Ayyankulam Tank is an important place in Tiruvannamalai in the early days of Sri Ramana Maharshi.
The story of Ramana, his childhood, realization and early days in Tiruvannamalai is well told in Ramana Leela, which was used as a source for the material below.
When Ramana arrived at Tiruvannamalai in 1896, he first presented himself to ‘the Father’ at Arunachaleswara, where the doors all swung open to receive him, and closed and locked as he left.
After offering himself at his Father’s feet, Ramana came out of the vast temple and into the world. We wandered about aimlessly and reached the Ayyankulam Tank, east of Arunachala. There, Ramana continued discarding the symbols of his earlier life. He noticed that he still had a packet of sweets given to him on his journey from Madurai. “Does this need the sweets. too?” he thought and threw them into the tank. Coming from the tank, somebody asked him if he wanted his head shaved. He assented and was taken to a nearby house of a barber, who shaved his head, removing all of Ramana’s thick black hair.
Ramana walked to a garden east of the tank, and there removed his clothes, tore a piece into what was needed for a codpiece (a symbol of chastity in word, thought and deed). He threw what was left of his clothes into the tank. He still had some money left. He threw this away also.
Finally, he removed the yagnopaveetam (sacred thread), indicative of Brahman birth. He was now beyond all caste distinctions. The sacred thread could also cause a sense of superiority. So he threw this into the Tank as well.
After his tonsure, he did not want to have the luxury of a bath, but this was not to be. To complete the convention of taking to sannyasa, as Ramana was returning to Arunachaleswara Temple, there was a heavy rain, drenching him. Heaven itself provided the bath.
So after Ramana greeted ‘the Father’ he took actions to renounce his previous possessions and life, and to ready himself for a life with Arunachala. Though he never formally took sannyasa, he dad take the appropriate steps and even had his ritual bath for a final cleansing to wash away all remnants of his prior life.
This post shows Ayyankulam Tank, and Arunagirinathar Temple, which abuts the tank on the west side, which was surely where Ramana came that day.
Here is Ayyankulam Tank from the west side, as Ramana would probably have approached it. Most of the buildings that presently surround the tank were not there when Ramana came. though remnants of an ancient temple can be seen on the east side of the tank. This temple probably was in use during Ramana’s days.
The iron gate would not have been there. (Nor my motorscooter.)
Looking away from the tank we see a temple, very old. It is Arunagirinathar Temple.
Before Ramana, Arunagiri was perhaps the most well known saint in the area. He was born in Tiruvannamalai, about 500 years ago, in the 1500s. David Godman has a very good write up on Arunagiri here.
Before you enter the temple, you can see Krishna on one side.
And Siva and Parvati on the other side.
Entering the temple, it is quiet and peaceful. Not many visitors.
Ganesh (?) greets you on the left side.
Murugan is on the right side.
The main altar is this lingam, well taken care of by the priests of this temple.
Walking around the back of the temple, first we are greeted by Ganesh …
Then Dhakshinamoorthy …
Then the Linga Bhava …
And this one is Lord Brahmaa as written in Tamil.
Behind the temple is what looks like a junk yard for idols, with many here with deep layers of dust and dirt.
Below, a Naga, protecting a lingam.
Who is this?
The Nine Planets.
In the center of the Nine Planets is a form, more elaborate than I have seen before.
From one of our readers: In the navagraha, in the center is Lord Surya, depicting the Sun at the center with seven horses depicting the vibgyor = seven days of the week = varam, as well as the senses to be brought
under control for moksha.
Beside the tank is this Ganesh shrine, next to the temple tree.
You can get an idea of the age of this shrine by the tree, which is VERY old.
The shrine at the tree has the main god, with Nagas on both sides.
The main god. Who is this? It is not Ganesh as I expected.
Close up of one set of Nagas.
Arunachala can be seen from this shrine.
We went around the Tank, and in a side entrance. A man who lived next to the tank went and got the key to the gate so he could open it for us. I tried to give him some money for his help, and he refused to take it.
Arunachala is beautiful from here.
We walked back on the steps of the tank to the east side.
Here is a wonderful view of Arunachala. Under the big tree is the shrine pictured above.
The Raja Gopuram of Arunachaleswara can been seen.
Two women wash clothes.
On this side of the tank there are more temples. This one seems abandoned.
This one is well taken care of.
We attracted a group of children. Many are around since this is summer holiday from classes.
Carol likes to show the kids how to do ‘fist bumps’ as another way to interact with them. They often start out asking for “My pen?” but Carol can redirect them with the fist bump, and they are happier having a way to interact with her and learning about American culture. (!)
A boy jumps into the tank before we go.
One last look at Arunachala and the magnificent view across the tank, and we have to go.
Here is a map, developed from Google Earth, to show you where this is.
First to orient to general location of Ayyankulam Tank.
Then a close up of the map, showing where Ayyankulam Tank is in relation to Arunachaleswara Temple.
Ayyankulam Tank, and Arunagirinathar Temple, are both places that are very worthwhile to visit. Ramana devotees should be particularly interested in the tank. We found this visit to be very good, and these are places we will go to again.