Guru Narayana Swami, known affectionately as Guru Ayya due to Him being a follower of Ayya Vaikuntha, lived without food in a cave near the top of Arunachala for 18 years. He is a powerful Siddha (perfected being) who would sometimes appear to act in unusual ways in order to Bless devotees.
Not a whole lot is known about his upbringing or how He came to Arunachala. According to devotees, originally Ayya would sit inside one of the Gopurams inside the Arunachala Temple and meditate for long hours. However, as word spread, many people started coming to Him and disturbing His tapas. As such, he moved from the temple to a small cave near the peak of Arunachala and it was there where He stayed doing intense tapas for 18 years. After completing 18 years, he finally left Arunachala and went to a village near Kanyakumari named Palakulam, where he dropped the body some years back.
Meeting Guru Ayya
I was fortunate enough to meet Guru Ayya twice. Each time was a different and unique experience. My first experience with Ayya almost seemed like it was not going to happen. At this time, Ayya was already living in the small village of Palakulam near Kanyakumari. I only knew of one person who was a devotee of Ayya, but, for whatever reason, he did not seem willing to reveal Ayya’s location. Internally, I realized that if it was not meant to be, there was nothing I could do. Meeting powerful beings like Ayya is never a coincidence but a Divine calling, so I accepted I might not be called to have His darshan.
However, a divine Leela ensued where I suddenly found out that my friend and tour guide Saran was a devotee of Ayya and served Him for many years! Saran immediately gave me the address and instructions for reaching Ayya’s small village. Delighted, I arranged a car to take myself and the two friends I was traveling with to get Ayya’s darshan.
After driving for an hour or so outside Kanyakumari, we finally reached His village. We were led to a small hut with an attached temple dedicated to His Guru Ayya Vaikuntha. Upon entering, we could immediately feel the powerful vibrations of Ayya’s presence. One of Ayya’s caretaker devotees instructed us to walk around (circumambulate) Ayya many times, all while chanting His mantra. After that, we sat down around Ayya. It felt like sitting near the fire but without the direct heat. A powerful force radiated from every pore in His body. Ayya remained in silence the entire time and never said one word directly to us. His gaze was also directed towards the ground in front of us.
Sitting just a few feet away from Him, I suddenly had a thought that I wish I could look into His eyes as immeasurable shakti can be transmitted via sight. Before I could even finish that thought, suddenly Ayya turned to the side, looked me directly in the eyes, and raised His right hand in blessing mudra. Words cannot describe how powerful His eyes were!
After a few seconds, Ayya looked away and returned to staring at the ground. The devotee brought some mysterious ingredients and gave them to Ayya. Ayya took a pan leave and smeared some paste on it, but it was not the standard lime past people typically take with pan leaves. This was something different. Finally, He added a bunch of Brahmi leaves and rolled everything up with His own hands. He then proceeded to give one to each of us to eat as prasad.
One bite of it felt like my tongue was going to explode. There was a significant burning sensation on my tongue combined with something extraordinarily bitter and possibly cow dung. Eating was so challenging that my traveling companions could not eat the total amount. However, as this was made and given by Ayyas own hands, I forced myself to eat it all. Ayya also blessed with a delicious chai made with fresh herbs to drink.
After that, Ayya started acting in the most unusual and exciting ways. He would gaze up into the air almost as if He was seeing and conversing with the devas. He would ecstatically start singing inwardly but without ever opening His mouth. It was as if He was humming everything while keeping His lips completely sealed. Then, after a bit, He would suddenly turn furious, grab His stick, and start beating all around Himself while still looking at the sky. Now it seemed as if He was fighting with and fending off demons or some opposing force. These spurts between blissful inner singing moments combined with bursts of anger and what appeared to be chasing something negative away continued for some time. Then, things escalated, and at one point, Guru Ayya started taking His stick and beating Himself with it. He would repeatedly smash His stick against His side and back while yelling at whatever He saw (but still keeping His lips wholly sealed). At one point, he even started punching His head with His hard fist. It was an intense and wild experience. Finally, after some time, He stopped beating Himself and became very calm and centered. He gently took his turban off and gently laid on the ground in front of us and that is when we took our leave.
The second time I met Guru Ayya was during a Maha-Shivaratri pilgrimage. However, this time He appeared very calm and serene and never once raised His stick or beat Himself with it. A small group of us pilgrims arrived to take Blessings. Ayya blessed each of us with a saffron turban and dhoti. One by one, we were able to approach Ayya and prostrate in front of Him. As we did, He would take sand near Him and throw it on us as blessings. His sacred presence felt like a deep and serene blessing for us all. After taking some prasad, we took our leave and continued our pilgrimage.