When I went out walking near Arunachala on Saturday morning, at about 6 AM, I saw smoke rising from the west end of Arunachala, near Parvati Hill. I walked over to investigate and saw more gray smoke rising from Parvati Hill and the pass that the Yellow Path crosses over. It was yet another fire on Arunachala. I called Govinda, who heads Arunachala’s fire team. (Really he IS the fire team, with his interest and deep caring for Arunachala, and he has recruited some other young locals to help with Arunachala fire suppression. This work is done through a nonprofit trust, “The Forest Way” that he founded and runs. This trust does much good work towards the reforestation of Arunachala.) Not only did he know of the fire, he had been fighting it during the night.
When I got a little closer I could see a long line of flames coming down the side of Parvati Hill, and burning across the small hill between Parvati and Arunachala. I could hear some voices from across the hill, so I thought that the fire crew was still at work. There was nothing I could do, so I left.
The next day I went out again and took the photos shown in this post. It is early in the day, about 6 AM again. The light is not great, so these photos are not bright.
This is the southwest face of Parvati Hill, blackened from the peak all the way down.
The fire burned all the way down and over this ridge. You can see some specks of green; some trees certainly survived the fire. The fires on Arunachala are mainly grass fires, burning a local form of lemongrass.
This is the pass that the Yellow Path crosses. There is green at the bottom of the pass, but charred hills on both sides.
This is my guess at the total area the fire covered.
This map shows the area of the two earlier big fires. So much of Arunachala burned!
In this photo of the SW peak of Parvati you can see trees that survived.
Here is a good photo for the SW face of the hill.
A good view of the pass. I wonder what it is like walking the path? It is hard for me to do this now; I have been having various problems with my right leg and knee, so Arunachala mountain walking is not something I can do right now.
The small hill between Parvati and Arunachala, burnt to a crisp.
Parvati from the west. The peak in the center is the SW peak, to the left is the west peak. A line of fire has burnt all the way to the West peak. It did not come all the way down here. The forest is thicker, and maybe there was enough tree cover that there was not so much lemongrass growing, so not enough fuel for the grassfire to spread.
A close up of the SW peak.
The west peak of Parvati Hill.
Looking over Parvati Hill to Arunachala. It was not burned by this fire.
This was actually the second fire on the hill I have heard of after the two big earlier ones in May. There have been about 15 fires so far this year, more than normal. The rains that usually come in June have not come so far, so the ground and plants are drier than usual.
I just heard that now maybe the Forest Department is requiring people walking the Inner Path to get permission. I do not know if this is true. Maybe they are trying to do something to prevent these fires. I doubt if they are caused by people walking Pradakshina. The suspects I have heard about are people like goatherds, and local people. We will check this out and let everyone know.