Our Experiences In Tiruvannamalai

Our Experiences In Tiruvannamalai
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There are about 400 pages of information on Girivalam on this website.
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Ulaganathan P: (#8): How Arunachala played with me

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For almost two decades now, Arunachala Siva has allowed me to witness Karthigai Deepam every year and to do Girivalam many times during the year. For that, I am eternally grateful to him.

There was a time when I used to travel by public bus from Chennai to Tiruvannamalai for Karthigai Deepam. Many special buses would run and almost all the buses would run full. For me, girivalam started when I boarded the bus in Chennai. It didn't matter that I had to stand for the entire 187 kms to Tiruvannamalai. On Karthigai Purnima Day, all the public buses would be stopped a distance away from the town and I would have to walk an extra few kilometres before doing the actual girivalam. This, too, I didn't mind because I was so excited I was going to meet my Father.

It would be late in the afternoon by the time I reached the temple - just enough time for me to watch people making preparations for the deepam and doing girivalam. There would be people stuffing themselves at road-side eateries and petty hotels. Others would be taking up vantage positions along the Girivalam route. As I would look up at the Arunachala mountain, I would see multitudes of people climbing the mountain to reach the spot where the holy lamp is to be lit and from below the hills, they would seem like tiny ants walking up in line.

Stop climbing the mountain

Throughout the ages, saints and sages have told us not to climb the Arunachala mountain, but year after year, I would see people climbing the holy mountain. Often, I would hear of untoward incidents happening to them but they just keep on going. I wonder, what would it take for the authorities to stop them from climbing the mountain in the first place? Can they not stop them before they climb the mountain, like they stop the buses before they enter the city limits. It is as simple as that. Yet the authorities will do -- not a thing!!!

Be that as it may, as dusk approaches, I would see people filling the gaps in the temple-town. In no time, it would be full. In my opinion, those who can witness the Deepam from inside the temple are the most fortunate. For this, advanced tickets have to be purchased and passes issued. The early birds will occupy the streets around the temple's outer walls, excepting the eastern street, where the view of the mountain is blocked by the temple.

I always love to see the jyoti from the north western corner of the temple, although never once have I witnessed the deepam being lit from the same spot. Arunachala Siva has always given me a different darshan every year depending on where I was on the grivalam path.

Arunachala was anxiously waiting for me

There was one time when there was no direct bus to Tiruvannamalai available and I had to change buses and take a circuitous route. By the time I arrived, the deepam had already been lit and it seemed to me that Lord Annamalayar was anxiously waiting for me. He was looking to see if I had arrived. That sight is still enchanting for me because the Lord, my father, was as anxious to see me, as I was to see him. It felt like the flames were waving at me when he saw me. Even from the distance, the deepam appeared more sublime and caring.

I thought, blessed are the villagers who live near the mountain. They get to witness the deepam for the whole ten days when it remains lit. Still more blessed are they who can see the holy hills of Arunachala from their backyards. The most blessed are those who have Arunachala and the jyoti embedded in their hearts. I always go around the hill pining for His grace to descend on me and to make me worthy of even a minuscule of His love and mercy.

Why Arunachala delayed my return home

On another occasion, I was waiting in the bus-stand for a bus to take me back to Chennai. I didn't know that I had to go to the far-end of the town where the buses were set to leave that day. I waited at the wrong bus-stand, running in vain after every bus that came to the stand. Late in the night, some one guided me to the right spot. But, by that time I got there, most of the pilgrims had left and the authorities had stopped plying buses from that point. I had to return to the regular bus-stand. It is funny that I never felt despair or disappointment or anger during the long wait into the night. Arunachala was with me the whole time. That is when I realized God is always with me.

When I looked up at the sky, the bright full- moon had completed its girivalam around the sacred mountain and when I looked at the jyoti, I felt like He was smiling back at me. That is when I realized that it is for this sight that Arunachala had delayed my return to Chennai. The moment I realized the real reason for the delay, a bus came to take me home.

Arunachala kept a seat for me on the bus

The following year, I prayed that I would find a bus quickly. Outside the town-limits, there were huge crowds trying to board the buses. But as I reached my bus stop, there was a bus about to leave. I boarded it with ease and looked for a vacant seat. All the seats were occupied but suddenly I spotted one unoccupied seat. Although many were anxiously looking for seats, I was able to occupy mine in an unhurried manner because Arunachala was keeping it for me. The bus left immediately and as I turned around to look at Him one last time, it felt like he winked at me.

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