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Arunachala From Rigveda to Ramana Maharshi A.R. Natarajan Introduction By A.R. Natarajan Rock of the Ages The magnetism of Arunachala is timeless and speechless. The first record of its glory is in the Rigveda. In Rigveda Lord Siva is referred to as ‘Rudra’, ‘Mahodevah’ and ‘Sambu’. He is identified with Agni or fire. In Yajurveda also Agni is referred to as Rudra. Again in Rigveda ‘Brahmana’ there is reference to a dispute between the creator Brahma and Preserver Vishnu as to which of them was superior. Lord Siva appeared before them as a effulgence, a column of light or jyotisthambha which is the symbol or linga of Siva. Later in response to their prayer he took the form of Arunachala. The two great Gods also prayed to Lord Siva that he should take the form of a linga in order that they and human beings could worship him in that form. Siva accepted this request also and took the form of a self-born ‘Swayambu’ linga, Arunachaleswara. Around this linga, the temple of Arunachalaeswara with its vast gopuras(towers) has grown up. One might therefore say that the Arunachaleswaralinga is also the same fire of light of Siva and that Arunachala and Arunachaleswara are interchangeable, in their power as the one energy source in all life. The Legends Look, there it stands as if insentient. Mysterious is the way it works, beyond all human understanding… This mountain – magnet stills the movement of any one that thinks of it, but once. Such is this mighty Aruna hill shining in the heart. – Bhagavan Ramana It is because of this fact that wherever one thinks Arunachala, irrespective of the person’s geographical location, that very thought stills the mind. Ramana refers to this power in the verse extracted above. The stillness of the mind, is the natural state of silence of the mind. The silent mind alone can be aware of that fountain of nectar overflowing in one’s heart. There are many other aspects, described by Veda Vyasa in of ‘Skanda Purana’. In that, sage Guatama sets out, in elaborate detail, the advantages of the circumambulation of Arunachala, ‘Giri Prakakshina’. Thios relates to the capacity of Lord Siva to grant boons. This Purana also records the story of the penance of Parvati to be reunited with Lord Siva, her destruction of the demonical forces represented by Mahishasura, and her reunion with Lord Siva. This reunion took place when the “constellation of the holy star Krithika pertaining to the fire-God was in conjunction with the moon in the tamil month of Karthigai (November-December)”. On this occasion, she prayed to her Lord Siva that this event should be on the summit, on that holy day. The glory of Arunachala, is therefore symbolized by this light, which is lit once a year to indicate that it is a fire of knowledge. Lord Siva was pleased with penance of Mother Parvati and gave half his body to her. Thus the hill also symbolizes the union, physically, of Siva and Shakthi making it holier. In this sense too the glory of Arunachala is beyond description. The Karthigai festival is the most important festival at Tiruvannamalai and is celebrates in a befitting way. On this occasion, a huge congregation of devotees gather and do the circuit of the hill. They also climb the hill and witness the actual lighting on the top of the hill. Simultaneously there is a big celebration in the Arunachaleswarra temple and at Sri Ramanasramam. The Glory of Giri Pradakshina – Giri Valam “There is no greater holy spot than Aruna, there is no greater Lord than Arunachaleswara, there is no greater penance than circumambulation of Arunachala. – Skanda Purana. The importance of the circumambulation and the benefits which flow from it has been proclaimed by lord Siva himself. As set out earlier Arunachala is the effulgence of Siva himself. Lord Siva has the reputation of one who is easily pleased and one who is bound to fill desires of the devotees. He is therefore ever-ready to bless and grant boons to those who do the ‘Girivalam’, remembering the nature of the hill and its power. One may also recall that Mother Parvati herself became re-united with the Lord by worshipping the hill as advised by sage Gautama. Going round the hill should not be considered as a speed test. It should not be done in a vehicle for it will be counterproductive. It should be done only bare-footed for one is circumambulating the sacred Siva linga. It needs to be done in constant meditation of Lord Siva linga. It needs to be done in constant meditation of Lord Siva, Slowly with that remembrance. Groups could join chanting his holy name, Singing and dancing like the great Lord Nataraja. Joy must be felt in the heart. One should also observe a reasonable cleanliness of the body by having a bath, wearing clean clothes and applying sacred ashes before the sacred circumambulation. The Sacred Purana describes in detail the benefits flowing from the circumambulation on different days. If it liberation, which is desired, circuit should be done on Sunday. If it is as a shield against old age and death, it should be on Monday. If it is freedom from debts, it should be on Tuesday. If it is for excellence in speech, it should be on Wednesday. The man who circumambulates on Thursday shall be the preceptor of the world. On Friday, he will attain great fortune. If it is for getting rid of adverse planetary effects, it should be on Saturday. Arunachala as Guru Shiva is always regarded as the supreme Yogi, and as the flames of the light of knowledge. Arunachala’s role as guru was first highlighted by Guhai Namasivaya and his disciple Guru Namasivaya. This aspect of Arunachala seemed dormant until the advent of Ramana in 1879, as the human embodiment of the same hill of fire, Arunachala. Advent of Ramana Ramana’s ‘Five Hymns on Arunachala’ is replete with different aspects of Arunachala’s glory as guru. None can equal the heart pouring of a disciple which we find in these inspired verses, invoking the guru’s grace. The individual mind always thinks dualistically. It cannot think in terms of unitariness or wholeness. Therefore many may regard the two sources of light as independent. However those who recognize the oneness of the light refer to Ramana as Arunachala Ramana. This needs to be gone into in a little more detail. Ramana in his composition ‘Arunachala Navamana Malai’ (Nectar of 9 Gems) says. “In Tiruchuzhi, the holy town of Bhuminatha, I was born to Sundara and his good wife Sundari. To rescue me from the barren worldly life, Arunachala Siva in the form of a Hill famous throughout the universe, gave me His own Being as Awareness might shine forth and His own power might flourish”. Actually until about a decade ago, it was obvious the faith in the hill declined. Only a few would be going around the hill except on the Karthaigai Deepam day. Now the situation is wholly different and thousands of people are seen to be doing the ‘Girivalam’ each day in total faith. This is due only the intangible but ever present, timeless, power of Ramana. Ramana’s faith in Giripradakshina Ramana’s categorical statement in this regard is the best proof of it. “There is an aitikya (tradition) that this hill is linga swarupa, that is to say, that this hill itself is God. This aitikya is not to be found anywhere else. That is the cause of the glory of this place. The tradition of this place is that this hill is the form of God and that in its real nature is full of light. Every year the Deepam festival celebrates the real nature of the mountain as light itself. Authority for this is found in the Vedas, the Puranas and in the stotras (poems) of devotees. Because this tradition maintains that this hill is Siva swarupa, the practice of giripradakshina, as an act of reverence of worship, has arisen. I also have faith in giripradakshina and have had experience of it”. Ramana would himself circumambulate the hill when he was staying at the Virupaksha cave and at Skandasramam and in the initial years of stay at Sri Ramanasramam. The period covered was roughly about twenty seven years. Ramana and his devotees would go round the hill in the manner prescribed. Though he himself stopped going round the hill to make himself available to his devotees, who started coming in increasing numbers, he would recommend the pradakshina to all. He once told a devotee: “For everybody it is good to make the circuit of the Hill. It does not even matter whether one has faith in this Pradakshina or not. Just as fire will burn all who touch it whether they believe it or not, so that the Hill will do good to all those who go round it”. Visible Symbols of Transcendental Reality Arunachala and Ramana are both the same manifestations and visible symbols to the Transcendental Reality. They symbolize mysterious workings of Lord Siva as an unmatched boon giver his guruhood, which is beyond description. The very thought of Arunachala Ramana stills the mind and turns it inward. One is restored to the state of natural and over flowing abundance of joy bubbling and overflowing in the heart. This book covers all these aspects. Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning’s publication by the same title in 2002 with one thousand two hundred extraordinarily beautiful color illustrations was made available to the seekers and devotees earlier. This is an Economy Edition. Its purpose is that it should reach more people so that the smoldering fire of knowledge in their hearts may be rekindled. The book is also visually beautiful with two hundred illustrations in Black and White.
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