Parvathamalai Sunrise

The last time I had been to Parvathamalai, I had learnt that most people trek here during the night. I wanted to do the same and spend the night on top of the mountain. Finally, on the 1st of December 2023, I made this trip. Friday morning, I took a bus to Tiruvannamalai. At the bus stop, I saw a private bus to Parvathamalai waiting to be filled-up. To reach Parvathamalai, take a local bus from Tiruvannamalai and get off at Thenmathimangalam Bus stop (32km / Rs20).  The bus left by 1PM and I was dropped off at Parvathmalai arch. 

From the main road, you can take an auto rickshaw or walk 1.5km to the base of the hill. I chose to walk this time and why wouldn’t I? The road passes through mango groves and paddy fields. 

As I reached the trek start point, I continued without stop. At Veerabadra temple, I had my lunch. At the temple, they offer 24/7 free food to the devotees. I had rice and sambhar. I also had some tasty rice kanji that is always available at the place. 

From here on, we have a flight of stairs. As soon as I had started a boy who was descending warned me about the monkey menace. He asked me to leave my bag down because the monkeys were apparently snatching them off. I thanked him for the warning and told him that I could not do that as I was planning on staying the night there. He asked me to stay vigilant. 

I spoke to a local who had setup a stall on the way. He spoke to me a lot in Tamil. Though I can speak the language, I could not understand everything he said as he was too fast. I gathered that he has been trying to get a post in the forest department – Perhaps as a care taker at such sites. He said he goes to Velliangiri for few months. He requested for my phone and made a call to someone from Chennai whom he had met a few days back at Parvathamalai. He seemed to establish contact to get his job done. I bid him farewell and continued my journey. 

On my way, I met three young boys - Akash, Pashupati and Lokesh. One of them had an elephantiasis and I was impressed that he was able to climb the mountain even with that condition. On my way, I also encountered a few monkeys who tried to jump on my back and snatch the bag, but in vain. I thrust them away. 

Parvathamalai is a beautiful place but unfortunately, the place is filled with trash. Most devotees and tourists who come here, leave back loads of plastic bottles and covers.

I got to the most interesting part of the trek. Here, the ladders and chains assist you up a boulder. I was the only one at this stretch at that time of the day. 

Since it was already 5:30PM, there were not many people up there. Apart from me, there was Ramalingam and two boys – Mani and Mari. I sat on the stairs close to the temple because there was a beautiful sunset in progress. As I set up my timelapse video, I conversed with the others. 

Ramalingam had worked in a gulf country before. He has been an engineer and lost his job during Covid. He is more than 50 years old, So I wonder if he plans to work at all. Mani and Mari were on their way back to Hosur after a visit to Ranipet. They found this trek interesting and decided to stop there. They had no idea on how long it would take. Mani and Mari were doing their undergraduate degree. They were perhaps still in their teens. As it got dark, they too decided to spend the night there. 

Inside the temple, there was a priest. We could either stay the night there or stay at Mounayogi Vidobanadha Ashram situated next to the temple. 

The sunset was amazing. We sat on the stairs outside the temple for close to an hour watching it. We then went to the ashram. While I had stepped out to visit the temple, the poojaris at the ashram took the others into the cave temple and talked about the sage who had set up the place. They also offered Pongal for dinner. 

Mani and I decided to go back to the temple and sit there for some time. He opened up and shared his life’s story with me. Mani hails from Malur but now lives in Hosur. His father had a dispute with his elder brother and they had to relocate to Hosur and start afresh. He told me how his uncle had insulted him and asked him to walk out of the dining table when Mani was eating lunch at his place. Now, his father owns a butcher shop and they sell chicken. They were closed on Fridays and Saturdays as many do not eat meat on these days. Thus, he had chosen to travel. This travel too had a story behind it. 

Mani had an older brother. His brother committed suicide a few years ago. His parents have not yet been able to deal with this fact; specially his mother. They are scared to leave her alone at home as she might attempt to end her own life. Without a closure or a proper explanation for her son’s act, the mother seems lost. They had built a manatapa in the name of the brother on their land in Malur, as suggested by some astrologer. 

Now, his mother had recently heard about an astrologer near Ranipet. In order to find her answers, she insisted on going there. Mani decided to go there first and see the place. Hence, he had planned this trip with his friend Mari. The astrologer however wanted the entire family to be there. Though Mani does not believe in this, he would want to try this out so that his mother finds some kind of a closure. 

During the conversation, Mani looked and me and asked – Are you a Brahmin? Reluctantly, I replied – I was born into a Brahmin family however, I do not believe in any religion or caste. I also asked him why he had asked me that question. He told me that it was the way I spoke that made him guess my caste. I wondered what that meant. After a lot of thinking, I wonder if it was the clarity and confidence that I portrayed. Being from a well-educated Brahmin family, I had access to knowledge – Both educational and spiritual. Therefore, I spoke perhaps with confidence and at my age, with also a lot more clarity. Does Mani notices this distinction? I cannot tell for sure what made him say that but this reaffirms the evils of caste system. Caste system definitely makes some over confident and many under confident. 

I had carried my sleeping bag. The night was slightly cold and the sleeping bag kept me warm. All through the night, people kept coming. As new batch arrived, my sleep was disturbed. By morning, the room was full. People slept wherever they found some space. 


At around 5AM, I stepped out and went to the temple. Mani and Mari joined me there. Unfortunately, the east was covered with clouds and I missed the sunrise. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful view from up there. 

We began our descent at around 7AM. I walked slowly as I did not want to hurt my knee or ankle. Mari accompanied me. Ramalingam and Mani had gone ahead. I met Ramalingam at Veerabadra temple where I stopped to eat my breakfast. Before leaving, I donated some money to them. Most people who trek here are youngsters – mostly college-going students. Offering free food to them who may not have money to pay for it is truly a great work. 

Back at the base, I paid Rs20 to use the bathroom facility and freshened-up. Mani and Mari dropped me till the main road on their bike. Here, I met Ramalingam who had walked ahead. We boarded a bus to Kadaladi. There, we had to wait for a long time until the next bus to Tiruvannamalai arrived. At the bus station, I bid farewell to Ramalingam who was to head back to Trichy that same evening. 

I reached Tiruvannamalai bus station and then walked till Ramana ashram. On one of the roads in front of the ashram, I found an accommodation in a guesthouse – A tiny little room for Rs800 per night. 

I got ready and left for another long walk. This was the month of Karthika, the place was filled with devotees. Otherwise prohibited, this month, they allow devotees to climb the summit of Arunachala hill. Several men and women were trying to go up. The police tried to stop them by restricting entry at some points. The devotees would find new route and continue the climb. Some locals helped the devotees with the alternate routes. I always wanted to go up but since I was tired from my trek earlier that day, I chose not to. The cops stopped me from going to Virupaksha cave thinking that I would go up to the summit. Since I knew another route through the jungle, I quickly made that detour. 

I sat outside the cave for some time. It is always so peaceful to out there. Next, I went to Skanda ashram. I got down towards the ashram side. I sat int remain hall observing the gathering, the daily proceedings with Bhajan etc. Outside the Ashram, people had gathered to see the Karthika deepam that is lit on top of the hill. Unfortunately, cloud covered the view. After a tiring day, I had some dosa for dinner, returned to my room and crashed on to my bed. 

Next morning, I went for a walk around the town and had some tea. I came back to the room, got ready and checked out. On my way to the bus station, I stopped at my favourite food mess in Tiruvannamalai. The place is close to the Ashram and is run by a middle-aged couple. They make excellent idli, vada and Pongal. I had a very good breakfast before walking to the bus station and catching a bus back to Bangalore. 

An incredible weekend thus came to an end. I like the process of overcoming the fear of discovering the unknown. Until I visited Parvathamalai, I was unsure of how spending the night on top of the mountain would be. Through this process, I realised how much we enjoy our comforts and how we constantly fear of missing these little luxuries for a few hours. What we need to survive is much less than what we think we need. 

Here is my video on this Trek: