Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Glorious Arunachala


Most devout Hindus yearn to do a Parikrama of Mount Kailas in Tibet to help erase a lifetime of sins and attain Moksha. However, for most of them it is very difficult either for economic reasons or on health grounds as it involves journey to extreme altitudes. According to our Puranas there is another equally sanctified place in India itself, steeped in the legends, called ‘Tiruvannamalai’ in Tamil and ‘Arunachala’ in Sanskrit. Aruna means red in Sanskrit and Achala means a hillock or mountain. Arunachala therefore means a red mountain or an effulgent mountain. Science has declared Arunachala to be the oldest geological formation on earth and the great Temple,
Arunachaleswara, which stands at the foot of the hill is said to be the oldest and largest Shiva Temple in the world.

The power of Arunachala to bring peace of mind to all who go there is beyond all logical explanation, beyond all disputes and defies all efforts at comprehension. It is a spiritual matter which transcends the limited aspects of the mind, for it subdues and finally destroys the impure mind, leaving behind only the pure experience of the Atman.
Arunachala has been the home of countless sages and seers from time immemorial and has blessed all who show true reverence and devotion with the ultimate goal of life as
Self-Realisation. Arunachala has attained world fame in recent years with the arrival of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi in Arunachala in the year 1896. When he reached Arunachala after setting out from his hometown in Madurai, Bhagavan addressed the mountain as ‘Oh! My Father, I have come to Thee’. From the time he arrived there at the age of 16, he never left this mountain even for a single moment till he attained Mahasamadhi at the age of 70 in the year 1950. It is impossible to speak about Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi without Arunachala and vice versa, for they are considered to be ONE.

The antiquity of the Arunachala can be gauged from the fact that the Shiva Mahapurana contains an exclusive chapter on the creation of the Arunachala. In 1938 the authorities of the Sri Arunachaleswara Temple at the foothill of Arunachala filed a law suit against the Government regarding the ownership of the Arunachala Hill which was being claimed by the Government as Forestry Department’s property. The Temple authorities cited Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi as a witness. On the 8th of May 1938 the court sent a commission to Tiruvannamalai to hear Sri Bhagavan’s evidence. For the benefit of the court, Sri Bhagavan selected some passages from the Skanda Mahapurana and the Shiva Mahapurana to prove that Arunachala Hill is itself a Linga, the very embodiment of Lord Shiva. In all he selected 56 lines from the Skanda Mahapurana and 4 lines from the Shiva Mahapurana. He copied these lines in a notebook under the title ‘Sri Arunachala Linga Pramanya Vakyani’ [sentences giving Authoritative Proof that Sri Arunachala is a Linga]. On the basis of this evidence, the court decided that since the Hill itself is a Linga, it must be considered to be the property of the Temple.

It may be recollected that the Skanda Mahapurana and the Shiva Mahapurana are two of the 18 Principal Puranas and as such are recognized as works of great sanctity and authority. Therefore, when deciding an issue which concerns Hindu Law, the courts generally abide by the authoritative statements made in these Puranas. As regards the notebook prepared by Bhagavan for submission to the court, it is even now kept in the Ramanashram archives. It also contains the 292 verses about Arunachala which Sri Bhagavan copied from ‘Upamanyu Shiva Bhakta Vilasa’

The following is an English translation of a few shlokas selected by Bhagavan:

Skanda Mahapurana: [Chapter 4]

Ishwara said:

37. I truly abide here on earth in the form of an effulgence named Arunachala for [bestowing] the attainment [of liberation].

38. Since it [the Hill] removes the cruel heap of sins from all the worlds and since bondage [Runa] becomes non-existent when one sees it, it is named Arunachala

40. In ancient days, when a fight arose between Brahma and Vishnu [with respect to their superiority] who were both born from a part of me, I manifested myself in the form of Effulgence in order to remove their delusion.

43. At their further request I, who was in the form of an Effulgence, became the motionless Linga named Arunachala

Shiva Mahapurana [Chapter 9]

Ishwara Said:

21. Since this Linga rose up as a Hill of Fire [Arunachala], it shall be renowned as Arunachala [The Red Hill]

41. Since this formless column which reveals my Brahmatva [my nature as Brahman] ,possesses the characteristics of a Linga, it shall be my Linga .

Sometime in 1914 when the Sringeri Shankara Math was presided over by the 33rd Pontiff His Holiness Sri Satchidananda Shiva Narasimha Bharati [1866-1914], a disciple from the Math came to meet Bhagavan Ramana and requested him to take up Sanyasa and adorn the Sringeri Math in the Line of the Gurus [Guruparampara]. He gave some time for the Maharshi to let him know his decision. In the meanwhile, as soon as he left the premises, an old man came with a bundle of books to meet the Maharshi, left the bundle there at the care of the Maharshi and went for a bath. Out of curiosity, the Maharshi casually picked up one book and opened it. That book happened to be ‘Arunachala Mahatmyam’ in Sanskrit. There he found the following shloka;

‘Yojanatrayamatresmin Kshetre Nivasatam Nrunam
Deekshadikam Vinaapyastu Matsayujyam Mamagjnaya’
meaning ‘ I, the Lord, ordain, that those who reside within a radius of 3 yojanas [ 24 miles, since one Yojana is about 3 miles] from this place Arunachala shall attain union with the Supreme even in the absence of initiation into Sanyasa’. When His Holiness at Sringeri came to know about this incident subsequently, he felt sorry as the incident had happened without his knowledge.

When someone from abroad had written a letter to the Maharshi requesting him to send a stone pebble taken from a holy part of the Arunachala Hill, the Maharshi observed “He does not know that the whole Hill is holy. This Hill is Shiva Himself. As we identify ourselves with the, so too Shiva has chosen to identify Himself with the hill Arunachala. Arunachala is Pure Wisdom appearing in the shape of a hill. It is out of compassion to those who seek Shiva that Shiva has chosen to reveal Himself as a hill visible to the eye. The seeker will obtain guidance and solace by staying near the hill”

It is true to say that all mountains inspire awe in the beholder, but this Mountain Arunachala does far more than that; even perfect strangers who know nothing about Arunachala are seized by its power and when they leave they go away rewarded.

B.M.N. Murthy

Created: Friday, April 11, 2008 11:44 A


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