Owing to a long weekend, we planned a trip to Tiruvannamalai, which is about four odd hours’ drive from Chennai. Ramanashramam, located at the foot hills of the Arunachala hill, flanked by shady trees, one of which is hundreds of years old (iluppai tree); its strutting peacocks is a visual treat to even the prosaic of persons who visit it.
Arunachala hill has a high status in our sacred tradition and Tamil legends hold that it is far more ancient than the Himalayas which are comparatively known to be of later origin. Arunachala is a combination of two Sanskrit words Aruna and Achala. Aruna means 'red' and Achala means ' immovable' mount, thereby known as "Red Mount". It is also called the "Hill of the Holy Beacon" and "Hill of the Holy Fire".
Like numerous others, it had been my long time desire to circumambulate the Arunchala hill, not just with a religious attitude, with an aspiration for adventure, more so to assess my physical fitness. To my consternation and delight, I did it! (my husband and son had accompanied me.)
It was a three day (two nights) trip. One the first evening, as the sun went down, the weather became squally at first, soon was followed by a downpour with lightning and occasional thunder-Mother Nature probably preferred that we remain in the Seshadri Swami ashram where we had got accommodation.
The next morning’s weather was bright and sunny. After prayers and lunch at the ashram, we met some prominent people in the afternoon; the evening arati was a delightful experience. I was determined to do the ‘parikrama’ amidst all odds.
At the onset of nightfall, it began to rain heavily once again. We had two umbrellas in the car, purchased another and set off in a single file. No encumbrances (mobile phones, I pads…) No fear! (Someone suggested this, so we took down the number of an auto driver beside the ashram, which could be used in case an emergency arose, thank fully it did not.)
Fairly good roads with lights in almost all places en route made the circumambulation comfortable. After an hour, the rain turned to a drizzle and eventually stopped. Buses, cars, two wheelers and three wheelers kept plying up and down, plenty of dogs kept us company throughout inviting us with growls and snarls. Despite human intrusion, there was calmness in the mind with no thought- the silhouette of the lofty hill to our right radiated calmness and quietude.
The three and a half hour walk around the hill (commenced at 8 45 pm and concluded at 12.15 am) was invigorating and soul stirring. The ‘giri valam’ was an elevating experience and I look forward to it another time.