With his education now
complete, Seshadri's mother, the pious widow Maragatham tried to arrange
a marriage between her 17 year old son and the daughter of a relative,
but when it was discovered (by examining Seshadri's horoscope) that he
was destined to become a sannyasi
, the marriage
plans were swiftly cancelled. His mother, becoming more self-absorbed
started to lose interest in worldly affairs and became increasingly weak
- ignoring food and medical treatment. One day she called her son to
her and predicted her death for the next day, and arranged for him to
attend. The following day at her bed, she called her child to her and
repeated a sloka 
from Adi Sankara's Baja Govindam
then together they sang the song 'Ambasive'
after which keeping her hand on his chest she called out, 'Arunachala! 
Arunachala! Arunachala!' and laid herself on his lap and died.
After both his
parents had passed away, Seshadri's uncle (who was childless) gladly
took charge of Seshadri and the younger brother Narasimha Josiar. In his
room Seshadri did numerous pujas
and continuous japa
pictures of Sri Kamakshi, Lord Ram and to one of his own drawings of
Arunachala Hill. He would lock himself up in his room at five in the
morning and refuse to come out before noon. He regularly fasted and
could often be heard shouting Arunachala Shonadrinatha
reciting Vedic hymns late at night. His uncle and aunt were frightened
by his strange worship and begged him to stop. But Seshadri would not
At the age of
19, he met Sri Balaji Swamigal, a wandering saint from North India, who
gave Seshadri sannyas
and instructed him in the Mahavakyas
. This was the only guru and formal diksha
Seshadri is known to have had. Shortly after Seshadri started to travel
to various spots in Tamil Nadu eventually ending up at Tiruvannamalai.
He arrived at Arunachala at the age of 19 years old and did not leave
for the next 40 years till 1929, the year he attained mahasamadhi
When he first
arrived at Arunachala his uncle and brother Narasimha Josiar came to see
him. Both were overwhelmed with grief on seeing him in rags with matted
hair and a thin dirty body. They entreated him to return home
immediately, but Swamiji refused to leave.
Swamigal would meditate at Drupadi Amman Koil and Easanyan Mutt and in
the corridor surrounding the Inner Sanctorum at the Durgai Amman Temple
and he would also do tapas
at Kambathu Ilayanar, Pathala Lingam
and Arunachala Yogiswarar Mandapam
. He did not do tapas
on the top of the Mountain and instead would go onto the slopes of
Arunachala to pray. He often talked about the unique aspects of the
. He would say:
This is the place where Swamy and Ambal invite all and confer liberation', and
'Lord Krishna leaving aside his sudarshana chakra (wheel) is playing on
his flute. On hearing it Lord Siva who is inside the mountain comes out
Swami moved about Tiruvannamalai for forty years, an ascetic with a
total disregard for either name or form. He had no home, dependents,
property or any fixed habit or system. He would often conduct himself
like a mad man and roam around in the heat of the day and stare up at
the hot midday sun and, at night, rest in some nook or deserted hall. He
would be delighted when it rained and play in the streams on the
street, sit in the water and only go indoors when the rain had stopped.
His acts were dramatic and deeply impressive. He would avoid rich food
from wealthy persons but beg for cold gruel at a poor man's house or
share food with beggars or left overs on a banana leaf with a dog.
Sometimes he would take no food at all and on other occasions consume
enough for ten people. He would eat and drink like one swallowing
medicine or one being forcibly fed.
did not accept money he would sometimes receive expensive clothes but
immediately transfer them to a poor person or tear the clothes into
pieces and garland the tail and horns of a calf. If he was given plain
new clothes, within a couple of hours, they would reach the state of his
original clothes. He wore only a dhoti
which would cover his
toes and another piece of cloth swathed over his back and shoulders. He
would squat anywhere regardless whether it was slush, dirt or refuse.
When sitting, it was always in his favourite swastika asana
handsome of medium height and fair countenance. His hair hung in short
ringlets to the nape of his neck. His voice was soft and his smile was
as sweet and sunny as a child. His body would not be at rest for a
moment. Even, when sitting he would catch something, put it down, lift
it and then repeat it all over again a hundred times. He walked fast and
those following had to run to keep up with him. No sound emanated from
his walking or running, it was as if his body was light like a ball. He
would seldom bathe, but occasionally pour a pint of oil on himself and
roam in the streets with oil still glistening on his head. If he allowed
himself to be shaved he would often stop it abruptly, with half of his
face or head unshaved and appear in public with equanimity and total
disregard for public opinion. He discarded rules and observances of
caste, sanctity, prudence and decency but always avoided animal food and
He loved music, delighting his devotees with songs. If one
asked, he would break forth into melodious song often drumming rhythms
on nearby surfaces. Sometimes he would place his hands on his hips and
dance. He was often taken to be a lunatic and at times purposely
simulated madness. It was difficult to explain his general behaviour and
impossible to account for the course of his conduct. He was always
original and free, an ascetic who maintained a thorough control of his
mind and senses up to the end of his life. He was always playing pranks.
Suddenly he would laugh without stopping and those who witnessed his
fun would be reduced to hilarity. Swamiji utilised a strange manner of
speech to ward off crowds building up around him. He would go on
speaking very fast, without any respite and with no end or meaning.
Sometimes if someone spoke to him, he would reply in Sanskrit, not
caring if he was understood or not.
He was a tapaswi
of a very high order. One result of the mantras
he practiced from his earliest years was the development of various siddhis
and psychic powers. He could tell about the past and the future and
read minds with ease. With this power, he fulfilled the desires of
people by showing visions they wanted to see, both in dreams and while
touch is said to have cured many of those who came to him with
devotion. Often when people saw him in the streets they would prostrate
before him and he would get near to enable them to touch his feet. But,
he would never allow bad characters to touch his feet. He would run away
and if they forced themselves on him, he would abuse them or even pelt
them with stones. Seeing this, many people did not go near him. But when
he knew about the good qualities of a person, he would himself catch
their hands and play. He would joke and run with young children. He
never distinguished between males and females and sometimes would put
his arms around the neck of a girl and walk along with her, and lie down
in the street with his head in her lap
interaction with the world was very strange. A person couldn't take
advantage of previous proximity - every moment was a new moment. People
loved him, but some fearing they might be beaten, were frightened to
come close. Generally, he would not call people by name, ask them how
they were doing, suggest they come or question why a person did not
come. He would neither talk sarcastically nor show intimacy on account
of a past connection.
Swami had deep devotion to God especially in the form of the Goddess
Kamakshi, Lord Ram and Arunachala. In the practice of concentration (for
days in his boyhood at Tindivanam and at Tiruvannamalai), he sat
steeped in samadhi
, oblivious of his body. He loved service and
by his own example showed it as a noble ideal to live up to. He was
regarded with great respect and he was thought to be a sage
not a mad man. People would say, 'He is a talking God,' 'A divine incarnation, a great yogi
, a great siddha
'. Others would say there were three lingas
in Tiruvannamalai: One, Lord Arunachala, another Ramana Maharshi and the third Seshadri Swamigal.
Swamigal and Ramana Maharshi (Seshadri actually arrived at Arunachala
six years earlier than Ramana) were contemporaries. It was Seshadri who
found Ramana in the Pathala Linga
at Arunachala Temple,
protecting him from urchins and bringing him to the notice of the world.
Locals used to call Sri Seshadri, Mother Parvathi and Sri Ramana,
Skanda (Lord Subramanya). Sometimes Sri Seshadri Swamigal, the older by
ten years would be called 'elder Seshadri' (anna
) and Sri Ramana 'younger Seshadri' (thambi
One time a devotee told Sri Ramana that everyone called Seshadri a mad
man. Ramana smilingly replied that there were three mad men in
Arunachala. One was Seshadri, the second was Arunachaleswarar and the
third was himself. Sri Ramana said of Swamji, 'Sri Seshadri does not
allow people to come near him. Here all are coming'.
his life and teachings Sri Seshadri continuously emphasised the glory of
'This is Siva Lingam. It is enough to worship this. One can become spiritually enlightened and attain liberation'.
And illustrating the similarity of the Annamalaiyar-Unnamalai Temple
to Arunachala he said to those wasting their time discussing worldly
affairs and neglecting God:
'He spreads his shop in the morning. Closes it at night. He does not
see Lord Arunachaleswara. What is the use? Visit the temple. Visit the
temple. Visit the temple'.
He was ever emphasising the inestimable value of giripradakshina instructing:
'One should pray to Lord Arunachaleswara all the time. In particular
perambulation of the hills should be done on Tuesdays. Deep devotion
Having lived at Arunachala continuously for forty years and helping all
kinds of people Sri Seshadri decided to finally shed his body. One day
in 1928 during the month of Karthigai, he asked a devotee, 'Shall I
build a new house and go away?' Meaning, 'I have completed my task,
shall I now depart?' At first the devotee thought the question a prank
but finally after many days and constant repetition of the question, she
answered, that, 'He should construct a new house and practise yoga'.
Sri Seshadri accepted Subbalakshmi's words as representative of
Parasakthi's approval and satisfied he replied, 'Yes, yes, it shall be
later his devotees, who wanted to photograph him, gave him an oil bath
and then bathed, dressed, scented, garlanded and photographed him.
Immediately Seshadri caught a fever. For forty days his condition
worsened and on the forty-first day he found the strength to visit
Arunachaleswara one last time. On returning from the temple he sat down
in a puddle of water and refused to change his wet clothes when he got
back to the house.
on January 4, 1929, Sri Seshadri Swamigal left his body and
Tiruvannamalai was engulfed in sorrow. After preparation his body was
brought out in procession which is said to have been so splendid that
the entire stock of camphor in the shops of Tiruvannamalai was exhausted
and all incoming buses were full and over crowded. The streets were
jammed with devotees and the night seemed like bright day as it was so
brilliantly illuminated by the burning camphor. The air was filled with
group-singing, devotional songs and the music of instrument players. It
was at Agni Theertham
that Sri Ramana Maharshi joined the procession. Further on a samadhi
was constructed and Sri Swamigal's body interred. That samadhi
tomb is now enshrined within the grounds of Sri Seshadri Ashram on Chengam Road, Tiruvannamalai.
Seshadri Swamigal has shed his mortal coil, He is ever present helping,
blessing and guiding his devotees to everlasting bliss. His own
search brought him to Arunachala and it is to the sacred Hill that
Swamigal tells all to look to, to fulfil life's highest goal.
'There is a magnetic mountain which attracts all living beings. The
moment one thinks of it, it controls the actions of all beings who think
of it and attracts them towards itself. Not only it attracts to itself
but makes them motionless. How wondrous is the power of this magnetic
mountain which takes such sacrifices. Oh! Jivas! Attain liberation by
realising the nature of Arunagiri.'
Arunagiri Yogi Viyayathe
Nirmohathve Nicchala thathwam.
Darsanaath aprasathace, Jananaath Kamalalaye,
Kasiyanthu Maranaan Mukthihi,
of Sri Adi Sankara (Sat Sangatve
- in Baja Govindam
) means the company of the good lead one in time to solitude and thence to emancipation.
By repeating the word
'Arunachala' three times on her death bed, Seshadri Swami's mother was
indicating the sacredness of Arunachala and how merely by thinking of
it, one may attain ultimate Bliss.
Of the word 'Seshadri' '
- 'Sesha' means 'remainder', that is the 'sat' which remains after
having rejected everything else as 'not existing'; 'Adri' means
'mountain', that is bigger than the biggest - all-pervading. Thus the
name Seshadri is equivalent to 'Parabrahman' - the all-pervading and