Friday, February 14, 2014

Giri Pradaikshina

We are drawn sometimes to things that at first seem to make no sense.  Yet when we actually fulfill this act, the importance of doing so is only then revealed.

Walking the sacred pilgrimage trail around the Arunachala mountain was something I had wanted to do the moment I first read about it many years ago. The spiritual path of Ramana Marshi I knew was not mine but still something drew me too him and his advice that walking around the mountain was an important task to perform.   It is certainly not an easy thing, and it cannot be taken lightly.

The circumambulation of Arunachala is known as Giri Pradakshina in Sanskrit and Giri Valam in Tamil. Performing pradakshina of Arunachala is considered to be beneficial in all ways. Typically, pradakshina is done in bare feet, with the Hill on the right. Sri Ramana Maharshi once explained the meaning of the word pradakshina and how it should be done by a devotee: "The letter "Pra" stands for removal of all kinds of sins; "da" stands for fulfilling the desires; "kshi" stands for freedom from future births; "na" stands for giving deliverance through jnana. If by way of Pradakshina you walk one step it gives happiness in this world, two steps, it gives happiness in heaven, three steps, it gives bliss of Satyaloka which can be attained. One should go round either in mouna (silence) or dhyana (meditation) or japa (repetition of Lord's name) or sankeertana (bhajan) and thereby think of God all the time.  Wikipedia

It is a 14 km trek and I knew that it would take me most certainly at least 2 hours or more, and when the sun came up it would get hot.  When I left my little hotel it was pitch dark and cool.  The time was just before 6.  As soon as I stepped out the door I was greeted by a quiet dog, who came towards me with his tail wagging.  

When I spoke to him he turned and then trotted ahead of me up the road leading out of the compound.  A neighbor lady had just stepped out from her house and was using fine chalk powder to draw a simple mandala on her doorstep.  It all seemed auspicious.

As I neared the main junction I became aware of a continuous parade of people moving up the main road that circles the mountain.  Mostly silent and barefoot they moved at a gentle pace.  I could not help but think that I too could do this.  I just had to release my doubts and continue.

From time to time chants filled the air, coming from speakers beside the road.  Sadhus in great number sat beside it.  Some begging, some in trance, all adding to the exquisite atmosphere that permeated the air, the night, and the road in front of me. 

What I learned only after completing the pilgrimage was that because of the full moon today was particularly auspicious.  Until much later this evening the flow of humanity would not stop.  It would at times fill the road and when you think simply there could no be more travelers, still more would come.

After 2 and a half hours I made my way back down the road to my hotel.  The sun now up the atmosphere was more agitated but I was so incredibly grateful and peaceful within.  The importance of completing this task now clear to me.

Later in the day my friends and I made the trek up to one of Sri Ramana Maharshi's early meditation caves.  The path starts just behind the ashram.


There are little shrines along the way.





Quite early on I met Swami Maheshwaran who slipped me a small printed sheet.  He first demonstrated his yogic powers when he asked me if I was from Germany.  Upon hearing I was from Canada he then mentioned both Toronto and Vancouver.


It said he is a wandering monk directed by Lord Shiva.  He was asleep in this same spot when I passed him on the way back down.

For the bored and those who want to shop the pilgrimage has something to offer for them as well.


Near the top the view is spectacular


A number of people gather here instead of the mediation cave another couple of hundred meters further on.


Nearby carvings are being made.


The great temple of Arunachaleswar is just below.  We will end up there later.


Near the top of the path where the first cave is noisy construction was going on


There wasn't much silence and the cacophony of ceremonies going on at the temple below filled the air.


Some slept.


Some meditated


Some just sat and waited for their friends to come outside.


It is truly a beautiful place.  It is nearly a mile's climb to get there.


There is a guard at the bottom of the path


Much is going on in the ashram


You do not forget whose place this is.


My friends and I take a tuk tuk to visit the temple.


We are all quite tired.


The pilgrims continue to come


It is a shiva temple


It is simply wonderfully chaotic


Who knows how many will pass by here.


All bow before the sacred fire.


Small offerings are left.


Beggars wander here and there.


A long line forms for those entering the temple.


The temple complex is vast.


Shoes are safely stored.


Many beggars gather and are then forced away.


The police try and keep the way clear for people to move through.


They are very strict and are not timid about using their sticks.


The devotees do not care.



The pilgrimage goes on.


Some get very tired trying to make the long journey.


There are many sadhus along the way.


Some rest too.


Of course we are all pilgrims, all walking alone in our own way.


If we are lucky we will also recognize the guide who shows us the way.


1 comment:

Usharani Kadiyala said...

I must say I feel so blessed having come across your blog and specifically this post. We were there in Jul but as I couldn't carry my camera, missed on many clicks that shared. The second pass over the memories via these pictures is tremendously satisfying journey in past. Yes, present becomes past too fast! Thanks!!!