Short trip to Thiruvannamalai

Ever since I had been in Bangalore, there have been lot of plans to visit this temple (especially with my sis who is an ardent devotee of Shiva) and every time one thing or the other came up and it got postponed , for ever. Since my sis was here with her kid for more than a week, we decided that we will do this trip even though it is blazing hot at this time of the year. 

திருவண்ணாமலை represents the Fire element of Shiva’s பஞ்ச பூத ஸ்தலம் . They say that it is because of the element it represents, this place is always hot, irrespective of the change of seasons.சும்மா தக தகன்னு எரியும் பாருங்க …வேற என்ன உடம்புதான் . For people who live in Bangalore, this place feels like a tandoori kadai… But in spite of all this we decided to visit Him. Again there was some confusion on when to go and how will my brother in law join us etc.. When we almost decided on when and how, my maami pitched in to the game as she also wanted to visit with my maama’s family. Again some confusions, but later by Friday, it was decided that both families (around 8 adults and one kid) will be travelling in a Innova to Thiruvannamalai on Saturday afternoon. Since my maami had been to this place quite a lot of times, she suggested Ramanashram for the stay, but due to recent renovations, we couldn’t get accommodation at a short notice. So we settled for Sheshadri Swamigal Ashramam (next to Ramanashram). After the last minute drop out by maamaa and paati (maami’s mom) we started out @ 2.30 pm on Saturday evening to Thiruvannamalai.
Lot of people warned us about the route from Krishnagiri to Thiruvannamalai as it was supposed to be very jerky with lot of potholes. There is no second opinion on that.. appadi our aatam.. appadi our kulukkal.. mudiyaladaapa saami.. especially in the back most seat, the jerks were felt very badly.. But since it was a big car, it was manageable to some extent. After a short tiffin break and other delays (thanks to the road conditions and a small accident en route which blocked the traffic for almost half an hour and some delay in the check post) we reached the ashram at around 8 pm.  The ashram is very small, but maintained better. It is not as big as the Ramanashram, but the rooms are categorized as A/c and Non-A/c (in Ramanashram, currently there are no a/c rooms). A/c rooms cost 600 Rs (for 4 beds) and 400 Rs (for 2 beds). Non a/c rooms cost around 150 Rs (for 2 beds). They also have a small in house canteen, with 10 chairs, which has limited menu items available.

A quick dinner (vayiru kaaliyaa irukum poadhu saamy thozha mudiyaadhu ennala…) and then, except for my sis and her husband (both took up the task of feeding their son…), we all went for a quick darshan as it will be less crowded.

Nalla dhivya darisanam. No crowd and no rush. niruthi nidhaanamaa swamiya paathoam.. adhuvum rombha pakkathula..  rombha thripthiyaa irundhadhu. There is a security check in the entrance (we went through the north entrance and came out through east entrance). Even though I had my camera, there is a check for cellphones and camera. naan dhaan rombha nalla pullaiyaa photo edukaama vandhean.. Everyone was taking it otherwise. naanum eduthirukalaam..somehow I didnt feel like violating the rule.. Its not like I am not the person who doesnt violate.. I just didnt feel like it , that day , that place avlodhaan.

Came back at around 9.30 pm and played with my nephew for sometime. We then planned for the next day’s trip. Myself, my cousin (maamaa ponnu) and my brother in law were the participants for the small trek to Skandashramam before visiting the temple. Frequent power cuts @ night and the heat delayed the start of our journey by an hour. We were scheduled to start the trek by 6.30 am , but ended up starting @ around 8 am. There are two paths. One is near the temple’s entrance (Ammani ammal gopuram side) and the other is from inside the Ramanashram. We decided to go through Ramanshram and end up in the temple side, so that the others can join us to the temple from there. Leaving others behind and having a quick breakfast (adha mattum naanga vidalaye) we visited the Ramanashram, saw Ramanar’s samadhi, meditated for a few mins (naan illai..the other two did it), looked around the ashram (it is very very big..and they are building accommodations near by too..you can see a lot of foreigners here too) and then started our climb @ 8.10 am exactly. By that time, the sun was fully out and we had already started to sweat even before the climb.

Ramanar’s samadhi – place to meditate

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Start of the climb
the natural stairs

We hadn’t even crossed a few steps, suddenly a person who was on his way down, offered us some magnetic stones found in the hill (we couldn’t test it ) and told us that we were very lucky to get it as he found them just then… (very old trick.. he could have tried something else)…but he was so persistent that he gave each of us one stone and got 10 Rs (for his tea)….enna kodumai sir.. begging la idhu oru style… We were the only souls climbing from this end. Konjam poaga poaga.. path became little steep and only 15 mins of walk and I was fully drenched as if I had just dipped in the Ganges…We kept climbing and climbing and the view became better. The place surrounding the path was very dry. I had to stop frequently for water. I was getting thirsty because of the heat. On the way we saw a localite selling stuff made of stones on the stony pathway. enna oru nambikai.. After almost 40 mins of walk we came to the view point from where the temple was fully visible, as was the whole of Thiruvannamalai.

 The sun was almost at its peak by then and we couldnt get a proper shot. But the view was very good. Then, from there a small descend and you end up in Skandashramam. This is the place where Ramanar stayed for 7 years where he was joined by his Mom. This was built by one of his disciples when he was doing tapas in the Virupaksha cave and it became too small for the number of devotees.
 
This place is now maintained by ASI (archaeological survey of India) and has a room where Ramanar stayed and also a nearby room where he meditated. People did maintain silence there and you get a very good view of the whole thiruvannamalai from this place. After sitting here for a few minutes, we started our descend on the other side which was a little steeper. This descend now takes you to the Virupaksha cave , where Ramanar renounced the world and came and did tapas. 
It is a very small cave which had Ramanar’s photos in it and the place where he rested. People came here to meditate. This place is also maintained by ASI. Again after a few minutes, we started our climb back down. It was almost 9.10 am by then. When we came down a few steps, one paati asked us to use the other way which had some habitation rather than the stony route and got 10Rs for her tea (adhenna kanakunu theriyala.. even for a small advice..they asked money for tea or tiffin). We werent sure but still followed her advice. On the way we saw a amman temple and a big well called mulaipaal theertham . It was a very huge well (obviously almost dry)
After that the descend was on cement stairs and surrounded by houses. We came down to the other side of the entrance to Skandashramam from the Ammani ammal temple gopuram entrance. 
We were joined by the rest of the group and we went for the morning darshan. It was already 9.30 am. It was a good trek, even though it was small. If not for the heat and the dry surrounding, it would have been a nice one. But I am glad that I could do it. I wanted to test my stamina.. paravaa illai.. konjam try panninenaa I can.. I just have to take some precautions and I should be good. Next konjam perisa try pannanum. The heat did have an impact on my mom. She almost fainted inside the temple. But otherwise we had a nice darshan and my nephew had a blast watching the monkeys and their gimmicks. There were so many monkeys inside the temple premises.. Thankfully they had put some mats surrounding the temple for the devotees to walk. We literally had to run to save our feet from the burns, in places where the mats werent placed. appadi evlo veyyil….kozhuthi edhithiruchu.. The only irritating thing was the people who were cleaning the premises asking us for money for tea. I almost lost my temper to one person. Because it was a temple, I had to control myself and let it go.. Even though the temple was kept clean and tidy, asking money from every person visiting it is too much… When one lady asked money for food, my maami offered her to buy one food packet. That was when she backed off saying that she will take care of her food and it will be enough if we gave her money.. enna logic idhu.. 
It was almost 11.30 am when we finished our darshan and had our lunch (sort of). Then we headed back to the ashramam. My maami, mom and my sis were about to make a trip to the Ramanashram. But by the time we arrived, the Ramanashram was closed as it was already 12 pm. We rested for a while and decide to start back at 3 pm doing a Girivalam in the car itself. But again we got delayed by an hour. The heat drained out everyone’s energy. We started at around 4.30 pm and went around the Girivalam route seeing various lingams and temples on the way.

 There is this place just after Nrudhi Lingam temple, which is called as Nandhimukha. From there if you see the Hill, it looks like the shape of Nandhi (I couldn’t get a good picture of it due to the trees in between)

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 This pillayar temple is a unique one. This can be seen almost at the end of the girivalam route. It is called Iduku pillayar kovil. Do you see a small gap (iduku) beneath the letter OM ? It seems that you have to go through that gap in order to get the blessing of the Ganesha. Seems like my cousin had tried it. Eppadi mudiyumnu theriyala. edhukum visha parichai venaamnu naanga yaarum try pannala.. my maami was insisting that we should try.. asku busku..engala vachu comedy panna paathaanga.. mudiyave mudiyaadhunutom.. enna oru kolaveri ivangaluku.. :D. If we had enough time and some more energy we could have tried, atleast for the fun part of it.. But we were all drained out of energy.

After that we started our way back to Bangalore slowly and after a few breaks reached home @ around 10.30 pm (It wouldnt take that long, but had to make a few stops in between for the kid and provisions purchase by the elders in oothaangarai..tamarind was very cheap there compared to Bangalore prices…viduvaangala ivanga..) We thought of taking a short detour to Sathanur dam…but because of the heat, we decided that it wasn’t worth the effort as there may not be enough time for us to enjoy the place. All of us had to be back in Bangalore by night.  We hardly had time to unpack when we reached home.

It was a good trip even though it was a very short one. I got to do some trekking, albeit the weather conditions which was worse (ivlo verthadhuku oru kilo kammi aayirundhaa paravaaillai.. adhenga… hmmm..) I had a very good darshan of the Lord. And my sis’s wish to visit the temple, for the past 7 years, was fulfilled. If we had enough time we could have visited some nearby places like Vellore, Sathanoor Dam, Sengi Fort etc.. Its ok, I have got enough time ahead of me.. 

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