THERE WAS A TIME when the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi would frequently roam the holy hill of Arunachala, as well as climbing to the summit and making Pradakshina (circumambulation), so that in the end, he knew every part of it. And then one day, when he was wandering alone, he passed an old woman gathering fuel on the hillside. She looked like a common outcast woman, but she addressed the young Swami fearlessly, as an equal. Beginning with the rough cursing common to such people, she said: “May you be put on the funeral pyre! Why do you wander about in the sun like that? Why don’t you sit quiet?”
“It can have been no ordinary woman,” Sri Bhagavan said when he told the devotees about it; “Who knows who she was?” Certainly, no ordinary outcast woman would have dared to speak to a Swami like that. The devotees took it to be a manifestation of Arunagiri Siddha, the Spirit of Arunachala. From that time Sri Bhagavan gave up roaming the hillside.
When Sri Bhagavan first went to Tiruvannamalai he sometimes moved about in a state of trance. This did not completely end until about 1912 when there was a final and complete Experience of Death. He set out from Virupaksha Cave one morning for Pachaiamman Koil, accompanied by Palaniswami, Vasudeva Sastri and others. He had an oil-bath there and was nearing Tortoise Rock on the way back when a sudden physical weakness overcame him. He described it fully afterwards.
“The landscape in front of me disappeared as a bright white curtain was drawn across my vision and shut it out. I could distinctly see the gradual process. There was a stage when I could still see a part of the landscape clearly while the rest was covered by the advancing curtain. It was just like drawing a slide across one’s view in a stereoscope. On experiencing this I stopped walking lest I should fall. When it cleared I walked on. When darkness and faintness came over me a second time I leaned against a rock until it cleared. The third time it happened I felt it safer to sit, so I sat down near the rock. Then the bright white curtain completely shut off my vision, my head was swimming and my circulation and breathing stopped. The skin turned a livid blue. It was the regular death hue and it got darker and darker. Vasudeva Sastri, in fact, took me to be dead and held me in his arms and began to weep aloud and lament my death.
“I could distinctly feel his clasp and his shivering and hear his words of lamentation and understand their meaning. I also saw the discoloration of my skin and felt the stoppage of my circulation and breathing and the increased chilliness of the extremities of my body. My usual current of awareness still continued in that state also. I was not in the least afraid and felt no sadness at the condition of the body. I had sat down near the rock in my usual posture and closed my eyes and was not leaning against the rock. The body, left without circulation or respiration, still maintained that position. This state continued for some ten or fifteen minutes. Then a shock passed suddenly through the body and circulation revived with enormous force, and breathing also, and the body perspired from every pore. The colour of life reappeared on the skin. I then opened my eyes and got up and said, ‘Let’s go.’ We reached Virupaksha Cave without further trouble. This was the only fit I had in which both circulation and respiration stopped.”
The above is from Arthur Osborne, as quoted by geocities.
This brought about a change in the way Ramana interacted with those around him. From www.anglefire.com:
Ramana’s second death experience seemingly opened the door for an embracing of family and outsiders that previously had not manifested itself in Ramana’s previous outward actions. To wit:
“This new experience may not have upstaged his previous realization (but) it did serve to reintegrate him with his bodily vehicle and with life.”
“After this he was more at ease in everyday circumstances, and began to increasingly associate with those seekers who gathered around him.”
We have been interested in Turtle Rock (also called Tortoise Rock) for some time. We asked our Arunachala mountain guide, Saran, to take us to Turtle Rock. He said that it would not be too hard a trip, it was a little below the level of Virupaksha Cave. This posting shows this walk and climb.
We rode our scooter up the small road that goes up the hill from the northwest corner of Arunachaleswara Temple. We then turned right onto this side street.
Here is the Arunachala peak.
Walking up the road, we remember that we have been here before, when we went to Palamaram Ashram.
We turn right onto a dirt path.
We pass a few buildings, then go up these stone steps.
Here is a view of the big temple from the dirt path.
More walking up the path.
Then we turn right and go down a small street.
This is paved anyway.
We cut across what seems like someone’s yard. This is pretty common here, that these paths go right through someone’s property.
We see the water tank again. We saw this going up to Turtle Cave. But today we are going to Turtle Rock.
Up the hill.
We pass by these rocks. This space is large enough for a person to get in.
Now we are starting to do more climbing than walking.
Saran waits for us. He has our clippers and is cutting through some of the brush and thorns ahead.
Sometimes Carol needed a hand up. This is not usual.
Climbing up. I don’t think Saran realizes just how old we are. This is stuff kids do. And mountain goats.
We are high enough to get a nice view of the town.
Can you see a path here? Carol goes through the brush. Saran has cut a way.
What a nice view of Arunachaleswara Temple! The morning light is great.
Going through more brush crossing over laterally on the side of the rocks.
We get to Turtle Cave, where Carol and I have been before.
It turns out that Turtle Rock is the big curved rock that forms the left hand side of Turtle Cave.
Saran climbed up (barefoot) without us and took the camera.
Here is the turtle’s face.
And another cave higher up in these rocks.
Looking down the mountain.
Across the mountain, looking north.
Rough rocks make up much of the slope.
A view of the big temple from this perspective.
The turtle’s face, once again.
Saran, sitting after his climb up.
Carol sitting on a rock.
The rock she is sitting on is the rock that Ramana sat on during his second death experience.
Saran told us that during this experience, Palaniswami was very concerned for Ramana, and went down the hill to get someone to help. But there was no one to help. When he came back, Ramana had passed through the experience.
We crossed over the face of the rock, on the other side where we knew the path down would be a little better.
Down the hillside we go!
Afterwards we stopped in a small Indian cafe that serves breakfast and lunch. It is packed for both meals. The food is inexpensive and very good. We go there whenever we can. Breakfast for the three of us was Rs 59.
Here is a map of the area. Many interesting things are on this side of Arunachala.
And close up.
Another adventure. We like Turtle Cave. Before Ramana left Virupaksha Cave, this is a place we understand that he would come often. This was the period that Ramana did much roaming all over Arunachala. In those days there was not the vegetation and trees on the hill that there is today, and there were few places where there was shade. This is one of those places, and apparently was well frequented by Ramana.