Walking up to Skandashram

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Here in Tiruvannamalai for many Westerners the focus is on Sri Ramana Maharshi and Ramanasramam. Many of these go up Arunachala to the caves where Ramana lived and taught and gave darshan.

One of these caves is Skandashram. It is perhaps one mile from Ramanasramam, up a well cared-for path, up the side of the mountain.

Ramana lived at Skandashram from 1915 to 1922. This is where his mother joined him, and started preparing meals at the ashram, rather than having prepared food carried up, as had been the case since the earliest years. After the mahasamadhi of Mother, and her subsequent interment at the base of the hill, Ramana then took residence at her samadhi, the location of the present day Ramanasramam.

I show here photos from a recent walk up the hill to Skandashram. We started about 7:15 in the morning, before it was too hot. We left out the back gate of Ramanasramam.

Getting started

Going through Sri Ramanasramam

Carol walking through Ramanasramam to path to Skandashram

One of the several ‘hill guides’ that will offer to take you to Skandashram and other places on the hill. They will ask for money for their services.

One of the guides who accompany newcomers

This is the gate through the back of Ramanasramam to Skandashram and other places on the Holy Hill. This sign says that it is locked at various times during the day. After it opens at about 6 AM I have never seen it to be locked.

The gate from Ramanasramam

Starting up the hill

Starting on the path

A woman working gathered plant materials.

Village woman collecting plants

Up the path we go, Arunachala above us.

Starting to climb up the path

The path is paved with stone, from Ramanasramam all the way to Skandashram, stones set into the dirt, forming a path about three feet wide. In steep areas there are steps. Someday these stones will be smooth, after 100,000’s of feet have passed over them. Each stone was carried to the path and set into the ground by unnamed workers.

On both sides of the path you will notice tree plantings, done as part of the Arunachala reforestation project that has been going on the the last few years. Ramanasramam has increased interest in Arunachala both around the world, and in India. It is this increased interest in Arunachala that has brought this project about.

Take the right fork. To the left is an entry into the Inner Path for pradakshina. Here is an article on the first leg of the walk on the inner path.

The path forfs, Skandashram to the right

Up the hill

Carol is barefoot. Arunachala, the whole mountain, is considered to be a temple, and in India you take off your shoes in a temple. Many Westerners do not do this, but Carol goes barefoot on the walk to Skandashram. I do wear sandals. Carol gets more ‘punya,’ spiritual merit.

Carol walks barefoot up the path

And up the hill …

Climbing stairs here

Often there are people sitting on these rocks and meditating here. Not today.

To the  left, a place to sit and meditate

Up the path

Up the path

View along the way down to Tiruvannamalai.

View to the right of the path

Keep going up

The path keeps going up

A Sadhu is usually here – “Sivo Hum,” he may say.

Sadhu's spot

There are stone carvers along the way. Stop and look at their work. It is good and not expensive. We have several pieces on our altar at home.

Stone carver

Up to the top of the path

Up to the top

The view from the top of the path. The main temple, Arunachaleswara, is below. This is one of the main Siva temples in India.

View from the top - Aranachaleswara Temple

And now to Skandashram. Skandashram is the in clump of trees in the center of the photo.

Final leg of the path

Here we are, but the gate is locked, so we have to sit and wait a few minutes. The Swami usually gets here about 8 AM. Then he will chant shortly after he opens the ashram.

Skandashram Skandashram gate

Path down to Virapakshu Cave. It is pretty steep. To the left starts one of the paths to the top. I would recommend that this be taken only with a guide, good shoes and plenty of water. And only if you are in pretty good physical shape.

Aranachaleswara Temple from Skandashram

Opening the gate, walking in. The Swami unlocks the gates.

Opening the gate

And enters the ashram.

Entering Skandashram grounds

Skandashram.

Skandashram

View from Skandashram

HPIM4355

Entering Skandashram

Entering Skandashram

The inner chamber, with the attendant getting ready for the morning chant. This chant is wonderful to listen to. The voice is resonant, and you can hear the love for the teaching in the voice. When we go up to Skandashram, we try to get there for this morning chant. We will sit in the outer chamber, and listen to the chant and meditate, and continue the meditation after the chant is finished.

Innter chamber

Looking out from the porch

Looking out

The Mother’s Quarters

Mother's room Altar in Mother's room

One last look around

Skandashram grounds

One last look at Skandashram

Skandashram

Back down the path

Path back to Ramanasramam

The walk down the hill was harrowing. A tree with a bees nest had fallen, and the bees chased some people down the hill. I was one of these. A swarm of bees circled around my head, stinging the back of my head several times. I was able to brush then out of my ears and off my mouth and face without getting stung there. Finally, about halfway down the hill, they stopped following me.

This is why the photos end with the one above.

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13 Responses to “Walking up to Skandashram”

  1. Barefoot walk to Skandashram – Rambulatory Says:

    […] from Living in the Embrace of Arunachala, a lovely blog by Richard Clarke. You might want to read his post on walking to Skandashram, which includes photos he took every step of the way. It’s interesting to note that photos of […]

  2. Sukhendu Roy Chowdhury Says:

    I really feel blessed to see those places trodden by Bhagwan and I too had the opportunity to walk on that path a number of times. I feel deeply indebted to the author of this article.

  3. Jiivanii Zhu Says:

    I was there this year In March and April for 2 weeks…

    I came up to the temple every morning, listening to the chanting that may bring us to the stillness

    Thank you for editing this article!

    Jiivanii Zhu

  4. Ramana Maharshi Timeline and Places – by Richard Clarke | Luthar.com Says:

    […] 1916 – 1922 Skandashram […]

  5. Ramana Maharshi Timeline | Ramana Maharshi Tours Says:

    […] Skandashram […]

  6. Baba Sai Says:

    thank a lot dad for teaching me all this.I may be a bad son that time.Believe me i had changed now.Thanks dad for being with me.
    May ur soul rest in peace

  7. Gavin Rhodes Says:

    Dear Richard,

    I’m travelling to Tiruvannamalai in January 2012. I’m looking to rent a room to complete a 49 day solitary retreat within. Do you know of an ashram that might be willing and able provide a meal a day with private toilet facilities within a room, or anywhere else quiet that I could rent a room with a private toilet and a stove please ?

    Many thanks for your help.

    Much love,
    Gavin Rhodes
    lesgoose@hotmail.com

    • richardclarke Says:

      January is in the midst of the main ‘season’ here, and some years the availability of rooms is pretty limited. That said, you can probably find something then, when you come. What can you pay? That might make a big difference.

  8. Caves of Arunachala – July 2009 Update | Luthar.Com: HarshaSatsangh Says:

    […] More on Skandashram is in the post Walking up to Skandashram. […]

  9. Caves of Arunachala | Luthar.Com: HarshaSatsangh Says:

    […] More on Skandashram is in the post Walking up to Skandashram. […]

  10. richardclarke Says:

    Dear Nidhana,

    I found Sri Ramana while living in the USA in 1990. This was from going to satsang at SAT (Society of Abidance in Truth), in Santa Cruz, CA and listening to Nome. These teachings went deep and into my heart.

    After years of practice, I came to Tiruvannamalai with a group traveling with Nome four years ago. I found with meditating in the early morning with Arunachala the same kind of peace I found meditating with Nome.

    Retirement was getting near. I felt that retirement in Tiruvannamalai where I could live with Arunachala and Sri Ramana was the right thing to do.

    And it has been.

    The peace of Arunachala pervades our lives.

    Om Arunachala,
    Richard

  11. nidhana Says:

    Dear Richard,

    That was a neat account of your trip to Skandashram albeit a harrowing one in the end what with the bees making you scurry for cover!

    I came to your blog via the “Arunachala Grace” blog….

    Nice to know that you’ve chosen Tiruvannamalai as your new home. May your stay here in India be of much peace to the body and soul. Congrats on taking a monumental decision to follow the ways of your heart.

    Having said that…may I please ask why Westerners are more interested in Sri Ramana Rishi more than the Lord Arunachala? The point here being, Sri Ramana himself was a devotee of the Lord Arunachaleshwarar. Your inputs will be appreciated…this is not to offend you but to satiate the deep curiosity that I have for years!

    Thanks!

    N

  12. Outdoor Activities Says:

    […] richardclarke placed an observative post today on Walking up to SkandashramHere’s a quick excerptHere in Tiruvannamalai for many Westerners the focus is on Sri Ramana Maharshi and Ramanasramam. Many of these go up Arunachala to the caves where Ramana lived and taught and gave darshan. One of these caves is Skandashram. … […]

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