When visiting Tiruvannamalai in 2003, monks from our ashram had the opportunity to visit a number of sadhus in the vicinity. One was Swami Ramanananda, who lives on the west side of Arunachala on the outer pradakshina marg. Below is an excerpt from our email correspondence with our ashram , retelling his stories:
When visiting Swami Ramanananda for today's lunch, he as usual kept our attention with his stories. It seems that during his forty plus years in Tiru he has made the acquaintance of many sadhus here, and due to his knowledge of the agamas, it has fallen to him on many occasions to perform the samadhi rites upon the passing of sadhus. He said that he has found that the state of the sadhus sometimes becomes evident during and in the days after their burial, casting a sort of twilight glimmer of that attainment over his mind for a period, which then dissipates as the subtler koshas dissipate after a number of days.
One such sadhu was Natanananda Swami, a close disciple of Bhagavan, a Tamil scholar who actually worked with Ramana Maharshi in the formulation and finalization of certain of Bhagavan's Tamil works. He had the desire for sannyas which he took, but soon thereafter went back to wearing white, while of course still living the life of a sannyasi. As his end approached, Ramanananda was with him, as were a few others, including Kunju Swami. When Ramanananda saw that he no longer had strength to move his pillow, he knew the end (or beginning) was near. At one point, Natanananda asked the time, which was then 3:30 a.m. When told, he said, " Now is a good time." Ramanananda then asked, " a good time for what?" Natanananda simply looked at Ramanananda, and then breathed his last. Ramanananda then prepared the body in lotus before rigor set in, and told the ashram authorities of the passing. Anyhow, as time passed, ashram officials came to him to see to proper shastric burial. During the ritual and for the next ten days or so Swamiji said he experienced a very great blessing and upliftment from Natanananda.
Natanananda's passing was one of several that affected him as described above, as well as Muruganar, and a Swami called by people "Po Swami" which means Flower Swami. He was an eccentric-seeming sadhu, who daily did pradakshina of the hill and was sort of a "bag-lady" type, carrying around all kinds of strange and useless stuff. He would sometimes be seen speaking animatedly to some tree or other as if using it as a substitute for people, or mankind in general, reprimanding it in quite colorful language for some fault or sin. Sometimes when Ramanananda, who knew him well, would enquire into the nature of his tirade, he would, now showing no eccentricity at all, simply smile and say "This is not for you." He would often cover his closely shaven face and head with vibhuti so that only the dark circles of his eye sockets showed so that he looked like a clown. In his daily parikramas he would gather flowers and offer them in various temples, singing hymns of devotion, frequently with tears in his eyes. Ramanananda provided for him in various ways during their long acquaintance, as he continues to do for many of the sadhus in the area. When toward the end Flower Swami was showing signs of exhaustion, and Ramanananda suggested he take it easy, He said, "This body must eventually drop, let it drop going round Arunachala." In the end he succumbed to fatigue, and was taken care of by friends of Ramanananda. A couple of days later, as he was thinking strongly of him, friends came and informed him of Po Swami's passing. It came as somewhat of a surprise to Swamiji when, after Po Swami's burial, such a strong spiritual state began to affect him (which he considered as an echo of Flower Swami's attainment), as he had not previously ascribed to him such an advanced stature. But he said such experiences as this overshadowing are only temporary, diminishing in time, and can only serve as a goad to making attainment one's own.
Photos of Ramanananda and other Tiru sadhus can be seen at Tiru Sadhus.
I hope you enjoy this.