Our Experiences In Tiruvannamalai

Our Experiences In Tiruvannamalai

On the side panel is a list of authors. We recommend reading by author 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 150 pages of information on Girivalam on this website.


Destruction of the Sonagiri Forest in Tiruvannamalai




The  national  and   international media are reporting that, ancient and sacred trees at the foot of the Arunachala Mountain are being felled to widen the Girivalam road. These trees were not planted by man and are part of a natural forest that has existed since time immemorial.

These trees, and the animals and birds that reside in this natural forest, are considered to be Siddhars, or highly evolved souls, who have taken the form of trees, birds and animals to be close to Arunachala. The international community is naturally outraged and very concerned that disturbing them when they are in such a deep state of meditation of Arunachala will unleash a natural disaster of epic proportions.

We are appealing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to step-in and stop the insanity immediately. We realize that various levels of government want to make Lord Shiva accessible to all but it is not up to them or for any of us to make Lord Shiva accessible to anyone whether they are ready or not. Lord Shiva is a state that will happen naturally when life’s karmas have been lived and resolved, and the mind is pure and ready to turn within to a life of renunciation and silence.




What Tiruvannamalai needs is not more development but the dismantling of the haphazard growth that has brought in people who still need television, radio, cell phones, alcohol, cigarettes, non-vegetarian food, drugs and NOISE to survive. It is a dead give-away that they are NOT ready for Lord Shiva.

Prime Minister Modi there are karmic consequences for not taking immediate action.
The late Srila Prabhupad, who started the ISKON movement and set up over 500 Hare Krishna temples around the world, had warned decades ago that harmful agricultural practices and the cruelty and senseless slaughter of animals to satisfy the human palate will cause the souls of these animals to retaliate and for Mother Nature to administer her justice.  

Devotees are wondering, “Is this why there is turmoil of epic proportions in the world now? It seems to be happening every ten years!”

Prime Minister Modi, the international community feels there is no need to destroy a sacred forest to widen the road and create more infrastructure facilities.  The Community is appealing to you to do the dharmic thing of returning Tiruvannamalai to it pristine beauty of silence, cleanliness, renunciation and the deep state of Arunachala. 

Lord Shiva is for people who are ready to turn within and live a life of renunciation and silence.
The devotees are, therefore, appealing to Prime Minister Modi to:
  1. Stop all vehicular traffic immediately on this sacred Girivalam path. Ambal (Goddess Parvati) walked on this path until she merged with Lord Shiva at the spot where the Gautama Rishi Ashram stands today. There are now trucks, buses, and SUVs plying on this sacred Girivalam path on which Ambal (Goddess Parvati) walked. Please stop traffic and enable sincere devotees to do Girivalam in peace without getting run over.
  1. Restrict entry into Tiruvannamalai on full moon and festival days. There is only so many people that the town can hold comfortably. So the natural thing to do is to limit entry so people realize how sacred and precious the practice of Girivalam is. This will ensure that the trees, wildlife and those doing sincere and serious sadhana are not disturbed.
  3.  Remove noisy people from living near the Arunachala Mountain and prevent more from coming to live in Tiruvannamalai. They are not ready for the silence of Arunachala.

Prime Minister Modi, the devotees would like to invite you to Tiruvannamalai to do Girivalam i.e. walk very slowly around the mountain (barefoot, if possible). You will see first hand how powerful Arunachala is and how deeply disturbing all of this development is to Mother Nature.
Yours truly,
Concerned and Spiritually Awake Citizens of the World




To our readers and those who have contacted us concerned about all the unrest in the world, thrown relentlessly at us in the form of senseless wars, terrorism, natural disasters and gun violence in western countries, our advice is:  

·         Turn within and ride the turbulence. Do NOT fuel the turbulence with your own unsettled mind.

·         Do silent japa of the mantra  Om Namah Shivaya  or Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra

·         Sankirtan (group chanting of any of God’s names) and meditate

·         Pray to the Divine Mother, in her various forms, for protection or

·         Invoke Lord Narasimhadev (a half man, half lion incarnation of Lord Vishnu) as is done on a daily basis in ISKON Temples around the world. Lord Narasimhadev will come so swiftly and so fast before you have had time to say Hare Krishna!!! 

If these seem difficult for you at this time, do seva or self-less service.

·         Feed the sadhus, the poor and hungry respectfully with your own hands Annadanam

·       Feed the birds and animals, 

·         Eat only organic and vegetarian food that you have offered to God

·         Abstain from alcohol and drugs

·         Clothe the poor
·         Plant trees and water them regularly
·         Help out in animal shelters and plant nurseries
·         Clean the sacred precincts of a temple or clean the pathways around the Arunachala Mountain. This seva will purify your own body temple and rid it of diseases.
·          Even if you are going only to the grocery store, walk lightly and mindfully with every step. If you plant seeds of joy and happiness as you put each foot down, Mother Earth will heal and protect you. Of that be assured.
 Come let us pray to Arunachala.

108 Sacred Names of the Divine Mother

Mantra Text:

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Parashakti Sundari
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Mahamaye Mangale
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Mahakali Bhairavi
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Mahalakshmi Vaishnavi
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Ma Sarasvati Brahmi
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Durga Devi Shankari
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Uma Parvati Shive
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Ma Bhavani Ambike
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Annapurna Lakshmi Ma
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Kamala Katyayani
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Tvam Brahmani Gayatri
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Tvam Tripura Sundari
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Mata Bhuvaneshvari
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Tvam Raja Rajeshvari
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Bhagavati Bhargavi
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Parabhakti Varade
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Maya Vishvamohini
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Ishvari Narayani
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Nitya Parameshvari
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Jagadambe Janani
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Maa Amba Lalitha Devi, Tvam Ananda Sagari
 Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Sarva Mangala Mangalye Shive Sarvarta Sadike
Sharanye Tryambake Devi Narayani Namostute

Narayani Namostute
 Narayani Mamostute
 Ohm Shanti Shanti Shanti

Shiva Prasath: All those who do Girivalam are blessed for no one can come to Arunachala unless He Himself calls us

Oh God, let me cross this ocean of doubts on a boat of knowledge.

Our pilgrimage began in Cochin on September 17, 2013 about 2:00 p.m.  My wife, young son and I headed towards Coimbatore to get the blessings of my aunt and uncle before traveling to Tiruvannamalai [Coordinates: 12.2200° N, 79.0700° E] next morning.  

September 18, 2013 (Wednesday) was Pournami (full moon day) and it would extend upto September 19th (Thursday) evening.

There was joy and excitement in the air. This was going to be our first trip to Tiruvannamalai and our very first Girivalam.  I wanted to arrive in Tiruvannamalai by 1:00 pm so that my wife and child could get some rest before we went for darshan at 5:00 pm and then on Girivalam.

During the drive, my wife and son asked me many questions and I replied “Wait, it’s going to be a unique experience.”

We drove in silence till in the distance I saw the Mountain, my dear Father Arunachala, rising high above the ground and looking so majestic; energy surged through me like I had never experienced before. The land welcomed me as a long lost son. Everything seemed so familiar. It was unbelievable.We drove directly to Sri Ramanasramam.
At Sri Ramanasramam, I went to the reception and was given a room. The room was airy and comfortable. The excitement was building up. We freshened up and paid obeisance to Lord Ganesha and prayed to him to remove all obstacles on this pilgrimage.

Golden Ganesha at the Arunachaleswarar Temple in Tiruvannamalai.  Source: www.arunachalagrace.blogspot.com

We had decided to drive to the temple and park the car near the temple (it is recommend that on special days it’s better not to, as the roads are barricaded and you have no choice but to rest in the car until dawn.)

The parking ticket vendor issued us a ticket while we searched for space. Surprisingly there was none available and we circumambulated the temple in the car and met this vendor to express the unavailability of space when all of a sudden a stranger came from behind and pointed to us a space. I was amazed.
Even though the start time for Girivalam was mentioned as 7:30 pm there was a steady rise in the flow of devotees. The fervor rose as dusk set. Devotees had formed large queues; police officers were guiding and monitoring the entrances.

 It was then I said a little prayer. “Oh Arunachaleshwarar, how can I get darshan of you? Please guide me.”
Just then I saw some police officers and they said there was a special darshan entrance. So we had to go around the temple once more to get to the special ticket counter. Down the lane I prompted my wife (who is fluent in Tamil) to enquire about the exact location of the special ticket counter.

She did and this person remarked "I can accommodate two people, if you wish, you can join me".

We agreed to follow him.  On the way, I noticed devotees were thronging to get darshan of Lord Arunachaleshwarar. The monkeys were playing on the trees and the birds were resting on the massive white washed gopurams.

I wanted to speak to the devotee who got us inside but he was no where to be seen. My God !!! I did not even get a chance to thank him. Who was he? It felt like Arunachala had embraced me. The Annamalaiyar chants were playing loudly in the temple and I prayed 'Oh God, give us the strength to complete the Girivalam. I don’t know what to expect on the way.”

Just then I noticed that behind my wife were a group of women devotees. We introduced ourselves and asked a few questions about Girivalam. One lady called "Devi" told us not to worry, to just follow her. I knew it was Annamalaiyar’s answer to my prayer. We were his guests. He was going to take care of us.

We had an amazing darshan of Annamalaiyar and Unnamalaiyar but it was so hot inside when I remembered that we were in Agni Kshethram. It got cooler as we neared the navagrahas and there was a crackling sound, followed by a thunder... thoughts rushed through my mind even though we had umbrellas in the car. I felt the clouds would blanket the moon and we will not be able to walk under its radiance but the moment we stepped out of the temple...the moon was shining with its full glory. I felt so much gratitude for Annamalaiyar.

Start of Girivalam

Despite the light drizzle, we followed Devi, starting with darshan of Lord Ganesha. My son was very excited. Our Girivalam had begun. The physical circumambulation was done on the outer route since I had the information that the inner route was banned by forest authorities because of forest fires.

The drizzle ceased, the clouds cleared. With the Majestic Giri on my right and thoughts on Lord Arunachaleshwar we began. Initially, there was so much excitement, I could hardly contain myself. A couple of kilometers down, the sound of chants vibrated, we passed by saffron clad devotees singing praises of Lord Arunachaleswar, songs of S.P. Balasubramaniam, vendors shouting to get our attention, restaurants selling hot food, coffee shops, there was fruits, dates and fresh juice, the crowd swelled, it was a sea of humanity walking gracefully many with thoughts of Lord Arunachaleshwar. It was amazing that devotees from various walks of life were cherishing each moment and every step on this holy land.

Devi guided us to each lingam starting from Indra Lingam, Agni Lingam, Yama Lingam, Niruthi Lingam, Varuna Lingam, Vayu Lingam, Kubera Lingam and Esanya Lingam. There were many little shrines on the way. She was explaining the purpose of visiting each lingam and how it helps people get rid of certain medical ailments. Chanting the name of Lord Shiva was sufficient. Large queues formed to get darshan of the lingams. We treaded along the path. We reached the Raja Gopuram at 1:45 a.m. The crowd was intense and ecstatic. All burning camphor and chanting the lords name. High energy filled the air.

We parted with Devi giving much thanks. She said that she was a regular visitor to Tiruvannamalai on Pournami days . We spent some time thanking the Lord for such an experience. We paid our obeisance then sat down for a few minutes watching the grand gopurams. We pondered about the sequence of events that took place in the past few days and how things fell into place. We felt like we had regained our vigour and our enthusiasm.  On the way back to the room, I noticed that devotees were still arriving in hordes to perform Holy Girivalam.

In the morning we visited the Ramanashramam. There were saffron clad sadhus under the tree shade. One of the devotees showed us the gate to go to Skandashram and Virupaksha cave. The climb was exciting, very few people were trekking the Holy hill to visit the Caves. The vegetation I understand was part of the reforestation project which helped bringing life back to the Holy hill as it was devoid of vegetation a couple of years ago. Little boys were selling water bottles. Laborers were engaged in paving the path with rocks and soil. A craftsman was found selling artifacts. We reached Skandashramam where Ramana Maharshi spent his early days. The trees and plants that the ashram had planted created a serene atmosphere. I slipped into meditation easily. My family was enjoying the scene and cool atmosphere. My son was happy watching the birds that were in abundance. Locals guided us to Virupaksha cave.
Just below the Skandashram there was a pool of natural water and the local guide informed us that water has come back to the hills after 5 long years. Theertam (holy water), as he referred to it, was absolutely sweet and cool. We quenched our thirst. He also warned us of langur species of monkey and to take extra care of dangling purse and bags if any. I visited the Virupaksha cave. The cave was supposed to resonate with the sound of Om. Here Shri Ramana resided in this cave and had written books like ‘Self-enquiry’ and ‘Who am I’.

The sun was high up in the sky, we descended the hill and there were ladies screaming at the langurs as they were trying to destroy the cement board roofing. Other ladies were inspecting the damage and picking up the shattered pieces. They guided us and told us that we would reach the temple and recommended us to catch an autorickshaw to Ramanashramam. We reached the temple precincts and even during the hot afternoon, we observed that the devotees were still engaged in conducting the Girivalam.

At Ramanasramam, we went into the book store and bought a few books. Sadhus were relaxing under the shade of the trees in the ashram. Pairs of Peacocks were cooing away from the trees.
In the room, I was browsing through the book on Giripradaksina , the author had in his last sentence written the following All those who do this Giripradaksina are blessed for no one can come to Arunachala unless He Himself calls us.”  Emotions ran high through me. The experience was truly unique.   

A painting of Goddess Gayatri

After some rest, we visited the Panchamuki Gayathri temple and paid our obeisances.

We also visited the Lord Arunachaleshwarar temple again to thank the Lord for taking such good care of us. The holy mountain diminished from the rear view mirrors but the experience and the blessing he showered upon us are still with us.

Shiva Prasath


Ponmalar: Karthigai Deepam 2014 - My Unplanned ... planned visits to Tiruvannamalai

Ponmalar is a japam participant who went to Tiruvannamalai for her very first Karthigai Deepam on December 5, 2014,  followed by her third Girivalam of this life time. Here is her story:


My name is Ponmalar and I am from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

My first visit to Tiruvannamalai was in February 2013. I had darshan of Annamalaiyar during the Ardha Jama pooja or the last pooja of the day. So, as you can imagine, it was a very powerful puja. That was my first ever experience of Annamalaiyar and I had to wait a long time for it. My first feelings of Annamalaiyar cannot be expressed in words. It was total bliss. 

 The next day was Sani Pradhosam and we did Girivalam early in the morning. That was my first ever Girivalam, too. After finishing the Girivalam, we went inside the temple for prayers and after the prayers only I realized I didn’t even take a sip of water throughout my Girivalam or even since morning. I had not planned to fast and had brought a water bottle with me. So as you can see, I had come well-prepared but I just forgot to drink. I was so absorbed on Arunachala that I forgot to drink water. I was speechless when I realized what had happened. Let us just say, it was unplanned but according to HIS plan.

The second time I visited Tiruvannamalai was in early January of 2014 (this year) and I had only planned to have darshan of Annamalaiyar and then return to Malaysia. Girivalam wasn’t even on my list of things to do in Tiruvannamali but all of a sudden, a friend came to see me in Tiruvannamalai and we did a Girivalam early in the morning. It was such a majestic experience. Once again everything was happening according to HIS plan for me!!! I could feel Annamalaiyar’s grace the whole time. I was in such bliss.


Believe me, I was satisfied with these two Girivalams and was stunned when Annamalaiyar blessed me again. He called me to Tiruvannamalai on December 5, 2014 (this year) for Karthigai Deepam and for one more Girivalam. It was all unplanned. I was in ecstasy that HE had called me.

As this was my first ever Maha Deepam Girivalam, I am sharing my blissful moments on this blog. I am doing so out of gratitude for all the benefit I got from reading the experiences of all the great soul’s who shared their experiences of Girivalam on this blog.

As before, it was full of blissful surprises (All HIS plan)! 

I arrived in Tiruvannamalai on the night of December 3rd eager to have darshan that night itself but my friends told me that the temple would be closed at this time, so I will not be able to see Annamalaiyar today – NO darshan for now! 

I accepted it since I had no choice and just wanted to relax after my long flight to Chennai and then to Tiruvannamalai. 

Deep within me, the feeling of ‘missing HIM so much’ was there. To my surprise, a friend’s friend (who had permission to enter the temple without passes) arrived at the place where I was staying and asked whether I wanted darshan of Annamalaiyar. 

I couldn’t believe it! How was it still possible when the temple was closed. I found out later that during festival times the last pooja time is extended past the normal hours! It was Annamaliyar’s grace that I was within the temple compound a few minutes later and HE had sent this good soul to bring me inside the temple. I cried.

Twice now, I had close darshan of Annamalaiyar at night, which included an auspicious abhisekham ceremony for Annamalaiyar!!! 

This is how Karthigai Deepam 2014 started for me. The only preparation I did was to keep my mind on Annamalaiyar with no plan... no agenda at all. The owner of Arunachala Girivalam taught me this.

I was blessed to witness both the festivals: The Bharani Deepam (early morning) and Maha Deepam (evening) with the grace of Annamalaiyar! Yes, to witness both these festivals from inside the temple, we needed passes! I had no idea how to get them but one of the priests of this temple (who is also my family friend) managed to get the passes for me at the very last minute... literally at the very last minute.

There was a huge crowd but I managed to secure a place to witness the festivals from inside the temple. Bharani Deepam is the first Deepam festival that is done at 4 a.m. 

I couldn’t see a thing because of the crowd. I gave up hope of seeing the Bharani Deepam and was preparing myself to accept the fact that it is o.k. if don’t see this since I can still see the Maha Deepam later in the evening. 

When I surrendered, the Deepam went around the temple and to my surprise came just next to the place where I was standing. It was so close that I could have touched the Deepam without even stretching my arm! Oh My God, again it was HIS plan! It was all Annamalaiyar grace!!! I had goosebumps when I saw Annamalaiyar in main sanctrum in Raja Alangaramafter this Deepam.

Then came the most awaited and auspicious occasion in the evening - The Maha Deepam!!! Whilst the Panchamoorthis and Arthanareeswarar procession took place from inside the temple towards the main entrance; fireworks were everywhere! 

Devotees were chanting Hara, Hara, Annamalaiyaruku Arogara and the great light was lit on the Arunachala mountain! 

It was such an auspicious moment, I was in tears! Annamaliyar had called me all the way from Malaysia for this darshan of the Deepam! 

Many of my friends advised me not to do Girivalam on Maha Deepam day due to expected huge crowd! It did worry me to some extent but I came all the way just for this Girivalam and didn’t want to go back without doing it! The owner of this blog, Arunachala Girivalam, had also prepared me well. 

So, I just proceeded with it. It was definitely more crowded compared to my earlier two Girivalams during non-festival days but the crowd was moving. It was not at a standstill. There was ample space to walk freely. In fact, my mind never registered the crowd. Seeing the Arunachala mountain with the Deepam, I was fully absorbed in the divinity of Girivalam on, of all days, Karthigai Deepam! 

My heavenly father, Annamalaiyar, guided us throughout the Girivalam. I am speechless for all the blessing HE showered upon me throughout the journey. There is nothing I can do for HIM in return for this except to love him very deeply and completely.

HE taught me one important lesson in Tiruvannamalai. “You don’t need to struggle at all to have a darshan of me. Darshan is not something that you wanted to see but it is something that I wanted to give you! You don’t need to plan! Your desire will be fulfilled unplanned but according to MY PLAN for you.  Surrender and just float freely! I AM holding on to you!”

I realized this at the very end, after all of the unplanned pleasant surprises happened according to HIS PLAN.

With my eyes full of tears of gratitude, Annamalaiyarukku Arogara!!! 

May HE bless all the great souls who have shared their experiences on this blog. 

Thank you for this opportunity to share my blissful experiences with these other great souls.