21 February 2017

Parvathamalai Girivalam 2017

The sacred place of Parvathamalai is some 25 kms from Arunachala and infused with Arunachala’s radiating spiritual power. The Sage of Kanchi (Kanchipuram) the great Sri Sankaracharya Chandrashekarendra Saraswati twice undertook pilgrimages on foot from Rameshwaram in the far south of the Indian peninsula to Benares in the North. On one of those pilgrimages (written about in Paul Brunton’s “In Search of Secret India” book) he visited Parvathamalai Hill after his time at Arunachala. When he saw Parvathamalai he declared that it was in actual fact itself a Siva Lingam and proceeded to walk the 25 kms circumference of the Hill. From that time the fame of girivalam at Parvathamalai (in modern times) has spread. 

“On the first of Margazhi month in 1944, His Holiness Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Swamigal fondly known as Maha Periyava performed Girivalam of Parvathamalai which is located on the Thiruvannamalai-Chengam Road. His Holiness started on foot from his camp at Kadaladi accompanied by the devotees and went round the mountain through jungles and hills and reached the camp back late in the night.” 

Consequently each year on the first day of the Tamil month of Margazhi, a special girivalam has been organised (including food) since 2009 by Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. On this day many thousands of devotees arrive and perform a ‘special girivalam’ of Parvathamalai. 

Nowadays many devotees and pilgrims visit and climb the hill to worship at the Temple on the summit in order that they may attain bliss and enlightenment. Others following the example of Shankaracharya prefer not to walk on the Hill itself but instead choose to perform the 25 km (approximately 8 hours to complete) girivalam around its base. The busiest times at Parvathamalai are the days of full moon, no moon and new moon. 

Roadways converge at pathway to Hill Summit

Many arrive at Parvathamalai Hill by bus or car via Highway 133 or Highway 38. The convergence of these two major roads at Thenmadhimangalam, is also the start place of the main pathway to the top of the Hill. In addition its the most popular place to start clockwise circumambulation of the 25 km pathway around the base of Parvathamalai.

25 km Girivalam of Parvathamalai

Thenmadhimangalam and start of girivalam. The distinctive shape of Parvathamalai in background—can be seen in many of the photos below

Occasionally the girivalam roadway joins up with the tarmac (tarmacadam) highway, but mostly the walk is on minor roads and dusty country tracks winding its way through reserve forest and agricultural areas. The below photographs are sequential showing landscapes and places of interest on the girivalam roadway. 

The 25 km girivalam is mostly unpopulated so take plenty of water and either wear shoes or carry a pair for emergencies in your bag. The areas in which you will be walking are for the most part deserted, ensure your security by walking with others and not carrying valuables. 

Walking in a clockwise direction with Parvathamalai ever to the right—off we go:-

The road above goes straight to Swami Vithoba Ashram, which is about a 15 minute walk from this point

Swami Mouna Vithoba lived on the top of Parvathamalai for 16 years attending to his sadhana and also helping to maintain the beautiful Temple of Lord Mallikarajuna Iswara located on the Hill’s summit. After completion of the 16 years on the summit, the saint came to the bottom of Parvathamalai Hill and performed intensive sadhana for 4-5 years engaged in puja and worship of the murti of Goddess Sri Rajarajeshwari. 

Swami Mouna Vithoba

This saint died sometime during 2001-2002 but the work at the top of the Hill continues in his name. 

Information about Renovation work

In this respect a renovation Trust named ‘Triplicane Sri Paruvathamalai Adiyargal Thiruppani Sangam’ has been set up to: 

(1) continue improving walkways to top of Parvathamalai, 
(2) develop and maintain Lord Mallikarajuna Iswara Temple on summit, 
(3) complete construction of Mouna Guruswamy Ashram on summit and, 
(4) continue managing Mouna Guruswamy Ashram at foot of Hill. 

Swami Mouna Vithoba Ashram at base of Hill

When Swami Mouna Vithoba passed away (at his place) at the bottom of the Hill, an ashram slowly developed and on January 29, 2012 a grand Kumbhabhishekam function was performed at the samadhi of Mouna Vithoba Swami at what is now an Ashram dedicated to him at the foot of Parvathamalai. 

Samadhi of Swami Mouna Vithoba

Food and accommodation is available at the Mouna Guruswamy Ashram at the bottom of Parvathamalai. To make enquiries please call the person in attendance at that place Sri Ramesh at +919843417989. Much of the girivalam road is inaccessible to all vehicles except two-wheelers however if coming from Thenmadhimangalam, one may drive four-wheelers all the way to this Ashram. 

1/2 Km after Ashram

From the Ashram one may continue on the girivalam pathway or start on a path which eventually leads to the top of Parvathamalai. The next three photographs below show the beginning of the pathway to the summit starting a short distance from Swami Mouna Vithoba Ashram. 

1. Direction Board showing way to Summit
2. Beginning the hike to Summit

3. Pathway eventually leads to rocks and climb upwards to Summit

The previous three photographs show the beginning of the roadway after the Ashram which takes one to the summit of the Hill. The rest of the photographs below show the pathway after the Ashram, which continues onwards of the 25 km girivalam road. 

Pachaiamman Temple

Most of the girivalam road is deserted save for the occasional house or farm. In addition there are three main structures of interest to pilgirms. The first is the Vithoba Ashram, the second the Pachaiamman Temple and the third an ancient Siva Temple. 

Pachaiamman Temple currently under renovation

The Goddess is resident in this temporary structure while her Shrine is being renovated

Devotees on the grounds of the Temple

Muniswarans at Pachaimman Temple

The Sapta Muniswarans here are represented as 7 brothers. 

The warrior guardians are: 

Vaalmuniswaran (knife) 
Karumuniswaran (dark) 
Ladamuniswaran (playful) 
Vedamuniswaran (book) 
Jadamuniswaran (red) 
Muthumuniswaran (pearls) 
Veeramuniswaran (strength) 

Muniswarans are a class of powerful spirits. These spirits are also known as Siva Ganas. They are considered to be servants of Siva and his female-half Sakthi. Due to their nature, the Munis are classified as guardian deities. 

They can be former warriors, kings or sages who achieved the status of a Muniswaran after their human death. Some of the Muniswarans worshipped were created as Muniswarans and are not of human origin. Muniswarans are worshipped in various ways including tree and stone worship. At this Temple they are worshipped in the form of Statues (Uruvam Vallipadu).

According to the Rig Veda, the Muniswarans are trained in various magic arts and believed to be capable of supernatural feats. 

After stopping at Pachaiamman Temple, the 25 girivalam pathway continues through the countryside. 

Girivalam road runs again on Highway 133 for a while before turning off onto smaller lanes

Towards the end of the girivalam walk, one arrives at an ancient Siva Temple. The Temple which has Shrines to the Lord and the Goddess is now not in use and puja to the Gods is being maintained in a small room near the original Shrines. 

Original Siva and Sakthi Shrines

The statues are being kept in the room with blue door

Veelanthangi Iswara Alayam—devotees staying place

A few yards from the building housing the statues, is the residence for the Temple priest—which is also a staying place for devotees 

After completion of the 25 km girivalam roadway, the pilgrim returns to the start place of Thenmadhimangalam. 

Thenmadhimangalam again—which is also the easiest spot to start off from when climbing to the summit of Parvathamalai.


Unknown said...

Great place to go to parvadamalai at least once.

Sagar Bhavsar said...

Om Arunachaleshwaray Namah

Thanks a lot for all the detail information.

Unknown said...

Wonderful post Meenakshi. Love all your blogs!!!

Susan Davies said...

Now that the girivalam around Arunachala is being ruined, expect many pilgrims will want to experience the peace, cleanliness and beauty of Parvathamalai girivalam. Have no doubt it will become increasingly famous and visited over the coming years.