The grace that Bhagavan was constantly emanating had been felt by mature devotees even in the late 1890s when Bhagavan was silent, unheralded, and largely unknown. The visit of Achyutadasa, who was one of the earliest to discern Bhagavan's greatness, clearly illustrates this. Achyutadasa had been known as Abboy Naidu before he renounced the world. He was skilled in playing upon the mridangam [drum], and had composed Tamil kirtanas [devotional songs] of great merit, which are both devotional and advaitic. Having heard about Sri Bhagavan he went to Gurumurtam, the temple in which Sri Bhagavan had briefly lived during the dosing years of the last century. He sat in front of Sri Bhagavan, who was immersed in nirvikalpa samadhi and waited.
When Sri Bhagavan opened his eyes, he paid his respects to
him, massaged his feet, and exclaimed with great devotional
fervor, “One may be a great scholar, an author or a composer, and everything else in the world. But it is indeed very rare to come across anyone actually established in the Self like you.”
He then announced to his own disciples that there was 'something very rare at Tiruvannamalai, meaning Sri Bhagavan.
Bhagavan's power occasionally impressed or subdued even those who were very skeptical about his state. Vilacheri Mani lyer, who was a senior schoolmate of Bhagavan, is a good example of this. At school, he was noted for his physical strength and for his rough dealing with anybody whom he disliked. His nickname, Pokkiri Mani (Rogue Mani) shows what most people thought of him. He never went to any temple to worship, nor had he ever bowed down before any god or man. A few years after Bhagavan had settled down in Tiruvannamalai, Vilacheri Mani lyer took his mother to the temple at Tirupati. He only went on that trip because his mother needed someone to accompany her.
His mother wanted to alight at Tiruvannamalai, was on their way, to see Venkataraman [the boyhood name of Ramana Maharshi] whom she had known as a small boy at Tiruchuzhi.
But Mani did not agree, saying that it was not worth the trouble, so they went directly to Tirupati. ''On their way back to Madurai the mother again pressed her son and he had to yield to her request. But he agreed only on condition that he was allowed to take Venkataraman back home
He said: “lt is not for darshan of this bogus sadhu that I am alighting at Tiruvannamalai, but to drag him by his ear and bring him back to Madurai. I am not a weakling. I shall succeed where his uncle, mother, and brother have failed.”
“All right, do as you please,” answered his mother.
They both alighted at Tiruvannamalai and went up the hill to Virupaksha Cave where Bhagavan was then staying. The mother bowed to Bhagavan and sat down quietly. But the son remained standing, looked and looked at Bhagavan, and got more and more puzzled as he did so. There was no trace of the ordinary boy Venkataraman whom he had known.
Something quite unexpected had happened. Instead of seeing his old friend, there was an effulgent Divine Being seated in front of him, absolutely still and silent. His heart melted for the first time in his life, tears rolled down his cheeks and his hair stood on end. He fell prostrate before Bhagavan and surrendered himself to him. He became a frequent visitor and a staunch devotee of Bhagavan.