Tiruvannamalai had been on our must-visit-soon list for a long time. We had planned several one, two and three-day trips, but none of the plans came into action. This weekend, however, we did not plan a lot, and just left for Tiruvannamalai early in the morning. It is just over two hundred kilometers from Bangalore, a good three and a half hours' journey. The road is good. For some distance it is very good, but as one nears T., it worsens. However, it is much, much better than the roads of Karnataka.
Tiruvannamalai (tiru-aruNa-malai = shrI aruNAchala) houses the shrine of Lord aruNAchalEshvara and apItakuchAmbA . Siva is said to have appeared here as a mountain of fire, to test Brahma and Vishnu. Therefore, the tattva here in this lingam is that of fire. Part of the temple (a thousand-pillar-hall and the kalyANi) has been built by our own Krishnadeva Raya.
In the praakaaram of the temple, there are other small temples of shiva, like kAlahastIshvara, jambukEshvara, etc. I was thrilled to see a small shrine of kAlahastIshvara. The story of tiNNanar is one of little biyadiya's favorite bed-time stories. I took him to that shrine and showed kaNNappa to him. I do not know how much he understood, but as I said, I was thrilled.
I have one problem with the temples of Tamil Nadu. They are all beautifully built with stone, but have been un-beautified by paints of various glaring colours. Look at Tiruttani or Kalahasti or any other temple, they are all painted blue and green and red and what not. In my opinion, the temples would look much better and 'cooler' if they were not painted. However, to each, his own...
The hill Arunachala is really beautiful. It is revered as Lord Shiva himself. On the hill, a saint called 'arunagirinaatha' (I am not sure of the name, and I could not find any reference on the web) is still supposed to be performing tapas, much like babaji in the Himalayas (remember Rajnikant's movie baba?). Parikrama or circumambulation of the hill is supposed to be equivalent to circumambulating Shiva himself. We just went around Arunachala by car.
Almost as famous as the Arunachaleshvara temple is the aashrama of shrI Ramana Maharshi.It is a beautiful aashrama. My husband was saying that one should go there for the silence. Coming to think of it, it was not really that silent. People were talking, the peacocks and peahens were shouting at each other (peacocks are called kEkI in Sanskrit, because of their characteristic sound) and there were vehicles passing on the adjacent road. But the place is so calm that one can hear oneself thinking. I guess that is what one would expect out of a place like Ramanashramam.
Ramanashramam has two attractions - one is Shri Ramana himself and the other is the peacocks. There are many peacocks here. A couple of peacocks even spread their feathers and it was a treat to the eyes, especially for a first-timer like me. Little biyadiya followed a peacock everywhere it went, and finally gave it up.
This was an unforgettable trip. True, we could not find good hotels there, and it was sweltering (hey, the tattva here is fire, after all), but aruNAchala is one place I will want to visit again and again (hopefully for regular parikramas...)