"Monkey Temple" – relic from Arunachala’s past


We have noticed an old, abandoned building near Girivalam Road, about where Kannapa Temple is. This  post shows this building, and tells what we have been able to find  out about it so far (which is not much). This building is called ‘Monkey Temple’ by the local people.


The map below shows the general area, with the Monkey Temple on the left.

Monkey Temple map

The image below is a closeup map. The Outer Path is saffron, the Inner Path is red, connecting paths are green, trails around Arunachala are yellow. Temples have saffron pushpin markers.


Finding the Temple

In the sequence below, we start on the road, look to the Monkey Temple and then walk to it.


To locate this place, here is a view of the street.


Across the street, there is this nice Nandi.


As we walk towards the old temple, it can just barely be seen through the trees. We start to notice there are other things here.


Holy Shrines on the way

The first thing is this trident. It is certainly Siva’s Trident. It is decorated with a flower mala. If you look closely you will see some women’s bangle bracelets that have been placed around the central tine of the trident. 

HPIM2870 closeup

Nearby is a small shrine with the kind of primitive stone gods that are common here.


Walking towards the temple, there is another stone. It almost looks like a western gravestone, but I am sure that it is not.


In the closeup below, I have enhanced the contrast. You can read ‘ANNAMALAI’ in the center. This is the older name for Arunachala. There is other writing using western characters at the top, and maybe Tamil writing below. I can’t make out any of this. That it uses western letters says something about this sign. I don’t think it could have been too old. Otherwise it would just be in Tamil.

HPIM2874 closup

The ancient temple, close up

As we approach the temple, a sadhu is walking through the woods. He is to the right of this photo.


Naturally, leaving no advertising opportunity untouched, there is a sign painted on this side of this holy relic. I bet the advertisers liked this place, since they did not have to pay anyone to use this space for their sign. Some might think this is not respectful of the history of this building.


These walls rise about 25 feet. There is no roof now.



This closeup below shows stones at the bottom of the middle level, changing to bricks. The facing has come off above, so the bricks can be seen. There are stone blocks set into the side walls. Was this decoration, or were they supports for some structure? On the back wall (and side wall) near the middle of the photo, one sees brickwork decoration where there is a brick then a space then a brick.

HPIM2886 closup

At the top of both sides, there are regularly spaced areas where the bricks have fallen apart. Were these the places where roof supports were, long ago?


Inside, towards the back wall, no sign can be seen of the altar that must have been there.


Looking out from the temple, you see Parvati Hill (Unammalai) in the foreground, and Arunachala (Annamalai) in the background. We think  this view has a special power, with the male Siva rising above the female Parvati. Maybe this is why this temple was at this location. This is really the only place where you can get this view.


The stone floor to the front of the temple is relatively intact.


Below, you can see how the floor fits together. The center piece is lifted up and rotated a bit. Its curved top matches the curve on the two stones above it, while the straight side matches the straight side of the stone to the right of it. the stonecutters must have had great skill. All the stones on the lower level fit together perfectly


History of the Monkey Temple

As we understand the history, this temple was built by some king, long ago. You can see the age because of the building style, where the  lower level is made from carved stones, fit tightly together without any cement or mortar. The higher levels are built of red bricks and cement, they way that things are constructed now. It may be that the different levels of the building were constructed at different times. We just don’t know. We are asking around to see if we can find out more. It is called the ‘Monkey Temple’ by locals, since now mainly it is occupied by monkeys.

Things on and around Arunachala’s Outer Path have changed much since Sri Ramana stopped walking pradakshina in 1926. Recently we heard someone who has been walking around Arunachala  since 1967 tell of some of these changes. He said when he first started walking the ‘Hill Round Road’ was just a dirt track, with few buildings other than the old shrines and lingams. Twenty years ago, we are told, the only time that people would walk around Arunachala was a Deepam and Tamil New Year. The big change came just a few years ago, when lights were installed by a famous Tamil actor, Rajinikanth, known for his ‘Shivaji’ roles. He donated Rs 20 lakh and installed streetlights around the road. With better lighting (and the promotion by one of the Tamil film superstars), many people started coming for every full moon night. Now up to 1.5 million people come to big full moon nights to walk around the hill. Twenty years ago it was just a few people, mainly sadhus, chanting as they did girivalam (also called pradakshina, the circumambulation around a holy person or shrine).

Leaving the Temple

A path leads from the temple. The brush here is now very dry. This is in the hottest time of the year, and rains are at least six more weeks away.


The path leads toward another path going to Kannapa Temple.


Below, looking back to the Monkey Temple. It rises from the jungle floor, dark and ambiguous.


Kannapa Temple is up this path. Parvati Hill is in the background.


Turning in the opposite direction from the view in the photo above, the path leads back to Girivalam Road. The blue color is the back of a chai stall.


The Monkey Temple is just barely visible from the Kannapa Temple  path.


Back on Girivalam Road

Here is the front of the chai stall. It is just before Nityananda’s 1008 Lingams, called Nityananda Dhyana Peedam. Nityananda is a local young man who went to school with friends of ours who are rickshaw drivers. He now is a well publicized holy man here. You will see signs with his photo in many places. 


From the road, one last look at Parvati Hill, with Aruanchala rising to the right.


This is one more ‘Secret’ of Arunachala. It is mainly a secret because people do not take the time to look and notice it, or investigate what they see. We are blessed with the time and  inclination to do just this. That  is why we can post these articles.  

Related Posts

Inner Path – Around Parvati Hill

A Path Across Arunachala
Holy Feet

Kattu Siva Cave

Kattu Siva Meditation Perch
Kattu Siva path Renewal – Part 1
Kattu Siva path Renewal – Part 2

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6 Responses to “"Monkey Temple" – relic from Arunachala’s past”

  1. Jayaveeriah Cv Says:

    It will be a nice experience to do girivalam with Mr.Udaykumar. You can get lot of information about Thiuannamalai and you can interact real sages on your way.. He is good in Sanskrit slogans and will sing for you with his good voice. He can elaborate all events and rituals in and around Tiruannamalai..

    Om Arunachala

  2. bsvprasad Says:


    I discovered your site by accident a few days ago while trying to research for my own blog post on Tiruvannamalai. Since then I have visited it almost daily, and it has never failed to delight, inform, humble, amaze & move me! I hope to have the honour of meeting you when I visit Tiruvannamalai the next time. Thanks & Regards,


    • richardclarke Says:

      I am glad that you enjoy some of the articles on the blog. I will be happy to meet you when next you come. Let me know beforehand and we will set up a time and place.

  3. richardclarke Says:

    Dear Mitra,

    I will see if I can find Uday Kumar in Adi Anamalai. I guess I sould also bring a translator. It sure does not surprise that someone who does girivalam everyday for 24 years is a humble man.

    Om Arunachala,

  4. Mitra Says:

    “Recently we heard someone who has been walking around Arunachala since 1967 tell of some of these changes” – Richard, I know a person called Uday Kumar (who is a tailor by shop name Tulasi Tailors near Adi Annamalai on Girivalam road). I recently met him and realized that he has been walking around the hill EVERYDAY for the last 24 YEARS (Started doing this every day from 1984). Very humble and amazing person.. not sure if you met him though…. Was very surprised to know that he does Girivalam everyday for 24years!!

  5. satvicfood Says:

    Richard, just a quick note on “Nityananda is a local young man… He now is a well publicized holy man here.”:

    Paramahamsa Nithyananda, born in Tiruvannamalai, is a living enlightened master with a world mission to lift individual consciousness to the highest state possible. Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam is a worldwide movement for meditation and healing with its spiritual headquarters in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India.

    thank you for pointing out his ashram with the 1008 lingam field in beautiful Tiruvannamalai.

    love your girivalam map! great service to all who want to walk around the holy hill of Arunachala Shiva 🙂

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