Ramana Maharishi was a great saint of 19th century. He was born at 1 am on December 29 in 1879 in a small village of Tiruchuzhi in South India. His father was Sundaram Iyer and Alagammal was his mother. His parents named him Venkataraman.
After the death of his father, the whole family of Ramana Maharishi shifted to Madurai. He was only sixteen years old then and there he realised the first indication of spirituality.
Once, one of his relative casually uttered the word `Arunachala` in front of him and he excitedly asked, "Where is that?" The relative explained him that it was same as the Tiruvannamalai and he told it very politely without being unnerved by the boy`s ignorance of geography. This is said to be the casual spark of his later spiritual life.
Just after that, Ramana Maharishi got the chance to read the `Periyapuranam`, the life story of the sixty-three Tamil saints. Thus the spirituality in him got deepened. He became so excited and he is said to have the famous `death experience`. In later years, he shared this experience in this way, "Fear of death had vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued from that time on". After this, there was a sea change noticed in him. His behaviour changed a lot and he kept himself aloof from the activities of everyday life. Ramana`s brother Nagaswamy got irritated by his aloofness and other worldly behaviour and said casually, "What use is all this to such a one"? He got the hint of his brother`s word. He realised that his brother was hinting that he should not have the right to enjoy the privileges of home life if he was interested in spiritual life.
Ramana Maharishi realised the legitimacy of this scolding and at the age of seventeen years left home for good. It was on August 29 in 1896, he started from home and reached Tiruvannamalai on Sept 1st. He wrote a letter before leaving home that read, "....it is on a virtuous enterprise that this has embarked, and therefore let none grieve over this act and let no money be spent in search of this ..." He referred himself as `this` in the letter and even did not sign his name in the letter. Thus, the ego within him disappeared totally and a new person Brahmana Swami was born. He was known by this name in his early years at Tiruvannamalai.
Ramana Maharishi absorbed himself in deep meditation at the dark and isolated basement of the temple called Patala Linga. To keep his body alive, his disciple and followers used to put food into his mouth. After that, he travelled various places of Tiruvannamalai and in his words, it was totally dictated by circumstances and `propelled by shakti`. Then he reached to Virupaksha cave and lived there for sixteen years. From this place, Ramana Maharishi moved to a place called Skandashram. In 1922, he settled himself finally to the site of the present Ramanashram at the foot of the hill. When he was at Virupaksha cave, Ramana met a famous poet Nayana, who was influenced by him so much that he addressed Ramana as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi.
Ramana Maharishi enjoyed the solitude and peaceful surroundings when he was living in the hills in early years. But he was disturbed by the followers at the Virupaksha cave they used to drop at any moment to seek spriritual guidance from him. But he was very kind so he used to answer everyone`s query by writing down his answers on small slips of paper. These scraps of papers were later collected and small booklets were published out of them with titles such as Self Enquiry and who am I? These books consisted of his teachings.
Ramana Maharishi was not a philosopher and he did not communicate any doctrines or theories. He did not set up any organisation though he was formally educated and had the knowledge of the scriptures as well as of languages like Sanskrit and Telugu. People from all over the country and from every walk of life approached him. He was very sober person and respected the human being, humanity and all the living beings. He himself was never careful about his body but those who came to him with physical ailments, he handled them very delicately.
He was living constantly in the self and was not in the habit of making preferences and prejudices. This nature of Ramana Maharishi stuck to him throughout his life and even when he was suffering from the dreadful disease, sarcoma. He did not despair any of his devotees till the last breath of his life.
Ramana Maharishi died on 14th April in 1950 at 8.47 pm. It is said that a bright light blazed a glowing trail through the skies just after his death and it was observed by many people around the world. His death marked the end of an era governed by an individual having a majestic and simple personality.