We drove in silence till in the distance I saw the Mountain, my dear Father Arunachala, rising high above the ground and looking so majestic; energy surged through me like I had never experienced before. The land welcomed me as a long lost son. Everything seemed so familiar. It was unbelievable.We drove directly to Sri Ramanasramam.
|Golden Ganesha at the Arunachaleswarar Temple in Tiruvannamalai. Source: www.arunachalagrace.blogspot.com|
We had decided to drive to the temple and park the car near the temple (it is recommend that on special days it’s better not to, as the roads are barricaded and you have no choice but to rest in the car until dawn.)
The parking ticket vendor issued us a ticket while we searched for space. Surprisingly there was none available and we circumambulated the temple in the car and met this vendor to express the unavailability of space when all of a sudden a stranger came from behind and pointed to us a space. I was amazed. Even though the start time for Girivalam was mentioned as 7:30 pm there was a steady rise in the flow of devotees. The fervor rose as dusk set. Devotees had formed large queues; police officers were guiding and monitoring the entrances.
Just then I saw some police officers and they said there was a special darshan entrance. So we had to go around the temple once more to get to the special ticket counter. Down the lane I prompted my wife (who is fluent in Tamil) to enquire about the exact location of the special ticket counter.
She did and this person remarked "I can accommodate two people, if you wish, you can join me".
We agreed to follow him. On the way, I noticed devotees were thronging to get darshan of Lord Arunachaleshwarar. The monkeys were playing on the trees and the birds were resting on the massive white washed gopurams.
I wanted to speak to the devotee who got us inside but he was no where to be seen. My God !!! I did not even get a chance to thank him. Who was he? It felt like Arunachala had embraced me. The Annamalaiyar chants were playing loudly in the temple and I prayed 'Oh God, give us the strength to complete the Girivalam. I don’t know what to expect on the way.”
We had an amazing darshan of Annamalaiyar and Unnamalaiyar but it was so hot inside when I remembered that we were in Agni Kshethram. It got cooler as we neared the navagrahas and there was a crackling sound, followed by a thunder... thoughts rushed through my mind even though we had umbrellas in the car. I felt the clouds would blanket the moon and we will not be able to walk under its radiance but the moment we stepped out of the temple...the moon was shining with its full glory. I felt so much gratitude for Annamalaiyar.
Start of Girivalam
Despite the light drizzle, we followed Devi, starting with darshan of Lord Ganesha. My son was very excited. Our Girivalam had begun. The physical circumambulation was done on the outer route since I had the information that the inner route was banned by forest authorities because of forest fires.
Devi guided us to each lingam starting from Indra Lingam, Agni Lingam, Yama Lingam, Niruthi Lingam, Varuna Lingam, Vayu Lingam, Kubera Lingam and Esanya Lingam. There were many little shrines on the way. She was explaining the purpose of visiting each lingam and how it helps people get rid of certain medical ailments. Chanting the name of Lord Shiva was sufficient. Large queues formed to get darshan of the lingams. We treaded along the path. We reached the Raja Gopuram at 1:45 a.m. The crowd was intense and ecstatic. All burning camphor and chanting the lords name. High energy filled the air.
In the morning we visited the Ramanashramam. There were saffron clad sadhus under the tree shade. One of the devotees showed us the gate to go to Skandashram and Virupaksha cave. The climb was exciting, very few people were trekking the Holy hill to visit the Caves. The vegetation I understand was part of the reforestation project which helped bringing life back to the Holy hill as it was devoid of vegetation a couple of years ago. Little boys were selling water bottles. Laborers were engaged in paving the path with rocks and soil. A craftsman was found selling artifacts. We reached Skandashramam where Ramana Maharshi spent his early days. The trees and plants that the ashram had planted created a serene atmosphere. I slipped into meditation easily. My family was enjoying the scene and cool atmosphere. My son was happy watching the birds that were in abundance. Locals guided us to Virupaksha cave.
At Ramanasramam, we went into the book store and bought a few books. Sadhus were relaxing under the shade of the trees in the ashram. Pairs of Peacocks were cooing away from the trees.
After some rest, we visited the Panchamuki Gayathri temple and paid our obeisances.
We also visited the Lord Arunachaleshwarar temple again to thank the Lord for taking such good care of us. The holy mountain diminished from the rear view mirrors but the experience and the blessing he showered upon us are still with us.