In 1976, at Belgaum Airport (Sambra) where I was working, a decision was taken by all the staff in the airport, to install a Vinayaka idol in the existing Maruti temple, within the Airport Colony. A notice in Marathi, Kannada and English was printed for local distribution regarding this and a copy was submitted to Paramacharya, when He was camping in Tenambakkam, with a request to bless our efforts.
After my return to Belgaum, an order was placed with a local Stapathi, to undertake the work of making the idol of Lord Ganesha. But it was getting unduly delayed and during my next visit to Madras, I approached Periyaval and told Him about the delay. Immediately, He blessed saying that it would be ready soon. To my surprise, when I returned to Belgaum I found the idol ready, and the eyes of the idol had been opened the day Periyaval blessed me!
When Periyaval was at Hubli, some of us from Belgaum, as emissaries of Sri Balgopalan, Divisional Commissioner, Belgaum, approached Periyaval to request Him to spend Chaturmasyam of 1979 in Belgaum. To this, He readily agreed, and we were extremely elated. Thus, a month before the commencement of Chaturmasyam, Periyaval came and camped at Sri Gurudev Mandir, at Belgaum. It was early morning on Sunday, and the previous Saturday, being the second Saturday of the month, we had performed Divya Nama Sangeerthana there. On His arrival, Periyaval asked us to do Divya Nama Bajana every Saturday there!
For quite sometime, the people in Sambra had been wishing that Sri Vittal-Rukkumayee also be installed in the Airport Temple, and the idol for the same had been ordered at Pandharpur. During Periyaval's stay at Gurudev Mandir, the idol was received. We requested Him to come to Sambra for its installation as the temple work was complete. It was raining heavily. I wanted Periava's permission to bring the idol to His presence and to this He said that instead of Himself going to the God, I wanted to bring the God to Him!!
But to our surprise, the next day, He walked all the way to Sambra in the drizzle and camped at the Airport Temple. All arrangements were made in a hurry with the help of the Air Force and Airport staff. The next day, the Panduranga-Rukkumayee was installed by Paramacharya, who did all the poojas before installing it. He had decorated the idol with Bilvapatra on the head and we were surprised at that. He asked for the Dynaneswari book to be brought and asked the Marathi priest to read the relevant portion where the Santh, who was an ardent devotee of Shiva saw Panduranga as Lord Shiva, with Bilva on His head!
The next day, He left for Gurudev Mandir, as Chaturmasya was to begin shortly. This is an example of His unbounded karuna and steadfast adherence to details in all matters. Sri Duraiswami, an employee of Tarapore & Co., was not known much for devotion or bhakthi, but on coming in touch with Paramacharya, he was totally reformed, became an ardent devotee and gave a lot of support to us in making all the arrangements for Chaturmasya.
In the following lines, I venture to convey to the briefest possible extent, my most memorable and zealously treasured experiences with Acharya as it happened on 17th September 1979.
On 15th Sept 1979, a Saturday, on completion of Chaturmasya Vratam, we performed a Divyanama Sankirtanam at Sri Gurudev Mandir in the august presence of Periyaval. After this, my family retired to Tarapore guest house at 11 pm for the night.
On the next day at about 5 o'clock we got up, finished our morning ablutions and were getting ready for Periyaval's darshan, before leaving for Sambra. At that time, Sri Narasimha Iyer (an ardent devotee of Periyaval) came running to tell that Periyaval was leaving Gurudev Mandir and asked us to hurry up. When we reached the place, He had already left and Balu, Srikantan and Induvaasan were loading His rickshaw with things. When asked, they said from what they heard, it seemed that He was proceeding towards Sambra and asked to me to rush there to make the necessary arrangements.
As Sambra was about 17 km away, I made some hurried arrangements at a Shiva temple, in a village called Kudichi, about 9 km on the way and told the villagers to wait from the Swamiji's arrival. I then proceeded to Sambra. With the help of the Air Force and Airport staff, the arrangements were made in the Airport Maruti temple, where Periyaval had stayed before.
To our surprise, He walked 17 kms at a stretch without stopping at Kudichi and arrived at Sambra at 10.30 am. That day being Ekadasi, some tiffin items were being prepared for the visitors from the South, in a house situated close by.
That evening, Periyaval asked me to proceed to a place called Murgod, about 60 kms east of Sambra to gather information about that place, as Sri Murgod Swamiji had been requesting Him to visit that Ashram for some time. On the way, He asked to find suitable halts at about every 10 kms. I went along with Induvasan, and returned at 7 pm, to brief Periyaval about the place.
That night, I brought the IAF Station Commander, the Panchayat Board President and other prominent agriculturists of Sambra in the adjoining villages, to request Him to stay at Sambra for Navarathri. At this request, Periyaval smiled and said that as a Sanyasi one should enter a place with all honours and leave as a thief (choravath)! Sanyasis should not get attached to any place. Then he asked about where my house was, how far is was, who the neighbours were etc. Little did we know the significance of all this.
The next day was Dwadasi and preparations for Paranai and Periyaval's biksha etc, were being done in the house. Early in the morning at about 4.30 am, in the Mandir, Sri Ekambaram read Panchangam to Periyaval and ended the reading with the words "Yathi Mahalayam" (As related by Ekambaram later)
At about 10.30 am, Sri Rajagopal (presently Mettur Swamigal) came to the house and informed us that a very important Aaradhana for all the wandering sanyasins who attained siddhi at unknown places and times should be performed on YATI MAHALAYA DWADASI and this year it was to take place in the house, as ordered by Periyaval and that the ceremony would be conducted by Sri Balachandra Gnapathi of Dharwar and by Sri Ramu Vadyar of Tiruvannamalai. He said that about 80 persons would have to be fed, and requested us to make arrangements accordingly. He also said that according to Periyaval, this Aradhana was to be dedicated to all sanyasis who had attained siddhi; whose Aradhana had not been performed so far, as the day was 'Sanyastha Mahalayam'. Periyaval had desired that it be done in the house.
On hearing this, we were elated, and at the same time perplexed, as Belgaum town was 17 kms away and it would take time to arrange all the necessary things for the pooja, while the Aaradhana had to commence by 12.30 pm. Then, on being informed by phone, friends from Belgaum rushed to Sambra, with whatever things were needed for the rituals, and the same commenced at 12.30 pm as fixed by Periyaval in the presence of Sri Ugar Swamigal!
It so happened that a big mill owner from Coimbatore came to the temple for Periyava's darshan in his car with his aged mother, and as his mother could not get down from the car, Periyaval Himself went to the car and gave darshan to her! The mill owner had brought six pairs of dhotis and gave them to Periyaval, which He sent to the house to give to the Brahmins!
By 3.15 pm, the Aaaradhana rituals were over and the Brahmins, four in number (one of whom was Aadhi Sankara) took food. Now, the most incredible event happened.
One of my office staff came running to the house to inform me that Periyaval was heading towards the house, with the umbrella and Dharbasana held by Sri Balu, accompanied by Ekambaram and others. At 3.30 pm, Periyaval was on the doorstep and we were so surprised that for a moment that we could not believe our eyes.
Somehow, an improvised Poorna Kumbham was hurriedly obtained and was given to Periyaval by Srikantan, who was already there to take charge of the kitchen.
On entering the house, Periyaval asked for the pooja room, went there and sat for a while to do japams. Soon, he came out to the hall where the Aaradhana had been performed, and did his obeisance by bowing His head to the sacred theertham for the kumbha. Then, he entered the kitchen and asked Srikantan to show all the items prepared and served to the Brahmins (The items were done according to Periyava’s instructions only!). He went back to the pooja room, sat there and asked Srikantan to bring all items prepared for Aaradhana to be served, including Annam! What a great and memorable occasion that was!
Periyaval remained in the house until 5 pm, listened to a discourse by Sri Ugam Swamigal, and then left for the Airport temple. While leaving, He left the umbrella, dharbasana, a plank and a shawl in the pooja room. Later, when these items left were sought to be brought back to him, Periyaval told to keep them in the house with the Grihastha, with the instruction that on every Sanyastha Mahalayam day each year, a Vedic Brahmin should be made Aadhi Sankara, fed and honoured with dakshina. This is being done unfailingly with His grace.
That night, He sat inside the temple, which was under construction, to install Dattatreya idol, and was talking aloud with all the visitors explaining the concept of Sri Dattatreya! We all saw him as Lord Dattatreya Himself, and were almost sure that He would stay here for Navarathri.
But things were not to be as imagined by us. Next day, 18th August 1979, at 6 am, He started from the temple and proceeded east and as usual, everyone followed him in a hurry including the sevakas! (Chittam pokku, Shivam pokku).
Periyaval walked about 12 kms, through ghat section and reached a place called Kardi Guddi, situated in the midst of the mountains, and He camped in an old and dilapidated Shiva temple called Jambhu Linga Mandhir, across a mountain stream. That day being Pradhosham, in the evening, He wanted abhishekam and pooja to be performed.
While abhishekam was being done by Balu and the others, we heard Periyaval recite the Rudram aloud. It seemed that for a long time, no pooja or abhishekam had been done in that temple, and after this, a miracle happened. Througout the day, there was no sign of rain and the sky was clear, but soon after the abhishekam was over, somehow, clouds collected and there was a downpour. The stream separating the road and the temple where Periyaval was sitting over-flowed with water. Most of us were on the road. From across the stream, in the darkness Srikantan shouted to me, saying that Periyaval asked me to take all the people, especially the women to my house in my car. As still it was raining heavily and visibility was very poor, it would be very risky to drive 12 kms in the Ghat, but as the order came from Nadamadum Deivam, we did not have second thought, and I drove the car with 12 people and a lot of things, chanting Periyava’s name. When we reached the gate of the house, the car stopped abruptly.
The next morning, when the mechanic opened the car bonnet, the carburetor was full of water and he wondered how the car was running!! Immediately we recalled the blessings of Periyaval.
That night, everyone took the precious day’s Yati Mahalayam Prasadam, which was in abundance, due to Periyaval having put his Divya Drishti on it. It was not exhausted inspite of about 80 persons having taken the Prasad the previous day. This was a miracle.
One Saturday, when Periyaval was at a place called Chachadi, we went from Belgaum to perform Divya Nama Sankeertanam. He was sitting outside. We saw the ground on which the Deepa Pradhakshanam had to be done; it had a lot of loose stones and we were wondering as to how we could perform bhajan there. As if He read our minds, He told us that nothing would happen, and asked us to go ahead with the bhajan.
We simply forgot the nature of the ground for five hours, did the bhajan with Periyaval sitting through the entire bhajan, until the Aarthi was done. We did not have a single scratch on our feet and all of us shed tears at Periyava’s benevolence.
I took a friend of mine and his sister to Periyaval, when He was camping at a place called Benhatti , one evening at about six o’clock. After doing our Sandhya Vandanam, I went near Periyaval to clarify some doubt regarding the meaning of a krithi, Sankaracharyam Smaramyaham by Sri Subbarama Dikshitar, in the raga Sankarabaranam. I was standing near Him, and Sri Ugar Swamigal was talking in Sanskrit with Him. Periyaval saw my shyness and asked me to sit down and speak about my doubt, which I had not told him yet!
For the next three hours, there was a long discourse by Him about the krithi explaining its meaning, word by word, with Him singing the krithi aloud. The long discourse included the Cosmic dance of Sri Nataraja, Panini’s Vyakarnam and the origin of the Sutras. It was 9.30 pm, and Periyaval asked us to stay back and not to return to Sambra in the night. After we all went to rest, He was talking aloud with Sri Rajagopalan (who is now Sri Mettur Swamigal) about the World War and the situation in Europe at the time. It was very interesting when he alluded to historical events with such deep insight.
I once went from Ahmedabad to Mahagaon. There was a big crowd near Periyaval and I was standing a little away with Sri Muthuswamy Iyer, when suddenly Periyaval called me close and made all of us sit. He asked me to sing the keertanas on Vigneswara and later, on all deities, for about an hour. Sri Muthuswamy Iyer later used to allude to this. The meeting with Sri Muthuswamy Iyer that occasion was to pave way for my daughter’s marriage with his grandson.
While Periyaval was camping at Satara in Maharashtra, we went there from Belgaum for darshan. There was a discussion in progress with Periyaval, regarding the building of a temple similar to the one at Chidambaram. One Sri Shamanna Shanbhag, a great devotee, had offered to bear the expenses and plans were being formalized under the guidance of Periyaval. At that time, Periyaval turned towards me and said that a Lord Nataraja temple was to come up as Uttara Chidambaram and asked me to visit the same when it was fully completed! As I was on orders of transfer to Ahmedabad at that time, I was wondering as to how I would be able to see the temple, especially since it would take two to three years for the temple work to be over.
Little did I realize that after a lapse of about 19 years, on the 27th March 1999, what Periyaval had said would come to pass!! When we went on Maharashtra Yatra, I did get the opportunity to visit the Uttara Nataraja Temple, and when we stood in front of the Deity, we thought with nostalgia of the scene of Periyaval sitting there. Sri Shanbhag, the senior, was no more and we were engrossed in thoughts of Periyaval there. We related the story that had been enacted there many years ago to Shri Shamanna Shanbhag’s daughter-in-law. They were overwhelmed and shed tears. What foresight and what affection Periyaval showed to people!!
From Ahmedabad, I once went to Pandharpur for Periyava’s darshan. When I reached Pandharpur on the other side of the river, late at night, the boatman said that it was not safe to cross the river, as it was in spate. He promised to take me to Periyaval the next morning. Actually, I wanted to have His darshan that night, and leave early morning, to return to Bombay and catch the night Mail to Ahmedabad, so that I would be able to attend an important court case for my department. I thought it would be alright even if I could catch the 10 o’clock bus to Bombay, as the night Mail to Ahmedabad would take me back early the next morning and so, it would be possible to attend court that day.
Accordingly, I reached Periyava’s camp on the other side of the river at 7.00 am. Periyaval was inside, talking aloud and did not come out, evne by 9.00 am. Sri Ramakrishnan, Balu and others told Periyaval several times that Sambra (as Periyaval used to call me) was waiting and had to catch the 10 o’clock bus to Bombay, enroute to Ahmedabad, but still, He did not respond. I felt impatient and was wondering what to do. At last by 9.45 am, He came out and enquired about my family and welfare. I being in a hurry, wanted to do pranams and take leave, but He asked me to wait. It was almost 10 am. Finally, He called a relative of Sri Annadurai Iyengar’s and asked him to take me in his car to drop me at the bus stand with the sarcastic remark that if Sambra could catch 10 am bus, he could try!
Ofcourse, I missed the scheduled bus, and the next bus was at 1 o’clock. I was sure I would not be able to get the night mail to Bombay. I would have to wait for the early morning express. Suddenly, I heard sirens from ambulances reaching nearby hospitals and was informed that the 10 am bus to Bombay had met with an accident and that several persons were seriously injured.
The foresight and the Karunai of the Nadamadum Deivam and His inexplicable ways of protecting His devotees!!
Tears streamed from my eyes and for a moment I stood dazed, when realization dawned that we are small on the scheme of things.
These are only a few instances of Periva’s unfathomable affection, the list is inexhaustible. Words cannot adequately describe His infinite grace and our minds are too small to comprehend the depth of His unbounded knowledge of men and matters.
Srimad Ramayana was written by only Sri Valmiki Sage, but about Periyaval, each one of His devotees will write a Periyavayana, and still it would not be complete. Periyaval not only lives in the Adhishtanam at Kanchi Mutt, but is ever alive in the hearts of lakhs of devotees. We are really fortunate that He was with us during our life time and still guides us in our life.