27 June 2020

Mysterioius Column of Light

On the evening of June 26, 2020, two young men on their two wheeler riding towards Arunachala took this video on their mobile phone. 

You can hear them in the background talking about the mysterious column of light travelling upwards from Arunachala. 

An extraordinary phenomenon!!!

6 May 2020

Arunachaleswarar Temple You Tube Videos

To those who want to keep in touch with the Big Temple at Tiruvannamalai (Arunachalewarar Temple), there is now an official You Tube Channel with current videos of various functions at the Temple. Yesterday there was a long live streaming video of Vasantha Urchavam.

The below short video is of aarti on the 8th Day of Vasantha Urchavam.

14 April 2020

Duncan Greenless' Meetings with Sri Ramana Maharshi

Below is a beautiful narrative by Duncan Greenless (one of the earlier pilgrims from the West) setting out his meetings and experiences with Sri Ramana Maharshi.

For those who wish to read more about meetings of pilgrims with Sri Ramana Maharshi, there is an excellent free ebook brought out by the Aham Organisation entitled Ramana Periya Puranam. The book has been written by V. Ganesan and contains the stories of 75 direct devotees of Sri Ramana Maharshi.

To download the free ebook in PDF format, click this link:

Duncan Greenlees

Duncan Greenlees, M.A. (Oxon.), a scholar and a Theosophist, visited India on a teaching assignment in the 1930s. The writer who first felt repelled after reading about the greatness of Sri Ramana in A Search in Secret India by British journalist Brunton says:

"The book struck me somehow as a piece of journalism of the lower kind. For a few days it almost dissuaded me from going to Tiruvannamalai. Had the Maharshi stooped to allow this kind of vulgar advertisement for himself, almost like a quack doctor seeking testimonials? Of course, I soon threw this foolishness off my mind, and went to see for myself.

I saw the Maharshi. It did not take long for me to be sure that I was in front of one who had, in that very body, solved life’s problem for himself. The radiant peace around him proved it beyond all cavil. The calm, like that of the midnight sky, was something too real to question for a moment. The part of my search thus was over, even at the first glimpse. In a flash I had seen a ‘Master’. I knew he was what the books call a jivanmukta. Please don’t ask me how I knew for I cannot answer that. It was just as one knows that water is wet and the sky is blue. It could not be denied – self-evident is the word.

I had brought the usual list of questions to be asked. Shyness kept me silent while sitting in the Hall during those first days. And before I broke that silence, the unspoken questions had solved themselves in their own irrelevance. It was a common experience; I only add my own testimony to that of many others. Before I left that hallowed spot, I did put questions to the Maharshi, which were answered in a wonderful way that was new to me. I was wholly satisfied and filled with joy.

The four days I had planned were soon over. But I could not tear myself away before the last date of the vacation [note: from the educational institution where he was teaching] so stayed on, delighted, enthralled and pacified. That stillness of eternal depths had somehow seeped itself into my heart. I had met a Master who could quell the waves with a silent word, ‘Peace, be still!’ I knew myself to be absolutely one with that incarnate Peace on the sofa, and therefore to be one equally with the Unmanifest in whose stillness he was so obviously poised.

God’s grace is such that He gives at His will what He likes to give to any soul. We cannot earn His grace, even by crores of years of effort. One can never be worthy of His blessings, but receives it purely out of His mercy. His darshan can never be the fruit of sakama tapasya, whatever certain books may say. It is only the overflowing love of the Lord that brings Him to us.

The peace that Bhagavan had put upon me remained in my heart, like a shining cloud of transparency through which all things passed dreamlike for about three weeks. The mind was caught and held in that peace in a blissfulness it had never known before. It is a pity I cannot bring about this mood at my own will: it can come only from the touch of the real Teacher of souls, as I have found.

One day in the Hall I was browsing a notebook of extracts on yoga. Bhagavan hardly ever spoke to me first (indeed there was very little actual talking between us during the years; it did not seem necessary, somehow), but that day he spoke to me in English: “What is that book?” I answered him. He said quietly, “Read Milarepa”. I read the book; it thrilled and stirred deep places in my heart. Somehow, I feel Bhagavan had seen that it would be so and therefore gave me the only order of the sort he had ever given me.

I have taken all the descriptions of the jivanmukta I could find in any scripture – Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, Christian, Muslim, Jain etc. I have watched Bhagavan under all kinds of circumstances, and checked up what I have seen with those descriptions. I have not the smallest doubt that he alone, of the men I have seen, dwells always in sahaja samadhi. Of course, I am not qualified to judge, for none but the saint can know the saint. I have seen him in a humorous mood. I have seen him play the host with delicate grace that seemed almost awkward at times. I have seen him quickly, motionlessly, challenging and defeating injustice or unkindness.

I have seen him cutting vegetables for the Ashramites long before the dawn. I have seen again and again how he solved the doubts, the agonies, the loss of faith of people of many types – often with a word, often with his healing silence and a soft distance in his unmoving gaze. I have looked at his perfect handwriting in many scripts, all a model of beauty and care. I have heard him correcting the singers of hymns in his own glory, with an absolute impersonality that was obvious.

I have watched his reactions to the noisy devotee, the lazy worker, the mischievous monkey, the crazed adorer, the over-bold flatterer, the one who would exploit his name. I have seen how totally impervious he was to all considerations of power, place, prestige, and how his grace shined equally on prince and peasant. Then, can I doubt that here indeed we have, if not God Himself – for He is omnipresent – at least Greatness incarnate, the majesty of the ancient hills blending with the sweetness of the evening star?

Sit before him, as we used to sit those summer evenings, and we knew that we were not that foolish excited little person sitting there, but the eternal Self out of whom this world has spun its cobweb yarn of forms.

I know no other man whose mere presence has thus enabled me to make the personality drop down in the abyss of nothingness, where it belongs. I have found no other human being who so emanates his grace that it can catch away the ordinary man from his stillness and plunge him deep in the ecstasy of timeless omnipresent being.

His grace, which of course is the grace of God whose representative and messenger he is, has been enough to give brief glimpses even to me of that infinity, wherein he always seemed to live.

He will brush away all this nonsense of my talk with a wave of hand and a smile, while saying as he once did, “It is the same in this and in another place. That bliss you feel is in the Self, and you superimpose  it upon the place or environment in which you are bodily set.” But, Bhagavan, we say what we like about you and the blessings we have received from you; we shall not let you interrupt our foolish words. It is our chance to publicly proclaim our debt to the silent Teacher of Tiruvannamalai.

Those who are in the Ashram are very gentle, considerate and kindly. The generous services were given by a friend who used to translate for me the Tamil answers to my English questions and got translations approved by Bhagavan himself before giving them to me. Even the human hospitality of Bhagavan himself, though sometimes a little embarrassing to my innate shyness perhaps, was always a delightful thing.

His very presence among us is a benediction. His attaining a clear and unflickering vision of the Self has raised the whole world a little nearer to the Truth. His words have been an unfathomed ocean of comfort and inspiration to thousands. His silent peacefulness has revealed the Eternal in human form, as mountains, seas and skies above can usually reveal It."

The following was written after the Maharshi’s mahanirvana:

"Can we say he is dead? Bhagavan dead? The word could have no meaning. How can he who lives in the entire universe ever taste of death? “You think I am going away? But where am I to go? I shall remain here with you.” That was his promise while he was preparing us for separation. And those of us who lived in Tiruvannamalai hold firmly to the faith, which we feel confirmed by continual experience, that he has kept that promise and is still to be contacted here in the Ashram as of old.

Like Surdas darkening the physical sight so that he might see clearly the light within, he has dimmed our outer sight so that the inner vision might be filled with his eternal light. He has veiled the outer form we loved so well, that its beauty might no longer draw our gaze away from the everlasting presence enthroned in our inmost Heart. His Light shines, with the everlasting clarity of God’s own Light."

Krishna Das' Om Namah Shivaya Bhajan

With wishes of joy this Tamil New Year Day, am posting below a beautiful heart-warming bhajan, Om Namah Shivaya. 

27 February 2020

State Birds of India: Tamil Nadu Emerald Dove

Arindam Aditya has created a beautiful poster of the State Birds of India. I have posted a sample above. 

If you want the high resolution version, good enough to print out a very large wall poster, please get in touch with him direct at his email address: 
and he will send you a higher resolution version of the above. He asks no payment other than a commitment to plant 10 sapling trees in your area. 

The high resolution version is 15,240 pixels x 11,175 and can be printed to a 30 inch width x 22 inch height format and look very nice in the home, school or organisation. 

The State Bird of Tamil Nadu is the Emerald Dove. To watch a video of this beautiful bird and to read a narrative and description of the bird, visit my Blog Arunachala Birds at this link here.

Emerald Dove: State Bird of Tamil Nadu

20 February 2020

Have a Blessed Mahashivaratri

2020 Mahashivaratri Legends and Significance

Each month there is day known as Sivaratri and once a year there is Mahashivaratri (maha=great) -- the Great Festival of Shiva. The dates of these occasions correspond to certain phases of the new moon when it is believed that the mind (which is adversely affected by the power of the moon) is less susceptible to low, animalistic forces and thus more tractable to the power of meditation and prayer.

It is for this reason that Mahashivaratri is believed to be the one 24-hour period in the year which is of the greatest benefit. It has been stated in the scriptures that if a man fasts, stays awake and meditates for the whole of Mahashivaratri, it will give him his best chance to achieve mastery of the mind and attain liberation.

Mahashivaratri always falls on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of Phalguna (February-March), and is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. (Mahashivaratri in 2020 falls on Friday, February 21st). On this day devotees sing Shiva bhajans, recite verses from scriptures, offer prayers in the morning and evening, and some observe fasting throughout the day. People visit Shiva Temples and in the case of Arunachala, premier Shiva site of South India, circumambulation of Arunachala Hill is observed by many.

The name Shiva signifies a quality that means 'Auspicious' or 'The Auspicious One'. To a few, Shiva is Paramatman, Brahman, the Absolute, but many more prefer to see Shiva as a personal God given to compassion for his worshippers, and the dispenser of both spiritual and material blessings. Related to the Absolute concept is Shiva as Yoganath, the Lord of Yoga, wherein he becomes teacher, path and goal. As such he is the Adi Guru or Highest Guru of sannyasins who have renounced the world to attain the Absolute.

One of the early traditions, is Shiva in the form of Dakshinamurti; the South-Facing Guru. In this form, seated on a low platform, with one leg hanging down in front, he communicated the Sanatana Dharma or Eternal Wisdom to the four Kumaras who appeared early in creation. The Guru spoke no words but taught them by the transmission of mind-to-mind, and its purpose was to show that man can realise the Absolute when the human mind is in complete equipoise with the Cosmic Mind.


While almost all other festivals are celebrated during the day, Mahashivaratri is celebrated at night: and night stands for all that is evil; ignorance, darkness, sin, violence, treachery, falsehood, and misfortune. Mythology says that Shiva appeared to save the world from Tamoguna (darkness and ignorance).

There are a number of legends connected with the origin of Shivaratri. One such legend is that Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvati were married on this day.


Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati Marriage

Our own Arunachala legend, proclaims it to be the day Lord Shiva appeared as a luminous Jyotilingam before Brahma and Vishnu.

Lingodbhavamurti (Ellora)

On Mahashivaratri, Lord Shiva is Lingodbhavamurti, the pillar of fire that spans all, with no beginning and no end. The devout believe that they are on their way to oneness with Shiva, that they will join with the Supreme after hours of darkness spent in fasting and prayer. The worship of Lingodbhavamurti is with the leaves of the bilva, gathered from quince trees. The lingam is showered, unceasingly, with basketfuls of these, and other flowers, (just as the hunter in the below legend once did).

And it is believed that on the day of Mahashivaratri, all twelve Jyotirlingams of India manifested.

12 Jyotilingams


Shiva Purana legend about the Hunter and the Lingam:-

“In ancient times, a Bheel (forest inhabitant) named Gurudruha trudged through a forest to hunt deer. At night, without having sighted a single animal, he climbed a Bilva (Aegle marmelos) tree on the banks of a lake. Later at night, a doe arrived to drink water. Gurudruha aimed his bow and arrow at her. While aiming, he unknowingly dropped some Bilva leaves and his drinking water below on a Shivalingam that happened to be under the tree. The deer then requested him to allow her to entrust her fawns to her husband, after which she would return. After much haggling he agreed.

While awaiting her return, he stayed awake by aimlessly plucking leaves and dropping them below. Again they fell on the Shivalingam. Thus he unknowingly performed its puja (worship) while remaining awake all night. Finally the doe returned with her family, She informed him that along with her, he'd have to kill her family too. As he aimed, some more leaves fluttered down on the Shivalingam.

The collective punya (spiritual merit) accrued from the puja performed unknowingly, eradicated all his sins. This purified his heart. Repenting his flawed life of sin, he set the deer free. As he sat repenting, Lord Shiva manifested in front of him and granted him a boon, "You shall be born in a town known as Shrungver, as a man named Gruha. Lord Vishnu will grace your home as Lord Rama and redeem you." (This event is described in the Ramayana.) Shiva also blessed the deer, which attained a better destiny.”

Another legend of Mahashivaratri traces the origin of this festival to the churning of the Ocean of Milk by devas (gods) and asuras (demons). It is said that when both gods and demons were churning the Ocean of Milk to obtain amrita (water of immortal life), they came across many unusual substances, including the deadly poison Kalakuta. As soon as they touched the poison, it exploded into poisonous fumes that threatened to envelope the entire Universe with darkness.

Churning the Ocean

When the destruction of the Universe seemed inevitable, the gods ran for assistance from Brahma and Vishnu, but neither was able to help. At last they ran to Lord Shiva, who raised his trident and condensed the fumes. In order to save the creation, Shiva swallowed the poison without spilling a single drop. The poison left a dark blue mark on Shiva's throat. The gods praised and worshipped Shiva for saving the Universe.

Lord Shiva drinking the poison


The Ocean of Milk represents the ideal world that is full of peace and happiness for all human beings. Churning the Ocean of Milk signifies the human activity in the world. The amrita symbolizes happiness and the poison represents human greed and selfishness. Shiva symbolizes the atman (self), and worship of Shiva denotes meditation and contemplation by an individual on his or her own self.

Thus the only way to achieve peace and happiness is by worshipping Shiva at night, that is, by meditating on one's own self during the night when the individual is free from the distractions of the physical world. When the individual attains self-knowledge, he or she can live in the world without being affected by anger, greed, and selfishness, the three enemies of one's soul. Mahashivaratri symbolizes the worship of the atman within.

At Suruttapalli (located in Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh), there is a unique Temple. It is at this place that Lord Shiva is depicted drinking the poison (karma) of the world with Goddess Parvati holding his head in her lap so that the poison does not spill back out into the world. It is thought that by going there and in particular by performing puja there, that bad effects of karma may be averted. 

Lord at Surattapalli

Because at Suruttapalli Lord Dakshinamurti (Jupiter) can be found in the rare form in which his Shakti is present, it is believed that this symbolises that the Goddess is present to take hold of the pain and suffering of devotees and expiate their bad karma.

On the night of Mahashivaratri one can devote oneself to the chanting of the Vedic Rudram, or the five-syllable mantra of Shiva - Om Namah Shivaya - and on meditating on Him, thereby remembering one's ultimate goal, which is God Realization, the purpose of human birth. By ascending to the top of Arunachala within oneself, and trying to experience the presence of the God Shiva within as one's very own self, and simultaneously as the Universal Self permeating the entire universe, one draws close to Lord Shiva on this night.

On this day it is easy to please Lord Shiva by fasting and prayer. The main prayer is usually conducted during the night. Every three hours the devotee worships Lord Shiva in the form of a Shiva Lingam and bathing the Lingam with milk, ghee, honey, curd, rose water, etc. Lord Shiva is also greatly pleased by the offering of Bilva leaves. This worship is replicated in the worship at the Arunachaleswarar Temple which will take place tonight:

Invitation and Schedule

1st Kala Puja Night (21st February) 7.30 p.m.
2nd Kala Puja Night (21st February) 11.30 p.m.
3rd Kala Puja Morning (22nd February) 02.30 a.m.
4th Kala Puja Morning (22nd February) 04.30 a.m.

Midnight 21st-22nd February Special Pooja and Alankaram to Sri Lingodbhava Moorthi. 

All Are Invited

To find out more about the signifiance of Mahashivaratri and learn how it is celebrated elsewhere in India, go to this link here.

29 January 2020

Mother Amritananadamayi visits Tiruvannamalai January 26, 2020

Mother Amritananadamayi visited Tiruvannamalai on January 26, 2020. She made an address, bhajans were sung and then attendees went on stage to receive a hug from the Saint. To learn more about Mother, visit her website at this link here. Below are photographs from the evening of Mother's recent visit.

This was not the first time this saint has visited Tiruvannamalai. In 1982 with a group of 50 devotees she visited Arunachala to attend the 1982 Karthigai Deepam Festival. 

The story goes like this:- 

Mother Amritananadamayi at Karthigai Deepam 1982 

"At the end of November 1982, Mother and a group of us went to Tiruvannamalai on a ten-day pilgrimage. This was the first time that Mother had left Her village for such a long time, and also the first time that the Krishna and Devi bhavas would not be held since their inception in 1975. We took a train on a Monday morning after the Sunday night bhava darshan and arrived the next day. There were about 40 or 50 of us, and we all stayed in the two houses I had built when I had earlier resided there. Mother gave darshan in the house in the daytime. Many devotees who were living in and around the ashram came to see Her. In the evenings She sang devotional songs in Ramanashram in front of Ramana Maharshi's tomb, or samadhi shrine as it is called. 

On the morning after our arrival, a sannyasi called Kunju Swami came to visit Mother. He had been born in Kerala and was a disciple of the famous saint Narayana Guru, who had lived at the beginning of the century. Narayana Guru had brought him to Tiruvannamalai when he was a young man and had entrusted him to Ramana Maharshi for his spiritual upbringing. He was now in his eighties. But Mother treated him like a five-year-old boy, and he enjoyed it, behaving like a child with his own mother. When he sat in meditation, Mother placed Her hand on his shaved head and danced a little "ditty" while going round and round him. 

A friend of mine in Tiruvannamalai told me that when I had left to stay with Mother in the beginning of 1980, Kunju Swami had said, "Nealu would never have left this place until his death if the Mother there in Kerala were anyone but Parashakti (the Supreme Power)." And you could see in his expression that he indeed looked upon Mother as the Goddess incarnate. 

It was the Karthigai festival day at Tiruvannamalai, and it was customary for the devotees who had come to take part in the festival and circumambulate the holy hill Arunachala. To complete the circumambulation of Arunachala, one has to walk more than 12 kilometres. It was only the day before that we had climbed all the way up and down the hill with Amma, and thus that day all of us were feeling tired. So none of us stirred to do the circumambulation. 

That day Mother suddenly bolted out of our residence all alone. This was obviously an escape; She clearly did not want anyone to follow Her. Since I was the only person who saw Her leave, I immediately grabbed some bananas, cookies, and drinking water, put them in a bag and ran after Her. Having witnessed Mother's lack of body-consciousness, I knew that She might very well get lost. I followed Her from a distance as She walked around Arunachala Hill, obviously in an intoxicated mood. Seeing me running out of the house, all the others followed on my heels. Mother was walking at a very rapid pace and gradually She disappeared into the distance, leaving us behind. 

We immediately hired a horse-cart and started driving around Arunachala Hill, looking intently for Amma. The previous day, while climbing the hill with Her, we had come across many caves on both sides. Amma had gone into some of them to meditate and it was only after much urging that She could be persuaded to come out. While descending from the mountain, Amma had said, "I don't feel like coming down, but thinking of you children I am restraining myself." So we guessed that Amma might be sitting in one of those caves. But how to find Amma among the numberless caves on this vast hill? Everyone was worried. 

The horse-cart finally reached the hill. After travelling a few miles, we suddenly caught a glimpse of Amma's form, walking far ahead of us on the road. When we had driven up fairly close to Her, we got down off the cart. It was a glorious sight to see Amma. She was swaying to and fro while walking, as if drunk. Her whole body was vibrating, and Her hands were forming sacred mudras (mystic hand poses). Her eyes were half closed and a blissful smile glowed on Her face. It looked as if the Goddess Parvati were circumambulating Lord Shiva! We followed Amma and instructed the horse-cart to follow us. We began chanting Vedic mantras and loudly singing bhajans. The hills echoed with our chanting. The bliss of samadhi that radiated from Amma, together with the joy of singing and chanting, blessed all of us with a sublime experience. 

After we had followed Amma for some distance, She turned round and cast a glance of indescribable love at us. Her gaze held so much compassion and power that it seemed she was burning away all our karma and vasanas (deep-rooted tendencies). Slowly Amma came down to our level. Soon She was laughing and talking with us affectionately. A little tired by the long walk, She sat down under a tree at the roadside for a few minutes. Despite our suggestions, She refused to get into the horse-cart, and was soon up and walking again. Thus we all walked for the full eight miles around the hill. 

Towards the end of the circumambulation, we saw a snake charmer playing his flute by the side of the road. Amma went and sat before him, watching with great interest as the snake danced to the music of the flute. Like a little child, Amma asked, "Children, why don't snakes have hands and feet?" Her innocent question made us all laugh. She Herself then gave the answer: "In their previous lives, they may not have used their hands and legs properly. Children, keep in mind that such a birth could come to anyone who misuses what God has given him." 

Now her facial expression had completely changed, revealing the seriousness and majesty of the Guru. "Children," She continued, "Amma knows that you love Amma more than anything else. You cannot think of any form of God other than Amma. Therefore, you do not really have to circumambulate the hill. However, you must become a role model for society and should set an example for others to follow. In olden days, people were able to see God in their gurus. But in the present age, not many people have that power of discernment. This is why conventional rites and rituals are required for the ordinary person. Society can learn from your example how to follow these practices. So, in the future, always honour those rituals in order to uplift mankind. Amma Herself does these practices to teach you the proper path." 

We all sat in chastened silence, absorbing Amma's words. After a few moments, Amma continued, "Children, don't be sad thinking that Amma is always correcting you. Never think that Amma doesn't love you. It is only out of Amma's overflowing love for you that She instructs you. Children, you are Amma's treasure. When Amma renounced everything, there was only one thing that She couldn't renounce -- and that was you, my children. It is only when Amma sees you becoming the Light of the world that She feels truly happy. Amma doesn't require your praise or service. Amma only wants to see you acquire the strength to bear the burdens and the suffering of the world." 

"Mother's profound, nectar-like words brought our egos crumbling to the ground. Falling at Her feet we prayed, "O Mother, please make us noble! Please make us so pure that our lives may be sacrificed for the salvation of the whole world." 

For the Karthika Deepam, a sacred fire was lit on top of Arunachala Hill, representing the light of spiritual illumination blazing forth in the darkness of ageless ignorance. We all went to the town one morning to see the chariot festival. Images of the local deities were placed in a huge, ornately carved wooden chariot more than 100-feet tall, and a procession was made through the streets with people pulling the chariot by rope. It was a joyous occasion and a sight to behold. 

While Mother was standing on the balcony of one of the buildings to get a good view of the chariot, an avadhuta named Ramsuratkumar came to see her. He had been a disciple of the well-known Swami Ramdas of Kanhangad in northern Kerala. Ramsuratkumar was highly revered in Tiruvannamalai for his saintliness. Dressed in rags, he had a long, flowing beard and in his hand he carried a fan. In Mother's presence, he became like a little child, and looked upon her as his spiritual mother. This opened the eyes of the local devotees as to who Mother really was. 

After 10 blissful days in Tiruvannamalai, we all returned to the Ashram (in Kerala)." 

[By Swami Paramatmananda] 

1 January 2020

Significance of Arunachala Girivalam 2020 Full Moon (Pournami) Dates

[The below narrative is taken from a website dedicated to Arunachala and available at this link]. 

One of the thousand and eight names given to Arunachala by Adi Shankara is giripradakshinapriya – the Lord who loves giripradakshina. 

'Be they of lowly birth, without the advantage of learning, unable to practise the virtue of liberality, it is of no account. Those who perform pradakshina of holy Aruna, the Supreme, submit to his rule and become his devotee, will excel even amongst the most excellent . . .' [Arunagiri Antadi] 

Arunachala photo taken during rainy season

At most holy places located on hills, the Deity is found at the summit of the Hill. But here at Tiruvannamalai, the Hill itself is the Deity (Lord Annamalaiyar) and one of the ways in which it is propiated and worshipped is by its circumambulation. 

In Sanskrit this going around the Hill is called 'giripradakshina' (giri=mountain and pradakshina: Prada=giver of boons; Kshi=destroyer of Karma; Na=giver of Jnana. Also, Pra-Dakshina=going around with centre kept to the right). 

'Pradakshina (the Hindu rite of going round the object of worship) is "All is within me." The true significance of the act of going round Arunachala is said to be as effective as a circuit round the world. That means that the whole world is condensed into this Hill. The circuit round the temple of Arunachala is equally good; and self-circuit (i.e. turning round and round) is as good as the last. So all are contained in the Self. 

Says the Ribhu Gita: "I remain fixed, whereas innumerable universes becoming concepts within my mind, rotate within me. This meditation is the highest circuit (pradakshina).' [Ramana Maharshi: Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi] 

In the Tamil language, this process of going around, is called 'giri valam' (giri=mountain and valam=right side), inferring that one should keep the Hill to the right when circumambulating. 

The Arunachala Puranam declares that: 

'the holy Arunachala is the primal, Adi linga. The path around its base is the sacred Yoni. Pradakshina of the Hill is therefore pradakshina of the source of all lingas! So one goes round keeping to the left-edge of the path. A mere step taken, confers the benefit of a Yaga, sacrifice; two steps, the fruit of Rajasuya Yaga; and three that of Asvamedha Yaga. Going round the hill one gains in health and vigour. The hill abounds in rare herbs sought by traditional herbalists and the breeze carries the salubrious wafts from these siddha herbs to the one doing the holy round. The dust from the feet of such a person, carried and deposited in towns far away effects immeasurable purification.' 

The Asta (8) Lingams plus the additional Surya and Chandra Lingams i.e. Dasa Lingams (10) are underlined in the above map of the 14 km outer Girivalam Arunachala pathway

The circumambulation path is 14 kilometres (8½ miles). Tradition has it that even today a number of siddhars are living on the hill. 

There are eight lingams located at the eight directions, which provides an octagonal structure to the town of Tiruvannamalai. The eight lingams are: Indra Lingam, Agni Lingam, Yama Lingam, Niruthi Lingam, Varuna Lingam, Vayu Lingam, Kubera Lingam and Esanya Lingam. To find out more about the esoteric signifiance of the Asta Lingams around the octagonal perimeter of Arunachala which reflects the geometry of a Cosmogram, go to this link here.

To learn more about the Dasa Lingams and their relevance to the geometry to both Arunachala and also Arunachaleswarar Temple Siva Sannidhi Shrine go to links on Surya Lingam and Chandra Lingam.

There are two pathways around the Hill, the outer pathway which is the most commonly travelled and which contains Temples, the Asta Lingams, Tirthams and Shrines. And the inner pathway which winds its way through the countryside at the feet of Arunachala. 

According to scriptures, the walk around the Hill should be conducted at a slow pace either in silence, reciting mantras or chanting sacred songs. As to the ritual of the spiritual round; one should abjure all thought of the opposite sex on the day of pradakshina. After bathing one wears clean white clothes, applies vibhutti and proceeds, giving alms but without accepting any. Free from fear, anger, irritation or sorrow one walks on bare feet, without using vehicles or carrying an umbrella. Without swinging one's arms about, and with a silent soft tread, one saunters like a queen in her 'tenth-month'. One bows, first to the holy Hill from each of the eight cardinal directions, and then to the Lord of that direction enshrined in the linga there. One bows mentally to the incorporeal gods and siddhas going the rounds and keeps to the side. One could keep silence of speech and mind; or one could allow thoughts to flow on to the Hill of Fire; or one could sing and listen to songs of devotional praise. 

In the company of those of lofty character, one is able to halt here and there and enjoy a feast of fruit and milk. Otherwise, simple food free of flesh can be taken. 

Certain days are regarded as particularly auspicious for circumambulation:- 

The fruit of a Sunday pradakshina is Siva's abode (enter the solar region and attain Liberation); 

that of Monday is merger in Siva-form (live happily in a world free from senility and death); 

that of Tuesday is termination of debt and cyclic death (freed from all doubts and becomes Emperor); 

that of Wednesday is divinity through skill in philosophy and art (attain Wisdom and Omniscience); 

that of Thursday is lordship over gods and god-men (venerated by all Devas and may even become a renowned Guru); 

that of Friday is lordship of the Lotus Lady (may hope to reach Vishnu's abode). 

A Saturday pradakshina confers the astronomical benefits of a nine-planet conjunction in the Eleventh House (worldly success and protection against planetary influences). 

The above effects are magnified if circumambulation is done on Sivaratri, New-year day, or during the three months, mid-October to mid-January. The fruits are believed to increase by a factor of one crore if done on the two solstices; or on the day the moon is in the Magha asterism during February-March; or during the pre-dawn hour; or during solar eclipse or Vidhipaada Yoga. 

It is also regarded as particularly auspicious to perform "Girivalam" during every Full moon day (poornima) to coincide with siddhars' movements, and the heady perfumes of herbal plants surrounding the Hill. 

Once a sadhu who went regularly around the Hill, requested Sri Ramana for a Vedantic text. A devotee casually remarked, "He only goes round the Hill. What will he do with any Vedantic text?" To which Sri Ramana retorted, "What better sadhana can there be than going round the Hill?" 

Hindu mythology also explains the significance of circumambulation, in a narrative relating that the Goddess Parvati on the advice of Sage Gautama circumambulated the Hill everyday in order to have her desires fulfilled. 

Another legend says that Sage Durvasa, who cursed two vidyadharas stated that:- 

"The curse cannot be lifted by any act except that of circumambulating the Arunachala Hill." 

He then proceeded to relate what Siva Himself had declared in an assembly of devas and others: 

"He who circumambulates with devotion the Arunachala Hill which is my form, attains a form like mine. He becomes the Lord of the entire world and reaches the highest state". 

The two vidyadharas then advised King Vajrangada who was suffering, 

"The Lord of Aruna Hill is a repository of compassion and His glory is great. Circumambulate the Aruna Hill on foot as a means of release from suffering". 

31 December 2019

2019 Karthigai Photographs

2019 repaired Cauldron before painting

Taking Cauldron to Arunachala Summit

Bharani Deepam am December 10, 2019

Ardhanishwari, Big Temple, evening of December 10, 2019

Deepam inside Big Temple, December 10 2019

Lighting of Cauldron, December 10, 2019

Cauldron on top of Arunachala, December 10, 2019

Karthigai on Arunachala Summit from distance

Karthigai background, Temple gopuram in front

Lights on Temple with Karthigai bckground, December 10, 2019

Karthigai Deepam with Gopuram in front, from distance