Exploring Arunachala, Carol and I came across another cave, one under a rock that has a shrine and ashram built around it. We were told by the Arunachala Mountain Guide, Saran, who grew up near this spot, that this is called Palamaram Ashram and 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 Saran, was Palamaram Swamy, who was here for 40 years and for the last 15 years has been in the Himalayas. He said the Ashram is presently handled by Srinivasam.
Here is a map, from the Google Map I have been working on, that shows the area:
A close up map:
To get to this Ashram/Cave, start from the approach to Virupaksha Cave, at the northeast corner of the Arunachaleswara Temple.
Go straight up the road for a bit.
Then turn right.
And follow this street for a few hundred yards.
Below, the view looking back to Arunachaleswara Temple.
Continue up the hill.
Until you can turn right here.
Follow this dirt path for the next part of the way. We pass a house where the mud brick has deteriorated. There are wagon wheels stored here.
Keep walking up the path.
The Arunachala peak from this vantage point.
There are stone steps in the path. This is a sign of care that has been taken in the distant past of this approach to this ashram.
Keep going. There are more stone stairs ahead.
A white building is ahead.
We get to a big eucalyptus tree. This must have been planted, since they are not native to India.
Then, to the left and up the hill is the ashram.
There is a flag pole in front of the shrine.
Then a Ganesh shrine.
The main feature here is a BIG rock, with a cave underneath.
From another angle, the rock is more visible.
There are Tamil words painted on the rock. Maybe someone can translate?
To one side is a door to the cave under the rock.
We can see inside the gate to the door leading to the interior of the cave. There is a passageway that acts as a storage space. Since Srinivasam is not here at the moment, we cannot go further.
Looking back, we have a good view of Arunachaleswara Temple.
To give you some more perspective on this location, the photo below was taken from Pavala Kundru.
The green spot in the upper left is Skandashram. The white and red buildings in the center left are private residences. These can be reached by walking to the right from the tank above Mango Tree Cave (this is actually how we came to Palamaram Ashram on this trip, but I showed you a better route in this posting, the route we took back down the hill today). The small white ‘smudge’ in the middle of the picture is Palamaram Ashram.
Also, note that there is a dark triangular spot in the middle right of this photo. We are told that this is Turtle Cave, site of Ramana’s second ‘near death experience.’ We will explore here soon and post about it.
Palamaram Ashram is one more small wonder of Arunachala. We really do not know how old the ashram is, nor the history of the saint (or saints) associated with it. Perhaps we will learn more. As we do, I will update this post.