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.
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.
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.
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.
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.