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10.

Ponds Mama
My name is Narayanan, known as Ponds Narayanan. I am now seventy seven
completed, running seventy eight1. I was born in the Bhava year, 1934. My native village is
Perunthottam, one and a half kilometers from Tiruvenkadu2. When I was about five or six
years old I began to live in my maternal uncless house in Sirkazhi and went to school there,
since my father passed away. That was for a year and a half. My elder sister Nagalakshmi
took me away to Dindivanam. Her husband worked in Rallis India Company. I was put in
the American Arcot Mission High school, the school Maha Periyava went to as a child.
I first saw Periyava in 1960-61 in Sunguvarchattram. Periyava was camping in a very
old, huge and dilapidated choultry on the main road. Periyava was camping there during
ivartri. My sister, known as Bombay Nagalakshmi, took her elder son and me to Periyava.
I was about twenty-six years of age. My sister Nagalakshmi was the youngest of six
daughters and I the youngest of six sons, my parents had twelve children. At that time, my
sisters family suffered grinding poverty. We had already seen such difficult days, so much
of poverty! Her son had only then begun to work and slowly we saw better times. My
nephew joined as stenographer at Tatas after this visit. I do not know from whom she learnt
of Periyava. She was the first in our family to surrender at the feet of Periyava.
My sister Nagalakshmi took us to Periyavas presence in Sunguvarchattram. My
nephew prostrated to Periyava. My sister said This is my son. We have struggled through
very difficult times. Periyava must be gracious to him. He was very successful
professionally and today his sons are millionaires. I prostrated next. My sister said, No one
in our family knows about Periyava. At least this boy must be blessed with devotion! I do
not know what passed through her mind. This is what she said. I was already married and
father of three daughters of whom the eldest and youngest are deaf and dumb since birth. I
was struggling to make ends meet. My sister did not mention any of these matters to Periyava
and seek Periyavas blessings. Spontaneously she prayed that Periyava bless me with
surrender and devotion. Periyava raised his hand and blessed me.
From then on, I began to visit Periyava frequently. Four or five years later, Periyava
once asked me Are you coming to me because of your daughters? I said No Periyava, I
come for Periyavas own sake, for Periyavas grace. Since I surrendered to Periyava I have
been relieved of my anxiety of them. It is as the Lord wills!
Periyava would talk to me in a relaxed way. He would not speak like that with others.
Those were trying times and I pulled along somehow. Periyava would send word for me
through one particular gentleman called Sukkal and no one else. I would receive the message
that I was commanded to his presence that day. I had a small job in Ponds Company. My
office would close at five. I would return home, bathe and taking a spare dhoti and towel in a
1

Ponds Mama attained the Lotus Feet of Maha Periyava in July, 2012.
Periyava visited the adinam of the 57th Pontiff of Sri Kmakoi pha, Sri Parmasivendra Saraswathi at
Tiruvenkadu in Sirkazhi taluk, towards the close of 1920.
2

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In the Presence of the Divine
little bag, go for Periyavas daran. I hardly had any money. I did not know anything else
except that I had to go. Mine was a small job. On one occasion I left for daran and reached
Sunguvarchattram at night I had managed to get a lift in a lorry - and it was drizzling
steadily. Periyava was camping in a place three kilometers away. I did not know what to do.
I woke up a young man sleeping in the tea-shop. I requested him to take me doubles in his
cycle offering him some money. We barely went up one kilometer when the cycle tube
punctured. So the two of us walked, with the young man pushing his bicycle along. There
were no street lights. It was about one thirty, well past midnight, when we reached there.
Periyava was sitting up asking the attendants Has Narayanan come yet? For more an hour
Periyava conversed with me. I left after that, came home and got ready to reach office in
time, at eight-thirty.
Periyava would talk to me freely, about the ytra and the situations there. One would
forget everything that Periyava said, it would simply go out of ones mind. Periyava said,
You will forget all that I say! Periyava has never spoken about his purvrama, his parents
or siblings. Whatever he said pertained to his life as a sanysi, his ytra, the situations and
incidents there and so on. Periyava once explained how a disciple ought to serve, how one
ought to serve the Maha. Periyava mentioned three persons as exemplary servitors,
Banampattu Kannan, Rameswaram Viswanathan and Angudi Vaitha. If one wished to do
kainkarya, it means serving in the manner in which these three did! said Periyava. Periyava
was very fond of Viswanathan. After Dr. Balasubramaniam of Kanchipuram operated on
Periyavas right eye, one day Periyava said, Look at this eye. It is gone completely! and
spread his eye for me to see. I saw it at very close quarters, barely away from the eye by a
hairs breadth. This was the one instance when Periyava spoke about his body to me.
One night, when Periyava was camping in Srisailam, I heard the sound of the danda.
We always slept very close to the mena, as close as possible. Wherever it was, closed or open
space, I always slept close by. This is one point. I always heard him wake up because I slept
so close to the mena and secondly, instinctively, for by Periyavas grace I always knew when
he got up. He had given me this skill, to wake up whenever he woke up, for whatever reason.
In deep sleep too, I knew that he was awake. This grace I had to the fullest. Periyava signaled
to us Janakiraman and I were there- to pick up a hurricane lamp. We took one and started
walking with him. Periyava did the Candramouwara pja those days. On days like this
Pudu Periyava would do the pja.
We must have walked at least five kilometers from the camp. We did not know
where we were going. At a particular spot, Periyava took a right turn and entered a patch of
forest3, about thirty feet from the turning we took. It was thick forest. I am telling you all this
from memory. By Periyavas grace, it must be unsullied truth. There was a huge banyan tree
there. Periyava stood beneath it. His audience consisted of the two of us only, Janakiraman
and I. Periyava said, This tree is known as kalllavrika. di ankara sat in meditation
3

On 25-3-1967 Periyava left for Hatakeswara forest; Periyava bathed in Pladhara & Panchadhara lakes where
r di ankara is said to have bathed when doing tapas at this forest; Periyava was in a state of self-absorption
for most of the day. A thatch-hut made of wild grass from the forest was put up.

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Volume II-Article No 10/Ponds Mama
beneath this tree, he did tapasya here. There were two springs near the banyan. Pointing to
the springs Periyava said, One of them is called Panchadhara and the other Pladhara.
If you dip your pot in one spring, the water gushed up very fast, for whatever use you
needed, to bathe, have a wash and so on. If you dip your pot in the other, such sweet water
filled the pot, it was nectar to taste. The water in these springs was very clear and very sweet
to taste.
Periyava said, These two springs came from Kailas to serve di ankara so that his penance
was not disturbed and so that he had water close by.I am going sit here. None must come near
me, or try to talk to me. They may see me from a distance. The two of you, sit down on either
side, over there and take care that no one comes nearby. Stay on like that until I open my
eyes!
It had dawned then. Periyava propped his danda against the tree and sat down in
padmsana and he kept his fingers in chinmudra4, in both hands. It must have been about
five or five-thirty in the morning. Throughout the day we sat there on guard, watching over
Periyava. Neither Periyava nor we had a drop of water or a morsel of food the whole day. At
about five in the evening a messenger came from Pudu Periyava. He conveyed a message to
me. It was Periyava should be gracious and return to the camp, the place being a forest area
and Periyava having been there the whole day without food or water. It is my prayer to
Periyava to come back to the camp. Narayana, bring back Periyava, coaxing him somehow or
the other!
Here we were, sitting quietly on either side since dawn and watching over Periyava. It
has been my experience that whenever we sat with Periyava, whenever we went for daran,
as long as we were in his presence, we never felt hungry or felt it necessary to answer the
calls of nature. Nothing would disturb us. If you were in Periyavas presence, you had no
awareness of the difficulties or needs of the body. This is my experience.
Now who was to go near Periyava and convey this message? How was I to reach
him, considering the state of total self-absorption he was in? Very cautiously I went near
Periyava and softly, choosing my words carefully, conveyed the message from Pudu
Periyava. Periyava has been here since morning without food or water. Besides this is a
forest area. It is Pudu Periyavas earnest prayer that Periyava return to the camp.
There was one Ramachandraiyer in the Bharath Motors those days, - he even built a
temple in Ki, with Kannans assistance for pancyatana puja his son in law had come
along in the evening with the delegation from Pudu Periyava. He took a photograph of
Periyava sitting, under the ancient banyan. Ganesan and I went in search of them
subsequently. Someone said that the gentleman lived in America. Someone else said that
were very rich people and so on. Bharanidharan took a photo of Periyava standing under the
tree and published it in his book under the heading Sankara at Srisailam. I must check the
4

Lit. Cit/Consciousness + gesture; When the finger and forefinger of the right hand are united at the tip to
symbolize the complete merger of the individual consciousness in the Supreme Consciousness. This mudra
recycles energy back into the body, preventing it from wasting away.

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In the Presence of the Divine
details in my book with his.That is why I wish to see Bharanidharan once. I do not know
where exactly that spot was. Subsequently Pudu Periyava installed a pair of pdukas to mark
the spot. It was about six or six thirty in the evening, when we returned to the Mathas camp.
That is how that day passed.
The next incident I recall was in Srisailam, at the sanctum sanctorum of the deity
there. I remember it being ivartri. I could always go with Periyava right up as far as the
sanctum sanctorum and at times even inside it. Such was his grace and no one would stop me.
I would go into the sanctum sanctorum along with him. One day, I was standing immediately
in the sanctum sanctorum while the pja was going on. A gentleman from Guntur came there
with an aluminum box, the kind children carry to school. He had a stern face. Periyava said,
Ask the gentleman what he has inside the box. I did as I was bid and the gentleman replied,
Subrahmanyaswami5 is inside the box! Actually talking to the gentleman was difficult,
because he knew only Telugu and did not know any English at all, or Tamil. I did not know
Telugu. Anyway I managed to do what I was told. I conveyed the gentlemans reply to
Periyava. As soon as the pja ended, the priest waved the votive lamps in offering. Exactly at
that moment the gentleman opened the aluminum box - no one prompted him to do it - and a
cobra serpent charged out like a flash of light. It went straight into the sanctum sanctorum,
coiled around the ivaliga and held its open hood above it. We were spell bound. This was
an unforgettable experience with Periyava. Where was the question of fear in the deitys
sanctum santorum? This was a divine sight for all!
Devotees and visitors always crowded around Periyava. Even if pja was going on in
the Maha, it was in Periyavas presence where people crowded. One day, Periyava was
camping in the rear portion of an old school. There was a huge crowd waiting for daran.
A foreign lady came with an Indian lady, her guide, and requested me piteously that I
somehow help her to have Periyavas daran. She said the visitor had to leave India the next
day and so had only that day left for Periyavas daran. This was her last effort.
Slowly, I went to the rear portion of the school and told the attendant,
Please convey this to Periyava. Ponds Narayanan is here with a foreigner, a lady has to leave
tomorrow. This is her only chance. She prays for daran. He said Periyava is doing his
anuna. Its not possible to go near him now and submit this. I said, Submit her prayer.
If she is destined to have Periyavas daran, let her and he did. I do not know what exactly
he told Periyava. In a short while Periyava sent word that I could bring the lady for daran.
Very casually, as if we were just walking around - the lady guide, the foreigner and I so that the crowd did not guess that we were going to Periyavas presence, we entered
through a huge wooden door at the rear end of the school and went in. Periyava was standing
beside the well. What a sight it was, Periyava standing there! If the Lord Paramewara
descended from Kailasa upon earth, this is how he must have been. Periyava was engulfed in
light, his form was besmeared with sacred ash and his very physique seemed to be made of
light. One cannot imagine such effulgence. It pierced the eyes and one could not see him
steadily. Periyava stood like that for about fifteen minutes. The lady stood silently watching
5

Cobra is revered as representing the deity Subrahmanya in many parts of India.

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Periyava. That day I saw Paramewara as Periyava himself. I have no doubt of that. This
sight of Periyava held my mind in such a magnetic hold that I forgot those two ladies
altogether. Periyava called out, Narayana! and it was only then that I regained my
consciousness, so to say. Tell her that she may ask what she wants!
I turned to the visitor and said, Amma, if you wish to say anything, you may! I conversed
with her directly since I could speak English.The lady, too, could hardly talk. A quarter of an
hour passed and the lady stood in speechless silence, simply gazing at Periyava. She did not
shift her eyes away even once, nor speak or ask for anything.
Periyava watched for a while. Then asking for a plate to be brought, he took an apple
from it and flung it across, saying, For her! Periyava barely went in and we moved away
from the well, when the lady dropped down in a faint. It was the impact of the daran.
I fetched water and sprinkling some on her face, revived her. When she regained
consciousness, slowly we went to the school. When the lady was composed, I asked her,
Amma, what is all this? Then she told me, I am Irish. Ever since I could remember
I have had the deep conviction that I am Indian. My inner consciousness told me so. I have a
sister, who works in Poona. For many years now I have been seeing a woman in my dream, a
divine kind of person. I did not know who she was. I told my sister about it. She said that
I could find my answer only in India, as Indians had gods and goddesses and so I could find
out more about this lady in my dream if I came here. I saved all my earnings and then came
to this country. I travelled from Himalayas to Cape Comorin, I visited every place, every
temple, but I could not see this divine lady. Today I saw the divine lady of my dreams! She
gave me her address and asked me to keep in touch, but I dropped it the next minute. Later in
the afternoon at about three or three thirty, after bhika, Periyava sent word for me, What
did she say to you, my boy? I repeated to Periyava all that the lady had told me. Periyava did
not say anything in reply. That day when Periyava gave me daran as Paramewara,
simultaneously he gave daran to that lady as Amb herself.
I never missed viurpa daran6 when Periyava camped in Madras, even if the camp
was in Thiruvothiyur. Late at night, I would bathe at one or one thirty and would cycle one
and a half miles so that I could see Periyava exactly at the moment when he opened the doors
of the mena and come back home. Periyava almost always slept in the mena. Occasionally
he would sleep in the open spreading a sack on the ground, or spreading a mosquito net, but
almost always, he slept inside the mena. Wherever he slept, whether inside the mena, or
outside the mena on the ground, the one hour japa was always inside the mena. The viurpa
daran was when Periyava opened the mena after the one hour japa.
In Kalavai, Periyava was inside and I on the outer side of the iron gate.
Anjaneyaswami was also there. Periyava came out to give viwarpa daran. Periyava asked
Anjaneyaswami, Swamigale! Do you know Mkha pancastuti?
Anjaneyaswami said yes
Do you know the last two verses of ry atakam?
6

Lit. the cosmic form; the first daran as soon as Periyava gets up or reveals himself before dawn.

6
In the Presence of the Divine
I do not know to chant those two verses. Anjaneyaswami chanted those two verses.
Mkha says in those two verses that Amb and the Guru are one and the same.
That is the daran that lady had said Periyava and went in.
Only Periyava and I knew what it was all about. This was when Periyava revealed himself as
Amb to me. None there could understand his words as I did, that day. So I had seen
Periyava as Dakshinamurthi under the banyan, as Paramewara when I took the foreign lady
to him and now, during this visit as Amb.
Periyava also showed himself as Krishna to me in two places. Periyava once told me
that I would always be with Periyava when he did Vyasa pja. One day Periyava said,
Narayana! Why didnt you and your office staff together offer pja and kaikarya7 for one
day during cturmsya? That meant no outsiders, since Periyava said your office staff. The
first time we did it, we were four persons from the office and we pooled six thousand rupees.
With this we offered bhikvandana and kaikarya for one day. Let me give you one example
of how Periyava accepted bhika, following the rules rigourously
In Ilayalthankudi8, Periyava was seated on the steps of the temple tank. It was about
half past one in the afternoon. One of my sisters and her husband, living in Tiruchinapalli,
came there. This brother in law of mine was a very pious gentleman, sported a tuft and did
anuna regularly in the prescribed manner. He was employed in the Railways. Periyava
asked him What money do you have in your bag?
One hundred and fifty rupees said my brother in law.
Give that to the Manager. I have accepted bhika today. No offering has been made for
bhika as yet today said Periyava9. In those days it was like this. Only if someone made an
offering for bhika, would Periyava would accept bhika that day. Otherwise he ate nothing
that day. Later after Periyava inducted Pudu Periyaval, Periyava switched over completely to
flour made of pulses and grains, or puffed rice, that was fried and then husked manually,
eschewing cooked food altogether. Periyava switched over to this diet only because there
would be no hindrances to his vow of bhika.
In two years a number of colleagues in Ponds joined me and we collected twenty five
thousand rupees in all. Everyone was eager to participate in the offering. The Management
said that it would contribute an equal amount and we could offer bhikvandana to Periyava.
So we had fifty thousand rupees in all, which was a huge sum those days, in the sixties.
Periyava told us that we were to offer no cash at all, but only make offerings in kind. So we
would all the things in a lorry and transport it to Periyavas camp. Not even five thousand
rupees was offered in cash. We would offer everything needed for one whole day, from the
silk cloth to drape on Amb after the abhieka, to the leaves used by Periyava when he went
for his ablutions. We also got nine thirumgalyams of two grams each from Thanga Maligai
three smrta, three Vaiava and three Mdhva, - because at times parents who were very
7

Offering to host all expenses for the pja


Periyava visited and camped in Ilayalthankudi in Chettinadu in the years 1961, 62, 63 and 67
9
Periyava accepted bhika only if someone offered it; he did not eat at the expense of the Maha; attendants
serving Periyava would not eat if he did not partake of something.
8

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poor would come to Periyava and seek help for the marriage of their daughters and Periyava
would give them a thirumgalyam, dhoti and saree for the bride and bridegroom. We would
buy ahimsa silk10 for Amb and from George Town, mango-embroidered shawls for the
Vedic scholars. We offered everything that would be used that day. So our offering of money
was symbolic. The Yajur Vedins also offered an elaborate bhikvandana, large only next to
ours, but it was done by paying the money to the office of the Maha. Their offering in kind
was symbolic, whereas for our group, the cash offering was symbolic and the rest was made
in kind, offering every item of material necessary.
In course of time, we had swelled to a group consisting of one hundred and fifty
persons. So we hired a choultry and cooks for the day. We announced that everyone could
go for daran and also that food would be served to members of our group from eleven and
that they could have their meal when they wanted to. So devotees could go for daran when
they wanted to and then return for their meal. Usually it would be two or three in the
afternoon by the time Periyava accepted bhika. Chandra helped us to make these
arrangements. Once, fifty thousand rupees worth of material offerings were taken in a lorry
on one such occasion. Dr. Balasubramaniam, Dentist and father of Dr.Kalyanaraman, had
built a huge hall as an offering to Periyava. The hall had entries from the front and the rear
and with iron gates on both sides. We had as usual gone as a group, from Ponds Company.
Periyava called each person and made kind enquiries about their welfare. Then he told them
to stand against the wall at the front end of the hall. He got up and sat at a point, almost the
centre of the hall, close to the front portion of the hall holding his danda, after daran. Then
he commanded that the bags of cattle-feed be brought and poured in a large circular line, like
a huge ring, far away and around him. Two huge bags of paddy-husk were poured around
like this. Above the paddy-husk, the groundnut-peel cakes and sesame-peel cakes there
were seventeen or eighteen bags -were poured to form another layer. Then Periyava
commanded that the baskets of vegetable be brought and emptied as a second layer above the
cattle feed. Then the third layer was made at his command. This comprised of grains, pulses
and lentils. Above this layer, a fourth layer of baskets of fruit were emptied. We wondered
what it was all about. Periyava sat there in the middle with his danda while we poured one
layer after another of the offerings. When this was done, Periyava commanded that the front
gate be closed and the rear gate opened. When this was done, the cattle in the shed behind
the hall, about thirty odd milch cows with calves, came rushing inside the hall. The cows ran
around excitedly not knowing what of the feast to eat first, the fruit or vegetable or cattle-feed
and pulled at everything. The calves frisked about in their new-found freedom and ran helterskelter in the hall and in circles around the piles of eatables. The cattle ran around the feed
circumambulating Periyava, who sat in the middle holding his danda. What a sight it was and
how blessed were those colleagues from the Company who watched this extraordinary divine
play and who were the recipients of such rare grace! If you had not seen Krishna in
Gokulam, it was this scene and none other. This divine enactment lasted for about an hour or
so. There was no question of photographs, of course. Who knows what next with Periyava?
Each moment was new and unforeseen.

10

Silk made from silkworms dying naturally and not killed for making silk.

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In the Presence of the Divine
Usually for the bhikvandana offered by my colleagues at Ponds, we bought
vegetables for two or three thousand rupees from Ranganathan Street. I would send a van
with two or three helpers from the Companys office to assist my wife and daughter when
they went to the vegetable-market a day before we went to Periyavas presence. The helpers
would carry the sacks of vegetables and help them in their shopping. We never touched a
paisa meant for Periyava. Once it was a very hot day when they went shopping and my wife
and daughter had a cold drink each which cost twelve rupees for the two bottles. Somehow
they forget, in the middle of the hectic preparation, to replace the money taken from that
meant for the vegetables. When we went to Periyava for bhikvandana, he would usually
enquire in a detailed manner about the purchases and expenses and listen to the accounts
being read out, or would personally look at the list. My wife had entered this expense under
the head Cool drinks. Periyava told my wife to read out the list.
The list shows twelve rupees deficit in the account said Periyava.
My wife and daughter had completely forgotten to replace the twelve rupees taken out for the
cold drinks they had while shopping. Not once but thrice Periyava enquired about the
accounts and insisted on the deficit, when all of a sudden my wife remembered the money
taken for the cold drinks.
We had one cold drink each and it cost twelve rupees. I have forgotten to replace it,
Periyava!
Periyava was so insistent that day in checking the accounts. With Periyava discipline and
dharma mattered to the letter. He taught us this always.
I have spoken to you about Periyava as Dakshinamurthi, as iva, as Amb and as
Krishna. Let me tell you something else now. I had a persistent image in my mind of a cave
and of Periyava inside it and myself posted on guard on the top, on the flight of steps leading
to the cave. I could not place it. Recently when I went on the ratha-ytra retracing Periyavas
itinerary, I recognized the cave as the one in Hampi. The cave could be reached by a flight of
steps that went down to a spot where Periyava sat and conversed with visitors. One could see
Periyava from the top of the flight of steps, but could not hear him at all. I was generally
made to sit on top, where the steps met the flat flagged-stone ground, from where I could
watch but could not hear the conversation and thus keep guard. It was beside the shrine of
Vidyaranya. There was a pond nearby, called Brahmarkasa pond. Once all the attendants
went away for their meal and so forth, I sat guard on the top when a gentleman arrived.
He went down the stairs and for almost an hour sat in conversation with Periyava. Periyava
chatted in a friendly manner with the gentleman. After an hour or so when the devotee came
up the stairs I told him spontaneously, It was like Kucela11 meeting his old friend Krishna
after a long time! Such was the emotion of friendliness visible in your meeting with
Periyava. I did not know the gentleman but I spoke these words spontaneously. I learnt
later that he was Zamindar Krishnamurthy from Sattanur. He lives in South Mada Street in
Mylapore. When Periyava was in his middle age, he developed some trouble in his heart. It
11

The meeting in Krishnas palace in Dwaraka of his childhood friend, Sudama called Kucela, who offers the
former puffed rice-grain as narrated in Canto 10, Chapter 80 of rmad Bhgavata Mah Pura.

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was this Krishnamurthy who took Periyava to a mango grove and got a doctor from abroad to
examine him. Such was his intimacy with Periyava.
During Periyavas long ytra from 1978 to 1984, at Chinna Tippa Samudram, on the
way to Vayalapadu, his feet were fully blistered and began to bleed. Periyava could hardly
walk wearing the wooden sandals. Zamindar Krishnamurthi sent two pairs of Hawai
chappals with an earnest prayer that Periyava must be gracious and wear them. We have
heard that Guruvayoorappan shook his head in assent when Narayana Bhattatri asked him
about each of the lls that were performed in Krishnavatar. We actually saw that kind of
intimacy that day, that kind of comraderie, when Periyava conceded to Krishnamurthis
request and wore the chappals because it was made only of rubber. Can we see such a scene
again? One pair that Periyava wore is worshipped as pduka at Joshis place even today.
There were two such pairs, one of which is with me and which my grandson has earmarked
for himself.
Before I joined Ponds I worked for Siemens, but I lost my job there. I had to run my
family - of my mother, my wife, three daughters of whom the first and third are both of them,
deaf and dumb. R.Venkataraman was then Member, Planning Commission, but Periyava
said, No need to tell him, go home. So I came back. The again during ivartri, I went for
daran. Periyava was camping in Andhra. I went to Eluru in search of Peiyava. There was
no sign of the camp. Usually there would be signs of people moving about and so on. I learnt
that Periyava had gone to Bhadrachalam and was coming back by boat across the river. A
gentleman connected to the Maha said he would take me to the place where Periyava was to
disembark, and so we went by his car to a place called Neduthavolu. All of us lined up in
two rows on either side of the path on the bank. There on the banks of the Godavari,
Periyava asked What is it? You have lost your job is gone, havent you? What are you
going to do now?
He spoke suddenly catching me unawares. Somehow I gathered my wits together and
managed to reply.
I have put in an application at Ponds . . .
Alright . . . go home! I returned home. Shortly afterwards I joined Ponds Company.
Everytime I went for Periyavas daran, tears would stream down my face. I do not know
why.
There was one Harihara Subramanian, known as G.S. Mani- he lived in Chamiers
Road - who was the General Manager at Ponds. He started his career selling talcum powder
for Johnson and Johnson Company, carrying the wares upon his head. Later he became
Chairman of Ponds. He came to Karvet Nagar for Periyavas daran when I was there.
Periyava said Ask G.S.Mani if he can get anything I wanted.
Ponds had a network the world over and was in association with Cheeseborough Ponds in
U.S.A. So assuming that he could get whatever Periyava wanted, G.S.Mani replied boldly
I can get whatever Periyava wants.
Ask him if he can get me maravuri12 .
Certainly, said the gentleman, I can!
12

Lit. tree-peel; the peel top layers of the bark, of a particular trees trunk, worn by ascetics in the days of yore

10
In the Presence of the Divine
Ask him where it is found, said Periyava to me.
I do not know where it is . . . I shall learn of it if Periyava tells me . . .
Maravuri13 is got from a particular tree only in three places in the world the forests of
Kerala, and the deep forests of Assam and of Africa said Periyava. This is sloughed off by
the tree on its own. This is called maravuri.
Within five or six months G.S. Mani got huge pieces of the trees surface bark with
the corners given a breaded border to prevent it from coming off in fibers with use. Since
Periyava did not wear anything that was stitched, we sat there and removed the runner around
the edges. There were three of four pieces. It felt soft and was flexible and I have this huge
piece with me - almost as big as a bed sheet - for the last forty-five years. It has not
disintegrated nor is it affected by moth or insects. It is just as it was when Periyava used it.
For a year almost Periyava draped the maravuri in various ways, now and then. After the days
of Rama, it was Periyava who wore the maravuri. One can get a thick peel if the maravuri is
to be worn by a man or a thinner peel if it is to be worn by a woman. The tree being very
huge, the peel itself is like big sheet and can be used variously, to drape it on ones self. This
is its uniqueness. Throughout the fourteen years of exile in the forest Rama and others wore
this maravuri. After that it was only Periyava who wore it.
I have also got rudrka from him several times, not a few, but many. Of these
occasions, one is significant. To me Periyava is all. I have not visited temples in search of
deities. I was not moved to seek Annamalaiyar and so on. To me it seemed as finality that
Periyava was all. This has been my feeling always.
In 1968, perhaps, when my eldest daughter, who is deaf & dumb, was eight years of
age Periyava told me to go for the daran of Ayyappa taking the child along with me. I knew
nothing about it. A Nair gentleman at Aynavaram, who was known to his circle as Gurusami
gave me two mls. He took his disciples by car. My little daughter and I walked all the
forty-eight miles. In those days things were difficult and one did not find so many facilities.
We had the daran of Ayyappa Swami, the Makarajyoti and returned. The next year I went to
Periyava and told him, I cannot accept anyone other than Periyava as Guru. I know nothing
of Gurusamis. It is not possible for me to accept anyone else as Guru . . . Periyava removed
a lotus-seed garland he was wearing and flung it towards me. The nature of the lotus-seed is
such that if you bathe wearing it, if it comes into contact with water, it will warp and
disintegrate. You can use this kind of a mala for japa. Pilgrims going to Sabarimala ought to
bathe twice a day. I put around my daughters neck. Fifteen days before I had to leave my
wife told me that probably our eldest daughter had attained puberty. So I went to
Kollachattram to see Periyava. Periyava said, Return that mala to me! So I took it back and
placed it at his feet and that was that. I was to go alone.
Kottangadu Venkataraman was at Kollachattram. Periyava asked him for a coconut
to be brought, had a hole pierced on the top and himself filled it with ghee and sealed it with
13

Cloth from the bark tree known as Aranjali [Antiaris toxicaria (Pers.) the Muthuvan tribes of Idukki district
are experts in preparing Maravuri]; the tree is of the mulberry and fig family, Moraceae; has medicinal
properties ;the bark is used by ancient communities in the tropical regions of the world and has high
concentration of tannins which is used in traditional clothes dyeing and paints.

11
Volume II-Article No 10/Ponds Mama
a cork. Take it with your irumudi14 he said. I reached Sabarimala at night. It was Arudhra
the next day. When I went I knew no one. Later many went on this pilgrimage from Ponds and so did I - created contact and got to know influential links there. Not so when I went.
I went to a priest and told him This has been sent by Kamakoti Sankaracharya.
Please perform abhieka with ghee separately. It must be taken back as prasda. In those
days Periyava was known fairly well in Tiruchur area and in Guruvayour but not in
southernmost Kerala, as far as I know. I was instructed to come at three in the morning with
the assurance that it would be the first abhieka. That was by Periyavas grace. I stood before
the shrine on time. The priest took the coconut given by Periyava for the first abhieka. The
one I had brought in my irumudi, I poured into the common vat kept for the purpose. The
priest poured the ghee upon the idol of Ayyappa. The ghee flowed down as far as the edge of
the crown and stopped there. This was the first abhieka of the day. Then he scooped the
ghee and put it back in a new aluminum container I had taken along with me. I returned and
went to Kanchipuram for daran. I went first to Kamakshi temple for Ambs daran. In
those days, any one of the priests would officiate, not as it is now. There were no divisions
among them.Ramu who was officiating there, well-known to me and told me, Narayana!
Two days earlier, the day before Arudhra, Periyava came to the temple.
I do not remember the name of the lady, Vellore Jayam, I think, or Balam, or Pudukkotai
Jayam. . . I do not recall these details now. She was adept at making sandal, garlands and
crowns with fragrant spices. She had offered a crown made of fragrant spices.
Periyava placed it here and left. The next day he returned to Ambs shrine, wore the crown
and circumambulated Kamakshi. I recalled the ghee I had taken from Periyava flowed down
only on the crown of Ayyappa.
I went from Kamakshi temple for Periyavas daran. No sooner did I prostrate before
him and offer the container which had the ghee, Periyava took it, and scooping the ghee
anointed himself with it, not leaving a drop behind. There was no trace of the ghee at all
when the container was returned to me. I always took clarified butter from Thayar Vennai
shop for Periyava. The owners, both father and son are no more- would bathe and wearing a
dhoti readied for the purpose, personally attend to boiling the butter and preparing the ghee,
not allowing the helpers to do it. The butter was churned from curd, cured of cows milk.
I visited Kasi and went to Badrinath and Kedarnath- it look a month and came back
with a huge sealed pot containing water from the Ganges and offered it to Periyava. Bombay
Krishnan, that is Lamba Krishnan, was there. Periyava told me about a certain couple in
Kumbakonan and instructed that I go there to meet them, taking Krishnan along with me. I
was instructed to give them my eldest daughters horoscope. They will consent to the
alliance. Bring them here to me he said. So we went to Kumbakonan and stayed in a
hotel. My wife and I, accompanied by Krishnan met the couple and conveyed Periyavas
instructions. Their son Kannan was about to go out. He said, I have resolved to marry a

14

Sacred offering of ghee inside a coconut, carried by pilgrims to Sabarimala.

12
In the Presence of the Divine
handicapped girl or remain a bachelor. I have said this to my parents. Now Periyava has
proposed this alliance!
We did not know of this earlier. Kannans parents knew of course, but it had never
beem mentioned to Periyava by their son or by them! We came back, all of us, to
Kanchipuram. It was a Thursday. It was about half past eight at night. Periyava told Kannans
parents, Accept this girl for your son. They will be blessed.
They consented, but the Kannans mother had some misgivings which she submitted to
Periyava. What if the children are affected in some way?
Nothing of that sort. You need not worry said Periyava.
The couple have no children at all.
Half an hour later, Periyava sent word to us, Tell them not to leave. Tell them to come for
daran at dawn!
Periyava gave us viswarpa daran the next morning it was Friday - and then he went into
the mena for the one hour japa. After the one hour japa, Periyava had fruits, betel leaf and
areca nut placed on a big bamboo plate, and calling for one thousand rupees from the Mathas
office said Narayanan may not have money with him now. He will return this to the office
later. In Periyavas presence, then and there, in front of the mena, the marriage was
finalized, though we held a formal function later on. The wedding took place in
Uppiliappankoil. Almost twenty people from the Matha were sent by Periyava, in two vans,
to attend the wedding, Srikantan and others. Later we came back to see Periyava. Periyava
asked me if we had taken a video of the wedding. Periyava said So many people print With
the blessings of Kamakoti Sankaracharya in the wedding invitations, but I have myself never
seen a wedding.
A video-player deck was brought - it costed us sixty rupees to rent it - and fixed
outside the shrine of Surewara, where Bala Periyava stays now, and about fifteen of us,
including my sister Nagalakshmi were there. Since ladies had to leave the Matha by nine at
night, we started early in evening and for about three and a half to four hours sat with
Periyava and watched the video. All entries were blocked. When it was done, Periyava asked
Why have you not photographed the groom showing Arundhati to the bride?15 Did you
know, I was there during the tirumgalyadhraam?16 Kannan takes care of his wife
lovingly.
During the 1978-84 ytra began I went for daran at Ugar. Periyava was in
Maharashtra. Pawar, Sandoor Maharajahs watchman who came away with Periyava to serve
him, was there. Periyava went for his ablutions and returned. He sat down and said,
Narayana, you have three daughters, havent you? I am here and I shall take care and raised
both his hands in blessing. After I retired I started a Data Entry Operating Centre where I
trained my daughters. The second and third, are both working in Kothari Sugars and
Chemicals Company. The youngest joined first as Data Entry Operator. The eldest is working
in Indian Overseas Bank. They are all well-settled in life. I say this because, till this day, my
wife and children rely on and know only Periyavas grace for succor.
15
16

Star named after the chaste wife of sage Vasishta, pointed out as guardian & role-model for the young wife.
When the groom ties the tirumgalya/tli around the brides neck

13
Volume II-Article No 10/Ponds Mama
This happened about two or two and a half years ago. I began to feel that my life was
drawing to a close. I had gone to Kumbakonam. It was the day before Anusham. I stood in
the queue at the Railways but I could get no ticket. Then I went to the Bus terminus. I did not
tell my wife anything more than my intention to visit Kumbakonam for a week or ten days.
It was around half past eleven at night, a little before before twelve. I probably had a
heart attack, for the second time. My daughter was sleeping in the room. Kannan was out of
town and would be back only the next morning. I could not speak, and even if I had called
out my daughter would not hear me because she is deaf. I could not get up, nor could I take
my emergency medicine, nor call out to her. Kannan was not in town either. I think I became
unconscious. In that state I had a vision of Periyava leaning on the pillar which has a
painting of Sadasiva Brahmendra on it, at Kumbakonam Maha. Periyava sat back with his
danda held above his waist. I also saw myself burying my face on Periyavas feet. This
state of perception when all else was unconscious lasted for about two or two and a half
hours. In the morning, at about four-thirty, Kannan returned home. He said I suffered from
fever because I was very warm and took me to the doctor. A day or two later I returned came
to Madras and learnt of a strange event that took place on the night when I suffered the
attack.
At home in Madras, I had fixed an air-conditioner in the room, the day before
Anusham, just before I left for Kumbakonam. My wife and daughters slept the inside the
room. There was a huge picture of Periyava placed in the hall with a praphalam17, above
the ledge, that Periyava had given for the house-warming. There was a wooden stool exactly
below the picture. At exactly the time I had my stroke, the picture crashed down along with
the coconut and landed on the stool. A portion of the picture was torn a little near the heart. I
have retained it as it is. I have not repaired it. Since no one was in the hall, the fan had not
been switched on, so the picture could not have fallen because of a forceful wind. It had, in
any case, always been there. It fell on the night I suffered the attack. The next day my wife
telephoned me and called me back. I returned to Madras. I realized then that Periyava did not
forsake me at all and that he was always with me.
There was a Malayalee gentleman working in Ponds, as Secretary. He was waiting
for his promotion after passing the Company Secretary examination. He was a difficult
person, leaving his job to his subordinates and behaving arrogantly. He was given his
monthly pay and requested to stay at home. He was not dismissed. Every Saturday morning,
he would come home, pull up a chair and sit there for hours. I was supposed to take up his
case with Periyava. Even if I was not at home, he would wish my wife, help himself to a
chair and sit in the verandah the whole morning. Finally I took him to Periyava. In the early
hours of the morning, only two or three of us would be with Periyava, a doctor, an engineer
and myself. After his ablutions, Periyava would be there, absolutely normal. Some said that
he could not see or hear properly. Not at all. Periyava had absolutely normal sight and
hearing. One could speak to Periyava as usual and get a reply, as always. Periyava was
gracious to this gentleman. His name was Venkatasubramaniam. Periyava give so many of
17

Lit. Fruit of Fulfillment; refers to a coconut, with its coir and fibre still unpeeled; considered auspicious.

14
In the Presence of the Divine
his garlands to this gentleman- I have lost count. The gentleman was reappointed after three
years and subsequently his sons became millionaires. I have no contact with him now.
Sometime before Periyavas siddhi one of my brothers in law in Hyderabad suddenly
telephoned one morning and told me that his wife was diagnosed for breast cancer. He broke
down even as he spoke to me over the phone.
We are awaiting the results of the tissue sent for examination. But ninety percent, the
doctors say, it is malignant!
That was when Periyava was lying down inside the Maha.i went and appealed to Periyava on
my brother in laws behalf.
They have two small children. Periyava must be gracious!
Periyava felt around with his hand and placed a sugar candy packet in my hand. An attendant
placed some vibhuti prasda on it. Periyava dropped this in my hand. I sent the prasda to
Hyderabad by courier. The lady went for a second opinion and it negated the first report,
ruling our cancer, an hour after the lady partook of the prasda. I narrated this incident to let
you know what Periyavas condition was like when he was lying down in silence. Periyava
was absolutely conscious all the time. Even though he did not speak, his eyes were very
expressive and he was in full command of himself. With a mere look he would dismiss us
after daran, giving us leave to depart. It is wrong to say that Periyava was unwell and laid
up. He was perfectly normal, knew everything happening around him and was in full
command of himself.
My first heart attack was in the early eighties. A young Vaishanvite lady who was a
highly qualified executive personnel joined Ponds in a top managerial post. Somehow she
learnt that she could have a close daran of Periyava if she went with me. She requested me
to take her to Kanchipuram. I said Periyava is not like the deity in the sanctum sanctorum. I
shall take you there. But I cannot go up to him, taking things for granted. Periyava was
seated in a chair then, and giving daran. I sent word through the attendants. The young lady,
her mother and I had gone for daran. I sent word through an attendant. Periyava called us in,
when his chair was placed in the hall and before the curtain was raised for public daran. I
presented the young lady. Periyava gave a piece of silk and a silver coin as prasda to my
senior colleague. I said, This child is highly qualified, well placed and wealthy. She is thirty
two and is yet to be married. I said all this on my own. Neither of the two ladies had
requested me to say anything on their behalf. Within six months my colleague, the lady I
escorted to Periyava, was married and went to live in U.S.A. She lost the silver coin there
and contacting me again and insisted on getting another one from Periyava. I managed to get
her one and sent it to U.S.A.
I collected the offerings for the bhikavandana, fifty thousand or so when I was in
Ponds. My real age was sixty, whereas the age of fifty-eight was shown as per my certificate.
About twenty days before I turned sixty, there was this dilemma in my mind- whether to go
by my real age or that given in the certificate. No one prompted me. Finally I thought it was
not proper even to consider possibilities, having known Periyava. So I simply wrote a letter to
the Mangement, requesting to be relieved on such and such a date. That would be when I

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Volume II-Article No 10/Ponds Mama
turned sixty. I declined the promotion I was due for. I told the Managing Director, citing the
heart surgery I had, that I did not think I was up to working in a fit manner to earn my salary.
I returned home.
Coming back to our visit to Periyava. We, the three of us, drove back to Madras. I
was in the front seat and the two ladies at the back. Near Sunguvarchattram, I felt as if a
snake had entered my body and was running within me and torturing me. As we entered the
city, in the junction between Virugambakkam and K.K. Nagar I spotted a twenty-four hour
hospital for cardiac ailments and told the colleague, Let me go in and see the doctor. I feel
uneasy . . . I climbed up the flight of stairs only to be told that it would take two hours
more for the doctor to be available at the hospital. Even as I got down, my colleague noticed
the sweating on my face. Wasting no time she drove me straight to Vijaya Hospital and put
me in the care of the elder Dr. Cherian. Both the elder Dr. Cherian and younger Dr. Cherian
were there then. He was to leave for Delhi the next morning to receive an award from the
President. Within five minutes, my colleague called the Managing Director and all other
senior executives of my company to the hospital. The Manging Director told Dr. Cherian
- the younger Dr. Cherian was in the old block of Vijaya Hospital then - For the sake of his
family and for the sake of our Company, save this man at any cost. The Company will bear
all the expenses. At that time, the injection which costed eighteen thousand rupees and
which had been brought from Japan for M.G. Ramachandran, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu,
was available in Madras. The elder Dr. Cherian stayed on, operated and treated me - someone
else received the award on his behalf. I was put in I.C.U and underwent diagnosis. I was
told that I had three blocks in the heart and had to be operated within fifiteen days.
Dr.Haridas, nephew of the scientist Dr. M.S Swaminathan attended to me. I told him I must
go and see Periyava. I he permits me I shall undergo the operation. Otherwise, come what
may, I am going home. Subsequently the three blocks dissolved. Meanwhile my wife took a
few others in a car and went to Periyava, wept, made a scene and offered her tirumgalya at
his feet. Periyava listened silently and blessed her with a two gram tirumgalya and
kumkum after letting her weep for quite a while.
Two years later, we had decided to celebrate the sixtieth birthday at Tirukadaiyur18.
All preparations had been made. Just two days before the function I suffered a second stroke.
My wife should have been content with the two-gram tirumgalya given by Periyava. She
had a tirumgalya made of one and a half sovereigns of gold, and inlaid with red stone. This
attack too passed without any damage. So we went to Kanchipuram and offered it to
Kamakshiamman and it was placed around her neck. Now my wife wears only what
Periyava gave her. I had my second surgery in 1992. Nothing is more precious than what he
gives.
Another surprising incident. My sister Nagalakshmis son in law, Pancapakesan, was
Purchase Manager in Atomic Energy Commission, New Delhi. Suddenly one day he took it
into his head to apply for Voluntary Retirement from Service and put in his papers. Within
days he suffered a severe heart attack. Dr.Cherians report pointed to an operation that had to
18

The place where iva saved Markandeya from the God of Death; customary to celebrate saiabdaprti there
and pray for longevity.

16
In the Presence of the Divine
be done within a fortnight. Nagalakshmi came rushing in a car for daran. It was Moolam
star that day and Periyava was in ka mouna, not even showing gestures. For my sister
Nagalakshmis sake, Periyava gave up ka mouna and gave directions, asking who my
nephews boss was and how the request for VRS could be withdrawn and the reappointment
received by fax and so on. Pancapakesans VRS application was withdrawn by telegram and
the reappointment issued in turn by fax. The gentleman was posted in Mumbai and could
avail all medical benefits. He went to Jaslok Hospital for check-up, carrying Dr.Cherians
report and was told that he did not need surgery and that he was in normal and good health.
It is now twenty five years since it happened. Except for a cold now and then, he is perfectly
fit.
Nowadays I feel some fear. Perhaps with more of worldly matters going into my head,
devotion seems to be ebbing away. I have heard Periyava own words that he is wara. You
will hear him speak and the next moment it will be gone out of your mind and he will draw a
blind over your mind. I once stayed on in Tirupati for a fornight, along with
Prof.Veezhinathan. I was supposed to assist him in collecting the scattered sources of texts
and sources on Tirupati. Even now I ask him what he has done about this. Thrice I have gone
to Tirupati with Periyava. On one occasion, Periyava had sahasra-kalasbhieka performed.
We were there for two or two and a half hours. In those days the Maha paid two thousand
four hundred rupees to the temple for the event. Periyava was inside the sanctorum sanctorum
and we, about twenty-five of us, seated immediately outside.
I was concerned about the bhikvandana and pja-kaikarya going on after I retired.
So I thought of setting up a corpus fund to carry on the service every year. I submitted the
matter to Periyava.
I was anxious about the bhikvandana and pja-kaikarya since I will not be physically
available in the Company after my retirement. So I have the deed for the Sri Kanchi
Kamakoti Kainkarya Trust drawn up it was a hand-written draft Periyava must be
gracious and give his blessings.
Periyava picked up some kumkum and flung it on the deed. We returned and set up Sri
Kanchi Kamakshi Kainkarya Trust with proper legal help. That was in Periyavas centenary
year. I went to Periyava and said, We had made a collection for the corpus fund. I thought it
would be a nice gesture to give a memento to the donors. I asked Pudu Periyava about it. He
suggested we give each donor a silver coin. I have made coins of the kind I could afford, with
Periyavas form on one side in the posture of giving blessings and on the other a pair of
pdukas. Periyava must be gracious.
Periyava picked up his ochre cloth and bared his feet and put them forward. Balu brought a
basket full of jasmine flowers. We mixed the coins with flowers. My wife, my youngest
daughter and I offered all these flowers and coins at Periyava feet ourselves. Then I scooped
up everything, flowers and coins, to take back. This was the only occasion when I
consciously touched Periyavas divine form.
Periyava was then camping in Karvet Nagar. I said, Periyava, when I was a child my
mother put me on her lap and said, Child, repeat the name of Narayana always! I have

17
Volume II-Article No 10/Ponds Mama
named you Narayanan so that I repeat it even if I forget to chant it. I have not asked Periyava
for initiation into mantra. Periyava must be gracious!
Repeat the name of Narayana always, said Periyava repeating it himself.
Periyava initiated my mother and my sister Nagalakshmi. It affected my sister so much, she
suffered several bodily afflictions because of the force of the mantra, and was writhing and
rolling on the floor for a few days before she recovered composure.
My sister and I took my mother for daran when Periyava was in Madras, camping at
Thiruvottiyur temple. My mother did not quite know what to say. She prayed to Periyava that
she must have Bhagawans daran when she passed away. Periyava assured her that ParvatiParamewara would come to her in her last moments.
When Periyava was camping in Madras, we resided in Subramaniya Nagar in West
Mambaam. It is between Aziz Nagar and Rangarajapuram. This was in the sixties. Our
colony had about four hundred houses. We wanted Periyava to visit Subramaniya Nagar for
a day. All the big shots and VIPs were inviting Periyava to bless their homes. I voiced my
prayer to the organizers who were in charge of Periyavas visit to Madras and was told that
many dignitaries had already submitted the same request to Periyava. I would walk up to
Periyava without fear. But that was not the case with all. I have seen dignitaries tremble in his
presence. I approached one of them and submitted our request. I do not remember the
gentlemans name now. He said, Who do you think Periyava is? He is fire itself! Do you
think it all that easy? However, he helped me collect a donation of seven hundred rupees. I
gained confidence. Periyava was camping in V.G.Pal Neelakantaiyers house. I went to
Periyava and said, Periyava must come to our colony. It will be a blessing upon all of us!
Alright, I shall come one of these days!
In those days if one had one thousand three hundred rupees, it was sufficient to offer
bhikvandana to Periyava and to the entire Sri Maha camp for a day. We made a collection
of four thousand rupees.
Periyava walked down Ramanathan Street, past Ayodhya Matapam and to
Subramaniya Nagar. The r Maha camp had an elephant then, no camel. We were prepared
to receive Periyava any time because he accepted our invitation. We had readied Gopalaiyer
house for the Mathas camp and had given our house to Goplaiyer. There was an open space
next to Burmashell Gopalaiyers house - it was a double plot-where we put up a thatched
shed and built a platform there for Periyava from where everyone could see him. Someone
travelling by train spotted the thatched shed we had put up in the open ground and raised a
serious objection. He said that it belonged to his relative who was elsewhere, serving in the
Army. We rallied around support from the local dignitaries and submitted a letter to the
gentleman stating that we would not henceforth use the place and that that we had put up the
shed only to receive a great saint, the most revered Kamakoti Sankaracharya and not for any
other purpose. Periyava came with pja, that was why the platform was put up. Periyava
came with Pudu Periyava and the visit lasted three days!

18
In the Presence of the Divine
Krishnamurthi who was our neighbour was repeatedly pleading that his house
must be sanctified by Periyavas divine feet. I was about thirty years old then. I pleaded on
Krishnamurthis behalf.
Periyava must be gracious! He pleads that the imprint of Periyavas feet must bless his
house. Periyava must bless him one day!
Is that so? Periyava did not say anything more.
On the second day before six in the morning, Periyava went through Krishnamurthis garden,
entered the house from the back door, came out of the front door and sat on the small pyol
along the front wall of his house. Periyava stayed on for three days and throughout that time
he conceded, like a child, to every request we made.
When Periyava was seated on the pyol of Krishnamurthis house, an Australian
couple came there. They had been living a life of piety and had come to India with many
questions. I spoke on their behalf and Periyava conceded to receive them on a particular day
at a particular time.
We have been living a pious life and with fidelity to each other. We came with a number of
questions, but we now do not think it necessary to ask them, except one. The Lord had
created everything, but why did he create my? Why is there illusion in creation? If it was
not there, then man would not suffer.
Periyava replied, Illusion is because of the ego which in turn is a necessary evil for our
spiritual upliftment. He is from Australia. It is a tropical country, isnt it?
Yes . . .
Does he know wild gooseberry19?
Yes . . .
Has he eaten it?
Yes . . .
After eating it, did he drink a little water?
No . ..
A kind of sweetness lingers on the tongue after the gooseberry is eaten. Illusion is like that,
and it is a necessary evil for our up liftment.
Two months later when Periyava camped at Kalyana Mandapam the couple came
back. They had no questions. Periyava was seated inside the mena, for his one hour japa. The
couple prayed that they be permitted to meditate for an hour in Periyavas presence. The two
of them sat beside the mena, meditated silently for an hour and left in peace.
When Periyava was in Maharashtra a gentleman came there.
Ask him what he wishes to say!
The visitor said, I have been suffering severe stomach ache all my life. Nothing has helped.
Last night an ascetic came in my dream and stroked my belly. This morning when I woke up,

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my life-timess ailment had vanished. Since an ascetic had come to my town I came here.
Now I see that this is the ascetic who cured me in my dream last night.
Identifying the ascetic he saw in his dream as Periyava, he prostrated repeatedly. The
gentleman had daran, prostrated to Periyava and left. Periyava did not speak a word.
Periyava was then camping on the banks of the Bheema across Pandaripur.
I always spent the month of Mrgazhi with Periyava. I would take a months leave
from office. During this season, Periyava would perform the pre-dawn Mrgazhi pja and
then the daily pja three times a day. So one could see Periyava for a long time during this
month. Whether it was Candramouwara pja or mnasika pja, still Periyava performed
pja four times a day in Mrgazhi. Everything was done with symbolic gestures. Periyava
would be up by half past two. Periyava gave me pdukas during ivartri in Eluru. He was
walking wearing them. Suddenly he stepped out of them and said, Take it. That was all, no
fuss whatsoever. After this for about five years Periyava told me that I need not come to the
Maha for daran, but serve my mother at home.
Dedicate yourself in the service of your mother. Serve your mother. It is not necessary that
you come for daran as often as you do. Serving your mother is a great daran for you! All
the same I would at times go for Periyavas daran.
My mother would take her meal only if I cooked it. So after I came back home I
would bathe and stand in draped in a fresh dhoti before her. We had no mixer or grinder and
other such gadgets. Everything was done by hand. She would then tell me what she wanted
that day. If she said, I want vada, I would soak the lentils and grind it to paste in the
mortar-stone by hand and give her ten or so. She would calculate how many there were at
home and then would serve it to all in the family. I learnt cooking for the sake of serving my
mother.
My house was just one room divided into two by a make-shift wooden wall, behind
which my wife and daughters retired on certain days of the mouth. Our house was four
hundred square feet in all. During Periyavas visit in Madras, he said he wanted to come to
my house. There was an open drain running outside the house, the road was full of bumps
and craters. The house belonged to a Rayar Madhva20, who would not see Periyava. The
Rayar would draw his towel over his head. I was the tenant of such a man. Periyava was
adamant no matter how much I tried to discourage him. It is a rented place. Its not my own.
Periyava need not trouble himself. I repeated my words to no effect. Periyava came at ten in
the night, sat for an hour inside that cramped space. My wife had shifted to someone elses
house since she had her monthly periods and could not receive Periyava. So I the votive
offering of camphor was made by me. Periyava would touch now this picture or that, sit here
for a moment and then get up and sit a little away the next moment. He played such a prank
that day.
Towards the end, I had to do everything for my mother, including bathing her and
helping her in the toilet, just as if she were a child. She became paralyzed in her both her legs.
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In the Presence of the Divine
Periyava told someone and it was reported to me, Five people serve their mothers so well in
this world. If you wish to see what Matruseva21 is it is what Narayanan is doing in Madras.
The grace of ones mother is unmatched. Even greater than what the gods and Guru give us.
It is a very subtle thing and not many people understand it. If the mothers heart is filled with
blessings, the children can get nothing greater in life.
Periyava had given my mother his assurance that she would have a vision of ParvatiParamewara when she breathed her last. Periyavas words will not fail no matter what. So I
wanted to be near her. I always remembered di ankaras grace towards his mother, who
brought Krishna at her bidding and then Paramewara too at her bidding again. She said that
she wanted to pass away in Kanchi. So I took her there and housed her in Kumaresans
house. On Sundays, she would be taken to Sivasthanam and made to sit on this side of the
well. For as long as she sat there, Periyava would engage himself in his work in her visibility.
Only when she was satisfied and wished to leave, would he move away. After bhika the
remains would be sent for her to eat.
After some days Periyava told me to take her to Tiruchi. My mother was with my
elder brother in Tiruchi when she passed. I had gone there during the weekend. It was
Ekadasi. I fed here with idli and started for the Railway station. Before I left to catch my train
at night, she said, Stay back, just this one night, my child. You may leave tomorrow.
I have the office keys. I must hand it over. I will come back in a day, tomorrow night.
I replied.
I got a corner seat and the next one was empty. So I lay down there and flung my legs over
the window and slept. An hour or hour and a half later, before midnight, I saw a huge ball of
light in the sky. I pointed it to the fellow-passenger in the opposite berth, but he said that I
must have imagined it and was blabbering in my sleep. He saw nothing. I got down in
Madras and saw ten people waiting for me. My mother had passed exactly at that time. Just
as he had assured her, Periyava had given her a vision of Parvati-Paramewara and reassured
me too with that splendid ball of light that I clearly saw for several minutes when I was in the
train.
I went to Tirupati thrice with Periyava. Once Periyava camped there with the pja.
The temple had given three cottages. One for periyava, one for Jayendrar and the third for the
pja and office. Devotees who had come along had to make their own arrangements. Periyava
was performing the last, third pja of the day, of Candramouwara and Tripurasundari.
Tripurasundari is invoked after a ball of freshly ground sandal paste, the size of a sweetlemon is placed on the Meru every day. Eyes would be drawn on this ball of sandal-paste.
You could enjoy the way Periyava did the pja, the way he offered flowers and so on only if
you watch the pja from certain angles. Those that knew of this would do so to see how the
flower settled exactly on Amb or how it settled on Swami- one had to see it from certain
angles, without disturbing others. That day there were three of us my sister Nagalakshmi,
Balam, wife of the Inspector General of Srinivasan and I. During the days when Periyava did
pja we never missed it, come what may, whether the pja took four or five hours. You could
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not say how long it would go on, when exactly Periyava would come and sit down and start
it, there was no fixed time. The pja was being performed by Periyava and we were watching
it. The eyes on the sandal-paste ball began to move from one side to another, just as humans
see from one side to another. All the three of us saw this. Was it a hallucination? We
exchanged notes and all the three of us saw Amb moving her eyes. This went on for a long
time. We were filled with horripulation and it was too much to bear. After bhika Periyava
returned to the pjakau, past eleven in the night and sat leaning back against the wall. The
three of us went up and prostrated to Periyava.
We said, Today Periyava was performing pja. The three of us saw such a sight and so on.
We saw Amb moving her eyes like a human being. We did not know whether it was a
hallucination but we felt its physical impact intensely.
Periyavas only reply was, You had the daran, did you?
Since the sandal-paste ball is made every day it is given to devotees. I have two of
them made during Maha Periyavas time. Balu got it for me. My second and third daughter
have taken one each. It is placed near the paduks. Five or six months earlier, one night, at
about eleven in the night my second daughter woke me up.
Appa, do you hear anything?
I heard the heavy sound of anklet bells as if a girl was walking about. The sound went up to
the pja altar. My second daughter and I heard this. One could sense from the anklets
sounding rhythmically, the way a human being walked. I went up to the pja and realized
that the sound of anklets led up to the altar. The sound of the anklets continued even after it
reached the pja altar. It did not stop. After quite a while, at eleven-thirty, we woke up my
wife and the youngest daughter. My wife did not hear anything. My youngest daughter of
course, did not hear anything. This went on till almost half past one at night. This went on for
a while. I had a wash, smeared sacred ash on my forehead, made a votive offering of
camphor and told everyone to retire again. My youngest daughter, although deaf and dumb, is
extremely sensitive, very devoted and would talk a great deal to Periyava every day. The next
morning I bathed and as was my custom took a small pot of water to offer it to the two
tulasi22 plants which I have on the balcony. Every morning I would offer water and flowers to
the tulasi plants. My youngest came running to me and stopped me on my way. When I
went to see why, I found that there were imprints of a pair of feet, one each, on the soft soil in
the flower pots beside the plants. I tried twice to photograph it but it drew blank, my third
attempt alone got the picture, I later discovered. You can see it in this photograph. Let me
show you the two Amb figures in sandal-paste. We got two pairs of silver anklets and each
is now adorned with a pair. You can see it here. These are the kind of eyes we saw moving,
during Periyavas pja. Nowadays, they draw a line and place a dot. In Periyavas time, eyes
were drawn. You can see the anklets adorning the two balls of sandal-paste, representing
Amb. Till such a time, when the anklets are perhaps, to be received by someone, they will
adorn her feet. We know nothing. We have got these anklets for Amb. See this maravuri. It
is more than forty-five years old. Not an insect or moth. One more piece is with another
devotee. See how huge this is. The tree sloughs it on its own. Periyava draped this in many
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In the Presence of the Divine
different ways many times upon his body. After Ramavatar, Periyava alone has worn
maravuri.
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