27 July'2008: After completing our visit to Arunachaleswara, we went for breakfast at Ramakrishna's and then immediately thereafter proceeded by road on the Girivalam route. The holy mountain of Arunachala rises to an elevation of 2669ft (800 m). It is customary for devotees to circumambulate the holy mountain on festival days & full moon days. The route is 14 Kms long and there is a tar road all around. As per legend the sacred hill of Arunachala is far more ancient than the Himalayas which are of later origin. Arunachala is comprised of two words: Aruna (red) & Achala (immovable mountain) meaning Red Mountain. It is also called the Hill of the Holy Fire. The hill is regarded as Tejo Linga (fire symbol of God) or Jyothi Linga.
Legend has it that Tiruvannamalai was a fire (Agni) mountain in Kreta Yuga, gold mountain in Treta Yuga, copper mountain in Dwapara Yuga & is a rock mountain in Kaliyuga.
Our Girivalam by car was done at a leisurely pace and the journey took more than two hours. The weather was cloudy & and there were very few people. The scenery was breathtaking with the uninterrupted view of Arunachala mountains, thick forestry & shrubs, many significant lingas, ashramas and sadhus enroute. It was indeed a very divine trip.
Enroute we stopped over at the Sri Seshadri Swamigal Ashram & the Ramana Maharshi Ashram. There are eight lingas on this route - Indira, Agni, Yama, Niruthi, Varuna, Vayu, Kubera & Esanya Lingas. For each of these lingas there is a shrine and prayers are offered by devotees. We stopped over at four of these lingas.
The visit to the Ramana ashrama was exhilirating, energising & satisfying. As you enter the Ashram, you are greeted by a calm and serene environment. A large open courtyard, bordered by shady trees and beautifully manicured gardens, give this ashram the tranquility that all of us aspire for. You will immediately feel a soothing stillness and harmony inside you. There is a Dhyana Mandapam where devotees meditate in pin drop silence, the Siva temple (Matrubhuteswara) built over Ramana's mother's samadhi, the large prayer/meditation hall, the room where he attained maha samadhi (the saints personal belongings are displayed there), the dormitories, the hospital, library, post office, the dining hall, the book shop, the very large campus and the constant stream of devotees including quite a few foreigners. The ashram is also home to several resident peacocks & monkeys who live fearlessly and have a commanding presence. The swami had an intense love for all living creatures and we find samadhis for a cow, a dog & a deer.
The route to Skanda Ashram & the Virupaksha cave lies behind the ashram - a 5 km trek up the steep rocky slope for which prior permission is required from Forest Department because of the danger from wild animals & the treacherous nature of the rocks.
After Girivalam we returned to the Circuit House to check out. To our dismay we had misplaced/ lost the room key. We were temporarily alloted another suite till such time a duplicate key was found & we could access our baggage. Ultimately our driver Ramesh went & fetched a key maker from town and got a duplicate key made. We lost close to two hours in the process. Finally we checked out and left Tiruvannamalai around 4.30 pm. Our next destinantion was Kanchipuram. Our route: Mangalam-Chetpet-Malaiyur-Vandavasi-Mamandur-Kanchipuram.
For photo gallery log onto: http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/GirivalamAtTiruvannamalai