Posts Tagged ‘sadhu feeding’

Sadhu Feeding on Arunachala’s Pradakshina Road

January 3, 2011

We celebrated Richard’s birthday on 28 December, 2010. He is 67 years old now. In India what one does for birthdays is to give things to others. We like to do sadhu feedings on such occasions. This article shows this sadhu feeding.

We start at Sathya’s Cafe, on Perumbakkam Road. We get there at 7 am and the meals are ready; 125 breakfast packages, with 5 idlies, one Vada, and a bag of sambar. Lakshmi has been up since 3 am working to have the order ready.


This being India, along come two bullock carts.


This bullock cart driver really wanted his picture taken. (He wanted money afterward, too.)


Besides meals for sadhus, I also have chocolate bars to give out to the kids of the two families that are helping me this morning. Here I give one to Babuji, the oldest son of Dhakshinamoorthy, the man who runs Sathya’s cafe. The oldest son has a special relationship with the family. He will be the leader of the next generation, and for this generation he is the one who is supposed to take care  of his parents when they are old. He also has a special job to do when his parents are cremated. Among other things, he is the one to light the cremation fire. In Tamil families, people are referred to by their family position. The oldest son is Anna. Father is Appa, mother is Amma, etc. The husband and wife never refer to one another by name. Rather, it is always by the title, husband and wife, Kannivan and Manivee (spelling?).


Rajan’s kids have arrived. The girl is Jananee, 11 years old. The boy is Raam Kumar, 9. They will be the ones doing most of the actual giving of the food packages. We give the meals  to them, then they give them to the sadhus. This way, if anyone is blessed by the sadhus, it is the kids. We already have many blessings – from Arunachala, from Ramana, and from Nome.


Babuji, when he is not in school, works in the cafe. He is passing the crates and boxes full of meals for today to Rajan.


Rajan carries the food to his rickshaw. Raam Kumar is wearing the ‘I ♥ NY’ t-shirt given to him by Carol.


We load the food into the rickshaw. It must be positioned just right, so there is room for Carol and me in the back seat.


Our route is shown here in orange. This is about 4 km of the 14km Pradakshina route. Sadhus congregate on this route, since this is a likely place to receive bhiksha, food given as an offering, and alms.


Raam gives out the first food for the morning. It is about 7:15 am.

This sadhu is still asleep.


He wakes up and is happy to receive food.


There are usually a few sadhus at Yama Lingam.

This sadhu has an attendant to receive the food for him.

The sadhu at the Ganesh shrine at the corner of Bangalore Road and Pradakshina Road is inside the Inner Sanctum, the Garba Grihsi or ‘womb chamber’, cleaning and dressing Ganesh for the day. His food has been set outside the door to the Inner Sanctum.

This sadhu is usually near the Ganesh Shrine.


Two sadhus happily take the meals. In Tamil, there is a saying, ‘If you give money, it does not satisfy, if you give property it does not satisfy. If you give food, it does satisfy.’ Today, we give food.


This old sadhu can barely walk. We always look for him to make sure he gets a meal.

Happy sadhu, food in hand. We have taught the kids to say, “Om Namah  Sivaya,” as they hand out the food. The sadhus usually repeat it back to them.


More bhiksha for sadhus. This man looks particularly dignified.

Now we are at Nirudhi Lingam. Many sadhus stay near this lingam.

So many meals are given out.



Happy sadhus.



Some here, like the man below, are ‘regulars.’ Some, like the one above, are just passing through. The oldest tradition for sadhus instructs them to keep moving, so as to NOT develop attachment to any particular place. Many of the sadhus found near Arunachala stay with Arunachala.


Back on the road, giving the gift of food. As you see from the photos, many of the sadhus are not young men, but are graying and bearded. Almost all wear ashes on their foreheads. Most wear the red kumkum, too.


This man, though not in orange clothes, we know to be a sadhu, and one revered by the other sadhus. Today he wears a blanket, since it is so cold (below 70 degrees, F).

Sadhus outside Nava Lingam. There are eight ‘Asta Lingams’, traditional cardinal lingams. Nava means ‘Nine.’ This lingam is NOT one of the traditional eight lingams.

The next area where there are many sadhus is a section with several shrines in a row, most of which are on the left side of the road.


The first of these contains a Sivalingam called ‘Edirner Annamalai’ since it directly faces Arunachala.

Sadhus by the road near the Navagraba Shrine (the Nine Planets).



This sadhu wears a green dhoti. He is outside the temple for Unnamulai Amman.

The kids were very careful here, and made sure that they brought food even to those sadhus who do not hang out by the road.  Jananee gives food to one.

Then to a young sadhu standing near the large tirtham, sacred tank, behind these temples.


This sadhu has built himself a thatched house near the tirtham. I notice that he is wearing a red and white Santa Claus hat. It is just three days after Christmas.


Sadhus by the road.

This is an orange-robed woman, most unusual since sadhus are almost always men. Yet she is here, dressed in orange, forehead covered with ash.

Raam Kumar gives food to a sadhu in front of Rajarajaswari Temple.

Sadhus walk up to the rickshaw to receive bhiksha.

Jananee takes food to three sadhus, while a woman (not a sadhu) gets a meal. There are a number of poor women who live near these shrines. We will give them food, too.

An older man bows in thanks.


As does this one.

Three more happy sadhus, bhiksha in hand.

Sadhu giving thanks to Jananee.

Another one.


More bhiksha given.


Raam Kumar gives the last meal for the day.

Then we drive back to Sathya’s Cafe, and we get to eat breakfast! We had been smelling the wonderful aroma of the packaged sambar, and it made us hungry.


We do a sadhu feeding about every two or three months. We feel it is important to give something back to Arunachala, and this seems to be one way to do that. This sadhu feeding was sponsored by a Tamil man from Pondicherry who is presently working in France, Lakshiminarayanan. We thank him for his kindness.

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