Working on a path across Arunachala: By Richard Clarke

We usually start walking along the southwest side of Arunachala where we live. Looking at the mountain, we thought that a shortcut across a low pass might be possible. We first walked to the area, and found part of a path up the pass. We forced our way up to the top that day, but did so by pushing our way through brush and bushes, many of which were various thorn bushes. Recently we had some garden pruning shears sent to us from the USA, and so we spent a few days trying to make this path more walkable.

After the work was done, we can now walk more easily to the top of the pass and on to the other side of the Hill. Much of the ‘path’ up a is a dry creek bed, so water cascades down the path when it rains. For anyone might be interested in trying our path, here is a warning: Parts of it could be difficult if your legs, knees and ankles are not in good condition.

Orientation to the path

Here is an Arunachala map where I have shown in red some of what we see.

Arunachala with new trail and markers

Sri Ramanasramam is at the bottom of the map, the south side of Arunachala. The Inner Path is not shown on this map, just the Outer Path. Marked in red letters are the approximate locations of our house, Papaji’s Cave, and a couple of water tanks we regularly see. The approximate route of the path over the mountain is indicated by the vertical red line above letter B.

The main part of Arunachala is to the right of our path. The section of the mountain to the left of the red line is known as Parvati. Between Arunachala and Parvati, there is a small hill that joins them. You can see this from our roof, below. Our path is on the right side of the hill, the lowest of the two passes.


Early morning start

This is May, the hottest month of the year. We start early. This day it about 6:30 and the sun is rising over Arunachala.


Turn off Pradakshina Road to the path that leads to Reforestation Station

We walk across Bangalore Road to the Pradakshina Road. We turn off the Pradakshina Road toward the Inner Path across from a small temple where they sell wish bags that can be hung on the temple wishing tree. They want Rs 20 from Westerners.


The sign shown below is one other landmark for this path.


Up the path towards the mountain

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Past the Sadhu Tank

Sadhus sleep at this tank, and in the early morning they wash themselves and their clothes. Often you will see a saffron dhoti stretched out, drying in the sun.

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There are other places near here where you can see the sadhus meditating in the morning.

sitting sadhu

To the Reforestation Station

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Turn right and walk towards the mountain


Take the left branch of the path

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During part of this section, it is not always clear where the path is. Just keep going uphill, generally following the creek bed. For the most part, the path goes to the right of the creek, then up the creek bed where it gets steeper.

The path goes up the creek bed

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Much cutting to prune back many thorn bushes

Carol and Richard get much work, clearing back brush, and especially thorns. Many different kind of thorn bushes, some quite nasty. It is also getting hotter. If your look closely you will see that my shirt is soaking wet by now.

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Richard cutting a path through thorn bushes


There are many bloody spots from the thorns. They fight back.

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At the top of the pass

While at the level of the pass, one cannot really get much of a view.

Below we are looking at the side of Arunachala.


Adi Anamalai seen from top of the pass

This photo shows the view of Adi Anamalai through the brush that surrounds the path leading down the other side of the hill. This path is much better than the one we came up. If you take it and bear left, it will take you to the ‘Frog Pond.’ I am not sure where you will go if you bear right. We will find this out another day.

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The View from the Ridgeline

We found another path going towards Parvati that took us higher where we could see in all directions. This was up the ridgeline.

Climbing up to the ridgeline towards Parvati, one can get a wondrous panoramic view of both sides of Arunachala.

Looking back towards Tiruvannamalai


Looking to the Inner Path, as it progresses past ‘The Elephant’

The locals call a structure on Arunachala that is east of Adi Anamalai ‘The Elephant.’ The is a main structure on this side of the hill, and it does look like the head and trunk of an elephant.

Below is the best picture I have so far of the Elephant. Here you can just make out the structure to the left that is the end of the trunk of The Elephant. the rest of the head is obscured by clouds.


Soon I want to explore around the big rocks that are at the bottom of this hill, pushing through the trees in this photo.


Walking up to Skandashram: By Richard Clarke

Here in Tiruvannamalai for many Westerners the focus is on Sri Ramana Maharshi and Ramanasramam. Many of these go up Arunachala to the caves where Ramana lived and taught and gave darshan.

One of these caves is Skandashram. It is perhaps one mile from Ramanasramam, up a well cared-for path, up the side of the mountain.

Ramana lived at Skandashram from 1915 to 1922. This is where his mother joined him, and started preparing meals at the ashram, rather than having prepared food carried up, as had been the case since the earliest years. After the mahasamadhi of Mother, and her subsequent interment at the base of the hill, Ramana then took residence at her samadhi, the location of the present day Ramanasramam.

I show here photos from a recent walk up the hill to Skandashram. We started about 7:15 in the morning, before it was too hot. We left out the back gate of Ramanasramam.

Getting started

Going through Sri Ramanasramam

Carol walking through Ramanasramam to path to Skandashram One of the guides who accompany newcomers The gate from Ramanasramam

Starting up the hill

Starting on the path

A woman working with gathered material

Village woman collecting plants

Up the path we go

Starting to climb up the path

The path is ‘paved’ with stone, from Ramanasramam all the way to Skandashram, stones set into the dirt, forming a path about three feet wide. In steep areas there are steps. Someday these stones will be smooth, after 100,000’s of feet have passed over them. Each stone was carried to the path and set into the ground by unnamed workers.

On both sides of the path you will notice tree plantings, done as part of the Arunachala reforestation project that has been going on the the last few years. Ramanasramam has increased interest in Arunachala both around the world, and in India. It is this increased interest in Arunachala that has brought this project about.

Take the right fork. To the left is an entry into the inner pradakshina path.

The path forfs, Skandashram to the right

Up the hill

Carol is barefoot. Arunachala, the whole mountain, is considered to be a temple, and in India you take off your shoes in a temple. Many Westerners do not do this, but Carol goes barefoot on the walk to Skandashram. I do wear sandals. Carol gets more ‘punya,’ spiritual merit.

Carol walks barefoot up the path

And up the hill …

Climbing stairs here

Often there are people sitting and meditating here

To the  left, a place to sit and meditate

Up the path

Up the path

View along the way down to the city

View to the right of the path

Keep going up

The path keeps going up

A Sadhu is usually here – “Sivo Hum,” he may say

Sadhu's spot

There are stone carvers along the way

Stone carver

Up to the top of the path

Up to the top

The view from the top of the path

View from the top - Aranachaleswara Temple

And now to Skandashram. Skandashram is the in clump of trees in the center of the photo.

Final leg of the path

Here we are, but the gate is locked

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Path down to Virapakshu Cave. It is pretty steep.

Aranachaleswara Temple from Skandashram

Opening the gate, walking in. The attendant unlocks the gates.

Opening the gate Entering Skandashram grounds



View from Skandashram


Entering Skandashram

Entering Skandashram

The inner chamber, with the attendant getting ready for the morning chant. This chant is wonderful to listen to. The voice is resonant, and you can hear the love for the teaching in the voice. When we go up to Skandashram, we try to get there for this morning chant. We will sit in the outer chamber, and listen to the chant and meditate, and continue the meditation after the chant is finished.

Innter chamber

Looking out from the porch

Looking out

The Mother’s Quarters

Mother's room Altar in Mother's room

One last look around

Skandashram grounds

One last look at Skandashram


Back down the path

Path back to Ramanasramam

The walk down the hill was harrowing. A tree with a bees nest had fallen, and the bees chased some people down the hill. I was one of these. A swarm of bees circled around my head, stinging the back of my head several times. I was able to brush then out of my ears and off my mouth and face without getting stung there. Finally, about halfway down the hill, they stopped following me.

This is why the photos end with the one above.

Sri Ramana and Modern Day Gurus: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

I am very often asked by Sri Bhagavan’s devotees what I feel about modern day teachers and gurus.

I don’t know how to answer that question well. I do not personally know most of these teachers.

For sincere devotees of Bhagavan, I recommend that they seek company of other devotees. Sri Ramana exemplified all that is best in a living Self-Realized sage in his actions. The Sage of Arunachala was liberal, tolerant, compassionate, and for him all faiths and religions had a place and were welcomed with an open heart.

Sri Ramana lived as a recluse first but when a community formed around him, his life became public. He was in the spotlight 24 hours a day, seven days a week for over 50 years. During all this time, he lived as an ascetic and served all those who came to him and answered their questions.

The devotees know that Sri Bhagavan was so alert to everyone’s welfare and that included not just people but also animals and plants and trees in his vicinity. He refused to eat unless enough was available for everyone. I recall that when the plague came to that area of India, one of the devotees came down with it. Others wanted to leave that devotee and for Bhagavan to come with them. They assured Bhagavan that food would be periodically sent to the afflicted individual. Sri Ramana told them that they could go but he would stay with the devotee who had come down with the dreaded disease and continue to serve him.

How many modern day teachers and gurus can do that?

Like many saints, Bhagavan led a pure and spotless life.

Sometimes, people write me very moving letters detailing how they have had experiences with certain gurus thought to be enlightened who actually were very abusive. Given below is an answer I recently gave to someone after hearing their heart breaking account.

Thank you for your sharing. I am so glad to know that you came through OK what must have been some very difficult experiences and trying times in your spiritual journey. Surely Bhagavan was with you all the way.

I have known of many gurus not treating their students well and have written about it in the following article.

I know that many teachers use Sri Ramana to bolster themselves but are not able to live up to the teaching. Once someone asked Sri Ramana the fate of a false guru and those who followed that guru. Sri Ramana said, “each according to their merit.”

People should be very alert to gurus who are on power trips and abusive of others. If someone asked me for advice about any guru, I would counsel them to be patient and cautious before deciding to follow someone. Those of us who have Bhagavan as our Sat Guru have nothing to gain by following anyone else.

My teacher Chitrabhanu-ji used to visit Sri Ramana in his teenage years. Chitrabhanu-ji told me, when I was very young, to follow Sri Ramana and study the teachings of the Sage of Arunachala.

It was like magic for me. That was back in 1978 when I rediscovered my connection with Bhagavan. I have never felt the need to follow any other guru.

But each to their own. This is the way of the life and we can only wish the best for others. If someone asks me about gurus, Sri Ramana is the only one I can point to.

Yours in Bhagavan