Ramdas, Swami
(1884–1963)
   devotee of Ram and founder of Ananda Ashram
   The child Vittal Rao was born in 1884 at Hosdrug, in the South Indian state of Kerala, to a devout couple, Sri Balakrishna Rao and Srimata Lalita Bai. As a child, he exhibited an extraordinary luster in his eyes and considerable wit. Largely unin-terested in formal schooling, he completed high school but did not pursue higher education. With his marriage in 1908 he became a householder, and he remained so until age 36. As a young hus-band and father, he vacillated between periods of employment as a spinning master in a cotton mill and periods of unemployment and idleness.
   In 1920, in response to a number of trials and challenges in his worldly life, he began to inquire into the meaning of life and to chant the name of God, RAM. An intense spiritual transforma-tion occurred: he realized the futility of worldly pursuits and the higher need for everlasting peace and happiness. He became convinced that God alone can give eternal peace and happiness. He decided on a life of self-surrender, as attachments to family, friends, and business dropped away. At that time, his father gave him the Ram MANTRA, Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram, to recite, and his detachment from worldly pursuits increased as the mantra took a place in his life. He then renounced the life of the world and became a wandering mendicant, a SADHU. He began his life of pilgrimage in December 1922, vowing to accept everything that happened as proceeding from the will of Ram alone. At Srirangam, he bathed in the CAUVERY RIVER and offered up his old white clothes to the river. He donned the ochre robes of a SANNYASI and took the name Ramdas. He never referred to himself in the first person again.
   In 1922, he met the sage of Arunachala moun-tain, RAMANA MAHARSHI, and spent 20 days near Ramana in a cave there, chanting his mantra. He emerged from the cave and saw a strange light with a landscape completely changed: everything was Ram.
   In 1931, after his years of traveling in faith, his devotees established Anandashram for him in Kanhangad, Kerala, where he lived with Mother KRISHNABAI, a realized saint of South India. Together they worked to improve the living con-ditions of the local people, founded a children’s school, established a medical clinic, and formed a cooperative for weavers. They toured India together and conducted a world tour in 1954–55, with the purpose of sharing a message of universal love and service. Swami Ramdas died on August 2, 1963.
   Ramdas wrote many books, all currently in print.
   Further reading: Swami Ramdas, God-Experience (Bom-bay: For Anandashram by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1963); ———, In Quest of God: The Saga of an Extraor-dinary Pilgrimage/Swami Ramdas (San Diego, Calif.: Blue Dove Press, 1994); Swami Satchidananda, The Gospel of Swami Ramdas (Bombay: For Anandashram by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1979).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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