David Godman’s Power of the Presence Part Two describes Ramana Maharshi’s impact on the lives of six devotees. One of them, Sri Muruganar, was a famous Tamil poet. In this excerpt, we reproduce part of his biography and some of his poems from the book.

By David Godman

MURUGANAR (1893‒1973) is widely regarded as being one of the foremost devotees of Bhagavan. He was instrumental in getting Bhagavan to compose the verses that comprise Ulladu Narpadu and Upadesa Undiyar, two of Bhagavan’s major philosophical poems, and he composed thousands of poems of his own that either praised Bhagavan, recorded his teachings or expressed gratitude to Bhagavan for having established him in the Self.



In his earlier life he was known as C.K. Subramania Iyer, although his parents called him Sambamurthi. Before coming to Bhagavan he was a well-respected Tamil scholar who served on a prestigious committee that was compiling the definitive Tamil dictionary. He also worked as a schoolteacher and private tutor.

It was a visit by Dandapani Swami, his father-in-law, that prompted him to go to Tiruvannamalai in September 1923. Dandapani Swami showed him Aksharamanamalai, Bhagavan’s 108 verses in praise of Arunachala. Muruganar immediately recognised that Bhagavan was the Guru he had been actively seeking. He decided to pay a visit to Tiruvannamalai and see him. On the way there he composed eleven verses in the Arunachaleswara Temple. Most of the verses, addressed to Bhagavan as Siva, contained pleas for grace. Muruganar has described this first visit and the background that led up to it in two of his poetical compositions:

‘Will I, an unworthy ignorant one, ever be accepted as a devotee by Lord Siva who, as the Divine Guru with the wealth of grace, showed clearly to the world the greatness of Manikkavachagar? And even if I get such a chance, will I be able to sing of the glories of his grace-showering feet in the same way as Tiruvachakam [Manikkavachagar’s most famous poetical work]?'

Like many other thoughts that arose in my mind, this thought, a long time ago, appeared and disappeared, like a flash of lightning manifesting in the sky.

Then I heard from devotees who had redeemed themselves by taking as their support the grace of the one at Tiruvannamalai, who is the embodiment of true jnana, and who shines as the flame of true tapas. When they spoke of the greatness of his grace, they melted in joy. Hearing them, I was lost in admiration and unceasing joy…

The compassionate Supreme One, who is endowed with jnana, then decided in his heart to be my Lord and Master.

There was in me a thirst, an intense longing to subside [into the Self], that was prompted by the thought of the divine feet, which abound in grace. So, like one who, suffering from thirst, comes across a Ganges of cold water, on an auspicious day, a golden day for my thirst, I went [to Ramana Maharshi] with eleven verses that began ‘Leaving Mount Kailas…’ and met the excellent sage, the jnana Guru, the ocean of mauna, the bestower of jnana.

In the same way that wax melts on encountering fire, on seeing his feet, my mind dissolved and lost its form. Like the calf finding its mother, my heart melted and rejoiced in his feet. The hairs on my body stood on end. Devotion surged in me like an ocean that has seen the full moon. Through the grace of chitsakti [the power inherent in consciousness], my soul was in ecstasy.

With an unsteady and quivering voice, I read the eleven verses and placed them at his feet. At that very moment he graciously looked at me with his lotus eyes. From that day on, the praises given out by my impartial tongue belonged only to him.

From the way he bestowed his grace, becoming my Lord and Master, I was completely convinced that he was Siva himself. As my new ‘owner’, he made my ‘I’ and ‘mine’ his own.

Even if I get submerged in the miry mud [of this world], I will not forget the mighty nobility of the bountiful bestower of grace.1

Reprinted with permission from The Power of the Presence Part Two.
The Power of the Presence Part Two by David Godman

In September 1923 Bhagavan was still living in a small thatched hut that had been erected over his mother’s samadhi. Muruganar felt unsure of the correct way of approaching Bhagavan, so he remained for some time outside the hut. Bhagavan solved the problem by coming outside and saying ‘Enna?’ ['What?']. In Tamil Nadu, this is a standard way of ascertaining what business a new visitor has.

In response to this query Muruganar began to sing the verses that had been composed by him in the temple, but emotion got the better of him. Tears welled up in his eyes and he was unable to proceed.

‘Can’t you read?’ asked Bhagavan. ‘Give it to me. I shall read it myself.'

Bhagavan then read out the poem. Up till this time Muruganar had been very particular about annotating his poems with a specific raga or melody, since it was traditional that particular metres or themes had be sung in a particular way. After this first encounter with Bhagavan, he was never able to sing his poems again.2


Note 1. Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai, ‘Origin of the work’, lines 1‒16, and Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai, ‘Tiruvandappahudi’, lines 49‒80. [Return to text]

Note 2. This elaboration of the first meeting was given by Muruganar to V. Ganesan, who recorded it in ‘Obeisance to the Poet-saint: Muruganar’. See The Mountain Path, 1973, pp. 202‒3. Verse 1074 of Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai may be referring to this first meeting:

Venkata [Ramana] whose Being is Bliss Overflowing and immeasurable, Came out quick to meet this slave And far from laughing in contempt, Took me up and made me his own. How wonderful his grace! [Return to text]

David Godman is the author of almost twenty books about Sri Ramana Maharshi’s life, teachings, and direct disciples.

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Recommended Book

David Godman, The Power of the Presence, Part Two

The Power of the Presence, Part Two

Edited by David Godman

This is the second volume in David Godman’s magisterial series of biographies of direct disciples of Sri Ramana Maharshi. David goes into considerable detail about a few selected devotees rather than touching lightly on a larger number.

This volume contains chapters on Kunju Swami, Muruganar, T.P. Ramachandra Iyer, Chhaganlal V. Yogi, Lakshmana Swamy, and Viswanatha Swami.


See it on Amazon.

This page was published on October 15, 2001 and last revised on June 12, 2017.


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