The One-Year Ceremony After A. Ramana’s Mahasamadhi

by

On 15 February, 2011, a ceremony was held at the AHAM Ashram in Tiruvannamalai to mark the first anniversary of the Mahasamadhi of its founder, A. Ramana. These One-Year ceremonies are customary in South India. About 50 people, Indians and Westerners, as well as about 50 Sadhus, and a number of school children, also were in attendance.

A shrine for A. Ramana now has been built on the AHAM ashram grounds. As is usual, it is built above the final resting place of A. Ramana’s remains. To see the previous postings about the rites performed for A. Ramana, go to these links:

Interment of A Ramana into Samadhi
A. Ramana Shradha 
Mandala  Puja for A. Ramana

Here is the shrine as it was this morning of the One-Year Ceremony, before people started to gather around it.

20110215_14733

Rajasekar is making sure all is ready for the ceremony.

20110215_14736

Next to the shrine, a table has been set out, loaded with the many things needed for the coming puja.

IMG_2589

Banana plants are brought to add to the decorations of the shrine.

IMG_2591

Meanwhile, visitors enjoy a cup of chai outside the AHAM building.

IMG_2593

The puja is starting. Jan is the first to make the offerings to A. Ramana.

IMG_2601

In a nearby structure, a sadhu is making decorations for the shrine from palm leaves.

IMG_2603

Jan is spreading oil over the three idols, Nandi, the lingam, and the balapeetam. (The balapeetam is a small, flat-topped stone carving, placed on the outside of the Nandi. One should make offerings onto it. The best offering is one’s ego.)  Hanging in front are some of the decorations made by the swami. They kind of remind me of birds, hanging on a string.

IMG_2606

Jan pours milk on the lingam. There is an order in which all the offerings are to be made today. First to Nandi, then to the lingam, then to the balapeetam.

IMG_2617    

After each item is offered, water is poured to clean and ready it for the next item. The order, for each offering, was:

Make the offering
Place a flower on each idol
Dot the idols with sandal wood paste (or later, kumkum)
Offer a camphor flame to the idols
Clean the idols with water

Pouring water.

IMG_2628

During the ceremony, V. Ganesan, who was close to A. Ramana, and Ganesan’s aide, Anu, sang. They started with verses familiar to many Ramana Maharshi devotees, Sri Arunachala Akshara  Mana Malai, from the Marital Garland of Letters, composed by Bhagavan Ramana for his devotees to chant while going into town for biksha (asking for offerings of food). This chant is now done every Monday night at 6 PM at Ramanasramam.

(Refrain)
Arunachala Siva, Arunachala Siva, Arunachala Siva, Arunachala!
Arunachala Siva, Arunachala Siva, Arunachala Siva, Arunachala!

(Verse 1)
Aruna chalamena ahame ninaip-pavar
Ahat-taive rarup-pai Arunachala

(Translation, not chanted: “Thou dost root out the ego of those who meditate on Thee in the heart, Oh Arunachala!”)

This chant has 108 verses. The refrain was sung after each verse. In addition are prefatory and invocation verses and a final benediction. In all, this chant lasted for most of the ceremony, providing a special atmosphere for the proceedings.  

IMG_2632

Jan offers sandalwood paste.

IMG_2634

IMG_2636

The camphor offering.

IMG_2639    

Below is the lingam, topped by a rose. The lingam is located directly above the head of A. Ramana, who is interred in a lotus position below the platform.

IMG_2640

Cleaning with water. The water is poured first into the open hand, and then directed onto the idol.

IMG_2642

A group of school children and their teachers join us. They are from the Arunachala Village School.

IMG_2647

Another offering is made. Now it is Vivian making the offerings. I thought it was very good that different people who were close to A. Ramana were making these offerings today.

IMG_2658

Vivian offers the light.

IMG_2659

Then starts to pour water, to clean the idols.

IMG_2662 

She uses her hand to carefully clean the lingam.

DSC06416

Next is offered turmeric as a yellow paste.

IMG_2670

Ganesan continues to sing.

DSC06418

Vivian dots the idols with sandalwood paste.

IMG_2673

Now Stan is making the offerings. He pours water to clean off the turmeric.

IMG_2676

Jan is showing him how to use his hand to control the flow of the water.

IMG_2680

Now he offers the camphor flame.

IMG_2686

Now Sujata making the offering. First she offers more water to clean the idols.

IMG_2695

Then she starts the offering of prasad.

IMG_2698

Enough chopped fruit mixture is offered so that each person attending will be able to eat a serving.

IMG_2705

Then the honey offering is made, this time on top of the prasad, for extra sweetening.

IMG_2707     

The lingam looks so good covered with the prasad and a rose on top.

IMG_2709

The flame is offered to the idols.

IMG_2711

Then the prasad is carefully collected.

IMG_2713  

Once again water is offered to the lingam to clean it.

IMG_2716

And now buttermilk (I believe) is poured over the Lingam.

IMG_2721 

Svargen now steps up to the altar, and completes this offering.

IMG_2724

Then he adds the three flowers.

IMG_2729

And gives the idols light.

IMG_2730

Mmm, now the lingam gets curd, yogurt.

IMG_2738

Nandi and the balapeetam received the curd offering also.

DSC06433 

Now Svargen offers the flame.

IMG_2745

Elizabeth steps up to the altar next.

IMG_2746

She pours water to clean the curd.

IMG_2748

Then she starts dropping handfuls of vibhuti, sacred ash, on the lingam and other idols.

IMG_2757

She adds quite a large amount. Here is the lingam with the ash and the flower topper.

DSC06439

Elizabeth offers the flame.

IMG_2765

Then collects all the sacred ash. This has been specially consecrated by this puja today.

IMG_2767

Then comes the cleaning job. Water is poured.

IMG_2774

Now comes another turmeric offering. Due to the antiseptic nature of turmeric, this sterilizes the lingam from any effects of the ash or earlier offerings.

IMG_2778

The red rose is added to the yellow turmeric-coated lingam.

IMG_2784

The three idols, all topped by their flowers.

IMG_2786

And the fire offering.

IMG_2787

Then the water offering to clean up.

IMG_2789

This swami, Ramananda, is often at Ramanasramam. He can also be seen riding a motorbike on Girivalam Road.

DSC06441

The old woman in the red sari, Pachiamma, is a staunch devotee of A. Ramana.

IMG_2791

Now Geeta is making the offerings.

IMG_2794

Some children from Arunachala Village School step up to the shrine to sing two songs that they have prepared for today’s ceremony. 

IMG_2798

Geeta offers the flame. She offers it to the picture of A. Ramana hanging in the shrine.

IMG_2806

Now it is time for the final cleanup before the idols are dressed and decorated.

IMG_2809

Several people work on all sides of the shrine to clean every spot, remove all the water, and to polish the surfaces.

IMG_2814

Now Pradakshina Swami has some cloths in his hands.

IMG_2818

He is dressing the lingam.

IMG_2822

Other sadhus have come, and are sitting in a shaded shed.

IMG_2824

The lingam is getting its fancy towel put on.

IMG_2827

Now starts the flower decoration. First, several beautiful malas are put on the lingam.

IMG_2831

IMG_2828

IMG_2836

Layer upon layer of flowers is added.

IMG_2839                     

Roses are carefully placed atop the lingam.

IMG_2849

The school children and other visitors watch the proceedings.

IMG_2862

More sadhus have arrived.

IMG_2865

Look how beautiful the idols are!

IMG_2867

Now Pradakshina Swami makes final decorations to A. Ramana’s photo.

IMG_2868

Then Anja starts singing sweet songs to A. Ramana. At times she almost breaks into tears.

IMG_2874

Meanwhile, the decoration of the shrine continues. They are using a metal plate as a form, so they can lay out roses in a circle.

IMG_2876

Voila!

IMG_2878

Geeta and Pachiamma lay roses on the edge of the shrine.

IMG_2882

Vivian and Pachiamma stand and admire the work.

IMG_2884

Now other parts of the offering are added: fruits and banana  leaves.

IMG_2889

After the altar is completely decorated, people start filing around it and offering their regards to A. Ramana.

First is a teacher from the school.

IMG_2890

Then the school kids. They need to leave and get back to class. 

IMG_2893

Stan then read from a book by A. Ramana, “There  is Neither ‘I’ nor other than ‘I'”, there is only”

IMG_2896    

…while incense is being lit and offered.       

DSC06453

Elizabeth speaks for a while and sings to us. The first, which she invited us to sing with her, was “The Lord’s Prayer.” It was moving to hear this Christian hymn. 

DSC06455

Here is the altar, after all the decorations. Such loving care and attention to every detail.

DSC06458

The incense is offered to Arunachala.

DSC06461

Then the camphor flame is offered to the lingam.

DSC06467

And to all who came today.

DSC06477

Below, more photos of the altar. I savor the beauty and reverence.

DSC06479

DSC06480

Ganesan starts speaking.

DSC06484

He especially honors Stan, who has now taken over as director of AHAM.

DSC06488

DSC06490

Then he honors Vivian, Elizabeth and Jan, using strings of flowers taken from the altar. They were first used to honor A. Ramana, and are now used to honor some of those who loved him.

DSC06492

DSC06495

DSC06496

Now the rest of the people start filing by the altar, to pay their respects to A. Ramana.

DSC06498

DSC06501

Here is Carol in a light blue saree.

DSC06505

Prasad is handed out, so everybody can share this special consecrated food.

DSC06512

The sadhus line up to eat. Meals are offered to everyone who attends today.

DSC06514

The sadhus sit outside the entrance, in the shaded veranda. While food is being served, they are being led in a chant.

DSC06517

A meal is served to each sadhu. And flowers are put on their heads, just like the flowers placed atop the lingam today.

DSC06520

DSC06522

The flowers are removed, and then the sadhus can eat.

Afterward, as they file out, each is given a package with new clothes.

DSC06526

DSC06535                       

One last look at the altar.

DSC06539

And at Arunachala Ramana’s photo, smiling on us all.

DSC06540              

It was a privilege to be here on this holy day. The One-Year Ceremony is such a good tradition. You could see in the faces of those who came how they were touched by it. And, since there was time to plan and make travel arrangements, people from AHAM in the USA were able to attend. I am sure this was a blessing for each of them.  

Advertisements

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: