Sindhu Sarathi and her husband had many amazing experiences on Amavasya - New Moon day recently. It is with great love and devotion and ofcourse, immense gratitude that we are offering this post to Arunachala Siva.
It is a well known fact that India has the largest number of temples in the world, that by their sheer majestic force, attract people from far and wide. One such temple is the Arunachaleswarar temple in Tiruvannamalai which my husband and I were very fortunate to visit recently. As a western writer wrote, it is the Hill of the Holy Beacon - the Agni shethram.
I feel I was very blessed to put my feet down on this holy part of the earth. I do not remember thinking of it when I was a child but definitely in the last seven years, I had a very strong desire to visit the temple. Sometimes the urge would diminish because of my karma but it would always come back up strongly as ever. Unfortunately, even when there was a strong desire, some obstacle or the other would come in the way and prevent me from going to Tiruvannamalai. I would mysteriously be tied up within the boundaries of Chennai and the trip would be cancelled, at best. Sometimes we would go upto Tindivanam and return.
Finally one day, I asked Arunachala Siva in my prayers, “Why is it happening like this?” He didn’t answer but now I know that He made me wait for so many years to show me certain incidents which I wouldn’t have been able to perceive had I undertaken the pilgrimage even a year ago! Such is the grace of Arunachala Siva.
A few days before my journey, I asked my friend “why is it so that I am not able to go?” He replied I should wait for His call. I was amused because a day later I was standing in the sanctum of Lord Arunachaleswarar Temple in Tiruvannamalai.
There was a lot of excitement before we started our journey. There was a euphoria that I cannot describe. I was finally going to meet my Father but unfortunately certain incidents happened on the way that prolonged my journey. Just before Tindivanam, the air conditioner stopped working suddenly. The blower and fan were working but the compressor was a total mess! So we proceeded in the hot sun – “Ah! ha!” I told myself, “We are going to Agni shethram!”
On the way we saw two miserable accidents that shook up the driver. So we stopped and relaxed for a while. We reached the temple at about 4 p.m. As per one of our friend’s request, we planned to go on girivalam only after 5:30 p.m. We still had time, so we went to have the darshan of Lord Arunachaleswarar.
Our dramatic first darshan of Arunachaleswarar
After purchasing some flowers and garlands for the deities, we entered the temple through the side gates. There wasn’t much rush in the temple and we were in a fast moving queue. While nearing the inner sanctum, the guard dramatically asked us to go in. It was so sudden that I thought “O! My God!” And we had the most amazing first darshan of the Lord. Vibudhi alankaram had just been completed and I couldn’t take my eyes off Him. When I was asked to sit on His left side, I wasn’t able to look back at the floor to place myself!! I knelt down with fixed eyes. I realized my place only when I heard a voice asking me to leave. The effect was there for at least two days.
I was wondering how the priests are able to bear the attraction! The energy emanating from the Murti was so intense! I convinced myself thinking there is no way Arunachaleswarar would have revealed Himself to the priests the way He did to me because one cannot stay in His presence for a long time and withstand the energy!
There are supposed to be huge crowds on specific days of the month like new moon day, full moon day and Pradhosham. We had darshan of Arunachaleswarar on a new moon day and it was a Sunday! I couldn’t believe how fortunate we were.
Iddaikaattu Siddhar Samadhi
While doing Pradakshina of the temple, we offered our prayers and did archanai to Lord Muruga as it was the first day of Kandar Shasti. With a contented mind we also had the Darshan of Unnamalai Amman. While coming out, I was going to ask a priest where Iddaikaattu Siddhar Samadhi was. But I forgot to ask and remembered only after coming out.
From there we drove straight to Ramana ashram and sat there for prayers. A blissful peace swept over me and in no time, my mind and the body were fully recharged and I was ready for girivalam! We saw many foreigners in deep meditation and many uttering the Rudram of Maharishi. I was a little ashamed that we had been ignorant of our religion’s great heritage all these years.
It was 5:30 p.m.. I was looking around the book store at Ramana ashram, even bought a few books. A person in the bookstore enquired about our background and we told him that we had come for girivalam. He advised us to rent a room at Seshadri Swamigal’s ashram since it will be too late when we finish our girivalam. So our plans got changed. We went to Seshadri Swamigal’s ashram, got the key and went to Uma Matha’s samadhi. And just then and there I had an amazing experience.
The Start of Our Girivalam
Still stunned from that experience we rushed off to the temple to start our girivalam. We lighted some camphor’s before Annamalayar and presented our prayers before starting the girivalam. It was exactly 6:15 p.m. and was starting to get dark. First, we reached Indra Lingam and when I thought we could light some camphor, we saw a board restricting the usage of camphor. So we had a good darshan and continued on our girivalam.
I happened to read an article which had the rules for girivalam as given by a sage. We tried to follow a few points from that. One of which was not to chat about family matters and other issues while doing girivalam. Hence, we chanted some good shlokas and mantrams in our mind. The road was very crowded and we found it difficult to walk fast.
On the way we saw a lane with a beaten tract leading to Agnilingam. We made some offerings to the deity and continued on our girivalam. Then, we met many sadhus and offered them some money and food. It is said that the value of money is not important but one should offer at least a paisa instead of nothing.
My beloved uncle's guru: Yogi Surat Kumar
I was feeling really tired when we thought we should visit Swami Yogi Ram Surat Kumar Swamiji, who was a guru of my beloved uncle. So we got deviated from the girivalam path and walked nearly a kilometer deep inside. It was very dark and there were no one. As we neared the ashram, we heard bhajans and walked faster towards Swamiji’s Brindavanam. There, we picked up some excellent vibrations and offered some flowers at his holy feet. We felt like he was speaking to us. Swamiji is called as the God child of Tiruvannamalai. He addresses Lord Arunachaleswarar as His Father and Himself as a beggar!! My uncle had great times with Him!!
After visiting Swamiji's ashram, we walked fast towards the Girivalam path. I was tired. It was nearing 8:30 p.m. when we reached the Girivalam path again. We saw a few people on the road, along with them, two foreigners were strolling on the pathway in a very relaxed manner enjoying the nice breeze. While walking we were discussing some stories about great souls, siddhars and Mahans. We had a long discussion about Iddaikaatu siddhar and his Samadhi.
Suddenly my husband called his friend to update the status of our Girivalam and also enquire where Iddaikadar’s Samadhi was. His friend's reply kind of stunned me. He said, “I do not know but may be you will meet him on your way.” He also felt that we were running late. We had covered only two of the eight lingams in 2 1/4 hours. There were another 11 kms ahead of us. We thought we will be able to complete our Girivalam only after dawn! But I told my husband, “Never predict the time we will finish girivalam because it is not a marathon race and not decided by us!!” He agreed.
A Flying star - A lifetime's grace
At around 8:45 p.m. we reached Varuna Lingam. This is the fifth lingam and once we reached the temple we saw a priest coming out. I felt sad because it meant the temple was closed for the day and we could only have darshan. The whole temple was empty and I thought at least now we can light the camphor we had brought with us. So we lit the camphor and put forth our prayers to the Lord. I actually prayed loudly for good rainfall and harvest as I was worried on seeing the dry areas on the way. Maybe I made this prayer because the deity was Varuna Lingam. I do not know why I did my prayers out loud!!
I knelt down before the Lord and as we were coming out of the temple we saw the same priest coming back in. By priest I mean he had a kaavy dhoti, with no hair on the scalp and was cleanly shaven. He didn’t have a sadhu’s look. So, I considered him as a priest. He was even young. I asked my husband to offer him some money and he accepted it with a bowed head. His face was not very clear. We would have walked ten steps from there in pin-drop silence, the road was fully abandoned not even vehicles or passer-bys or even a sadhu. It was pitch dark and the trees on either side were forming a courtyard like structure.
It was exactly 9 p.m., we saw a flash of light of half tube-light size passing in front at my eye level towards my husband’s eye level sharply towards the Holy hill in less than a fraction of second like a flight taking off, and where-in my husband yelled out “Hey!”
I immediately asked him to keep quiet and turned on that side and we paid our pranams. I turned back and to my surprise the priest was nowhere to be seen!!!!
That moment, I cannot express my feeling. It was exactly like so many butterflies fluttering inside my heart- a dramatic experience, that too, on a normal road where there are a lot people and vehicles moving. I was wondering “when did the road become so empty?” We had at least 20 people around us and few vehicles passing us on the road!!
I told myself “Arunachala may be this is the reason you had postponed my trip.” If I would have experienced it a year ago I would have simply thought that it would be a shooting star in reverse direction or some insect and would have walked on to finish the girivalam. But now at that moment I felt the girivalam should not end and I felt like lying at a place and watching the hill for days together. But whatever we think, the opposite occurs. I can’t believe that we had covered another 10 kms in just two hours after having darshan of more lingas and iddukku pillayar!! His ways are amazing!!
The experience of dashing an aura of a great soul!
The speed of walk drastically improved as if we were charged with energy. I told my husband that it is difficult to have a view of the Holy hill. Suddenly, on turning in that direction, we had a beautiful view of the hill with its borders clearly visible in a new moon light. This is another wonderful sight of a mountain after Sathuragiri (near Madurai) that is exhibiting its glow on a dark amavasai night!
While admiring the hill suddenly my husband told me that he could sense a smell that was mesmerizing him. For a moment I also perceived the same kind of smell, like javadu. Again the whole road was empty for the next 500 meters! There were no temples or ashrams or Samadhis. I asked him to stop for a minute where the smell was perceived strongly for few seconds and never to be perceived again! So again we closed our eyes and paid our prayers and apologized if we had disturbed the movements of some great souls!
On the way, we came near Idukku Pillayar. I was at first skeptic to going inside. I had cramps in my calf because of lack of food the whole day. So I refused to go in. Four young people were sitting on a cement bench nearby. They encouraged me to go by giving me a tip. The tip was to lie down like Lord Ranganatha and creep in slowly!
|This is the way to enter Idukku Pillayar but with the face and body facing Arunachala|
I went in but was a bit scared because I didn’t notice that there is a small pillar-like projection! I was also scared to place my foot in there because of the name Pillayar. Then I made up my mind and pushed forward. My God what a great relief from all aches and pains! I was again fully recharged!
Two strange great companions
The next difficult task was going into the Easanya Lingam sannithi which is near a cemetery. I told my husband that I will not go if we are alone. To my surprise four people appeared suddenly and asked us whether we were going to that temple. We said “yes” and they asked us to follow them. We were very happy to follow them. The scene was quite scary because the cemetery extends on either side for at least more than 750 meters. There was no sign of the temple and it was nearly 11 p.m. I was a little scared to turn back and was uttering shasti kavacham when I saw few bodies burning on either side. My God! I was like a robot without turning by head. I told my partner that there was no one behind us. Suddenly I heard two people chatting behind us. They were nowhere on the scene when I looked a few seconds ago. “How did they suddenly appear?” I asked myself. They were very cleanly dressed in white dhoties and chatting away in a very gay mood. I came back to normal and was paying attention to them. My partner then told me that we were nearing the temple. I was expecting them to come along with us and so I slowed my walk. But to my surprise they turned right and walked into the burial ground. The moment when I was thinking what work they have at this time, I heard my husband hurrying up so I went into the temple without looking where they were going.
After having darshan we walked towards the main shrine and the four people moved very fast and we were among the other public. We reached the temple and offered the remaining money we had for dhanam in the hundi, lighted camphor and prostrated in front of the temple. Suddenly I thought of giving some money which I kept for dhanam to an old lady who was lying right at the foot of the temple pillar. The lady was not able to recognize that it was money and was simply asking me “what is this you are giving me” When I told her it was some money for her use, she in turn asked me “what is money?” I kept it rolled inside her fingers and walked away from her. When I turned back to have a look at her she was playing with the 10 rupee note - throwing it in the air and catching it.
I didn’t have the energy to walk back to Seshadri Swamigal Ashram. So we caught an auto rickshaw back to our room while pondering over the day's events. Infact for many days thereafter, I continued to sit silently at home recollecting the events and their meaning for us.
We paid our final pranams to the holy hill the next day morning. While leaving it felt like the whole thing was all a dream. I had to pinch myself that I was in Tiruvannamalai and that we had been on girivalam around the sacred Arunachala mountain the night before.
Om Arunachaleshwaraya Namaha!
Guru Ramanaya Namaha!