Ramana lived in this cave in 1899 for about six months. This was before he moved up to Virupaksha Cave. It is also called Satguru Swami Cave and Banyan Cave. Of the area, Ramana said, (quoted from Day by Day with Bhagavan):
“I lived in the cave now called Alamarathu Guhai for some time. There was no banyan tree then. That tree as well as all the trees on both sides up to Virupaksha Cave were all planted and watered by Kandaswami who planned and created Skandashram later.“
From what has been written about Sri Ramana, I knew that there was a cave that Bhagavan had used before Guhai Namasivaya Temple and Virupaksha Cave. I was confused about this cave though because I read different names in different places. Now I find out that they all refer to the same place!
This cave is between Arunachaleswara Temple and Virupaksha Cave. See the map below for more details. To get there we turned up a street we have never been on. Today Saranis our guide. We think he will be good for this, since he grew up in this neighborhood.
We drove a few hundred meters, then parked out two wheelers at a small shrine, and walked the rest of the way.
Arunachala is in the background. To the left a ridge rises. The path up to Skandashram is on the other side of this ridge.
Soon the paved road turns to stones laid into the ground.
Boys want their photo taken. This seems true everywhere we go. After it is taken they want to see it in the view finder. Then they are happy.
A woman sets on the front stairs into her house.
Up the hill.
This area is used for garbage. Garbage disposal is a BIG problem everywhere we have been in India.
Must be a good garbage pile. The pigs like it.
We see a building on the right, up a set of stone stairs. Saran is telling Carol that he went to school at this ashram. They had classes for the first three years in school, until the school closed. At that time they were the only ones teaching English at that grade level. This is where Saran got his start with English.
This ashram is on the side of this hill. There is a stone retaining wall so they have some level area.
We are getting to the gate. We can see the sign.
To the left are more ashram buildings.
Up the stairs.
The name for the ashram. The spelling that they use themselves is NOT the spelling that can be found in the Ramana books. Sometimes it is frustrating that there are different ways of turning Tamil letters into English. For the article name, I have used the form that is found in the Ramana books, Alamarathu Guhai.
Ganesh is at the entrance, to remove any obstacles.
Carol stands by the banyan tree. From Ramana’s comments we know that this tree was not here in Ramana’s days.
To the right of the entrance, there is a hall and a cave. Below is a dedication plaque. I guess this building was built or renewed in 1994.
The renovation was sponsored by Swami Satchidananda. Satchidananda came to public attention as the opening speaker at the Woodstock music and arts festival in 1969. He had studied with Ramana, leaving when he could not bear the suffering of Sri Ramana’s arm cancer and treatment procedures
Inside are photos or Ramana and the guru, Ram Das, who founded this ashram.
IN the outer chamber there are these painted signs. They seem to be about bodies, and maybe energy flows or chakras.
There is also some kind of tree diagram. I would guess that it is the ‘line’ of the ashram founder.
There is a doorway to the cave (which is where Ramana stayed in 1899). On the way are painted Tiruvadi, holy feet. The signs instructs to surrender to Sri Poojya Papa Lotus Feet.
Here is the inner cave chamber where Ramana lived in 1899.
There is a bust of Ramana in the wall. This is Ramana when he was older. He was very young when in this cave, 19 or 20 years old.
There is an altar with a Ramana photo, and above, the ashram founder. Ram Das to the left and his guru Swami Ramalinganar.
Outside, a bit up the hill is one more building of the ashram. This is where the school used to be.
Here is the banyan tree from the other side.
Outside the ashram there is a nice flat area, created by the stone retaining wall.
At one end is an old form fire pit and a raised area. Saran says that they used this as a stage for events and functions. He said that when we went to this school, he got to be dressed as Siva for one of these.
This is a little known Ramana site. It is rarely visited by Ramana devotees. During the days of 1898 and 1899 Ramana seemed to be trying to find a peaceful place to stay, where he was less bothered by the crowds of people that now wanted to get darshan from the young ‘Bramana Swami’, as he was known at that time. During this time, he moved first to Gurumurtam, then Pavala Kundru, then Alamarathu Guhai Cave, then to Guhai Namasivaya Temple, then finally to Virupaksha Cave, where he stayed until 1916.
Go to the Ramana timeline and sites page to see other posts of Ramana site.