Girivalam - Tiruvannamalai

Last week, I went to Thiruvanamalai, a place I often visit. I normally take an early morning bus from Bangalore’s satellite bus station and reach Thiruvanamalai by noon. I get off at Ramana Maharishi Ashram. You can book an accommodation at the ashram for free but since the beds are limited, they often get booked well in advance. Alternatively, there are many lodges around the ashram for a price within Rs 1000 per person.


I freshened up and went to Ashram. The ashram has fixed schedule and the programs happen as per that. You are free to participate or sit silently in a corner and watch. My usual routine is to go up the hill behind Ashram and relax a bit at Ramana Maharishi’s house and then walk to the Veerupaksha cave where he used to meditate. I did just that. It is always a great feeling to be there. 

I came back and sat at a view point and sketched the Arunachaleshwara temple.

I went back to the Ashram, sat there for a while observing the Bhajans and had dinner there. 

Next morning, I had to leave by 5AM. I had decided to do the Girivalam. Many devotees walk this 14km walk around the Annamalai hill. Though it can be done at any time along the year, it is specially famous during full moon nights.  I am not a believer, but the idea of taking this journey fascinated me. 

At 5 AM, there were a bunch of people doing this trail along with me. Many sadhoos were lying on the footpaths. There are a lot of temples along this path and one is expected to visit them all during the Pradakshina. 

On my way, I saw Annamalai glow with the rising sun. 

As the route passes along the town outskirts, you get to see a lot of activity. There were sculptors making huge idols of dieties, people serving free Rasam soup to the devotees taking this journey etc. I stopped at this small house, where a calf had born a day ago. 

After 3 hour long walk, I reached Arunachaleswara temple at around 8 AM. It was refreshing. This being a weekday, the temple was not very crowded. 

I returned back to my lodge and enjoyed my free breakfast. At a store below the lodge, I bought some tasty laddoos made of different kinds of millets. Just outside the Ashram, there are sculptors making beautiful stone idols. I bought this Nataraja from one of the local artists. 

And then, it was time to head back home.  I took an auto rickshaw to the main bus station and boarded the first available bus to Bangalore. I always return from this trip energised and peaceful.