The Five Hymns to Arunachala are the earliest poems of Sri Ramana Maharshi except for a few short verses. They were written about 1914, when Sri Ramana was about thirty-five years old (he was born in December 1879). He was still living in Virupaksha Cave on the hill.
Some of Sri Ramana’s followers who were sadhus used to go into the town of Tiruvannamalai daily to beg for food. One day they asked the Maharshi to compose a song for them to sing as they went. At first Sri Ramana refused, saying that there were already plenty of songs by the ancient Saivite saints. They continued to press him, however, and he began to compose a song with a refrain at the end of each and every stanza.
One day Sri Ramana started to go round the hill with Palaniswami walking behind him. After he had gone some way Aiyaswami seems to have called Palaniswami back and given him a pencil and paper, saying, “For some days now Swami has been composing stanzas everyday. He may do so today as well, so you had better take this paper and pencil with you.”
That day Sri Bhagavan practically completed the Marital Garland of Letters, the first of the five hymns. It tells in glowing symbolism of the love and union between the human soul and God, and is among the most profound and moving poems in any language. Although he who wrote it was established in the bliss of indissoluble Union, it was written for the sake of devotees and expresses the attitude of devotion and aspiration.
Marital Garland Of Letters
Gracious Ganapati! with Thy hand bless me, that I may make this marital garland of letters worthy of Sri Arunachala, the Bridegroom!
Arunachala Shiva! Arunachala Shiva! Arunachala Shiva! Arunachala!
Arunachala Shiva! Arunachala Shiva! Arunachala Shiva! Arunachala!
Arunachala! Thou dost root out the ego of those who meditate on Thee in the heart, Oh Arunachala!
Arunachala! Thou dost root out the ego of those who dwell on their identity with Thee, Oh Arunachala!
May Thou and I be one and inseparable like Alagu and Sundara, Oh Arunachala!
Entering my home and luring me to Thine, why didst Thou keep me prisoner in Thy heart’s cavern, Oh Arunachala?
Was it for Thy pleasure or for my sake Thou didst win me? If now Thou turn me away, the world will blame Thee, Oh Arunachala!
Escape this blame! Why didst Thou then recall Thyself to me? How can I leave Thee now, Oh Arunachala?
Kinder far art Thou than one’s own mother. Is this then Thy all-kindness, Oh Arunachala?
Kinder indeed art Thou than one’s own mother, such is Thy Love, Oh Arunachala!
Sit firmly in my mind lest it elude Thee, Oh Arunachala!
Change not Thy nature and flee, but hold fast in my mind, Oh Arunachala!
Be watchful in my mind, lest it change even Thee into me and rush away, Oh Arunachala!
Display Thy beauty, for the fickle mind to see Thee for ever and to rest, Oh Arunachala!
The strumpet mind will cease to walk the streets if only she find Thee. Disclose Thy Beauty then and hold her bound, Oh Arunachala!
The mind by her unsteadiness prevents my seeking Thee and finding peace; grant me the vision of Thy Beauty, Oh Arunachala!
After abducting me if now Thou dost not embrace me, where is Thy chivalry, Oh Arunachala?
Does it become Thee thus to sleep when I am outraged by others, Oh Arunachala?
Even when the thieves of the five senses break in upon me, art Thou not still in my heart, Oh Arunachala!
One art Thou without a second; who then could dare elude Thee and come in? This is only Thy jugglery, Oh Arunachala!
Significance of OM unrivaled — unsurpassed! Who can comprehend Thee, Oh Arunachala?
As Universal Mother, it is Thy duty to dispense Thy Grace and save me, Oh Arunachala!
Who can ever find Thee? The Eye of the eye art Thou, and without eyes Thou seest, Oh Arunachala!
Being the sight of the eye, even without eyes find me out Thyself. Who but Thyself can find out Thee, Oh Arunachala?
As a lode-stone attracts iron, magnetizing it and holding it fast, so do Thou to me, Oh Arunachala!
Unmoving Hill, melting into a Sea of Grace, have mercy I pray, Oh Arunachala!
Fiery Gem, shining in all directions, do Thou burn up my dross, Oh Arunachala!
Shine as my Guru, making me free from faults and worthy of Thy Grace, Oh Arunachala!
Save me from the cruel snares of fascinating women and honour me with union with Thyself, Oh Arunachala!
Though I beg, Thou art callous and dost not condescend. I pray Thee! say to me ‘Fear not!’ Oh Arunachala!
Unasked Thou givest; this is Thy imperishable fame. Do not belie Thy name, Oh Arunachala!
Sweet fruit within my hands, let me be mad with ecstasy, drunk with the Bliss of Thy Essence, Oh Arunachala!
Blazoned as the Devourer of Thy votaries, how can I survive who have embraced Thee, Oh Arunachala?
Thou, unruffled by anger! What crime has marked me off for Thy wrath, Oh Arunachala?
Thou, unruffled by anger! What austerities left incomplete have won me Thy special favour, Oh Arunachala?
Glorious Mountain of Love, celebrated by Gautama, rule me with Thy gracious glance, Oh Arunachala!
Dazzling Sun that swallowest up all the universe in Thy rays, in Thy Light open the lotus of my heart I pray, Oh Arunachala!
Let me, Thy prey, surrender unto Thee and be consumed, and so have Peace, Oh Arunachala!
I came to feed on Thee, but Thou has fed on me; now there is Peace, Oh Arunachala!
O Moon of Grace, with Thy cool rays as hands, open within me the ambrosial orifice and let my heart rejoice, Arunachala!
Tear off these robes, expose me naked, then robe me with Thy Love, Oh Arunachala!
There in the heart rest quiet! Let the sea of joy surge, speech and feeling cease, Oh Arunachala!
Do not continue to deceive and prove me; disclose instead Thy Transcendental Self, Oh Arunachala!
Vouchsafe the knowledge of Eternal Life that I may learn the glorious Primal Wisdom, and shun the delusion of this world, Oh Arunachala!
Unless Thou embrace me, I shall melt away in tears of anguish, Oh Arunachala!
If spurned by Thee, alas! what rests for me but the torment of my prarabdha? What hope is left for me, Arunachala?
In silence Thou saidst, ‘Stay silent!’ and Thyself stood silent, Oh Arunachala!
Happiness lies in peaceful repose enjoyed when resting in the Self. Beyond speech indeed is This my State, Oh Arunachala!
Thou didst display Thy prowess once, and, the perils ended, return to Thy repose, Oh Arunachala!
Sun! Thou didst sally forth and illusion was ended. Then didst Thou shine motionless, Oh Arunachala!
A dog can scent out its master; am I then worse than a dog? Steadfastly will I seek Thee and regain Thee, Oh Arunachala!
Worse than a dog for want of a scent, how can I track Thee, Oh Arunachala?
Grant me wisdom, I beseech Thee, so that I may not pine for love of Thee in ignorance, Oh Arunachala!
Not finding the flower open, Thou didst stay, no better than a bee trapped in the bud of my mind, Oh Arunachala!
In sunlight the lotus blossoms, how then couldst Thou, the Sun of suns, hover before me like a flower bee, saying ‘Thou art not yet in blossom,’ Oh Arunachala?
‘Thou hast realized the Self even without knowing that it was the Truth. It is the Truth Itself!’ Speak thus if it be so, Oh Arunachala!
Thou art the subject of most diverse views yet art Thou not this only, Oh Arunachala?
Not known to the tattvas, though Thou art their being! What does this mean, Oh Arunachala?
That each one is Reality Itself, Thou wilt of Thy Nature show, Oh Arunachala!
Reveal Thyself! Thou only art Reality, Oh Arunachala!
‘Reality is nothing but the Self;’ is this not all Thy message, Oh Arunachala?
‘Look within, ever seeking the Self with the inner eye, then will It be found.’ Thus didst Thou direct me, beloved Arunachala!
Seeking Thee within but weakly, I came back unrewarded. Aid me, Oh Arunachala!
Weak though my effort was, by Thy Grace I gained the Self, Oh Arunachala!
Seeking Thee in the Infinite Self, I regained my own Self, Oh Arunachala!
What value has the birth without Knowledge born of realization? It is not even worth speaking about, Oh Arunachala!
Let me dive into the true Self, wherein merge only the pure in mind and speech, Oh Arunachala!
I, by Thy Grace, am sunk in Thy Self, wherein merge only those divested of their minds and thus made pure, Oh Arunachala!
When I took shelter under Thee as my One God, Thou didst destroy me altogether, Oh Arunachala!
Treasure of benign and holy Grace, found without seeking, steady my wandering mind, Oh Arunachala!
On seeking Thy Real Self with courage, my raft capsized and the waters came over me. Have mercy on me Arunachala!
Unless Thou extend Thy hand of Grace in mercy and embrace me, I am lost, Oh Arunachala!
Enfold me body to body, limb to limb, or I am lost, Oh Arunachala!
O Undefiled, abide Thou in my heart so that there may be everlasting joy, Arunachala!
Mock me not, who seek Thy protection! Adorn me with Thy Grace and then regard me, Oh Arunachala!
Smile with Grace and not with scorn on me, who come Thee, Oh Arunachala!
When I approached, Thou didst not bend; Thou stoodst unmoved, at one with me, Oh Arunachala!
Does it not shame Thee to stand there like a post, leaving me to find Thee by myself, Oh Arunachala?
Rain Thy Mercy on me ere Thy Knowledge burn me to ashes, Oh Arunachala!
Unite with me to destroy Thou and me, and bless me with the state of ever-vibrant joy, Oh Arunachala!
When shall I become like the ether and reach Thee, subtle of being, that the tempest of thoughts may end, Oh Arunachala?
When will waves of thought cease to rise? When shall I reach Thee, subtler than the subtlest ether, Oh Arunachala!
I am a simpleton devoid of learning. Do Thou dispel illusion, Oh Arunachala!
Destroy Thou my wrong knowledge, I beseech Thee, for I lack the knowledge which the Scriptures lead to, Oh Arunachala!
When I melted away and entered Thee, my Refuge, I found Thee standing naked, Oh Arunachala!
In my unloving self Thou didst create a passion for Thee, therefore forsake me not, Oh Arunachala!
Fruit shriveled and spoilt is worthless; take and enjoy it ripe, Oh Arunachala!
I am not a fruit which is overripe and spoilt; draw me, then, into the inmost recess and fix me in Eternity, Oh Arunachala!
Hast Thou not bartered cunningly Thyself for me? Oh, Thou art death to me, Arunachala!
Hast Thou not bartered happily Thyself for me, giving all and taking nothing? Art Thou not blind, Oh Arunachala?
Regard me! Take thought of me! Touch me! Mature me! Make me one with Thee, Oh Arunachala!
Grant me Thy Grace ere the poison of delusion grips me and, rising to my head, kills me, Oh Arunachala!
Thyself regard me and dispel illusion! Unless Thou do so who can intercede with Grace Itself made manifest, Oh Arunachala?
With madness for Thee hast Thou freed me of madness; grant me now the cure of all madness, Oh Arunachala!
Fearless I seek Thee, Fearlessness Itself! How canst Thou fear to take me, Oh Arunachala?
Where is ignorance or Wisdom, if I am blessed with union to Thee, Oh Arunachala?
My mind has blossomed, scent it with Thy fragrance and perfect it. Oh Arunachala!
Espouse me, I beseech Thee, and let this mind, now wedded to the world, be wedded to Perfection, Oh Arunachala!
Mere thought of Thee has drawn me to Thee, and who can gauge Thy Glory, Oh Arunachala?
Thou hast possessed me, unexorcizable Spirit! and made me mad for Thee, that I may cease to be a ghost wandering the world, Oh Arunachala!
Be Thou my stay and my support lest I droop helpless like a tender creeper, Oh Arunachala!
Thou didst benumb my faculties with stupefying powder, then rob me of my understanding and reveal the Knowledge of Thy Self, Oh Arunachala!
Show me the warfare of Thy Grace, in the Open Field where there is no coming and going. Oh Arunachala!
Unattached to the physical frame composed of the elements, let me for ever repose happy in the sight of Thy Splendour, Oh Arunachala!
Thou hast administered the medicine of confusion to me, so must I be confounded! Shine Thou as Grace, the cure of all confusion, Oh Arunachala!
Shine Thou selfless, sapping the pride of those who boast of their free will, Oh Arunachala!
I am a fool who prays only when overwhelmed, yet disappoint me not, Oh Arunachala!
79. Guard me lest I flounder storm-tossed like a ship without a helmsman, Oh Arunachala!
Thou hast cut the knot which hid the vision of Thy Head and Foot. Motherlike, shouldst Thou not complete Thy task, Oh Arunachala?
Be not like a mirror held up to a noseless man, but raise me and embrace me, Oh Arunachala!
Let us embrace upon the bed of tender flowers, which is the mind, within the room of the body, Oh Arunachala!
How is it that Thou hast become famous from Thy constant union with the poor and humble, Oh Arunachala?
Thou hast removed the blindness of ignorance with the unguent of Thy Grace, and made me truly Thine, Oh Arunachala!
Thou didst shave clean my head; then Thou didst show Thyself dancing in Transcendent Space, Oh Arunachala!
Though Thou hast loosed me from the mists of error and made me mad for Thee, why hast Thou not yet freed me from illusion, Oh Arunachala?
Though Thou hast detached me from the world and made me cleave to Thee, Thy passion for me has not cooled, Oh Arunachala!
Is it true Silence to rest like a stone, inert and unexpansive, Oh Arunachala?
Who was it that threw mud to me for food and robbed me of my livelihood, Oh Arunachala?
Unknown to all, stupefying me, Who was it that ravished my soul, Oh Arunachala?
I spoke thus to Thee, because Thou art my Lord; be not offended but come and give me happiness, Oh Arunachala!
Let us enjoy one another in the House of Open Space, where there is neither night nor day, Oh Arunachala!
Thou didst take aim at me with darts of Love and then devoured me alive, Oh Arunachala!
Thou art the Primal Being, whereas I count not in this nor in the other world. What didst Thou gain then by my worthless self, Oh Arunachala?
Didst Thou not call me in? I have come in. Now measure out for me, my maintenance is now Thy burden. Hard is Thy lot, Oh Arunachala!
The moment Thou didst welcome me, didst enter into me and grant me Thy divine life, I lost my individuality, Oh Arunachala!
Bless me that I may die without losing hold of Thee, or miserable is my fate, Oh Arunachala!
From my home Thou didst entice me, then stealing into my heart didst draw me gently into Thine, such is Thy Grace, Oh Arunachala!
I have betrayed Thy secret workings. Be not offended! Show me Thy Grace now openly and save me, Oh Arunachala!
Grant me the essence of the Vedas, which shine in the Vedanta, One without a second, Oh Arunachala!
Even my slanders, treat as praise and guard me for ever as Thine own, I pray, Oh Arunachala!
Let even slander be as praise to me, and guard me for ever as Thine own, I pray, Oh Arunachala!
Place Thy hand upon my head! make me partaker of Thy Grace! do not abandon me, I pray, Oh Arunachala!
As snow in water, let me melt as Love in Thee, who art Love itself, Oh Arunachala!
I had but thought of Thee as Aruna, and lo! I was caught in the trap of Thy Grace! Can the net of Thy Grace ever fail, Oh Arunachala?
Watching like a spider to trap me in the web of Thy Grace, Thou didst entwine me and when imprisoned feed upon me, Oh Arunachala!
Let me be the votary of the votaries of those who hear Thy name with love, Oh Arunachala!
Shine Thou for ever as the loving Saviour of helpless suppliants like myself, Oh Arunachala!
Familiar to Thine ears are the sweet songs of votaries who melt to the very bones with love for Thee, yet let my poor strains also be acceptable, Oh Arunachala!
Hill of Patience, bear with my foolish words, as hymns of joy or as Thou please, Oh Arunachala!
Oh Arunachala! my Loving Lord! Throw Thy garland about my shoulders, wearing Thyself this one strung by me, Arunachala!
Blessed be Arunachala! blessed be His devotees!
Blessed be this Marital Garland of Letters!
From the “Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi”, sixth edition, published by Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai. Published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s arrival in Tiruvannmalai.