Chitappa ( uncle) Venkatraman as he is known in the neighbourhood and his siblings Santhanam Gopal and Sundara Ramanan are the grandsons of Subbu Aiyyar ( Subbaiyar) the paternal uncle of none other than Bhagavan Ramanar of Thiruvannamalai!
News Today’s exclusive interaction with Ramanar’s descendants who have chosen a low-profile existence brings out stories that were waiting to be told. Venkatraman, the eldest of the three brothers delves into his memories to begin at the beginning.
‘In 1879, on the Ardra day, the Nataraja idol at the temple at Tiruchuzhi was being taken out with all the attendant ceremonies and just as it was about the procession was about to re-enter, Venkataraman (Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi) was born. After the demise of his father, he came to live with my grandfather Subbaiyyar who took care of him,’ he tells us.
When did he first meet Ramanar? we ask and he says, ‘I was in class three or four when I first visited his ashram in Thiruvannamalai. It was quite a long stay of about 45 days. I saw Ramanar walking with a stick.
He blessed us but did not speak to us. I had wished to ask him about the imbalances and inequalities in the society. I was curious to know how he reply to my question but my father did not allow me. That remains an unanswered question till date.
And what memories did he bring away from the visit to his periyappa (uncle)Ramanar’s ashram?
‘I must tell you that I never had the opportunity of addressing him as periyappa. What made become his admirer was the way he treated everybody. He would sit and dine with everyone irrespective of their caste and creed. I was spellbound by his simplicity, his sense of equality and his compassion for his fellow beings.’
‘It was only after the 80’s that I became an ardent devotee of Ramanar. I did not have any spiritual inclination till then. Then in 1981 during one of my visits to Ramanashram I was stirred spiritually during a dhyanam(meditation).
I realized what I had to do then. Ramanar also diverted me to the Baba of Shirdi in whom I have a lot of faith,’ Venkataraman continues his trip down memory lane.
In a voice choking with emotion he says,’ I still remember what my aunt said to me when as I sat beside her one day, 'Wherever you are remember to visit the Ashram atleast once a year,’ she had said. She is no more now but I have honoured her wishes ever since. I had visited Thiruvannamalai with my friend Subramaniam every month for five years from 1990-95. I continue to go there at least once a year now.
And meeting Yogiram Suratkumar at Tiruvannamalai was an experience of a lifetime for him.’ It was in 1994 that I happened to meet the sadhu, the simplest baba the world has ever seen. I did not have any intention of speaking to him but at a point I just prostrated before him. He patted my shoulders and asked me what it was that I sought. But I just stood there speechless.’
We listen on as his focus shifts to his life.‘I worked for a bank for many years. My existence has kept flowing like a deep stream. There were whirlpools of all kinds, frustrations... as every other ordinary man faces in his life.
But after I was touched by the eternal power through Ramanar’s grace devotion, love, peace and bliss have engulfed me. His methods did not rely on miracles or superstitions but on the path of self-enquiry and grace.’
There is no mistaking the glow that comes from being touched by the divine as we leave him with his sacred memories. Contact Venkatraman @ 22244712.