Childhood and renunciation

The 30th of December,1879, was an auspicious day on the Hindu calendar. It was the day of Ardra-Darshanam, a day when the image of Lord-Shiva in his dancing form is taken out in a procession every year in celebration of His grace.In the village of Tirucculi, in Madurai district, in southern India a second child was born on this day to Alagammal and Sundaram Aiyer. He was named Venkataraman.

Venkataraman had a normal childhood.. His father died when he was just twelve years, after which he went to live with his paternal uncle at Madurai.The most unusual thing about him as a boy was his sleep. He would go into such deep sleep that all the boys who wanted to get even with him would carry him to a distant place and beat him without him even realising it.


It was when he was sixteen that Venkataraman met a relative and when asked where he had come from, the realtive replied ‘Arunachala’. The word excited him and overwhelmed he wanted to know where it was. The answer he got was that ‘Tiruvannamalai’ was ‘Arunachala’.

Soon he came across a copy of ‘Periyapuranam’ of ‘Sekkilar’ which is a Tamil book consisting of the lives of Saivite saints. Reading this book filled him with ecstasy and left Venkataraman with a longing to emulate the saints.Venkataraman had a profound spiritual experience when he was seventeen which changed everything for him. For no apparent reason he was filled with the fear of death. At that time he was in perfect health and nothing was wrong with him. Gripped with fear that he might die he underwent the experience which he narrated later.

He said to himself..Now death has come, what does it mean? Who is it that dies? The body dies.And at once he lay down stretching himself, holding his body stiff and holding his breath as if in death. He said to himself Well, this body is now dead. It will be carried to the burning ground and reduced to ashes. But with the death of the body, am I dead? Am I this body? It is silent and inert but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of ‘I’ within me apart from it. So I am the spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the spirit transcending it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless spirit.

All this reasoning was not thought. Realisation came to him in a flash, truth was perceived by him directly. All of a sudden the boy became a saint full of self-awareness. ‘I’ to him was the only real thing. Fear of death had vanished. He grew utterly indifferent to his sorroundings and way of life.He prefered to be alone absorbed in the Divine Reality.

Self contemplation



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