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.

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Jyoti Vinayaka Shrine

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

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Carol is getting blessed by the priest.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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Chalk figure of Hanuman

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

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Selling Hammocks

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

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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

.

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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.

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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.

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

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Another Nandi, by Soma Tirtam (Soma Tank)

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CD and DVD stand

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

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Mahashakti Shrine, covered with ‘wish bags’

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Sadhus

Sadhu with begging bowl

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Sitting on bench

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Elderly Sadhu. Just walking seems like a big task.

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Vendors

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Man whispering secrets into Nandi’s ear

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

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Babies

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.

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

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One of the nine Lingams, Nirudhi Shrine

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Carol getting blessed

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Sadhu taking morning bath in Nirudhi Tank

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More vendors

Food stand with thatched roof

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Man sleeping on table after a long night

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Vallalar Temple with Sadhus

Vallalar Temple features the Nine Planets

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Sadhu in tea stand

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Brightly colored Rudraksha pendants

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