Inner Path to Pachaiamman Koil
This concludes the series that shows details of 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.
This series shows the Inner Path in some detail all the way from Sri Ramanasramam, around Arunachala, and onto the streets on the Eastern side of Arunachala.
Part One shows the path from Ramanasramam. Part Two shows the walk around the southwest side of the hill. Part Three details the section of the path around Parvati Hill, at the west end of Arunachala. Part Four shows the path on the north side, under the Elephant. Part Five follows the path through the trees. This is part six, the final section of the Inner Path.
Below is a map of the entire Inner Path, that shows the six sections as well as some other landmarks along the way. The final section is in yellow.
The final section of the Path goes for a bit through trees and brush, near to (but not visible from) Pradakshina Road. It then goes behind a few houses of local villagers, then up a small hill to Pachaiamman Koil, then down the hill back to the road. And the way we walk, finally to Ramakrishna Hotel for breakfast of Indian coffee, vadas and dosas.
Starting from the Big Rock
Looking towards Arunachala, the peak rises behind the trees.
The Path continues straight ahead.
Arunachala through the trees.
Continue through the brush and small trees.
Here is a clearer view of the Arunachala peak. The trunk element of The Elephant rises on the right of the peak.
Continuing down the Path. This is a shortcut where Carol cleared the brush and now is the main part of the trail. Before only cows could get through here, and everybody else took a jog to the left.
We turn a bit right and there is a nice red and white Om painted on a rock. By now there is quite a bit of road noise, but the road is not yet visible.
A village woman walks ahead, with a container of dry branches on her head. This is fuel for the day’s cooking fire. So much of this brush is gathered that it does not have a chance to compost back into topsoil. This is a long standing issue in India, where much of the soil has been depleted by the last 2000 years of continual use.
Trash heaps line the path. And sometime piles of human waste, since the typical houses here have no toilets, and the people are used to going outside their houses to do their business. Watch where you step!
Behind these houses, you can see into their back yards. Here a man is standing in his undershorts in a brick-lined bathing area taking his morning bath.
The Path continues through more refuse. Paper products are burned, but the ubiquitous plastics have nowhere to go. Some towns are beginning to address this serious problem by banning plastic bags. The real problem is to educate and sensitize the people to “littering.”
Village children start to greet us. We go through here often and are known by many of them. It seems that children always want their picture taken. They will come and ask ‘photo’ or ‘camera.’ The children will often ask us for pens. Their schools don’t supply them, so there is no way to practice their writing skills. Amazingly, the little girl in the foreground here actually offered to give US two pens. What beautiful children, physically and spiritually.
More path through more trash.
Now we walk directly behind a few houses. Be respectful to the people here. This is their home. A silent smile is usually enough.
At this house Carol has been greeting the two kids with a ‘fist bump.’ She started doing this as a way to divert the children’s request for a pen, etc. It really seems that what they want is just some kind of contact, and the fist bumps provide an easy way. She calls them ‘Obama bumps’ after the photo of Obama and his wife taken during the election.
Proceeding through the village.
The skeleton of a dead rickshaw sits by the path.
This is a small thatched hut, some family’s home.
There are a number of cows here. Arunachala is in the background.
This long yellow sign is a predictable landmark. The Path turns to the right.
Here is Arunachala again. Clouds are forming around the peak.
The Path goes up and to the right.
Now Arunachala is shrouded in clouds. It is said that there are five faces of Siva that are visible in these eastern hillside rocks. This how you can be sure that it is Siva, since he, apparently, really has five faces.
Near the Path are newly built homes, with bright paint jobs. Much care was taken with these houses. The bright colors conform to the principles of Vaastu, the Indian equivalent of Feng Shui.
Now the Path goes over two concrete bridges.
Arunachala is nearly hidden by the hill in the foreground.
Below is the first glimpse of Panchiamman Koil, rising out of the trees.
Patties of cow manure mixed with straw are drying here. They are used a fuel for cooking fires.
More Vediyappan mounts and guardians.
This group also has an elephant as a mount.
In front of Panchaiamman Koil are two rows of Guardians. If you look closely, the two on the left are resting their feet on heads.
Outside Panchaiamman Koil is a small shrine.
Inside is an ancient figure of a male and female. Siva and Parvati, maybe?
Here is the front of Panchaiamman Koil. The vertical red and white stripe indicate that it is is temple. You will see these many times in South India, marking temples.
The Arunachala peak is entirely hidden here.
The road down the hill to the main street.
There are monkeys here today. This one is sitting on a rock. I wonder if monkeys meditate.
There is a tank down the hill from the temple. Usually in the morning there are men bathing in the tank.
On the other side of the road through the trees is another temple. There is a path here that goes a bit further around the mountain. After a rough bit and a scramble up a rock face, you come out to a small village built on the face of a very large hillside.
Down the road.
Often you will see this billy goat along the road here. He seems like the king of this hill.
We turn right at the first street. You could keep going straight down this hill. We think of this as the ‘scenic route.’
A nice Ganesh shrine in the doorway of this house insures that things go well within the house.
In the mornings, many women with water jugs are gathered around this tank, getting their day’s supply of water. This is a hard job. Naturally it is mainly done by the women.
Kids gather, asking, ‘photo, photo, photo.’
Sarees are spread out to dry.
They were probably just washed in this community clothes washing area.
Across the road is a sweet little shrine.
Many primitive Nagas (Snake Gods) are set out in front of the central shrine. All are dressed in their dhotis. This shrine is very well taken care of.
The road continues on.
We take the first left turn, down the hill.
This is a nice clean street to walk down.
It passes by a large tank. This has water year round.
A Ganesh shrine is next to the road. It was recently repainted, and is brightly colored.
Down the hill we go.
Now we come to the main street. Hotel Ramakrishna rises ahead.
Arunachala is obscured by the main buildings and phone/electricity lines.
Almost to the hotel. We can’t wait to eat breakfast!
First is coffee. We have coffee before the meal. Indians have it after. The staff here know us, and know to bring the coffee to begin with.
It is served in a metal cup and small pan. The waiter, Raja, pours it from one to the other to cool the coffee. If I tried it from this height, the coffee would be all over the table.
Then the dosas and vadas are served. Since the staff knows that we LOVE the chutneys, they bring us big bowls of it.
This concludes the inner path portion of Arunachala Pradakshina.
From here you can complete it by walking through town on the main street, or on back streets closer to the mountain. We usually have our rickshaw driver, Rajan, pick up us after breakfast and ride through town.
The Inner Path Pradakshina is something that gives many people a deep sense of the holy maintain, and its peace and tranquility. The walk can be made year round. In the summer months start as early as you can (6 am?) and take lots of water. Take your time. Be willing to explore. Near the path are many places of wonder, beauty and peace. Savor it all, if you can.