On August 29th while working on a grammar assignment, Venkataraman suddenly realized the futility of it all, pushed the papers away and sitting cross legged entered into deep meditation. His brother Nagaswami who was observing him, remarked caustically, “What use is all this to such a one?” Recognizing the truth of his brother’s criticism, Venkataraman resolved to secretly leave home. He got up and left the house, making the excuse that he had to return to school. His brother gave him five rupees to pay his college fees, thus unknowingly providing funds for the journey. Venkataraman kept three rupees and left the remaining two rupees with the following parting note:
I have in search of my father and in obedience to His command started from here. This is only embarking on a virtuous enterprise. Therefore none need grieve over this affair. To trace this out no money need be spent. Your college fee has not yet been paid. Rupees two are enclosed herewith. Thus__________
Providence was guiding Venkataraman as he journeyed to Arunachala, for although he arrived late at the station the train was also late. He bought a ticket to Tindivanam which seemed to be the nearest place to Tiruvannamalai based on an old atlas. An aged Moulvi in his compartment noticed the Brahmin youth seated by his side in deep contemplation. The Moulvi engaged him in conversation and informed him that there was a newly-opened line to Tiruvannamalai from Villupuram.
At about three in the morning the train arrived at Villupuram. Deciding to walk the rest of the way, Venkataraman wandered into town looking for the road to Tiruvannamalai. He was feeling hungry and went to a hotel where he was asked to wait until midday for his meal. The hotel keeper watched with interest this young Brahmin lad with a fair complexion, long jet-black locks, golden ear-rings, a face beaming with intelligence and having no luggage or possessions. After finishing the meal the youth offered two annas; however, the proprietor refused the payment. Venkataraman started at once to the railway station where he purchased a ticket to Mambalapattu which was as far as his funds permitted him to go.
In the afternoon Venkataraman arrived at Mambalappattu. From there he set out on foot for Tiruvannamalai and by evening he reached the vicinity of Tirukoilur. At the nearby temple of Arayaninallur, built on a high rock, one can see the Arunachala Hill faintly appearing in the distance. Unaware of this, he went into the temple and sat down. There he had a vision – a vision of a dazzling light enveloping the entire place. Ramana looked for the source of the light within the inner sanctum. But nothing was found. The light disappeared after sometime.
Venkataraman continued sitting in a mood of deep meditation until he was disturbed by the temple priests who came to lock the doors. He followed the priests to the next temple where he plunged into meditation again. After finishing their duties the priests disturbed him once more and refused his request for food. The temple drummer intervened and offered his share of the temple food. When Venkataraman asked for some drinking water, he was directed to a nearby house. On the way there he fainted and fell down. A few minutes later he got up and saw a small crowd looking at him curiously. He drank some water, ate some food, and then lay down and slept.
Next morning was the 31st of August, the day of Sri Krishna’s birth, Gokulashtami. Venkataraman resumed his journey and reached the house of Muthukrishna Bhagavatar. The lady of the house gave him a large meal and kept him there until noon. He then asked his hosts for a loan on the pledge of his golden ear-rings. The loan was willingly given along with a parcel of sweets prepared for Sri Krishna. Finding that there was no train until the next morning, he spent the night at the station.
It was the morning of September 1st 1896, three days after leaving home, that Venkataraman arrived at Tiruvannamalai station.With quick steps his heart throbbing with joy, he hastened straight to the great temple. In mute sign of welcome, the gates of the three high compound walls and all the doors, even that of the inner shrine, stood open. There was no one else inside, so he entered the inner shrine alone and stood overcome before His father Arunachala. “I have come at your call, Lord. Accept me and do with me as you will.”