Our Experiences In Tiruvannamalai

Our Experiences In Tiruvannamalai

On the side panel is a list of contributors. We recommend reading by writer as we don't want you to miss out on anyone's experience.

If, however, you would like to read from the very beginning, please scroll down to the bottom of each web page and hit 'older posts', till you find the very first post.

There are about 400 pages of information on Girivalam on this website.


"Life is meant for the realization of God. If you die without attaining God-realization, your life has been in vain. You have wasted away this precious gift of human birth given to you by God" Swami Chidananda, successor to Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh


Updated on June 21, 2017
The international community is inviting you to join the world-wide movement towards vegetarianism and the prevention of cruelty to animals.

Srila Prabhupad, who started the ISKON movement, had spoken about it extensively, as had Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, who founded the Kauai Aadheenam in Hawaii, USA.

Gurudeva, as he is lovingly called, explained decades ago: 

“People adopt vegetarianism for five main reasons:
  • Dharma,
  • Karma,
  • Consciousness,
  • Health, and
  • the Environment

First, dharma declares that we should not kill other creatures to feed ourselves.

Second, those who eat meat are participating indirectly in violent acts against the animal kingdom. This creates negative karma, bringing to us suffering in the future.

A third reason is the impact of eating meat on our consciousness. At the moment of death, the terror and torture of the animal is bio-chemically locked into the flesh. When we consume the meat, we take that animal’s fear into our own body and it negatively affects our consciousness.

The fourth reason is health. Eating meat has been linked to a variety of illnesses, including cancer. There is no nutritional reason humans have to eat meat. Modern research confirms that a vegetarian diet is a fundamentally healthy diet.

Reason five, the huge industry that raises meat for human consumption is bad for the environment. It contributes to climate change, destruction of rain forests, loss of topsoil and the extinction of species. If the resources currently spent on raising beef, pigs and chickens were instead used to produce vegetarian food; hunger could be reduced worldwide and global warming largely allayed. Today vegetarianism is a global movement.

There are vegetarians among all the religions as well as those who have no religion and their numbers are increasing. Our saints proclaimed vegetarianism to be man’s natural and noble diet. The very name of our religion in Tamil, Saivam, also means vegetarianism!"

Gurudeva added, "Vegetarianism is a natural and obvious way to live with a minimum of hurt to other beings. In my fifty years of ministry, it has become quite evident that vegetarian families have far fewer problems than those who are not vegetarian.”
The international community is, therefore, inviting all leaders in India and around the world, who are enlightened souls with love in their hearts, to join the movement towards vegetarianism and the prevention of cruelty to animals. 

Please bring along your followers if you think they are evolved souls and be rest assured that you will NOT go hungry. There will be plenty of whole grains, lentils, beans, vegetables, fruits and nuts for you to eat and for those in the animal slaughter business, your basic needs can be met until you retrain for other lines of work that are more evolved.

We hope you will join us.

Yours truly,
Spiritually Awake Citizens of the World


LK: My Response to Jallikattu (bull-fighting) and More......

Updated on May 12, 2017

Worship the cow, treat her well and please DON'T KILL AND EAT HER... because all of the deities, especially Goddess Lakshmi, are present in the cow.

The bull is NANDI - Lord Shiva’s most trusted companion who is totally and completely absorbed in Him. Causing Nandi any distress, as in catching him by his horns and tormenting him in a sport or killing him for food, is like shaking Lord Shiva out of His deep state of meditation. Imagine what the consequences of that could be.

Could it be in the form of a tsunami or a bloody civil war where millions of people died or were injured or had to flee their homeland? Sadly, this has happened in South Asia. Is it time to contemplate and change your ways? We say “YES”. 

We do not buy the excuse that animals in other parts of the world are being ill-treated and so can you because in other parts of the world, people do not understand Karma and are suffering for it. Our belief is that those who are practicing Hindu spiritual practices know better and can do better. All the Hindu deities are in your chakras observing and ready to guide you, if you ask.

The best way to send a prayer to Lord Shiva is through the right ear of Nandi or the bull. That is why tormenting the bull in a sport or killing him for food results in almost immediate and devastating karma. Treat the animals well for your own sake!!! 
Our plea to you is: Show your community’s pride by being more compassionate and loving to each other, to women and children, to birds and animals, to the mountains, lakes and rivers and to trees and plants. Respect Mother Nature.

Rise higher; be better than the ‘other’ people you are referring to.
The late Shri Srila Prabhupad, who started the ISKON movement and set up 660 Hare Krishna temples around the world, had said decades ago “Those who are flesh-eaters or who ill-treat or wantonly injure or kill animals are going to get obnoxious bodies in their next lives. For their wanton cruelty, nature will force them into the bodies of hogs and dogs. They are missing the priceless opportunity of going back to the spiritual world. Instead, they will have to stay in this material world and accept more and more material bodies – more rounds of birth, old age, disease, and death. Ignorant rascals are automatically defeated, by their very own ignorance.”

To meat-eaters Prabhupad said, “If you have an absolute need to eat beef or pork or chicken, you need not kill them. When one of our animals dies, you can come here to our farm and take away the carcass. You’ll have an ample supply of flesh, at no expense.”


Everybody in Tiruvannamalai knows Devraj. He is the ‘limousine driver' from Canada who spends several months every year in Tiruvannamalai. Devraj can be seen doing Girivalam EVERY DAY, feeding the monkeys and the cows (the animals talk to him! ) and proudly taking his North American friends around his beloved Arunachala.

Devraj is about 80 years old now and has decided to settle down permanently in Tiruvannamalai.
It is with great love and immense gratitude that we are offering his story to Arunachala.

Hello my friends, Devraj here. I was born and raised in Bengaluru, only 200 km away from Tiruvannamalai but I didn’t know a spiritual diamond called ARUNACHALA existed nearby even though I had seen Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi’s photo three times.

·       The first was in 1951 when I was 11 years old. It was Bhagavan’s Mahanirvana photo.

·       The second was in 1960, when I saw Bhagavan’s photo in the ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Shri Paramahansa Yogananda and

·       The third time was in 1972 in Canada on the cover of a book called ‘Message from Arunachala’ by Paul Brunton. I didn’t buy the book because I was short of funds and also I had no interest in it at all. No fireworks in the head! It took two more powerful experiences before I was cracked open spiritually.

A Sadhu in North America

In July 1975, I was returning home to my apartment in Canada when I saw a white man ahead of me carrying a bag with the sign ‘OM’ on it. Yoga was not very well known then in North America as it is now. So I walked really fast and over took him. I asked him about the bag and before he could answer I asked if I could buy him a cup of tea. The man agreed.

I noticed he drank his tea slowly and mindfully. I did not rush him. Then I asked him about the OM sign.  Without replying he opened his bag and took out four books of Bhagavan Shri Ramana Maharshi:

(1) Talks
(2) Day by Day
(3) Life and Teachings and
(4) Path to Self Knowledge.
He said “This is all I have. I keep reading these books over and over again. The words are the same, the books are the same but I keep changing.”

I asked him, “Sir, you got to sleep, you got to eat.  This is not India where you can live the life of a monk with no home and no possessions.  How do you manage in the cold winters?”

The man replied, “I had a good job, a nice apartment, nice furniture, a car, TV and all that but after I got these books, I started living a simple life. For food, there are Christian missions downtown where I can have breakfast, lunch and dinner, for free, no questions asked.  There are managers of apartment buildings who will gladly allow me to sleep in heated basements and there are Government hostels where I can sleep and wash. God takes care of me very well. Bhagavan was a sadhu in Tiruvannamalai; I am a sadhu in North America.”

“I spend most of the time reading books about spiritual knowledge.  I have my savings and when I reach 65 soon, I will get a good pension for all the decades I have worked, and then I hope to visit Arunachala.” He said his name was Jivadas. We parted ways after another cup of tea but used to meet up occasionally and talk about spiritual matters. So it was in Canada that I was introduced to Arunachala and Bhagavan Shri Ramana Maharshi, that too, by a white man and a Christian.

He had such a radiance and peaceful demeanor about him that one day when I was talking to him, two really powerful messages flashed through my mind. The messages were:  

  1. Devraj, you are 36 years old.  You have taken enough rest. Get up and start walking.
  2.  Devraj, the dollars you are chasing, you cannot take them when you leave this physical world. I will take you to a DIAMOND mine, made up of spiritual diamonds that will remain with you forever.

These messages were so powerful that I rushed home and told my wife that we must go to Tiruvannamalai when we go to India next time. My wife agreed.

Arriving in Tiruvannamalai

It was on April 14, 1976 that my wife and I made our first pilgrimage to Tiruvannamalai. We arrived in Ramana Ashramam around 1.00 p.m. My mother, my aunt and my daughter were also with us. We were given a big family room. Later, we had tea in the ashram kitchen, went to Skandasram (Ramaswamy  was the caretaker), came down to Virupaksha cave (Mani Swamy was the caretaker), came down to the road behind the temple, walked back to the ashram in time for the dinner at 7.30 p.m.

It was April 14, 1976 and I didn’t realize the auspiciousness of the day. Around dinner time that evening I noticed there was some activity near Bhagavan’s room. Upon enquiring I was told that it was Tamil New Year’s day and more importantly Bhagavan’s Nirvana day. Bhagavan had taken mahasamadhi 26 years ago on this day.


I was overwhelmed by the timing of our visit but nothing else of great significance happened to me. No fireworks in my head or flashes of light.  My daughter, however, saw Light in Bhagavan’s eyes in the life-size photo of Him in the old prayer hall. That 'was great for her but no such luck for me.

Photo Credit: Saran Dashnamoorthy. Saran was born and raised in Tiruvannamalai. He still lives in Tiruvannamalai with family


Next morning, after breakfast, we went to the GREAT Arunachaleswarar Temple, offered our prayers, returned to the ashram, had lunch at 11.30 a.m. and left for Bangalore soon after. I had absolutely NO plans to come back but some divine force brought me back the next year for one day. I was thinking, “Okay there is a Hill. There is a big temple. So what?  There are hills and temples all over. Even near our town Dopdballpur, there is a hill called Nandi Hill where Agasthya Muni lived.

On both of these trips nobody told me about Girivalam.

In 1979, my sister and I went to Tirupati for a day with our families and the next day we came to Tiruvannamalai. My wife and I stayed back in Tiruvannamalai while the rest of them returned to Bangalore. I wondered about that. I still didn’t understand that I was in a spiritual gold mine and things happen here.

At tea, we met another couple by the name of Mr. & Mrs. Bidri.  They suggested that we go up the Hill.  A lady from Bangalore also joined us.  Going up the Hill she asked me whether I have done Girivalam. I said no and asked her what that is.  She said this Hill is Lord Eswara and people do Girivalam around Him, walking 14 kms barefoot. 

I asked the Ramana Ashramam office about girivalam.  They said, “From the ashram turn right and keep walking, when you come to a fork, turn right, keep on walking and keep the Hill to your right and you will come back to the ashram.”

Next morning I started from the ashram gate at 5 a.m. and completed Girivalam in three hours. I had never walked non-stop for 14 kms barefoot. After the walk I didn’t feel tired at all. Instead, I felt energized.

From then onwards, I made it a point to go for Girivalam whenever I visited Tiruvannamalai.  I have done Girivalam at all hours of day and night, taking 3 hours to 6 hours. I have lost count of how many Girivalams I have done over four decades. I must have made over 100 trips to Tiruvannamalai in my life time, staying for several months each time, but of how many Girivalams I have done, I don’t remember.

Once I did three Girivalams in a 24 hour period. The first Girivalam, I took a friend from Canada around the mountain in a car. Then I walked alone from 6 p.m. to midnight, and the third Girivalam I did with some friends from Bangalore from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Another time I reached the ashram after doing Girivalam at 3 a.m. and some people were going on Girivalam.  I joined them and completed it in 4 hours. I never felt tired.

A baby monkey in Ramana Ashram. 

I met a couple who used to live in Chennai and were unaware of Arunachala.  Their eldest son passed away all of a sudden when he was 16 years old.  They were grief stricken. Then the mother started getting a message, “Come to the Hill, come to the Hill….”  She did not know what it meant.  She spoke to her father and father-in-law and they suggested to her to go to Arunachala on a Full Moon Day.  She did and she got the message: “Good you came here, I am here.”  The parents moved to Tiruvannamalai and started a restaurant so that she could be here all the time. I have had so many experiences like this. 

I am almost 80 years old now. I cannot say everything is fine with me. Age is catching up and I have had to slow down a bit. I do Girivalam only once a week. I can take care of myself without outside help but most of my body parts are worn out, no spares available. It is true that the health care system in North America is very good but Arunachala is here. He is the doctor of all doctors. This is where I want to be.

I will continue after a few days - Devraj

LK adds:   Here is a beautiful rendition of the MAHA MRITYUNJAYA MANTRA  by an international choir.  Read  here about its benefits



I have done Girivalam at all times of the day. One day I started at 10 p.m. Just after midnight, I saw lights in the temple of Sri Rajarajeswai which is before Adi Annamalai. I went in and saw two persons. One is the priest and the other is a devotee, a white man at that.  The devotee had sponsored a particular Pooja and the priest was doing it. It was past midnight. I did not stay for the whole Pooja.

Easanya Lingam in Tiruvannamalai
Another day, during daytime it was around 11 a.m. Past Kubera Linga the road ends i.e. we have turn right to continue Girivalam.  I had heard of Eesanya Linga but did not know it's exact location. I turned right and was walking.  After a 100 yards somebody tapped my on the back. I looked and saw a tall man much older than me, white veshti, sacred thread on his chest. 

He asked “Are you doing Girivalam?"
I said, “Yes.”

He said, “You have to back track and take a slight deviation (he showed me which way to go). He said, “Follow the road and you will see Eesanya Linga.  Then turn right you will come to the main road.” A few seconds later I turned back but the old man was not there.  I looked around, he was nowhere. In fact I did not see him during my Girivalam.  He had disappeared.  Arunachaleswarar did not want me to miss Eesanya Linga.

It is a great feeling, particularly at night when you catch a gentle breeze from the hill.  I used to go around bare chested and barefoot because one day I met a sanyasi coming in the opposite direction. 

He asked, “Are you going round the Hill?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said," Just cover your body from waist to knees, expose as much as you can, nothing to fear, over a period of time you will learn slowly the mystery of the Hill.”

One day the ashram manager asked me to take some three visitors from Chennai to Skandasram and then to Virupaksha cave and then down to the main road.  Their car will be waiting to take them back to Chennai.   I told them what I know about the Skandasram, Virupaksha cave and a few other caves and small shrines.  One of them said, “Next time we will spend a few days and learn as much about the Hill as we can.” 

I said, “I will tell you what somebody told me. The person said, “Dear friend, if you spend the rest of our life here, you will never fully know about the Hill.”

A couple of years ago , I met a lady from Israel in Tiruvannamalai. I said to her, "Dear me, you have come from the land of Jesus Christ. What brings you here? Doesn't the dirt, filth and beggars upset you?

She replied, "You see that HILL. There is only one HILL of this kind. If you want to have sight of this HILL, you must come here." She also said, "This is my first visit and I have already been here for three months."

Nearby there was Frenchman. He said that he has been here for 15 years. Looking at the Hill with folded hands he added, "I hope I will die here at the feet of Arunachala."

Some years ago, I would go to the ashram around 6 p.m. feeling very tired. But once I started walking, somehow I could finish Girivalam as usual and not feel tired. I can say with certainty that for me, at my age, to be able to take care of myself without outside help and without major medical problems, it is because of Arunachala and all the Girivalams he has allowed me to do. There are innumerable medicinal plants on the Hill and breathing the air full of these herbs, has had a very positive effect on my body. Different people, different ages, doing Girivalam at different times have had different experiences. I can’t pinpoint which Girivalam had what effect on me. All I can say is I am as healthy as I can be for my age. I do have problems which is to be expected.  So many body parts have worn out which cannot be replaced. If major problems crop up, all I can say is what Bhagawan said, “This body needs an excuse to go. Hence this problem has come.”
From last month NO Girivalam on foot, only on scooter, that too not very frequently.  Even that takes me 4 to 5 hours since I stop at all the shrines and repeat a small prayer. 
I have no complaints.  I have had a good life.  Whether I achieve Moksha or Mukti or Nirvana or self-realisation or whatever you call it, is irrelevant. Arunachala has allowed me to live near Him for so long. What more can I ask for?  My only prayer is that I am able to take off while I am still healthy. I don’t want to become bedridden .

I will stop here and continue in a few days - Devraj