Childhood

The family of Gunderi Shanubhogs was one of the richest families in Holalkere taluk but its fortunes took a nosedive just before the birth of Ranganatha. Hence Krishnappa's family had to live at Basapura, a very small village near Nulenur. Krishnappa was downcast by the change in his fortune and devoted his whole time to Dhyana of Ranganatha. Once in a while, he would get up and teach, Amarakosha and multiplication tables to Ranganatha. Ranganatha was instructed by his mother Subbamma to worship Ganapathi and Anjaneya. While young, his only play was to worship God. He would build a small house of bricks or stones and install a stone as God. His friends would bring fruits or jaggery for offering to God. After pooja, Ranganatha would return it to the boy who had brought it. Ranganatha had a photo static memory. He would remember any prayer by hearing it once (Ekasandhigrahi).

Basajji was a neighbour of Krishnappa’s family. She noticed that the cream and butter was missing in her cottage. One day she waited, in hiding, to see how it was possible for someone to steal the cream and butter. She saw her Ishtadaiva Malenahalli Ranganatha creeping into the hut and stealing butter. Later, she realized that it was Ranganatha the neighbourhood boy. Throughout her life she believed that Ranganatha was the very God in human form. Shankaralinga honoured her later at Malenahalli.

When he was a little older, Ranganna, as he was fondly called by his companions, went to graze the cattle in Amritmahal reserve forest. There too, he either played the flute or worshipped God. But here, the boys would milk a cow, offer it to God and drink the milk as prasada. The experience of Basajji, who saw him as Halli Ranga (her ishtadaiva), influenced all the villagers. They considered Ranganatha as the guardian angel of their cattle. Whenever the cattle fell ill they would vow to reserve milk, butter or ghee (clarified butter) extracted when the cattle was cured. This worked as magic and cattle would be cured immediately. Meanwhile the poverty of his parents reached a zenith. Krishnappa would perform his duty as shanubhogs meticulously but would not claim any renumeration. Subbamma never asked for any help from others.

When their relatives invited them, the family would visit them and stay there for quite sometime. When Ranganatha was about two years old the family went to Anaji. Chidambaramma, mother of Krishnappa, lived there. It was the day of Shivarathri. Chidambaramma asked all the family members to go along with her to the yard of Anaji tank. She sat beneath a bilwa tree there and called every member of her family she said “Today is Shivarathri, there is a big gathering in kailasa. I am going to kailasa to see Shiva”.

After blessing every member of the family, she asked Subbamma to give Ranganatha to her. She sat him on her lap, passed her hands on the boy and said “Subbamma your son is not an ordinary boy. He is here to do the work of Chidambara. Take special care of him”. So saying, she breathed her last. This was how Ranganatha was blessed by his grandmother a Varaputhri (daughter, given as a boon) of Chidambara.

One day, when Ranganatha was playing, some carpenters asked him to hold a piece of wood, while they were sawing if. By chance the tip of his left forefinger was caught between two pieces and cut. Sri Shankaraling used to say later that Goddess Kali took it as an offering. While Ranganatha was running his eighth year, Krishnappa went with his family to Anaji. There his Upanayana took place. On the day of his upanayana an extraordinary and very sublime & significant occurrence happened. Yallappa, the chief disciple of Thumbigere Brahmananda took Ranganatha to the Bilva tree in the tank yard. He said “Ranganna, come here and sit on my lap”. Ranganna acted accordingly. Yallappa said “Rangayya, my Guru asked me to give upadesha of Mahavakyas and explain their meaning to you on the day of your Upanayanam”. Then, he proceeded with the Upadesha and Arthavivarana (1) Prajnanam Brahman (Rigveda) - Brahma is Prajnana (is above the jurisdiction of buddhi – the intellect) (2) Aham Brahmasmi (yagurveda) - I (who is the saakshi -witness) am Brahma (3) Thathvamasi (Samaveda) - (Leaving out upadhis of maya & ajnana) you are Brahman (4) Ayamatma Brahma (Atharvanaveda) - That (which is inside & outside of everything seen) Atma (whose nature is Sathya, Jnana & Ananda) is Parabrahma.

After upanayana Ranganna stayed at Anaji for about three months. There, along with Chidambarappa (son of Thumbigere Krishnappa) he learnt vedic mantras and studied the recital & interpretations of Kumaravyasa Bharatha. Yallappa instilled deeply in their hearts, the greatness of Guru and the importance of Guruseva (service to Guru). On pushya suddha ekadashi of Jayanama samvatsara (1894 AD), Krishnappa, who had gone to Anaji, fell ill. He called his wife Subbamma and said “you are put to abject poverty. Put up with it for somemore time. As Ranganna becomes a youth, your miseries will end.” He called Ranganna and said ''You are a Jnani, a Karana purusha. I have nothing to tell you. I am sure that you will become very famous. Your fame will spread to all horizons.” So saying, Krishnappa breathed his last.