12. SRINIVASA RAMANUJAN
A Traditional, Cultural & Meaningful Biography
EARLY YEARS

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PRONUNCIATION KEY

Ramanujan Contracts Small-Pox
Ramanujan contracted Small-Pox in December, 1889. Small-pox is called 'Periya (big, elder) Ammai', in Thamizh. Traditionally, it is the divine 'play' by Goddess Maari Amman, in particular, the Maari Amman of Samayapuram, the younger sister of Sri Renganatha of SriRangam. Amman, Ammai and Amma, all mean mother. Komalam told her friend Vengu Mami who came to enquire, "Samayapurathu Mariamman has come to our house. She has litterally showered blisters on Chinnaswaamy all over his body."

Komalam prayed to Sri Uppiliapan of Uppiliappan Kovil and Sri Srinivasa Perumal of Tirupati for Ramanujan's cure, offering, in return, to tonsure (clean-shave) Ramanujan's head in their respective 'places' and offer the hair to them.

Komalam stuck a bunch of Vaeppily (Neem Leaves) in the front roof of the house as a protection to the patient and a warning to others to keep away. She did not go out. Vaepilai (leaves of the Neem tree) is very closely associated with Amman. The Neem leaves are considered highly spiritual (and, perhaps, medicinal to today's folks!).

Traditional Treatment
Ramanujan was lying on the floor on a bed of Vaeppilai on top of banana flaps (barks). Vengu Mami gently 'brushed' Ramanujan's body with a bunch of vaeppilai dipped in turmeric-water - water with some manjal (turmeric powder) in it - from head to toe while at the same time singing and praising Samayapurathal and beseaching Her to bring down blisters layer by layer from head, to forehead, to eyes, to nose, ..., and finally to the ground. Ramanujan was cured in three days! But small-pox left behind permant and visible scars on his face.

In February the following year (1890) Komalam went to both Uppiliappan Kovil and Thirupathi and tonsured (clean-shaved) Ramanujan's head in fulfillment of her prayer and committment.

Ramanujan Did Not Speak
For a long time (years) after birth Ramanujan did not speak (with Sri Namagiri Thayar on his tongue!) Years passed. In the mean time Thiru Narayanan shifted his family from Erode to another very highly energised, like Kumbakonam, temple-town Kanchipuram. It was 1892; the famous Garuda Seva Uthsavam (festival) was coming up in Sri Varadaraja Perumal Koil of Kanchivaram. Komalam went to Kanchipuram with Ramanujan with his problem of speach on top of her mind. There many community and religious elders had converged for the festival and they were of the opinion that initiating Akshara Abbiyasam (Teaching 'letters' - alphabets) would enable Ramanujan to speak. Accordingly on Sunday, May 29, 1892 an elder held Ramanujan's hand and drew the first letter 'Aa' on a bed of rice as per the tradition. Thereafter regular daily teaching of the Tamil alphabets started. After about 5 months, Ramanujan started to speak.

Thinnai Pallikkudam (1) - Kanchivaram
In the same year (1892) on Saturday, October 1, Vijaya Dhasami day Ramanujan was admitted to Vathiyar Subburama Iyer's Thinnai Pallikudam near Thaermutty (the Temple Car Parking area). But Ramanujan did not like the 'sitting with folded arms' and other disciplines of the school; he used to simply get up and go home on many days.

Thinnai Pallikkudam (2) - Kumbakonam
Around this time Thiru Narayanan had some problem at work; decided to settle in Kumbakonam. So everyone, including Ramanujan returned to Kumbakonam. There Komalam admitted Ramanujan in a Thinnai Pallikudam near her home, in November, 1892. By December that year Ramanujan would be completing 5 years of age and will be ready to start his formal education in a Primary School.