In 1938 the authorities of Arunachaleswarar Temple filed a law suit regarding the ownership of Arunachala Hill which was being claimed by the Government as Forestry Department property. The temple authorities cited Sri Ramana Maharshi as a witness. On May 9, 1938, the Court sent a Commission to record Sri Ramana Maharshi’s deposition.

Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Deposition, May 8, 1938

“I came to Tiruvannamalai in the year 1896. I was living on the hill from 1899 to 1922. After that this ashram was started, and since then I am living here. Ever since I was living on the hill, all the hill areas have been in the possession of the Devasthanam. The ashram on the hill, where I was living, was started in 1902; and the building which is there now was completed in the year 1916. The above said ashram was built with the permission and kindness of the Devasthanam. Regarding this matter no Government Order or permission was ever received. Since the year 1988 until the end of the year 1922, and then for a few more years after I left that ashram. The front side (the eastern slope) of the hill was never in the possession of the Government.
        On the hill there was one Saraswathi Swami. That Swami advertised that he intended to do a prathista of an image of Lord Subramaniar. The Devasthanam objected and stopped it. In an official notice they said that the hill itself is lingaswaroopam and to do prathishta of another vigraha on it, and celebrate uthsavas there, is against the tradition of the sastras.
        On another occasion, when my mother attained (samadhi) they raised a precautionary objection that her samadhi should not be on the hill; they feared that we might build her samadhi on the hill itself. On this occasion also their objection was that the hill is Iswaraswaroopa.
        In those days the Devasthanam authorities were ordering even the woodcutters not to cut trees etc. Also every year the grass and other products of the hill were leased out by the Devasthanam. Whenever there was a fire on the hill, it was put out at the expense of the Devasthanam. Once, when we happened to cut some of the cacti (nyathali) which was causing an inconvenience to the ashram, and set fire to it, the Devasthanam objected, saying that we should not have a fire in that place. All these are incidents which happened on the eastern slope. For this, boundary limits are set. (The witness understands English, and ‘Eastern slope’ is his own words).
        There is an aitikya that this hill is linga swaroopam, that is to say, that this hill itself is Swamy. This aitikya is not to be found anywhere else. That is the cause of the glory of this place. The aitikya of this place is that this hill is Easwaraswaroopam and that the Swaroopam is full of thejas. Every year Deepothsavam is celebrated in the form of Deepam. Authority for this is found in the Vedas, the puranas and stotras of devotees. Also giripradakshina is done following this aitikya that the above said hill is Siva swaroopam. I also have faith in giripradakshina and have experience of it. There is no sastra to separate the hill from the temple.

This aitikya is observed during Karthikai Deepam. That this festival is conducted both at the top of the hill and in the temple at the same time proves this. Moreover, proving that the above said hill is Easwaraswaroopam, the Arunachaleswarar who is in the form of a vigraham in the temple also performs giripradakshina twice every year. Also, in accordance with the aitikya that the hill is Easwaraswaroopam, the Devasthanam is conducting abhishekam to the tip of the hill in the same way that it would to a lingam. For the last 10-12 years the cauldron for lighting the Deepam at the top of the hill is carried to the top every year during the festival. Previous to this the cauldron was left there itself for a very long time.
        I am a devotee of Arunachaleswarar. I have composed a song in Tamil saying that the above said hill is Easwaraswaroopam. The Lord Arunachala appeared out of the hill and at the request of Brahma and Vishnu merged into the hill and again appeared as lingam down the hill. The hill continues to represent the Lord.”

        [Due to time constraints the examination was discontinued and recommenced a week later with a cross examination by counsel for the defendant. Sri Ramana’s deposition in response to the questions posed to him continued thus]:

“I lived in Skandashram for six years. I have stayed in this place (Ramanasramam) since 1922. I have constructed a building at the Virupaksha Cave. No order was obtained from anybody for the construction of the building. Skandashram was started in 1902, and the building completed in the year 1916. Even after that some construction work was carried on. At first it began as a tirtam and then developed into a stalam. Previous to this, moisture was found in another place. Its source was in a rock that was 20 yards away. This tirtam is between Skandashram and Virupaksha Cave. After this the Skandasramam tirtam came into being. Because it was built by a person named Kandan who lived in the ashram, by his own hands, it became known as Skandashram. That tirtam is attached to that ashram. No order was received from anyone for building this ashram. But because I was staying there no one objected. Instead they were approving it.
        During the time I was living on the hill no order was obtained from anyone for making living facilities. Also, when repairs were carried out in some places, no order was obtained from anyone. They were not done on my authority, others did them as their own work. I did not tell them to build, nor did I prevent them. In this manner, Skandashram, Virupaksha Cave and Ramanasramam came into being. The other ashrams on the hill also came into existence in this way. No order were received fro their construction.
        I know about the notice issued to Saraswathy Swami by the Devasthanam, but I do not remember the year in which it happened. I heard that the notice was given. As long as I was there a vel and vigraham was there. They (the Devasthanam authorities) did not object the vigraham being kept in that place, their objection was to popularising it throughout public celebrations. On the hill there are stalas for Virupaksha Devar and for Guhainamamasivayar there is a lingam. In Virupaksha Cave there is an altar. Puja and abhisheka are done for the lingam. For the altar only puja is done. It is the popular believe that they are samadhis.
        At the time when my mother passed away the Devasthanm expressed their objection (for the building of a samadhi) through their jawan. I do not know the name of the jawan. I did not notice his identity. But he was wearing a badge (billai). That was the badge of the Devasthanam. I do not remember in what language the badge was written, and I cannot say what was written on it. The objection was expressed by word of mouth. Mother passed away on 6th Vaikasi 1922. Near Guhainamasivaya Math a tree fell down during a storm. I cannot recollect which year. I heard that the Devasthanam raised objections regarding this incident (about its disposal). I saw the fallen tree. The Devasthanam objected to us burning the cacti in 1911. I cannot say what date and which month. I do not remember definitely who was the person that expressed the objection on behalf of the Devasthanam. The Devasthanam authorities have put out the fires on several occasions. The months, years and dates I do not remember. That this hill is Iswaraswaroopam is said in the Upanishads and the Skanda Linga and Siva Puranas. I cannot say without referring to the books in which Upanishad and at which place it is stated so.

        On the hill there was a Jadai Swami. He died on the Hill. His body was brought down to the foot of the hill and interred. The same thing happened to Palaniswami. A samadhi cannot be made on the hill for anyone who dies there. They can only be buried after bringing them to the foot of the hill.”

        As well as his deposition Bhagavan also selected various passages from a selection of holy works to prove Arunachala Hill is a linga, the embodiment of Siva. In this regard he copied fifty-six selected lines from the Skanda Mahapurana Purvardha, four from the Skanda Mahapurana Uttarardha and lines from both the Upamanyu Bhakta Vilasa and the Lingodbhavakala and presented them to the Commission as statements giving authoritative proof that the Arunachala Hill is a linga.

Skanda Mahapurana
Sri Ramana Maharshi has actually quoted from both sections of the Skanda Mahapurana – which is divided into two sections: The Purvardha (the first half) contains thirteen chapters and the Uttarardha (the second half) numbers twenty four chapters. There is a lot of duplication in the sections and it’s believed that they were composed by different authors.
        Reproduced below the verses selected by Sri Ramana Maharshi from the Skanda Mahapurana (both sections) and from the Vidyeswara Samhita of the Siva Mahapurana.

Purvardha – Chapter 1

Sanaka said to Brahma:

O repository of Grace, O foremost among devas, on earth there are some Sivalingas which are divine, some are installed by human beings and siddhas, and others are composed of the five elements. (9)

Tell me, which linga is Jambudvipa [1] is immaculate, divine, capable of destroying enemies (such as lust, anger etc), self-originated and effulgent. (10)
Brahma said:
Hear how in ancient days the wonderful and effulgent Siva, who is full of motiveless grace, manifested with the name Arunadri. [2] (22)

(First line). Narayana and I were born from Him (Sadasiva) who transcends the universe . . . . .  (23)

Once we two, who were self-born, began to argue with each other . . . . .  (24)

Seeing the intensity with which we were fighting with each other, Iswara (Lord Siva), who is the embodiment of Grace, then thought. (25)

. . . . . He (Sadasiva) rose as a Column of Fire between us, who were fighting. (31)

Chapter 2

Brahma and Vishnu prayed to Lord Siva:

Withdrawing Your effulgence, abide as an inanimate Linga named Arunachala in order to bestow grace upon the world. (31)

Isvara said:
. . . . .The nature of an inanimate Linga in the form of Arunachala was assumed (by Siva). (50)

This indeed is the Effulgent Linga, the sole cause of the universe, which is visible on earth and which is renowned as Arunadri. (51) 

Chapter 4
I truly abide here on earth in the form of an Effulgence named Arunachala for bestowing Liberation. (37)

Since this Hill removes the heap of sins from all the worlds, and since bondage (runa) gets annihilated when ones sees it, it is named Arunachala.(38)

In ancient days, when a fight arose between Brahma and Vishnu, who were both born from a part of me, I manifested myself in the form of an Effulgence in order to remove their delusion. (40)

At their further request I, who was in an Effulgent Form, became the inanimate Linga named Arunachala. (43) 

Chapter 5

Devi said to Gautama:
Siva told me, “I abide on earth as Arunachala,” and said that I should hear the glory of Arunachala from your lips. (24)

Gautama said:
. . . . . In ancient days Brahma and Vishnu, who had come into existence from a part of the Effulgence of Siva, but who had become egoistic, fought with a desire to conquer each other . . . . . (42-43)
. . . . . In order to subdue the pride of these two, who were fighting in this manner, Sadasiva, who is meditated upon by yogis, assumed the form of a Column of Fire without beginning, middle or end, and stood between them illumining the ten directions. . . . . (43-44)

At their request, Devesa (Lord Siva, the Lord of devas) subdued His own effulgence and assumed the form of an inanimate linga renowned as Arunadri and He now shines as such (in calmness). (47)

Chapter 6

Isvara said:

I abide on earth in the form of Arunachala . . . . . (21)

. . . . . That Effulgent Form alone is called Arunachala. (22)

. . . . . This Effulgent Form, which is fiery, unmanifest and of the nature of limitless glory, has cooled down in order to protect the world. (23)

Chapter 7

The devas said:

O Bhagavan, O Arunadrisa, O you who do good to the whole world! Although you are of the form of fire, do Thou shine calmly in the world. (9)

Gautama said:
Having been prayed to by the devas, Arunadrisa gradually cooled down and became perfectly tranquil as Arunachala in order to protect the world. (5)

Chapter 8

You (Lord Siva) are seen on earth as the famous Sonadri. [3] . . . . . (20)
Nowhere else on earth have I seen even one linga in the form of a Hill . . . . . (17)

Chapter 13

Brahma said:

This is Sadasiva Himself in the form of Arunachala, which is seen as the Supreme Effulgence, the cause of creation, sustenance and dissolution. (43)

This Effulgent Linga is worshipped by all the devas. Because of that (the existence of this Linga on earth), the karma bhumi [4] is considered to possess more dharma than any other world. (44)

Uttarardha – Chapter 4

Nandikesvara said:

There God, Sambhu, the One who does what is good for the world, has Himself assumed the form of Hill and abides as Arunachala. (12)
This Hill, which is Parameswara Himself, is considered by Maharshis to be superior to Meru, Kailasa and Mandara. (14)

. . . . .  Neither Meru nor Kailasa nor Mandara are equal to Arunadri, because they are abodes of Lord Siva made up of huge rocks, whereas this (Arunachala) is Girisa [5] Himself. (58-59)

Chapter 16

Siva said:

For the welfare of the world, may my Effulgent Form, which is inanimate and eternal, abide here forever with the name Arunadri. (27)

Chapter 20

Gautama said:

. . . . . This Arunadri is the Hill of Fire itself in a concealed form. (21)

Siva Mahapurana

Vidyeswara Samhita – Chapter 9

Isvara said:

Since this Linga rose up as a Hill of Fire, it shall be renowned as Arunachala (the Red Hill). (21)

. . . . . Since this formless column, which reveals my Brahmatva (my nature as Brahman), possesses the characteristics of a linga, it shall be my Linga . . . . . (41-42)

On the basis of evidence supplied to the court, it was decided that as the Hill itself is a linga, then it must be considered to be the property of the Temple.

[1]    Jambudvipa, the island of Jambu, is a name given to the land mass in which India is situated.

[2]    Arunadri is another name of Arunachala

[3]    Sonadri is a name for Arunachala.

[4]    Karma bhumi is a name for this earth.

[5]    Girisa means the Lord of the Hill - Siva