Arunachala Pradakshina – June 2008 Full Moon – Part One: By Richard Clarke

After walking ’round Arunachala in April in the moonlight, amidst a crowd said to be 1.5 million people, we celebrated THIS month’s full moon by walking around in the morning. We found this to be much more harmonious, and easier to take pictures than during the crowded night walk.

Shown below are photos taken June 18, 2008. They are all on the ‘Pradakshina road,’ from the junction with Bangalore (Chengam) Road to where this road meets the main road back into Tiruvannamalai, so from the viewpoint of Arunachala, from the South West, to the North West sides of Arunachala.

I have tried to put in names of temples, shrines, etc. I am unsure of the spelling of some of them, so if there are errors, let me know and I will correct them.

Carol Getting Ready – Removing her shoes

It is the tradition that Arunachala is a temple, and the path around the temple, for good punya (merit) should always be walked barefoot. IF you look closely you will see that most Indians do this. Carol frequently walks barefoot, as she can. I still hold more to shoes or sandals. Even with this, I have had several blisters and foot sores that caused restricted activity for a while as they healed.


Jyoti Vinayaka Shrine

This shrine is right at the intersection of Bangalore Road and Pradakshina road.


Carol is getting blessed by the priest.


Along the way

Much of the road is lined with vendors and stalls. There were still many people making pradakshina this morning. In the photo below there is a group of young women walking. You can tell they they are young because they are wearing ‘punjabi’ or ‘salwar’ suits, instead of saris, which is what are worn by most Indian women.


Here is Richard. Note the vibuthi, placed on my forehead by the same priest that blessed Carol.


Another Temple

I am not sure of the name of this shrine. To its left is a big building that says it is a ‘Free marriage hall.’ I believe they let sadhus sleep there overnight.


Om Namo Sivaya

We often meet this sadhu in the morning when we go up the trail to get to the Inner Path. This goes past what we call the Sadhu Tank. I think this is called “Kattu Shiva Hermitage” on some maps. Usually he gives a big smile and says “Om namo Sivaya” as we pass on the trail. This morning he was out on the road, on his way back to “the tank.” We walked together for a bit.


Here he is with Carol. He put on his Siva dhoti for the picture instead of the plain saffron one.


Chalk figure of Hanuman

Note that the artist put cloth boundaries on the pavement, trying to prevent walk-overs.


Selling Hammocks

It took some time before we know what the red and green strings were, hanging in this photo. They are hammocks!


Dourvaas Nama Siva Shrine

Here they usually used to ask us for ’20 Rupees’ for a “wish bag” to tie on a tree behind the shrine. These wish bags are a common feature in a temple. For example, when a woman wants a child, she will tie a bag onto a tree at a nearby temple.

This is right across the road from where we usually go onto the trail to the Inner Path. This is described in the posting



One of many Nandis

There are many Nandis along the road. Nandi the Bull is Siva’s attendant and gate keeper. In a temple, Nandi will face the lingam. Around Arunachala, most face the mountain.

Women visit images of Nandi, bringing floral offerings, and touch the stone. Their prayers are usually for fertility.


Clean-up after Full Moon night

Empty coconuts, after a night of drinking coconut juice. Cleaning up after the full moon night is an issue. Some vendors do this with care. Many do not. And many of the people will throw trash anywhere.


Supplies from a drink stand, going back on a bullock cart.


Another Nandi, by Soma Tirtam (Soma Tank)


CD and DVD stand

Across from Soma Tirtam. There are a number of these stands, usually blasting out some Siva chant or song.


Mahashakti Shrine, covered with ‘wish bags’

HPIM4823 HPIM4825


Sadhu with begging bowl


Sitting on bench


Elderly Sadhu. Just walking seems like a big task.




Man whispering secrets into Nandi’s ear

He spent some time whispering to Nandi. Must have had a lot of wishes.



Young couple with babe in arms. Mother says proudly, “38 days old.” They were very pleased to be taking their new baby on pradakshina around Arunachala.


Another baby watching the first baby. You see many babies in the arms of their parents, being carried around the mountain.


One of the nine Lingams, Nirudhi Shrine


Carol getting blessed


Sadhu taking morning bath in Nirudhi Tank


More vendors

Food stand with thatched roof


Man sleeping on table after a long night


Vallalar Temple with Sadhus

Vallalar Temple features the Nine Planets


Sadhu in tea stand


Brightly colored Rudraksha pendants


For the rest of this article, go to

Arunachala Pradakshina – June 2008 Full Moon – Part Two: By Richard Clarke

More Temples

Unnamalai Amman Mandapam. The green objects on each pillar are frogs.


New temple, I do not know the name.


Hanuman Temple


More Sadhus sitting on bench

This is how I saw most sadhus today, sitting by the roadside on a bench watching all the people going by.


Another Nandi


More Temples

Palani Andavar Temple


Paramansa Nityananda Peedam, with 1008 Lingams


Ancient Shrine, near Echo Temple


Raja Rajeshwari Temple, opposite Kannapar ShrineHPIM4877

Waiting to go to School

Though Full Moon night is a big event, with people traveling from all over India to participate, for the local children, life goes on as usual. Here there is a group. I guess they are waiting for a bus. Different schools have different colored uniforms. The older girls wear ‘punjabi’ or salwar suits. Younger girls wear things like the little girl in the front right, a shirt and a dress (she has a white shirt under a tunic).


Roadside Altar

If you look closely you will see, on the tines of the tridents, bangle bracelets that have been left behind as an offering by earnest women passing by this altar.


Sugarcane Juice Stand

These sugarcane stands are common here. They will crush the sugarcane and give you a glass of cane juice, for a nice sugar lift.


Building Another Ashram: Babuji Guru, associated with Sai Baba

I wonder if more temples and such are needed along the road. Still they are still building more. This will be another Ashram.


Village woman sitting by house

Village life goes on, unfazed by all the people walking past.


The Feet of Sri Ram to worship

You will see these feet carvings in many places. Once, when we were walking in the forest near the Sadhu Tank, we came across a flat rock, with feet like this carved in the rock.


Arunachala from the road

Parvati hill is to the right, The Elephant in the center.


Altar made around Ant Hill


Another of the Nine Lingams – Varuna Lingam


Fruit Juice Stand

Note the boys in the back posing for the picture.


Into Adi Anamalai Village

Adi Anamalai Temple is to the right, not visible from the road.


Making our coffee at a Tea Stand. We sat for a bit and had Indian Milk Coffee to energize us for the rest of the walk.


Kaliyama Temple, opposite Manikkacachakar Shrine

Notice the tables with ceramic statues and other items to sell to the walkers.


Looking into the shrine.


On the other side of the shrine were food vendors. And the tree that is usually associated with each temple. This tree is where local people will perform part of the Shraddha ceremony, after a person dies. See Indian Village 13-day ceremony for more on this.


Another Ant Hill Altar


More Temples

I don’t know the name for this. Arunachala is behind the temple.


These horses are often seen associated with a temple. I am not sure of the significance. Perhaps someone can tell me.


Vayu Lingam (Gas Lingam). The meaning of two of the lingam names was given to me be a friend. I am not sure of the significance of “Gas lingam.”


The One and Only Deathless Art Center

This is a small store we saw where the road to Kanji intersects the Pradakshina Road.


Views from the road

This stretch has few temples and vendors.


Here is an attractively painted building. You can see how the Indians love color. HPIM4919

People having breakfast at a food stand beside the roadway.


Small houses line the street in this section. Arunachala is behind them.


This brightly painted sign for Ramraj cotton underclothes is painted on many roadside buildings. Also you will see similar signs for Poomer underclothes and cottons.


Small rustic roadside Temple

There is a photo of this lit up at night in


Chandra Lingam

Chandra Lingam, now with a tree growing from it.


One more of the nine Lingams – Kubera Lingam

This is the money lingam, per my friend.


In front of the lingam is a camphor fire. People will put their hands into the camphor smoke and use this smoke the bless themselves, drawing it to their face and head. They will also bring more camphor pellets and add them to the fire, so that it stays lit for all to use. Vendors sell camphor all along the Pradakshina route.

This is as far as we got on foot this day. This is maybe 1 KM from the junction where the road to Velore comes into Tiruvannamalai. One of my heels felt like it was ready to blister, so we hailed an autorickshaw, and went to RamaKrishna Hotel for a great India Breakfast and Indian Milk coffee. Then back to home.

North side of Arunachala – Under the loving gaze of The Elephant: By Richard Clarke

We are starting to explore the North side of the holy hill. One thing we look for is an ‘Inner Inner Path’ that is closer to the base of Arunachala. On all sides of Arunachala there are many paths, foot trails and animal paths. We have been gradually exploring the mountain, using what we can find from these paths.

Earlier this week we took the

and started exploring the area between what we call ‘the Basin’ and the hill. We found a bit of what could be the ‘Inner Inner Path,’ and started round the mountain. Soon we found a big rock formation that climbed up the base of the hill. We went up this rock and found a wonderful view of the area North of Arunachala and Adi Anamalai. When we left, my new pruning clippers remained behind, on the rock where I placed them when I sat down to rest.

Today we went back to see if the clippers were still there – and with our camera. Here are some photos we took ‘Under the loving gaze of The Elephant. The Elephant is the move visible structure on the North side of Arunachala.

The Elephant from the Inner Path, North of the Hill, ‘Parvati.’


My wife, Carol, is walking ahead, with The Elephant on the mountain in the background. You can see the head and trunk on the hill.

The Frog Pond

At the end of Parvati there is a small tank we call ‘The Frog Pond.’ There is usually water and frogs in it. I dried out towards the end of May. Since then rains have filled it again, but I don’t see the frogs yet.

Approaching the Frog Pond, you may notice a small palm. I use this as a land mark, since I can see it from up the trail before we arrive at the Frog Pond.


The Frog Pond is a place where often people walking the Inner Path will sit a rest a bit. Notice stone steps on the other side of the photo below. There are a couple of sets of steps. We usually sit on the steps at the South end of the pond. There is shade there in the mornings when we pass by.


We will sit a bit, drink some water, and maybe read a few verses from ‘The Song of Ribhu’ before proceeding on our walk.

To and across the Basin

Today we would head to ‘the Basin’ and cross it to find the same set of paths we used earlier in the week. We are heading out from the Frog Pond. If you look closely you can see an earthen berm, with trees growing from it. This is what collects water in the basin.


Looking across the Basin:


Sometimes this is filled with water. In this dry season there is just a small pond, to the left of this photo.

We are going to the trees on the right of the photo aboive. That is one place where the path was easy to find.

Below is the path, we took the second, higher path. There are many places to explore here. There are several big rocks that push through the trees. These interest me. I know that there will be great places to meditate at some of them.


Today we walked through the woods …


And started to see the rock structure on the mountain. IN the photo below you can see a grey path of rock in the center of the photo. This is the rock.


Up a rock on the North side of the hill

At the base of the rock. the rock is maybe 10 – 20 meters high, certainly high enough to get a grand view of the surrounding area.


And at the top of the rock, there were my pruning clippers, still there two days later.


The view from the rock on the North side of Arunachala

Back towards Parvati Hill


towards the Frog Pond and the North side of Parvati


Adi Anamalai (enlarged to see the detail)

Adi Anamalai 2

Up Arunachala. More places to explore some other day


Looking North. Note Adi Anamalai to the left in the photo.



Today we did not explore more. We just headed back to the Inner Path to finish the mornings walk.

After the path section I call ‘The Elephant’ is another section where maybe 20 years ago many trees were planted in rows on both sides of the Inner Path. I call this section ‘The Trees.’ IN this section there is a picturesque area with big rocks. Here is a photo of Carol sitting here.


Tired today . Further on the trail, near Panchamuka Shrine, Carol and I were very tired. Carol rested a bit before going on. Here she is in a yoga position, Savasana.


A goat on a Rock

As we walked on the road down the hill from the Shrine, there was a goat again, sitting on a rock.


From here we walked to the RamaKrishna Hotel and had breakfast of dosas and vadas, and Indian Milk Coffee. Then we called Rajan, our auto-rickshaw driver for a ride the rest of the way around the hill, and back home.