We are in Shengalipuram.
From Muthannaval’s house, we proceed to Valmiki Parnashala.
Here it is.
This was a house which had some extensions where a Paatashaala for the brahmacharis was conducted during the first part of 20th century, and Anantharama Deekshitar among others have studied here.
This Paatashala was run by V Pancapakesa Iyer. Anantharama Deekshitar’s biography says that as a young boy, he studied Campu Nataka, Alamkara, Prakarana Granthas like Mukthavali, in this Paatashala. The old Paatashala is not used anymore and is in a state of some disrepair. Here’s a picture of it, as it is now.
Coming back to the new structure in the compound, the Valmiki Parnashala…
More than fifty years ago. Kanchi Paramacharya visited this dwelling, and told the devotees that Sri Rama’s presence is felt here, and that he had visited this place, on the way to Dandakaranya forest. On Paramacharya’s direction, Sri Panchapakesha Iyer, built a temple for Sri Rama in this dwelling, and named it Valmiki Parnashala.
When you enter the main portal, you are in a hall. Every year, Ramayana Navaha is held in this hall. The hall had many pictures. There was one of the founder, V Pancapakesa Iyer. Here it is.
Going past the hall, one comes to a small open space, beyond which is a room that is the shrine of Rama.
That is the heart of Valmiki Parnashala.
The Adhyatma Ramayana describes how Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, when they came to Dandakaranya, visited Valmiki in his Ashrama, a Parnashala (a hut made of leaves). This place in Sengalipuram is based on that concept.
It was Paramacharya’s direction that Valmiki Ramayana should be read here every single day, at least one Sarga a day. And that has been happening ever since, till date. And again, in obedience to Paramacharya’s advice, detailed diary account is kept of the reading every day.
Sri Pancapakesa Iyer’s son is currently taking care of the place and showed me around.
Rock relief carvings of Sri Rama, Sita, Bharata, Lakshmana, Shatrughna, Anjanaeya and one separate relief having Valmiki and Lava, Kusa, have been installed here. Very beautiful to look at. There is Shalagarama of Rama and Sita placed in front of the carving. Worship, everyday, is offered to this Shalagrama.
Lots of Ramayana books were kept there. Among the many Ramayana books, there was one which was completely handwritten – all 24000 verses. An old well thumbed, thick, manuscript. To show it to me, he opened a random page, and I read the verse of the sarga…
कृतातिथ्योऽथ रामस्तु सूर्यस्योदयनं प्रति |
आमन्त्र्य स मुनीन्सर्वान्वनमेवान्वगाहत || १||
“Then, on receiving the hospitality in that hermitage for that day, and on the next day before sunrise, Rama bade farewell to all of the sages, and thus entered the deep forests.”
It was the second sarga of Aranya Kanda. One random verse from 24000 and that turns out to be this one, where Rama goes to Dandakaranya!
What a remarkable coincidence!
As Einstein has said, “Coincidence is Gods way of remaining anonymous”.
Leaving the Parnashala, I go back to Muthannaval’s samadhi, bow once more, and take leave….
** Concluded **