A few days later, I got a chance to go on Girivalam again. About twenty of us, all newcomers to Tiruvannamalai, asked our landlord to be our guide and he, graciously agreed. Now, this is an astute business man, who has completed major projects in the Tiruvannamalai area, but at heart, was totally devoted to Arunachala Siva. You could feel his love for Siva when he spoke. Unfortunately for me, he spoke no English and I, not a word of whatever Indian languages he spoke. But there was the language of the heart and he made our group’s first Girivalam on the main Girivalam path, an experience to remember.
We started the Girivalam at the Dakshinamurthy Temple, near Ramana Ashram. The mantra for the walk, he told us, was: "Arunachala Siva, Arunachala Siva, Arunachala Siva, Arunachala.” If we kept our minds on this mantra, he promised us, we would be able to complete the Girivalam, otherwise not.
After darshan of Lord Dakshinamurthy, we stopped by the Ramana Ashram and bowed to both Ramana and Arunachala from the gate. We then crossed over to the left side of the road, so that the millions of Siddhas who circumambulate the mountain, could do so unhindered.
After walking for almost an hour, avoiding reckless drivers, we reached the first cluster of temples. By the time we got to these temples, there was little or no traffic. The area had also become more rural and we had an unhindered view of the Arunachala mountain. Our landlord regaled the group with stories from the scriptures and connected the stories to real life incidents. He had everyone in rapt attention, even though I couldn’t understand a word of what he spoke. I held on to the wonderful tone of his voice and his love for Lord Siva.
Over the next 4.5 hours, we passed by all the ashta lingas, the nandis, a spot where we could call out to Arunachala and our voice reverberated around the mountain and returned to us. We sat and meditated at Ramana bridge, a spot where Ramana Maharishi is supposed to have done tapas. In the beautiful morning air, under clear skies, that was best meditation I had in Tiruvannamalai.
Sri Agasthiar Ashram
We, then, passed by the Agasthiar Ashram, bowed to Saint Agasthiar for the knowledge he has given us and as we rounded the corner, passed by the last of the lingas, eshanya lingam. We had darshan at the Durga Temple nearby and as we rounded one more corner, we met up with the city again. In no time, we were at the main Arunachaleswar temple and then back at the Dakshinamurthy temple where we had started the Girivalam.
After walking the difficult inner path, walking on the main Girivalam path, seemed so easy. I still got tired and had to rest periodically, but this time, I thoroughly enjoyed the Girivalam.
My mind was on the mantra the whole time and in the 4.5 hours it took us to circumambulate the mountain, there was a major shift in my consciousness. There were major insights into life's questions. It is not that the answers just popped into my mind. It was more like the answers were always there, but the veil that covered it, was destroyed. Happiness, gratitude and a real yearning for self-realization bubbled up inside me and I couldn't wait to go on my next girivalam.