I have written about the new path that will be made this year, from Girivalam Road (Hill Round Road, the ‘Outer Path’), near where it joins Velore Road, to past the Pachaiamman Koil Temple, then along the side of Arunachala to the Virupaksha Cave area. This path will allow walkers of the Inner Path to avoid the town section, where one experiences the noise and chaos of Tiruvannamalai during the otherwise holy, quiet and peaceful circumambulation of Arunachala.
I have shown some of the route from Pachaiamman Koil in earlier postings (listed at the end of this article) as Carol and I explored it. Now I will show the other side, before Pachaiamman Koil, and a route over a small hill into a valley west of the temple. This valley now is rarely visited by anyone, Indian or Westerner. The new path will open the area to those who love Arunachala. Many will find this a blessing. Most will never get off the path and explore, but the new path will walk them into this valley, for a new Arunachala experience.
This new route that bypasses Tiruvannamalai is wanted by many people. After exploring the possible routes, we know they will lead walkers though beautiful areas of Arunachala which have been, until now, visited rarely. We also note that for many walking pradakshina on the Inner Path, the route over the hill to Virupaksha Cave will add a big physical challenge, after the ten kilometers of path that will already be covered before one gets to this path.
The map below shows the area we were in this day, up to a series of small hills between Pachaiamman Koil and Girivalam Road. The Inner Path is shown in red, the Outer Path in orange. Our route is in yellow.
This road marker is a landmark for the beginning of the route we took today.
It is in front of a building. To the right of the building, a path starts through the trees.
The path goes by a big (about twenty feel high) black rock. This rock appears on the left when one is walking on the Inner Path. We can see Arunachala in the background, and start to see a hill in between.
The hill in between is more visible in this shot. We are headed to the ‘saddle,’ the low area in between two hills. I am sure that there must be some path up to this area. That is just the way it is around Arunachala, paths into most areas, and over low hills.
We head up a path I know about, at the edge of a big area of trees, planted in rows about 20 years ago. I see on the mountain a diagonal area that I think may be the route up to the saddle.
We cross the Inner Path. This section of the Inner Path leads behind some village houses, through their outside toilet areas, then to Pachaiamman Koil
The new route will bypass the toilet area. I know people will like this!
We head up the path. On the left of Carol is a big black flat rock.
Up the hill! Here there is an open area going part way up the hill. I am encouraged that a path may go there. These kinds of areas are often the result of people working on Arunachala fire prevention. They form both fire breaks, and paths that fire fighting crews can use to get into a fire area.
As we get up the possible path, it looks less and less like a path. Finally we head to the left, cross country across the hillside. Maybe we can find a path this way. We have done so before.
Behind us we can see the trees area, and the route we used to get here. Then there is Girivalam Road, and beyond it, developed areas of Tiruvannamalai.
We work our way up the hillside, and finally are blocked by thick thorn bushes on all sides above us and between us in the direction we want to go. So we head back down, following the route we took up. We had seen a path at the base of the hill that went the way we wanted to go. Carol suggested we take it, but I wanted to try my idea of where I thought a path should be. There was no path, so now we head back to the route that Carol wanted to take in the first place.
Here is the start of that path. Note there is a dog with us now. We call this dog “Blackie.” We have known him for a couple of years. He has accompanied us sometimes as we walked the Inner Path. He has a most unusual habit: When we see him by the road, and stop our scooter near him, he will come over to the scooter, and jump up onto it and ride around with us, face into the wind. Blackie was walking with a group of Indian people. When we saw us, he ran over to to join us. Now we have company on the walk, and one that will react to snakes that might be in the grass ahead.
We walk along the path, and to the left of some rocks we do find a path that heads straight up towards the saddle. Now this is the correct path, I am sure.
Though it is not obvious in this photo, it is actually a pretty good path.
We get towards the top of the saddle. We can see the Arunachala peak ahead, and that smaller peak to the right, which from this angle is called Parvati. From here, they call the peak Siva, and the small peak, Parvati. From the other side, they call them “The Elephant.”
Looking back towards the trees and Girivalam Road.
Nearing the crest of the saddle there is a rocky area. As I look around, I see piles of grass, drying. Someone has been here, clearing the area of grass. I think it must have been a fire prevention crew.
Ahead of us, I see a rocky area on the side of the saddle that should give a good view of the valley behind Pachaiamman Koil.
I am on the rock now, and look back toward the Arunachala peak. Wow, here is a big area that I don’t know at all. From the satellite photos, and our experiences around Arunachala, I think there must be paths into this area. More to explore!
Here is the small peak on the eastern side of Arunachala, one of the “Five Faces of Arunachala.” We have a close-up view here that others do not get.
Pachaiamman Koil, barely visible in the center right of photo below. It is maybe 300 meters away. There must be a path. But we are not going to look today. It’s getting too hot, and we have to get out of the sun.
This is the ridgeline of these small hills as it goes towards the city. It hides the intersection of Girivalam and Velore Roads.
One more look to the Arunachala peak, then we head back.
When we get to the base of this hill, we see there is another path heading straight through the jungle. We take it, instead of turning left and going back the way we came.
After we walk it for a bit, we see a patch of bright orange ahead. When we approach it, we see that it is a Shakti Shrine made over a termite mound.
Here is a closer view. It is very well taken care of. It is swept and there are fresh flowers.
In computer games there are things called “Easter Eggs,” surprise bonuses that enterprising players can find. This Shakti Shine is our Easter Egg.
In front of the shrine, there is a small cement altar, supporting a Siva Trident, with an oil lamp, a bowl of red kum kum, and three rocks covered with turmeric and dotted with the kum kum.
The front of the altar is extended by seven decorated bricks.
Here is the top of the termite hill. You can see the fresh flowers, put here this morning. What looks like a natural lingam is covered with turmeric and red kum kum dots.
Behind the sacred termite hill, under a tree, is another small shrine, probably a Naga, snake god. These are common in this kind of natural shrine.
After this we follow the path back to the Inner Path, then walk it back to the Outer Path where we have parked the scooter. Blackie is still with us. He jumps on the scooter. We drive him to a chai stand, where we get him biscuits to eat. We usually bring dry dog food, but today I did not think we would have canine company, so didn’t bring it.
After Blackie eats, we all head to Hotel Ramakrishna to eat breakfast. When we get there, Blackie hops off the scooter and heads off on his own.