Footpaths of Arunachala – South of Kattu Siva Tank


There are many paths around Arunachala. These are mainly used by sadhus, villagers, and goats and cows. One of the main places for these small footpaths is the southwest side of Arunachala, between the road and the Hill. The main area where these are found is shown in the colored section of the map below. This constitutes a pretty large area. Few Westerners ever set foot on any of these footpaths.


A few months ago we moved to a location that is close to this part of Arunachala. Since then I have been exploring some of these footpaths as I take my morning walks. In the last two months I have gotten very familiar with one set of these footpaths, between a small tank by Pradakshina Road, near where it splits from Bangalore Road, and the Kattu Siva Tank. This is the area that is easiest for me to get to from my house. The main set of these paths is shown on the map below as small yellow lines. These paths give me a ‘shortcut’ through the forest to get to Kattu Siva Tank and Cave, Leopard Rock, and to the Inner Path access to the path to Papaji’s (and Aum Amma’s) Caves. 

I like exploring these kinds of paths. As regular readers of this blog know, I think the thing about paths is that they go somewhere. And the only way to find out where is to follow them and find out. If I use a path regularly, then I will get my pruning clippers out and trim back thorns and brush from the path, to make future walking easier.

In this area there are now two small landmarks that I stop at again and again. I call these ‘Black Rock’ and ‘Sitting Rock’. They are marked on the map below. I usually stop at these spots when walking. I may take a drink of water, sit and meditate, or feed the dog or dogs that accompany me each day.


This post shows some of the paths that I use when I walk in the morning. In this part of the year, April, which is one of the two hottest months of the year (April and May), I usually get started early, maybe 6 AM. The morning is as cool as it is going to get. Mornings, like the one shown here, where there is early cloud cover over Arunachala, are usually more humid that usual.

Here is Arunachala as I walk from my house towards Bangalore Road.


Walking along Pradakshina Road, I see many burlap bags on the new sidewalk, filled with something.


It is rice, still with the husk on the grains.


It has been harvested from nearby fields. The farmers will find convenient locations where they store the new grain until they can bag it. The new sidewalk makes a nice flat place for this. The farmers will use whatever resources they can.


I turn into the forest here.


This is the first tank along Pradakshina Road. Arunachala can be seen in the background.


By April, this tank is usually dry. There are plants growing at the bottom, where there was recently water.


I walk around the tank and over the rear wall. Care must be take along this route, since this is an area used as an outside toilet. Don’t step on any piles!

A footpath can be see going through the forest.

This morning I go to the left at the first intersection of paths. Going right would take me towards Papaji’s Cave.

I continue through the forest a bit. Everything is pretty dry now. Dogs are ahead of me.

In the wet season this is a creek with running water.

I follow the path through the dry brush and small trees. When there are choices of paths, I go right.

I start to come into an open area. The foot of Arunachala is on the horizon.

Here is the open area.

To the left is a dirt berm, forming a small water retention tank. I  never have seen it holding water, though.

I follow the path through the trees. Now I can see Parvati Hill on the left.

Following the footpath.

Here is Arunachala again, the peak still shrouded in clouds. Often it seems like Arunachala is the source of the clouds, with them streaming from the peak.

Bear right again on the path. The dirt here is red, red from the red mountain, since iron ore makes up much of Arunachala. Thank goodness that they prevent people from mining here. Otherwise there would be pit mines instead of mountain forest. 

Still following the footpath through trees and brush.

To the right I see a broad flat black rock. This is a regular stop for me.

At the left end of the rock is another small path through the forest. I have clipped a lot here, to make it walkable for people.

Here is the black rock.

In the middle of the rock there is a good place for two people to stop and sit.

When I am here, I usually will feed the dogs. Today I have the regular dog from our house, Bebe. With us are two Arunachala dogs that usually join us now. I call the brown and white one Ajax, because he seems like a grizzled old warrior, with scarred face, etc. The black and white female I call Princess, for a reason unknown to even me. I don’t think Ajax is fed much by people, and he REALLY appreciates it. I can tell.

Back on the trail, Bebe and Ajax lead the way.

Coming up is a junction of paths.

Straight ahead and towards the right a bit is the path to Leopard Rock.

Turning left is the path that will take us to the back side of Kattu Siva Tank.

We head towards Parvati Hill for a bit.

Then turn right when we can.

We follow the path towards the west end of Arunachala.

I turn and follow a dry, sandy creek bed. I guess if the ‘sand rustlers’ knew of this place, they might figure out how to get bullock carts here to carry away and sell the sand. It is worth several thousand rupees per bullock cart load now.

Towards the end of the creek bed, I turn right again.

Even though this season is dry and hot, there are still some flowering trees. These yellow flowers have been blooming for some time now. 

These are tiny white flowers growing on one of the most common thorn bushes. You can see the thorns. I have gotten these in my shoes and into my feet frequently. They are tough enough to go right through the sole of my sandals.

Back to the path. In this open area is one of the few places where I bear left.

Then I come to a thick hedge of growing cactus. This path through the cactus was impenetrable two months ago when I started to come here. I cut and cut through the cactus to open it up.

On the other side of the cactus gate is an open clear area near Kattu Siva Tank.

There have been stone walls that are further planted with cactus and trees to make a nice enclosed area. I wonder if devotees of Kattu Siva made this, and why they did? Maybe to grow food?

I am approaching the Kattu Siva Ashram, in ruins now.

Today the inmates of the ashram are macaque monkeys! They sit in a row on the top of the building, watching me.

Kattu Siva (literally, ‘Jungle Siva’) lived here during Ramana’s time. He was a siddhi (someone with special powers), and much revered by the local people, who built this ashram for him. He did not wear orange cloth, nor did he wear vibhuti, ‘Siva stripes.’ He thought that all of these were pretentious and not needed. 

Looking towards the tank.

Monkeys climbed down from the building, I guess to get a closer look. They are not afraid of people, it seems. Since sadhus are usually here, the monkeys are used to people being around.

This must be the king monkey in the photo below. I don’t think I am welcome after all. He just bares his fangs. He does not make a move towards me.

Here is Kattu Siva Tank. It is the only tank near Arunachala with water all through the year. A woman in white, walking the Inner Path, is on the other side of the tank.

A sadhu takes his morning bath in the tank while another stands and watches. While they bathe, they will usually wash their clothes as well, and spread them on nearby bushes to dry.

One last look at Kattu Siva Tank, and then I continue the walk.

Walking back through the trees behind Kattu Siva Tank.

Leaves on this plant are shriveled, to endure this hot, dry time of year. When there is rain, they will uncurl and plump out again.

I turn left and follow a path through the small stone wall. I am going to take the direct way to the back of Leopard Rock.

The path crosses this area, open with a few trees scattered about.

Here is another tree all abloom.

Now Leopard Rock can be seen through the trees.

I will walk up the back side here.

Now I am atop Leopard Rock. Often you will see sadhus sitting and meditating. Locals say there is always someone meditating here whether you can see them or not; this place is frequented by Devas. If you want to see them, come here at 3 o’clock in the morning. That is when they come out.

Far away, to one side, is the Murugan Shrine on top of Virukkal Hill. (See the posting about this shrine here.)

As I scan the other side, first there is Parvati Hill.

Then the small hill between Parvati Hill and Arunachala, called by some Ganesh Hill. Others call it Skanda Hill. Over the low point on the right side goes the present Yellow Path. The new section of the path being built now goes over the other low point, the left pass. This is really the old path, before the Inner Path went around Parvati Hill in the 1990s, and was used for hundreds of years before this. The work is restoring this old path.

Then there are the lower slopes of Arunachala.


As I walked off Leopard Rock, I stopped and took this photo of a cleanly cut branch. This is the kind of cutting I do with my pruning clippers. If you are around this area and see branches cut off this way, you can pretty well guess that I did the cutting.


I turn right and go through a small path through the trees.


After about 100 meters, I arrive at the Inner Path.

I have marked the start of this path from the Inner Path with these small stone cairns. I often use stone cairns to mark paths, especially when I am first getting to know an area.

Turning right here from the Inner Path will get to Kattu Siva Cave.

Following the Inner Path gets you back to Kattu Siva Tank.

This faint path leads to the cave. There is another, better, path from the water pump area past the tank.

I continue walking towards the hill. The path is faint, but I know I am going in the right direction. 

Dry seed pods hand from this tree.

The big rock standing above the trees in the center of this photo is the rock under which Kattu Siva Cave lies.

Better views of the rock as I get closer to it.

To the right of the rock there is a small, rough path.


Follow this path a few meters.


And turn to the left.


This is the Kattu Siva Cave area. It has been cleared, and most of the year has shade from the tree in the center of the area, so even during the day you can find shade, and usually a very quiet place to sit and meditate. Another article on the Kattu Siva Cave can be found here.


I usually sit on this seat in front of this big rock. When I come early in the morning this has nice shade. 


Looking towards the big rock, you can see a dark spot at its base. This is the cave entrance. I see Bebe on top of the rock. Most dogs seem to like climbing these rocks to get a good look around.


Closer to the cave.


In a crack in the rock grows a stunted tree. This could be very old, you never know; with little root space the tree stays small, like a natural Japanese bonsai tree.


Looking down into the cave. To the left of the entrance you can see stone and cement work, a sure sign of human use and occupancy. I guess Kattu Siva slept here.


Walking back from the cave, the sun has come out and the colors get brighter.


We are headed now to the area I call Sitting Rock, another place where I sit and meditate.


We have followed a path around the back side of this open area. It is marked by many holes where the Department of Forestry has planted trees during their big tree planting project this year. Maybe this will not be an open area in ten or twenty years.


To one side of this clearing there is a set of big rocks.


On one side there is a group of rocks with several places to sit. This is where I will stop. In the morning it is usually shady and pretty cool. This is my Sitting Rock.

I head back towards the road, being led by the doggies. They know where we are going.


I just follow the paths, and head away from the mountain.


This is a path marker I have set out. Follow the rock to the left to get to Sitting Rock, to the right to get to the Inner Path on the way to Papaji’s Cave. You will also pass by a new water settling tank that was built this year.


At the end of the walk, I see our present house, with the thatched roof on top. Every week we have a satsang here, listen to an audio recording of Nome’s teaching. Usually a few people join us. We do not post signs about it, figuring that whoever needs to find us will, somehow. 

The next three photos were taken in January, when there was still water around.

This is looking at Arunachala  over the new tank I wrote of, above.


Another look at Arunachala over the tank. The peak is in a cloud, as is often the case.


This is the small roadside tank when it is full of water. In these pictures you can get a bit of the feeling of what it is like when there is water as well as when it is dried out. 


There are many of these small footpaths in the area that surrounds Arunachala. These are places that most people never see when they visit Tiruvannamalai. I invite you to follow these, or to go exploring yourself. You might find some new secret of Arunachala for yourself.                                                     


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17 Responses to “Footpaths of Arunachala – South of Kattu Siva Tank”

  1. karthik681 Says:

    Dear Richard Clarke,

    I’m sorry to say that by reading the words of ‘pumdv’, my mind has got adulterated. All the wise words said by Bhagavan is been applied to wrong reasons to make them correct.

    I request you to remove these comments starting from my comment because this rubbish conversation started because I commented in the first place.

    Thanks and sorry.

    • richardclarke Says:

      What does it matter? They are all just ideas and not what is real. Remember Ramana had a man come to him who suffered greatly, saying that he had killed people. Ramana said that it was just thought, and by giving up thought he would be free.

  2. pumdv Says:

    Dear Richard
    Yes well accepted, What you have summarised is correct. The rants usually intend to be meaningful, but often result in nonsensical tirades heavily reliant on profanity.

    This is the essence of Sivaism and this is where spiritualism makes its entry and posses the question – Whom Am I- and why Am I talking to you?.

    As you have rightly pointed out the inner mind always thinks the body in which it is existing is always correct and others are wrong. The moment there is a conflict between body and mind then the reality surfaces and this is the power of meditation which then lets the body ask inner questions.

    Siva Bakthers as called in litrature are all very angry people and all the siddhars when denied anything get angry. history says most of the curse was given by siva worshippers and the famous list includes Brahma and Indra.

    Compare this to Vishnu the god of Maya there is More of rituals and spiritualism takes a back seat.

    Well Mr Richards solutions are found only when there is criticism and god tortures and tests only those who go up the ladder that lead towards the lord and when tested the answer must be enlightment and not rejection.

  3. pumdv Says:

    Dear Mr Ric,
    Rs 100 means the least or the minimum. For every Rs 100 Spent much more transacts. I am going by what the IT dept has given account of. The IT dept raids TVM jewellers the most and the wealth estimated is mind bogling( Rs 1500 crores from one person alone). If you are talking of money that goes to small time merchants, auto rickshaws, labourers, farmers,small hotel and small vendors etc their earnings will work out bare minimum and will not even cross in lakhs. The workers population of TVM is more dependent on many things other than that of the visitors. Visitors money mostly end up and get parked in jewellery and real estate . The cost of property in TVM is higher than any comparable town of Tamilnadu( upto Rs3000 per sq feet, from 400. Chennai is cheaper) and this is possible only when cash flow is there and not other wise. This is a typical urban story when poor becomes more poor loose their lands and rich more rich buy land from farmers and stop their cultivation.

    This again answers the question posed by Karthi about urbanisation. urbanisation in India is directly linked to Unaccounted money. If you want the readers to believe that 70 crores goes for the purpose of underpriviliged and is a reason for you to blacklist the comments ” I am sorry I cannot appologise to you” as I have the statistics to prove. Further I am not talking about the money spent outside the temple but inside the temple that is supposed to go into account and this is the money which has to be spent for the public who come there. But as commented by your self the public are forced to eat and drink what little they carry in an unhygenic environment and not even minimum shelter is provided.
    ( Black Money means unaccounted money-this does not relate to politicians).

    Further many temples in India has visitors by day but this is a unique place where they have to come when it is full moon and it becomes late Night by the time they circumbulate and there are many who just sleep on the road side. “The question raised is why is that basic amenities are lacking when devotees pay for the temple and what is the the need for charity organisation collecting money in the name of reforestation. Why every one gets angry when details of accounts are asked?

    I am a devotee born and brought up in TVM My great grand parents have lived in Ramana Ashram, All the books that was written even before I was born was printed at Jayam press and their family still holds the leters hand written by Ramana himself and also the text personally corrected by Ramana. there is lot of difference reading the original and what is told now.

    • richardclarke Says:

      When you rant I wish you would at least get the facts right. Yes land costs have skyrocketed. If you had just said that, then I would not respond. But rs 3000 per sq ft, is almost ten times more than I have ever heard. I am not expert on land costs, but this is too much. The highest I have heard is rs 500.

      And the problems of urbanization, that is people moving from villages to cities, are old. I have read translations of letters that are two thousand years old complaining about this. When there is poverty in villages people look for places of more opportunity. Cities all over the world have grown for many centuries because of this. I do not mean to say that corruption does not exist here, It is rampant, it seems to me. By the way, I just read something from BBC, and anthropology article saying that it looks like great corruption is something that almost always accompanies great periods of growth, in cultures all over the world. So perhaps that is not just an Indian thing, but is rather a problem with rapid social change. Rapid social change is comething that is certainly a major issue in India, perhaps the major issue. I lived 50 years in California’s Silicon Valley, so I have seem this rapid change all around me for most of my life, and am very aware of it is an issue.

      This is the last warning, please find some other place to make your rants. this is not what this blog is about. The next time I see one, I will, without further warning, blacklist your comments. IF you do not know whether your comments is a rant, then use these tests: is it several paragraphs long? Are you telling others that they are wrong and you are right? If it meets these two tests, then it is a rant.

  4. pumdv Says:

    Dear Mr Karthik

    You have hurt no one and message I wish to convey ( SorrY ric I am using your space) to everyone is that I have donated enough in the name of environment and what I see is more destruction. for every one rupee given as donation from an individual the organisations makes things more difficult for the public. The reason being that they will get Two rupees in return and then develop infrastructure to continually get more money and project a casue whcih will never be eradicated. This is like begging. When you pay one rupee to a begger you are not eradicating it you are promoting it. So when you say “organisation” then you have missed the bus because the govt wants to define laws based on boundries. Where is the boundries for spiritual body? who is the govt to say do not allow x or Y into the temple? and what is the reason for Kerala govt not to allow whites in the temple?. More the people approach govt for help the govt will try to find ways to make it more difficult for individuals. It is like a cat and monkey story.

    The statistics show that 70 Lakhs persons visit TVM every year and each spend atlest bare minimum of Rs 100 per visit so the net amount that circulates in Black money is Rs 70 Crores per year. Where is this money going? And whay is that someone must go to the govt and say look I am an organisation and I want to clean the place? is it not the duty of the govt to keep it clean after all where does the money goes. If you look into the property that people have donated to TVM over years even before British Gvot was there the entire stretch in madras belongs to TVM arunachala and the property all around the hill belongs to the arunachala. so cheating god is cheating ourself and when SIva assumes the form or Rudra it is destruction. Since you are a journalist I shall give you the assest value of an ashram, With all evidence, you wil be shocked. This one ashram alone can clean up the entire town by just using 2% of their wealth. We are all a simple individuals and life is simple being individual when you change from Single into CO or ltd or trust or society destruction begins and I am sure gods never had associations and whay is that man a descendant of god want to have organisations and association and claim the ownership of what is not theirs? If I as and individual cannot do anything how can I associate with someone else to change the world. In this sense the blog of Ric is significant in that he has given a platform for individuals to work as an individual and leve the rest to god.

    • richardclarke Says:

      Why do you call the money spent while visiting Arunachala “Black Money?” For the most part is goes to support small merchants and their families, and their children going to school, and such things. It does not go to the government, but to the people. If it were going to politician who put it into secret bank accounts, then maybe it is ‘Black money,’ Not if spent with merchants and vendors. And, I suspect many people spend less than rs 100. They come in bus loads, and have meals that they themselves cook behind the buses, and drink water from public water sources.

      You are getting close to rants again, even though this is a worthwhile subject. Please restrain yourself, or I must put your comments on moderation, or blacklist you.

  5. karthik681 Says:

    Dear pumdv,
    I’m sorry if my words have hurt you.

    I’m trying to reduce the use of plastics and other materials that threatens the environment whether its in my place or in my all visits to the TVM, Arunachala.

    God has given us all the resources, it is left to us to use it properly.

    Its great of Clarke to post whats happening in TVM, holy mountain and spirituality.


  6. pumdv Says:

    Dear Karthik,

    My spiritual guru defined life as a continuity maintianing its individuality. In order to understand this what is you is only your individuality and when you die it is only the death of your individuality. YOur individuality has been given to you by your parents and this is the chromosomes and its gene whcih is not yours. You are only expressing what is coded in your gene and this gives you your individuality and when you die only your individuality dies that is body. whereas the genes has been in continuity from generations and will again go into your next generation whcih is what means life after birth.
    So now understand this you are carrying in you the genes given to you from your parents and it is like you shirt and now it is dirty it is goign to be passed on to the generation next. Diabetes is like a dirty gene when it has become corrupt because of the enviromnet and when it goes into continuity it the corrupt system that is goign to be transferred.
    When you talk of spiritual cleansing do not look at the trash or the garbage look into you it is all recorded into your genes and look and understand that the trash is goign to go to the generation next. See What happened in Japan who did the mistake the entire japanese exposed to rediation has genes compared to trash. No money can clean it. Universal law is money does not change things it is how people understand the spritir of Aurnachala where the entire vasthu of the worldis described and when yoiu circumbulate you are only understanng how dirty your genes are and how you are goign to cleanse it. Sorry I am just being harsh only to make people understand that you can lie to environment but not to your genes and this is the power of Ramana or Arunachala who just conveyed messages keeping quiet.

  7. richardramanarocksforever Says:

    This blog of Richard is multi-thronged in its purpose: Firstly creating spiritual awareness (and that again which is universally appealing– inviting humanity from various cross sections of the globe) and also prompting us to think from a pure ecological perspective.(To safe-guard and retain Arunachala grandeur for ourselves and our future generations to come)
    It is really heart-warming to see exchange of positive ideas by the various readers of the blog and I do hope all our silent and collective prayers will culminate in achieving the objective in the long run.

    Thanks again Richard, PumDv and Karthik and other unknown like minded souls.

  8. karthik681 Says:

    Dear Mr pumdv,

    Yes, the farmer is fighting for his existence and I can do nothing about. This is happening all around the world from deforesting Amazon rain forest to plains of China. Its all linked in one or the other way to Urbanization.

    In the last paragraph you say, people come to TVM for spiritual cleansing, When the surroundings are not clean how can you achieve cleanness in spirituality?

    Can you and have you seen a sadhu or anybody meditating near pile of garbage, No. That is what i meant.

    If Clark were not to clear the inner path, could people go in inner path throught bushes and torn? No.

    Get like minded people, form an organisation to protect the mountain.

    Its not necessarily needed for all to me present in TVM to do activities, a membership will do it, the funding money can be used to do these activities. I’m ready to donate for any organisation is born to clean the mountain surroundings.

    The organisation can approach the government and ask them to ban rising buildings on the other side mountain, this can be further support on the bases of afforestation with the support forest dept.

    Again, a single individual cannot do this, even if its done we need support for that an organisation is the answer.

  9. pumdv Says:

    Dear Mr Karthik681,

    When you talk of measures and plan it means you want someone else to do the job, Whereas the farmer is fighting for his existence. PLease first comment what can you do. Can you live in your house without refridgerator. What will we do when our computer hangs up or cell phone does not work simple just throw it outside and then blame the system.

    No one can frame laws for spiritual mind and the law that is in place is only for the working body and when the body tires people has to come down to TVM for spiritual cleansing

  10. karthik681 Says:

    Good Post
    I’m happy to see that farming is done on the other side of the mountain. We have to preserve the serene nature of the mountain otherwise urbanization will ruin the holy place to some kind of tourist hotspot rather than spiritual center.
    The photo no. 6 shows good farming done but sad to notice that plastics are litter that directly harms both the farming and the mountain as well.
    Please tell me what measures and plans are taken to preserve the holy mountain from the plastic , garbage and urbanization.

  11. richardramanarocksforever Says:

    Simply Captivating !!

    Kudos Dear Mr.Richard!!!

  12. drsundaram Says:

    a great and minute narration with photographs to substantiate. sometime I am jealous of Mr Richard for his flair to document the details he explores.

  13. drpvssnraju Says:

    One evening i was walking along the foot of the holy hill Arunachala.When i reached Kattu Siva tank a group of people are enjoying taking bhang.They looked at us conveying a message through their eyes what work you have here when we are enjoying bhang.Anyway it is a great experience to walk round the hill by pada pradakshina.

  14. mnaren Says:

    Very nice narration with the photos – keep up the great documentaries!

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