Venkappanna Shriyan (1929–2001) was a dedicated Siddha Yoga sadhaka whom many of us were honored to know and serve with. Born in South India, he moved to Mumbai as a young man for work. During that time he went to Ganeshpuri and had darshan of Bhagavan Nityananda. Venkappanna visited Bade Baba regularly for several years. Then in 1950, he received the command from Bade Baba to serve Baba Muktananda. For the rest of his life, Anna (an affectionate term meaning “elder brother” in the Kannada language) served Baba and then Gurumayi with unswerving devotion. Once Anna dedicated his life to Shri Guru, he never thought of going anywhere outside of Gurudev Siddha Peeth.
In 1989 Gurumayi wanted to give a special gift to Venkappanna, and that was for Anna to travel to places where his beloved Guru, Baba Muktananda, had visited and where Siddha Yogis could host him and show him around. Once his travels began, it was evident that everyone loved being in his company and hearing the stories of Baba and Gurumayi that Anna would tell at impromptu gatherings. More and more people began asking Anna if he would please visit their community, their country.
When Gurumayi was informed of this, Gurumayi said, “It’s a no-brainer! Absolutely—if Anna is willing, then provisions should be made for him to travel.” When this was presented to Anna, he replied, “I will do whatever Gurumayi wants. I want to offer seva in any capacity.”
Venkappanna had learned how to cook from Baba Muktananda and had since become an expert cook in his own right. His aromatic, delicious, and nutritious food was much sought-after in the Ashram. Gurukula students and visitors alike cherished the meals that were prepared by Anna. It gave Anna the greatest joy whenever he could make food for Gurumayi.
This combination of Anna’s deep understanding of guruseva and his talent for creating delectable dishes gave Gurumayi the idea that Anna could share both with Siddha Yogis as he traveled around the world. Therefore Gurumayi requested that Venkappanna begin holding satsangs and conducting cooking classes.
For several more years, until 1994, Anna traveled to Siddha Yoga communities around the world, inspiring countless devotees with his extraordinary stories of offering seva, the aroma of his food, his devotion for Baba and Gurumayi, and his knowledge of the Siddha Yoga path.
In May 1991 while Anna was in Australia, at Gurumayi’s request he visited Uluru—the immense, majestic red rock formation in the heart of the Australian desert that is sacred to the Aboriginal people.
At the time of Anna’s visit, there had been no rain for a year, and the land was extremely dry. When Anna arrived at the airport near Uluru, a group of Aboriginal people came to greet him, and one of the elders gave him a big hug. Anna later recalled, “In that moment, I was so touched; I felt it was Gurumayi’s love.”
That evening at sunset he made his first visit to Uluru. Anna felt drawn to one of the caves in the great rock, which seemed to have a beautiful energy. He approached it to offer his respects. There he had a vision of Baba and Gurumayi standing at the cave entrance in the light of the setting sun. He prayed fervently to them, asking that through their grace, the land might receive much-needed rain.
That night after he had returned to his lodging and was going to sleep, he heard the sound of water. He realized it was rain! The next morning, the rain had ceased. Again Anna visited Uluru, this time to perform puja and do pradakshina.
As soon as he neared the sacred monolith, rain began falling heavily, then almost ceased entirely when he began his worship. Anna waved a light and offered incense and flowers. When the puja was complete and he began pradakshina, the rain again increased. With each footstep, the rain seemed to grow in strength until it became a downpour.
Anna later described the rain, saying, “There were so many waterfalls coming down the sides of the rock, which became a lake around the base. Everything was covered in water!” Still, he was undeterred in his resolve to complete pradakshina. Soaking wet, he continued walking around Uluru for four hours, giving thanks to Baba and Gurumayi for the blessing of the rain.
The Aboriginal people came again to meet Venkappanna, their faces alight with joy and amazement. They said, “Before you came here, the land had been completely parched for one entire year! How did you make it rain? Who are you? Are you a saint?” Anna replied with a smile, “No, I am the disciple of a saint, a great Guru, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda. Her presence is everywhere.”