. First we went to the room where he was born. I felt his grace and blessings in the form of overwhelming joy! We had time to pray for a few minutes. After aarthi, the priest’s wife distributed Maharshi’s picture & prasad.

Next we were guided to a small prayer room, where Maharshi’s footwear is kept and worshiped. After the aarthi, I asked the priest’s wife, if Maharshi wore such robust footwear. She picked up the left one and showed its back. The back portion is the original wooden footwear used by Maharshi. It had been strengthened by adding silver on top. So, it looks like one made of silver. She casually gave it to me, which I hadn’t expected! What a blessing to hold a great Master’s footwear in my two hands even for a few seconds!!! Tears welled up in my eyes and I was having lumps in my throat!!! My residual ego was melting away at the magical touch of this great saint’s footwear. In the past few years, I couldn’t equally and fully revere all saints, other than my beloved Guru, Sri Paramahansa Yogananda. In spite of praying innumerable times, “Saints of all religions, I humbly bow to you all”, I knew that deep down in my sub-consciousness, I was unable to see all saints as manifestation of the Divine. With deep reverence and gratitude, I bowed and placed it beside the right footwear.

Beside this room is a huge meditation hall. A local devotee explained that Maharshi’s house was revamped by Ramanashramam in Tiruvannamalai. We couldn’t visit the ancient Bhuminatha temple, which is just opposite to his house, as it was closed at 2 pm. My entire being was throbbing with divine love, joy, peace, gratitude and humility. I received more than I deserve! I thanked God, Sri Ramana Maharshi, and my lineage of Gurus for Their grace and blessing! Throughout the return journey and for many days, I had ruminated on how much spiritual impact a personal belonging and a sacred place associated with a saint can reverberate in a person, if only he or she is receptive and humble!

– Vaidehi C (Singapore)