“IN SRI RAMANA LILA it is stated that while Sambandha was coming to Tiruvannamalai the forest tribes robbed him of his possessions. He was a man of wisdom and knowledge. What property had he?”, asked Suri Nagamma.
“Oh! That! He followed the path of devotion, didn’t he?
Therefore he had golden bells and a pearl palanquin and other
symbols of that nature according to the injunctions of Iswara.
He also had a Mutt (an establishment) and all that a Mutt
requires,” said Bhagavan.
“Is that so? When did he get all those?” Suri Nagamma
Bhagavan replied with a voice full of emotion, “From the
time when he acquired the name of Jnana Sambandha, that is,
even from his childhood, he used to sing with uninterrupted
poetic flow and go on pilgrimages. He first visited a holy place
called Thirukolakka, went into the temple there and sang verses
in praise of the Lord, keeping time with his little hands. By the
grace of Siva, cymbals of gold inscribed with the mystic five
letters were miraculously put into his hands, and with them he
kept time to his songs. Thereafter he visited Chidambaram and
other holy places and then went to a pilgrim centre called
Maranpadi. There were no trains in those days, you see. The
presiding deity in that place observed this little boy visiting holy
places on foot. His heart melted with pity, and He created a
pearl palanquin, a pearl umbrella and other accompaniments
bedecked with pearls suitable for sannyasis. He left them in the
temple and appeared to the brahmin priests and to Sambandha
in their dreams, telling the brahmins, ‘Give them to Sambandha
with proper honours,’ and told Sambandha, ‘The brahmins will
give you all these; take them.’ As they were gifts from Gods he
could not refuse them. So Sambandha accepted them with
reverential salutations by doing pradakshina etc., and then got
into the palanquin. From that time onwards, he used to go
about in that palanquin wherever he went. Gradually some staff
gathered around him and a Mutt was established. But whenever
he approached a holy place, he used to alight from the palanquin
as soon as he saw the gopuram (tower) of the shrine and from
there onwards, he travelled on foot until he entered the temple.
He came here (i.e. Arunachala) on foot from Tirukoilur
observing the same principle since, as you know, the peak of
Arunagiri is visible from there.”
A Tamil devotee said that that visit was not clearly
mentioned in Periapuranam, to which Bhagavan replied as
follows: “No. It is not in Periapuranam. But it is stated in
Upamanyu’s Sivabhaktivilasam in Sanskrit. Sambandha
worshipped Viratteswara, the presiding deity at Kilur and won
the god’s favour with his verses and then he worshipped
Athulyanatheswara, the presiding deity at Arakandanallur in the
same way. From there he beheld the peak of Arunagiri and sang
verses out of excess of joy and installed an image of
Arunachaleswara in the same spot.
“While he was seated there on a mandapam, God
Arunachaleswara appeared to him first in the shape of a jyoti
(light) and then in the shape of an old brahmin. Sambandha
did not know who that old brahmin was. The brahmin had in
his hand a flower basket. Unaccountably, Sambandha’s mind
was attracted towards that brahmin like a magnet. He at once
asked him with folded hands, ‘Where do you come from?’ ‘I
have just come from Arunachalam. My village is here, nearby,’
replied the brahmin. Sambandha asked him in surprise,
‘Arunachala! But how long ago did you come here?’ The brahmin
replied indifferently, ‘How long ago? Daily I come here in the
morning to gather flowers to make a garland for Lord
Arunachala and return there by the afternoon’. Sambandha was
surprised and said, ‘Is that so? But they said it is very far from
here?’ The old brahmin said, ‘Who told you so? You can reach
there in one stride. What is there great in it?’ Having heard
that, Sambandha became anxious to visit Arunachala and asked,
‘If so, can I walk there?’ The old man replied, ‘Ah! If an aged
man like me goes there and comes here daily, can’t a youth like
you do it? What are you saying?’ With great eagerness
Sambandha asked, ‘Sir, if that is so, please take me also along
with you,’ and started at once with all his entourage. The brahmin
was going in advance and the party was following behind.
Suddenly the brahmin disappeared.
“As the party was looking here and there, in confusion, a
group of hunters surrounded them, and robbed them of the
palanquin, umbrella, golden bells, the pearls and other valuable
items, their provisions and even the clothes they were wearing.
They were left with only their loin cloths. They did not know
the way; it was very hot and there was no shelter, and all were
hungry as it was time for taking food. What could they do?
“Then Sambandha prayed to God, ‘Oh! Lord, why am I
being tested like this? I don’t care what happens to me, but why
should these followers of mine be put to this hard test?’
On hearing those prayers, God appeared in his real form and said,
‘My son, these hunters too are my pramatha ganas (personal
attendants). They deprived you of all your possessions as it is
best to proceed to the worship of Lord Arunachala without any
show or pomp. All your belongings will be restored to you as
soon as you reach there. It is noon time now. You may enjoy
the feast and then proceed further’. So saying he disappeared.
“At once, a big tent appeared on a level space nearby. Some
brahmins came out of the tent and invited Sambandha and his
party to their tent, entertained them to a feast with delicious
dishes of various kinds and with chandanam (sandal paste) and
thambulam (betel leaves). Sambandha, who was all along
entertaining others, was himself entertained by the Lord
Himself. After they had rested for a while, one of the brahmins
in the tent got up and said, ‘Sir, shall we proceed to Arunagiri?’
Sambandha was extremely happy and accompanied the brahmin
along with his followers. But as soon as they set out on their
journey, the tent together with the people in it disappeared.
“While Sambandha was astonished at the strange
happenings, the guide who had been leading them to Arunachala
disappeared as soon as they arrived there. Suddenly, the tent
along with the people in it and the hunters who had robbed
them previously appeared on all sides, and placing before
Sambandha all his belongings which they had robbed him of
earlier, they vanished. With tears of joy and with a thrill in his
body, Sambandha praised the Lord, for His great kindness,
stayed there for some days, worshipped Him with flowers of
verses in praise of Him and then proceeded on his journey. Out
of His affection for Sambandha, who was serving Him with
reverence. God Himself, it seems, invited him to this hill.
“Jnana Sambandha thus became one of the most famous
bhaktas and was much sought after. He led a vigorous and active
life and went on pilgrimage to several places in South India.
He got married in his sixteenth year. The bride and the
bridegroom went to have darsan of God in the local temple
soon after the marriage ceremonies were over. A large party
went with them. When they reached the temple the place was a
blaze of light and the temple was not visible. There was however
a passage visible in the blaze of light. Jnana Sambandha told the
people to enter the passage. He himself went round the light
with his young wife, came to the passage and entered it as the
others had done earlier. The Light vanished leaving no trace of
those who entered it. The temple again came into view as usual.
Such was the brief but very eventful life of the sage.”
So saying, Bhagavan assumed silence, with his heart filled
with devotion and with his voice trembling with emotion.