Caves of Arunachala – October 2011 Update

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There are many “caves” on Arunachala. I am interested in these caves. One reason is that this holy mountain has attracted swamis for several thousand years, and some of these swamis must have lived in every cave that is accessible and has water, at least some time during the year. So I look for caves as hidden holy spots on this Holy Hill, Arunachala.

I put quotation marks around my first use of the word “caves,” since what are called caves here are sometimes nothing more than a sheltered space under a big rock. Some are natural, some have been improved, usually by building walls and adding a concrete floor. Some have been dug out under  rocks.

In some cases the individual caves already have names in common use. Most do not, and for the purposes of this listing I am calling these by names that I made up. If you know of other caves, or you know the correct names of caves I show here, I ask that you let me know, and I will update this listing.

The earlier posting, from December 2008, showed 18 caves. Now 30 are shown.

Caves Associated with Sri Ramana Maharshi

The map below shows the well known Virupaksha Cave and Skandashram on the left. Also on paths up to these caves are Mango Tree Cave, Guhai Namasivaya Temple and Cave, and Banyan Tree Cave.  A bit to the north is Tortoise Rock and Tortoise Cave (also called Turtle Rock and Cave).

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Banyan Tree Cave (also known as Alamarathuguhai Cave)

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi lived in this cave as he worked his way up the mountain, finally residing at Virupaksha Cave, then Skandashram. More about this cave is in this post.

This cave is rarely visited by Ramana devotees. In fact, I don’t think that most of them even know about it. This is the first cave in which Ramana lived after he left Pavala Kundru. This is also the lowest one used by Ramana on the mountain.

To get to the cave, you go up a small street just south of the West Gate to the big temple. The road turns into a path (that goes through an area where people dump garbage).

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You will see a large building up stairs to the right. This is where Alamaragugai Cave is located.

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The Alamaragugai Ashram.

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The cave was renovated by Swami Satchidananda, from Kerala, in 1994.

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In the small hall outside the cave there are a number of spiritual paintings. The one below, the Holy Feet, is at the entrance into the cave.

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Here is a view inside Alamaragugai Cave, featuring a photo of Ramana Maharshi.

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The path up from here takes you to Guhai Namasivaya Cave.

Guhai Namasivaya Cave

This is another cave in which Ramana lived in 1899. It is here that he wrote the notes which later became the pamphlet Who am I?

More on this cave is found in the post Guhai Namasivaya Temple.

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A short clip from Arunachala Grace Blog:

Guhai Namasivaya is known to have been born around the year AD 1548 in Karnataka to a pious Saiva couple. His spiritual nature became evident at an early age: he was virtuous in his conduct, adept at his studies and evinced no attachment to worldly matters.

He practised his system of yoga for many years and as a result of the dream guidance of Lord Mallikarjuna, the presiding deity of Sri Sailam, Guhai Namasivaya came to Arunachala and remained as a Guru, giving teachings to mature disciples who approached him.

Looking into the entrance.

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A shrine is pictured in the center in the photo below. The cave is in the big rock behind the shrine.

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A stairway leads up to the entrance of Guhai Namasivaya Cave.

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The swami will sit with you in the cave and meditate.

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Virupaksha Cave

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Virupaksha is, for most, deeply associated with Sri Ramana Maharshi. Ramana lived here for 17 years, from 1899 to 1916.

Below is a famous photo of the young Ramana at Virupaksha cave.

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The cave is named for a famous saint, Virupaksha, who lived in this cave in the 1500’s, around the same time as Guhai Namashivaya lived nearby (see above). At Virupaksha’s demise, called here ‘maha samadhi,’ it is said that his body was transformed into vibhuti (sacred ash). In the interior of this cave there is a mound in the shape of Arunachala. It is said to be made of this vibhuti.

More on Virupaksha Cave is in this post.

Mango Tree Cave

During the Virupaksha days, Sri Ramana would come down to Mango Tree Cave during the summer. It was cooler, and there was water here when there was none at Virupaksha Cave. Mango Tree Cave is on the common way up the hill to Virupaksha  Cave.

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Inside the building, to the back, there is the actual cave. I think the building has been added since Ramana’s time.

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Now this small cave is filled with lingams and murtis of many gods.

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More on Mango Tree Cave can be found in this blog entry.

Skandashram

Sri Ramana lived at Skandashram from 1916 to 1922. His mother joined him during this period, and for the first time, cooking was done there.

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The photo below shows where his mother had her maha samadhi in 1922. Her room is now a shrine.

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More on Skandashram is in the post Walking up to Skandashram.

Tortoise Cave / Tortoise Rock

Tortoise Cave (also called Turtle Cave) was frequented by Sri Ramana during the Virupaksha days. In those days, there were few trees on Arunachala, and not many places with shade. Tortoise Cave has a good flat stone at its entrance to sit on. Here you are in the shade, and there is often a breeze.

This is also the place made famous in the story of Sri Ramana’s ‘second death experience.’ This happened when Ramana stopped at Tortoise Cave / Tortoise Rock on his way back from Pachiaimman Koil. More of Tortoise Cave and Rock, and Ramana’s second death experience, is in this post. More about Tortoise Cave is also found in this post.

From places like Pavala Kundru, Tortoise Cave can be seen as a dark triangle up on the mountain. It is a bit of a climb to get up here. We think it is worth it. You will want to take a mountain guide the first time, I think.

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Arunachaleswara Temple from Tortoise Cave. A wonderful view.

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This rock at the entrance of the cave is where Sri Ramana would have sat and rested. And meditated.

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Pavala Kundru can be seen toward the left.

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Here is a close up view of the face of the turtle on Tortoise Rock. Tiruvannamalai is in the background.

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This cave is a great place to sit in the shade and meditate.

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Seven Springs Caves

The next four caves are shown in the Seven Springs posting. They are all located on the hill above Skandashram, on one of the paths that goes to the top of the hill. Only one of these caves is associated with Ramana, the top one at Seven Springs. The four caves are shown on the map below, (along with some lower caves that are referred to later in this article).

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Godman’s Cave

Located on the path to Seven Springs, this is a cave said to have been greatly improved by the work of David Godman in the 1980s, and others later. Maybe ten people can fit into this cave.

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Altar in the cave.

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Looking out the entrance. John, the archivist at Ramanasramam, stands outside the entrance.

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Seven Springs 1

This is first of three caves found at the Seven Springs site. There is a stone entrance built, and a good altar in the cave. Maybe four people can fit in here.

Up the hill you can see stonework.

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The entrance, from the inside.

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Richard, offering incense to the altar.

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Seven Springs 2

This is a small cave, behind Seven Springs 1. Maybe two people fit inside. Many stone and concrete improvements have been made.

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Richard, meditating in the cave.

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Ramana’s Resting Cave

I call it ‘Ramana’s Resting Cave’ since this is the cave in which Ramana was known to stay and wait while others made the climb up to the top of Arunachala.

It is in the shade all day with a nice breeze through it, and a view out through green trees.

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The entrance is a bit tight, though. (There is another entrance higher up, on the opposite side of the cave.)

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Caves in Virupaksha Cave Area

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Palamaram Ashram Cave

The Palamaram Ashram is ‘generations’ old and has been run by one family for these generations. Palamaram is the Tamil word for ‘jackfruit’ (but we did not see a jackfruit tree). The guru who was most recently active here, per our mountain guide, was Palamaram Swami, who was here for 40 years and for the last 15 years has been in the Himalayas.

Steps lead up the the ashram. The flag pole can be seen from down the hill.

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The cave is under this rock. The doors into the cave are locked, and you will have to see if you can find someone who can open them. Often you cannot find the person. We could not when we visited.

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For more on this place, see the Palamaram Ashram Post.

Wedding Cave

Wedding Cave is a small cave to the north of Virupaksha. It is rarely visited by Westerners. We just discovered it by accident, looking for some other place. It is at the base of the hill. You have to travel through residential areas, then up hillside trails to reach it.

To get to the cave, you have to climb up the rock, to the right of what can be seen in this photo.

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Krishna is painted on the rock, with a peacock feather on his head.

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A great view of Pavala Kundru can be seen from here.

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Arunachaleswara Temple, too.

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More is found in Wedding Cave Post.

Dugout Cave

Dugout Cave is a cave under a rock below Tortoise Cave.

To get to it, you go through the hillside, as shown below.

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A nice spot has been dug out under this rock. There are several cushions lying in the cave. Maybe there was a smaller cave, that was ‘improved’ to make a better space. I know nothing of the history of this cave.

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Another photo of the terrain around this cave.

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This is seen as a part of this post.

Caves below Virupaksha Cave

These caves are described in the post New Access to Ramana Sites below Virupaksha.

Below Virupaksha 1

This cave is big enough that one or two people can sit in it.

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Below Virupaksha 2

This cave is very small. One person can lie down in it.

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Below Virupaksha 3 – Associated with Ramana?

This cave is said by local villagers to be one used by Ramana in the early days. Recently, people have built walls and a door and an altar in it.

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The altar.

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Caves on the Southwest Side

This map shows (right to left) Papaji’s Cave, Aum Amma’s Cave, Kattu Siva Cave, Unused Cave, Gameplayers Cave (Mankala Cave), and Pathside Cave. The red line indicates the Inner Path.

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Caves on Papaji’s Knoll

These caves are shown in the posts Papaji’s Cave and Aum Amma’s Cave.

Papaji’s Cave 1

The first ‘cave’ of Papaji’s is in the area where part of his ashes were scattered. This is a nice place to sit and meditate at the altar that has been set up there. This is one of our favorite places on Arunachala.

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Papaji’s Cave 2

The next of the caves named for Papaji, and one that he is said to have lived in, is near the first cave, down the rock and a bit up the path.

Carol enters the cave from the path.

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Richard and Carol, meditating in the cave.

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Below is part of a mother goddess statue, placed in this cave.

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Aum Amma’s Cave

Aum Amma’s cave is the most developed of any cave we have found so far (except for those, like Virupaksha, which have had buildings constructed around them).

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Many bags of cement were carried up the hill to make these cave improvements. Aum Amma lived her for several years until just a few years ago.

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Stairs lead down into a main room.

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There is a good view out the "window" in the main room. It looks like sometimes people sleep in this cave, though you are not supposed to, and if you stay too long, the Forestry Department people will chase you out.

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Caves in Kattu Siva area

Kattu Siva Cave

This cave is shown in the post Kattu Siva Cave.

There is a nice cleared area around the cave. This is a good place to come during the heat of the day. There is plenty of shade.

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Climbing over the rocks at the end of the clearing, a hole in the rock appears.

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This is Kattu Siva’s cave. A big rock, in front of Richard, has fallen into the cave. Will someone be able to remove it?

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On the top of the rock over the cave, a cement water catching area was made. The photo below looks over this to the Arunachala hillside to the south of Kattu Siva’s cave.

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Cave Above Kattu Siva Meditation Perch – Unused Cave

Related posts are: Kattu Siva Meditation Perch and Kattu Siva Path Renewal – Part 1.

This is a small unused cave. Rocks need to be cleared from the floor to make a good sleeping area.

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Mankala Cave (or Gameplayers Cave)

This cave is shown in the post Kattu Siva Path Renewal – Part 1. The cave is under a rock that looks like a natural lingam as you approach it.

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Cave next to Inner Path near Kannappa Temple – Pathside Cave

This cave is shown in the post Inner Path – Around Parvati Hill.

A path leads to it from the Inner Path.

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This cave was improved with a stone and cement wall in front.

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A nice cement floor has been put in the cave.

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Caves on North Side of Arunachala

G’s Northside Cave

Our friend G told us he was inspired to search off the beaten paths of Arunachala after reading about some of our explorations shown in this blog. G has shown us two caves so far, and he says he knows of others.

The first cave he found, on the north side of the hill, is marked on the map below.

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The actual cave is under this rock. More information is found in the posting  "G’s Cave" on Arunachala’s Northside.

Naga Cave

Naga Cave is shown in the map below. It is very close to the Inner Path, and can be seen from there. At the end of the “Trees” section, just before a raised water storage tank, you can catch a glimpse of some red or yellow color up a path to the right.

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Walking up this small path,  you approach a small cave at the bottom of a large rock.

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To the left is a primitive altar, featuring a Naga, snake god, a holy cobra. Standing beside this are seven other gods.

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The colors noticed from the path are the fine clothes that the seven gods are wearing.

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The cave is small. Only one person can sit in it. Not good for sleeping, either.

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More is to be found in the Naga Cave Post.

G’s Cave Above Ramanasramam

This is the second cave that was shown to me by G. It can be reached from the fire path off the Inner Path past the entrance from Ramanasramam. The location is marked by a distinctive rock that can be seen from the path to Skandashram.

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Here is the rock, under which is G’s cave.

From inside the cave.

You can see more about this cave in the post Climbing to a Cave High Above Ramanasramam.

Near Pachaiamman Koil

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Pachaiamman Cave, under a rock, on the path to Madurai Veeran Koil.

Cave near Madurai Veeran Koil, further on the path across this side of Arunachala, from Pachaiamman Koil, written about in this post.

More caves to find, more of Arunachala to explore

I have heard of more caves. I have been told:

  • There are four caves on the hill above The Forest Way reforestation facility.
  • There is another cave high above Papaji’s cave.
  • There are three caves on the north side.
  • There is a cave near Virupaksha occupied by a sadhu that does not like to be bothered.
  • There are two caves east of Skandashram.
  • There is one cave in the rocks near the top of the path to Skandashram.

What else is there? We have to explore to know more. If you know of any more caves that haven’t been listed, please let me know.

Related Posts:

For other Arunachala posts, go to Arunachala Inner Path Guide and Arunachala Outer Path Pradakshina .

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7 Responses to “Caves of Arunachala – October 2011 Update”

  1. Manikavachagam Pillai Says:

    Alamar gugai cave is the cave used by Swami Papa Ramdas to meditate for 21 days after he was enlightened by Bhagawan in 1923.
    This is described in his beautiful book In Quest of God.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swami_Ramdas

    Papa Ramdas was also the one who gave Yogi Ramsuratkumar
    the renowned yogi of Tiruvannamalai the Ram mantra diksha.
    Swami Satchidananda who renovated Alamar guhai cave is
    the spiritual inheritor of Swami Papa Ramdas’s Anandashram
    of Kanhangad, Kerala. He is a different person than the founder
    of Integral Yoga and who spoke at Woodstock. Two different persons. Swami Satchidananda of Kanhangad attained samadhi in 2009.

    The meeting of Bhagavan and Swami Ramdas is described in
    the book In Quest of God and also as story number 81 in Face to face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, published by Ramana Kendram, Hyderabad. Here is a link to the pdf version of In Quest of God:

    http://www.anandashram.org/html/ebooksenglish.html

    Here is the story 81:( the full story and experiences in Alamar Gugai
    are In Quest of God)

    81
    Swami Ramdas was the founder of the Anandashram, Kanhangad
    in Kerala. He authored the book In Quest of God.
    The story below is as told by Swami Ramdas to Dilip Kumar Roy
    (no. 8) and published in the book by Roy The Flute Calls Still:

    One day, Ramdas went for the darshan of Ramana Maharshi
    and addressed him thus: Maharaj, here stands before thee a humble
    slave. Have pity on him. His only prayer to thee is that you give him thy
    blessings. The Maharshi turned his beautiful eyes towards Ramdas and
    looked intently for a few minutes into his eyes, as though he was pouring
    into Ramdas his blessings through those orbs. Then he shook his head as
    if to say he has been blessed. A thrill of inexpressible joy coursed through
    the frame of Ramdas, his whole body quivering like a leaf in the breeze.
    Ramdas had gone to the Maharshi in a state of complete obliviousness
    of the world. He felt thrills of ecstasy in his presence. The Maharshi
    made the awakening permanent in Ramdas.
    Swami Ramdas
    224 Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi
    Some people asked Ramdas, “You went to the Maharshi and you
    got illumination. Give us illumination like that.” Ramdas responded, “You
    must come to Ramdas with the same spirit as he went to the Maharshi.
    Where was his heart? How intense was his longing? What was the world
    to him at that time? If you come in that state you then you also get it.”
    Extracts from Ramdas’s poem:
    My Beloved Bhagavan
    What shall I say to Him who towers high
    A veritable Everest of spiritual glory –
    A resplendent sun who sheds light on all
    He is our soul, our life and sole refuge.
    The sage par-excellence dwells on the Sacred Hill
    Arunachala – the abode of holy ones – the Rishis.
    His compassionate eyes pour forth nectar on all He sees
    Drowning us in a sea of joy and ecstasy.
      
    He belongs to the dizzy heights
    Still he stands firm on this earth of ours.
    Lo! Thy grace drew me to Thy feet
    And I came to Thee a vagrant and a beggar.
    The instant my head touched Thy holy feet
    The fever of my soul left me forever.
    Then Thine eyes, redolent with Thy Infinite Grace
    Tenderly looked on me and I was thrilled.
    I stood before Thee – a figure of pure bliss
    Fully bathed in Thy divine halo.
    Now, I am Thy child – free and happy.
    Thou art my Mother, Master and Friend, my only Beloved.
    All glory to Thee! All glory to Thee!

  2. sharatpotukuchi Says:

    Hi Richard,
    I recently visted Arunachala and met a yogi by the name of Sekar on the mountain. He lived near a small shrine (Parvathi) which I think was Palamaram Ashram. I could not tell from your photos if this was the same one but given your discription and location maps it appears to be the same one. The yogi mentioned his family had been living in this place for generations. I was wondering if you could share any more experiences and knowledge you have of this place and this yogi. Have you had any interactions with him?

  3. Srimat Sadhananda Swamigal Ashramam, Alapakkam - Sadhanandapuram, left turn before perungalathur police station Chennai. 600063 Says:

    Thank for you Guid ,If ‘HE’ call me ,i will be there..

  4. drsundaram Says:

    fanatastic sri richard.
    you bring to arunachala to me often
    thank you

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