Coming to the life of the present form of the eternal soul of the Swamiji. He was born long ago at Mangalapuri in the North Kanara district to a pious couple, Sri Venkoba Ganapatigal and Smt. Sakkubai who were childless for a long time. He was named as Subramanya in his Poorvasrama. He was duly initiated into Gayatri while he was seven. He was not much interested in his school education. What should the Loka Guru, the He was to be, learn at school? He was always indifferent to external things and was deeply absorbed in contemplation of His self. This went on till His twelfth year when suddenly one night, the boy Subramanaya saw a divine light (Jyothi) before Him. Desirous of touching it, He went towards it and it was receding as He was following it. At daybreak it disappeared only to appear again in the nights that followed. Thus following the Jyothi, Subramanya reached at last Pandharpur. Leading the boy to the Sanctum Sanctorum of Vittal inside the Serene, the Jyothi vanished. The boy had a hearty darshan of Lord Panduranga and Rukmayi. When the night came, the boy was hungry fell asleep and in the middle of the night; Lord Vittal woke up the boy Subramanya, fed Him and blessed Him. As usual in the night, the Jyothi appeared again and led Him to a place nearby where a Great Saint was camping then. He was H.H. Sree Sivarathna Giri Swamiji, Jagadguru Sankaracharya of Jyothir Math in Kashmir. This Peetha of Jyothir Math in Kashmir is one of the Peethas established by Sree Adi Shankara Bhagavad Pada, and comes under the lineage of Sree Thotakacharya one of the four chief disciples of Sree Adi Shankara.
Jagadguru Sree Sivaratna Giri Swamiji could gauge the spiritual depth of the boy Subramanya before him and immediately accepted him as His Priya-Shisya. The earthly parents of boy Subramanya in their search for their beloved child came at last to Pandharpur where they saw Him under the affectionate care of the Jagadguru. They were advised properly in the matter and they could understand the secret of the advent of Subramanya. They went back after having been fully convinced about it. For over 18 years, the blessed Subramanya under went his probation under the Jagadguru. He was initiated into the esoteric knowledge of Advaita and when the time came for the Siddhi (eternal rest) of the Jagadguru – Sree Sivaratna Giri Swamiji – He transferred all his of penance to His Priya – Shishya and christened him as Sree Gnanananda Giri while granting Him the order of Sanyas. He was also nominated as successor to the Peetha of the Jyothir Math. H. H. Sree Sivaratna Giri Swamiji entered into Mahasamadhi on the Purnima day of Chitrai Every year now the Chaitra Purnima day is observed at Thapovanam in memory of the Jagadguru Sree Sivaratna Giri Swamiji.
Much moved by the separation of his revered Guru, Sree Gnanananda Giri Swamiji did not desire to continue long in the Peetha and so he nominated another Sishya as His successor and started out to the high Himalayas. For over sixty years he did severe penance at Mansorvar and other places and then moved out on ‘Pada Yatra’ from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari and to places outside like Ceylon, where he met a number of great men of spirituality.
The Swamiji has mentioned that he knew personally of the initiation given by Totapuri to Sree Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836 – 1886) At Dakshineswar and similarly of the initiation given by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa to Narendra (later Swami Vivekananda). He has also met Saint Ramalingam of Vadalur (near present Neyveli 1823-1874). He had come across the boy Ramana in the Madurai temple when Ramana was just 13 years old. Later when Ramana became Ramana Maharishi and was living in the Virupaksha cave at Tiruvannamalai, Sree Gnanananada Giri Swamiji used to meet the Maharishi frequently and discuss. In the early part of the century, the Swamiji came to many places in the south like Tiruchi, Salem and Attiyampati where he transformed the dacoits who were causing great hardships to people then. There is an ashram at Attiampatti and another at Siddalingamadam near Tirukoilur itself. He came to Thapovanam in 1950 and in 1953 the present Ashram came into being.
Ardent Disciples: Swami Haridhos Giri
Swami Haridhos has been highly blessed by the Great Guru Sree Gnanananda Giri after severe tests. Swami appointed Swami Haridhos Giri (Guruji) in Thapovanam. This is evidence in the picture in Swami’s room in Thapovanam. Guruji has been commanded to take up this service of spreading Bhakti among the people all over the country. His devotion to the Guru is unique and he swears that whatever he says is because of the Grace of the Guru who inspires him then and there to say and sing. The message he got from the Guru is: “When people praise you many do not become egoistic but ignore them in all humility. And do not be worried about the insults thrown at you likewise. Then you will settle down well”. This is equally a message to us all to see such a Great Guru is to know Him: “To know Him is to know God, for God and Guru are one and the same”.