Ramana Maharshi and Cow Lakshmi
Ramana Maharshi had extraordinary relationships with animals. He loved them dearly and was very kind to them. However, when people hear about the Sacred Cow Lakshmi, they may wonder why so much importance and respect is given to just a cow, by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. It is true that in India a cow is considered sacred, partly because of its usefulness through its milk and in other ways, and partly because of its loving, endearing nature and sweet disposition.
But in the case of Lakshmi, she was a lot more than that. She appeared to be more evolved and intelligent than even some human beings. She also had special spiritual traits which became obvious by the way she communicated with Ramana Maharshi.
The cow was donated to the Ashram in 1926, and was named Lakshmi by Sri Ramana himself. She had nine deliveries in all, four of which were on the jayanti days of Sri Ramana.
At the time of one such delivery, Sri Ramana’s attendant Sri Kunju Swami remarked, “It is auspicious that the cow has delivered the calf on Sri Ramana’s birthday.” Sri Ramana interrupted him to say, “Correct yourself Kunju Swami, my birthday celebrations are taking place on the day Lakshmi has given birth to a calf.” He gave such importance to this special cow.
Sri Ramana would visit the cow shed regularly. Cow Lakshmi just could not spend a day without seeking Bhagavan’s company some time or other during the course of the day.
Lakshmi also became greatly attached to the Maharshi and would walk of her own accord from her shed into the hall even when the hall was full of devotees.
One day this sacred cow came to the hall, put her head on the Maharshi’s shoulder and wept. She went straight to Maharshi and literally wept on his shoulders. For half-an-hour Bhagavan kept consoling her, saying, “Why are you so sad, dear mother? Am I not here to look after you?” and so on, till she was pacified. He gently stroked her head and said, “Who has hurt you? Stop crying. I am here to be a friend to you.” Lakshmi stopped crying, gave the Maharshi a few licks and went away comforted.
There were some special occasions for her too. Lakshmi would walk into the hall from her shed a few minutes after the birth of her new calf and stand mutely before the Maharshi. Maharshi would then talk to her: “Lakshmi you have come to tell me that you have a new baby. I will come to the shed and see your child.”
Thus Lakshmi continued through the years as one of the favoured devotees of Sri Ramana.
Whenever she visited Sri Ramana, he would pay attention to her, stroke her and feed her with bananas, rice cakes, etc. The possessive way in which she approached Sri Ramana and the attention bestowed on her made many devotees believe that there was some special bond between them in an earlier birth.
It seemed hard to explain in any other way the great concern and tenderness that Sri Ramana always showed in his dealings with her.
It is believed that Lakshmi brought a lot of luck and prosperity to the Ashram, a fact that was mentioned by Sri Ramana himself.
There are several accounts of Ramana Maharshi and the Sacred Cow, Lakshmi. One of them is as follows.
Cow Lakshmi in perfect peace
Sri R. Narayana Iyer described the incident as follows. Once the cow Lakshmi came into the hall. She was pregnant at that time. It was after lunch time and Bhagavan was reading the newspapers. Lakshmi came near and started licking the papers. Bhagavan looked up and said, “Wait a little Lakshmi”, but Lakshmi went on licking. Bhagavan laid his paper aside, put his hands behind Lakshmi’s horns and put his head against hers. They stayed thus for quite a long time. All of us watched the wonderful scene. After sometime Bhagavan turned to me and said, “Do you know what Lakshmi is doing? She is in samadhi”. Tears were flowing from Lakshmi’s eyes. Her eyes were fixed on Bhagavan. After sometime Bhagavan asked her, “Lakshmi, how do you feel now”? Lakshmi moved backward, reluctant to turn her tail towards Bhagavan, and went out of the hall. On the fourth day she gave birth to a calf. The man with whom she was staying in town brought her with her three calves and left them in the Ashram for good. Lakshmi and her three calves came into the hall and lay down beside Bhagavan’s sofa. He said, “All these days Lakshmi had to go back in the evening and she used to be in tears. Today she is delighted for she need not go away anymore. She knows that her home is here now. We have to look after her. Look at her, with so much self-assurance she has stretched herself out”! Sri R. Narayana Iyer thus depicted the incident.
R. Narayana Iyer
In the book, “Day by Day with Bhagavan”, it is mentioned that Mr. Shroff once brought some DDT, the most effective insecticide discovered during the war. He sprayed it in the hall and on the furniture to avoid pests and bugs. On the other hand, Bhagavan advised that it should be tried on the cow-shed, so that the cows could be rid of all flies that were troubling them. He was so kind that he cared about the cows so much, more than Himself.
Day by Day with Bhagavan
Dec. 4, 1945
Also in “Day by Day with Bhagavan”, the following remarks by Ramana about Lakshmi is mentioned. Maharshi said, “It is not true that birth as a man is necessarily the highest, and that one must attain realisation only from being a man. Even an animal can attain Self-realisation.” In the conversation that followed this he said, ” “Even as a calf only some days old, Lakshmi behaved in an extraordinary way. She would daily come to me and place her head at my feet.
On the day the foundation was laid for the goshala (cow-shed), she was so jubilant and came and took me to the function.
Again, on the day of “grahapravesam”, inauguration of her new home, she came straight to me at the time appointed and took me. In so many ways and on so many occasions, she behaved in such a sensible and extremely intelligent way that one cannot but regard her as an extraordinary cow. What are we to say about it?”
Day by Day with Bhagavan
Sep. 2, 1946
In her book, “Letters from Ramanasramam”, Smt. Nagamma wrote the following information about the cow Lakshmi. In the letter that she wrote, she described it as follows.
Previously in my letter to you under the caption “Worship of the Cow”, I described to you the grandeur of Lakshmi, the queen of the cows, and the amount of regard Bhagavan had for her. To that queen, as he did for his own mother, Bhagavan on Friday the 18th instant gave Videha Mukti (deliverance from the body). That morning when I went to the Asramam, I was told that Lakshmi was seriously ill and would not survive the day. So I went straight to the cow shed, without seeing Bhagavan even. The room built for the calves was vacated, cleaned and Lakshmi was given a bed of straw to lie down upon. As it was Friday, she was as usual decorated with turmeric paste, vermilion mark on the forehead and a garland of flowers round the neck and horns. Venkataratnam was sitting by the side fanning her. Lakshmi was lying down with her majestic look spreading lustre all round. She reminded me of Kamadhenu going to Kailas to do Abhishekam with milk over the great Lord Siva.
When I went to Bhagavan and prostrated before him and got up, he looked at me with a divine look. Taking it as an order, I said I would go and stay with Lakshmi. He nodded his head in assent and I went immediately. Venkatratnam gave me the fan and left. Sitting in that place I began repeating Ramana Dwadasakshari (twelve letters of Ramana Mantram), Ashtotharam (108 names of Ramana) etc. and Lakshmi appeared to hear them carefully.
When Bhagavan came to the cow-shed at 9-45 A.M. as usual he came to see Lakshmi. Bhagavan sat on the hay by her side, lifted her head with both his hands, and passing one of his hand lightly over her face and throat, and then placing his left hand on the head, began pressing with the right hand fingers her throat right down to the heart. After pressing like that for about a quarter of an hour he said, addressing Lakshmi, “What do you say, mother? Do you want me to stay here alone? I could stay, but what to do? All people could be round you as in the case of my mother. Even so, why? Shall I go?” Lakshmi remained calm, devoid of all the bonds of this world and of the pains of her body as though she was in Samadhi. Bhagavan sat there unwilling to move and with a heart full of compassion. I was overwhelmed at the sight and exclaimed involuntarily, “Oh! Mother Alagamma had the greatest luck. So has Lakshmi now.” Bhagavan looked at me with a smile. Subramaniam came and said, “It seems the doctor will not be coming till 10-30 as there is no immediate danger to Lakshmi.” “All right. So Doctor will not be coming now. Have you brought the medicine for injection?” asked Bhagavan. Then, turning towards Lakshmi and gently stroking her head and neck, he said, “What do you say? May I go?” Then, Smt. Subbulakshmi said, “She will feel happy if Bhagavan is by her side.” “That is so, but what to do?” So saying and looking into the eyes of Lakshmi, Bhagavan said, “What? May I go? Won’t you tell me?” Lakshmi looked at him proudly. What reply Bhagavan got, we do not know but he got up and went away saying, “See that the flies do not get into the mouth.” I assured him that we would take due care of Lakshmi and Bhagavan left the place very reluctantly.
With the divine touch of Bhagavan, the outer breath of Lakshmi began subsiding and the movement of the body began to decrease. When the doctor came at 10-30 and gave an injection, Lakshmi remained unaffected as if the body was not hers. There was no agony of dying. Her sight was calm and clear. The doctor turned her over into the posture of Nandi, put some medicine on the boils and went away instructing us to keep some support for the head. As it was 11-30 by then, Venkataratnam came back after having his meal. He asked me to hold up the head saying he would bring some more hay. The tongue touched me and it was icy cold; the life of Lakshmi reached the feet of Sri Ramana and was absorbed in him.
Ten minutes later, Bhagavan came into the shed saying, “Is it all over?” and squatted by her side, took her face in both his hands as though she were a little child, and lifted it and said, “Oh Lakshmi, Lakshmi,” and then, to us, controlling his tears, he said, “Because of her, our family, meaning the Asramam, has grown to this extent.” When all were praising Lakshmi, Bhagavan asked, “I suppose the doctor has not troubled her much, did he? How did her life cease?” We told him all that had happened. “That is all right. Did you notice this? The right ear is uppermost now. Till yesterday she was lying down on her other side. Because of the boil she was turned over to this side. So this ear had to come up. Look, in the case of people who die in Kasi, people say Lord Siva will whisper into the right ear. Lakshmi too has her right ear up,” said Bhagavan, and showed that ear to all people there. By that time, crowds gathered. After a quarter of an hour, Bhagavan got up and said, “Ramakrishna has been saying for the last ten days that a good tomb (samadhi) must be built for Lakshmi.” Bhagavan then went away to the hall.
Letters from Ramanasramam
July 20, 1948
The divine cow Lakshmi thus passed away peacefully, while Maharshi fixed His gracious gaze on her. She was given a ceremonial burial in the Ashram premises.
A samadhi shrine was built over the grave with her true-to-life statue (though of a smaller size). It is worshipped by the devotees to this day.
An epitaph written by the Maharshi in Tamil verse confirms her Nirvana. When a devotee asked the Maharshi whether the use of the word vimukti in the epitaph was conventional, or it really meant Nirvana, Maharshi replied that it meant Nirvana. Such is the illustrious and renowned life of Lakshmi, who was very dear to Ramana Maharshi.