Arunachala is the soul of Tiruvannamalai. Everything in this city gravitates around this mountain, a spiritual symbol used by many gurus in time as a place of meditation. The mountain is an abode of Shiva whose footprint was supposed to be somewhere on the top, no matter that I saw only ghee all over that covered the mountain top black and slippery.
I made arrangements yesterday to get a guide at 6:00 am to go up the mountain early in the day when is not so hot. You may not need a guide but I was here for such a short time that I could not figure out where the access path was. In the morning I waited more than 30 minutes and I decided to leave and get another guide when a guy came and brought me to the mountain path, but it turned out that the guide could not make it so I was passed to a boy in the area who showed me the way. The climb is way more difficult that expected. The mountain is only 881 meters but in the heat of the Indian South and a little clouds traveling down after a short night rain, the sweat was pouring down like another rain. The climb itself starts with some steps but it continues with abrupt rocks and boulders all straight up to the peak. On the way up I met lots of Russians, none of them speaking English. After I did Adam’s peak at 2800 meters I thought about this as a walk in the park but I had to muster all my effort to be able to make it to the top, With the shooting and photo taking it took me close to two hours, that is actually the official time, 4 hours round trip. But when I got there I was exhausted to no comparison with Adam’s Peak….In India everything is more difficult, even the mountain climbing. And besides, on top you have to walk barefoot on the ghee and heated rock….
On top the rock is covered by ghee, from the November Festival fire burning, on top of which are drawn yantras. It is also an open place for meditation maintained by some guys living in a hut on top, a place where their guru used to live 16 years in isolation doing only meditation with one milk and one tea only per day. Now he moved to Kanyakumari, by the ocean doing the same thing. Under the mountain top is a meditation cave with a Shiva lingam, good for one person or maybe two. I stopped at both of these places for a little meditation. There are way more meditation caves down the mountain and I understood why people spend the entire day on the mountain by stopping at all of them for a short meditation.
The descent was not so bad, and in spite of the sun that starting to heat the mountain it was better being less humid as in the morning. About one quarter of the climb from the bottom of the mountain we stopped at the Ramana Maharishi’s meditation cave, a tranquil place frequented by adepts from the ashram to which is connected by a mountain path. After a short break and less meditation being so exhausted and drain by the heat, we continued our descent and stopped to another major cave, Virupaksha, where I was joined in meditation by a monkey that sat near me, nosy to see what’s cooking inside. There are lots of them roaming the entire mountain. Further, just before descending to the road, we stopped at Mango Cave, very picturesquely ornate with statues where a local pujari invited me inside and gave me a blessing with vibooti and a cone that they place on your head.
I paid my guide, bought a cold water that I finished right away, and two bananas, my breakfast, and went to the hotel to check out, pay and take my stuff and leave to Vellore