An ashram did not spring up immediately. At first there was only a shed with bamboo poles and a roof of palm leaves. Through the ensuing years the numbers grew, donations came in and regular ashram premises were built – the hall where Ramana sat, the office, the bookstore, the dispensary, the guest room for male visitors and a couple of small bungalows for guests who made a longer stay. A group of sadhus made a colony at Palakottu in a grove to the west of the ashram. With the advent of Cow Lakshmi a cowshed was built along with a large kitchen to cater to the ever-increasing throng of visitors. Dear to Ramana’s heart was taking care of the cows and feeding people, particularly sadhus and poor people. In the course of time a proper temple, the Matrubhuteswara temple, was constructed over Mother Alagammal’s burial place and daily worship continues to be carried out there.
Ramana would never allow any preference to be shown to him. In the dining hall he was adamant on this point. Even when some medicine or tonic was given to him he wanted to share it with everyone. Ashram management was not his concern either. If rules were made he would be the first to abide by them, but he himself did not make any. His work was purely spiritual: silently guiding the ever-growing family of devotees who gathered around him. Ramana’s younger brother Niranjanananda Swami (Chinna Swami) became the Ashram manager or Sarvadikhikari.
The focus of all attention was the meditation hall (Old Hall) where devotees sat with the Maharshi. The dynamic silence of the hall was vibrant with his grace. Divine love was shining in his eyes and when necessary his potent words illuminated the visitors. There were no rules that everyone must meditate in a specific way or at a given time. During the early years the doors were never closed, and even at night people could come to be with him.
Concerned that he should be accessible to all visitors at all hours, Ramana never left the Ashram except for his daily walk on the Hill and in Palakottu (an adjacent sadhu colony), morning and evening. In early years, he sometimes walked the the circuit road around the mountain (Giri Pradakshina).
In 1949 it was detected that Ramana had sarcoma in his left arm. In spite of intense medical care, on April 14, 1950 it was apparent that his physical end was near. In the evening, as the devotees sat on the verandah outside the room which had been specially built for Bhagavan’s convenience during his illness, they spontaneously began singing “Arunachala Siva” (The Marital Garland of Letters). On hearing it Ramana’s eyes opened and shone. He gave a brief smile of indescribable tenderness. From the outer corners of his eyes tears of bliss rolled down. One more deep breath and no more.
At that very moment 8:47 p.m. what appeared to be an enormous star trailed slowly across the sky passing to the north-east towards the peak of Arunachala. Many saw this luminous body in the sky, even as far away as Bombay and struck by its peculiar appearance and behaviour, they ascribed this phenomenon to the passing of their Master.
To this day the power of Sri Ramana has not diminished. Often visitors to the ashram have remarked, “But one can feel his presence very strongly.” Before Sri Ramana gave up his body, devotees went to him and begged him to remain for a while longer as they needed his help. He replied “Go! Where can I go? I shall always be here.”