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Annapurna of Mandapeta

Annapurna’s father Namahshivaya and mother Bhimeshwaramma were early devotees of Shivabalayogi, as was Annapurna's grandmother.  Her brother Mularao was with Swamiji for a long time in the early years and used to be his driver.

Annapurna, like most devotees, was reluctant to share her experiences.  She said, “Well, what is there to say?  I won’t be able to speak.”  But as she began talking about how she first came to Shivabalayogi, she continued to describe more and more miracles.  Annapurna’s life was difficult, but throughout she was protected by Shivabalayogi’s grace.  Her lifetime of experiences is inspirational.

Meeting Swamiji, 1961-63

Shivabalayogi and his mother, Parvatamma. Madras, 1965.

Annapurna was married at the age of twelve.  She had problems with her husband so she left him.  Her father Namahshivaya took her to see Shivabalayogi.  They waited outside Swamiji’s room for a long time before Swamiji was told that Namahshivaya and his daughter had come.  Swamiji gave word that only the girl should be brought inside alone.

She was very afraid to go near Swamiji, but she went inside.  As soon as she saw him she really started shivering.  Swamiji slowly opened his eyes, looked at her and asked her to come closer.  He applied vibhuti on her.  That changed her.  Annapurna used to have many experiences after that.

Once when she and her father came for darshan, the ashram committee members were having a meeting with Swamiji.  Her father thought they may as well return to their home in Mandapeta.  How Swamiji came to know they were there is not known, but as they were about to leave, Swamiji sent a person out to ask her to come inside.  Swamiji told her father to ask his daughter what she had seen the previous night.  Annapurna was afraid to speak, but somehow she managed.  She had seen Vivekananda the previous night.  She would always feel the presence of various gods and even Vivekananda and Ramakrishna.  She also would see Lord Shiva doing tapas, covered with cobwebs and a serpent around his neck.  This was what she described to Swamiji.

The other elders there started complaining to Swamiji.  “We have been coming to you for so many years.  For many years we have been doing all this service, but you don’t give us experiences.  You only give her experiences.”

Swamiji said, “I am always with her.”

Annapurna was a little afraid of being so close to such an awesome yogi.  “No, no Swamiji.  I don’t want you with me.  I am very afraid of you.  Please don’t do anything like that.  Don’t be with me all the time.”  She didn’t understand that Swamiji was trying to assure her.  Since then, whenever she thought of Swamiji or whenever she had a problem, she could see Swamiji.  But for a long time she also had such awe for Shivabalayogi that she would shiver and perspire from fear and she would be afraid to look at Swamiji in the face.

When Annapurna used to come to Adivarapupeta, there few people at the ashram.  Swamiji had only recently completed his twelve-year tapas and he had not yet consecrated Ardhararishwara linga in the Dhyana Mandir.  Swamiji used to call her into the room and talk to her about many things, including how the ashram would develop in the future.  Being a young girl still, she didn’t understand until much later.

When she was inside with Swamiji, she would forget to have food.  Swamiji used to remind her, “You go and have your lunch.  It is time and you are hungry.”  Sometimes he would just bless a small banana and give it to her to eat.  When she ate it, she would feel like she had eaten a full meal.

Once when Swamiji told her to take some food, she admitted that she didn’t like the food that was being served at the ashram.  Swamiji called his mother, Parvatamma, and said, “Find out what kind of food she likes and please prepare that for her and bring it here.”  Parvatamma prepared a curry dish that Annapurna wanted and even before she brought it, Swamiji told Annapurna, “This dish that you like so much [naming the dish], my mother has prepared it.  She is bringing it for you.  Go and have your food.”

See, Swamiji is always very grateful for even the smallest service done for him or his devotees, and Annapurna’s parents were very generous.  When Swamiji’s devotees traveled to Adivarapupeta, Swamiji encouraged them first to go to Annapurna’s father’s house in Mandapeta.  Namahshivaya took good care of the devotees, feeding them and booking a car to take them the rest of the way to Adivarapupeta.  His wife, Bhimeshwaramma, used to have two special dishes always ready in the house which were not available in Bangalore.  They would feed guests with these two dishes.  Devotees always praised the hospitality of Namashivaya’s house.

Lost in Nandi Hills

In Spring of 1963, Annapurna and her father came to visit Shivabalayogi who was staying in Dodballapur at the time.  Swamiji warned her that some devotees would come by car, and they might offer to take her to nearby Nandi Hills.  Swamiji warned her not to go.  “Don’t go.  Refuse to go with them.  I will take care to see to it that you will be shown all that.  I myself will take you there.  Don’t go with anybody else.”  Annapurna, like her mother, suffered from obesity, and she was physically unable to exert herself very much.  Swamiji warned her, “You will have to walk a lot of distance, so you cannot do that.  You better stay in the ashram.  I will take you to Nandi Hills myself.”

A few days later, some devotees came by car and they were all going to Nandi Hills.  Her father wanted to go with them and told Annapurna.  She refused saying that Swamiji had asked her not to go.  Her father insisted there would be no problem, so she ended up going.  As they were hiking around Nandi Hills, Namashivaya and Annapurna got separated from the others and got lost.  They had come completely unprepared and were not carrying any food or water.  They kept walking and wandering as Annapurna’s feet started cracking and aching.  Finally she told her father that she could walk no more.  Then she heard Swamiji’s voice, “Amma, you take that and you eat it.”  She looked around and found an orange which she ate.

It was around four in the evening and the sun was getting close to setting.  She again heard Swamiji’s voice, “Come on, get up.  You shouldn’t be here.”

She told her father, “Swamiji is asking us to leave from here and walk back immediately.  There’s urgency in his voice.  I have some strength after eating that orange, so let’s do that.”  They got up and started walking again.  After some distance, she leaned against a wall, resting, when she noticed two small packets of peppermints.  She took them and heard Swamiji saying, “You keep these in your mouth.  Keep sucking on them and you keep walking.”

Suddenly she saw a very dark and ugly looking man walking towards them.  Her father stopped him, explained that they had lost their way, and asked for directions.  The man insisted, “First you drink this water.  I have brought it for you.  And you also eat this.”  The man had a small amount of food and offered it.

Annapurna whispered to her father, “This man is very ugly.  I don’t want to drink the water that he has brought.  You have the water.  I won’t.”

Although she was whispering, somehow the stranger came to know and he addressed her as Amma.  “Amma, I have brought this water for you.  It is very cold, like from a refrigerator.  Please drink this.  It will give you a lot of solace.”  The way the stranger addressed and talked to her made her feel that it was Swamiji.  She took the water and drank it.

The dark stranger took them to a nearby hotel where they received more food, then to a nearby temple to have darshan of the Shivalinga installed inside, then took them to catch the last bus to Doddaballapur which left at ten every night.  That night it was delayed for some reason.  They reached the bus stop at around eleven o’clock and the bus was still there.  They got inside and the bus driver took them all the way to Swamiji’s ashram in Doddaballapur.

Swamiji received them and immediately talked to them.  “Did I not tell you not to go with them?  Why did you go?  I told you that I would take you.”  Annapurna tried to shift the blame on her father.  By then her legs were hurting terribly and her feet were sore and bleeding.  Swamiji gave her a very small amount of vibhuti and asked her to apply it on her feet and legs and then go to sleep.  She did that and by that next morning, she was totally all right.

The next day she related all that had happened to Swamiji.  He told the others with him, “See, when I went to offer her cool drinking water when she was suffering, she said that I was ugly and refused to take the water.  I had to force her to have the drinking water.”

Left Alone with Swamiji

Annapurna’s father and Swamiji’s other devotees were going to Bangalore, probably to check on the construction of the Bannerghatta ashram.  They asked Swamiji what they should do about Annapurna.  Swamiji told them to bring her to his room and lock the door from the outside, then they could go on their business.

She was still extremely frightened of Swamiji.  She couldn’t say anything but she didn’t want to stay there.  But she had a craze for movies and books.  She didn’t know how Swamiji came to know of this, but Swamiji assured her, “You stay here and when they return they will take you to a movie.”  That satisfied her and she sat down.

After a little while, Swamiji went into meditation.  Then she started seeing the tiger skins move on which Swamiji was sitting.  The tigers came alive.  They started wagging their tongues at her.  They stared at her, moving their eyeballs and flicking their tails.  They moved their feet and even got up and moved about.  She was thoroughly frightened, afraid to move because of the tigers and Swamiji’s own awesome presence.

When her father and the others came back that evening, they opened the door and came inside.  Annapurna broke into tears and complained to her father about having been locked inside with Swamiji.  They told her that while they were gone, a large crowd of people had gathered outside.  (Annapurna didn’t understand the reason for the crowd, but there was some violent opposition to Shivabalayogi in Dodballapur, and likely it was one of several hostile incidents stirred up by hired thugs.)  Swamiji opened his eyes and smiled at her.

Family Problems; Selling the Family House

Annapurna, having left her husband, had to stay with her parents.  Swamiji personally got involved with their family problems and arranged for Annapurna to get her own house.  He made her father stay in the ashram for a couple of months and during this time Swamiji slowly convinced him to sell the family house.  This was the only property Namashivaya had left because he had already given away all his other property to his sons.  Because they already had their father’s property, the sons were not bothered to take of their parents or sister.

Swamiji told Namashivaya that three streets away was another house which was old and dilapidated, but that was the house to buy.  Swamiji warned him not to tell his wife or daughter because they would not like the idea of staying in a run down house.  He was to buy it without telling them.  Swamiji also told Namashivaya that he was going to die within a year, so he had to make arrangements quickly.  Namashivaya looked everywhere in the village for another house, but the only one he could find to buy was the dilapidated one Swamiji had described.

Her father followed through and much to the disappointment of wife and daughter, they moved into the dilapidated house three streets away.  Annapurna complained, “Sure, Swamiji is living in a big bungalow now, so he does not understand what it’s like to have to live in an old, dilapidated house.  It’s easy for him to give instructions.”

Three days later, she visited Swamiji at the ashram.  While she was having darshan, Swamiji told the other devotees, “You know what this lady is saying about me?  She thinks that now I am living in luxury in a big bungalow and that’s why I don’t know what is life in a small old house.  Please tell her that when I was in this old house here, I used to get my meals at the proper time.  Now I am staying in a big bungalow but I never get my meals at the right time.”

It turned out that the house was specially blessed.  In meditation, Annapurna was told that the run down house was an Omkara temple.  Again and again Swamiji told her that the house was an om mandir, an om temple.  After her parents died, Annapurna was able to stay in that house and over the years, she was miraculously provided for through neighbors and devotees.

Swamiji’s Care of Annapurna

How Annapurna survived was a miracle.  She had very little income and she was alone, but every now and again something happened or somebody came and gave her food, somebody else gave her rice, and another person gave her clothes.

When her parents were still alive, Swamiji wanted to take Annapurna to Dehradun, but only if her mother gave her permission.  Her mother, Bhimeshwaramma, would not agree.  Annapurna was angry and went to Swamiji complaining, “Swamiji, don’t listen to my mother.  She is always that way.  Even if she does not agree, please take me with you.”  Swamiji would not respond.

Her father tried to tell Swamiji that it was all right with him if Swamiji took Annapurna, but still Swamiji would not agree.  “I wanted her mother’s word, not yours.”  Annapurna pleaded with Swamiji but still he would not respond.  She got angry, did namaskar to Swamiji. then left the room.  She heard a loud voice telling her, “You will never be in want of food.”  This was repeated very clearly three times

Annapurna used to stay in bed because her health was so bad.  She would find that Swamiji came and fed her.  Whenever she saw Swamiji she would not look his face because she still had such awe of him.  But she could see the rest of his body, and Swamiji fed her with his hands.  People would visit to check on her and say, “Why Annapurna, you have not eaten anything since morning, so please have this food.”

She would tell them, “No, I have had a full meal just now, so I cannot eat anything.”

They would argue, “You have been in bed all day.  We know that you have not cooked anything.  How could you have eaten?”  But she insisted that she had just eaten and was full.  She would even get the burps as if she had just eaten a full meal, and she could taste the food that Swamiji had given her.

The neighbors brought groceries to her house saying, “I have gone to bring groceries for all of my family.  But what you need is very little.  So I thought I would also buy for you and I brought you this.”  She could not pay them but they did not mind.

Sometimes people would come up to her and say, “Amma, I owe you six hundred rupees.  Please take this repayment.”

She would not remember to whom or why she gave any money.  “I don’t remember having given you any money.  But if you still think you owe me money, then give it.  But otherwise I don’t want it.”  Then the fellow would her the money and leave.

An uncle asked Annapurna to allow their eight-year old daughter to live with her, saying he and his wife had too many children and could not take care of them all.  Annapurna wondered how she could take care of this child when she could not take care of even herself.  All she could say was that whenever she ate, she would share what she had with the child.

One day the child asked for a dress to wear at a festival.  Up to that time, Annapurna had never been to any kind of a store to buy anything.  But because the girl asked her, they went together to buy a dress.  They were going in a rickshaw when suddenly someone shouted at her from behind calling her “sister.”  She had no idea who the person could be.  The man called her by name, “Annapurna sister, Annapurna sister, please come here!”

The rickshaw puller explained to her that the man was from a very well-to-do family and they had just opened a new cloth store.  The man was the owner and he called Annapurna in and told her, “I want to give you these two sarees.  These are for you, please take them.”

Annapurna said, “I have not come here to buy sarees.  I have come to buy a dress for my daughter.”

The man replied, “We do not carry any dresses, so please take these two sarees.”  She tried to pay for them but he would not accept any money.

Annapurna used to pray to Swamiji because of the gifts she received which she could never repay.  She would complain when people gave her help, “I don’t know why you are doing all this.  I don’t want to be in debt.  I am not able to pay you back.”

The people who helped her sometimes explained that compared to the help they had received from her parents, what they were doing for Annapurna was nothing.

Whenever Annapurna got sick, she would not be able to get up from bed or call a doctor.  Then suddenly her doctor would drop by the house to see her.  He would explain that while he was taking his morning bath, he was reminded of Annapurna.  Whenever that happened, he would stop by to see her before going to work at his clinic.  He would find her lying helplessly in bed and he would scold her, “Why did you not call me earlier?  Your condition has become so bad that it will be difficult to treat.”

She would answer that she could not do anything about it.  “Swamiji has called you here.  That is Swamiji’s power.”  The doctor would treat her and make a point of dropping by her house three or four times a day.  He may have had a long line of patients at the clinic, but still he visited Annapurna to take care of her until she got better.

That doctor was a very respected doctor in the village, so when neighbors saw him making house calls, they thought that Annapurna must be an important lady and well-to-do.  The doctor would tell these people, “This is my sister.  I have come to treat her.”  He also told them to take care of Annapurna and to give him a call should she be sick.  This encouraged people to take care of her.

One night after Swamiji’s mahasamadhi, Annapurna was lying down, tears in her eyes, feeling very unhappy that Swamiji had left her.  Suddenly she saw Swamiji.  He told her, “Why are you sad like this?  I am with you all the time.  Don’t be afraid.”  Then he actually wiped the tears from her cheeks.  She could feel his hands and she even held them in her hands.

That morning when the maid cleaned the room, she came to Annapurna and asked, “Amma, was there anyone in the room last night?”

Annapurna was a little ashamed and said, “What do you mean someone was in the room?  Who would come to my bedroom?  The door has been locked.  No one has come.”

But the servant insisted, “I can see some footprints here.  Somebody must have been here.  You can see them.”  Annapurna got up and indeed she could see footprints on the floor of her bedroom.  They looked as if someone had been dancing in one place then walked off.

This was how Annapurna’s life was.  She passed away in the mid 1990’s.  She had been alone most of her life and she had suffered many hardships, but somehow she got by.  Swamiji always took care of her.