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Monday, 11 November 2013

Sri Chakra Drawing by Sri Ramana Maharshi

VENUAMMAL was the youngest child born to Sri Arunachalam and Srimati Kalyani in 1888 in the Tamil Nadu village of Mandakolathur, which is about 35 kilometers from Tiruvannamalai. She was the youngest of five children – three brothers and one sister. Her elder sister was Echammal, the well-known devotee of Bhagavan who after the tragic death of her husband, son and daughter in quick succession took refuge in Bhagavan in 1906 and who prepared food for him daily for forty years.

Venuammal was about seven years younger than her sister Lakshmiammal (Echammal) and also had her own tragedies. She was married at the age of nine, had a daughter, Balakuchambal, at the age of fourteen and lost her husband at the age of fifteen. It is unthinkable now that at such a tender age so much domestic cares and responsibilities could be thrust upon such a young girl, but that was the ways of this ancient Indian culture for thousands of years. So at the age of fifteen in 1903 Venuammal was widowed with a one-year-old daughter.

She was fortunate in that she received help from her late husband’s family, her parents and her brothers in Mandakolathur. It is believed that she moved back to her home village after the death of her husband and remained there until sometime after her daughter was married.

Venuammal’s daughter Balakuchambal was ten years old in 1912 when she married Sri Ramasesha Iyer, who was a sincere devotee of Bhagavan. He was employed by the Revenue Department in Tiruvannamalai and in other towns of the North Arcot District. Echammal was already living in Tiruvannamalai and had devoted her life to the service of Bhagavan and his devotees. Venuammal at some point followed her daughter to Tiruvannamalai and naturally fell into the same stream of life that her sister was in and became a staunch devotee of the Master. She served the devotees much like her sister. When Bhagavan’s mother came to live him on the hill, she naturally gravitated towards her and served her diligently. Alagammal loved Venuammal so much that she used to tell others that she was like a daughter to her. Venuammal served her tirelessly during her last illness and was constantly by her side. Venuammal can be seen sitting with Alagammal in the 1920 photo below.

In October 1920, Venuammal was very happy when her daughter gave birth to her first child, Rajalakshmi. But her happiness was again derailed when her daughter Balakuchambal suddenly died two and half years later. On the day of the death of her daughter, Venuammal was completely devastated. She decided to go straight to Bhagavan to lay bare her grief. It was the year 1923 and the Ashram had already moved down the hill to its present location. Since it was night and dark she sought the company Jnanambal Patti who walked with her from the town down the dark road to Ramanasramam with the help of a kerosene hurricane lamp while the dead body of her daughter lay in her home. Reaching the Ashram at 11 P.M. Venuammal fell at Bhagavan’s feet weeping uncontrollably. Standing alongside Bhagavan was his younger brother, Niranjananda Swami. He expressed his displeasure that Venuammal came there at that time of night and fell at Bhagavan’s feet weeping about a purely worldly matter. To Niranjananda Swami’s comments Bhagavan asked him if it was his sister weeping here before them now under same circumstances would he speak to her like that?

Bhagavan shared Venuammal’s grief and consoled her by explaining that the purpose for which her daughter was born into this world was over and so she had to leave the world. Moreover Bhagavan said that only the body dies and not the Atman which is deathless. Deeply comforted by Bhagavan’s genuine concern, gracious words and love she returned home.

From that time on Venuammal took the full responsibility of raising her granddaughter, Rajalakshmi, who can be seen in the 1928 photo below. Rajalakshmi presently lives with her sons in Chennai, and even at her advanced age she is great source of inspiration to devotees. Inspiring details of her childhood and close association with Bhagavan was published in the April and October 2008 issues of the Mountain Path. In those articles we read of the special care and attention Bhagavan gave to Rajalakshmi. Certainly, in the same manner, Venuammal received Bhagavan’s love and attention, though not much has been recorded.

One recent proof of this was the discovery of a beautiful pencil-colored Sri Chakra drawn by Bhagavan for Venuammal, probably around the year 1920. She had it framed and worshipped it daily till in her old age she was unable to do so. At that point she passed it on to her grand daughter Rajalakshmi who continued its worship until she became aged. Rajalakshmi then gave it over to her eldest son Sri Lakshmikanthan Arunachalam, who kindly made it available to us by allowing the Ashram photographic archivist, Sri V.Karthik, to take it to his Chennai studio and have it professionally scanned. Venuammal continued to live in Tiruvannamalai even after Bhagavan’s Mahanirvana. When she became weak with age she moved in with Rajalakshmi in Chennai for sometime and ultimately breathed her last at the age of 77 at her brother Sri Janakirama Iyer’s house in Vilapakkam. It was the same place that Echammal’s ashes were brought after her passing.

Sri Janakirama Iyer was the father of Chellammal whom Echammal adopted and brought up in Tiruvannamalai and whom Bhagavan loved so much. There are many incidents written about her in the Ashram liturature. Echammal brought up Chellammal’s son, popularly known as K. V. Mama, under the same circumstances as Rajalakshmi. He is also seen in the above 1928 group photo.

Courtesy: via Shri Syama Sastri

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