The Sri Ramanasramam, in Tiruvannamalai, is the ashram of one of India's greatest saints, Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, also known as the Sage of Arunachala. His main teaching was the practice of Self-enquiry, answering questions such as "Who am I?" as a means to remove ignorance and discover the true Self.
I didn't know anything about Ramana Maharshi, about his ashram and about Tiruvannamalai before coming here. Just a few weeks ago I had a casual meeting with a girl at Tina's, a restaurant in Mysore. She told me that she wanted to visit Tiruvannamalai because it was a very special place to her. She had had some powerful spiritual experiences here.
That's pretty much everything I knew before deciding to visit Tiruvannamalai, but that was enough to motivate me to make this trip. It was the best decision ever. I will never forget my meditation sessions at one of the meditation rooms inside the ashram. Such a powerful place.
Since this visit I started to study Sri Ramana Maharshi's teachings. I've been mainly reading his book "Talks With Sri Ramana Maharshi" to find some inspiration. Here are a couple of quotes from this book.
“Reality is that which transcends all concepts including that of God. Inasmuch as the name of God is used it cannot be true. The hebrew word Jehovah = (I am) expresses God correctly. Absolute Be-ing is beyond expression.”
“So long as the body is considered, birth is real. But the body is not ‘I’. The Self is not born nor does it die. There is nothing new. The Sages see everything in and of the Self. There is no diversity in it. Therefore there is neither birth nor death.”
The Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi Ashram
The ashram is beautiful. There is one big hall where people sit to meditate, contemplate or just to be there. At the end of the hall there is the Sri Bhagavan (Ramana Maharshi) Shrine, a sort of temple with a Shiva Lingam in the middle and a statue of Ramana Maharshi behind.
Next to the big hall there is another hall divided in two rooms. In the first room there is a statue of Ramana Maharshi and some paintings and in the second room there is the Shrine of the Mother. There are also two other rooms specially dedicated for meditation.
|Sri Ramanasramam main hall|
|Ramana Maharshi Shrine|
|Ramana Maharshi statue|
Program at Sri Ramanasramam
There are no special courses on yoga or meditation offered by the Sri Ramanasramam but there is a daily program that starts at 6.45 am until 7.15 pm that creates a very special atmosphere.
The program includes milk offerings to Sri Bhagavan and twice a day chanting of the vedas and a puja in front of the Sri Bhagavan Shrine followed by a puja at the Shrine of the Mother. At 4.30 pm somebody sits at the entrance of the big hall and reads in English one of the books from the ashram.
|Sri Ramanasramam daily schedule|
Locals and foreigners spend their days by just being there. They sit in one of the halls and practice meditation or contemplation or just walk around the Sri Bhagavan and The Mother Shrines performing the circumambulations until the chantings and pujas start.
Others just go to the meditation rooms but since there is no instruction for meditation everybody meditates following whatever technique they have learned beforehand. I would normally go to the meditation rooms at 6am and at 6pm. Very special atmosphere and when you hear in the background the chantings and pujas it helps you to go deeper instead of causing any distraction.
Video of Puja at the Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi Shrine
How to reach the Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi Ashram
I came to Tiruvannamalai straight from Pondicherry. The bus ride was 3 hours and a half and the ticket was 36 rupees. Once you reach the bus stand in Tiruvannamalai you can take a rickshaw to the Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi Ashram. The rickshaw should be around 50 or 60 rupees, but of course they will try to charge you 120 or more.
Where to stay in Tiruvannamalai
If you want to stay at the Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi Ashram you will need to apply at least with one month in advance and you will be allowed to stay for only 3 days. Staying in the ashram doesn't necessarily means that you will stay inside the ashram. There is accommodation inside but the ashram also runs some apartments nearby. Three meals a day will be provided at the ashram.
If you are unable to stay at the ashram you can stay in many of the family houses nearby that have rooms for rent. You just need to walk around and check for a place that you like. A normal price is 150 rupees for a very decent clean single room but I guess in the high season (from October till March) prices will raise and it will be more difficult to find accommodation.
If you don't know where to stay and can't just walk around with your backpack then the easiest is to stay for one night at the Arunachala Ramana Home so you can have time to walk around and find a more comfortable place.
I can recommend the house where I stayed. It is 5 meters ahead of the Siva Sakthi Ashram, opposite side. To reach it you just need to walk on the Arunachala Ramana Home road and continue without turning left or right at the cross point. There were at least two other family houses offering rooms near this house. You can also follow the signs of the Excellent Cafe Restaurants that are on the way. It's near the family house.
Where to eat in Tiruvannamalai
There are many nice cozy places to eat westernised Indian food (none spicy) and also French and Italian food and at a very good price. 130 rupees is more than enough to have a nice dinner. For breakfast you can find porridge with fruits, yogurt with muesli and fruits, cheese toast and even pancakes. Maybe another reason why westerners stay for long time here.
One of my favorite places was Tasty Cafe. It's on a roof top. It is own by a lovely lady and during lunch time they offer a very good thali for 60 rupees. She has free wifi although it was never working when I was around. To reach it you just need to walk towards the right side of the ashram (if facing the ashram) until you reach a big arc. Pass through the arc and at the end of the street you'll find the restaurant.
Another of my favorite places is the Excellent Cafe Restaurant (near Siva Sakthi Ashram). It's slightly more expensive than other places but the owner is really good in the kitchen and it's already open at 7 am for breakfast. The porridge, the banana pancake and the cheese omelet are great. I heard also that his Dhal soup is pretty good.
Cafe Manna is another very popular place with western and Indian food. Try the Hummus with chapati and salad, it was pretty good. Unfortunately they open very late (9am) for breakfast. Tasty Cafe and Cafe Manna are excellent spots to chill out and meet people.
What to do in Tiruvannamalai
People spend their time by visiting the Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi Ashram, then breakfast, back to ashram, then lunch, back to ashram and then of course dinner.
You can also climb the Mount Arunachala. In the mount you can visit the Virupaksha Cave were Ramana Maharshi meditated for 16 years. You can visit other caves as well or you can climb until the top of the mount. There is also a circuit to walk around the whole mountain. That's about 14 Km and it takes approximately 4 hours.
There are many temples around the mountain that you can visit. Unfortunately I didn't do this walk. Somehow after 8 days in Tiruvannamalai I didn't have "enough time," but I did visit the caves a couple of times and even reached the top of Mont Arunachala. The Arunachaleswar Temple, one of the largest in India, is a must.
During the low season there is not much to do, but during the high season, between October and March there are many activities like yoga courses and meditation retreats. Here you can find some places that were included in the Tiruvannamalai guide.
The Magic of Awakening (MA) Retreat
4 days retreats at no costs between October and March of the following year. The "System for wisdom" was designed by Sirshree, the founder of the Tej Gyan Foundation http://www.tejgyan.org.
Mobile: 91 901 102 0854
Singing Heart Ashrams
Offers different type of retreats between October and March run by Jacqueline. For the open retreat a donation of 350 rupees per day for room, food (3 meals a day) and program. Retreats are focus on meditation based on Buddhist philosophy.
Phone 0 994 3969 220
Directions: From Ramana Ashram go straight out on Chengham road 7 kms. See a sign: Periya Paliya Pattu and a Singing Heart Sign. Turn right. Continue half km. on a small road. Ashram gate is on the right. Rickshaw drive around 100 rupees one way.
Ramana Yoga Center
Hatha Yoga - Yoga Therapy - Kriyas
Ramana G. Dasan
Every year Satsang, retreats and spiritual workshops.
Tiru Healing Center
Ayurvedic Oil Massage. Special treatments for Back Pain, Hip Problems, Sciatica, Spinal Injury.
4th Building after Siva Sakthi Ashram
Internet access in Tiruvannamalai
There are many internet places around. My favorite was Sri Arunachala iway. They also offer money exchange, taxi service, air tickets, package tours, two wheeler rentals, travel arrangements and accommodation arrangements.
Sri Arunachala iWay
9 Manakkula Vinayagar Street,
Tiruvannamalai 606 603
mobile +91 9443423328
phone: +91 4175 238591
Related blog posts
- Climbing Mount Arunachala
- What to Pack for Your Next Travel and Yoga Adventure to India
For more information about Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, about the Sri Ramanasranam (the ashram) and about Tiruvannamalai you can visit the www.sriramanamaharshi.org web page.