We are exploring Arunachala, looking at possible pradakshina routes that do not go through Tiruvannamalai. Many people say that they would like to be able to walk around Arunachala without the need to walk through the noise and traffic of the city. In a previous post I show the start of the exploration, beginning at Pachaiamman Koil. This post shows the continuation, where we walk across the side of Arunachala to a place near Virupaksha Cave.
We also found a new cave during this exploration. We do not know its name. For this post we call it “Cave above Madurai Veeran Koil.”
Here is a map of the area. Today’s route began at the new cave, then across the side of the mountain and back down near Turtle Cave.
This is Arunachala after we began the walk up the path from Pachaiamman Koil.
The hillside in front of us looks rugged. We have tried to find a path through here previously, and so far have not.
We look towards the ridgeline ahead of us. We will have to cross over it somewhere. In the center left of the photo below is a big rock and some green trees, which function as a landmark for us.
Looking back down the mountain. Barely visible in the photo below are two white horses that indicate some kind of temple there.
The picture below was taken with a telephoto lens. Since this photo was taken, we have walked through this temple, and learned that it is Madurai Veeran Koil. We were told this means, ‘Important person from Madurai Temple.’ We’ll show better pictures of it in a subsequent post.
We get nearer to our “landmark” rock.
We walk over a man-made water retaining wall and approach the rock. There is a cave under it! It does not look like it is being used now, since there is thorny brush covering its entrance.
We cut the brush back so we can enter.
It has definitely been improved by someone. There are two brick walls. One is shown below.
A kind of shelf or possible sleeping area has been dug out in the back of the cave.
Carol sits in the entrance. I am sitting on the shelf in back.
We met some other Western people here today. They told us that they had explored here before, and there was no way over the lower saddleback ridge to the low side of the mountain, so we had to scramble up a rocky break up to our right. This marked the end of any path today.
In the photo below we look back down the hill. The rock with the cave is in the center of the photo, then Tiruvannamalai below. It is hazy today, so Tiru is not clear.
Higher up the ridge, looking back.
We are near the top of the ridge. Carol is on another stone water wall. Notice that she has a walking stick. They are surely recommended for this kind of walking on Arunachala.
Below, one of the eastern features of Arunachala. Does anyone know what this is called? I am sure it has a name, I just don’t know it.
The peak. Notice in the foreground all the rocks. This is typical of some of our walk today.
Carol is ahead. There is no path. We are making our way cross country. The area here is lumps of grass, dirt and boulders. We can walk through OK. We saw the other Westerners climb further up the hillside to the right. We think that maybe this is too much climbing for this to be a viable pradakshina trail, so we decide to see what we can find by basically staying on the same level we are on now.
Arunachala towers over us. We are getting views not usually seen from this close. More usually this view is seen from the city, much further away.
Through the haze ahead we get our first glimpse of the Big Temple, Arunachaleswarar Temple.
More rocks to walk through. We will go diagonally up to the right, then the left.
This is the kind of terrain we walk through. Notice another stone water wall to the right. There are many on the hillside, part of the ongoing attempts to reduce erosion and take care of Arunachala.
Arunachala again. Carol is ahead, visible with her white pants and hat.
We are on the side of the hill, on a long rock face that is easy walking. The Big Temple is ahead.
Below us is a village woman. She is one of several who are working on the hillside, cutting long grass, tying it into bundles, and setting it to dry on the rocks. Later they will carry it down the hill. I am not sure of what it is used for. I have seen something like these bundles used with a thatched roof, to add improved insulation from the hot sun.
The hillside around us. I am looking back the way we came. Rocky.
The hillside ahead. Rocky.
A big view behind. We have walked here along the strip of broken ground and rocks that extends through the middle of this photo generally to the right. There is a band of this terrain along much of the way we have walked. It is not bad to walk through, much better than walking through the grass and brush.
Carol sits for a minute to rest and take in the view.
Ahead the city and Big Temple, through the haze.
Walking along the rock face. The easiest walking of the day.
Rising over the crest of the ridge is a green hill. I know this is the hill that is along the walk up to Skandashram. We are getting close.
A rough area ahead to walk (and climb) over.
Arunachala above. I wonder about caves in the the nearby rocks?
Ahead are more rocks to walk, and the Big Temple.
We pass Pavala Kundru Temple, seen amid the trees far below us.
There are no photos of what came next. We came around the rock face on this hillside. The rocks were getting vertical. Maybe there is a way across them, but what comes after that? This is getting kind of scary.
I decide that it is better to head down the steep rock face. I think that maybe there is a trail, or some better passable area below where we can get through. I think we have a few hundred meters to go before the walking will be good, for sure. Who knows what is between here and there, but going downhill with our sticks, and ability to slide down rocks if we cannot walk, seems the best option. But not a very good one.
We go down. There is not a good trail for quite a while. For much of the descent, the grass bundlers have not even been here, it is too difficult. Finally I see areas where they have cut grass and are drying it. I know now that we will be able to get out. There will be some kind of path out of here that the grass cutters use.
We finally get to the bottom of this, and I can see the hill on the way to Skandashram. We are not quite to Tortoise Rock and Cave, the location of Ramana’s “Second Death Experience.” We think the way that Ramana used to walk from Pachaiamman Koil was along the side of the mountain, to Tortoise Rock, then Virupaksha Cave. The way we came today, until we got stuck on the cliff side, might have been the way, but there has to be some other route. I think maybe higher on the hillside like the other Westerners took today.
We will continue to explore on this hillside. There is much of interest to us. Look for future posts. The next in this series will show the Madurai Veeran Koil.