Since moving back to the neighborhood near Kannapa Temple, I have been exploring the forests of Arunachala nearby. I am enjoying this exploration, and find that I like this area a lot. I have previously posted about this area here: Part One. This Part Two post shows the forest near Pradakshina Road, the “Old Planted Area,” and the path atop the dirt berm that created what I am calling “The Big Basin.”
As I walk through the forest here, I see sadhus, but rarely see other Westerners. If you look closely from the road you will see a number of places where you can enter–from the dirt road up to Kattu Siva Tank, and along Pradakshina Road, up to Kannapa Temple. If you go exploring here, too, maybe someday we will meet on one of the paths.
Below is a map of area (click to enlarge). I created this map using Google Earth.
The map is also marked with landmarks of the area. 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)
The Hand Pump and Jungle Shrine are both shown in Arunachala – On the Inner Path: Parvati Hill
These photos were taken on a number of morning walks in December of 2011 and January 2012. In several of the walks I went through the Trees area, since it is in the middle of this area, and also through the wild forest area that surrounds the Trees area. I hope this is not confusing for you when you read it.
Shortly after I start walking through the forest at this point, I arrive in what I have named the “Trees West” area, or “Trees” for short. (On the northeast side of Arunachala there is another place where trees were planted in rows about 20 years ago – at the same time as these were planted, I believe. The Inner Path goes right through this place, which we had also named “Trees.” Our naming scheme is quite simple!)
In the early morning mist, Arunachala can just barely be seen.
This morning I get the attention of the macaque monkeys.
They are naturally curious, so while I watch them, they watch me.
The early morning light comes through the trees.
Near to the Trees area is the Big Basin, with the dirt berm that forms a basin along one side. Here is the path on top of the dirt berm. This has become one of my favorite routes.
I have done a lot of clipping here, removing thorns and clearing the path through some obstacles. There is more to do than I can handle with my clippers, and I am probably going to see if I can get some of the villagers who help me on Arunachala projects to come and spend a couple of days making this berm path better. You can take it now easily from one end to the other, but there are several places where you have to climb down the side of the berm to get around overgrown thorny areas.
This dirt berm is about 1500 feet long. It is a big construction. I think it is more than 20 years old. It seems to have been built before they used the kind of earth-moving equipment that is used today; the bottom of the basin is not flat like it would be if it had been graded by earth movers. If it was built by hand, it was probably done they way that you see this kind of work done now: The workers would have a round pan, about 15 inches wide, that looks like a Chinese wok frying pan. How much dirt would have been moved by hand? 1,500 feet long times ten feet high and ten feet wide (this is a conservative estimate of its width. It might really be more like 15 or 20 feet wide). 1,500 X10 X 10 (divided by 2 since it is a triangle) = 75,000 cubic feet of dirt. One pan contains no more than about 1/4 of a cubic foot, so that would be 300,000 pans of dirt. Maybe one person could fill and carry 5 pans an hour, 50 per day. That would mean that the berm takes 6,000 person-days of manual labor to construct, or ten people for about one year.
From the top of the berm you can see into what I am calling “The Old Planted Area.” Often I see a troupe of monkeys on the path or in the trees. Sometimes they move along in the tree tops, watching me as I walk. Sometimes a big male will jump up and down on a branch, shaking it, and try to intimidate me by chattering at me.
More old trees.
These trees seem older and larger than in any other area around Arunachala.
I wonder as I walk through them, “Is this what Arunachala will look like when all the trees planted in the last 20 years get to full size?”
The biggest of the trees is more than 50 feet tall. Some are even so old that they look like they are starting to die back.
I noticed recently that these trees all have numbers painted on them. I saw numbers ranging from 461 on an old tree to almost 10,000 on a smaller, younger tree. I have no idea who numbered these trees. Is there a map somewhere? This area has a low rock wall that surrounds it. I would be interested in finding out the history. So far I have never met another person walking on the paths through it. There must be people, though, otherwise there would not be paths. I do see deer and cow hoof prints.
There is a good path that leads from the road to the berm, beside the Old Planted Area.
Looking into the wild forest on the other side of the path.
The shot below is back on Pradakshina Road. The wall surrounding the Shantimalai complex starts here, on the right side of the road, out of view in this photo.
If you look through the fence on the other side of the road …
you will see two stone posts. These form a gate leading into the path on the side of the Old Planted Area. This path goes to the dirt berm, and its path. This is one of the good access points from the road.
Here is the path from that point.
Looking into the Old Planted Area.
This path ends at the dirt berm.
Once you enter from Pradakshina Road, if you turn left you get onto a path that goes parallel to the road, just maybe 50 feet or so away from it.
Below, one of the nice rocks along the path. Our dog, Freckles, likes it here. She likes standing on rocks.
The vague colors through the trees come from the back sides of the temples on Pradakshina Road.
Another rock for Freckles to stand on.
The back side of a temple.
The back of a tower atop one of the shrines. Nobody sees this side.
Another rock. Where is Freckles?
Looking along the path.
Looking into an area between the path and the road. The Indian man you see walking away saw me there with my clippers, and asked me clip a nasty thorn bush next to the path. He saw what I was doing and immediately thought of an area he wanted clipped back.
This is behind the Hanuman Shrine. There is one sadhu sitting and meditating. Another, covered in a blue piece of plastic, is still sleeping.
A beautiful tree beside the path.
Below, thorns that I have to cut through to continue. Since I always carry my trusty pruning clippers, I make short work of this.
Looking from the path at the back side of yet another shrine.
And back on the path.
From the path there are several places where you can see into the nicely planted area between the path and Pradakshina Road. There are several of these places that seem park-like to me. These are yet one more environment that you can find wandering on the paths around here.
Taking a path away from Pradakshina Road, you get to the Trees area again.
Then through Trees on the path.
Then I take one of the paths back to the Kannapa Temple path.
Arunachala, always in the background.
Continuing on the path.
Close to Kannapa Temple, Parvati Hill is our walking companion.
A flowering vine climbs up though a tree.
I enter the park-like area next to the Kannapa Path.
On its edge is an old water tank, dug about 30 feet into the earth. In its day, this tank must have been filled from the ground water here. Now the water table is much lower (300 feet instead of 20 feet) so the tank is always dry.
The tank is hidden under the trees.
Heading towards Kannapa path.
Now these next photos are on Pradakshina Road, looking at shrines we saw from the back on the path that runs behind them.
This is the shrine that we saw only as vague colors through the trees behind it.
We are coming up, on the right, to one of the entry points into the Kannapa forest.
Here is the path.
This is the Hanuman Shrine, behind which we saw the sadhu meditating.
This is the next shrine we saw from behind.
The photo below starts yet another morning walk, entering the Trees area.
Arunachala, rising above us.
Later in the morning, looking towards Parvati Hill.
A path through the wild forest between Trees and the Big Basin.
Freckles waits for me to see which branch of the path I will take.
We head up to the path along the top of the berm again.
The Old Planted Area from the top of the berm. These fully grown trees are magnificent.
Here is an area on the berm path that is still overgrown with brush.
At the east end of the path, there is another path that goes directly into the Big Basin.
Parvati Hill from the Big Basin.
Arunachala from the same spot.
Two water birds in the Big Basin, attracted by all the water in it now from the rains.
Many leaves on the ground to create new soil.
Much water is in the basin again. We have had a cyclone in the Indian Ocean. A good day of rain came to the Tiruvannamalai area, and filled the basin up again.
Lots of water. The lake is about 750 feet long.
The trees that were planted here seem to survive just fine standing in the water for a few weeks each year.
Now I am heading back, towards the Trees area. Tall trees can be seen in the distance.
A pretty clump of flowers on a bush. These bloom just a very short time each year.
Some critter has dug up a big hole between the trees. This is almost two feet wide, with dirt spread a couple of more feet around it. I have no idea what kind of animal would do this.
Back into the Trees area again. This walk is nearing completion.
Freckles has found some kind of bone to chew on. To me it looks like some kind of skull. She is very happy to make such a great discovery. Mostly her big excitement is chasing rabbits. She has never caught one so far, but that does not stop her from the chase.
Small flowers on a cactus plant.
Walking through Trees.
In the west end of Trees where several paths converge there is a nice rock outcropping. Often you will find sadhus here. Sometimes they seem to be meditating. Sometimes it looks like they may have spent the night here.
Back walking through the wild area between Trees and Kannapa Temple.
This time of year there are spider webs on the ground covered with dew in the morning.
The webs have a trap in the center. At the bottom of the trap is a spider, waiting for a meal.
The webs are built on top of the grass.
Continuing through the wild area.
And back into the park-like area next to the Kannapa path.
This does not seem like the wild forest; trees planted in rows, maybe ten years old.
Here is one of the stone circles that dot this area, with Parvati Hill behind. I wonder about these circles, why were they made. The only reason I can think of is that they could have been used by sadhus.
After the stone circles, you come to the Kannapa Path, and back to civilization and people. Rarely do I see people when walking these paths through the Arunachala forests. I invite you come come and try this kind of adventure when next you are here. With Arunachala on one side and the road and its noise on the other, you can’t get lost. And I have cleared thorns out of most of these paths. Come and explore, and feel Arunachala in a different way than you have ever done before. Maybe you will find a quiet peace that makes you happy. Maybe you will find your own special private meditation spot near Arunachala.
Tags: Inner path