Climbing to a Cave High Above Ramanasramam


The Frenchman, G, took me to one more cave he had found. This one is high above Sri Ramanasramam. G was in Tiruvannamalai for about three months this year and was inspired by this blog to spend most of his time exploring Arunachala. He has visited many caves, some of which I have not been to. He wanted to show me some of what he has found. This is the second time G has taken me to a cave I had not visited. The first is shown in this post.

A map to this most recent cave is shown below:


We met up at Ramanasramam. Today was the day before Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Jayanthi. There was special chanting at his samadhi this morning.


Sundaram, Bhagavan’s grand nephew and current president of Ramanasramam, sat close to the chanting.

The hall had many devotees in attendance, most of whom were chanting along with the priests.


Heading out the back gate up the hill. G’s girlfriend Svetlana came with us this morning.


Here is our first view of Arunachala’s  peak. A bit below and to the right of the peak you can see a large rectangular rock. This is where we are headed today.

We take the turn to the Inner Path. One of the reliable mountain guides stands greeting us.


The Arunachala peak shows Himself behind the ridge that we will walk up. This is the first darshan of Arunachala on the Inner Path.


We come to a stone wall. We will follow this wall as we walk up the hill.


It looks like there was a porcupine fight here. We found many of their quills lying on the ground.


We head up the hill.


To our left is another ridge. Just above the rocks visible here I have heard that there are three small caves. I will go look for them soon. Further along on this ridge is the famous hillside Nandi, not visible in this photo.


We get high enough that the surrounding view is wonderful.


Up the hill some more. G is always ahead of us, and often stops and waits.


I can now see Ramanasramam below, with the two towers above the samadhis of Bhagavan Ramana and his mother rising above the building.


Here is a close up of Ramanasramam.


Looking more to the west, you can clearly see two hills. The back one has an ancient Ganesh shrine at the top. In front is a small steep hill with the Idaichi Mantapam atop it. This mantapam can be seen by those walking pradakshina around the “Outer Path.” 


Up the hill some more. After weeks of rain and cloudy weather today is clear and bright. Finally!


Here is our goal for the day, the large rectangular rock at the top of the ridge here. The cave is under this rock. The Arunachala peak is in the background. This is a magnified view from where we stand.


Here is the actual view from this stop.


Now we are getting closer.


In the ground are a set of holes. I think that these probably were made by the people doing this year’s tree planting. They got the holes dug, but did not get the planting done before the monsoon. Now it is too late in the season for planting.


The wall continues up the hill. I do not know how far up it goes, nor when it was built, nor who built it, nor why it was built. It was a very big job to construct it–many, many man hours of labor were needed. If anyone knows about this, please let us know.


To get to the cave first we have to get past this big rock. G sits in the shade waiting for us.


Looking behind us, we can see Samuthiram Lake. It is quite full now. The story I heard about this lake is that an ancient local queen wanted to go and see the ocean that she had always heard about. In those days, to travel the hundred plus kilometers to get to the ocean was a major trip, and the king decided that they could not do it. So he had an earthen dam built to create this lake. If he could not take his queen to the ocean, at least he could bring a bit of it to her. 


We must get past these rocks. I think we went to the left of the rock to the right.


At the end of this break between the rocks, we scrambled to the left up the rocks.


And there is our goal for the day, rising above us.


G climbed up the rock and stretched out. He does not go any higher, because he is not sure how he will get down safely.


He makes his way down the rock.


To the left of the rock, at its base, he shows me one entrance to the cave.


To enter here you need to climb straight down about ten feet. I ask if there is another way in.


Here is the hillside above us. The top of Arunachala peeks out behind the ridge.


We start to walk around the base of the rock, lower and to the left.


You can just barely see G’s white shirt and head wrap in the center of the photo below.


G leads the way around the rock.


Now we have our clippers out. G says that this brush has grown a lot since he was last here. It took about ten minutes of clipping for the two of us to gain entrance to the cave.



A bit more clipping and I can get in.



There is a bright orange and yellow sun painted in the entrance to the cave.


Here is G, inside the main chamber.


Svetlana enters the cave.



Here is G, sitting in the main chamber. This is not a good cave to live in. There is not a good sleeping area nor is it waterproof. But the quiet atmosphere in here is very nice. It feels good to sit in here. It would be a great place for meditation.


I like the light in the cave and how it looks in the photos.


Here I am, sitting and happy, looking at the way one could climb up and out of the cave.


Behind G is one way up and out of the cave. When we leave, he will go this way, while I go out the way we came in.


On the ridge across from the cave is the famous swayambu (natural and not man-made) hillside Nandi, barely visible in the center of the photo below.


Below is a closeup. G says that there is a path to this Nandi up the ridge on which it sits.

I wave goodbye to G. He is going to continue exploring. My legs have had it, and I will just go down the mountain.


Down the hill. I follow the stone wall.


The body of water in the photo below is the Lotus Tank, where they submerse the Ganesh statues on Vinayaka Chaturdi.


I keep heading down. I am glad that I brought my walking stick. It is most helpful on the downward climb.



They did such a good job when this wall was built. Again I wonder about its history and story.


The area by the wall has been cleared of grass. You can see clumps of dry grass beside the cleared area. The clearing makes it easier to get up and down the hill. I think that this is one of a number of firebreaks on the mountain, done to slow the spread of any fire that may start. These also act as fire trails, so firefighting crews can quickly get up to the area of a fire to stop it. They started major reforestation work on Arunachala in 1990. This has been largely successful and their are many trees on the mountain now, as you can see from the photos. Now the major work is in fire prevention.


Near the bottom of this trail I see a man in a blue shirt, sitting atop one of the rocks. You can just barely see him in the right of this photo. I talked to him and he is from Italy. When he was here two years ago he made it up to the cave I just visited.


Down a bit more.


Looking back up the hill. These rocks were the ones that the Italian man was sitting on. Sometimes I see the family troop of Langur monkeys on this rock outcropping.


At the bottom, I go over the rock wall and follow the path back to Ramanasramam.


Back at the Ashram, next to the dining hall, there is the temporary building that will be used on the day of Ramana Jayanthi to feed the thousands of people that will dine here to celebrate Ramana’s birthday. Today it is empty. Tomorrow it will be full, and  handle several seatings of eaters.


From the road, I look back up Arunachala. I can see the rectangular rock, under which is the cave I just visited. It is about half way to the top of the Holy Hill.

I so appreciate people who now take me to visit caves and other Arunachala landmarks that they have found. This is another blessing of Arunachala. When they show me, I take photos so I can show you, as in the posting.


One Response to “Climbing to a Cave High Above Ramanasramam”

  1. cspacenz Says:

    Fantastic Richard, I have started on my journey towards India and am currently on the beach in Queensland Australia. As the days are counting down to my visit to Arunachala I am getting more and more excited when I read these posts. Should arrive in Tiruvannamalai in about 3 weeks time all going well.

    Can’t wait to climb the hill and check out some of the rocks and caves (and the local pizza !)

    Best wishes


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