Pachaiamman Koil – where Ramana went to avoid the Plague


Panchaiamann Koil is said to be an ancient temple, perhaps 1000 years old. the present temple, though is said to be only about 120 years old. pachaiamman is a form of Parvati. goddess to bring peace and harmony into the world (also the goddess of weddings). A bit on her story from Arunachala Grace Newsletter:

A legend of Pachaiamman (an aspect of Parvati) has it that after completing her penance at Kanchi, the Goddess started off for Arunachala. She travelled with 7 rishis and 7 virgins (Sapta Kanniyars) as part of a protective entourage. Halfway from Kanchi to Arunachala, the entourage stopped and made camp at the village Vazhapanthal. At that place the local king tried to molest the Goddess and the 7 rishis became as munishwaras (guardians) and killed the king. In the Pachaiamman Compound there are 14 statues of Pachaiamman’s warrior guardians set out in two lines, with two representations of each warrior. There are also statues of Lord Munishwara’s vahanas (vehicles) in the form of an elephant, a dog and five horses.

Ramana Maharshi

In 1905 for six months Ramana Maharshi went from Virupaksha Cave “far away” from the city to Pachaiamman Koil where he would be safe from the plague, which had infested Tiruvannamalai. This temple is familiar to those who walk Pradakshina (or “girivalam” in Tamil) on the Inner Path, since it’s near the end of the Inner Path before it joins the street. It is said to be over 1000 years old. For those who walk the Outer Path, they may have never seen this temple. In this post we approach like you would from the Outer Path.

Ramana would also come to this temple for oil baths. From Saranagathi, the Ramanasramam newsletter:

Around 1915 or 1916, one morning the Maharshi, Palaniswami, Vasudeva Sastri and others left the Virupaksha Cave and proceeded to
Pachaiamman Koil taking oil and soap-nut powder for an oil bath, as facilities for such a bath were ample at that place.

It was on the way back from such a trip than Ramana had his ‘second death experience’ at Turtle rock.

It was also at Pachaiamman Koil, where Ramana saw a leopard drinking from a tank as a devotee, Sri Iyengar, was bathing. Ramana first said to the leopard, “Go now and come later; he would be afraid,” and then Ramana gently advised Sri Iyengar that he should not bathe here at this time of day because wild animals came here, not telling him of the leopard, apparently not wanting to frighten him.

On the map below (double click it for an enlarged view), Pachaiamman Koil is in the upper right. It is on the Inner Path route, marked in red. The Outer Path is gold.


In this closeup view of the map, you can also see that from this temple are two paths up the hill (marked in yellow).


Before the turnoff, this view of Arunachala is said to show the five faces of Siva. These five faces make it certain that Arunachala is Siva, say the locals I have talked to.


The gateway at the end of the street shows a typical Saivite grouping, with Siva in the middle, Ganesh to the left and Murugan on the right. On the corner is a small Ganesh Temple.


As you proceed up the street, you can see the temple and a Gopuram at the end of the street.


Sometimes you will see monkeys as you walk to the temple.


Near the temple you pass this tank, which has year-round water. Usually in the morning you will see men bathing, and often taxis or rickshaws being washed.


The vertical red stripes announce that this is a temple, as if it were not obvious from the small tower over the gate. Some painted figures can be seen through the open doorway.


To one side is a small altar, with another two gods enclosed within.


Walking to it, you can open the door if you want.


Inside are the male and female gods.


On the other side is some kind of sheltered area.


As we enter, we can see a line of sitting figures, their backs turned to us.


On the top wall is a line of brightly painted figures.


In this closeup, it can be seen that this is a Siva temple, with Siva in the center, Ganesh to the left and Murugan to the right. Other figures can be seen in between them, and to both sides. If one knows the Vedas and Puranas, just who the various figures are would be clear.

HPIM4094 closeup

We can see a small face of Arunachala above us. From this view, the summit is behind this rockface.


These statues are the seven fierce guardians, munishwaras, who protect the goddess Pachaiamman. Lord Munishwara’s vahanas are to one side of this entrance courtyard.

In the photo below, you can see that these munishwaras are really quite large.


Here is the other row of guardians, shown from the front. We noticed that though the swords look terrifying, they swayed in the wind.


Below, the entrance into the main part of the temple.


A kind of colonnade surrounds the temple on three sides.


Immediately to the left of the temple, and accessible through a doorway, is the ancient tank associated with Pachaiamman Koil.


At its entrance, Nandi sits attending those who need him.


As we walk around the colonnade, we can see, above the inner sanctum, the towers that rise above each of the major gods within. This is Ganesh.


In several places in the rear of the temple, there are small windows that allow darshan of the gods within.


Here is a mysterious peep inside. Some figures can be made out, but they are not too clear.


At the top of the columns are figures. Here is a lion, obviously a male.

HPIM4124 closeup

Walking around the backside we can see more peepholes in the wall.


Here we can see a female and male god.


Carol looks in the next hole.


The god within seems blocked by a pillar. We can see arms extending diagonally from bodies, but no bodies. Didn’t they know that a pillar was there before they put this hole here?


Towers top the temple.



On the other side of the colonnade they are repairing several of their wooden statues. Here is a lion in pieces, with one leg misattached to the body which has been stripped of paint for refinishing.


This is some obviously very female statue. I don’t know what kind of figure this is. We haven’t seen this figure in any other temple we’ve visited.


Here is a family that was at the temple today. Many times families will bring a lunch, or even food to cook, and come spend the day at these temples. Today we think that this family is here for some kind of function, given that the woman is wearing her fanciest silk saree lined with gold thread.


We see the Vediyappan mounts to the side of the temple.


Carol stands by the Nandi at the entrance to the temple before we walk in.


There is no one inside, and though I should not take photos inside, I snap a few, without flash.

Here is the chamber outside the inner sanctum. A lamp can be seen from within the sanctum.


Ganesh is on the left side, the first idol you would get to going clockwise (the usual way to traverse these temples).


Here  is the main goddess of this temple, Pachaiamman.


Murugan and his two lady escorts.

HPIM4188 adjusted

I am not sure who this is. Obviously a primary goddess. I can’t tell who she is, but she sure looks fabulous in her golden saree.


Back outside, we walk around the outside of the temple. Here again are the munishwaras mounts and attendants, waiting to ride off if Pachaiamman needs protection. 


Another small shrine is located outside the right temple wall. I think some saint is buried here. I know not who. The cows like this spot.


At the rear of the temple there is a path that leads away. I think this is the way to get to one of the paths that goes up Arunachala from here. You can see it on the map. This is exploration for another day.


Looking back to the temple from the path.


The towers above the main gods can be seen better from here than inside the colonnade.


When we looked more closely at this shed, we could see many ‘stoves’ where a person can make a fire and heat a pot to cook.


And here was a group of people, alighting from a truckbed (a common form of group transport here).


As Carol talked to them, it turns out that they were here today for a special function, the ear-piercing for a girl child. She’s in the photo below in the arms of her mother. The next big function for this girl will be her coming of age celebration when she starts menstruation.


Pachaiamman Koil is one of the jewels around Arunachala, and made special due to its association with Ramana Maharshi. We pass by it each time we walk the Inner Path, and yet we hardly ever stop there. It is worth stopping, or walking up the hill to visit if on the Outer Path.    


Related Posts

Inner Path – to Pachaiamman Koil

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15 Responses to “Pachaiamman Koil – where Ramana went to avoid the Plague”

  1. Caylor Wadlington Says:

    Dear Richard


    Directly behind the Pachaiamman Temple, maybe fifty yards up the mountainside, there is an array of huge white stone horses standing on a flat outcropping. Back in the 1970’s, many were falling into ruin. Perhaps they have been restored by now.

    Do you know the significance of those horses?
    Do stone horses of that type have a name?

    Thank you,
    Caylor Wadliington

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      They most likely are the mounts of an ancient Tamil protector-god, Ayyanar, guardian of the villages. The horses provide transportation for Ayanaar`s spirit soldiers, enabling them to travel through the villages and fields at night to right against evil. I don’t know the name. You will find them all over Tamil Nadu, usually outside villages.

  2. Manikavachagam Pillai Says:

    The main gate of this temple is next to Hotel Arpanaa. Two other remarkable incidents occured at this temple.

    1. Kavyakanta Ganapati Muni saw brilliant lights descend and touch Bhagavan 6 times. After that Ganapati Muni wrote the 40 verses
    describing Bhagavan as an incarnation of Skanda/Subramanya.

    2. Also a Muslim contractor one year was given the contract of
    harvesting the tamarind trees here. He would use a slingshot to keep the monkeys away. Accidentally he killed one of the monkeys.
    The grieving monkeys took the body to Bhagavan who was in the temple at Pachaiamman Koil. Bhagawan consoled them by saying
    “all must die”. Even the man who did this will also die. A few days later the Muslim contractor became bed-ridden by some malady.
    His worried relatives rushed to Bhagavan thinking Bhagavan cursed him. Bhagavan told the relatives he neither blesses nor curses, what he had told the monkeys was the truth. The relatives were not consoled and asked for vibhuti( sacred ash). Finally Bhagavan took
    a pinch of ash from the fire where he was doing his cooking. The relatives left satisfied and applied it to the contractor, who was cured from his illness after a few days.

  3. Ramana Maharshi Timeline and Places – by Richard Clarke | Says:

    […] 1905 Pachaiamman Koil […]

  4. Ramana Maharshi Timeline | Ramana Maharshi Tours Says:

    […] Pachaiamman Koil […]

  5. Michael Deathless Says:

    Hi Richard,

    I have traveled to Thiru on numerous occasions, I even met you and your wife while eating at Ramanasramam one time. I am commenting because this is my favorite temple anywhere. For me, it is very easy to meditate there – one can really feel the peace coming from the idol very intensely if one is quiet.

    I was told by a good friend of mine who works at Ramanasramam that Bhagavan said that this temple has the power to help one realize the Self. This seems right to me given my experiences there. When I eventually move to Thiru, I am planning on spending a lot of time there.

    As far as the previous comment is concerned, I took a photo of the idol that didn’t blur and I haven’t experienced any negative consequences. I love the temple and the idol. I am a westerner so maybe these rules do not apply!? Anyway, there weren’t any cameras around when they built these temples centuries ago so I don’t know who could have made up this rule anyway!

    Thanks for the post!

    • richardclarke Says:

      Yes this temple is a special place, and it was frequently visited by Sri Ramana. A number of incidents associated with Ramana involve this temple in some way. The “Second Death Experience” at Tortoise Cave happened on the way back from visiting Pachaiamman Koil, as did Ramana’s finding the Banyon Tree on the northside of Arunachala.

  6. Saravanan S (@sarvans05) Says:

    Dear Richard & carol,

    That was really a nice try. Also I would like to share my views about this article.

    First of all about this quote,

    “I am not sure who this is. Obviously a primary goddess. I can’t tell who she is, but she sure looks fabulous in her golden saree.”

    This idol is called “urchavar”, which is another form of main god made of metal (where as main god is made of stone), which would be taken for Procession with decorating her all around during festive seasons. She is none another than Goddess Pachaiamman.
    You can see this in any Hindhu temple, Where main god is made of stone, which cant be moved from her place, where as Urchavar which is made of fine metals could be decorated during the festive season for Procession.

    Also I would like to share few facts that you may not be aware of, that is we are not suppose to take the snap of any main god in any temple as for as Hindu religion temples are concern. I wonder how you have taken that as there are many securities involved in temple to avoid this. Also its an ancient saying that there might be some harm things happen to the one who takes it as the entire power of god transforms in to a particular photo. Also if you could see the picture you could realise that the picture is not as clear as any other photo. It will only gives you the blur effect if you happen to take the main god anywhere. For instance you could see all the above photos, I guess this is the only photo which gives you the blur effect. Thats the power of main GOD in any temple. Also that is the reason if you could notice in any other temple there would be some banners stating photography prohibited inside the temple. Its pretty clear that you didn’t do it intentionally.

    I would request you to take off that one particular photo taken of the main god, If you really feels that above said matter concerns you. Because it is not easy to comment on some one on some thing who have come accross all the way from thier native to do such researches. I just conveyed the facts I felt like saying..

    I am happy to help you if you need any further assistance with this regard as I am one of the member of this temple.

    Saravanan S

  7. Shathish Jai Says:

    Dear Richard, Great discovery this is one of almighty in the universe. Lord Pachaiamman is our family goddess too. Thank you very for your wonderful post with beautiful images.

  8. davidiandia Says:

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    Warm Greetings Richard,

    Just a footnote to your presentation of the Goddess temple at Pachaiamman Koil.

    We walked the inner path girivalam route this time last year (Feb. 2011) with a young Indian family man, politically well-placed in the local area, from the village of Adiannamalai, who informed us, prior to our entering the temple compound and the garbhagriha, that occasionally there are still animal sacrifices offered to the Goddess on an altar at the feet of the 5th or 6th munishwara statue and that we should be aware of that to not be shocked at the vividness of the scene! There is a rather garish red altar stone in evidence at the base of this guardian. Might this be a ‘true telling’ do you think?

    We will research more into this tale ourselves when we return to Thiruvannamalai and Adiannamalai this time next year (Feb. 2013).

    Cybernara for now,


    • richardclarke Says:

      I think this could be true. We witnessed such a thing at a family function done in a small village 60 km away. This is done once per year by the family. Afterwards they make ‘mutton biryani’ and have a feast. This is a big event for the family and friends are invited.

  9. Karthik Balasubramaniyan Says:

    My family god also pachaiyamman i am very much happy to this article . The statue Like cow is kamathenu . IN this lord Pachaiamman will give Darshan to the devotees.

  10. satvicfood Says:

    Richard, thanks again for another beautiful posting. the yellow wooden female-looking statue is Kamadhenu, the wish-fulfilling cow.
    on another note, i plan on relocating to Arunachala soon and would want to ask you if you can give an estimate/breakdown on living expenses for one person. this would be very helpful and appreciated.
    thank you.

  11. arunachalaheart Says:

    Dear Richard,

    Something magnificent, unique, rare and beautiful will be discovered by you and Carol on Arunachala soon…this is my firm conviction.

    Seeing the intense zeal to explore this holy mountain I feel even Arunachala is waiting for that moment to reveal its most unknown secrets.

    You live with God, explore Him and sing about Him in the blog.

    What a blessed life.

    Thank you.

  12. prasanthjvrs Says:

    Richard and Carol,

    Excellent update on Pachaiamman Koil.

    I love this blog and i and my wife will keep your blog as a reference when we come to Arunachalam.

    Sneha & Prashant

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