Walking around Siva

23rd Feb 2009.

Mahasivaratri!

Evening, sometime after 6 pm… Approaching Tiruvannamalai… The Sun is a big ball of red, going down in a hurry in the horizon…  It is the dark night of the month… The twilight hour is hazy… A break in the trees provides us a good glimpse of Arunachala – the Hill that is Siva. evening

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7 pm… Reach Sri Ramanashramam… The hall in front of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Samadhi is packed choc-a-bloc with devotees. We first go to mothers shrine – the temple of Mathrubhuteshwara. Then to Bhagavan Ramana’s shrine… The first puja of the evening is nearing completion. The abhisheka is over. Priests are completing the floral offerings to Ramaneshwara Mahalinga – the Sivalinga in Ramana’s Samadhi…

ramana1

On the wings, a group of young students from the Ashram Veda Patashaala wait for their cue.

veda-students

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9:30 pm or so… Set out on Girivalam… Also known as Giripradakshina, this is the circumambulation of the Arunachala mountain – a walk of around 14 kms or so, around the holy hill…  We join a steady stream of people doing the walk… The night is warm… Shankar, my girivalam companion has the right idea. He is in dhoti and a light upper cloth… I decide to follow ‘suit’, and shed my long shirt… The night is moonless.. But the silhouette of the mountain is visible, as a darker shade of black, ‘courtesy’ the city lights on the other side.

First stop is at the shrine of Yama Linga – one of the eight lingas around the hill – this one, in  the southern direction… There are ever so many Siva temples in this region…  And tonight is the holiest night for all of them…

Sometime around 11 pm, we reach Adi Annamalai temple… The early temple of Arunachaleshwara, at the foothills of the mountain… Curtains in the shrine… Around two score devotees are waiting for Darshan… A lady is singing Kolari Padigam – a sacred song of Siva, composed by the child saint Tirujnana Sambandar more than a thousand years ago…

She goes on to sing other Tevaarams, Tamizh songs of Saint devotees of Siva… We wait for darshan… I then request the lady to sing Sivapuranam… ‘Namachivaaya vaazhga…” she starts, and many other devotees join in… The atmosphere is charged with Bhakti…And just then, the curtain opens… Radiance! The Aarati of the Lord begins… This is it!

Going around the temple, we come to the shrine of Apithakuchambal – the consort of Arunachaleshwara. There She is – and we fill in our eyes… Going across to the Nandi in front of that shrine – we sit down near his ear… And chant the Rudram… Our chant is frequently drowned by the sounds of the temple band – the Nadaswaram and the drums… There is joy everywhere…

We get back into the dark night… Walking around the hill, we stop once in a while, peer at the mountain, visit a little temple or two… Entering the open-air Panchamukha Linga shrine, we prostrate to the holy hill. The five peaks of Arunachala are visible from here…

Past 1 am, we are back in town, and enter the big temple of Arunachaleshwara… Throngs of pilgrims… So many people, yet so much peace… So many sounds, yet so much silence…

Here’s a of picture…

temple1

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Many pilgrims are staying over in the temple for the night. Some are asleep in the temple courtyard…

temple2

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Long queues lining up for having darshan of Arunachaleshwara… We walk around the sanctum… settle down in the corridor to the west, and chant the Chamakam…

After Darshan of Apithakuchamba, we take leave…

Walking on, we come to the shrine of Seshadri Swamigal, the great sage, who was a contemporary of Sri Ramana…

And then around 3 am, we are back at Sri Ramanashramam… Abhisheka is in progress…

3amashram

The students of the Veda Patashaala are chanting some part the Veda… The holy sounds reverberate around the hall… Shankar is mesmerized…  Sitting right next to the shrine sanctum, eyes closed, taking in the chant of the Vedas, he dives into his heart…

After the puja, we get back to our room to catch a few hours of shut eye.

Loud cries of peacock bring in the morning… After a bath, I go up to the terrace for my japa… A whole pack of peacocks are walking in the terrace. I walk across to the adjacent terrace, to find a greeting of God…

dance1

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We take leave of Tiruvannamalai at around 10 am…

A farewell picture of the hill that is Siva…

morningafter

Annamalaikku Haro Hara!

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3 Responses to “Walking around Siva”

  1. Meena Pakala Says:

    Kamesh, this is a treat to go through with you on a yatra I could not have even imagined from here.

  2. gkamesh Says:

    Thanks a ton Meena. yes, the yatra was special.

  3. Farah Says:

    Just dropping by.Btw, you website have great content!

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