I visited the post office in Ramana Nagar recently to mail some packets of the 2011 Deepam Prasad to various spots around the globe.
It was only while in the post office, and the person next to me remarked on the packages, that I noticed that each of the six covers of prasad where addressed to six different countries: USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Malaysia and Australia. On each of the packages I had boldly written the words "Temple Prasad" which I hoped would ensure a good passage via customs.
During my first experience of Arunachala in 1994, I recall how the area was rustic and charmingly undeveloped. At that time it was necessary to go into the town of Tiruvannamalai from Ramana Nagar even to make an STD telephone call. Also at that time there were no supermarkets, Kashmir Fancy Shops or modern shops in the area around the major Ashrams. Without an introduction or a stroke of good luck, it was virtually impossible to even find suitable rental accommodation.
During that first experience of Arunachala I stayed at the then undeveloped Sri Seshadri Ashram which only had a limited number of accommodation rooms. The time was full moon, but the girivalam roadway only had a sparse number of pilgrims occupied in performing girivalam.
It seemed so strange that in a country such as India, where pilgrimage is a national delight, that Arunachala, written about since antiquity and renowned by poets, saints and sages since the beginning of time, could only attract a small number of pilgrims even during the time of Poornima (full moon). And then I realised that the relative obscurity was Arunachala's wish, and that at the right time, the greatest secret in the world -- the Glory of Arunachala -- would manifest itself.
So many years later, and after much change, here I was in the Ramana Nagar Post Office with Arunachala Deepam Prasad (Prasad taken from the very cauldron that burned on the hill during the 2011 Festival) packaged and addressed to six different places in the world. And at that moment I realised that the Hill's relative obscurity was over and that Arunachala was reaching out in its glorious expression to all corners of the world.
Many years ago a devotee of the then Shankaracharya Sri Chandrasekhara of Kanchipuram, who is the Sage mentioned in Paul Brunton's book, "In Search of Secret India," told me that the Shankaracharya had remarked that Arunachala would become the busiest and most famous spiritual site in all of India. And that the crowds that would visit would be unimaginable in size.
This year a TV series started in Andhra Pradesh based on the life of Sri Ramana Maharshi and his experiences at Arunachala. As a result of that ongoing series, a huge influx of Andhra devotees are coming to Arunachala to perform girivalam and visit the Arunachaleswarar Temple. And so it goes . . .
During monthly Poornima over 100,000 pilgrims visit to perform girivalam of Arunachala. And this is just the beginning.
The world's greatest secret i.e. the Glory of Arunachala has been exposed and from now on the crowds and interest in this great spiritual lodestone will only increase.
The streets around the Ramana Nagar post office, still seem sleepy and part of a bygone age. But what will be able to resist the expansion of the great heart and glory of the Hill?
And as to the future, read below a fascinating narrative recorded by Sri Ramana Maharshi in [Day by Day with Bhagavan Pages 116-117]:
“In those days these Rajas used to fortify their hills and live there. See Ginjee for instance. The Ginjee fort was built on three hills. They are all in ruins. Padaiveedu nearby in this District was once a great city. Hampi was a great city and the capital of an Empire. It is said that the town was built on the model of a Sri Chakra and that there has been some slight mistake somewhere, and that is why, though the Empire flourished well for a time, it did not endure but failed.
There is a rumour that a prophecy made by Vidyaranya, earlier a Dewan of Hampi Empire and later a Shankaracharya, has declared that when again a descendant of that Empire or a successor of his in the Mutt builds a city on the model of Sri Chakra, a great Empire will again flourish with that city as capital.
Some people have even thought that the present Shankaracharya (note: the now deceased Sri Chandrasekhara Saraswati) might be the person for such destiny. Our Naina used to feel that as this town is by nature itself built on Sri Chakra model, by the Gods themselves, if only we could build houses all round the Hill and make a city of it, this will become the capital of a big Empire. He used to be always thinking and speaking of swaraj (note: self-governance or home rule i.e. from the British) dreaming and planning for it and saying what he would do when swaraj is attained. People say there was a town in the old, old days somewhere here to the South of the Hill. Who knows that will happen hereafter? Did we imagine that all these houses now here were going to be built?”