Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On the way to Skandasramam

Sri Ramana Maharshi early on lived in a cave in the Arunachala mountain. Later, he moved to a larger cave, Skandasramam, higher up the hill. It was here that his mother came to join him. When she died, she was not buried in the sacred hill but at its foot.

Early in the morning on the second day of our trip, we headed toward Skandasramam. Quite a trek, but a wonderful experience.

Pictures show the beginning of the trek, a view of the Thiruvannamalai Temple from the top, and Skandasramam.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Where animals,too, feel at home

Pictures here speak more than words. Notice the peacocks - one on the roof of the front building leading to the samadhi hall, and two others at the large well near the entrance.

Sri Ramana Maharshi was very fond of all animals. There are samadhis here for his pet cow, dog, crow and deer.

A peaceful life for cows at the goshala run by the ashram inside the premises.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

At Sri Ramanasramam

A visit to Thiruvannamalai cannot be complete without a visit to the Sri Ramanasramam. Indeed, many visit Thiruvannamalai only to seek solace in the confines of the ashram.

What is outstanding about Sri Ramana Maharishi is that he lived a simple life, put absolutely no conditions on those who wished to see him, disliked publicity and spoke little. He preferred solitude and kept silent to discourage visitors. An interesting aspect of his life is that his mother renounced the world to join him and finally attained samadhi with him by her side. She was buried at the foot of the sacred hill, and that is where the Sri Ramanasramam came up eventually. The Maharishi used to visit the place everyday and initially the ashram was only thatched shed.

Sri Niranjanananda Swami, the Maharishi’s brother, managed the ashram and became its sarvadhikari. A temple was built over the mother’s shrine. The Maharishi would leave the ashram only for his daily walks around the hill. He attained Maha Samadhi in January 1950. But it was as if he never went away – his spirit always permeated, even to this day.

The other aspect is that there is no spiritual heir to the Maharishi, no successor as such. Once the manager died, his son T N Venkataraman took over the administration and, today, the grandson V S Ramanan is in charge.

Over and above everything else, it is a place where you are able to find peace of mind, whether you are meditating or just seated somewhere observing the activities.

Pictures here show the scenes outside Sri Ramanasramam – a man marketing kolam powder to an interested group, a purchase being made, foreigners taking a break, and the large signboard that welcomes visitors to the ashram (note the contents).

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thiruvannamalai's Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar Temple

The Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar Temple in Thiruvannamalai is one of the four sacred places for attaining salvation, according to the Siva Puranam. It is said that if you just think of Lord Arunachaleswar here, you can attain salvation. Indeed, Thiruvannamalai is said to be the centre of the Pancha Bootha Sthalams, the five sacred places for worshipping Lord Shiva.

Several sages have lived in Thiruvannamalai, including Arunagirinathar, Arunachala Desikar, Seshadri Swamigal, Ramana Maharishi and Yogi Ram Suratkumar.

At the Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar Temple, the rajagopuram, built by Krishnadevaraya, is more than 200 ft high, the second tallest temple tower in south India.

It was terribly hot as we arrived at the temple. Throats were parched, but it didn’t matter.

Pictures show the Sivagangai Vinayagar Sannithi, the 1,000-pillared mandapam, a close view of one of the majestic gopurams, another view, and one of the thousands of sculptures on the pillars.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

On the way to Thiruvannamalai

February this year recorded two hottest days for the month in more than 80 years. Sometimes, you dread to think what April and May would be like. However, that did not fail to enthuse us (the same group, with a couple of others joining) to make a trip to Tiruvannamalai, where the Sri Ramanasramam is. It was a two-day memorable journey and at the end of it plans were already being made of making another trip there soon.

In what turned out to be a surprise of surprises, there was fog or smog if you will, which blanketed the entire distance up to Maraimalainagar. There was a nip in the air as well. The first stop was for breakfast, not at a restaurant, but beneath a large tree, almost an alcove.

Pictures show the an old mendicant with whom we shared some food (spot the haziness in the background), a giant spider’s web up on the tree branch, and the congested approach to Tiruvannamalai town.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

At Tholpatti

The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over approximately 345 sq km and cuts into Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. It includes four ranges – Muthanga, Sultanbatheri, Kurichiyat and Tholpatti. There is a sort of corridor for wild animals from these sanctuaries to Bandipur and Mudumalai. These are the forests that make the Niligiris biosphere what it is – almost pristine.

Our final halt was at Tholpatti. We arrived at the gates a little after 9am, that was the earliest we could manage. But it wasn’t early enough. The counters were closed. If you wish to go for the safari, you have to arrive by 9am. So, we lost out on a good opportunity, but made up for it by having a group discussion just outside the sanctuary gates, and cool drinks as well.

The Niligiris has the largest population of elephants in Asia, and there are many, many of them in Wayanad. Sadly, we did not see an elephant in the wild. The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is now closed until March 31, because there is little water and a fear of forest fires.

Pictures show the hoardings outside the gates of the Tholpatti sanctuary; and a view of the road leading to Bandipur and onward to Bangalore.