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11.

Kamu Paatti / Kamakshi of Anathandapuram


Gurunatha, you are my sole refuge, you alone can protect me. By your grace may Amb
be gracious to me. By the power of your gracious words may I be blessed, I said. At once
Periyava gestured to me to stop. The pja was laid out. It had not been packed and stored
after the ritualistic worship was done. Leaving it as it was Periyava left for Thirupankoodu.
I continued to be there having daran. In the evening, Periyava returned.
sat, chit nandam. . .1 sat is Bhikandr2 chit is Dakimrti3and nandam, Natarja4.
This is the place where Nataraja danced his anandatandava.5
Periyava said this as he sat down at the pja after his snna on his return. He put away every thing and closed the pja altar. Then he went upstairs to rest.
I was anxious that Periyava should bless me with panckara6 in the morning. No one had
been initiated into the panckara those days. Among those such as I, who had been widowed
in girlhood, I was the first to receive the panckara. He blessed me with the panckara.
Periyava came after his bath and peeped out. He saw the picture I was worshiping and sat
down.
What do you want? Periyava asked me.
The panckara, nothing else, I said.
Sit down, said Periyava and told me to perform camana. This was followed by aganysa
and karanysa. Then Periyava gave me the panckara mantra. Valambals mother had told
me to request Periyava for a pair of pduks for worship. He said, Yes to this request. Then
I said, I want navkari!
Practise this mantra first, navaksari can come later!.
Then when he left the village, Periyava took off his pduks when he reached the river and
told my cousin - his name was Sama - Carry these pduks upon your head and give it to
your elder sister
Sivarama Sastri had gone to Thiruvenkadu7 where Periyava was camping. Periyava gave him
the guide used in the r Maha for ritualistic worship and said, Give this to Kamu and tell
her to follow the method of worship prescribed here. This went on for a while.
1

Existence, Consciousness, Bliss


Lit. Wandering mendicant, iva when he sought alms in the Druvana from the wives of sages; Part 26 of the
Brahmda Pura narrates this episode and the origin of the liga-image of iva
3
iva as celestial guru, seated under the banyan with the sages as his pupils
4
The blissfully dancing form of iva
5
Lit.the dance of divine ecstasy; Anandatandavapuram, so called because of the blissful dance performed here
by iva; Periyava performed Navartri pja in 1920 here & r ankara Jayanti in 1952.
several times during the course of his yatrs.
6
The Five-syllabled mantra, iva-Panckara, "namah ivyah"
7
Town near Sirkazhi in Tami Naduwith the ancient temple of Swetarya, renowned for its sculpture and
temple tank architecture; the aditnam ri Paramasivendra Sarasvat (Guru of Sadiva Brahmendra), the 57th
Pontiff of the Kmakoi Piha is located here
2

In the Presence of the Divine


2
My thoughts were always on Periyava. I wanted to have his daran, offer bhika to him and
so on. Nothing else came to my mind. Periyava had sent through the Sastri some instructions
for me.
For forty-five days Kamu may chant the panckara mantra and do nothing else. She may
take milk twice a day. None must see her. Let her mother place the milk near her room at
night! So I did just that.
During that period I had many visions. At times Ambs face would appear decorated
with a nose-ring, at times smiling at me, or at times Periyavas face would appear with a
smile. When all this happened, everyone at home said that I was becoming deranged in mind.
They were very unhappy about it and submitted the matter to Periyava, to which he replied,
She is intelligent. She is well and nothing is wrong with her. These are nothing to worry
about. I shall take care of her.
It was after this that bhika and pdapja were offered to Periyava. The adoption I adopted
a boy came the next year.
Periyava was camping in Madhyrjuna8. I had rented a place and kept house there as
my younger brother studied there both Krishnamurthi and Ganesan were with me.
Periyavas younger brother, the g Vedic scholar, Sambhamurthi Sastri - Kumju Sastri stayed across the road. Periyava would direct devotees to our place to have their meal,
Rajamani mama and so many others. When things were such, I needed money to run the
house. Do you get money by closing and opening your hands? What could I do? I would cry
the whole day, not knowing what to do. That was when the Ati Rudram was held there9. You
would have heard about that. I used to wear a sphatika mla10those days. Arasangattu Sivan
who came to Tiruvidaimarudur told me that he had lost his sphatika mla and asked for mine.
At once I gave him mine. Somehow Periyava seems to have noticed this. So he sent
Ramajeyam to me with an instruction.
Go and ask Kamu to show you her sphatika mla. Dont tell her that I sent you on this
errand. Ask her casually about it.
So Ramajeyam told me that he wanted to see my sphatika mla and I replied, I have given it
away to Sivan Arasangattu Sivan.
I so much wanted to see Periyava. In those days, rules were very strict and I could not
move about freely and come out as I pleased11. It was then that Melur Mama gave me a
picture of Periyava the old one, of Periyava doing pja to Tripurasundari Candramoui, in
8

Tiruviaimarudr or Madhyrjuna in Tajvr District ; Mallikrjuna at raila in Kurnool district in


Andhra Pradesh and Purjuna in Tiruppuaimarudr, Tirunelveli district, all three have the Arjuna
(Terminalia arjuna or White Marudah) as their sacred tree; named after the epic hero because of the trees
curative value for coronary artery disease apart from its several other medicinal properties.
9
During Periyavas camp in Tiruviaimarudr (16-2-1949 to 26-2-1949) Ati Rudram was performed; the
narrator was 85 years of age in 2013 when this narrative was video-recorded.
10
a rope of crystal beads worn on the neck and used during japa to keep count
11
The narrator is referring to the severe restrictions imposed upon widows, refers to widows who generally wear
coarse cloth, shave their heads and live a life of intense spiritual practice and discipline.

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3
black and white and I began to worship that. Meenamba, Nila, Valambas mother,
Dharmamba, Pattu, Pushpa, everyone would go for darsan. I would sit inside the house and
cry the whole day bemoaning my fate and yearning for his darsan. Periyava had instructed
that we read the ry Satakam12. Within five days I committed the whole of it to memory. I
continued to perform pja to the picture13. It was during this time that Periyava visited
Anathandapuram.14
It was decided that the village as a whole would offer bhika to Periyava and that this
would be done at Ganesaiyer, Dharmabals house. I yearned to offer bhika to Periyava at our
residence, and so I asked my mother if we could offer bhika to Periyava at home. How could
we manage it? My mother spoke to Anna Kutti who asked Aghoram about it. Aghoram told
my mother that bhikavandana could be done if fifty rupees were paid. That would take care
of the days expenses. How could my mother manage so much of money? Just then, a friend
who had given my mother some valuables and borrowed fifty rupees, came home, paid back
the loan and took back the valuables. So my mother sent the money to Aghoram through
Amma Kutti and the bhika was arranged. Periyava came and the bhikavandana was done in
a grand manner.
Periyava was seated in the cattle shed and everyone was there, the bhika was offered,
but I stayed inside the inner apartment. My presence was not accepted there. But I could
watch the pja and I saw Periyava performing Candramouwara pja fully. I was so anxious
to get Periyavas blessings and was hoping that he would give me the panckara mantra
early next morning. My mother made a prayer and offered an umbrella and a lamp with the
bhika. She told Periyava, Periyava must be gracious to my family. All must be well. My
daughter wants to be blessed with daran. She has been weeping all the time
Krishnamurthi Sastri said, In our caste it is not acceptable that such people come forward for
daran.
Periyava never liked the words our caste. He did not like listening to these words at any
time. So he gestured to Krishnamurthi to leave and said, She may come! Rasamma, our
neighbor escorted me and I went forward and prostrated to Periyava
My father had gone to Kasi on a pilgrimage taking his mother my grandmother
with him. Periyava said, when my father returned, Is there anything else equal to your good
fortune? You have taken to your mother to Kuruketra on the day of solar eclipse. Seshu took
his mother on a pilgrimage to Kasi, by aeroplane, but he was not blessed with such good
fortune. Yours is equal to what the five Pandava brothers got. Having said all this, Periyava
finally remarked, So you do not go to Kasi after all! When my father returned home and
told us about it, my mother understood the implication of the words. My father being a simple
man could neither understand what Periyava said nor give him a reply. She said Periyava had
12

riMka Pacaati: Lit.Five Hundred Hymns on Goddess Kmki; In five sections of 100verses each: ry
atakam, Pdravinda atakam, Mandasmita atakam, Katka atakam, and Stuti atakam; Composed byri
Mka ankara / Mkha Kavi / lit. Dumb Poet, r Mkha ankarendra Sarasvat, approximately placed
between398 A.D. and 437 A.D the 20th carya of the ri Knchi Kmakoti Ptha.
13
The narrator is not narrating the events sequentially.
14
The section narrated in the beginning would sequentially fit in here.

In the Presence of the Divine


4
made such a remark because my father had not brought back Ganges water and offered it to
Periyava. So my parents went to Thirukadaiyur15 and invited Periyava to come to
Anathandapuram for bhika on a somavra amvsya16. Tiruvisainallur Sridhana Ayyval17
invoked the Ganges in the well in his house and the holy river came surging up on that day.
So that is how Periyava came to our village on an amvsya which fell in a Monday. His
presence made the waters in our well sacred.
Periyava asked my mother, Is the Ganges all for me? when he came on
Gangvataraa day. With due chanting of Rudram and Chamakam18, the holy waters from the
well, in the form of Ganges on that day, were poured in abhiseka over Periyava. Appakutti
Sastri and all the others, about fifteen of them were there with Periyava on the day he visited
our village. Each one of them was gifted with metal pot that held the consecrated waters
each pot could cook a quarter measure of rice - by my parents. Our Rajamani Mama told
Periyava Kamu swims in this well. Periyava retorted, How can anyone swim in this well?
You can float in it.
It was during this visit that I prayed for panckara and Periyava gave it to me. I was
then twenty years of age. The adoption was done the following year Chitrabhnu,
Bahudnya, Vikrama, Pramodi, Vikroti19. Yes, the following year. I began to live in
Tiruvidaimarudur with Krishnamurthi and Vaitha, they were studying there. I spent my days
keeping house, looking after these children, circumambulating the Aswatha tree and having
Mahligaswmis daran. Soon after this I won the case and got all this wealth.
Could she speak in court? Periyava asked.

15

Amritaghatewara Thirukkadaiyur/ Thirukadavr (Thiru (Auspicious/ r ) kada (ghata) vr (place), 21 km


East of Mayiladuthurai in Tamil Nadu India; Associated with iva as Mrityunjaya (Conqueror of Death), saving
his child-devotee Markandeya from death and with the saint Abirami Bhattar, a devotee of the presiding goddess
Abhirami, whose manifested miracles to proclaim his greatness; nearly 2000 years old, the temple has drawn
paeans from the foremost of the aivite apostles.
16
Monday in the month of Karthika (November-December) coinciding with the last day of the waning fortnight
17
Sridhara Venkatesa Dkitar (16351720), popularly known as Aiyyav, saint and composer of
Thiruvisanallur village,of theTanjavur Maratha kingdom;a contemporary of ri Bodhendra Sarasvat and
Sadiva Brahmendra; invoked the river Ganga which rose in the well in his house - Gangvataraa - Karthika
amvsya after a ten day celebration, when thousands of devotees assemble to take a dip in the holy waters; ri
Bodhendra Sarasvat, Aiyyav and r Marudanallur Sadguru Swamigalare remembered together for their
propogation of chanting and singing of divine names as the most suitable spiritual regimen for these times.
18
The r Rudram, also known as ata Rudryam or Rudra Pranam, occurs in Krna Yajur Veda in the
Taithirya samhita in the 4th and 7th chapters & has two parts - the Namakam (verses ending with nama) and the
Chamakam (Verses ending with cha may) each with eleven sections, both chanted during abhieka of ivaliga.
Namakam is a prayer to Rudra to give up his avenging, fearful form and assume a peaceful form and bless the
devotee & Chamakam is a listing out of the blessings to be got from Rudra and prays to Him to regulate and
bless our life for a moment forgetting his anger. This too is in eleven parts. Rudra ekdasini, where after
chanting r Rudram, the 1st anuvka of Chamakam is chanted, again after chanting Rudram the 2 nd anuvka of
Chamakam is chanted and so on till the 11th chanting of Rudram is followed by 11th anuvka of Chamakam; in
Laghu Rudram, Rudra ekadasin is repeated 11 times; In Mah Rudram, Laghu Rudram is chanted 11 times & in
Ati Rudram, Mah Rudram is chanted 11 times.
19
Some of the Sanskrit names of 60 year calendar-cycle.

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Just as Draupadi who was dragged to the court was protected by Krishna, so too I was
protected by Periyava. I have come out of the ordeal. If I win the case I shall offer 15 kalam20
of rice grain to Periyava, if I lose the case, I pray that I may be blessed to live peacefully in
Govindapuram21 chanting Ramanma and taking gruel once a day.
I did win and so offered fifty kalams of rice grain to the Maha, ten for Periyavas bhika and
five for the Candramouwara pja. Mayavaram Kunjitapadam took care of the case for me.
(What about the honey-gooseberry?)
Yes, honey-gooseberry. It was at Mangudi. Nayampadi Pillai offered four large measures of
the big sized gooseberry, each so big and fine, you cannot see such a variety ever again.
Periyava was sitting in the verandah and sent for me.
Do you know how to preserve gooseberry in honey?
I can learn if I am told, I replied.
Periyava called Melur Mama and instructed him to tell me the recipe. It has to be done like
this. You have to take the thorn from the bamboo bush iron nails should not be used and
pierce the gooseberry, each one of them. Then the fruit must be soaked in honey. The honey
separates into a thin liquid. This must be strained and poured away. The gooseberry should be
dried in the sun. Then again the gooseberry should be soaked in fresh honey. Now the drying
process starts after soaking it in honey for several days. Each day it is dried in the sun and
poured back into the honey in the evening, till it absorbs all the honey, till it turns black like
jmun fruit and is dry.
So we brought back the gooseberry home to prepare it. Now we needed honey. Rasamma
said, I shall give a hundred rupees, you give another hundred and we shall send Srinivasan
to get the honey.
When Srinivasan went for honey, a man was sitting there with a big tin of fresh honey as if he
were waiting for him.
Do you want to buy honey, he seems to have asked! So the gooseberry was prepared just as
I was instructed. It filled a huge jar. Periyava was camping nearby in the Zamin that was
near Dharmapuram what was the Zamin called....? He was seated in the garden. He told
Narayanaswami to tell Janaki to fetch the gooseberry preserve. So it was put in a cart and
taken to Periyava who looked at it and said that it was done perfectly and added, Take it
back home and fetch it when I ask for it. Later when Periyava went to Kanchipuram he
asked for it and it was taken there and handed over to him. Unless he asks for something
himself and wills to accept it, it is not possible for you to make an offering to him. It is only
20

Roughly 8 large measure is a kalam in the Tamil table of grain measurement


A village near Kumbakonam, wherein is located the aditnam ri Bhagavannma Bodhendra Sarasvat, the
60th Pontiff of the Kmakoi Piha who established and spread the path of Nma samkrtana or chanting and
singing the names of the Lord as a means to salvation.
21

In the Presence of the Divine


6
by his grace that you can give him something. This is how we offered Periyava puffed ricegrain.
It is only here in Anathandapuram that rice grain was cleaned and roasted so well to
make puffed rice-grain for Periyavas bikha nowhere else. The grain would be cleaned
once and then gain for the second time, then separated to cull out full grain that was not
broken at the tip. Then slow roasted and puffed.Two sacks would be readied and stacked in
the hall here. You must admit Thirumalams role How promptly he would come, once in
every two months. Periyava would say danda and pinda22 because Janakiramaiyer would
supply the danda at regular intervals. Puffed rice-grain would be sent from here for
nourishment. So Periyava would jocularly say that he got this danda for his asceticism and
food to sustain his pinda.
Once it so happened that the stock of puffed rice-grain had almost got over. Srikantan
was very worried. If Periyava was told that there was no puffed rice-grain then he would give
it up altogether. He will never again touch it. That was when two bags of puffed rice-grain
were taken to be offered for his bhika. Srikantan did not want it to be brought into the
Maha, in front of Periyava. He did not want Periyava to know of it. So it was carried in
through the back door. It was Periyava himself who had arranged for the puffed-rice to be
brought especially that day, after all! That day about thirty Vedic scholars from Andhra had
come there. They were chanting the Veda, literally shaking the place with their voices.
Periyava wanted large leaf-cups to be made!
Rinse puffed rice-grain and put it into a big vessel. Add some milk and curd. Spice it with
chopped cucumber, ginger and raw mango pieces. Saute green chillies and make a chutney of
it to serve as a side dish!
So the puffed rice-grain and green chilli chutney were served to the Vedic scholars. Now is it
possible for us to feed so many Vedic scholars? 23
[What about sajtyam and vijtyam?]
That! You have to explain the terms correctly. One day a learned stri was explaining these
terms. He went on and on for three hours. A certain gentleman had come to explain how
sugar was refined, another had come to explain how silk thread was prepared and yet another
had come to explain how honey was extracted. They were, all three of them, waiting for their
turn. The stri seemed determined not to let go off the chance to discourse. He went on and
on. His lecture seemed endless. Finally Periyava said, You have spoken for three hours. I
have understood what you have said, but these people have not. What did you wish to say
22

The staff held by the ascetic; Pinda is a piece/portion of some thing; refers to the body as part of the divine
whole; also refers to the food offerings of balls of cooked-rice and barley flour mixed with ghee and black
sesame seeds offered to ancestors during funeral rites made to the dead; hence both the body and its sustenance
are referred to as pinda here, with special significance since Periyava is talking of his body, and its food, as an
ascetic; pinda is offered only to the dead; food given to the living is not referred to as pinda; here Periyava is
referring to his bhika.
23
Vaidiks prefer to cook their own meal or accept a cooked meal only if especially cooked for them following
all the prescribed injunctions of orthodoxy

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you wished to explain the terms sajtyam and vijtyam.24 Let us say that there is a tree.
The leaf, flower and fruit, are all parts of the tree. The leaves are all green. This is
sajtyam. Beneath the tree is an idol of Rama, green in colour and on the branch of the tree
is a parrot which is also green in colour. Now the green of the leaf which is part of the tree is
sajtyam, the green of the parrot, apart from the tree is vijtyam and the green idol of Rama
which of course stands for Iwara, which means, that the greenness or source is one but
differentiation occurs in functional identity. In krana or the root cause, there is oneness and
in krya or function there is differentiation25. Is this what you wish to explain? The stri
fell down flat in prostration.
Then the three gentlemen who were waiting began to explain their work.The
gentleman who had come to explain how sugar was refined said, We heard that Periyava
advises that refined sugar should not be used. We refine the sugar with chemicals, not with
cattle-bone as was popularly misunderstood, and went on to elaborately explain the process.
At the end of it Periyava accepted it and was convinced. The gentlemen who explained the
process of honey extraction next presented his case.
How do you do it? Periyava asked. Do you pour hot water on the bees?
We use a machine nowadays. The bees are allowed to fly away and then the honey is taken,
said the gentleman. His explanation was also satisfying to Periyava, but no matter how
earnestly the gentleman who spoke about preparing silk presented his case, Periyava did not
accept it. The gentleman said the silk-worms that were alive were all let off and only the dead
ones were used to prepared silk thread, and the thread thus taken was known as ahimsa
silk26. But Periyava said, A time will come when silk becomes dear. It cannot be accepted.
Then the incident at Choolaimedu. Must I narrate that also?
[Yes]
That was in the year when Maadi Mama27died. It was in Choolaimedu, at
Thiagarajas house. You know Periyava would allot a hut for us 28. Janaki was put up in a hut.
She wanted to offer bhika, but Periyava said, A year has not ended after Maadi Mamas
death. So you cannot offer bhikavandana.29
You may perform padapja said Periyava.
So Janaki procured almonds and three hundred roses. She called me and told me to
take care of the almond halwa. So I was busy making it. Many devotees who had come for
24

Sameness and difference


The essence of Advaita
26
Lit. non-violent silk
27
lit. the upstairs uncle
28
Periyava always ensured that thatched huts were put up for devotees such as this narrator so that they could
lodge safely when they came for daran and also practice their spiritual regimen without disturbance
29
For one year following the death of a member of the family, monthly rites are performed for the dead and
visits and ceremonial worship at temples as well as festivities are eschewed; they are resumed after the first
annual ceremony for the dead person is held
25

In the Presence of the Divine


8
daran had left, seven or eight of them had stayed back. That was when Thiagarajan came
forward and prostrating to Periyava said, I am going to write the Railway exams it is called
IRS, isnt it Periyava must be gracious and bless me that I pass in the first division scoring
hundred marks!
Periyava asked in reply Who are you?
Thiagarajan replied he was from Mozhaiyur.
Periyava told Janaki Go and send her here.
I was busy stirring the halwa. So when I got the command I washed my hands and
hurried to Periyavas presence. The book wrongly says that I came washing my hands after
my meal! Periyava pointed Thiagu to me and asked me who he was. He says he is from
Mozhaiyur, Periyava said. I did not know who the young man was.
So you too dont know him said Periyava
He is Lakshmis son I ventured.
How do you say that?
He resembles his elder sister and mother, I replied.
Do you know who this is? Periyava asked Thiagarajan and he admitted that he did not
know me.
The daughter of Poornas house.
I have heard that being mentioned said Thiagarajan.
Look, she gets hundred marks. If you too reply precisely you will also get a hundred marks
and my blessings
He was Vishnupurams wifes sisters son.
[The incident about piling fire-wood on someone who was asleep?]
That happened in Kuttalam. A grand painapravesa30 took place. When it was over
Periyava went in towards the thatched shed for his morning ablutions. The man who fetched
water or him was fast asleep in the inner courtyard, besides the firewood and dried cow-dung
cakes. Periyava called out to him and then when he saw the man lying fast asleep placed
firewood on all sides as if the man were sleeping on a cot and then taking some cow-dung
cakes neatly arranged them all over the man, covering even his face, and went away. Periyava
fetched the water himself. Later when the man woke up and realizing the state he was in, he
was enraged. He gave vent to his fury.

30

During visits, ceremonial welcome and reception by townsfolk when Periyava is taken around the main roads
in a palanquin in the evening/night; done in the early years

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Who did this? Just you wait I wont let go of him. Let me tell Periyava. Ill finish off the
fellow.
He went straight up to Periyava and submitted his complaint barely disguising his anger.
Periyava listened to him and then asked, What if I had done it?
Periyava will not do such a thing
I did. You see, you were so tired and were in such deep sleep. Besides the sun was
beginning to fall upon your face. I covered you up with the cow-dung cakes and firewood
because no one would look for you there and disturb you
The man went away quite satisfied he was that boy you know those two sisters
elder to Venkataraman, son of one of the sisters. There was another man called Kottangadu.
He too would carry water for Periyava. Periyava would call out to him Kottangadu
Kottangadu It was Krishna all over again. These scenes of prank are always fresh in the
mind.
[What about the time when coins appeared on a plate?]
Oh! That was in Chinna Kanchipuram. Periyava asked Rajamani Mama, Do you the seven
kinds of Nttai?.
I know two. Nttai and Gambhra Nattai31
Not that, the other seven. Bhgavata Nttai Kthu Nttai, Ntaka Nttai, Bhajana Nttai. . .
Periyava listed out all the seven kinds of Nttai and sat smiling quietly. Rajamani Mama,
Chellamma and I were there. A Pitambharam32 arrived. A doctor couple had brought their
daughter who was refusing to get married
You must get married said Periyava.
No!
Why not?
If I say I will not, I just wont!
If I say you must, you should retorted Periyava in the same tone. Shortly afterwards the
girls marriage was fixed. That was what was interesting about the incident. Then this
Pitambaram. He claimed be could turn a piece of thread into a snake.
Periyava said Look here, you have come for money. You will get it. Take it and leave us.
We are not interested in your tricks. We know them all.
The man would not budge. Then Periyava told Chellamma to fetch an empty plate. Then she
was asked to fetch a piece of cloth and cover it there. She did so. Now remove the cloth,
31
32

Rgs in Carntic music


Rich upper garment; colloquially, refers to wandering magicians who dressed gaudily

In the Presence of the Divine


10
said Periyava and when Chellamma removed the piece of cloth, there were coins, kumkum,
vibhti, flowers and other such things on the plate. Periyava instructed Chellamma to drop
the one rupee coins into the hundi33 at the temple. The other things were distributed to us.
Go and get the money you want and go away Periyava told the man who left in a daze.
We are not interested in your snakes and lizards
We cannot speak of Periyava once and be done with it. The mind pivots around his memory
alone, it know nothing else.

At Thenampakkam thirty two Brahmins were invited34 and after their meal one by one
they came forward and Periyava made kind enquiries of them. It was during Guru ardhana.
Everyone had come up and received Periyavas blessings. Finally the last one came. Periyava
must have known that the gentlemen had lost his father not long ago and that his mother still
dressed her hair as before.
Are your parents well?
Father is no more
How is your mother? Is she sakei?35
Yes said the Brahmin in a sinking tone.
At once Periyava said Fetch thirty-two milk cows! Thirty two milk cows were brought
from the Matha.
Fetch white silk cloth for the cows said Periyava and soon each cow had a piece of white
silk on it.
Fetch silver for the hooves and gold for the horns, said Periyava and in no time silver and
gold also was brought and placed before him. Periyava instructed that a full meal, just like the
one offered to the Brahmins during ardhana be prepared. Thirty two leaves were spread and
the cows fed with the meal laid out in the leaves.
Drop the leaves in the pond said Periyava.
If Periyava is angry, neither the celestial king Indira or the Moon-God Chandra can go near
him. What can those such as us do? We can only prostrate to him, we cannot do anything
else.

33

Box for offerings


Ceremonial meal offered to Brahmins during the annual celebrations of the day of passing of the Pontiffs
master who are in that context known as rdhana Brahmins
35
Lit. with hair
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Volume 2/Article No.10/Anathandapuram Kamu Paatti


11
Once Periyava spotted Vittlur Paatti standing at a distance and said Is that Vittlur Paatti? Is
she planning to grow her hair?
No said the person who was besides Periyava. If she shaves her head then she will not be
able to have daran on the same day. She does not want to miss daran even for a day.
She may shave her head and see me from a distance, said Periyava.

When Varalakshmis wedding was fixed money was needed.


How much is necessary? asked Periyava
One lakh if it is a wedding held in a worldly manner. It will cost less if it is done in a Vaidik
manner I said
What is a worldly kind of celebration and what is a Vaidik wedding? asked Periyava.
A worldly celebration will have all sorts of fanfare and display of fireworks and a band and
a music concert and so on. A Vaidik marriage includes only the essential rituals, there is no
fanfare involved it seems, I replied.
Meenamba of Appu Vadhyars house said later You are the only one who replies to
Periyavas questions so well. One has to be careful when conversing with Periyava. You can
even speak in court, not in Periyavas presence. How can one describe what a lavish wedding
means to Periyava? Can you tell him people drink soda and so on? So I said there is a music
concert and band and so on and left it at that.

At Ilayathangudi, that was when a sadas was held36, the pdapja had been filmed and
Periyava watched it. It was very late at night, only one or two people were around. We had
gone as a big group. Everyone had fallen asleep. I was awake and heard the voice in the tape
from outside the room, where I was seated. Periyava bathed and came for the pja, saying
Who is here?
Kamu is here
Then he asked a gentleman who had been fast asleep what he thought of the tape. What could
the poor man say? He could reply only if he had seen or heard the tape after all. And you?,
Periyava asked me.
I heard it from here, I said.
Periyava knew every yoga to perfection. Once he sat in samdhi37 with his eyes this
big, open so wide you can show such a thing through trick photography in the cinema. It is
not possible in real life for the eyes to become like that. Nothing shook Periyava out of

36
37

the first ever Akhila Bhrata gama ilpa Kaldi Sadas convened by Periyava in 1962
the state of oneness with the divine

In the Presence of the Divine


12
samdhi. Finally two boys came and the chanting was like a heavy down pour of Jaa and
Ghana. It was only after that Periyava slowly returned to earthly consciousness.
We went to Satara for darsan, Saraswathi from the Kurichi family, Panchapakesaiyer
and I, the three of us. On the way we went for Pudu Periyavas daran. He was camping in
Thiruvottiyur in Chennai.
When you go to Maha Periyava, cry, said Pudu Periyava. If you cry and tell him that he
must come back to the Matha, he will, he said, and gave us prasda.
When we reached Pune, the gentleman in telephone office, told us that no one was allowed to
stay in Maha Periyavas camp. All the way from Pune to Satara I cried, while we rode in the
bus. Pudu Periyavas words became true after all and I cried so much. We had gone such a
long distance and if we were not going to be allowed to stay, what were we to do? Finally we
reached Satara. Vanchi Mama found us a room and we were to stay there reading Devi
Mahtmyam38.
Periyava was in kta mouna, not so much as a gesture. M.S. Subbulakshmi came to
offer the Annamayya39 songs which she had then recorded. She waited for three days and
then she handed over the tapes there and left saying When Periyava begins to talk, inform
me. Thiagarajan who later took sanys, that is Kodaikal Swami, was there. Then there was
another boy who came there, Vasanthan, who had passed Jaa and Ghana by the time he was
sixteen years of age. Chidambaram, another Vedic scholar came too. Through some gestures
Vasanthan was instructed to perform Sarasvat pja40. Some devotees from Bombay had
come and they were told to cook for a hundred people. Sarasvat pja was celebrated in a
grand manner. The next day was Vijayadasami41. I suddenly remembered Pudu Periyavas
words. So I said, Periyava must come back to the Maha. Who is to take care of everything
but for Periyava? Can the rice come to a boil without the cooking pot?
There was a gentleman, an auditor, there who said Who is this who is talking to Periyava so
freely? He insisted that we visit his residence.
Then Periyava came to Kurnool42 and then eventually returned to the Matha, not because I
requested him to, it was his will.
[What about solren skku?]

38

The Pura on the deeds and incarnations of the Divine Mother


Taapka Annamcrya /Annamayya (1408 1503); a 15th-century saint who composed songs called
sankrtans in lucid and simple Telugu and in Sanskrit in praise of the presiding deity at Tirumala-Tirupati,
Lord Venkateswara.
40
Falls on the 9th day of the waxing moon phase that immediately follows Mahlaya Amavsya or the last day
of waning moon in the month of Awin (Sept-Oct) when arad Navartri / MahNavartri is celebrated;the
other three Navartri celebrations are daNavartri / Guhya Navartri: July-August; Vasanta Navartri
celebrated in spring (March-April) and Vanni / Vana Navartri celebrated in the open, under a tree (Nov-Dec
41
Lit.Tenth day of Victory; following Sarasvat pja and considered auspicious to start learning
42
On 21-6-1983
39

Volume 2/Article No.10/Anathandapuram Kamu Paatti


13
That was here somewhere. Gudalur Sastri43 was expounding the Bhgavata. It was
almost six in the evening and there was no sign of him coming to a finish. Periyava pointed to
a bundle of sacks piled in front of them at a distance. So you are going on and on, not letting
go of the chance! said Periyava punning on the words 44 and told the gentleman to get up,
winding up his lecture.

It seems there is an underground place in Delhi.45 When Periyava was in Delhi, he


told Nageswaran, Sit here at the entrance and wait quietly. Dont be frightened. In a short
while as soon as Periyava uttered a mantra, his limbs became disjointed and his body was
lying in pieces, hands here, head there, legs there and so on. Ganesan was terrified, but sat
still because Periyava had told him to. After some time his limbs joined together and Periyava
got up and asked Ganesan What did you see?
Ganesan described what he had seen. Periyava said, That is the power of a particular
mantra and at once went to the Yamuna, consigned the mantra to the waters and came back
after a dip in the river.

Periyava was in the middle of the Bhya pha, with Vanchi Mama and a few others.
Ganesan came with Appulu and Ramachandraiyer, half-way through. No sooner did Periyava
sight them he said, Ganesa! I am waiting for you. Sit down. I am going to tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was a king. He grew a rose garden for his queen. But everyday
celestials would come and take away the flowers. The queen cried in disappointment because
she did not get any. So the king called the guards and said if you dont catch the culprit by
tomorrow you will lose your head said the king. What could the guard do? He needed to
save his life. So he caught a boy who stammered and could not speak well, stuffed some rose
flowers into his mouth, thrust a flower basket into his hands and pushed the boy into a caged
cart, closed it shut and handed him over to the king.
What have you got to say? asked the King
What am I to say, said the boy. I was going my way and these men caught me. They
pushed me into this trap, stuffed rose flowers into my mouth and thrust this flower basket into
my hands. This is all I know!
Now let me tell you another story.
There was once a priest at a Siva temple. One day he had to visit relatives in another
village. So he told his little son to worship the Sivalinga at the temple the next day and left on
43

The revered Gudalur Brahmar Ramakrishna Sastrigal; exponent on Vedas, Dharma astrs, Purs,
Mantra and Yantra astrs.
44
In Tami skku; also means opportunity; Periyava is punning on the word
45
The place is not recalled correctly

In the Presence of the Divine


14
his visit. The boy went to the temple and saw that the dhoti used to drape on the sivalinga
was drying above it. The boy looked upon the sivalinga as the Lord himself. So not wanting
to climb on it directly, he put a banana peel on the sivalinga and then put his foot upon it. He
slipped and went crashing down. When his father came home the boy told him all about it.
The father said, Let the village folk think that it is the Lord, for us it is but a stone after all to
be washed!
Now if you bring these people in the middle of the Bhya pha what sense will it make to
them? asked Periyava. It is better that they listen to a few tales, I thought, said Periyava to
Ramadurai.

One could go on talking about Periyavas glory. I have but one prayer now. I was
widowed when I was sixteen. All these years of my life I have spent in thoughts of Periyava,
taking sole refuge in him. My only prayer is that my end comes well, so that I do not trouble
anyone. I pray that I reach his divine feet when my end comes.
That is all I want.
chinty avyaktarupya nirgunaya gutmane
samasta jagaddharamrtaye Brahmae nama46.
In Thanjavur, Periyava and Pudu Periyava were coming in a grand procession. There
were two sets of ndaswaram artists playing that day. You can never again hear such divine
music. It was as if music had manifested itself for Periyava. What with the ndaswaram and
the tavil and all that! I followed the procession moving this way and that so that I could see
Periyava. Periyava said, Kamu is coming in procession with music and fanfare!
[The narrator laughs in joy.]
***************************************************************************

46

Meditating on the one without attributes, without qualities and with qualities
On the one that is the support of all creation, the Brahman, I salute.