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.


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

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