Desur (pronounced Day-soor) is a little village some 70 kms from Tiruvannamalai. Mastan Swami and Akhilandamma, two very special disciples of Sri Ramana Maharshi. hailed from this village. And from a village nearby came Lakshmi, the divine cow of Ramanashramam, as did Keeraipaatti, another old devotee.
And it is to this area that we are headed, to the samadhi shrines of Mastan Swami and Akhilandamma.
Here is a picture of Mastan Swami…
“Mastan, the liberated one who lives in Desur, where swans with reddish legs walk through the water channels. Ocean of satchitananda who realized truth without any obstruction, and became the reality! You said, ‘If the vishaya vasanas are destroyed, the mind will also be destroyed. Then, the incomparable reality, whose own nature is tranquility, will shine of its own accord. That reality is not apart from you.’
– So wrote Sambandan, an associate of Mastan Swami, in Tamizh verse (From the book ‘Power of the Presence – Part 3’ by David Godman).
As can be seen from the verse, Mastan Swami was a sage.
Like Kabir, he was a weaver, and an adherent of Nirguna upasana. And, call it coincidence, the Siva temple at Desur, is of Kashi Vishwanath.
I give below, a quick brief about Mastan, which I have largely drawn from David Godman’s book.
Mastan was born in Desur in 1878, to Hussain and Salubi.
Even as a child, Mastan is said to have experienced many ‘special’ moments of spirituality. In 1914, Akhilandamma, a co-resident of Desur, brought him to Bhagavan Ramana, who was then residing in Virupaksha cave, in Arunachala.
Here is how Mastan described this visit:
“When I came to Bhagavan, he was seated like a rock…. [His unwavering gaze] was filled with grace, compassion and steady wisdom. I stood by his side. After giving me a look, he opened the gate of my Heart and I was also established in his state. I stood like that for eight hours, absolutely without fatigue, but filled with total absorption and peace. Bhagavan in those days used to open our Heart with a simple gracious look, and it transformed us. There was no need for any questions since he made us, by his look, like himself.”
And here is what Sri Ramana is reported to have told Vishwanatha Swami.
Talking about various grades of spiritual seekers who come to the presence of a Jnani, he said:
“… The most advanced are ripe fruits, just waiting to fall. They only have to come into the presence of a jnani in order to plunge into a deep experience of the Self. One such devotee was Mastan.
‘He was such a ripe soul, when he came to Virupaksha Cave to see me he would sometimes go into a deep samadhi before he had even entered the cave. As soon as he touched the railings of the gate, he would have a paralysing experience of the Self. He would stand, rooted to the spot, unable to move, for six or seven hours. This happened several times. Usually, these experiences would happen before he had even seen me since I would be inside the cave, unaware of what was going on at the gate.
Mastan was in an entirely different category to most of the people who came. He was highly spiritual, although outwardly he looked like an ordinary man.”
Such was Mastan.
He, along with Akhilandamma, would often walk across from Desur to Tiruvannamalai, a distance of 70 kms… He would weave and bring cod-pieces for Sri Ramana, which Bhagavan would accept with great respect.
After coming to Bhagavan, what little worldly trappings he had, too dropped away. Leading a hard, ascetic life, he largely lived by begging alms. His one refuge was Bhagavan Sri Ramana – and he loved serving devotees of Ramana, and talking and hearing of Ramana.
In one of the verses about Mastan Swami, Sambandan says:
“[You told me,] ‘This body composed of flesh and so on will certainly cease to exist one day. Knowing this, always abide in your Heart. Even if the sky falls on your head, or even if a sword is firmly driven through your chest, do not slip from your true state.’
Mastan passed away in 1931.
He was at that time residing at Matam, a village near Desur.
His last days are described thus by Akhilandamma :
“He was sick and bedridden for about a week. During those days he spoke of many things not of this world, as if he were actually seeing them.
He said, ‘There, Nandiswara [Nandi the bull, the vehicle of Siva] is descending. He is very affectionately licking all over my body! Look! The Siva ganas [celestial followers of Siva] are dancing here! See! They are beckoning me to come to their world. Look at those lotus ponds where celestial swans are swimming!’
We thought that this was nothing but delirium, but on the last day a very strange thing happened, and we cannot lightly dismiss it as delirium. On this day he suddenly got up from his bed and stood up, looking as if someone, face to face, had been calling him.
Then, in great excitement, he exclaimed, ‘Mother Apeetakuchamba, [the consort of Siva in the Tiruvannamalai temple] have you come yourself to escort me?’
The next moment he fell down dead. I immediately sent a message to Bhagavan.”
Such was the nirvana of Mastan.
Sri Ramana, when informed of Mastan’s demise, sent Kunjuswami with specific detailed instructions – to build a samadhi for Mastan. The Samadhi was to be built in accordance with the rules prescribed in Tirumantiram, the sacred book written by Tirumular. Mastan was to be given a samadhi, as is given for Saiva saints.
And it is to that Samadhi, at Matam village, that we are headed…
– To be continued…