Back of the Book:
This small booklet contains the Five Hymns to Arunachala composed by Sri Ramana Maharshi during his time spent living on Arunachala. Three of the hymns, Arunachala Aksharamanamalai, Arunachala Navamanimalai and Arunachala Pancharatnam were created at the request of devotees and the remaining two, Arunachala Patikam and Arunachala Ashtakam welled up spontaneously from within. However all five hymns flowed without premeditation or contemplation.
The Five Hymns comprise the Tamil Parayana chanted in front of Sri Bhagavan's shrine every Monday evening at Sri Ramanasramam and are a firm favourite with every devotee.
1) Arunachala is the place (that which deserves to be called the holy place)! Of all places it is the greatest! Know that it is the heart (center) of the earth. It is Siva Himself. It is a secret place representing the Heart. Lord Siva always abides there as a glorious hill called Arunachala!
5) What cannot be acquired without great pains - the true import of Vedanta (viz. Self-realization) - can be attained by anyone who looks at this hill from where it is visible or even mentally thinks of it from afar.
An offering from Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, India
The five Hymns to Arunachala are the earliest pomes of the Maharshi except, for a few short verses. They were written about 1914, that is when he was about thirty five years of age (he was born in December 1879). He was still living in a cave on the hill. Some of his followers who were sadhus used to go into the town of Tiruvannamalai daily to beg for food and one day they asked him to make a song for them to sing as they went. At first he refused, saying that there were plenty of songs already made by the ancient Saivite saints. They continued to press him, however, and one day he walked round the Hill, composing the first hymn, The Marital Garland of Letters, as he went. It tells in glowing symbolism of the love and union between the human soul and God and is among the most profound and moving poems in any language. Although he who wrote it was established in the Bliss of indissoluble Union, it was written for the sake of devotees and expresses the attitude of the soul that still aspires.
The second, third and fourth poems are written at about the same time, and they also adopt the same attitude. Whereas the later poems of the Maharshi are more doctrinal, these hymns are more emotional, expressing more the attitude of devotion and aspiration.
The Ten (really Eleven) Verses and the Eight Verses are among the very few poems of the Maharshi that were written quite spontaneously without any request. As he himself said when speaking of them, "The only poems that came to me spontaneously and compelled me, as it were, to write them without any one urging me to do so are the Eleven (Ten) Stanzas to Sri Arunachala and the Eight Stanzas to Sri Arunachala. The opening words of the Eleven Stanzas came to me one morning and even though I tried to suppress them saying, 'What have I to do with these words?' they would not be suppressed till I composed a song bringing them in; and all the words flowed easily, without any effort. In the same way the second stanza was made the next day and the succeeding ones the following days, one each day. Only the tenth and eleventh were composed the same day".
He went on to describe in his characteristically vivid way how he composed the Eight Stanzas:
"The next day I started out to go round the hill. Palaniswami was not with me for a while but caught me up later. That day, before I got back to Virupaksha, I wrote six of the eight Stanzas. Either that evening or the next day Narayana Reddi came. He was at that time living in Vellore as an agent of Singer & Co., and he used to come from time to time. Aiyasami and Palani told him about the pomes and he said, 'Give them to me at once and I will go and get them printed.' He had already published some books. When he insisted on taking the poems I told him he could do so and could publish the first eleven as one poems and the rest, which were in a different metre, as another. To make up the required quota I at once composed two more stanzas and he took all the nineteen stanzas with him to get them published."
The fifth hymn is of a different nature to the first four. The great Sanskrit poet and devotee Ganapati Sastri, who was a follower of Bhagavan, begged him to write a poem in Sanskrit. Bhagavan replied, laughing, that he scarcely knew any Sanskrit and no Sanskrit meters. Sastri, however, explained a metre to him and repeated his request. When he returned the same evening this hymn had been written in perfect, flawless Sanskrit.
It is to be understood that in all these hymns the word Arunachala means God and nothing less. It also, however, means the physical hill of Arunachala in South India Where God is peculiarly manifested for the Maharshi and his disciples. From ancient times various spiritual centres in India have represented various paths and modes of doctrine, and Arunachala among them the doctrine of Advaita and the path of Self-enquiry. Although the ultimate doctrine and the supreme and most direct path, this, throughout the ages, has not been the most popular, because for most people it seemed too austere and difficult. The Maharshi attained Realization through a spontaneous act of Self-enquiry, with no human Guru. There is no place to do more than touch upon the mystery of this here. It is sufficient to note that the Maharshi agreed with all other Masters that Guru is necessary, adding however that the Guru need not necessarily take human form. When he left home as a youth who was already a Sage, Arunachala drew him like a powerful magnet. He went straight there and stayed there for the rest of his life. It was Arunachala that he regarded as his Guru, and these hymns are written to Arunachala, to the Guru, to God Manifested, to the Absolute.
Through the potent Grace of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, the path of Self-enquiry was brought within the competence of men and women of this age, was indeed fashioned into a new path that can be followed anonymously in the conditions of the modern world, with no forms or ritual, nothing to distinguish a person outwardly form the world wherein he moves. This creation of a new path to suit the needs of the age has made Arunachala the spiritual centre of the world. More than ever, now that he has shed his physical body and is one with Arunachala, the Grace and guidance that emanates from him to those who turn to him and seek his aid is centred at Arunachala. It is the holy place and many are drawn there, both those who were disciples of the Maharshi in his lifetime and those who have come later.
It remains to be said that the literary Tamil in which the hymns were written can be used in an extremely cryptic manner and the first hymn especially abounds in passages which can be understood in more than one manner. In such cases the alternative readings are given.
Before coming to the Five Hymns we print first a verse that Sri Bhagavan wrote on Sri Ganesa, as being an auspicious opening to the poems. After this comes a verse that he wrote on the significance of Arunachala and one on the significance of the beacon that is lighted on its summit every year at the feast of Deepam. This is followed by an extract from the Skanda Purana on the glory of Arunachala, which Sri Bhagavan rendered into Tamil verse. Only after this follow the Five Hymns.
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