Monday, December 16, 2013

My Experiences with Arunchaleshwara - Girivalam in Tiruvannamalai

Tiruvannamalai...a place that became close to me after my marriage..for my husband was born in this temple town and I had loads of relatives living there and the story of my inlaws first meeting in this town during our grandfather A.K.Sekar's shooting in the Arunachala hills some 50 years ago.  My few visits to Tiruvannamalai was for the family functions and quick visits to the magnificiant temple of Lord Arunchaleshwar and Godess Unnamalaiaar, was all that I had in my life till yesterday.  

Today my connectivity to this place and the god is totally changed.  As we were relaxing after a busy Sunday afternoon, I asked my husband if we can go to Tiruvannamalai Girivalam as the full moon is just peeping in, the first day of the Marghalzi month and also auspicious time as he is on the mandala puja to Sabarimala.   He readily agreed to my surprise. We requested my mom to take care of my daughter and got onto our bike and zoomed off to the CMBT bus stand..where we took the first bus available at 8.30 pm...and then started to talk about the memories of our place..we dozed off as the breeze of the winter night started to smile on our faces...We woke up at 2 am when the bus reached T.V.Malai...after a small cup of hot coffee...we started to walk.

From the place we embarked..15 kilometers ahead of us...first time I did not doubt my fitness.  Small treks and runs were different.  This is something got to do with me and my mind.. heart and physical strength verses mental ability... above all the blind faith in the possibilities ahead.   We reached the Rajagopuram after offering prayers at Rettapillayar (Twin Ganesha's) temple and stood for a minute in silence to enjoy the moment of a good beginning.  

As we walked 50 meters, we got our first stop at the temple of Indra Lingam ( on the East)...this is the first of the Asthalingams that are around the Arunachala hills.  Every few meters, we found a small temple., a nandhi statue or a pond gracefully greeting us at the mid of the night.  The resonances of the Om Arunachala mantra in the air, and the chill winds touching us gracefully and the full moon guiding us as our friendly guide, we could not ask for more.

It was sheer faith that made us walk, like it did to millions of devotees who throng the route of Girivalam - a 14 kilometers path around the hills of Arunachala every full moon night month after month.  To me, its winning over my own self.  My own limitations and it was like heading towards a finishing line..this time at the feet of the temple that I admired for its grand architecture, faith and magnificiant technicalities of the temple towers.  

You have to see it to believe it.  The sculptures are sheer artistic excellence and shows the brilliant creativity of our ancient era.  The structures remain as a testimony to our engineering abilities of an era that did not have any technology that we witness today.  However, they are far superior in the terms of creativity, sustainability, attracting and monitoring earth's movements and astrophysics that never became a debate with the dates written from times immemorial.

As we moved across the next 7 temples specially said to be created by the god's themselves, I could not stop pondering from the depth of knowledge and the sheer brillinace of our ancestors who made accurate predictions of the times, directions and zodiac significances.  We cannot rule out this at all, as in real terms of its sheer mathematics and science terms of calculations of the temple structures, directions of the dieties, the placing of the ponds and the visual treat of the mountains and the dancing of the sunrises and full moon pushed me into a trance of happiness and inner self-realization 

8 Lingams Around Girivalam Path:


Moon Sign
Distance from the starting point
Indra Lingam
Vrishabha, Tula (Taurus, Libra)
50 m
Agni Lingam
South East
Simmam (Leo)
1.5 Km
Yama Lingam
Viruchigam (Scorpio)
3 Km
Niruthi Lingam
South West
Mesham (Aries)
6 KM
Varuna Lingam
Makaram, Kumbam (Capricorn, Aquarius)
8 KM
Vayu Lingam
North West
Kadagam (Cancer)
9.5 KM
Kubera Lingam
Dhanush, Meenam (Sagittarius, Pisces)
11 KM
Eesanya Lingam
North East
Mithunam, Kanni (Gemini, Virgo)
13 Km
As we reached 10 kms mark, I gave a hi-fi to my husband feeling elated like a child...and then the next 5 kilometers was bit tiring but the strain of the joints and the feet did not hinder our spirits.  As we kept chanting the slokas and songs, we found the strength to move on.  All that we did was to stop at 2 places for a quick 2 minute power breaks to hydrate ourselves with lemonade in the midst of winter night...not forgetting the lessons of the marathons and runs I witnessed.   

The best was my awe at the Irrukki Pillayar temple, this small temple has no diety but a small passage that we have to crawl through and Raghu did attempt it as I was excitedly waiting for him to come out and wondering what if he gets stuck in the narrow passage...but when he made it, he was full of excitement and contentment.   
Our only aim was to complete the girivalam before sun rise..and Hurray! we made 3.5 hours and reached the place where we started by 5.45 am.  We decided to go for the darshan and God was graceful to give us a very satisfactory darshan without much of waiting...Monday morning, Margahazhi month beginning...full moon day..felt like a blessing.  

I am religious and have strong faith in god, but I never believed in doing anything superficial to please the Gods..But with this Girivalam, I understood, its not to please the gods, but to please one's innerself and consciousness. It is just like reinventing your ownself.  The herbal and ecological balance of the nature, of the mountains,  the gravitational energies of the full moon, the spirit of the heart and the faith in yourself will make everything possible in this world.  And probably that is what makes this place a sure come back one for many who experience this.

At 8 am we finished the temples visit and had a good breakfast and took the bus back to the city and to our routines quickly...and Raghu went off to office as soon as we reached Chennai and I slept off till my day began at the Eastern Timezone...this time with no fears or dreams, but with just a strong inner peace.

To know more about the Tiruvannamalai Girivalam, please read on:

About Girivalam: (14 km)


The Arunachaleswarar temple at Tiruvannamalai is a very ancient temple in Tamil Nadu. It is said to be around thousand years old and patronised by the great saints and poets of Tamil Nadu. The prominent among them are Appar, Sambamdar, Sundarar and Manickavasagar and Arunagirinathar. This has great reputation among all Shiva devotees since Arunachalaeswar is prayed here in the form of fire, fire being one of the five elements that composed this universe. The other four elements of the panchaboothas are vayu, akash, jalam and earth.This beautiful temple is located at the foot of the Annamalai hills that falls under the Tiruvannamalai district about eighty kilometers away from Vellore town by road.
This temple city can also be reached from Chennai the capital of Tamil Nadu that is around 185 kilometres by road. It is believed that Shiva is also in the form of a hill and hence it is called as Annamalai hill. Anna means all powerful in Tamil and malai means hills. Since this god is considered very powerful thus it is compared to the mountain that cannot be moved and strong. This god being believed to be part of the hill, hence it is also called as Annamalayar among its devotees.
Arunachaleswarar temple has six prakarams around the temple. Every full moon day of the month Girivalam is undertaken by the pilgrims. Lakhs of devotees participate every month in this healthy ritual. This word Girivalam is the origin of the tamil word giri meaning hill and valam means coming around. Hence coming around the hill is called as Girivalam in Tamil.

To come one full round (Girivalam) the road round the hill, it is around 14 kilometres. And people both young and old religiously go round on the full moon day. It is said to bring in abundant peace or calmness for the mental well being and also refreshing for the physical fitness.

This abode of Arunachaleswarar, the Annamalai hills at Tiruvannamalai has varied interpretations over the years. It is believed this hills took different forms at different period of time and age. During the Kirthayugam it was in the form of fire. The next Threthayugam it took the form of emerald, known as manikkam in Tamil. In the course of Dweparayugam it existed in the form of gold. Now in Kaliyuagam it has taken the state of rocky hill.

At Arunachaleswarar temple there are eight lingams known as Ashtalingam. They are positioned at different locations and facing various directions. Each lingam signifying different directions of the earth. These lingams are named as Indralingam, Agnilingam, Yamalingam, Niruthilingam, Varunalingam, Vayulingam, Kuberalingam and Esanyalingam.

Each lingam addresses different aspects of man’s life and they bless the devotees with different types of benefits. It is believed to be installed by various gods. Also these lingams have a dominant navagraha and praying to each lingam brings forth various benefits that is being bestowed by that navagraha on the devotees who prays to that particular lingam to achieve the desired results.

The first lingam on the Girivalam is the Indra lingam and this lingam has east as its cardinal direction. It is said to be installed by lord Indran the celestial king. The dominant navagraha of this lingam are the sun and sukiran. Worshipping this lingam blesses the devotees with long life coupled with prosperity in abundance.

The second lingam on the Girivalam is the Agni lingam. This faces the south east direction. The uniqueness of this lingam is that it is the only lingam that is placed on the right side of the path on which one goes Girivalam on the full moon night every month. Praying to this lingam helps one to keep away sickness and to maintain good health. The dominant navagraha of this lingam is Chandran. It also helps the ardent devotees to counter the problems that they come across in the life’s journey. This lingam is located near the lotus tank.

The third lingam on the Girivalam is the Yama lingam. This lingam signifies the south direction. It is said to be installed by the god of death Yama. The dominant graham of this lingam is Sevvai. It has a holy tank known as Simma theertham. Worshipping this Yama lingam relieves the devotees of their financial constraints.

The fourth lingam on the Girivalam is the Niruthi lingam. The cardinal direction is South East. The dominant graham of this lingam is the Ragu. This was installed by the king of the giants. This lingam also has a holy tank called as Sani theertha. Devotees worshipping this Niruthi lingam are freed of their problems.

The fifth lingam on the Girivalam is the Varuna lingam. This lingam signifies the west direction. This lingam is installed by the Varuna god who is the creator of rain on this earth. The dominant graham of this lingam is the Sani. There is a holy tank named as Varuna theertham. Devotees worshipping this lingam are protected from all critical illness. This Varunalingam also takes care to elevate their social development.

The sixth lingam on the Girivalam is the Vayu lingam. This lingam is placed facing the north west direction. Vayu lingam is installed by the god of air himself known as Vayu baghavan. The graham that is dominant is the Kedhu. Offering prayers to this Vayu lingam gives strength to fight all heart ailments, stomach problems, lung problems and general illness.

The seventh lingam on the Girivalam is the Kuperalingam. This faces the northern direction. The dominant graham is the Guru. And the Kuperan or the god of wealth has installed this lingam. Offering prayers to this lingam regularly helps the devotees to achieve prosperity.

The last lingam on the Girivalam is the Esanya lingam. And this lingam faces the north east direction. The god that installed this lingam is the Esanyan. The graham that dominates this lingam is the Budhan. Praying to this lingam gives peace of mind to devotees and develops a positive attitude in them to achieve success in all their pursuits.

Tips to follow while going Girivalam
  1. It is advised that devotees go Girivalam only barefooted.
  2. Always view the top of the giri all through their Girivalam.
  3. Preferably Girivalam should be undertaken only during full moon nights or else in normal nights.
  4. To chant during Girivalam the namam of Om Arunachala.




Ramesh Kumar Srinivasan said...

Hi Uma,

Thanks for the details of temple. I hope the details on "Niruthilingam" should refer to "South West" but its mentioned as "South East"(in only one place, other two places its correct).

Mariyappan S said...