Some things just sparked about the Tiruvanamali Hills and Dhyanalinga and thus fell some plans quickly into place. This time we longed to be in the vicinity of divine places in the most minimum days and yet to spend some quality time with worthwhile sadhana. Such a plan was difficult but it somehow fell into place all within a travel plan of 5 days. This time 9 sadhaks made it for this trip - Vishwanath uncle and Arjun from Mangalore, Ravi, Geetu, Akaash, Puneeth, and Sujatha aunty from Bangalore and Vatsal from Surat. Everyone had set in for two places - Coimbatore and Tiruvanamalai. This trip was special for me as i wished to add Kanhangad to my trip as i wanted to spend my birthday in the lap of my Baba and then proceed further. Uncle, Arjun, Puneet & Vatsal also were happy to join me to Kanhangad for a day before we headed further south. i had never been excited about birthdays and had never celebrated it for close to 10 years now, but this time was super-excited about the birthday, because i was going to 'celebrate' the birthday with the one who had given me a second birth - Baba!
i reached Mangalore on Feb 23rd and soon Vatsal arrived from Surat and we met at Uncle's home. Arjun too came up there and after breakfast we left to the station. The train that we were supposed to take to Kanhangad at 9 a.m. was also bringing in Puneet from Bangalore and thus we all met in the train. After one hour of happy moments we reached Kanhangad. Others had planned to directly meet us the next day in Coimbatore.
In Kanhangad, by the grace of Bade Baba, we were able to go to every place and meditate in one single day; had to go to all places as this was the first time here for Puneeth and Vatsal and they had craved to be here. For the first time we tried getting into a cave right opposite to the ashram. There is no mention anywhere about this cave and we tried going in a little further but the dampness and lack of air did not allow us go ahead. While in Guruvan, Puneet and Aakash explored a new cave. This time we could spend some good time meditating in Guruvan. Back in the ashram we meditated in the caves and in the Nityananda Baba's Samadhi Mandir.
In the late evening, we checked out of the ashram at 7:30 p.m. along with our luggage and Ganapathyji took us home to Padiyar Swami's house. We sat there meditating and listening to him about his experiences and Padiyar Swami's experiences. At 9:30 p.m. from here we took an auto to the railway station as our train to Coimbatore was at 10:40 p.m. This was the best birthday i ever had - far from the formalities of cutting cakes or decorations, having to helplessly smile and acknowledge birthday wishes, party, noise, receiving gifts, and all such things that always to me was senseless and meaningless. Here, for the first time i was away from it all and with no one to disturb, was in peace with a company of people that did not give the usual birthday boy privileges of extra pamper and stuff like that :) click here to read about our previous three visits to Kanhangad.
Our train was on time and me, Uncle and Arjun were in one compartment and Puneeth and Vatsal in another far away compartment. Early morning after waking up they both came to our seats and the rest of the journey till Coimbatore we spent together in joy and excitement. Ravi, Aunty, Geetu and Akaash had also left the prior night from Bangalore and they reached Coimbatore an hour prior to us reaching the station. We all checked in the hotel that was booked prior. After the morning rituals, all set out and had a great breakfast and went to the bus stand. We took a bus to Gandhipuram (10 mins) and from there took a bus to Isha Foundation, Velliangiri Hills.
It is a 1-1/2 hours bus ride from here. As the bus moved deeper into the outskirts of Coimbatore, everything turned more greener and the roads narrowed. The last bit of the journey only saw fields and mountains around moving on a narrow road. We reached there by 11:30 a.m. and soon were in the foundation. This seemed to be a separate world in itself with people who seemed settled and calmer and joyful than the chaotic beings of the cities. The volunteers there guided and gave information about every temple and place there. The first sacred space we visited was the Linga Bhairavi temple, which has it's own beautifully customized way of worship and offerings. The energy here can be described as strong.
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After spending some time here we went to the Teerthakunda to have the holy dip before entering the Dhyanalinga. This kunda has a Paras Linga immersed under water with only a little of it's top out of water. One is supposed to take dip here with just one piece of orange cotton cloth on the body that is provided there, to ensure every part of the body is drenched. Taking a dip here is for increasing the receptivity in the Dhyanalinga. As men and women had separate batches of 15 mins each, we quickly had our dip in here. We moved around the Linga and everyone touched and embraced it while some immersed themselves completely while holding on to the Linga. If one does not want to take a bath here, one can sprinkle the water. From here we put on our clothes and went into the Dhyanalinga. Dhyanalinga is consecrated with all it's active 7 chakras that link to 7 dimensions. A very powerful place indeed!
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Then, moving around we spent our time in this beautiful place at the foothills of Velliangiri Hills, very sacred Hills and the seventh hill on this also is the samadhi place of Sadhguru's guru. Legend has it that Adi Yogi (Shiva) meditated on this hill in fury after he was tricked not to be able to marry the young woman Kanyakumari, who also in fury froze at the Southern most tip of India known as Kanyakumari. We could not trek up this hill as they said it would take just 5 hours only to to trek up, which meant it needed an entire day for this. We had limited time and lots to do. In the evening, there was a program in the Spanda Hall and we enjoyed this bit of classical music and Sadhguru was also present with just few hundred people. After this was the evening arti ceremony in front of the entrance near Nandi, where a procession comes in with Maa Bhairavi and arti is performed. There are no electric lights used and the ceremony is done with only fire, drums, horns, and a dance by ashramites that is orchestrated to create a very divine atmosphere. It was a splendid sight to see as though beings from heaven had descended. Sadguru was seated just a few feet in front of us and i had some very mystical experiences during and after this arti ceremony. After this event we all took a taxi cab back to Coimbatore.
dinner in Coimbatore
As all slept to glory in the hotel rooms, i sat working on the laptop with my pending work at the dead of the night while taking moments to glance out of the open window the heavy rain that washed Coimbatore. It was 2:45 a.m. when i could finally get to bed. Next morning, after breakfast we left again for Dhyanalinga and this day we spent immersed in and around the places in the ashram. This day we had the holy dip twice in the theertha kunda and also quality time in the Dhyanalinga and Bhairavi Temple. In the evening we enjoyed a classical dance and then the celestial fire arti and finally after dinner here itself, we winded up our visit by 9 p.m. Taking the taxi cabs back to the hotel we spent our time in the lobby because we had a train at night 2 a.m. to Jolarpeth from where we had to go to Tiruvanamalai. After midnight we left for the station, which was just a walkable distance. We spent a good amount of time together at the station as heavy rains again lashed out. At 2 a.m. our train arrived and we all were in and out! (out into sleep)
Next morning the train reached Jolarpeth at 7 a.m. We got down and took auto to Tirupatur from where we took a bus to Tiruvanamalai. It was a 3 hour journey in the bus. We finally reached Ramana Ashram at Tiruvanamalai by 11 a.m. and found all rooms full in the ashram and in the lodges around. We searched for places far from the Ramana Ashram and we got a small ashram right in front of Ramana Ashram. The owner was kind enough to give us two separate rooms for males and females and our room was on the terrace. When we went up to the terrace i was awed to see the Tiruvanamalai Hills. i sat on the terrace facing the hills and no sooner had i invoked the holy siddhas, there was a gush of energy. i realized that there would be no effort of any kind needed here to connect. The sadhana was deep and intense here and this was yet without going to the holy hills.
Ramana Maharishi Samadhi Shrine
Ramana Maharishi Samadhi Shrine
Out of the five sacred places of the panchabhootas, Tiruvanamalai is identified with the fire element.
monkey, dog and peahen
After a very very delicious meal in the ashram, we came back and spent some time in the room since the sun was very intense. i could not resist but to shoot a small video of the divine hills and share it with my friends on Facebook. After our tea at 3:30 p.m., we left for Ramana Ashram. As we moved in through the ashram, a sense of serenity took over. We moved through the entire huge ashram filled with people from all over the world. Peacocks, peahens, monkeys and dogs roamed all over freely with people there.
This place looked like a huge joint family holding strongly people of all caste, creed and faith by Ramanaji like the love and protection of the head of the family holds all members of different tastes, temperaments and attitudes together.
The ashram even contained the samadhi mandir containing the earthly remains of the ashram's four holy animals: Jackie the dog, Valli the deer, Lakshmi the cow, and a crow. These were not mere animals who lived with Ramanaji and they were much evolved than animals and birds and they lived such an evolved life with him. squirrels used to run in and out of the Hall window, over his couch and even his body.
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He would feed them with nuts and stroke them, some of them even had names. Snakes and scorpions were never allowed to be killed. Sick animals were brought to Bhagavan and kept by him on his couch or on the floor beside him until they were well. Many animals had died in his arms. Once a monkey tried to bring her new born baby through a window near Ramana’s couch. The attendants were preventing her. Ramana chided them as follows, “Don’t all of you bring your newborn babies to me? She also wants to do so. Why should you prevent her?” A very special crow used to accompany Ramanaji on his daily walks. The crow would not eat from anybody's hand but the saint's. Ramanaji used to say that he was actually a rishi (great sage) in a crow's body.
The ashram ends on the other side where the climb to Tiruvanamalai Hills begin. We began climbing the hill and as we went ahead we saw there were two deviations.
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The one to the right said that it lead to Skanda Ashram and to the caves of Ramanaji. The left did not show anything and seemed to take us just to the top of the hill. Following the instincts, we moved left. i was certain we could cover up all the important places as we had another day the next day also. As we moved more higher we came across a small tent which housed photos of many gurus with lamp lit in front of them. We stopped there for a while, bowed, and moved ahead. As we were reaching the top, the path of trees and plants became lesser and now we encountered rocks.
Ravi, Vatsal, and Uncle and me reached one point on a huge rock and decided to settle there and a litlle below us settled aunty and Geetu, but Puneeth and Akash decided to go much higher to the top and soon they were out of sight. We did our sadhana there on those rocks as the sun was right in front of us and the entire city of Tiruvanamalai could be seen from there. The rocks were still warm from the day-long scorching of the sun. Now the breeze was cool and everything just just wonderful. All this while we were carefully observing that this rocky hill had something mysterious.
This hill does look so deceptive to any person who only sees this as just another hill. We observed that the rocks had many places which were covered with bunch of thorns and it was certain that the thorns did not just grow there. It was something more of a deliberate attempt to keep people away. They seemed to me as entrances into the caves below. i was dead sure that below the rocks we stood upon, there were many, many caves and outlets in which so many would be doing their sadhana. After all these hills were openly known as the abode of siddhas from ages where many siddhas have taken mahasamadhi. There were so many jeeva samadhis on these hills and Tiruvanamalai has seen atleast one Siddha every generation. i was aware that this is not just another hill.
By the time we finished meditating here the sun was going down and we had to reach down before it was dark.
As we climbed down the hill, Vatsal and me lost track and took some other way and realized only when things around did not look familiar. A few shouts to Ravi confirmed we were somewhere else but then we did not want to take this as our own doing :) We saw some crevices and spaces that looked more like stone asanas, even in dried waterbeds. Something made me aware that we could be passing through people not necessarily visible or heard in our perception. We took back the same route until we reached back to others. The only thing was that we were all barefooted and the gravels, rocks were hurting. Above all the rocks were hot. We then reached back to Ramana Ashram.
From here we took autos to Arunachaleshwara Temple, about 2 kms from here. Arunachaleswara Temple is dedicated to Lord Siva and it is one of the largest temples in India. For more read on it click here. The temple area is so huge that it took us hours to visit every place in it. It was 9:30 p.m. when we left from here back to our rooms. After having dinner, back in the rooms, we spent some time relaxing. It was midnight by the time me, Akaash and Vatsal decided to sleep out in the open on the terrace watching that holy hills. It was a wonderful experience just sleeping there in the openness of the hills.
i woke up in the morning at around 6:30 a.m. by the graceful cries of peacocks and soon discovered that they were all over the terrace. We spent some good time around these beautiful birds and they were around us without any sign of fear or threat. i was able to shoot a 10-minute video being awed at how friendly these birds were. The video exclusive on this quality of birds and animals is put up at the end of this article.
After bath and breakfast, i and Puneeth rushed to the hills as we had planned to visit the Ramana and Virupaksha Caves near Skanda Ashram on the top of the divine hill. We started our climb as we spoke and clicked the pictures of this magnificent place.
We both decided to stop any conversation and be silent. i put the camera back and just walked with total awareness of the place and everything around. We had not taken 15-20 steps and we were greeted by a swami who was sitting on the rocks. He spoke fluent English and was very pleasant wearing a thin white robe around him and had a cloth bag. He conversed with us and later told us that he was wandering in these hills and around for the last 15 years. He then told us the importance of the caves that we were heading to. He asked us to meditate in Virupaksha caves. Sri Virupaksha is a siddha who meditated in those caves and took jeeva samadhi. He told us that Sri Virupaksha turned his body into vibhuthi (ashes), which is still there and he is said to be still meditating there in his subtle form.
He also told us that this hill was the destroyer of ego and shared some other knowledge. Soon the others also reached us by now and we all sat and listened to this Swami for a while. He put his hand into his bag and gave everyone with a photo of Ramanaji saying it was a gift from him. It was indeed a blessing to meet this Swami.
After taking his blessings we proceeded, continuing to remain connected with awareness and kept going until we reached the top. It was a great view from here as straight down was the Arunachaleshwara Temple.
A lady sold small bananas for Rs.2/- each. She was so innocent that she was not even knowing how many she was giving and the change she was giving back. Soon i realized that not only we would eat these bananas but there were dozens of monkeys who moved there around the holy caves. So we brought more bananas just to give them. If we preferred to eat it ourselves without giving them, they were not polite by snatching it from our hands. If we had to eat, there was no other way than to put it into our pockets to eat later. i remember another exact situation the previous day in Arunachaleshwara Temple. There was a lady who moved with a cow. She carried cooked rice packed in banana leaf and sold them to people for Rs.10 each. People bought this and fed it to the cow. Now, here too, though she had so many packets with her, the cow never touched a single packet but only went to people who bought the packets. The cow was so clever and alert that it kept looking at every single person for even the slightest move. Even if one put their hand into their pockets or purse without the intention of buying, she thought they were picking out money to buy here those packets and would immediately approach them.
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Another touchy scene to see was a very poor woman who sold small stone statues sharing her food on her tiffin lid with a baby monkey.
We then went inside the Skanda Ashram cave where Ramanaji had meditated for 7 years. There was only one lamp lit there in a very small room. The verandah was broad and various books written on Ramanaji were kept there, which we sat and went through for a while. This place is covered in the video below. Then we went to the Virupaksha caves where Siddha Virupaksha still is meditating in his subtle form. The ashes were neatly covered with cloth and these caves were with only lamps and not any artificial lights. Both the caves were divine! We then started moving down the hills as it was time for us to leave this place. It was around 1 p.m. we started moving down. We had taken just a few steps down and we encountered another divine sadhu who just stopped in front of us and talked in tamil.
Most of what he said could not be interpreted but he was talking about the greatness of the hills and of Ramanaji. He carried a very serene look of peace and ultimate contentment on his face and his words just sounded like nectar as he spoke through his white beard in only gleeful smiles. He even said that Ramanaji had arranged a place for him up the hill with two times meals. When i asked him when was this, he told me 15 years back! i could not figure this out because Ramanaji had taken samadhi in 1950. After speaking these few words without any prompt he just moved ahead. Don't know who he was or what, but i still while typing this can sense his love and divinity even if the meeting did not last for more than 2 minutes.
Shiva & Shakti
We then on our climb down encountered two very young boys. They were curiously looking at us as they came from the opposite directions and i spoke to them in whatever distorted Tamil i knew and they asked if we had visited a temple. They insisted that we visit the temple and nothing further could be understood from them. When i asked their names one said he was "Shakti" and the other said he was "Shiva". Wow! This just connected us to them and i requested them to take us to that temple. They took us and this was little off track the normal path. It was obvious that many people did not come this way. As he took us to the temple, we saw some mysterious rocks and wide spaces that seemed to be used by someone who did sadhana. Not wanting to judge or analyze what it meant or what they were, i just moved into those spaces touching and trying to feel connected.
This hill sure has lots of mysteries to the common man, especially to seekers. Then we moved ahead and "Shakti" shouted excitedly that the temple was open and he said we were lucky to visit. Shiva signaled pointing to my camera not to use it inside; i put it away quickly. When we entered we saw that this was a very old Shiva temple and as we entered it grew more narrow until we reached a small low place that had a Shivalinga with a lamp lit and a priest in there. He signaled to one of us using a torch to put it off. This place has some energy that i cannot explain; some mystical experiences. We then came out and Ravi took information from the priest sitting out that this was a place where another siddha had taken jeeva samadhi. This temple pic could not be taken as photography was not allowed inside but a short clip from the outside is added in the video clip. i hugged both Shiva and Shakti for their guidance and soon another little boy joined them. This boy was from this temple who said his name was Ramakrishna. We laughed saying that all Gods were present with us and they laughed too. When i gave them something into their hands they were very excited and their overjoy showed their innocence to the peaks as they showed to each other what they had got. We bid them goodbye and they followed us for a little distance shouting 'byes' a number of times to which we responded all times. A few steps more and we saw another little ashram. i wondered to myself how many ashrams can one hill hold? Anywhere and everywhere you looked around were caves or rocks used for sadhana and also so many temples and ashrams! This path that we came did not seem to be the normal path of the hills where people moved about and we were all alone in this path. We decided to go the ashram. The little gate was closed and the board next to it showed that it was not visiting hours. A little disappointed as i was about to turn the same little boy Ramakrishna came out from inside and he was carrying a pot full of water.
An old man came to open the gate for him. Ramakrishna was happy to see us again and he said something in Tamil to the old man, who pondered something for a while and then said "Come in" and opened the gates for us. i was overjoyed. He told that this was the place of another swami who lived here and Ramanaji used to come here. Swami Ramadas (from Kanhangad) also came here and he and Ramanaji often sat in that little room! i was very surprised to know that Swami Ramadas (Papaji) from Anand Ashram Kerala used to come here! i have written about our visit to his ashram in Kanhangad (click here to read)
The old man advised us to meditate here for few minutes. We did so. The image on the right shows the small place, in which is kept the photos of Ramanaji and Ramdas Swami. Later i did a little research and found out that this was Alamarathu Guhai (cave). Ramanaji used to live here when he was very young. We then thanked the man and left from there contented to the brim. When we reached the foothill we found that we had reached another side of the hill and not from where we started from Ramana Ashram. We took an auto back to our rooms and had food there. By 3:00 p.m. we left from there to the bus stand and took a bus to Bangalore. Uncle and Arjun had already left earlier to Jolarpeth.since they had their train to Mangalore. It was late by the time the bus reached and i had to forgo my train back home from Bangalore and take a bus instead. I reached back home at 8 a.m. the next day.
see anything common here?
Finally, a pic that was shot right in front of Ramanaji's shrine. i was trying to shoot this dog at close range and the cam caught up something very unusual. Golden globules are very rare on cam and very fortunately a huge golden one was caught... Though none believe it, some call it dust, some call it light reflection, etc, but with my experiences with handling cameras, i have never come across this one.
i cannot elaborate the importance of visiting Tiruvanamalai Hills and being connected to all divine beings in physical, nonphysical forms and so many other forms that one can never ever think of. Deeper experiences and mystical experiences have not been shared here for it is for one to experience it their own way and experience the different expressions of the Divine. Their presence can certainly be deceiving to the human eye and limited senses, coming in contact in ways least expected. All i can tell you is - if you have the opportunity to visit here, do visit.
A bow of deep gratitude from all of us to Bade Baba and all holy siddhas for being with us throughout the journey and guiding us to places and people necessary for our highest good. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude!
Video coverage of the tour
To download video click here
Birds and Animals in tune with human habitat
To download high quality video click here