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

Skandashram Skandashram gate

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

Skandashram

Skandashram

View from Skandashram

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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

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.

One thought on “Walking up to Skandashram: By Richard Clarke

  1. The walk down the hill from Virupaksha cave was harrowing for me too (July 2015), for a different reason. The whole path down is full of illegal settlements. Though illegal, there are cemented houses and there live tons of people who throw away all their waste in the hills and in the path. The entire path stinks as these people use the path and the hills as open toilet. There were ladies who were out in the open brushing their teeth and spitting right in the path. There is a holy tank (mulai pal thirtham) in the path that these people exploit for all their water needs though this water is very sacred and to be preserved. As I was getting down, met a sadhu who said this is one of the paths which is better and there is another one in which you cannot even put your foot down in the path – there is so much waste, filth on the path! And not to mention, the path is full of beggars who demand money. As the downward hill path ends and leads to the road to the temple, it is full of shops and bathrooms that again throw their waste on the roads and occupy the roads as if it is their property. Still walked bare foot, entered the temple and as I was completing the circle around the temple (path between the bigger gopuram and smaller gopuram – slightly isolated), I see two “officers” from HRCE (TN State govt) urinating in the temple garden. Also heard the reforestation team has been forced to leave (no more tree plantation along the path) and inner girivalam path has been closed for so many years now so that even if trees are felled or if boxite is mined from the hills, no outsider can “see” it. It is high time the entire area is given of to Ramanashram for management.

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