One wonders about the appeal of all photographs in general. For us they recall the happy times with dear ones, highlight intimate relationships and sweet memories from the past. However when it comes to the photographs of Ramana, it is not mere individual appeal, their appeal is universal. Everyone is drawn spontaneously to them. The rapport is immediate. It is almost as if Ramana plants the seeds of love for inner freedom, love for Self-awareness and steadfast devotion to his teachings through these photos, for their fascination grows upon us. The more you look at them and draw strength and inspiration from them, the more appealing they become. The question would therefore arise as to whether we are right in regarding his photos as mere pictures. Are they? This doubt has arisen in others and Ramana’s clarification is also there as would be seen from the following conversation:

Seeker : Please clear my doubts. Your photo which I have on my table keeps speaking to me. Many moods are expressed through those eyes. Is all this true? Or am I deluding myself?

Ramana : Others have also reported the same thing. Why do you think of it as a picture? Do not think of it as one.

These words of Ramana carry a world of meaning. Indeed they are not mere pictures. Their appeal has remained undimmed through this century and there is little doubt that it will be so in the coming centuries as well.

The reason for this lies in the fact that Ramana’s body radiates the power of consciousness. His body is that of a Self-realised jnani, a person of steady wisdom, a ‘tabernacle of the spirit’ and the power of God radiates ‘terrifically’ through it. It is really not a body though it has human form. The Self power, the Atmic power spreads in all its splendor through every pore of such a body particularly through the penetrating eyes filled with benediction. This is not only true of the first available photograph of Ramana, but also the last one as well in equal measure.

Even when Ramana was in the body his photographs would help many to feel his physical presence through them. Some of the devotees would purchase a photo of his from the book stall and request Ramana to touch it and give it to them. For them it would have added sanctity. Those who were far away, geographically, be it in London or New York, would feel Ramana’s inspiring presence by getting a photo or photos of their choice. The barrier of distance would thus be broken. We have a report of a Polish devotee who found Ramana’s picture on a book in a bookstore and instantly felt his power and attraction. This is what he reports.

“On the way home I open the book several times to make sure that I am not dreaming, that the picture is as beautiful as when I saw him first. Who is he? I look at the picture. The rough paper, the poor printing. Yet he is so near – and so beautiful. What is this light which shines through so many layers?”

This is no stray case. Even those who happen to come across a photo by chance, fortuitously and of course fortunately, would come to feel his charisma. The photo would start doing its work straightaway. For there is something indescribable about the gentle smile. In the inexplicable mystique of Ramana’s captivating smile the whole world of universal love and understanding and fellow feeling flow directly from the heart.

As for those eyes, one can readily see their luminosity, their dazzling light. Sometimes the look from them is like a spear or a javelin, or a laser beam hitting its mark of destroying ignorance and self-created illusions. Sometimes it overflows with more than motherly care. Only the saint-poet Muruganar has dared to write some verses titled ‘Eye Meeting Game’. One of the verses reads thus.

When lovers’ eyes and glances meet,
Of what avail, O maidens
Are innumerable spoken words?
Even words with music are of no use.
With Venkata, Eye of our eye
Then, let us play the eye meeting game.

Those nectar-sweet eyes continue to spread Ramana’s grace everywhere in the world. It is particularly those photos which have powerful and gracious eyes which have captivated the hearts of thousands be it ‘Mani’s bust’ or the ‘Welling busts’.

Reflecting over this fact one finds that the secret power of those luminous eyes lies in the fact that Sadguru’s grace is directed on the disciples, devotees and even stray visitors through the eyes.

One might refer here to the time honoured method of initiation by a guru, which is through touch, thought and eyes. Ramana used to set the disciples and devotees on the path to inwardness and search for discovery of truth either by his immense silence or through his penetrating look and sometimes even by a sidelong glance. First Ramana would prepare the recipient of his grace through his potent silence and then direct and pour that grace through his glorious eyes. That was his way. This continues unabated even now. Only, the photographs have now become the channel.

All said and done the magic of Ramana’s photos remains an enigma. “A look at Maharshi’s picture, however accidental or casual, creates a permanent inner change, shallow or deep depending on the individual…. Wherever it goes it exerts its fascination, rationally inexplicable, nevertheless real”. One thing can certainly be said that they silently do the job of freeing one inwardly.

Strange as it may seem, it is true there are more persons who are attracted to Ramana nearly fifty years after his Mahanirvana than when he was physically with us. This is in no small measure due to the magnetism of his photographs whose charm keeps “gushing forth as from a perennial spring”. More and more new hearts are opening up to their enchantment. Small wonder for there is a stamp of eternity in every photograph of Ramana.

First photographs of Sri Ramana Maharshi

The first photograph of Sri Ramana Maharshi was taken in 1900 or 1901 when he was staying in the Virupaksha Cave.

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