We went out searching for a path up to Turtle Cave, which we recently learned of while asking a friend about features we saw on the mountain from Pavala Kundru. We tried to get here a few days ago, and found Palamaram Ashram and Cave. After looking at the satellite photos from Google Earth, I thought we might be able to find a path up the hill from the east side. So we went out this week on my scooter to see what we could find. I planned to turn from the road a bit south of Pavala Kundru, but I could not see it from the road, and drove too far. When we went up the hill exploring, we did not get to our objective this day, but we found another cave, entirely unexpected.
Maps: First the overview map of the area. this area is north of Arunachaleswara Temple, and west of Pavala Kundru, on the bottom of the slopes of Arunachala.
Below is a close-up map. The map shows where we started, the northern section of the yellow path, then the route up the hill to the Wedding Cave, then the path we took south across the mountain and back down to the road.
We drove the scooter up a side road. When it got too steep we parked it and kept walking up the hill. We found a path that went the way we wanted to go and followed it. There were some Indian men around, and they would indicate which way we should go.
After not much walking we came to an outcropping of rock, a large rock on the bottom with more rocks on top. We looked up and saw what seemed like a cave, with the kind of marks they make for the Inner Path (a white cup with red ‘flames’ inside) on both sides, and more painting as well.
There was not a direct way up to the cave, so we went to the right side and started climbing up the side of the rock, then over a narrow ledge to the cave itself.
Painted on the left side was this Tamil script. A friend read it to us and said that it was about a Wedding Puja that was performed here. That is why I will call this the ‘Wedding Cave’ until and unless I am able to find out the local name for it.
The cave is a chamber into the rock. A small person can get in. The floor of the cave is not flat, so this is not somewhere that a person can sleep. At the end of the cave was a shaft of sunlight, so the rocks are open somehow at the other end of the cave.
Looking out from the cave, through the big tree next to it, what is mainly visible is the hillside.
After Carol edged herself further around the rock and found no other way down, we went back over the ledge and scooted down the side of the rock we came up on.
At the base of the rock we found a small altar. If you look above the white ‘U’, you can see a small black lingam.
Looking back up the rock we get a good view of the cave and the painted areas around the entrance. .
To the right of the entrance is the Tamil writing shown above, and also a painted white figure.
The hair kind of looks like Krishna, but the face looks like Hanuman. I am not sure what the symbol over his head. Does anyone know more about this?
Now looking around, away from the hill, the view to the north. They are burning a big pile of trash below and smoke covers much of this area.
Here is a beautiful view of Pavala Kundru. (See this posting for more)
To the south we see three of the main towers of Arunachaleswara Temple. (Here is more).
Above us, here is the Arunachala peak. (See this posting for more).
Looking up the hill. In the foreground is a deteriorating wall from a house that was built here in some earlier era. Now there are no houses here, just a few decaying ruins.
Maybe there are more caves? The dark area under the rock in the middle of the photo looks like one from here.
Looking again at Pavala Kundru.
And Arunachaleswara Temple.
Looking straight down the hill, onto the spur that is topped by Pavala Kundru. Pavala Kundru marked the extent of any development of Tiruvannamalai in Ramana’s day. Now it is an ‘island’ surrounded by the city on three sides with Arunachala on the fourth.
Looking north. The white tower that rises through the trees is the gopuram of Guhai Namashivaya shrine, so Virupaksha Cave and Skandashram are to the right and up the hill. The hillside between us and them is covered with fairly big trees that all seem to have been planted at about the same time. They are all pretty much the same size.
One last view of Pavala Kundru. It seems like some kind of jewel rising from the hill.
Looking up the hill, we can see something dark.
In this closeup, the triangular shape of the opening clearly indicates the cave known as Turtle Cave. This is where we had wanted to go today, but we have had enough for this morning, and so head down the hill. Turtle Cave will be for another day.
We go down the hill on a dirt path between houses.
And wind out a narrow street at the base of Arunachala.
We have to turn right down a walled alley, then left onto another street.
Westerners must be rare on this street. Even the grown women (and not just the kids) want to say hello to Carol and shake her hand (which they know is a western way of greeting one another).
We walk by a fish monger, sitting in the shade selling fish to neighborhood ladies.
One last look up the narrow road, then we walk back to our ‘two wheeler’ and head home.
We went out for another adventure of discovery on Arunachala. We did not find what we were looking for, but we found something else instead, another cave that I know must rarely be seen by anyone other than local hillside people.
One thing we love about India and Tiruvannamalai and Arunachala is this ongoing sense of discovery as we find new places and encounter local people. And we are greeted with joy by the local people we find along the way. Just another day with Arunachala.