11 February 2009

Bullock Cart Hill Rounding

On Tuesday, February 10th, I performed a very nice hill round with a group of visitors from France and Belgium. All the group of eighteen members, except for the leaders Dominique Vincent and his companion Rahina, were visiting Tiruvannamalai for the first time. They leave this area on Friday, February 13th to continue their fascinating Indian tour. I hope to tell you more about their adventures and impressions in the upcoming Arunachala Grace Newsletter – which will be sent out to subscribers inboxes after Mahashivaratri.

Anyhow that Tuesday morning I arrived with two bullock carts (each with two bulls) early at Arunai Anantha Hotel. Already the days are getting warm, so we wanted to make an early start to avoid spending the afternoon in the sun. Everyone wrapped up nicely to venture out in the chilly early morning.

First off we stopped at Nirudhi Lingam (the SW Asta Lingam) so we could look at the descriptive lingam map painted on the outside of the Lingam Shrine. During the course of the morning we did in fact visit: Nirudhi Lingam, Varuna Lingam, Asta Lingam, Kubera Lingam and Yama Lingam.

Our next port of call was the favourite Kannapar Temple.

“There is a Temple built at the foot of Arunachala, off the pradakshina route, on a rock dedicated to Sri Kannappar. Kannappar who was one of the sixty-three Nayanars (Tamil Poet-Saints) whose lives are recorded in the Periya Puranam (Lives of the Saints). The actual story of Kannappa Nayanar is supposed to have taken place at a Hill Temple in Sri Kalahasti, near Tirupathi.

The story goes that there was a forest place called Uduppur. It was an isolated area populated by fierce villagers. Nagan and Tatthai had a great desire for a child but as they were old had to go to a shrine of Lord Murugan to receive his blessings before they were able to conceive. A son was soon born to them who they named Thinnan (meaning strong), because he was so powerful and heavy that even his father could hardly hold him up.” To read further go to this link here.

You can get an idea of the way the Temple is constructed with Arunachala as its rocky foundation.

Its interesting to view the progress of the developing Swami Nithyananda’s Ashram from the vantage point of Kannapar Temple.

The below photograph was taken from the Panchamuka shrine from where one can see the five faces of Arunachala. R. Henninger in his interesting book ‘Arunachala – Holy Hill,’ remarks that the faces are:

Top dedicated to Ishana – Pure Crystal

East dedicated to Tat Purusha – Yellow, the face

South dedicated to Agoram – Black, the heart

North dedicated to Vamadeva – Red, the navel

West dedicated to Sadyojatha – White, the foot

This part of the hillround roadway was quite peaceful and the bullocks were moving along quite perky and unstressed. We had already fed them with some bananas during a stopover, and they were co-operating quite earnestly.

We definitely had to stop at the Idukku Pillayar Shrine and test the legend that those who succeed in passing through the narrow passage while uttering a wish, will have that wish fulfilled. Well just about all of the group went through the opening – so they will be able to test the wish-fulfilment part first hand. Anyhow all the group had a good laugh.

Once we got near the Tiruvannamalai Bus Stand, traffic started to get heavy and the bullock drivers really needed to concentrate and put their power into guiding the bullocks. It was a hair raising experience for us – can’t imagine what it was like for the poor bullocks.

It was getting hot and late and the roads were busy with traffic. Deciding time was too short to make the hike up the Hill to visit Pavala Kundru, we instead visited the beautiful Durga Amman Koil and from there we could look up and also see part of the 'Jewel of the Hill,' (i.e. Pavala Kundru).

Both these Temples are associated with famous stories of Arunachala connected with the Goddess. And it is this area which is believed to be the place that Shiva and the Goddess joined and became the manifestation known as Ardhanisvara (half-man, half-woman).

Durga Amman Temple

Durga Amman Temple is believed to have originated from the episode of the Goddess killing the demon Mahishasura. In the Puranas, we read that after having killed the Demon, a lingam adhering to his neck when taken by the Goddess remained welded to the palm of her hand. Durga then went to the place that is now situated in the compound of the Durga Amman Temple. The area was dry, but she dug a hole with her sword and water gushed forth. When she took a bath, the lingam came off her hand and Durga started worshipping it.

The Goddess remained and bestowed her favours on her devotees. Since then, the sacred tank has had a regular water inflow. It is at this Temple that great celebrations take place in honour of Durga during the days of Navaratri and Dasara – which symbolise the victory of the Goddess over evil.

Durga Amman Temple foreground,
Pavala Kundru background at top left

Pavala Kundru

Pavala Kundru (The Jewel of the Hill) is a beautiful Temple located on the top of a giant rock In Puranic mythology Rishi Gautama received the Goddess Parvati at this spot when she came to Arunachala to do penance and it is here it is believed she constructed her own Ashram

To read vignettes and stories about Puranic mythology of Arunachala go to this link here and this link here.

Pavala Kundru through the trees

In more contemporary times Ramana Maharshi lived in one of the two small rooms located at the side of the Temple.

Well we made it back to the Arunai Anantha Hotel where the group are staying. Bullock hillround took nearly six hours and the four bulls did a sterling job. Now they can digest their bananas and take a cooling rest before they head on home and the end of their day's work. Thanks fellas.


senenami said...

- The Hill course is to get exercise. Using bullock carts is something I never seen. Anyways I understand that you guys won't be able to withstand the noon temperature.
- Being a native, myself dont know the names of the Lingam. You got a good memory.
- Above all, visiting Tamilnadu won't be a good memory without a friend from that region (not a guide).

Sivakumar said...

Good to see you people having bullock cart ride.

There is an important lingam called Gupera Lingam on the left side of Pavazha Kundru.

You can see Kupera Lingam on the entrance of Pavazha kundru othavadi street from Big Street. This lingam is half burried into the concrete structure created by local body. This street is existing on the northern side of Arunachala temple.