Arunachala – On the Inner Path: Parvati Hill
This post continues the series of posts that show Arunachala’s Inner Path, used by devotees of Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi for the sacred walk around this holy hill. This walking is called pradakshina, or, in Tamil, girivalam.
Inner Girivalam Path around Arunachala:
Parvati Hill section
A map is below. The Parvati Hill section of the Inner Path is shown in purple.
Another way to visualize this is by the look of Arunachala from this location. From the correct place on this side of Arunachala, one can see Arunachala rising behind the twin peaks of Parvati Hill. Parvati Hill is in the foreground, with Arunachala behind.
Approaching the Inner Path
We started from our house on the southwest side of the mountain. The day we walked was after more than one week of rain, after ‘a cyclone’ hit Tamil Nadu. As you will see, much of the path was under water, and the catchment basins and tanks were filled with water.
It is a cloudy day, and Arunachala is behind a cloud.
Parvati Hill is to the left. Arunachala goes off to the right.
Sadhus are bathing at Kattu Siva tank.
The trees at the Arunachala Kattu Siva Plantation are gone, a sign of the changes this organization is going through as it tries to deal with new people in the local Forestry Department. I hate it that they felt they had to move away from the mountain. See this link for more information about the important work being done by this organization.
The deep water pump and beautiful water lilies remain.
Now we start on this section of the Inner Path. Follow the path, generally north.
Across a creek, full of water now, the path that goes to the Kattu Siva Meditation Perch branches off to the right.
Carol is taking the main path. The east end of the peak of Parvati Hill is in the background.
Here are both peaks. These also carry the names of Siva and Parvati. These two peaks are the only part of Arunachala hill that have the same look from both sides of the hill. I will show the other side in a photo later in this article.
After all the rain, the path, in many places, seemed more like a creek than a path.
After a bit of walking, you will come to this tank. Today it is very full. There is a path on the other side, too, but now it is under water.
There is a sadhu’s hut by this tank. The winds during the cyclone have torn his plastic ‘door’ to shreds.
On the other side of this tank, we see some statues.
We come closer to these statues. Investigating, we have found that they represent a tribal God, Vediyappan (god of wilderness, or forest). These horses are seen near many temples is this area.
This shrine is located in a spot considered very sacred by the local tribal people. They say that you can hear the gods’ footsteps in this area. That is why the shrine is located here.
I have talked to other local people about these horses, and while they may not know about Vediyappan, they know that these horses stand ready for the god to ride out whenever someone needs protection.
Here is a closer photo of the horses, the god, I guess, and the dogs that are the escorts.
At the side of the statues is the “primitive” forest temple, with natural rocks worshiped as lingams, etc. These kinds of shrines are in many places in South India. I think one can see the progression from natural shrine, to outside altar, to small holy building, to temple, to temple complex.
Below, a close-up of the watchman. You can see a shield in one hand. The other hand, though empty now, once held a sword. These figures are the protectors of the forest from predators, standing ready.
I have researched Vediyappan and not found much. But I did find Ved Ayyappan, said to be the third son of Siva, and to have overcome a forest-thug, Udayanan. Here is a link for Ayyappan. Here is a second link. Maybe this local god is a local version of this legend? Further research makes me think that this a local name for Ayyanar. Ayyanar is definitely associated with the white horses.
Arunachala, enshrouded in clouds.
Now to follow the path onward around Parvati Hill.
Still wondering if this is the path or a creek? I see a white and red path marker ahead, so it must be the path.
One of the peaks of Parvati Hill.
Water pours over this catchment dam, with Arunachala in the background.
Looking away from the hill, one sees the forest that surrounds the path on this side of the hill.
The path slogs on through the water.
One last look at Arunachala before it is occluded by Parvati Hill.
On the other side of Parvati Hill one sees a big tree and rock to the right of the path.
Coming closer, you can see a path off to the right.
The side path leads through the bushes.
And to a nice cave, just off the Inner Path. We had walked by this spot for several months without noticing this cave.
Inside the cave is a cement floor, dry even after the last week of rain. Notice the rock and cement work to the right of the doorway.
Back on the Inner Path.
For a bit, the trees change, the general color seems a darker green, and there are the big trees like these behind Carol.
Here is a stone survey marker dated from 1904. There are several of these around the hill, all from the same approximate period.
To the left is a big intersection with another path.
Follow the path to the left.
You come to Kannapar Shrine. There is a path from Girivalam Road that takes you right to this spot.
Newly built next to Kannapar Shrine is what I think of as a ‘lingam field.’ This is one of the young Nithyananda‘s facilities. Here I think there are 1008 lingams.
Back on the path, now on the north side of Parvati Hill. The path is pretty wide here.
After a bit more walking through the trees and brush, the terrain opens up.
We walk through a wide open grassy area. The Inner Path goes to the right of this photo. We walk through the center path. It seems easier and more direct.
To the left is a field, flooded and being plowed by a man behind two bullocks.
To the right are the twin peaks of Parvati Hill. From the north side this time, though.
For a panoramic view, I stood in one place and swung the camera from left to right. Panoramic shot 1.
Panoramic shot 2
Panoramic shot 3.
Panoramic shot 4.
Below, still walking along the trail. This small house is the only one close to the path on this side of the hill. I have seen a sadhu there, accompanied by another man.
In this picture there is another stone marker of some kind. Obviously meant to mark something. But it is not associated with the property line and line of posts.
Following the path(s) around the hill.
Look, on the rock ahead is a black goat.
We pass the herd of bulls that seems to live here. They are always in this spot as we pass by in the morning.
The clouds above the hill, a spot of clearing over one of the passes over the hill.
The path goes through this open area towards Arunachala hill. From here, you usually see the structure, ‘The Elephant.’ Today the clouds obstruct The Elephant.
Looking towards the path over the hill.
A bit more through the grassy fields and clumps of trees.
I know we are getting close to the end of this section because of the palm tree to the left of this shot. The path winds through these scrubby low bushes.
We are joining the main path again here.
Or is it the main creek?
The ‘Frog Pond’ (as we call it) is over its banks. We cannot even get to where we usually sit for a rest without wading through the water. Today we don’t even try.
We usually walk to the right here. Not today.
Carol sits for a bit. So do I. This is the end of this section. We rest before we proceed to the next section, which we call, ‘The Elephant.’
Below, the east end of Parvati Hill from the Frog Pond.
Parvati Hill from a bit further on the path, reflected in the now-full northside basin.