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'.

Amma’s 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’ for treatment.
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 Manikyamma’s 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 Vaidyas’.

But they could not reconcile themselves to her refusal to go to her husband’s 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 society.

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 woman’s 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 God’s mercy and saving grace. I tell you, Bhagavanta, that I am going to drown myself in this tank at 4 O’Clock this morning. Don’t 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 O’Clock, 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.

Man’s final despair is God’s 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’? Her’s is a complex nature. Opposite qualities, contrary feelings simultaneously exists in her. She loved life but she desired death. How Chandrappa’s 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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