We are often asked by those who visit Tiruvannamalai, “What should we see?” Some have one or two days, some will stay a week or more. People have different interests and time frames, so it is hard to make one list that suits everybody. We have come up with the following list of recommendations. Of course, what you want to see depends on your own interests, and this list is just our ideas based on what we like and find of interest. With each place I have added some notes, an idea of how long it might take, and a link, if any, to postings on this blog that show it. Click on the links to learn more about each location.
· Ramanasramam and the Old Hall
For devotees of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi this is the most important place to visit. I list the Old Hall to call attention to this building within Ramanasramam. It is where Sri Ramana taught for many years, and is a great place to sit and meditate. You may be able to get accommodations at the ashram. Go to this link to find out more. How long you wish to visit Ramanasramam depends very much on you. Some just like to walk in and look around. Some like to watch and listen to the puja and chants that are done each day. Some like to immerse them selves in the holy atmosphere of the place. These visits can range from a few hours, to a day, to several days, depending on your interest. Some people come and never leave.
· Skandashram and Virupaksha Cave
These two locations are famous as places where Sri Ramana lived and taught before he came down the hill to what is now Ramanasramam. They can be reached by a walk up a stone path from Ramanasramam. To walk and visit these two places will require at least two hours, more if you enjoy meditating at these holy spots.
· Arunachaleswara Temple
This is one of the largest temples in South India, covering 24 acres. It is said to be about 2000 years old, with the main towers dating back to the time of the Chola kings, 1200 years ago, to about 800 AD. Give yourself several hours to see it. You may want to check the puja schedule. Here is a linkto their website.
Arunachaleswara Temple posting
· Inner Path and Yellow Path
The Inner Path is a quiet and peaceful route to use to walk around Arunachala. This circumambulation of the Hill is called pradakshina, or girivalam in Tamil. Many people find the walk to be very worthwhile, and the route easy to follow from Ramanasramam. Some people like to get a guide for their first experience walking the Inner Path. There are guides just outside Ramanasramam that you can retain, or you can ask Saran, (contact below), to guide you. The walk will take at least 4 hours, and unless you are in excellent physical condition, you will be very tired after it is done.
The Yellow Path is a a new route for part of the Inner Path circuit. It is closer to Arunachala and provides views not otherwise available. It is a bit more strenuous if you take the route over the small hill next to Arunachala. The climb is not bad though, and it provides scenic views most people never see. Articles are here and here.
No water is available for most of this walk. Bring at least one liter per person, more if it is a hot day. Start early in the morning.
· Outer Path and Eight Lingams
The Outer Path is the pradakshina route used by Sri Ramana Maharshi, and by most who walk pradakshina around Arunachala. It can be walked, or a rickshaw can be taken. There are many, many temples that can be visited, as well as the eight cardinal lingams. Walking will be at least four hours. A rickshaw ride can be done in as little as one hour. If you want to visit all the temples, shrines, and lingams, you could easily spend an entire day.
With a road that has been paved and widened, and many new temples and vendors, this route is very different today from when Ramana walked it.
Outer Path posting
· Pavala Kundru Temple
Pavala Kundru is a location where Sri Ramana lived for some time, and is famous as the location where he had the first meeting with his mother after he left home as a teenager. It is even more famous as the location where Parvati and Siva merged into Ardhanariswara. It is a beautiful spot on a small hill near to both Arunachaleswara Temple and Arunachala. It is not visited very much. A visit here will take a minimum of two hour.
Pavala Kundru posting
· Pachaiamman Koil (Temple)
Pachiaimman Koil is another location associated with Sri Ramana. It was the place where he stayed during a plague epidemic in the town. He also came here for oil baths. It celebrates the Goddess Pachiaimman, a form that Parvati took while doing penance after blindfolding Siva, and putting out the light of the universe. The temple is guarded by seven fierce and larger-than-life-sized warriors who came to Pachaiamman’s rescue when attacked.
Pachaiamman Koil posting
· Adi Annamalai Temple
Adi Annamalai is the oldest temple in this area. The big temple is said to date back more than two thousand years, so this is REALLY old. This is a quiet and peaceful temple on the northwest side of Arunachala. Give yourself at least two hours for a visit.
Adi Annamalai posting
· Tirukkoyilur: Arayaninallur and Viratteswara Temples and Thapovanam Ashram
This is a one day trip. The main road from Tiruvannamalai to Tirukkoyilur is lined with colorful outside shrines and temples. The first two places, Arayaninallur and Viratteswara temples, were visited by Sri Ramana on his way to Arunachala. Arayaninallur Temple is an ancient one, atop a rock, with even more ancient caves carved into the bottom of the rock. When the young Ramana sat in this temple, it became filled with light. This temple is rarely visited.
Thapovanam is the ashram for another swami, contemporary with Ramana, Sri Gnanananda Giri. The ashram has many painted ceilings, illustrating various Hindu stories and gods. It seems to be another very holy spot, worth a visit.
Also in Tirukkoyilur is a Vishnu Temple, Sri Veerateshwarar Temple, in the center of the town, featuring a giant statue of Vishnu with his leg raised in a yoga position.
· Papaji’s and Aum Amma’s Caves
These two caves are both on the southwest side of Arunachala, on a trail about two km from the entrance off the Inner Path. We find this spot to be one of great peace, and a wonderful view of Arunachala and the surrounding area. You will need a guide the first time. Give yourself three or four hours. Bring a walking stick for the climb.
· To the top of Arunachala
(if physically fit)
This climb is the highlight of the trip for some people. You will need most of a day. The walk up and down will tire most people, and is beyond what can be done by some people. The peak rises about one km (1/2 a mile) from the surrounding area. Saran is a great guide for this trip. Do not try this without a guide. Also make sure you bring at least two liters of water for the trip. Bring (or get) some kind of strong walking stick; it may protect you from a fall. Start early in the morning.
Recommended Guide and Rickshaw Driver
Recommended rickshaw driver: Rajan, (091)9442415221, email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Best to call if you can. His rickshaw stand is across the street from Seshadri Ashram, in front of Usha’s restaurant.)
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