After all the recent fires, you now need to get permits from the Forest Department to walk Pradakshina on the Inner Path.
You can do it the day before if you are starting early in the morning. Go to the office. Make sure that you have identity papers for everyone that are walking with you. It takes maybe 1/2 hour.
I would recommend that you take a rickshaw to the office. The driver will help you find it, and may be able to help get your permit. The people working in the Forest Department do not, as a rule, speak much English. You will only be able to get a permit for one walk. Maybe you can get more if you pay a “special fee” to the Forest Officer. The Tamil man who helped us said he thought that it looked like the man we dealt with was thinking about how much to ask.
Here is a photo of the entrance to the office.
Here is it located on a Google Earth map. I marked it in green on this map.
On the Google Map below it is on the street marked in yellow, between route 234 and the Arunachaleswarar Temple. It is two blocks north of the ICICI bank, on the right hand side of the road.
Here is what a permit looks like. Typical of many Indian documents, it has a big stamp in the lower left that is initialed and dated, and a signature.
So far we have not actually seen anybody checking for permits. But you never know.
Here is a comment I received from a reader on the subject:
The Forest Dept. did this a few years back after some fires. It lasted a few months; there was a man seated at the back of the ashram checking permits of those going through the back gate. It makes no sense but makes it look as if something is being done. It won’t last long!
They were speaking of Ramanasramam, where many start on the Inner Path.
Walking to Skandashram was on the permit form we got, but it was crossed out. I do not think there is any restriction on that. I think these are old forms that they had already, made when they were trying to control access to Skandashram a few years ago. So they already had a permit form to use, which is good because I can’t imagine how long it would take them to make a new permit form and copy it. All access to the Inner Path might have been blocked while they were making up the permit form. That would not surprise me from what I have seen dealing with Indian bureaucracies.
I want to make sure that those who come to Tiruvannamalai for Inner Path Pradakshina know about the need for the new permit. This morning we met a group of Indian people from Chennai walking the Inner (and Yellow) path. They had come for Inner Path Pradakshina. They had a permit, so there was no problem. (though no guard was at the Ramanasramam gate at 6 AM to have a problem, either.) They had found out about the need, I think from a recent posting about fires on Arunachala. Many people from outside Tiruvannamalai would not know about the current need for this permit. I know that some check this site, so maybe this announcement of local news will be of use.