Mornings at Sri Ramanasramam are infused with a serene peace. This posting concludes the showing of a typical morning.
From mid morning until lunch the regular activity is the puja at Ramana’s samadhi and that of his mother.
Below, the priest performs Abhishekam, first pouring oil over the lingam, at Ramana’s samadhi in the New Hall.
Next the oil is rubbed all over the lingam.
At the same time, another priest is preparing the Mother’s shrine for puja.
Back at Ramana’s shrine, after the oil, water is poured over the lingam. You can see the water running off, into the special channel that is made to carry off water and other fluids.
After the water comes milk. Some of the milk is captured in a bucket. This is used for milk offerings to devotees. The milk used for puja is considered very sacred.
The milk that is not captured in a bucket runs off the lingam into a channel, then down a specially form spout, found in every Hindu temple I have seen.
Then the milk flows out into the area where the devotees are standing. Many of them will put their hands into the flow to take some milk, and will drink a bit and pour the rest on their heads.
A basket of flowers has been brought for the priest to use.
Flowers are also brought to the Mother’s shrine. The priest is tying them into malas, necklaces of flowers, to be draped on the various murtis during the puja.
The malas are temporarily hung on the door to Mother’s shrine. The white and red ones are flowers, the green ones are leaves from a tree.
Now the priest is putting a mala on the Mother’s samadhi.
While at the same time two other priests do the same to Ramana’s samadhi.
A third priest has joined the puja. He has a basket of flowers and is chanting, throwing flowers onto the lingam.
They work together decorating the lingam that tops Ramana’s samadhi.
At the Mother’s shrine, the malas adorn each of the murtis, both in the inner sanctum and in the entrance.
Back in the New Hall, one priest continues to chant and throw flowers. The other priest is about finished adding the ropes of flowers.
During this part of the puja there are few people in the hall.
The Mother’s shrine is almost ready. All the murtis wear their malas.
Now both priests are chanting, throwing flowers on the lingam at Ramana’s shrine.
There are a number of brass lamps that will be used later for arati, the waving of fire to the god.
Mother’s shrine is locked up until it is time to begin the final phase of the puja. Somehow I don’t like it when they lock up Mother’s shrine.
Today for some reason I do not know, they have put on a special silver covering onto Durga, and are making a special puja to Her.
Offering the camphor flame to Durga.
After the camphor flame is offered to Durga, it is brought out to the devotees, who wave the smoke over their heads, and take some vibhuti and kumkum and apply it to their foreheads.
Then, in the Mother’s shrine, a bell starts to ring. The rope to ring it is pulled by this lady.
The doors to the shrine have been opened, and there is a curtain up, hiding the altar.
Then the curtain drops and all can see the goddess (in this case, the Mother’s samadhi). They are waving flame to it. The people will pranam the goddess now.
Then the camphor is lit and offered to the Mother.
And to all the other murtis.
Finally it is brought out for the devotees.
Then the woman starts ringing the bell at Ramana’s shrine back in the New Hall.
The curtain is up here, like it was in Mother’s shrine.
The curtain drops, and arati is made to Ramana’s samadhi.
This arati is more complex, with each of the brass lamps used in succession.
By the time it is finished, about eight different oil lamps have been used to offer fire to Ramana.
The devotees watch, seeming to be enraptured by the sight.
A man sings. It is pretty common to have one of the devotees singing.
The camphor is lit and offered. People pranam.
The camphor is brought out to the devotees.
All partake of it.
Some leave a coin in the plate, as they take the vibhuti and kumkum.
Meanwhile, a ‘poor feeding’ is done every day in the courtyard. This has been going on since Ramana’s days.
The men, mostly sadhus, are fed first. Until the men are served, the women wait outside the gate.
After this it is time for the ashram lunch. A line forms outside the dining hall. You wash your hands from water faucets outside the entrance.
Then the doors open and people file into the dining hall.
Banana leaf plates are usually used. People wash them off when they first sit.
The first dish being served. At lunch this is often a potato dish. The servers have buckets of food, and drop a serving onto each leaf plate.
Rice is served. The hand up means ‘enough’.
Sambar is then served. This is a Tamil sauce, made from mashed lentils and vegetables and flavorings.
People sit and eat. Most use their right hands. Sometimes Westerners use a spoon that they have brought.
After the meal people leave the dining hall.
They wash up on the way out.
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, both in terms of the number of dishes served, and the number of people.
At lunch the poor feeding usually serves 300 people. The ashram lunch serves 300 on weekdays and 500 on weekend days. On days of major celebrations, when everyone is invited to take a meal, not just ashram guests and invitees, up to 4000 meals are served in the dining hall. For these big days, a temporary structure is built outside the dining hall. There will be four or more ‘seatings’ of people eating, until all are served. The poor feeding on these days may serve 2000 meals. I did a quick estimate and I guess that maybe 400,000 or 500,000 meals are served each year.
Breakfasts and evening meals serve fewer people. Lunch is the big event.
The feeding of ashram guests and the poor continues a tradition set from the time of Ramana. Ramana always considered it very important that everyone who comes to the ashram be fed. There are many stories about Ramana preparing, serving and eating of these meals. Ramanasramam management today considers it most important that Ramana’s tradition of feeding those who come to the ashram continues uninterrupted.