One day, some months ago in Tiruvannamalai, within the space of two hours, two different people told us of Sri Ramana Maharshi talking about a spiritual connection between Arunachala and Peru. We thought this remarkable coincidence was a sign that we needed to investigate Bhagavan’s claim.
Sri Ramana’s discussion about the “other mountain,” were recorded by Sadhu Arunachala, also known as Major A.W. Chadwick. The following is from “A Sadhu’s Reminiscence” by Chadwick:
“He used to say that Arunachala was the top of the spiritual axis of the earth. ‘There must,’ he said, ‘be another mountain corresponding to Arunachala at exactly the opposite side of the globe, the corresponding pole of the axis.’ So certain was he of this that one evening he made me fetch an atlas and see if this was not correct. I found, according to the atlas, the exact opposite point came in the sea about a hundred miles off the coast of Peru. He seemed doubtful about this. I pointed out that there might be some island at this spot or a mountain under the sea. It was not until some years after
Bhagavan’s passing that a visiting Englishman had a tale of a spot, supposed to be a great secret-power center, in the Andes somewhere in this latitude. Later I found that though a center had certainly been started, it had failed. Since then I have been told of another person who is practicing meditation in solitude in the region of the Andes in Ecuador. So it does appear as though there were some strange attraction about that part of the globe. The earth is not an exact sphere and maps are not so accurate as all that, so we are unable to pin it down to any definite point. It is quite possible that more is
going on in that part of the world than we know and this would fit in well with what Bhagavan said.”
From The Maharshi Newsletter, Feb-Mar 2003
Here are maps of Arunachala and the spot off Peru. Not an exact match. We weren’t up for a trip down into the Pacific Ocean.
Later, in 2000, Dr. Ravi Iyer of Virginia made some investigation, (also published in The Maharshi Newsletter, Feb-Mar 2003), into the connection between Arunachala and Machu Picchu, the ancient sacred mountain in Peru.
“Machu Picchu is the closest known power spot that resonates great spiritual power. This site consists of an outer and inner section. … The city represents the immense mysteries of Inca civilization. There are striking parallels between the Machu Picchu site and the Sakti culture.”
So Dr. Iyer says to look in Machu Pichu. And we will. But first we must get there.
When we flew to Peru, we arrived in the capital, Lima. We will stay for three nights, and then fly off to our next destination, Puerto Maldonado, to a lodge in the Peruvian rainforest jungle surrounding Lake Sandoval. For the first part of the trip, our arrangements were made by a tour company, Aracari. This is not usually how we travel, but we wanted to be more careful, since we had heard about visitors to Peru having trouble with the high altitude, and wanted to know we would have professional help if we did have these problems. I have high blood pressure, for which I medicate, and have heard of heart problems at high altitude.
In Lima, we stayed in a district called Barranco, by the sea to the south of the Miraflores district. Barranco, we are told, is a more bohemian part of Lima and is liked by tourists. We have been placed into a good hotel, “The Barranco’s Bed & Breakfast,” (“3B Hostal”) new, clean, and contemporarily decorated. From here we could walk through the district. In Lima these districts are different from what you would see in the USA or India. Though all the districts are part of the city of Lima, which has its mayor and city police, each district also has its own mayor and police department, etc.
The first person who told us about the Arunachala/Peru connection was Ishvari, a British woman who lives part of the year in Tiruvannamalai and part time in Peru. We were going to meet up with her in Cusco and she would show us around. However, a couple weeks before we departed, she wrote to say that she was returning to India and we would not see her in Peru. We were disappointed not to have the benefit of her expertise there. So on our first morning in Lima, while eating our breakfast, we looked up to see the door to the nearest guest room open, and out came Ishvari! It was her last day in Peru. Unbelievably, we had been booked into the same hotel. Now we are used to these kinds of “coincidences” near Arunachala. To have one in Peru seemed to say that this was a magic place, too.
Below are examples of some of the art that was being shown at the The 3B Hostal. Here the images are from the hey-day of American commercial graphics, the 1950s. The hotel changes the art exhibit every month.
When we first walked out into Lima, we saw this acrobat at a red traffic light, entertaining the drivers and walkers, juggling while riding a unicycle.
Down the road, street art adorned a wall.
We walked past continuous strips of a park, one city block wide, several long, till they stopped at the cliff above the ocean.
Trash bins are up in the air, beyond the reach of dogs. People all over Peru seemed to respect the use of trash receptacles, and the streets were quite clean and litter-free. (Take note, beloved India!)
These mannequins share the street with us.
Looking from Puente de Suspiros (“The Bridge of Sighs”), where, it is said, innumerable romances that have come from this colorful barranquino corner. Tradition indicates that he who sees the bridge for the first time and crosses it without breathing will have one desire fulfilled.
A low area extends under the bridge, where we found the Bajada de Baños, a stone walkway that extends to the ocean.
This church sits to one side of the bridge.
We see more street art while walking in this area.
Back on Bajada de Baños. It is lined by trees and businesses, mainly places to eat.
It reaches down to the sea.
Jewelry vendors sit and work as they display their wares.
Beneath us is the ocean, and a small harbor.
Earthquakes are common here. This sign marks an escape route.
We stopped and enjoyed food and drinks at one of the restaurants.
Below is Richard with his Peruvian beer, next to a glass of Carol’s first experience of the famous Pisco Sour.
Bright colors adorns some of the buildings. This one is being painted now. A painter with brush and bright green paint is at work.
Looking back, away from the ocean.
Below, what seems standard urban statuary. Some Spanish conqueror riding a horse, I guess. History, it is said, is written by the conqueror. So is urban art, I think.
A Peruano plays the guitar.
The church is getting a new roof put on. Here you can see its wooden frame.
Residential buildings are built side by side, abutting each other.
Here is some urban art. A blue sculpture, made of welded iron.
Birds and flowers adorn a doorway.
Looking down from here we see dots on the water. These are surfers, waiting for the right wave.
This stately house looks like an English Tudor-style.
Richard, on the streets of Lima.
Urban strip park, extending to the sea.
The next morning we were taken for a tour of Lima by the Aracari people. We started in the main square of the city, the Plaza de Armas of Lima, known as the birthplace of the city of Lima, as well as the core of the city. Located in the historic center of Lima, it is surrounded by the Government Palace, Cathedral of Lima, Archbishop’s Palace of Lima, the Municipal Palace, and the Palace of the Union.
Here is the Government Palace, also known as House of Pizarro.
This is Municipal Palace of Lima, the Lima Council House.
I am not sure of this building. The wooden balcony that extends above the lower floors is a standard feature of Peruvian architecture, brought from the Spanish. In these grand buildings, grand balconies are featured. Throughout Peru these are seen, with lesser balconies on lesser buildings.
This is the Archbishop’s Palace of Lima.
Below, a good view of the wooden balconies. Amazingly ornate.
Below is the entrance to the Cathedral of Lima. We are allowed to enter and take photographs.
This is not the original building, built starting in 1535. Earthquakes have destroyed all the original Spanish buildings in Peru. Incan buildings still exist from before this period, because they knew how to build to withstand the quakes.
The doors are enormous. This main door is the Portada del Perdón or the “Door of Forgiveness.“
The entrance has grand stone work and images.
Inside, the ceilings are vaulted arches, lined with golden-hued wooden braces.
Below is a painting of Pizarro, known as the conqueror of Peru, the bringer of Spanish culture. Clearly this church was built by the colonial winners. (Sorry for the poor photo. It was all I could get in the dim light.)
This painting is along the wall of the nave, the approach to the main altar. In the big Catholic churches we saw in Peru, all of the walls of the naves were lined with grand chapels. It sure seemed odd to me to have a chapel to Pizarro, but it does show how highly he was thought of by later generations.
Francisco Pizarro died a violent death. On June 16,1541, while he was having dinner in his governor’s palace, a group of men, led by the son of his ex-partner, Diego de Almagro, broke in and stabbed him to death. As he lay dying from multiple sword wounds, he drew a cross on the ground in his own blood, kissing it, and crying “Jesus.”
“Pizarro bled to death,” said pathologist Uriel Garcia. “The fatal blow was a sword thrust that clipped his right jaw, probably cut the jugular vein and the carotid artery, and severed his spine. He was likely paralyzed when death came.”
A mummy had been placed in the chapel back in 1891, when Peruvian officials, wanting to prominently display the “Founder of Lima,” placed it there. But was this the actual body? No.
History now shows that, fearing that his killers would sever Pizarro’s head and impale it on a post in the plaza (as Pizarro regularly did to his enemies), friends spirited his body away. They dressed Pizarro in a white habit with a distinctive red cross of the Military Order of the Knights of St. James and buried it that afternoon behind the church. Then, after his supporters carried off a counterrevolution, Pizarro’s body was exhumed on Jan. 21, 1544, and reinterred with honor under the main altar of the church. He stayed there in a wooden coffin for about 85 years, according to a painstaking chronology assembled by Ludena.
In the next decades, Pizarro’s body was repeatedly shifted around as the church was expanded into one of the New World’s most beautiful cathedrals and fell victim to such problems as earthquakes.
In 1661, there was a watershed exhumation. Pizarro’s skull was placed inside a lead box. His skeleton went into a wooden box wrapped in velvet. “Authentic Shriveled Remains” said the church records. Then this was basically lost until June 18, 1977, when four workmen, sent to remodel the crypt, opened an adjoining wall by mistake. Beyond the wall lay a niche and a lead box with a rough inscription on the lid saying that it contained the skull of Francisco Pizarro. Next to the lead box lay a wooden crate of bones wrapped in velvet. “The skull was the key piece. It ‘locked on’ to the male skeleton exactly right,” said Garcia, the pathologist. “The physical evidence entirely supports the historical record. You can not only see, but almost feel, the fatal sword thrust. There’s no doubt. We have Francisco Pizarro.”
In the investigations, they found the bones to be from the correct century, and the man to have been Pizarro’s age when he died. They detected traces of lead on the skull, suggesting that it had indeed been long stored in the box. X-rays that highlighted the fatal thrust and more than a dozen other wounds were the clincher. This evidence is detailed in the chart in the chapel, shown below.
In the cathedral here are other chapels lining the walls, all the way up to the main altar.
The altar shown below, in one of the side chapels, is for Mother Mary and Baby Jesus, the Madonna. This is a very common idol in Peru, loved by all, it seems. The depiction combines Catholic imagery with native iconography. One of the chief native goddesses is Pachamama, the Earth Mother, a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting. Here, Pachamama has been merged with the Virgin Mary. Usually the Peruvian Virgin is shown with a triangle of clothes, as in the photo below. The triangle stands for the mountains of Peru, sacred to Pachamama.
Another of the side chapels. Behind the altar are wonderfully rendered holy images, fit into a wooden structure maybe 30 feet high, itself elaborately carved. I could find no information on the carving or paintings, so I do not know what artists did the work. There was a famous “Cuzco School” of artists, trained by Europeans, but I find no information that says they these artists were involved in the Lima cathedrals.
Here is a fine angel, gazing at the main figure.
Towards the back of the cathedral is a figure of a man with a right angle tool in his hand. Maybe he is a representation of the cathedral architect?
The apse with the main altar.
At one side of the apse is this wooden pulpit where a speaker can talk.
Note the figure holding the book stand.
Another grand chapel.
The view up the nave to the main altar.
Now we are outside the cathedral.
Buildings on an adjacent street, with a mountain (topped with a cross) behind.
A group of local women gather and sit in the main square. The weather was always gray and cool and dreary. It drizzled some when we were there, although it is famously said that “It never rains in Lima.”
Looking from the central square towards a nearby street, you can see the fronts of the colonial-style buildings.
And the grand balconies fronting the building.
This street has been converted to a pedestrian walkway.
Wonderful old-style buildings line the way.
Now we are at another church.
The front of the church is all carved wood, detailed and elaborate.
The main altar is pretty simple.
Again, elaborate chapels line the walls.
The Virgin again, with the Pachamama influences.
There is a Peruvian style of sewing called Bordados, done with gold thread. I think the base of the Virgin is done in this style.
Another side chapel.
A more rustic Virgin. There are many Virgin figures in every church we visited.
We then went to an exhibit of dolls, dressed in traditional style clothes. The Peruvians in Lima are, I think, trying to recapture their roots, so exhibits like this are more common now, we are told.
The building is an old-style Spanish building, with a big interior courtyard.
A statue commemorating the first owner of the building.
A plaque showing the origin of the building, the house of Riva-Aguero.
The exhibit was upstairs.
Throughout several rooms were display cases, filled with colorful figures. I also enjoyed just seeing the doors and ceilings of this old building, to see how it was made.
This case shows a group of high-mountain people. I think the main character is the shaman.
The shaman is depicted doing a native ceremony. These are kind of like Andean poojas. I will show one in more detail in a later post.
A poster showing two women in native dress.
A group of figures. I do not understand their dress, or activity shown here.
A high-Andean man and woman in typical dress. The woman holds a baby, wrapped in alpaca wool.
Tribal people. The hats are not typical for the Andeans that we saw. Before the Incas there were about 20 different tribes. The man is shown with a type of flute common in the mountains.
A painting of an Andean man, with flute and fancy hat with colored feathers.
Another couple, wearing more recent type hats, from the Europeans. You see many of these kinds of hats, especially on women, even today.
This case shows how the dolls were made.
This exhibit shows a Spanish lady, alighting from her carriage.
Here are lower altitude tribal people. Different dress, culture, language, etc.
More tribal people.
We are back on the streets of Lima.
This is a cathedral built for the Peruvians by the French.
After the tour of downtown Lima, we were taken to Huaca Pucllana, ancient ruins in the city of Lima, dating back to 400 A.D., —nine centuries before the Incas started setting stones at Machu Picchu. Those earliest residents gathered, traded, made community decisions, worshiped and sacrificed women and children at Huaca Pucllana for 300 years. They abandoned the site when the Wari empire conquered the area in 700 A.D., and built a cemetery for its elite on top of the pyramid. Although Huaca Pucllana is ancient, it is a relatively new attraction. Grounds opened for tours in 1984 and excavation is ongoing.
This site is in the Miraflores district.
Until you get to the area that is restored, it just looks like a giant pile of bricks.
Then you see step-walls rising.
Then there are a few men working.
Painstakingly taking bricks that they have extracted from the pile, and rebuilding an exterior wall.
Then, still in Miraflores, we came to El Parque del Amor, the Park of Love.
The poet Antonio Cilloniz had lamented that “In the cities, they do not build monuments to lovers,” a reaction to all the monuments in South America devoted to those who had distinguished themselves in battle by either winning or dying.
Miraflores decided to be the exception, and they opened the Parque del Amor in 1993 on Valentine’s day. The park features a prominent statue of two lovers in a passionate embrace over Cilloniz’s very own words. Also featured are walls filled with Spanish love poetry.
The Park of Love is on a cliff, overlooking the ocean.
Walls of poetry.
The famous statue, The Kiss, “El Beso”, a couple engaged in a passionate kiss, sculpted by Victor Delfin.
Poetry at the base of the statue: “Love is like light” –Martin Adan, and “I am yours, as my body of the earth awaits” –Juan Rios.
More walls of poetry, with hidden seats where lovers can gaze into each others’ eyes and kiss.
Below is the ocean, and a restaurant on a pier reaching out.
Carol and our guide for the day chat in the Park.
Carol and I stand in front of The Kiss.
The last part of the day’s trip was going to LarcoMar, a cliffside mall in Miraflores, to get some lunch.
All you see above ground are several cylindrical pillars made of glass that rise from a lawn. These are lighted at night, but in the day, they are not that spectacular.
The mall seems to be many restaurants, with a few scattered shops. Most of the places to eat were parts of Western chains. We were disappointed to find so many USA restaurants in this fancy place in Lima.
Many were nice with tables that have an ocean view.
After this we headed back to our B&B. We took a taxi, I think for four Soles, about $1.50.
We enjoyed Lima, thanks in part to the good tour we were given by the people at Aracari Tours. But now we are ready to continue on the adventure. Next is our trip to the jungle, to Sandoval Lake.