Rare moments with Mahaperiaval

S. Rajagopalan

I have been keeping in frequent touch with Sri Kanchi Matam since the fifties. During my visits to the south on leave I used to move down to towns and villages where Sri Maha Periyaval camped and performed Pooja. Early in the summer of 1955, I had to trek through fields and bunds in the villages of Bhuvanagiri and Thittacheri in Thanjavur district where He was then camping. I attended the midday Pooja and took sacred water from the hands of Swamigal. I also remember an interesting incident on that occasion.

The Pooja was over by about 2 p.m. on that day. A large number of Harijans from the adjoining "Cheries" had assembled at the gate seeking Periyaval's Darshanam and Prasadham. Swamigal had just finished his "Bhikshai" (mid-day meal) and retired. The Sri Matham authorities came out to the gate on hearing the noise outside and found a large crown clamouring for Swamigal's Darshanam. But, as the Pooja for the day was over and Swamigal had retired, the Sri Matam officials asked the crowd to disperse and come again in the evening. meanwhile Swamigal, hearing the commotion outside, sent for the Manager and enquired of him what the matter was. When He was told that a group of Harijans was clamouring for His Dharsanam, He came out of the hut and asked for the vessel of sacred water to be brought out. He came out to the gate and greeted the vast crowd and sprinkled the holy water Himself on one and all of them with a benign smile. How delighted and thrilled these Harijan devotees were! Each one of them prostrated full length before Swamigal and hailed Him aloud. What a graceful and magnanimous gesture from His Holiness!

It was in the summer of 1969 that I was on leave at Madras. I made a trip to Kanchi in the afternoon one day and had Dharsanam of Maha Periyaval. When I was getting ready to depart, He sent word asking me to come inside the hut. He was relaxing on a coir-charpoy after a strenuous round of the temple at Sarvatheerthem. He beckoned to me to come near Him and sit at His Feet. He spoke mostly in signs and gestures and asked me about my native place. When I mentioned that it was Sirkazhi, he asked me (by sign language) whether I had visited Chidambara. Slowly He explained (all by signs and gestures) that He was planning to decorate Lord Nataraja's holy feet with diamonds and wanted me to help by collecting voluntary donations of diamonds from devotees. He was emphatic that only diamonds should be accepted and no cash or cheque. I was both elated and nervous over the noble mission assigned to me. He then gave me leave and I came back to Madras.

I decided that, on my part, I should donate my diamond ring, also my wife's and my son's diamond rings. after my return to duty at Pune I approached a number of devotees for donation of diamonds, but, unfortunately, there was no response. I reported this to Sri Matham, also mentioning my own donation. This offer was accepted. I arranged for the donations to be handed over to Periyaval at Sri Matam by my mother, my wife and son on my behalf. All this book place in 1969. Maha Periyaval remembered this and mentioned the same to me when I was with Him at Satara in May 1981.

The summer in 1981 was memorable. Both the Periyavals were then camping at Satara. I had by then retired from service and had all the time in the world at my disposal. The idea to go to Satara for Dharsanam struck me suddenly. This episode was full of twist and turns right through. The day I booked our tickets at the Central Station I was travelling back home by town bus. When I got off at Adyar, I found to my shock that my purse (containing the tickets) had been picked. This was an unpleasant and inauspicious omen, but somehow the urge to go ahead was strong despite this initial setback. The very next day I purchased fresh tickets for our journey. I did not know then that more mishaps were to follow.

We arrived at Pune in the small hours. As it was an odd hour, I decided to stay on in the waiting hall and to go to my friend's place early in the morning. We stretched our stiff limbs in the open hall, keeping our luggage beside us closely hugged.

We should have dozed off a bit and when I woke up at dawn, I discovered that my sandals and spectacles had disappeared. I was a little put out over this second stroke of bad luck, but as the ultimate goal was to meet Periyaval at Satara, I did not make a fuss. After a short stay at my friend's place that day, we took an afternoon bus to Satara where we arrived at night. We attended the Pooja and later managed to cuddle in a corner for the night. We got up early the next day, rushed through our morning ablution and had Darshanam of Periyaval (Junior) who asked me whether I would now be available for service at Sri Matham, Kanchi, Later we went to Mahaperiaval who, we were told was observing strict silence since the previous day. I was wondering within myself whether, family details and even recalled the 1969 incident when we donated diamonds for Lord Nataraja at Chidambara. He had even remembered and mentioned that the donation was actually made by my mother, wife and son at Kanchi when I was away at Poona. I then submitted to Him Periyaval's behest to give my service at Sri Matham at Kanchi and He heartily blessed me. After having thus engaged in conversation for over half an hour, I took leave of Him and attended the midday pooja performed by Periyaval (Junior). Mahaperiaval was also present at the dais beaming with grace like a veritable Dhakshinamoorthy. I saw a number of devotees performing "Paada Pooja" and inwardly regretted that I could not be one of them. As if by telepathy, Maha Periyaval sent one of his attendants to ask me whether I was desirous of performing Paada Pooja, I told Him that much as I would like to perform Pooja, I had no wherewithals. He took the message to Swami, who sent Him back to me. I was told that Maha Periyaval wanted me to perform Paada Pooja, money being immaterial. My delight was unbounded and we performed the Pooja right under His watchful and blessing eyes. I could pay only a part of the prescribed fee, promising to send the balance later.

When I finally took have it was arranged that, after my return to Madras, I should report to Sri Matam for duty. I have since been doing Kainkaryam at Sri Matham to this day.