GANDHI'S VISIT TO ARUNACHALA
ANNAMALAI SWAMI REMEMBERED
In the 1930s Mahatma Gandhi came to Tiruvannamalai to make a political speech. Since the organizers had selected a piece of open ground about 400 yards from the ashram as the location for the event, many people in the ashram had hopes that the Mahatma would also pay a call on Bhagavan.
When the day of the speech came, I, along with many other devotees, waited at the ashram gate in the hope of catching a glimpse of Gandhi as he drove past. When he finally passed us he was very easy to spot because he was being driven to the meeting in an open car. Rajagopalachari, a leading Congress politician who had organized this South Indian speaking tour, was sitting next to Gandhi in the car. As the car was moving very slowly I ran alongside it and saluted Gandhi by putting my palms together above my head. To my astonishment and delight Gandhi returned my greeting by making the same gesture. The car stopped for a few moments near the ashram gate but it started again when Rajagopalachari gestured to the driver that he should drive on and not enter the ashram.
Rajagopalachari later became chief minister of the Madras Presidency, a region that included most of South India. After independence he became the first Indian to hold the office of Governor-general.
One of the ashram's residents, T.K. Sundaresa lyer, went to the meeting and presented Gandhi with two books: Aksharamanamdlai and Ramana Sannidhi Murai. As he was presenting the books he quoted a verse from Aksharamanamalai: '0 Arunachala! Gem of awareness, shining in all creatures low or high, destroy the meanness in my heart.' Gandhi auctioned the books and gave the proceeds to a harijan welfare fund.
Aksharamanamalai is a long poem by Bhagavan in praise of Arunachala. Ramana Sannidhi Murai, written by Muruganar, is a collection of poems which praise Bhagavan.
After the meeting was over I went to the hall and told Bhagavan the story of how Gandhi had greeted me on the road. I also mentioned that Rajagopalachari had made the driver go straight to the meeting, thus denying Gandhi a chance to make^a brief visit to the ashram. Bhagavan replied with a very interesting comment.
'Gandhi would like to come here but Rajagopalachari was worried about the consequences. Because he knows that Gandhi is an advanced soul, he fears that he might go into samadhi here and forget all about politics. That is why-he gestured to the driver to drive on.'
A few days later, when Gandhi was in Madras, Krishnaswami went to see him and managed to get an interview with him. When he introduced himself to Gandhi as a resident of Sri Ramanasramam, Gandhi remarked, 'l would love to come and see Bhagavan but I don't know when the time will come'.
One or two of Bhagavan's devotees who attended Gandhi's meeting have reported that Gandhi did make a serious attempt to visit Bhagavan. He cut his speech, which was originally scheduled for ten minutes, to about five minutes in the hope of using the extra time to make a quick visit to the ashram. However, Rajagopalachari, who had a long-standing dislike of Bhagavan, dissuaded him from making the visit. After a few minutes discussion during which Rajagopalachari made it quite clear that he was completely opposed to the visit, Gandhi backed down and allowed himself to be driven to the next political meeting.
Rajagopalachari openly expressed his disapproval of Bhagavan. When one of Bhagavan's devotees called Amritanatha Yatendra once paid a call on Gandhi, Gandhi made a few polite inquiries about Bhagavan.
Rajagopalachari, who was also present, turned to Nehru, the future Prime Minister, and said, 'What is the point of sitting in a cave in a kaupina [loincloth] when the country has so many problems and Gandhi is being put in jail for struggling for independence?' Gandhi turned to him and put his finger to his lips to indicate that he should not criticize in this way.
Although Gandhi continued to express an interest in seeing Bhagavan, he never came to Tiruvannamalai again.
— Living by the Words of Bhagavan, p. 101