A meteor in the sky follows Ramana’s last moment

Ramanna

By Anil Sharma

 

Some are born immediately after, others after some lapse of time, a few are not reborn on this earth but eventually get salvation in some higher region, and a very few get absolved here and now.

Sage Sri Ramana Maharshi

It’s Friday, 14th of April, 1950. Maharshi is in a very precarious condition, notes his ardent devotee S. S. Cohen. The whole morning has been spent by devotees in hushed gloom and with bated breath. After evening darshan, the unanimous verdict is that it is positively the last. The Master is now propped on large pillows, almost in a sitting posture, the head resting backward with open mouth, and two attendants briskly fanning him, to enable him to breathe freely – the battle for air has thus started. At 7 p.m. oxygen is administered to him for about five minutes, but seeing it gave him no relief, he feebly asks that it should be stopped.

The situation is tense: about five-hundred devotees were outside in sad expectation of the solemn last moment. Blood relations, Ashram workers, a few old disciples, and some new aspirants go in by turn to have a last sight of him. When the end is known to be approaching, the whole congregation with one voice starts chanting the Tamil hymns he had many years ago composed in praise of Lord Arunachala: “Arunachala Shiva, Arunachala Shiva, Arunachala,” till the final moment comes about at 8.47 pm.

At about 9 p.m., Monsieur Cartier-Brassen, the French photographer, who has been here for about a fortnight with his wife, related his experience to Cohen. “It is a most astonishing experience,” he said. “I was in the open space in front of my house, when my friends drew my attention to the sky, where I saw a vividly-luminous shooting star with a luminous tail, unlike any shooting star I had before seen, coming from the South, moving slowly across the sky and, reaching the top of Arunachala, disappeared behind it. Because of its singularity we all guessed its import and immediately looked at our watches – it was 8.47 – and then raced to the Ashram only to find that our premonition had been only too sadly true: the Master had passed into Mahanirvana (all-pervading and deathless Selfhood) at that very minute.”

Several other devotees in the Ashram and in the town later, noted Cohen in his diary, told him that they too had seen the tell-tale meteor.

Mr. Kaikobad, a Parsi devotee of the Maharshi, happened to be on the terrace of his house in Madras, when he saw the meteor, to which Monsieur Cartier-Brassen and others referred and intuitively associated it with the Mahanirvana of the Master and, without waiting for the morning, he immediately hired a taxi and came at top speed.

Miss H. P. Petit, who was sitting on the balcony of her house in Bombay, about a thousand miles away, also saw the shooting star at that fateful minute, at once guessed its meaning and wrote to a friend of hers in Benares that the Maharshi had passed away.

Many devotees, grief stricken and beating their breasts, lost control of their feeling and rushed en masse to the small room where the sacred body lay, but Police officers immediately cordoned off the area till it was brought out and placed in the centre of the big darshan hall in yoga asana for all the people to pay their last respect to it.

The news spread like wildfire in the town and the neighbouring villages and drew huge crowds. By 9.15 pm, the crowd grew so thick, that it became necessary to give chance to all to pay their homage and pass the body in an orderly manner. A queue was thus formed – seven to ten broad – at a quick-march pace.

Around the sofa sat dozens of disciples, some chanting Maharshi’s verses and other devotional hymns, but the others remained in silent contemplation. Sandal-wood paste and jasmine flowers now covered the body and incense alight by its side.

Many devotees kept vigil the whole of night by the side of the sacred body; some snatched a few hours rest and returned early morning. The singing and chanting of Vedas continued throughout, as did the queue of worshippers till 11.30 a.m. when the body was taken out to the South verandah for puja and abhishekam.

Sri Niranjanananda Swami, the Sarvadhikari, assisted by his son Sri T. N. Venkataraman, poured over the sacred head dozens of pots of milk, curds, butter-milk, orange juice, mashed bananas and jackfruits, coconut water, etc., followed by many bottles of rose-water, attar, perfumes of all kinds and sweet smelling oils. Then enormous garlands of fresh roses and jasmines were placed round the neck and strewn all over the body.

The samadhi pit was dug 10½ x 10½ feet and seven feet deep. In its centre the masons isolated a small area of 4½ x 4½ feet and surrounded it by a wall built of granite stones, lime and cement. The remaining portion they filled with many cartloads of sand said to have been brought from the sacred Ganges and Narbada valleys.

At 6.30 p.m. the next day, the body, which by then had received the homage of not less than about 40,000 persons, was carried in a decorated palanquin reserved for the Deity of the temple to the samadhi. Here it was placed in the same yoga-asana into a bag made of the finest khaddar, which was then filled with pure camphor and lowered into the small area reserved for it. Then the pit was filled to the brim with camphor, salt, and sacred ashes to protect the body from worms and rapid disintegration, and closed with masonry work.

All the English and Tamil papers referred to the meteor which had been seen in the sky all over the State of Madras, hundreds of thousands of square miles, at 8.47 on the night of April 14, by a large number of people in different places and reported to the Press. These eye-witnesses had been struck by its peculiar look and behaviour, which led them to ascribe the strange phenomenon to the passing of a great spiritual soul. Such a mass of evidence speaks for itself, if evidence need be.

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