Courtesy: Shri V.S.Krishnan Punkunnam, a suburb of Trichur, wore a festive look that day. Colourful decorations were made with festoons and Thoranams. A huge crowd gathered around the Pandal that was specially put up for the occasion. The three caparisoned elephants with Kolam and umbrellas stood majestically in front. The Panchavadyam artists were playing their instruments. Pundits, Purohits, devotees, men and women from all walks of life had assembled there to witness a rare spectacle.
Though Punkunnam may not be known to all, it is famous for the Sitaram Mill, the first Spinning and Weaving Mill that was established in Kerala. It was Sri T.R. Ramachandra Iyer who established the Mill in the early 40s. He invited Brahmins from Tamil Nadu to conduct the operation of the Mill and the area around which the Brahmins settled came to be known as Pushpagiri Agraharam. An Agraharam is incomplete without a temple and soon a Sitarama Swamy temple came up in the vicinity. Sri Rama Navami is conducted here on a very grand scale and the procession of Sri Rama chariot inching forward thorough the Pushpagiri Agraharam, accompanied by decorated elephants and percussion playing is a marvellous sight indeed.
Sri T.S. Balarama Iyer inherited a great tradition of devotion and culture from Sri T.R. Ramachandra Iyer. His house, almost resembling a mini palace, remained as venue for many religious and spiritual activities. It also served as the resting place for Acharya Sri Chandrasekhara Saraswathi Swamigal of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetom whenever the pontiff visited this region.
This day, sometime in 1957, was another such occasion. Maha Periyaval’s arrival was the talk of the town. The whole Trichur town seemed to have turned up there to welcome the great Acharya. It reminded the Ramanavami festival that used to attract a large crowd. As the sun was slowly setting on the western horizon, another sun, as brilliant as the setting one, had appeared in the ground facing the Mill. The Jagat Guru in his characteristic simplicity had set his foot on the Punkunnam soil. The people of Punkunnam felt elated that a tiny piece of land, such as theirs, could have the graceful presense of Jagat Guru. As the Pundits chanted the Vedic Mantra, the Sage of Kanchi came towards the Pandal and accepted the honour of Poorna Kumbam with humility. The Tulasi garland was put on him and flowers were showered all over his entourage. A loud sound of crackers was heard. Paramachaarya of Kanchi Peetam was the cynosure of all eyes. The percussion artists played their instruments at high pitch. The Paramacharya was soon escorted in a procession followed by Vedic chanting, bhajan, Melam etc. The procession of Sankaracharya slowly advanced and reached Balarama Iyer’s house. The Maha Swamigal gave Darshan and Prasadam to all. After some rituals, all those assembled dispersed, hoping to immerse themselves in the grace of Mahaswamigal the next day.
Bala Rama Iyer’s house was a joint family where not only family members but also friends and neighbours stayed on and moved about freely. As night fell, everyone went to their respective room and silence descended. They all slept peacefully unaware of a surprise they would be facing next morning. Next day, gradually the house came to regular activity. A member of the family who knew that Swamigal was in the habit of rising early, gently knocked on the door to enquire whether Swamigal needed anything but found that the door opened by itself. As he peeped in, he found there was none inside. Soon, word spread that Swamigal was missing. A search was on and everyone went here and there to spot Swamigal but Swamigal was no where to be seen.
One person who went out and walked up to the front gate of the Mill, almost a kilo meter away, found out that Swamigal had gone inside the factory. It soon transpired that Swamigal had got up early and silently walked unto the gate of the Sitaram Mill, the same spot where he was given a reception a day before. The gate-keeper who was witness to all the goings-on yesterday was surprised that the man, the cynosure of all eyes yesterday, was standing just before him. He could not believe his eyes. Swamiji was asking him permission to go inside the Factory. Sensing the greatness of Swamiji from the kind of reception he received, the gate keeper readily agreed and instructed another fellow employee to guide and conduct the Swamiji. Swamiji went inside the Factory, saw every section, and came out with the knowledge how, from a mere thread, a big sheet of cloth is being weaved.
What is the driving force behind all great men? What helped them to achieve and what made them great? If you scrutinize this question in depth, you will realize that all great men who made achievements in different fields, had one common characteristic; the power of observation. Take any great man, study their life and you will be convinced that before they acted, they observed. Sri Ramana Maharshi observed the phenomenon of death by assuming himself to be dead. It is only by observing why an apple should fall from the tree; Sir Isaac Newton discovered the law of gravity. All great thinkers observed every phenomenon in earth and arrived at truth. Most of those who were closely associated with Maha Swamigal were not aware that Maha Swamigal was a keen observer. He observed even minute things. He was always eager to know. Swamigal who was the embodiment of knowledge in spirituality was gathering knowledge on different aspects of life. It was this eagerness to know that made him great. (Source: From friends and from the discourse of Nochur Sri Venkataraman