He was born in what is now Tiruchuli, Tamil Nadu, India. In 1895, an attraction to the sacred hill Arunachala and the 63 Nayanars was aroused in him, and in 1896, at the age of 16, he had a "death-experience" where he became aware of a "current" or "force" (avesam) which he recognised as his true "I" or "self", which he later identified with Ishvara. This resulted in a state that he later described as "the state of mind of Iswara or the jnani". Six weeks later he left his uncle's home in Madurai, and journeyed to the holy mountain Arunachala, in Tiruvannamalai, where he took on the role of a sannyasin (though not formally initiated), and remained for the rest of his life.

 He soon attracted devotees who regarded him as an avatar and came to him for darshan ("the sight of God"), and in later years an ashram grew up around him, where visitors received upadesa ("spiritual instruction") by sitting silently in his company and raising their concerns and questions. Since the 1930s his teachings have been popularised in the West, resulting in his worldwide recognition as an enlightened being.

 Ramana Maharshi approved a number of paths and practices, but recommended self-enquiry as the principal means to remove ignorance and abide in Self-awareness, together with bhakti (devotion) or surrender to the Self.

 In November 1895 Venkataraman realized that Arunachala, the sacred mountain, was a real place. He had known of its existence from an early age, and was overwhelmed by the realisation that it really existed. During this time he also read Sekkizhar's Periyapuranam, a book that describes the lives of the 63 Nayanars, which "made a great impression" on him, and revealed to him that "Divine Union" is possible. According to Osborne, a new current of awareness started to awaken during his visits to the Meenakshi Temple at Madura, "a state of blissful consciousness transcending both the physical and mental plane and yet compatible with full use of the physical and mental faculties".

 According to Narasimha, in July 1896, at age 16, a sudden fear of death befell him. He was struck by "a flash of excitement" or "heat," like some avesam, a "current" or "force" that seemed to possess him, while his body became rigid. He initiated a process of self-enquiry asking himself what it is that dies. He concluded that the body dies, but that this "current" or "force" remains alive, and recognised this "current" or "force" as his Self, which he later identified with "the personal God, or Iswara".

 On arriving in Tiruvannamalai, Maharshi went to the temple of Arunachaleswara. The first few weeks he spent in the thousand-pillared hall, then shifted to other spots in the temple, and eventually to the Patala-lingam vault so that he might remain undisturbed. There, he spent days absorbed in such deep samādhi that he was unaware of the bites of vermin and pests. Seshadri Swamigal, a local saint, discovered him in the underground vault and tried to protect him. After about six weeks in the Patala-lingam, he was carried out and cleaned up. For the next two months he stayed in the Subramanya Shrine, so unaware of his body and surroundings that food had to be placed in his mouth or he would have starved.

 In February 1897, six months after his arrival at Tiruvannamalai, Ramana moved to Gurumurtam, a temple about a mile away. Shortly after his arrival a sadhu named Palaniswami went to see him. Palaniswami's first darshan left him filled with peace and bliss, and from that time on he served Ramana as his permanent attendant. Besides physical protection, Palaniswami would also beg for alms, cook and prepare meals for himself and Ramana, and care for him as needed. In May 1898 Ramana moved to a mango orchard next to Gurumurtam.

 Soon after this, in February 1899, Ramana left the foothills to live on Arunachala itself. He stayed briefly in Satguru Cave and Guhu Namasivaya Cave before taking up residence at Virupaksha Cave for the next 17 years, using Mango Tree cave during the summers, except for a six-month period at Pachaiamman Koil during the plague epidemic.

 In 1902, a government official named Sivaprakasam Pillai, with writing slate in hand, visited the young Swami in the hope of obtaining answers to questions about "How to know one's true identity". The fourteen questions put to the young Swami and his answers were Ramana's first teachings on Self-enquiry, the method for which he became widely known, and were eventually published as Nan Yar?, or in English, Who am I?.

 From 1922 until his death in 1950 Ramana lived in Sri Ramanasramam, the ashram that developed around his mother's tomb. Ramana often walked from Skandashram to his mother's tomb. In December 1922 he did not return to Skandashram, and settled at the base of the Hill, and Sri Ramanasramam started to develop. At first, there was only one hut at the samadhi, but in 1924 two huts, one opposite the samadhi and the other to the north, were erected. The so-called Old Hall was built in 1928. Ramana lived there until 1949.

 Ramana Maharshi was, and is, regarded by many as an outstanding enlightened being. He was a charismatic person, and attracted many devotees, some of whom saw him as an avatar and the embodiment of Shiva.

 Ramana Maharshi provided upadeśa ("spiritual instruction") by providing darshan and sitting silently together with devotees and visitors, but also by answering the questions and concerns raised by those who sought him out. Many of these question-and-answer sessions have been transcribed and published by devotees, some of which have been edited by Ramana Maharshi himself. A few texts have been published which were written by Ramana Maharshi himself, or written down on his behalf and edited by him.

 Ramana Maharshi also provided an example by his own devotion to Shiva, which has been extensively described by his devotees, such as walks around the holy hill Arunachala, in which devotees participated, and his hymns to Arunachala.


Sri Ramana Maharshi's Collections