Kattu Siva is a saint that lived on Arunachala in the last century. Kattu means ‘jungle’. Not much is recorded about him. He wore only a loin cloth, forsaking the traditional saffron robes of a renunciate as self-ornamentation. He also would not wear vibhuti, ash, as is usual for a Siva devotee. He lived in a cave under a rock, next to Arunachala. An ashram formed around him, and an ashram building was constructed next to what is now known as the Kattu Siva Tank in Tiruvannamalai, near the Girivalam Road. He would meditate in a chamber under this ashram.
Recently I found out about another cave near the Kattu Siva area, then, after visiting it, found out that it was Kattu Siva’s cave, where he lived for many years.
To locate this area for you, here is a photo of the West end of Arunachala. Parvati Hill is on the the left. Between Parvati Hill and Arunachala is a small hill. The Siva Kattu area is here, towards the rightmost ‘pass’ over the hill.
On the map below, the Kattu Siva area is shown, the Kattu Siva Tank is a main landmark.
To g et to the Kattu Siva Cave, turn right at the Hand Water Pump, turn towards the mountain and follow the path to the right.
One way to get to this area is to take the path from Girivalam Road. This is shown as the green line on the map above. The sign below marks the start of this path.
Walk up the trail, perhaps .5 km. To the left is the Arunachala Kattu Siva Plantation. My wife, Carol, is walking ahead of me. It is early in the morning before the sun has come to this area, when these first photos were taken, so they are not a bright as they could be.
Turning left through the gate, you can see a pump and a small pond.
The International Tree Foundation built this deep well for the Arunachala Kattu Siva Plantation, with a small pond where today water lilies grow and bloom.
Turn right, and walk between the thatched huts towards Arunachala.
When the path forks, take the fork to the right.
After this, you pretty much just follow the path. This path is easy to walk, and is just a short trek from the Plantation.
We walk through the trees.
Here is what I think is a termite mound. In many places, local tribal people have these decorated as shrines.
Sun is starting to brighten the area.
We continue down the path.
Then there is an earth berm for a water catchment basin, with a stone stairway leading up it.
At the top are tall plants with nice 4 inch flowers blooming.
Looking across the catchment basin toward the hill between Arunachala and Parvati Hill.
Looking towards Arunachala. The big rock with a flat top is our destination. The peak is not visible, we are too close to this ridge.
We walk across the berm, into an open area. After a bit, we notice what looks like a path through the brush.
Before we proceed up the path, we look back to Parvati Hill, now in the sunlight.
Up the path. This part of the path is made from rocks brought to this location.
Around a bend.
And the path opens up ahead of us.
We walk into a big area, where it has been cleared and rock walls made from the rocks that were cleared. In the middle stands a grove of three trees. These tree provide great shade during the heat of the day.
Across the clearing we see a hole under the biggest rock. Is this the cave?
Yes it is. Here is Richard climbing into the cave.
Sitting inside I can see rock and cement work that was done to make the cave dry during the rain, and to provide more shelter when in the cave. This kind of rock and cement work, we have found, is common in caves here that have been used for long periods by sadhus and holy people.
A big rock has fallen into the cave, so there is not presently a good sleeping place on the ground in the cave. The dirt floor is dry, even though there has been much rain recently. I have heard that the people at the Arunachala Kattu Siva Plantation plan to remove this rock.
Looking out of the cave.
To the back of the cave there is a shelf built of concrete. It looks like it has a headrest, a stone ‘pillow’, so it is a sleeping shelf.
After we got out of the cave, we climbed the big rock and were greeted with a wonderful view of the area. Here we look at Parvati Hill, with its two peaks. Between this rock and the hill is the forest that now covers this area.
Looking towards the Southwest in the foreground can be seen a small pond full of water. A Cement dam has been constructed around the side of the rock to catch the water. From this view more of the forest on the Southwest side of Arunachala can been seen.
Looking down towards the catchment basin.
Another view on the cement pond. Behind the rock is Arunachala hill. On this side of the hill there are many big rocks on that rise above the forest.
Looking back towards the pass between the hill and Arunachala.
Looking towards Arunachala. Some of the rocks seem like natural lingams.
A close-up on one of these rocks. On another day we will try to get to this rock. Perhaps there is a cave here. Maybe we can climb it and sit and meditate.
We climbed down the rock and returned to the clearing.
We do like this place and know we will return many times.
Before we go, we look back into the clearing, now filled with sunlight.
Back on the path, looking towards Parvati Hill.
Looking over the water in the catchment basin.
We walk over the berm to the rock stairway down.
One last look over the lake and through the trees to the flat rock where Kattu Siva’s cave is.
As we walk back, the sun lights the way. Here is a clearing in the woods, the ground cover nicely green from the recent rains.
On the way back, Carol needs to get her pruning shears out and clip back some thorns.
Walking back, we pass the Kattu Siva tank, maybe 100 feet from the path. The remains of the Ashram are next to this tank.
In the morning the sadhus bathe and wash their saffron robes. We try to be careful not to disturb them.
Finding this cave, discovering more history of this area, and a bit about Kattu Siva, we have found another place we want to visit again and again where we can sit and meditate and enjoy the holy ambiance with which Arunachala is infused. And this place has the shade of trees so we can enjoy it when the sun is full.
We ended our walk with a stop by Arunai Ananta, a ’3-star’ hotel nearby, and enjoyed a large Indian milk coffee and talked about the day’s discoveries.