Alagammal, Ramana’s mother decided to settle down in Tiruvannamalai sometime in the year 1916 and stayed there till her death in 1922.
Initially, she lived with Ramana and some of his fellow-sadhaks /friends, particularly Palaniswami in the Virupaksha cave. The son was the Guru and the mother his disciple. He taught her through his silence and she remained totally dedicated to her son/Guru.
When Kavya Kantha Ganapati Muni, the great Sanskrit scholar visited Virupaksha and announced to the world that “Here lives a great Rishi. I have found my Guru and for all of you, he is the Maharishi – Ramana Maharishi” crowds started flocking to Virupaksha and soon the crowds became unmanageable. It was then that one of Ramana’s disciples Kandaswami decided to build the “Skandashramam” further down the hill which would make it easier to manage the crowd of visitors. Also, many people, particularly the old found the steep climb to Virupaksha extremely difficult. The name “Skandashramam” is a play on this Kandaswami’s name and also a reference to Lord Subramanya.
Ramana’s mother ran the Skandashramam kitchen and things started to function with clockwork precision. It was also the time when Ramana slowly started to break his silence. It was soon after his second “death-experience” near the Tortoise rock not far from Virupaksha.
It was here that the mother’s spiritual progress took on a completely new turn – Perhaps the Maharishi realized that her end was near and he had to hasten the progress. He stopped calling her “Amma” and sometimes ignored her. When she wept, he told her “Now, every woman is my mother. So also every one here is your son or daughter” When Alagammal, started treating every disciple and every visitor as her own son or daughter, he resumed calling her mother. Alagammal thus became mother to everyone in the Ashram.
He would make fun of her orthodoxy and kept at it, till the time she dropped that too. However, there were times when motherly love overflowed and on one such occasion, Alagammal decided to make appalam (pappadum) specially for her son and asked him to help just as he used to do when he was a little boy. Ramana refused saying “if you are making it only for me, I cannot have it and since that thought has entered your mind you shall labour alone and then give it to everyone else…”
It was in this context that he wrote this “Appalam song” a brilliant poem on the science of realization. The English translation below and the original in Tamizh as an image (in the Maharishi’s own handwriting)
Here encased in the five sheaths of organs, Mind,
Intellect and Sleep of blissful-ignorance
And different from them, grows the kernel, the self, the abhiman felt as ‘I’.
Pound it with the wisdom-pestle of the enquiry “Who am I ?”
Reducing it to powder as “not I” “not I”
Now mix the juice of the edible-cactus Pirandai
This is sat-sanga, the company of the elevating which removes discord
Add Jeera and Black-pepper which are Shama and Dama, equanimity and self-restraint
Toss in some salt of Uparati which is non-attachment
Round it off with Heeng which is good vasanas, the tendencies which free us
With an inward turned pestle of mind pound away ‘I-I’
Unrelenting at its stubborn out-going disobedience
Then with the rolling pin of Shanti, roll out on the platter of evenness
The Appalams and see for yourself !
Taking the bottomless vessel of endless-Mauna
With the wholesome oil of the One Self of all
Fired by the flames of wisdom’s enquiring
Fry the Papads without let-up
Till the questioning self reaches and remains The Source
Thus you can have the papad and eat it too !
Credits (For the English translation of the verses and the picture): http://www.arunachala.org/docs/appalam-ittup-paru/