As we explore Arunachala we keep finding ‘caves’, some already widely known, some not. A friend suggested that we put this onto the blog. This seems a good idea, we can find nothing like this available now. So here it is.
Our exploration of Arunachala is ongoing. As we find more caves we update this post from time to time. In it I refer and link to other postings where there are more photos and information about specific caves. I have also developed maps, using Google Earth tm, to assist you in actually locating each cave.
I put quotes around the first instance of ‘caves’ since what are called caves here are sometimes nothing more than a sheltered space under a big rock. Some are natural, some have been improved, usually by building walls and adding a concrete floor. Some have been dug out under rocks.
Is some cases the individual caves already have names in common use. Most do not, and for the purposes of this listing I am calling these by names that I made up. If you know of other caves, or you know the correct names of caves I show here, I ask that you let me know, and I will update this listing.
The December 2008 posting showed 18 caves. Now 24 are shown.
Caves Associated with Sri Ramana Maharshi
The map below shows the well known Virupaksha Cave and Skandashram. Also on paths up to these caves are Mango Tree Cave, Guhai Namasivaya Temple and cave, and Banyan Tree Cave (also known as Alamarathu Guhai Cave). A bit to the north is Turtle Rock and Cave (or Tortoise Rock/Cave).
Banyan Tree Cave (also known as Alamarathu Guhai Cave)
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi lived in this cave as he worked his way up the mountain, finally residing at Virupaksha Cave then Skandashram. More about this cave is in this post.
This cave is rarely visited by Ramana devotees. In fact, I don’t think that most of them even know about it. This is the first cave in which Ramana lived after he left Pavala Kundru. This is also the lowest one used by Ramana on the mountain.
To get to the cave, you go up a small street just south of the West Gate to the big temple. The road turns into a path (that goes through an area where people dump garbage).
You will see a large building up stairs to the right. This is where Alamaragugai cave is located.
The Alamaragugai Ashram.
The cave was renovated by Swami Satchidananda, from Kerala, in 1994.
In the small hall outside the cave there are a number of spiritual paintings. The one below, the Holy Feet, is at the entrance into the cave.
Here is the Alamaragugai cave, featuring a photo of Ramana Maharshi.
The path up from here takes you to Guhai Nama Sivaya Cave.
Guhai Nama Sivaya Cave
This is another cave in which Ramana lived in 1899. It is here that he wrote the notes which later because the pamphlet, Who am I?
More on this cave is in the post Guhai Namasivaya Temple.
A short clip from Arunachala Grace Blog:
Guhai Namasivaya is known to have been born around the year AD 1548 in Karnataka to a pious Saiva couple. His spiritual nature became evident at an early age: he was virtuous in his conduct, adept at his studies and evinced no attachment to worldly matters.
He practised his system of yoga for many years and as a result of the dream guidance of Lord Mallikarjuna, the presiding deity of Sri Sailam, Guhai Namasivaya came to Arunachala and remained as a Guru, giving teachings to mature disciples who approached him.
Looking into the entrance.
A shrine is in the center. The cave is in the big rock behind the shrine.
Here is Guhai Nama Sivaya Cave.
The swami will sit with you in the cave and meditate.
Virupaksha is, for most, deeply associated with Sri Ramana Maharshi. Ramana lived here for 17 years [1899-1916].
Below is a famous photo of the young Ramana at Virupaksha cave.
The cave is named for a famous saint, Virupaksha, who lived in this cave in the 1500′s, around the same time as Guhai Nama Shivaya lived nearby (see above). At Virupaksha’s demise, called here ‘maha samadhi,’ it is said that his body was transformed into vibhuti (sacred ash). In the interior of this cave there is a mound in the shape of Arunachala. It is said to be made of this vibhuti.
More on Virupaksha Cave is in this post.
Mango Tree Cave
During the Virupaksha days, Sri Ramana would come down to Mango Tree Cave during the summer. It was cooler, and there was water here when there was none at Virupaksha Cave. Mango Tree Cave is on the common way up the hill to Virupaksha Cave.
Inside the building, to the back, there is the actual cave. I think the building has been added since Ramana’s time.
Now this small cave is filled with lingams and murtis of many gods.
More on Mango Tree Cave can be round in this blog entry.
More on Skandashram is in the post Walking up to Skandashram.
Sri Ramana lived at Skandashram from 1916 to 1922. His mother joined him during this period, and for the first time, cooking was done there. This is where his mother had her maha samadhi in 1922. Her room is now a shrine.
Tortoise Cave / Tortoise Rock
Tortoise Cave (also called Turtle Cave) was frequented by Sri Ramana during the Virupaksha days. In those days, there were few trees on Arunachala, and not many places with shade. Tortoise Cave has a good flat stone at its entrance to sit on. Here you are in the shade, and there is often a breeze.
This is also the place made famous in the story of Sri Ramana’s ‘second death experience’. This happened when Ramana stopped at Tortoise Cave / Tortoise Rock on his way back from Pachiaimman Koil. More of Tortoise Cave and Rock, and Ramana’s second death experience is in this post. More about Tortoise Cave is also in this post.
From places like Pavala Kundru, Tortoise Cave can be seen as a dark triangle up on the mountain. It is a bit of a climb to get up here. We think it is worth it. You will want to take a Mountain Guide the first time, I think.
Arunachaleswara Temple from Tortoise Cave. A wonderful view.
This rock at the entrance of the cave is where Sri Ramana would have sat and rested. And meditated.
Pavala Kundru can be seen toward the left.
Here is a close up view of the face of the turtle on Tortoise Rock. Tiruvannamalai is in the background.
This cave is a great place to sit in the shade and meditate.
Seven Springs Caves
The next four caves are shown in the Seven Springs posting. They are all located on the hill above Skandashram, on one of the paths that goes to the top of the hill. Only one cave is associated with Ramana, the top one at Seven Springs. They are shown on this map:
This is a cave said to be greatly improved by the work of David Godman in the 1980s, and others later. Maybe ten people can fit into this cave.
Altar in the cave.
Looking out the entrance. John, the archivist at Ramanasramam, stands outside the entrance.
Seven Springs 1
This is first of three caves found at Seven Springs. There is a stone entrance built, and a good altar in the cave. Maybe four people can fit in here.
Up the hill you can see stonework.
The entrance, from the inside.
Richard, offering incense to the altar.
Carol, exiting the cave.
Seven Springs 2
This is a small cave, behind Seven Springs 1. Maybe two people fit inside. Many stone and concrete improvements have been made.
Richard, meditating in the cave.
Ramana’s resting cave
I call it ‘Ramana’s Resting Cave’ since this is the cave in which Ramana was known to rest, while others made the climb up to the top of Arunachala.
It is in the shade all day with a nice breeze through it, and a view out through green trees.
The entrance is a bit tight, though. (There is another entrance higher up, on the opposite side of the cave.)
Caves in Virupaksha Cave Area
(These are shown on the map in the Seven Springs Caves section, above.)
Palamaram Ashram Cave
The Palamaram Ashram is ‘generations’ old and has been run by one family for these generations. Palamaram is the Tamil word for ‘jackfruit’ (but we did not see a jackfruit tree). The guru who was most recently active here, per our mountain guide, was Palamaram Swami, who was here for 40 years and for the last 15 years has been in the Himalayas.
Steps lead up the the ashram. The flag pole can be seen from down the hill.
The cave is under this rock. The doors into the cave are locked, and you will have to see if you can find someone who can open them. Often you cannot find the person. We could not when we visited.
For more on this place, see the Palamaram Ashram Post.
Wedding Cave is a small cave to the north of Virupaksha. It is rarely visited by Westerners. We just discovered it by accident, looking for some other place. It is at the base of the hill. You have to travel through residential areas, then up hillside trails to reach it.
To get to the cave, you have to climb up the rock, to the right of what can be seen in this photo.
Krishna is painted on the rock, with a peacock feather on his head.
A great view of Pavala Kundru can be seen from here.
Arunachaleswara Temple, too.
More is found in Wedding Cave Post.
Dugout cave is a cave under a rock below Tortoise Cave.
To get to it, you go through the hillside, as shown below.
A nice spot has been dug out under this rock. There are several cushions lying in the cave. Maybe there was a smaller cave, that was ‘improved’ to make a better space. I know nothing of the history of this cave.
Another photo of the terrain around this cave.
This is seen as a part of this post.
Caves below Virupaksha Cave
These caves are described in the post New Access to Ramana Sites below Virupaksha.
Below Virupaksha 1
This cave is big enough that one or two people can sit in it.
Below Virupaksha 2
This cave is very small. One person can lie down in it.
Below Virupaksha 3 – Associated with Ramana?
This cave is said by local villagers to be one used by Ramana in the early days. Recently, people have built walls and a door and an altar in it.
This map shows (right to left) Papaji’s Cave, Aum Amma’s Cave, Kattu Siva Cave, Unused Cave, Gameplayers Cava (Mankala Cave), and Pathside Cave. The red line indicates the Inner Path.
Caves on Papaji’s Knoll
Papaji’s Cave 1
The first ‘cave’ of Papaji’s is in the area where part of his ashes were scattered. This is a nice place to sit and meditate at the altar that has been set up there. This is one of our favorite places on Arunachala.
Papaji’s Cave 2
The next of the caves named for Papaji, and one that he is said to have lived in, is near the first cave, down the rock and a bit up the path.
Carol enters the cave from the path.
Richard and Carol, meditating in the cave.
Below is part of a mother goddess statue, placed in this cave.
Aum Amma’s Cave
Aum Amma’s cave is the most developed of any cave we have found so far (except for those, like Virupaksha, which have had buildings constructed around them).
Many bags of cement were carried up the hill to make these cave improvements. Aum Amma lived her for several years until just a few years ago.
Stairs lead down into a main room.
There is a good view out the “window” in the main room. It looks like sometimes that people sleep in this cave, though you are not supposed to, and if you stay too long, the Forestry Department people will chase you out.
Caves in Kattu Siva area
Kattu Siva Cave
This cave is shown in the post Kattu Siva Cave.
There is a nice cleared area around the cave. this is good place to come during the heat of the day. There is plenty of shade.
Climbing over the rocks at the end of the clearing, a hole in the rock appears.
This is Kattu Siva’s cave. A big rock, in front of Richard, has fallen into the cave. Will someone be able to remove it?
On the top of the rock over the cave, a cement water catching area was made. The photo below looks over this to the Arunachala hillside behind Kattu Siva’s cave.
Cave Above Kattu Siva Meditation Perch – Unused Cave
This is a small unused cave. Rocks need to be cleared from the floor to make a good sleeping area.
Mankala Cave (or Gameplayers Cave)
This cave is shown in the post Kattu Siva path Renewal – Part 1. It is under a rock that looks like a natural lingam as you approach this cave.
Cave next to Inner Path near Kannappa Temple – Pathside Cave
This cave is shown in the post Inner Path – Around Parvati Hill.
A path leads to it from the Inner Path.
This cave was improved with a stone and cement wall in front.
A nice cement floor has been put in the cave.
Caves on Northside of Arunachala
Naga Cave is shown in the map, below.
This is not too far from Pachaiamman Koil. It is between the Inner Path and Arunachala, just barely visible from the path. You may notice a bit of color towards Arunachala.
Turn to the right on a small path, just before a water storage tank. As you approach you see a small cave.
To the left is a primitive altar, featuring a Naga, snake god, a holy cobra. Standing beside this are seven other gods.
The colors noticed from the path are the fine clothes that the seven gods are wearing.
The cave is small. Only one person can sit in it. Not good for sleeping, either.
More is to be found in the Naga Cave Post.
More caves to find, more of Arunachala to explore
I have heard of more caves. I have been told of nine more:
- There are four caves on the hill above the Mountain of Medicine Arunachala reforestation facility.
- There is another cave high above Papaji’s cave.
- There are three caves somewhere on the north side.
- There is a cave near Virupaksha occupied by a sadhu that does not like to be bothered.
What else is there? We have to explore to know more. If you know of any more caves that haven’t been listed, please let me know.
For a complete listing of other Arunachala posts, go to Arunachala Inner Path.