Arunachala Forests–Kannapa Temple Area, Part One


For the last month, after moving near the area, I have been exploring the base of Arunachala between Kannapa Temple and Kattu Siva Tank. I had done a similar exploration of the area between Katta Siva Tank and Pradakshina Road earlier this year, and written about it in these blog posts: Footpaths of Arunachala – South of Kattu Siva Tank and More Footpaths of Arunachala. I thought to do the same with this part of Arunachala’s forests, because the forest area here is also interesting.

As I started to explore and to study the Google Earth satellite photo, one thing I noticed was that the Kannapa area was much more varied in terms of plant growth than is the Kattu Siva Tank area, which is all pretty much the same kind of seemingly undeveloped local “jungle” (as the locals call it). If you look on the map below (and click to expand the view) you will notice two areas of darker forest that I have colored and labeled “Planted Area” and “Old Planted Area.” Between these two areas there is a green colored area labeled “Trees” and a tan colored one called “Big Basin.” These four sites have all obviously been planted at different times. Surrounding these are zones of what seems to be mostly natural growth, with another strip of planted land next to Pradakshina Road between the two planted areas. There is an extensive network of footpaths through this area. I have marked what I think are the main ones on the map, and it is from these paths that the photographs in this article were taken. There are so many photos that I think are interesting that I have broken this posting up into two parts. 

In this area I see sadhus more frequently than I did in the forests of Kattu Siva, as well as both kinds of local monkeys, langurs and macaques. I think maybe the sadhus use these footpaths as a shortcut to Kattu Siva Tank, where they can bathe and wash their clothes. I also saw rabbits and squirrels, and signs of wild pigs, deer and porcupines. Many birds occupy the area as well, and make quite a cacophony early in the morning before the sun comes fully up.  

The map is also marked with landmarks of the area. I have previously written about some of these. See these posts:

Kattu Siva Cave 
Gameplayers Cave (shown in Kattu Siva Path Renewal – Part 1)
Cave next to Inner Path (shown in Inner Path – Around Parvati Hill)
Monkey Temple
Holy Feet 
The Hand Pump and Jungle Shrine are both shown in
Arunachala – On the Inner Path: Parvati Hill 

Map of Area (click to enlarge)


I will show this area in the photos I took during several recent morning walks.

This morning was overcast, with low clouds hiding the Arunachala peak.


Parvati Hill.


The first rays of the morning sunlight hit the top of the hill.


I am headed out on the path that leads from Pradakshina Road toward Kannapa Temple. A bit before Kannapa Temple I have turned right on a small dirt footpath. Then, a bit later, I have taken the left fork in the path. The path goes through a patch of natural forest, with mainly low thorny trees and brush.


It then enters the northeast end of the Trees section.


The first rays of the morning sun are coming into the forest.


I walk on a footpath leading to the Big Basin. I am surprised when I get there. We recently had two good days of rain, after a number of slightly rainy days, caused by the Northeast Monsoon. When I get to the Big Basin there is more water in it than I have even seen.


This gray water is typical of new runoff from Arunachala.


The water-filled area is about one half kilometer long! This is a lot of water!


Looking to Arunachala from the Big Basin.


More water.


Parvati Hill. View of Parvati and Arunachala dominate this area.


I am not sure of the history of this area. I think the Big Basin is one of the older such structures around Arunachala, at least more than 20 years old.


It is the primary water catchment basin on this side of Arunachala.


I date it as older than 20 years because of the broad-leafed trees that are planted in it.

The tree planting started after late the 1980s with meetings between John Seed and Apeetha Arunagiri, both Australians.  Apeetha had asked John for his help in the reforestation of Arunachala. Together they founded the Arunachala Reforestation Society, with some other local people. In the beginning they were growing sapling trees on balconies of people’s houses. The kinds of trees were selected due to a local woman’s knowledge of what can grow here.

After a few years, in the early 1990s, a high Indian governmental official heard about the effort, and ordered the Forestry Department to plant trees on and around Arunachala. In this effort, I have heard that 100,000 trees were planted. These trees were of two varieties. One variety is the tall trees that are today found in the Trees area near Kannapa Temple (and in a number of other places around Arunachala, too). The other variety is this broadleaf tree, shown below. I think the tall trees helped to break up the soil. Most of the topsoil had long ago eroded from the mountain, so this was needed. The broadleaf is a soil-builder, a key element in the reforestation effort.

One thing that can be seen now in the Kannapa area is some of the results of these planting efforts.


The trees drop many leaves. These leaves, in turn, make new soil.


Another view of Arunachala in the clouds.


Now I head back on a footpath through the wild scrub brush.


And end up in the other planted area. This area has both the two kinds of trees planted in the early 1990s. But there is a big difference. Sometime after this, maybe ten years later, some follow-up planting was done, Neem and another kind of tree. This is an important step in the reforestation effort, adding diversity plantings to the original planting of the two types of trees that could survive in the initial conditions.


Parvati Hill from this area.


This area almost looks like a park!


There are two stone circles in this area. I think they may have been placed by the sadhus, for something like a satsang or spiritual instruction. From the overgrowth in the stone circles, this has not been used for a number of years.


Two stone circles are quite near each other. There is a third one next to the path that leads from the road to Kannapa Temple.


Looking past the fence that borders Nithyananda’s Dhyanapeetam, with its 1008 lingams. After his scandal of two years ago, he now lives at this location while he attempts some kind of rehabilitation.


The big lingam in front now always wears an orange turban. This reminds me of Nithyananda’s own look, as he is always seen in such a turban in photographs.


Walking back I see some Fire Lilies next to the road. I love these, and think of them as “Arunachala Lilies.”


The next day I went out with a camera again. I took the same route through the Planted Area, and Trees, but headed East on a footpath that goes through the wild forest.


This is Parvati Hill, rising above the trees.


Arunachala is covered by clouds again today.


After winding my way through the forest I come to this big rock, a landmark for me in this area.


Parvati Hill from the top of the rock.


Rain collects in pools on top of the rock, making it important to the local wildlife.


The wild forest from the rock.


Parvati Hill, and what I call “Parvati Gap,” over which the newest section of the Yellow Path crosses.


The footpath I am going to use going back. This runs parallel to the Inner Path.


The footpath passes through trees and brush.


This all seems like wild growth, no plantings here that I can see.



Until it comes to a small stream.


This stream empties into the Big Basin, and is a main water sources for the basin.


Up the path on the other side of the stream.


I am on an area that rises above some of the other local terrain, near the Inner Path. This area is white on the map above. It is drier, and the reduced vegetation shows on the satellite photo as white.


A flowering bush grows here.


Nice while flowers, edged in pink. I see only the one bush.


In many places around Arunachala there are cement and stone “dams” built where the water flows. These are to slow the water flow and decrease erosion. Often they are used as part of a path.


This one has been here long enough for lichen or moss to form between the stones.


One lone tall tree grows here. This is one of the two kinds of trees planted by the Forest Department. I don’t know why just one grows here. Maybe it was the only survivor of a big planting. That is what I suspect. This part of the area is dryer, so maybe it was harder for the saplings to survive.


Looking back on the footpath towards the peak.


Ahead we are going towards the Trees area.



Before we get to Trees, we have to pass through a section of dense growth. This is a low place where there is more water, and so more plant growth.


A branch of the footpath near here goes through a low spot where there is water this time of year. You have to walk through squishy wet ground past a small creek. My sandals and feet get wet on this path, so I avoid it.


Back in the Trees area.



Parvati Hill.


Trees. You can see that they were planted in rows. This means that they were planted by the Forest Department. The reforestation people plant more naturally.


Into the wild scrub brush forest.




Parvati Hill. Parvati has many different looks from various viewing angles.



Then back into the Planted Area near Kannapa Temple.  I notice one more stone and concrete “dam” on the way into the area.


The park-like setting of this Planted Area is always quite pleasant. The one negative is that this area is used by many sadhus for their morning toilet functions.


A stone circle, again.




You can see that the newer planting was also done in rows. I wonder if this means that it was the Forest Department planting? I suspect not, since this is just one area, and others areas like it are not seen.


Nithyananda’s Dhyanapeetam again. In the center is the main altar. They do not let you take photos inside, so I cannot get a better shot of this.


Here is Nandi looking into the altar. It kind of bothers me that Nandi is looking away from Arunachala.


The path from Kannapa Temple back to Pradakshina Road.


At the end of the path is a chai stand. In the photo below you can see a hint of blue. That is the stand.



Nithyananda’s Dhyanapeetam from the road.


The chai stand from the road.


Sadhus gather here in the morning for chai and to read the newspaper. Somehow I am surprised at all the newspaper reading by the sadhus. I guess I should not be, given the stories about Sri Ramana and the morning news, which he always read.


The next post will show more of the area. Highlights include the path on on dirt berm that forms the Big Basin, monkeys in the Trees area, and the path near the road that goes behind some of the temples and shrines, and provides some other access points into the forests of Arunachala.

5 Responses to “Arunachala Forests–Kannapa Temple Area, Part One”

  1. kashluck Says:

    Nice post after a long time.
    My email inbox was getting dry without your posts for sometime.
    Now it is getting interesting again.
    Looking forward to your post on the “Deepam” at Thiru.

    A. Raviprakash (Ravi)

  2. drsundaram Says:

    great mr richard. very useful and embraceable collections.thanks to You and Carol.

  3. Jean-michel Blue Says:

    great post !!! go on like this .

  4. Marianne Drommer Says:

    Wonderful to be able, thanks to your great work, to see Arunachala and surroundings….even the physical distance vanishes
    I’m so grateful for this postings
    marianne (madhu devi) from France

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