Sunday, September 26, 2010

Climbing Mount Arunachala in Tiruvannamalai

One of my lazy mornings in Tiruvannamalai I decided to walk towards the Arunachaleswar Temple to visit it for the first time, but when I was almost there an Indian guy crossed my way and told me that the temple was closed but he could show me the way to the Virupaksha Cave in the Mount Arunachala (this cave has been venerated since more than 700 years ago because it was used by the saint Virupaksha and because Ramana Maharshi lived in it for 16 years from 1899 to 1916).

I knew that he wanted to do it for money so I said "No thanks, I can go on my own" but he continued walking with me.

Of course, I had no idea where the entrance to the cave was, I didn't even know that it was possible to reach the cave from the Arunachaleswar Temple, but still, I insisted "I can do it alone."

Still, he continued walking in front of me and in about 15 minutes walking up using a stone path like stairs we reached the cave.

The cave is a very quite and peaceful place. There is a construction around it, like a small room with many pictures of Ramana Maharshi and inside the small cave, there are small and thin cushions that people use for meditation when visiting the cave.

Virupaksha Cave
Entrance to Virupaksha cave
I sat inside to meditate but after walking up all those stairs and with the lack of ventilation inside my body felt like if it was boiling so I could only think about all the sweat running down over my body and about the thin cushions that didn't give much comfort.

So after about 20 minutes, I left the cave feeling not elevated but

Ramana Maharshi sitting cross legged
Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi photo

View from inside the cave

Then "Ganesh", my Indian guide, said "want to see other cave?" I agreed, so we walk up for another 15 minutes and reached the second cave were Ramana Mahrashi's mother use to live.

Five minutes later Ganesh said again, "want to see another very very special cave?". Because of the heat and all the water that I lost "meditating" in the previous cave, I was already a bit tired so I asked how long will it take? He said "10 minutes only".

Yeah why not, so I followed him but this time there were no longer stone stairs or a clear path to follow, there were just some painted arrows pointing in all directions and we were walking up over stone walls that were pretty steep.

The higher we went the more vertigo I felt and I was just asking myself "how the heck I am going to get down? well, I'm glad that he is guiding me".

I was also thinking "shit, I should have brought my trekking boots instead of sandals" but then I felt a bit ashamed when I noticed that he was actually walking barefoot.

I was very impressed, believe me, the path was not that easy, there were a lot of small stones, sharp edges, and plants with thorns.

So I said in a funny way, "nice shoes, very cheap shoes" and he replied, "yes, very good shoes, Lord Shiva gave me these shoes."

He also told me that when he is going down he can run down the very steep stones. I had a problem just going up so I couldn't imagine myself running down but he did it without any trouble.

Climbing mount Arunachala

We continue going up and 10 minutes became 20 minutes but we reached the cave. This one was a real cave, simple and small with no construction around except for a sort of stone wall at the entrance. He told me that Ramana Maharshi also meditated there as well as Ganesh's own guru. Ganesh said "many times I come alone, meditate and sleep. I also go top mountain meditate. My guru was there". He has even received a mantra initiation from his guru and own our way down he show me a small room with an altar that was built for his guru. It was a very nice journey.

Entrance to the cave at Arunachala

View of Arunachaleswara Temple from mount Arunachala
Ganesh and view of Arunachaleswara Temple

Video of Ganesh running downhill the Holy Mount Arunachala

A few days later a couple of Russian girls said, "hey do you want to come with us to the cave?". I said "No thanks, I already did it and now I want to visit the Arunachaleswar Temple". I didn't want to sweat that much again anyways. But since it is not recommend for girls to go alone they asked me again and they propose to come with me to the Temple. Nice deal, so we went to the temple and then to the caves. A few more days later I met a girl from Argentina. I introduce myself to her and after a few minutes she asked... "you want to come to the caves with me?" I smiled and said of course, why not. She was a bit more adventurous so after enjoying a nice break outside the second cave she said, "let's go to the third cave!". Why not, I thought, I did it already with Ganesh so shouldn't be that hard but, instead of reaching the cave, after about 50 minutes literally climbing we reached the top of the mount. Believe me, it was not that easy.

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  1. Thank you for sharing your journey. I really enjoyed reading about it.

  2. Merci pour ces renseignements,je vais passer quelques jours à l'ashram en aout.

  3. Hi! I enjoyed reading your blog. I am planning a trip to Arunachala in February 2016. In your post you mentioned that it is not "recommended for girls to go alone", can you elaborate on that? I am really hoping to do a lot of meditation at the mountain and I was hoping to go on my own. Thanks, Margarita

  4. Hi! I'm as curious as Margarita " not recommended for girls to go alone"? Please elaborate,thanks in advane. - Np

  5. We indians feel safer in crowd, so not encourage to go alone in remote or vacant places especially for girls.

  6. Hello , thank you for the blog. Could you please direct me to the contact person or a guide . We would love to visit there and meditate ..Many Thanks..Prem

  7. Can anyone share the Cell No of Ganesh ?
    I would like to do Girivalam in Week 4 of Sep 16 .
    Please guide me .
    I will be doing Girivalam alone with the Guide .
    Please share which places I must visit during the Girivalam .
    Also suggest some Jeeva Samadhis , Live Siddhars and special Caves that must be included in my 3 days visit to Arunachala .
    If anybody( highly spiritual person ) is interested to join with me , please let me know well in advance .
    My e mail ID is :
    and cell no is : 91-9028069012
    Sandeep Patil

  8. Seems like you are so very interested in spirituality which is good..!!

    Places to visit for meditation purpose like highly energetic places are :

    Ramana Maharshi ashram(it's not Jeeva samadhi but just a normal samadhi),

    arunachala temple (go and meditate there ,don't just go see the God and come off),

    Seshadri ashram (there is a Jeeva samadhi of the Saint Seshadri, very energetic one),
    go for arunachala trekking there every stone,rock,trees ,insects etc is so very divine if you can observe you can feel the real masters sitting and meditating there.

    On arunachala hill you can go to Virupaksha Cave where Jeeva samadhi of Virupaksha muni exists there.(actually that's not even the Jeeva samadhi because he turned into ashes when a disciple noticed him sitting in meditation ,which he was meditating from the past 400 years.)

    If you can feel the vibrations it's very very very powerful..please do meditation over there.Spiritual seeker and practitioner should sit and meditate there don't just take it lite..

    Before Virupaksha Cave there is one more ashramam SKanda ashramam

  9. I am reading your blog entry with my feet burnt from climbing Arunachala bearfoot this afternoon. I thought this was a tradition, which grows the auspiciousness of the walk. But stones are too hot in May to walk with no shoes. I have only visited Skandashram...did not know there was another cave. Virupaksha Cave - wait for me, I am coming tomorrow :-)

    1. Oh that is so cool that you are there right now and that you read this entry after actually doing the climb. I would have never done it barefoot, even if it wasn’t so hot 😆