Permits Needed Now for Arunachala Inner Path Pradakshina

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After all the recent fires, you now need to get permits from the Forest Department to walk Pradakshina on the Inner Path.

You can do it the day before if you are starting early in the morning. Go to the office. Make sure that you have identity papers for everyone that are walking with you. It takes maybe 1/2 hour.

I would recommend that you take a rickshaw to the office. The driver will help you find it, and may be able to help get your permit. The people working in the Forest Department do not, as a rule, speak much English. You will only be able to get a permit for one walk. Maybe you can get more if you pay a “special fee” to the Forest Officer. The Tamil man who helped us said he thought that it looked like the man we dealt with was thinking about how much to ask.

Here is a photo of the entrance to the office.

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Here is it located on a Google Earth map. I marked it in green on this map.

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On the Google Map below it is on the street marked in yellow,  between route 234 and the Arunachaleswarar Temple. It is two blocks north of the ICICI bank, on the right hand side of the road.

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Here is what a permit looks like. Typical of many Indian documents, it has a big stamp in the lower left that is initialed and dated, and a signature.

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So far we have not actually seen anybody checking for permits. But you never know.

Here is a comment I received from a reader on the subject:

The Forest Dept. did this a few years back after some fires. It lasted a few months; there was a man seated at the back of the ashram checking permits of those going through the back gate. It makes no sense but makes it look as if something is being done. It won’t last long!

They were speaking of Ramanasramam, where many start on the Inner Path.

Walking to Skandashram was on the permit form we got, but it was crossed out. I do not think there is any restriction on that. I think these are old forms that they had already, made when they were trying to control access to Skandashram a few years ago. So they already had a permit form to use, which is good because I can’t imagine how long it would take them to make a new permit form and copy it. All access to the Inner Path might have been blocked while they were making up the permit form.  That would not surprise me from what I have seen dealing with Indian bureaucracies.

I want to make sure that those who come to Tiruvannamalai for Inner Path Pradakshina know about the need for the new permit. This morning we met a group of Indian people from Chennai walking the Inner (and Yellow) path. They had come for Inner Path Pradakshina.  They had a permit, so there was no problem. (though no guard was at the Ramanasramam gate at 6 AM to have a problem, either.) They had found out about the need, I think from a recent posting about fires on Arunachala. Many people from outside Tiruvannamalai would not know about the current need for this permit. I know that some check this site, so maybe this announcement of local news will be of use.

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7 Responses to “Permits Needed Now for Arunachala Inner Path Pradakshina”

  1. devgogoi Says:

    FYI update: Yesterday afternoon on the inner path, just past Kattushiva tirtam (tank), turning on to the “Yellow Path” which climbs over the saddle, a forest guard stopped me.
    “Where are you going?”
    “Around the Mountain.”
    “Do you have matches?”
    “No.”
    “Matches not allowed.”
    “Yes, I know.”
    “No matches?”
    “I don’t have any matches.”
    Conversation repeats itself, with minor variations, 2 ~ 3 times. And then he let us pass.
    I was heartened that the goal was fire prevention, and not a blanket “You aren’t allowed to walk the Inner Path.”
    Annamalai! Arohara!

    • richardclarke Says:

      I had thought that by the hand pump near Kattu Siva Tank would be a place they might be. This is on the Inner Path in a place where everybody will pass through, and yet the Forest Officer can ride his motorbike to the spot.

      I am glad to hear that fire prevention was the concern. Thanks for these reports of what is actually happening on the ground.

  2. devgogoi Says:

    @richardclarke _ Thank you for calling attention to this local issue.
    On Guru Purnima, July 3, a westerner was stopped from going on inner pradakshina by a functionary. It took twenty minutes of talking before the devotee was allowed to continue on his way by the guard.
    Immediately after Guru Purnima, on another note, the inner path was noticeably free of litter — empty plastic water bottles and food wrappers — as compared with the previous full moon, when we saw sackfuls of junk, which were subsequently picked up by various walkers. At least the litter seemed to have been reduced, even if fires weren’t prevented.

  3. devgogoi Says:

    I still have my “Pass” from 2006. It is exactly the same as the xeroxed form today.
    Back then, the clerks in the forest department office were prompt and sympathetic. It was, after all, simply extra work and an exercise in futility which predictably lapsed of its own accord into that limbo labeled ‘bureaucracy.’
    On the Mountain, enforcement was lax. I was asked for this piece of paper only twice, by bored forest staffers who visibly would have preferred any other duty. On the first occasion, I was merely asked if I had a pass. “Yes,” I said, and was waved on. The second time, a more conscientious functionary actually looked at it and dutifully endorsed it on the back of the paper. Old habits die hard 🙂
    I feel the mention of “special fees” is more projection than fact, and somewhat gratuitous. Cross-cultural observations are fraught with such pitfalls. The wish to be on the Mountain, or walk around it, is self-evident and needs no justification, least of all a submission to real or perceived occasions for extortion. Who wants to be reduced to a crisp by the eye of Shiva?
    Basically, we’re all on the same side of the table, the united desire to see an end to the bush fires upon Annamalai and a green Hill, as of yore.
    On a practical level, it’s the energetic and fearless young crew of “Arunachala firefighters” (not their real name :), all volunteers who’ve sprung up from a cross-section of the local community, who respond instantly to the call at any time of day or night.
    The unknown pyromaniacs who regularly and systematically set off these fires (quadrupeds do not eat the lemon grass, btw, though bipeds harvest it to roof their habitations, and it makes a nice cuppa diuretic tea for those of organic bent) will now have a free “Pass” to continue about their business!
    In other words, this piece of paper is well-meant but utterly ineffectual. Hopefully, the forest department, and therefore the state government, which is directly responsible for fighting these fires, will demonstrate a more real response.

    • richardclarke Says:

      So far I have not seen or heard of any enforcement. By the way, the ‘special fee’ comment was from a local Tamil man who was with me, only he used less delicate words than ‘special fee’.

  4. Lyse Mai Lauren Says:

    They do things the wrong way around in Tiru, its ridiculous. For centuries it has been known that the sheep and goat herders start the fires, in order to bring on regenerative growth of lemon grass for their flocks… This just looks like another scam to fleece the devotees, and make their lives more complicated and difficult…

  5. cspacenz Says:

    Only one stamp ??

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