On March 4, 2009, Jim Clark made the climb to the top of Arunachala. Jim is from the USA, where he takes satsang from Nome of the Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), in Santa Cruz, CA. Jim is a long-term friend from Nome’s sangha. He is staying in Tiruvannamalai for two months taking video footage and photographs, collecting material for a video he is producing about the inner experience of those who come to Ramanasramam and Arunachala.
Jim was accompanied on the climb by Joseph, another friend from SAT, an Arunachala Mountain Guide, Saran, and a helper, Muni (who carried much of the video equipment up the mountain).
This posting shows a few photos taken while they were at the top of the Holy Hill.
Up the Hill
The group started on the path to Virupaksha Cave at 5 AM. To get good light Jim wanted to get to the top early in the day, so they started early and took a direct way up to the peak.
They climbed to Virupaksha Cave, then to Skandashram, and then crossed over to the big rock east of Skandashram where the paths up the hill start from in this area. Instead of the easy traverse across the mountain to Seven Springs, then up, they took a more direct route to the top. This was a much more difficult, steeper and harder climb. It took about one hour to get from Skandashram to the top.
Saran has made this climb many times. When he was 12 years old, he had contact with the guru on the mountain top, who for many years lived on the peak and attracted many followers. For many years each morning Saran would carry milk up the hill for his guru. The guru has now left Arunachala and is in Kerala.
At the top
Near the top there is an area pretty flat, then the final bit of the hill to the peak.
This can be seen in the photo below. There is a ‘bump’ at the peak, with a flat area to the right.
There is a thatched shack at the top, where devotees of the guru would stay. The shack is used now as a shelter.
There is another smaller structure where the guru sat in meditation for a number of years.
At the top are black rocks, sticky from all the ghee brought up for Deepam.
Looking down from the top to the devotees’ shack.
Saran and Muni inside the shack.
There are a set of feet, tiruvadi, carved into the rock. These are seen as the feet of Siva. While at the top, Saran and Muni gave puja to these feet, and painted them with turmeric.
Below, Muni in a yoga pose at the top of Arunachala.
Muni helps Jim in a head stand.
At the top, the group met Wolfgang, another Westerner. He had been in India for some time, and was wondering what face of God he should focus on. He was finding he was drawn to Siva. When Jim related the story of Arunachala, and told Wolfgang that Arunachala IS Siva, rapture repeatedly overcame Wolfgang and he could be seen going deeply within.
Here Saran is looking through the video camera at the top of the hill, with Joseph and Wolfgang in the background.
In the shack, the group drank water and ate a snack. Jim and the group stayed at the top of the hill for most of the day, coming down in the late afternoon.
Jim and Saran in the shack.
Everything brought up the hill has to be either carried back down, or left behind. Here is an old broken clock under an empty water bottle. No one has taken this trash down the hill.
Below is a view of the big temple, Arunachaleswara, from the top of Arunachala. This view shows the size of the temple. This is one of the largest temple grounds in South India.
Saran and Muni, sitting on the hill before the climb down.
The quiet and peace found at the top of Arunachala are extraordinary. After making the climb, Jim thinks that this could be a great place to stay overnight. Perhaps he will do this on his next trip to Tiruvannamalai.
A note of caution
I want to caution those interested in such a climb: Do this only with a skilled Arunachala Mountain Guide. Saran is one of the best. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take plenty of water, at least two liters per person, more if staying overnight. Wear good hiking shoes. The walk and climb are rough, and they require pretty good physical conditioning. It is about a 2,000 feet climb, equivalent to walking up the stairs of a 200 story building.
For a complete listing of other Arunachala posts, go to Arunachala Inner Path.