Pavala Kundru has a rich meaning, dating from the Puranas. It is where Parvati did her tapas, her penance, after blindfolding Siva and bringing destruction to the universe. It is also where she and Siva merged into one, becoming half man and half woman, representing the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies. The Ardhanariswara form illustrates how the female principle of God, Shakti, is inseparable from the male principle of God, Siva.
For more on the history of Pavala Kundru, go to this post on ArunachalaGrace.
More recently, Pavala Kundru is associated with Sri Ramana Maharshi. He lived there for a time in 1898, and it is there that he had his first meeting with his mother, where she tried to get him to move back home with her. His response, written on a slip of paper was,
“In accordance with the prarabdha of each, the One whose function it is to ordain makes each to act. What will not happen will never happen, whatever effort one may put forth. And what will happen will not fail to happen, however much one may seek to prevent it. This is certain. The part of wisdom therefore is to stay quiet.” At this point his mother returned to Madurai, saddened.
We visited Pavala Kundru on our first visit to Tiruvannamalai, when we accompanied our spiritual teacher, Nome from SAT. We went there again recently, feeling that it was long past time to do so. This posting shows some of what we saw during this visit.
Map of area:
Close up map:
In Ramana’s day, Pavala Kundru marked the extent of Tiruvannamalai, which really consisted of buildings surrounding the big temple, Arunachaleswara, for about three blocks. So when Ramana stayed there, it was out of the city, on the edge of the forest and fields that surrounded the city at that time. Now, as you will see from these photos, it is in the midst of the city, with houses on all sides.
To get the Pavala Kundru, continue down Big Street past the big Temple. After taking the left turn like you are going to the bus stop, about three streets to the left, you turn onto the side road that leads to the steps at the base of the temple.
This gateway announces the temple. Go to the end of the street.
Stairs go up and up towards the temple.
You can start to see the striped walls of the temple as you climb the stairs.
The steps at the bottom are stone slabs. Each has a different Tamil expression carved into the face of the step.
Part way up there is a small Ganesh shrine. The Nandi’s head is broken off.
Further up there is a nice Nandi that is cared for each day.
It points to this shrine on the side of the hill.
Inside the shrine are the gods. I think there is Ganesh on the bottom right and probably Murugan on the bottom left.
More steps up.
We can see the East, South and North Gopuram of Arunachaleswara Temple from the steps.
More steps up.
Monkeys live on this hillside. This is a space within the city where they can live in a natural habitat.
Below is the gate into the temple.
Inside the gate, we see the front of Pavala Kundru temple. Nandi is in front.
Above the entrance are Siva and Parvati riding on Nandi.
Nandi, closer up. To the right is the altar where one is to leave offerings. Especially one should offer the ego here.
On the left side is a sign marking the work done in 2004 by Sri Ramanasramam, and with the famous note to Alagammal, Ramana’s mother.
To the left of the East wall is a Ganesh shrine.
On the right wall is some recognition of the significance of this site for Parvati.
And a Murugan shrine.
The door to the main deity of this temple, Ardhanariswara, is not open today.
The posts in front of the temple have elaborate carvings (as is usual with old temples).
The tower over the main shrine shows usual Siva-related symbols. Here is Sarasvati, with Dakshinamurthy above.
This is Vishnu, reclining, with a five-headed Naga shielding him.
Murugan on his peacock is at the base of this side of the tower.
Another tower, towards the front of the temple.
On the roof are Nandis on each corner (which is common) The crocodile below Nandi is not common.
Candesha shrine to the side of the temple. We should clap our hands into this shrine to show that we leave empty handed.
Here is Candesha. With an axe.
Carol sits and meditates in front of the temple.
Below, another view of the big Temple from the top of “the Coral Rock.”
Behind the temple is a panoramic view of Arunachala. First is the West tower of the big temple. The hill on the left side of Arunachala shown below is the hill that the path to Skandashram goes by.
The dark trees in the top middle of the hill is Skandashram. Note that most or all of these houses would not have existed in Ramana’s day.
The Arunachala peak. Houses at the bottom.
We are looking toward Pachimman Koil now, north from the temple.
This is another place that is quiet and not usually visited by westerners (or Indians).
We think, given its history with Parvati and Ardhanariswara, it should be much more known. We think especially, given the evolution of the place of women in Indian society, that this could be a most valuable temple for the modern Indian woman.