Birth & Childhood:
Manikyamma as she was then usually called was born on Friday,
a day sacred to Sri MahaLakshmi, at midday when the Sun was
at its zenith bathing the whole world in joyful golden sunshine
on Vyas Purnima(Guru Purnima) in Bhavanam Year-27th July 1934-
in a poor Andhra Mutharasu family at Mallabad, a petty village
in Sedam Taluka in Karnataka, India.
Her Parents Buggappa and Asamma were poor but honest, illiterate
but virtuous. Her birth at that hour on that most auspicious
day - the Sun at its Zenith and the Moon beautiful and resplendent
in its shodasa kala was very significant, indicating her future
destiny as a torch bearer of the light of Yogic knowledge.
She was born in a poor family and without the advantages of
social status or education.
She was the last of four children. As the family was very
poor, she was not a welcome addition. One more mouth to feed
was not a bright and pleasant prospect to the poor parents,
so they were not over fond of this unwanted child. From early
girlhood, even from the age of six, she was obliged to work
hard to help the struggling family. She had to take cattles
to the field to graze. Her father was too poor to give her
even a loin cloth, exposing her tender limbs to the mercy
of scorching Sun, The biting cold winds, and lashing rains,
taking the innocent and equally helpless cattles with her.
But when she reached the field she would get upon a tree,
climb to the top, sit on a tender twig, forget the whole world,
and get lost in her own 'long, long thoughts'.
Ammas parents were poor but they were very honest and
sincere. They followed the religious life with ardor and did
not miss any rituals they were told to or followed by their
elders or priests. Till the age of 3, Manikamma was not given
any clothes to wear, she survived cold & heat with her
naked body and empty stomach, starving seem to come naturally
easy for her by circumstances of her birth and family attitude.
Later she managed to be draped in old torn towel pieces. She
neither complained nor demanded anything from her parents.
She draped the sunrays, the waters of the rain and soothing
moonbeams as her natural costumes, it became her protectors.
It would have been impossible for any infant to survive and
live with so many oddities and ill treatments. It was her
divine being that helped her survive, as she had a purpose
to survive. A much larger purpose than any body could imagine.
Buggappa had few acres of land and maintained his family
on the produce of those fields. But the fields were infertile,
and however hard he worked the produce was too scanty to keep
his family well fed. When Manikamma was eight years old, she
was sent to watch in the cornfield. Perhaps, because the divinely
gifted child, Manikamma was casting her gracious looks upon
the fields, the infertile land became exuberant with joy and
gave a bumper crop. Naturally her father was overjoyed to
see such unusually plentiful harvest and perhaps instinctively
feeling that such extraordinary good luck was due to the auspicious
watching of the field by his little daughter presented her
with two little pieces of cloth to cover her nakedness.
She realised her uniqueness at a tender age. She did not
play all those child like games. She had her own unusual games.
She would collect little pebbles, pile them up under a tree
and look for Lord Shiva in it. She also kept her plate and
glass separate from others. Her days would pass gazing at
tress & Sky. She was content with whatever little food
or half glass of Goat's milk that got offered for her. She
would even bathe herself and spend long hours worshipping
Lord Shiva at home or under some tree.
When Amma was in her ninth year, her parents began to think
of getting her married, partly because it was customary in
those days for girls to be married in their eight or ninth
year and partly because her marriage would solve the problem
of feeding her.
Usually girls of that age would feel rejoiced at the prospect
of marriage. To them marriage is only a tamasha-jewels, new
clothes, procession in a well-decorated palanquin with accompanying
instrumental music, gathering of friends and relations feasting,
and merry-making. But strangely enough Amma was averse to
marriage. She seems to have understood even in that childhood
that samsar is a hindrance to God
realisation that the pleasures of this world are ephemeral,
that family life is full of troubles and sorrows, and that
one's aim should be the attainment of ever lasting happiness.
So, when she became aware that her parents were arranging
to get her married, she felt greatly disturbed. She prayed
to God most fervently that he must any how prevent her marriage.
At that time an incident happened which aggravated her fear
of marriage considerably. A young woman, daughter of a neighbour,
happened to go to her parents' house for her first confinement.
She would frequently visit Buggpapa's house and narrate to
the women folk the ill treatment she was receiving from her
husband and mother-in-law and the insults and troubles she
was undergoing in her husband's house. Manikyamma who heard
these stories of sorrow and misery of the married girl neighbour
got terribly frightened and prayed to God..."Oh Bhagavanta,
don't allow me to be married. I cannot bear to be insulted
and beaten by a husband. I don't want to be married, you may
do anything to me. Only don't permit my marriage, I cannot
bear it. If you do not want to prevent my marriage, please
kill me. I prefer death to marriage hundred times. Oh Bhagavanta,
save me from marriage, Oh, save me". This way she went
on praying night and day. She made a firm resolve, never to
allow herself to be married. She was prepared to do anything
to undergo any suffering however frightful it might be. But
she told herself that she would never submit to the yoke of
marriage. With a palpitating heart and with burning tears
in her eyes she addressed herself to god "Oh, Bhagavanta,
I appeal to you most humbly and pitifully to save me from
the tragic predicament of marriage. Dont sit there looking
indifferently upon a poor, innocent and helpless girl when
she is being thrown into the bottomless and shoreless ocean
of samsar. Let not the integrity and independence
of my soul be sold for a mess of pottage. Let me not become
a slave to Maya. Save me from the bonds of family life".
But the ways of God are inscrutable. He did not seem to have
heard her prayer. Her parents were seriously trying to secure
a suitable match. Amma, thrown on her own resources, devised
various means to avoid marriage. She tried to commit suicide
by swallowing the powder of bangles, which was supposed to
be poisonous. But she was not affected in the least. She tried
to make herself unpleasant and behaved in a rude fashion.
She gave up eating rice so that she might die or at least
be reduced to a skeleton and thus become ugly and undesirable.
But nothing was of any avail.
In Silar Kotriki there was a farmer who was in search of a
suitable bride for his son, Manikaiyya. As soon as he saw
Manikyamma he desired to make her his daughter-in-law. When
Amma came to know this she prayed to God to do something to
prevent this marriage. She even went to the length of praying
to God to create some trouble in the family, to make somebody
fall seriously ill, if necessary, to dissuade the farmer from
pursuing the matter. This serves to reveal the strength of
her bitter resolve to avoid marriage at any cost. Strangely
and ironically enough, God seemed to have heard her prayer
this time. Manikaiyya's father fell seriously ill. She thought
that this inauspicious omen would surely make them drop the
proposal of marriage. But God's resolve to get this marriage
affected seemed to have been as firm as Manikyamma's resolve
to avoid it. Manikaiyya's father, on his deathbed, sent for
his son and made him take oath to marry manikyamma and Manikyamma
alone. So the marriage did take place. Destiny fulfilled itself.
But Amma was not the girl to be easily swayed away from her
resolution not to enter into samsar. After marriage
Amma was sent to her mother-in-law's house.
Amma's real troubles started from now on. She had already
given up eating rice. She used to take goat's milk. Now she
gave up even drinking water. What an extra ordinary affair!
A little girl of ten who did not eat any food, who did not
even drink water, but who moved about like any ordinary girl
without any signs of weakness or fatigue. This was surely
an evidence of her supernatural powers. But the uncivilised,
uneducated, and rude people failed to understand her greatness,
and attributed this extra-ordinary behavior to the action
of a devil. She was taken to various Bhuta Vaidyas
At Mallabad there was a Bhuta Vaidya. She was taken to him
for treatment. His method of treatment was very crude and
cruel. He wanted to drive off the devil from her person. So,
he gave her a severe thrashing in a most inhuman manner. The
thrashing was so terrible that she began to cry aloud saying
that her whole body was burning. It became impossible for
her to keep her clothes on her body. So, she stripped herself
naked. Then, when the Mantrik though that the thrashing was
not enough he kept her locked up in a room. The next morning
when the room was opened they were surprised to see the room
empty and Amma was not to be found anywhere. They searched
for her everywhere but there was no trace of her. The next
day they opened the storeroom for corn. That room was adjacent
to the room in which Amma had been locked up. They were struck
with amazement when they found her in a basket of corn. It
is a mystery how she went in there. She was in an extremely
feeble condition, unable even to move. When they accosted
her they found that she could not speak. She lost her voice.
With difficulty she managed to point out to them the stripes
on her body, suggesting that she was suffering from excessive
pain due to the thrashing by the Vaidya.
The Vaidya had later to suffer the consequences of the ill
treatment he had meted out to the Devi. He lost his only daughter.
He himself suffered from the foul and detested disease of
leprosy and died a most miserable death and his whole family
was wiped out.
A little later they took her to another Mantrik by name Vadla
Bhimanna in Gundepalli. He locked her up in the temple of
Virabhadraswamy in that village. After some time he opened
the door. When she came out he asked her in a mocking tone
what Virabhadraswamy had told her. She replied in a seemingly
humble and nonchalant way that the Swamy had advised her not
to enter into samsar. The Mantrik got wild and
made up his mind to force this insolent and impertinent girl
into family life. He called Manikkaiyya and gave him some
incense and asked him to take hold of his wife. He then began
to chant some mantrams. After a while Manikkaiyya looked for
his wife had been till then sitting there but now she was
not to be seen anywhere. The Mantrik got non-plussed. Evidently
she went out from amidst them, but they were not aware of
it. They began to search for her all around. At last they
discovered her sitting in Padmasana in a carefree fashion
on a small twig at the top of a nearby tree. They could not
believe their eyes. Was it really Manikyamma that was sitting
there or her ghost? They wondered how it was possible for
a human being to sit on such a tiny twig; and how the twig
did not break because of the heavy weight of a human being.
They could not surmise her real nature. They did not know
that she is not an ordinary human being but she is really
a spirit, a soul pure and simple.
Meanwhile the Mantrik had an attack of cholera and he was
on his death bed. He had two wives. They got frightened and
fearing for the life of their husband came to the tree and
looking up with tears in their eyes requested Manikyamma to
give Pati Bhiksha. The tender hearted girl saint took pity
on them, came down from the tree, gave vibhuti to the distracted
wives and saved Bhimanna.
At Bondempalli there was a Muslim Mantrik who had great reputation
in these parts. So Manikyammas parents wanted to consult
him about here malady. When they reached the place, Manikyamma,
as usual, got upon a tree and sat among the leaves. Adam Saheb,
the Mantrik, looked at the girl, closed her eyes for a while
and then told Buggappa and his wife Asamma they they should
not treat Manikyamma as their daughter and force her into
samsar against her will. He further told them
that she was not an ordinary human being, but that she was
a highly developed soul. In fact she was an avatar and time
would reveal her greatness. How strange, a Muslim Mantrik
to recognise a Hindu saint in the Making, But differences
of caste, creed, race and country do not divide highly developed
religious souls. They are birds of the same feather, soaring
in the high empyrean of spirituality they recognize no barriers.
Mystics, Sufis and Yogis form a brotherhood of their own.
The words of the Muslims divine reassured them and from that
time they gave up their attempts to get her treated by Bhutha
But they could not reconcile themselves to her refusal to
go to her husbands house, They used to taunt her frequently
and showed their unwillingness and inability to give her clothing.
There was no question of feeding her because she had already
given up eating rice or bread or taking even milk. She was
in the habit of using agarbathis during her puja, They told
her it was sheer waste and refused to supply them.
Manikyamma is extremely sensitive and independent spirit,
so, she made up her mind not to depend upon anybody even for
limited and frugal needs, It was this incident that made her
realise the value for money. She considered ways and means
of earning money in an honest and honourable way so that she
might maintain her independence and self respect. She found
that by making beedies she could earn enough money
for her needs. It entailed no capital and no disrespect, people
would go to her house and buy bundles of beedies
for selling them in retail. Her spirit of independence and
self respect made her realise the value of money, Even today
when her needs are supplied to her in over abundance by her
admirers and devotees she has not forgotten the value of money
and is never indifferent to it.
Now she changed her abode to Narasappa temple, an extremely
small temple at Mallabad, not bigger than an ordinary drum.
Though her new abode was extremely small and narrow it gave
her soul freedom to soar far above the cramping atmosphere
of dependence and conformity. She was thus able to maintain
the divine dignity of her soul, which was more precious to
her than the public opinion of narrow and convention-ridden
Now she began to plan her future. Her sensitive soul began
to feel the necessity of making amends to Manikkiayya. Though
it was not her fault that she could not live as his wife,
still her generous and kind heart prompted her to do something
to make him happy. She knew that he wanted a wife. When she
earned enough money by selling beedies she wanted
to help Manikkiayya marry a wife. This reveals not only her
kindness of heart, but the sensitiveness of her conscience.
An unlettered village girl to have such a fine feeling of
duty towards an unwanted husband who was forced upon her in
spite of her repeated protests! Once again the value and importance
of money were impressed upon her mind.
But Manikkiayya refused to take a womans money especially
when that woman happened to be his own wife, and get remarried
with that. Then she used that money for the repair of Narasappa
temple. However years later, when she was residing on the
hillock at Yanagundi she got Manikkayya married to a girl
of his choice. The expenses of the marriage were borne by
a devotee of hers.
One day her brother-in-law Chandrappa came and asked her
to accompany him to Kotriki. He assured her that nobody would
be allowed to interfere with her in any way. She could reside
wherever she liked, either in Hanuman temple or Narasappa
temple or elsewhere unmolested by any one.
She went to Kotriki and lived in a separate cottage all by
herself. She used to prepare beedies and thus
earn money for agarbathis and her clothes. She also used to
spin yarn for her clothes. But even then she was not left
alone in peace there. People began to taunt her and speak
ill of her.
She wanted to avoid all this which disturbed her peace of
mind. She longed for solitude, she yearned to be alone with
the Alone. So, once day she left the village for Ekamabari
temple which is situated in a jungle, The way is so dense
with thickets and Thorny bushes, and over hanging big trees
that it is a marvel how she managed to reach the temple without
the least injury. But she was not destined to have peace even
there. Manikaiyya got scent of her and followed her there.
He asked her to accompany him to their village and strangely
enough, without a word of protest she implicitly agreed. They
both left the temple for their village, But most miraculously
she made herself invisible to him on the way. Then the poor
man went back to Ekambari in search of her.
She was thoroughly disgusted with all this; She came to the
conclusion that the only way left to her to escape from the
bugbear of samsar was to put an end to her life.
There was a rumor that at that time a Cheetah was roaming
in that Jungle, She wondered why that ferocious animal did
not get scent of her, and come and attack her and devour here,
But that did not matter. She was not going to allow herself
to be thwarted in her attempt. She must do something to put
and end to her life, She saw in the jungle huge serpent hills
as tall as a tree. Surely there must be bug poisonous snakes
in them, So she went and plunged her head in one of those
fearsome serpent hills to be bitten by some poisonous snake
dwelling in that and remained there during the whole night
with her head in the serpent hill. But strangely enough, to
her utter disgust and disappointment nothing happened, She
wondered what became of all those serpents in that jungle
and why not even one come to oblige her and bite her, Poor
girl, She did not know that hers was charmed life and that
she was destined not to die an inglorious death, unknown and
unwept in a far off jungle but that a divinely glorious future
was awaiting her.
Then she went back to Mallabad. This time she wanted to end
her life by drowning herself in the tank at Daultabad. She
wanted to give a last chance to save her from being thrown
into the slough of samsar. She decided to pray
and appeal to God for the last time to save her. If he did
not heed her prayer even now then she said to herself that
there was no alternative left to her but to drown herself
in the tank at Daulatabad.
Oh, Bhagavanta, she cried with a breaking heart,
I have borne this torture most patiently for a long
time. You know I have done everything in my power to save
myself from the quag-mire of samsar. I have also
prayed to you over and again to help me. But you have been
indifferent and kept mum. Now my patience is utterly exhausted.
I have been absolutely indifferent all along. How long, do
you think, I can bear this? No-my energy is utterly gone.
My hopes in you are blasted. Are you not the merciful saviour
of bhaktas? Have you not saved Prahlada, Draupadi and others?
My bhakti may not be as great as theirs. Let me at least have
satisfaction of dying for God, if I cannot live as a witness
of Gods mercy and saving grace. I tell you, Bhagavanta,
that I am going to drown myself in this tank at 4 OClock
this morning. Dont say afterwards that I had not informed
you and that I had acted rashly. Oh, Bhagavanta, I am telling
you now definitely and finally of my resolve to drown myself
in the tank at 4 in the morning. (This is almost a literal
translation of the words used by her in Telugu in her prayers).
She passed the night in the prayer and meditation. She had
a faint hope that God would at last save her from suicide,
but she had not the least idea how it would happen. The hours
passed slowly, she was sleepless, she was weeping and praying
in the most pathetic fashion. It was 3 OClock, but there
was no sign of anyway of escape from death. The minutes moved
slowly and heavily as if unwilling to hasten the zero hour.
But at long last the appointed, ordained hour came. In sheer
despair, she bucked up for a plunge in the tank and bid farewell
to the world. The rest would be silence.
Mans final despair is Gods first opportunity.
Then at the last moment, when she finally gave up all hopes
of being saved, when the jaws of death seemed to be wide opened,
when darkness seems to be swallowing light- a person appeared
on the scene. She looked at him and saw that he was no other
than her good brother-in-law Chandrappa. He came as a messenger
of life. But how could she be saved? Her problem was not merely
to be saved from death by suicide, but to be saved from suicide
but by being saved from samsar. The arrival of
Chandrappa on the scene at the psychological moment could
indeed save her from suicide. But how could she accept life
without compromising her resolution regarding samsar?
Hers is a complex nature. Opposite qualities, contrary
feelings simultaneously exists in her. She loved life but
she desired death. How Chandrappas strange message made
it not only possible for her, but made it incumbent on her
to suspend her desire for death temporarily and enabled her
to save her life for the time being. Chandrappa told that
Manikkaiyya had become insane and none but she could cure
him. It is true that she wanted to avoid samsar
by refusing to live with her husband Manikkaiyya. But her
tender heart could not refuse her service to save him from
madness. Suicide could surely wait. So, she agreed to accompany
Chandrappa to Kotriki. What a divine irony!
They both went to the room in which Manikkaiya was kept locked
up because his madness had taken a violent turn. When he saw
her from the corner where he sat floomily brooding, he got
up and ran towards her with a surge of joy. His madness was
cured on the instant.
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