The photos that follow are some that I have taken over the last five years of sadhus living near Arunachala, mostly along Pradakshina Road. I thought that these would be interesting to the readers of this blog. Many were taken during sadhu feedings, which we have been doing all during this time. For the most part I will make little commentary, and let the photos stand on their own. The photos are basically in chronological order, with the oldest first.
There are several hundred sadhus in Tiruvannamalai. I think about 200 live along Pradakshina Road. Sadhus have been attracted to Arunachala for hundreds, no, thousands of years.
Below is a photo of a photo. This is “Coconut Swami,” who was killed several years ago while he was, as usual, dancing his way around Arunachala. He was hit by a motorcycle. His Samadhi is near Pradakshina Road.
A swami meditates on Leopard Rock. This was taken from the Inner Path (while you could still walk this path, now closed due to fire danger).
Here is an old man. You will see him in some other photos further on, as he ages and his health deteriorates.
This is one of my swami “buddies,” Swami Annamalai. He wears 1008 Rudraksha beads.
Here is the old man again. By the time of this picture he could no longer walk by himself.
Swamis also officiate at many of the small shrines along the way. This one is offering a camphor light to the god.
Many sadhus sit by the road for hours each day.
Here is Swami Annalamai, during Deepam, walking behind a chariot.
A happy sadhu, reminds me of Hotai, the Laughing Buddha.
More sadhu feeding. Raam Kumar and Janani, the children of our friend Rajan, often help us distribute the food. Raam is seen in the photo below.
This sadhu is talking on his cell phone. I am not sure where this fits into the renunciation required of a sadhu.
This sadhu takes good care of his beard, keeping it in curls.
This sadhu, in white, assumed the special place in sadhu society that was previously held by the Coconut Swami.
At the Mahasamadi of A. Ramana, many sadhus were invited.
Some chanted an Arunachala song during the rituals.
This sadhu is mainly seen at Ramanasramam.
This sadhu is careful and well dressed.
After the ritual for A. Ramana, a special feeding was done for the sadhus.
At one point, flowers were placed on the head of each sadhu.
This sadhu blesses me after the meal.
We met this sadhu on the east side of Arunachala, near a small temple on the side of this hill, Madurai Veeran Koil.
He takes care of this Shakti shrine, a termite mound, on the side of Arunachala.
Sadhu meditating by the roadside.
For full moon nights, some sadhus gather in a group, chanting, asking for alms by the roadside.
This sadhu carries his begging bowl. Some do not take alms offerings into their hands, but rather they use bowls, or the cloth of their clothes.
Sadhu sitting by the entrance to the Children’s Park.
Sadhu praying at the Mariamman Shrine on Pradakshina Road.
More sadhu feeding. That is my grandson, James, giving out the food.
Sadhus sleep on benches by the road.
Here, Janani helping us out.
This sadhu wears a Santa Claus hat. It is Christmas time.
Swami Annamalai again, giving us a blessing.
This is a happy sadhu.
In contrast, the photo below shows Nityananda, who has a big ashram on Pradakshina road. This is part of his birthday celebration.
Here, dressed in his renunciate’s robes, he sits in front of thousands of people, on his golden throne, wearing a golden crown.
A simple sadhu sweeps by the road.
More sadhu feeding.
I like this guy’s hat!
And this sadhu’s sunglasses.
This sadhu was a constable before he took sanyatsin and became a sadhu.
Here are a few sadhus in the aged and disabled sadhus quarters.
These sadhus sleep on the walkway next to Pradakshina Road.
These sadhus interact with a monkey. Sadhus and monkeys, that’s what you see on this road. And shrines.
When you think about the life of a sadhu … this man has sitting beside him everything in the world that he owns. He can carry it all with him as he walks.
A group of sadhus near a chai stand. There are several of these stands that are gathering places for the sadhus. In the morning they will sit at the stand and read the newspaper.
Here is the old sadhu again, about five years after the first photo. Now he is confined to his bed in the aged and disabled sadhu home. He has dementia, and cannot be trusted to be safe, so they have him confined to his bed.
More sadhu feeding.
A renunciate on a motor scooter rides by. Some of these renunciates seem to own more than others.
Walking away from us is the man we call the ‘Blanket Swami.’ He is held in very high regard by many, will not take food or money when offered, will not speak, etc.
A reader says his name is Mukupoodi Swami – he goes on to say “glad he is included.here… Have only once seen or had the darshan of one ‘contemporary’ great one here…he had a white dove on his shoulder, would not talk or take anything,or even look around him; he walked with the most astoundingly even stride.”
Maybe I will be able to write more about these sadhus. To me, they seem like very special people, like they are “spiritual warriors” for all mankind. One joy of my life is living near Pradakshina Road, and driving my scooter by these sadhus each day.