Our Experiences In Tiruvannamalai

Our Experiences In Tiruvannamalai
A GUIDE TO THIS BLOG

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.
Enjoy
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ARUNACHALA IS THE DOCTOR OF ALL DOCTORS - Part 1 -- by DEVRAJ

 

Everybody in Tiruvannamalai knows Devraj. He is the ‘taxi 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 taking his North American friends around Arunachala.

This Tiruvannamalai elder is about 80 years young. He did japam with us for a long while and was an inspiration to many japam participants. Devraj has decided to settle down in Tiruvannamalai permanently and share many of his experiences with us.

It is with a lot of 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 in Tiruvannamalai and grew up here.
























 

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

MY GIRIVALAM EXPERIENCES - Part II -- by Devraj


 


















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.”
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


FEEDING THE COWS IN TIRUVANNAMALAI - Part III by Devraj


This feeding of animals started a long time ago. I used to take some bread and give to the dogs on the Girivalam path and in Ramana Ashramam. I used to feed only a few dogs but nothing like I am doing now.

It started with a cow initiating me with it's look. There used to be a black cow tied to a stump near my apartment but on the main road. There was nothing special about this cow. I used to see it every day. It meant nothing to me.

One day it looked at me. There was a small shop selling bananas and other fruits.  I bought a few bananas and gave it to the cow and went about my routine like going to the ashram, library and then on Girivalam.  Next day I came and the cow looked at me again. So I bought a few bananas and fed them to the cow.  It became a routine every day.

A little further up the road, just to the side of the road I saw a few cows tethered to a stump.  I bought more bananas and started to feed them, a total of ten or more cows.  Then, I saw so many stray cows on the road. And started to feed them also.  Also on the roadside there used to be a cart and a bull.  I would feed the bull every day.  So I made it a point to have a bagful of bananas to feed any cow that I came across.

I knew nothing about the cows.  Not all of them like to be fed.  I got attacked a few times but fortunately no injuries.  There was a brown cow near my apartment.  Every day it would take bananas and  then one day it tried to gore me.  I became more careful and made sure they are all tied and could not reach me. As for the stray cows, I would try to feed them from side so that they have to turn to attack and I have time to escape.

A lady nearby used to take her buffalos and calves for grazing and I used to feed them as well. One day I saw them coming and stood there and put my hand in my bag for a banana Before I realised what was happening the biggest of the cows was staring at me in my face. The next thing I know it's head hit me and I was staring at the sky lying on the ground. Before it could stamp on my face or chest, the lady drove it away. Another day a cow was lying down.  I tapped it gently on the hump and offered bread to it's mouth. In a flash it sprang and attacked me.  I barely managed to escape unhurt   I learnt a lot about cows, it took a lot time.  Even now there is a cow it accepts bread and tomatoes and then tries to gore me.  I make sure it is tied and cannot reach me

There are some cows and calves, so gentle and cute, it is a pleasure to see them every day.  I talk to them, pet them on the side and hump and kiss them on the face.  Every one of them is different.  They talk with their eyes. With the ears, with the tails and with their heads and whole body.

Any cow I see I remember my mother.  After my mother stopped breast feeding me, it is the cows milk that sustained me till I grew teeth and was able to eat solid food.  It comes to mind can we survive without cow's milk and all the products made out of milk.  I learnt much about their life from birth to death.

At the rate of 6 to 8 litres a day, a cow gives thousands of litres of milk during it's life time and gives a calf every two years. And for all that, once it stops giving milk, it is sold to a slaughter house. For me, everything that is good and GODLY is represented in a cow

I started feeding them bananas decades ago.  After I came into contact with the lady at Goshala, Mrs. Sadhana Rao, and she told me bananas are ripened using chemicals.  She said remove the skin or do not feed them bananas. So now I feed them only whole wheat bread and tomatoes.  I was told cows should not be fed too much cooked foods.  So I feed 4 slices of bread and 5 to 6 tomatoes.

There are a few persons with carts and bulls. When they see me they stop. I feed the bulls and also give the owners a few rupees for tea.

 Devraj

More Of My Experiences with Cows -- Part IV


 
 
A few more interesting experiences with cows and bulls.

A few years ago, I went for Girivalam with a few friends on Shivaratri.  Near a temple before Adi Annamalai there was a bull tied with a rope.  I offered a banana and it took it. I went near offered another banana. Slowly it came forward, took the banana and the next thing it hit my chest with it's forehead. I fell backwards and I was looking at the sky.  No injuries. I thought it is a sort of blessing because it happened on Sivaratri day.

The day I sent my last post to you, I went for a Pradakshina of the big Arunachaleswarar temple in town. There was two calves, one fairly big and the other small. I offered a few slices of bread to the big one and was offering bread to the smaller one when the big one became angry and almost gored me.  No injuries.  Maybe another blessing because it happened near the Raja Gopuram.

A few months ago, in a small Lord Ganesha temple I lit a camphor and was saying a prayer.  I felt some nuzzling in my back.  I turned and looked and, yes, there were three cows looking at me, saying with their looks, "Where is our bread". I had bread and gave it to all three of them.

A month ago, it was around 8 p.m.  I was going on my scooter to a friend's house for dinner.  The road I was going on was different from the one I usually take.  I saw this cow walking on the left side.  I went further, stopped the scooter and got down and putting my hand to get some bread slices.   I turned around to go near the cow but there it was right behind me waiting for the bread.  I did not recognize it as it was dark but it recognized me.

 
I got to stop now.  Will continue in a few days. -- Devraj

 

LK: My Response to Jallikattu 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.

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 550 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.”