Tiruvannamalai is a temple town Located at the foothills of Annamalai hills at the Southern part of India, in the state of Tamil Nadu. Nearest big city is Chennai which is around 200km away by road. Auroville and Pondicherry is around 100km away
How to Reach Thiruvannamalai
Nearest Airport : Chennai International Airport, ~200km away
Another one is Bangalore airport, Around 300km away
Railway station : Tiruvannamalai railway station, but only passenger trains stop here. There are no direct trains from Chennai, that stops here. One might need to reach Villupuram junction or Katpadi junction from Chennai to get a passenger train to Thiruvannamalai. Or reach Pondicherry and take a bus. Plan your train trips from here. If you need more tips check this.
Road transport : Thiruvannamalai is well connected by road. Taking a bus from Chennai to Thiruvannamalai is the cheapest option. Taxi services are available, but 200km taxi ride can be an expensive affair
Things to Do in Thiruvannamalai
Thiruvannamalai is a pilgrim town. If you are on a spiritual journey, this is one great place to visit.
Stay atSriRamanasramam and learn about his philosophies, spirituality, Vedanta or just enjoy the serenity of the place.
Visit theAnnamalaiyar Temple, one of the largest temples in India, temple complex of which covers an area 25 acres.
Do a barefoot trek to the holy mountain which is approx. 814m high. ( One can wear footwear if they wish to, barefoot walk and trek are just personal choice )
Go find the very Special, footprints of Lord Shiva at the top of the mountain.
Take part in Giri valam ( walk around the Hill) on a Full moon day. Dates are given on this site . There will be thousands of people walking around the holy hill that night.
Visit during Kartikai Deepam: (Nov-Dec) This spectacular ten-day festival, during which the gigantic temple chariots are led in procession through the town streets. At sunset on the final day, the beacon atop Arunachala is lit and is visible for miles around, burning for 7 days or more. [ More details can be found from the website given at the end of the post ]
Some more things to do
Meet some interesting people, talk about spirituality, God, culture and what not!
Rent a bicycle and explore the temple town
Buy some stone carved souvenir
Things to do : for the Photographer in you
Go for a morning walk to capture vibrant portraits
Getthatbird’s eye view shot of the Town.
Get a panoramic view of the town from top of the hill
Capture some vibrant life on the streets
Capture the architectural marvel of the temple from outside
And just have fun, enjoy the serenity of the place, experience the energy of Arunachala and come back with great memories.
Your one stop solution website for your future Thiruvannamalai Trip : Click here to read everything in Detail. Have a great journey.
After we came back from our “Midnight pilgrimage” we went to sleep at 6 in the morning. We slept till evening. We woke up and prepared something to eat from our previous day’s food shopping. And we started to think about our future plans for the day. The day had passed, and it was already evening.
So we decided to visit a few ashrams nearby. There are some 4 or 5 ashrams in this small town. But we were going to Shri Ramanashram. It was said that there was a chanting or something like that, at 6pm. So thought of checking it out.
Before going to the ashram, we had to find a laundry place. Due to frequent rains during the Sadhana forest days clothes were either not clean or not dry. As there were no solid plans for the coming days, we had to prepare for longer travel days and every other possibilities. At last we found out a place which was made out of Tin sheets and other scrap materials. That was the laundry place.
Being the only Indian in that small group, I had to deal with the local people. You must be knowing that in India, there are more than a 1000 languages, unofficially. Even though my home town is less than a 1000km away, I am not very fluent in this language. I can understand it if spoken rather slowly and reply in bits and pieces. If they are intelligent and I am lucky, they would understand what I really meant. So the thing is that I had to talk, I had to bargain and I wasn’t good at any of these.
Even though I was with two obviously non-Indian looking, very fair-skinned people and pretended to be someone from some Latin American country, the people just wouldn’t believe it. They simply just wouldn’t believe it and start talking to me in the local language thinking that I would understand. Also I used to get all sorts of funny questions. “Where are they from” “How much are they paying you” “Really, friends?? ”
It was really fun!
Anyway after leaving our clothes at the laundry place, we headed towards the Sri Ramanashram. When we reached there, some chanting was going on. People were sitting on the floor in two sections, ladies on one side and gents on the other.
I clicked this picture after everything was over. I didn’t spoil the decorum of the place 😀 We spent some more time enjoying the silence and energy of that place. At the extreme end is the shrine. You can read more about the ashram from here.
Now I realize that this world, (some people call the universe) has strange ways of fulfilling one’s wishes, however irrelevant it may seem. When I was going through the ashram’s website to include the link here, I felt a sense of familiarity, like a Déjà vu. The faint memories made its way to active memory and I could remember going through similar content a few years back. I remembered reading in some blog about barefoot walk around a holy mountain done by a girl from US. When I searched more about the journey, I landed on to this website. I remember seeing a few pictures that are still there in the site. So this journey was meant to happen! It was a wish came true!
But I wasn’t expecting such scenes from this place.
Don’t get the idea that these people are waiting to board the bus. They were waiting for the tourists to get in the bus. And they expect a contribution from every tourist/traveler. They were like “its our right to get money from tourists”. First time I was seeing people demanding for alms! And this was happening right in front of the Ramanashram.
This is the entrance to the ashram.
With a perfect timing this guy appeared in my frame. It was like adding a balance to the picture. On the left side you can see the picture of Sri Ramana Maharshi.
He was not the only person interested in being photographed. Check this out if you don’t know what ‘striking a pose’ means.
“Strike a pose”. After seeing the camera, he wanted a picture of him and posed and taught me the phrase ‘strike a pose’.
Anyway these were not part of our main agenda. Our main attraction for the day was the Music night that was going to happen in a nearby café. We were invited to join. So we headed to the tasty café. First we ordered our food. After finishing our dinner we joined the electrifying, energy packed music night.
They were not some professional music troupe or band performing there. Rather it was a gathering of friends who were musically very active. We also had a member who is a super musician! So we all joined the group. It was a terrific night. You can do a sample analysis by going through this video 😉
We wished we could stay there for longer. But were not in a mood to trek the mountain in that night. Our plan was again to go for an early morning trek the next day. So we really wanted to sleep early. So we reluctantly opted out from the fun. And we started walking back to our room.
But the place still had interesting visuals to offer. At that time of the night we got to see a wedding procession.
Leaving behind those interesting scenes, we walked to our room. And went to bed to wake up early the next day.
Well I forgot to mention an interesting fact about Sleep and Thiruvannamalai. It was told that if you are new to this place and not accustomed to it, because of the energy of this place, you cannot have a peaceful sleep without waking up multiple times during the night, even if your are dead tired! Usually I used to get good sleep even if it is some new place. So I took this as a challenge but somehow I didn’t have a nice deep sleep. I woke up quite a few times. My friends also had the same experience. It could be either we were conscious about such a fact and trying consciously to challenge it, or it could really be because of the energy of Arunachala.
If you have similar experience, I would like to hear it. We can discuss it and come to some conclusions.
Anyway that is all for this day. It is sleeping time. One more picture from the wedding procession before the sleep 😉
We had the nice self-made dinner. Everyone thought that we would sleep early, and wake up early the next day morning to do the walking around the mountain before sun hit too hard.
Time : Around 12’o clock
But instead of sleeping early, we were having a great time with our host. I haven’t mentioned with emphasis that I was couch surfing at Thiruvannamalai. So I will do it now. Yes, I was couch surfing at Thiruvannamalai!
This happened to be the bestest couch surfing experience I had till date. As usual our host was very kind-hearted like any other person with a true couch surfing spirit. , Greg, That is the name of our host .
This time I didn’t even have to write a couch request to my CS host. My friend, my travel partner had already got accepted and was staying with Greg a day before I reached Thiruvannamalai. So when I made plans to visit this place, my fried casually asked Greg that if he could accept two more people. And he agreed immediately.
Greg is an amazing person, he is from France, he lives a few months in Thiruvannamalai, another few months near Himalayas, North India and Nepal. And then France. And repeat.
During this couch surfing experience,
I learned and mastered the use of Tibetan healing bowl 😉
Sang at the top of my voice first time in my life.
Became a drummer that night and joined the midnight singing party.
Solved a puzzle.
experimented with really low light photography
That night was so much fun. Later Greg demonstrated juggling.
We had an interesting juggling and jamming session. Juggling and background music by ukulele and drums. I small part of that session captured by my mobile phone.
Well if you are thinking, is this the great midnight adventure I mentioned on the title , I will tell you the adventure hasn’t even started!
Our plans of going to sleep early and waking up early were already thrown into the dustbin. It was around 1am when we started losing our voice due to heavy singing 😉 So we had to think of other plans.
The idea came like an impulse. There was a tug of war between adventure and laziness combined with a bit of fear. At last adventure succeeded and decision was taken to go for the walk around the holy mountain; and the time was 1.15 am !!
I am glad that others were supportive and finally we decided to walk the holy path at that time. When the whole world was sleeping, (even the authentic seekers of spirituality must be sleeping during that time) we three started walking.
It is called Circumambulation which means the act of moving around a sacred object or idol. Here the sacred object is Arunachalam, the holy mountain itself. The circumambulation path is 14 kilometres. The devotees circumambulate the 14km barefooted. We did the same.
Thus we were started walking, at around 1.30 am. The road was empty, we didn’t have a torch, except the flash on our mobile phones. We had discussed and agreed on emergency procedures 😉 And we walked. We crossed and passed the narrow streets and finally reached the highway, the outer path that was mentioned in the previous post.
We have to complete almost 14km to come back to this point again. The walk continued. As we were walking I found a group of men following us. They were around 6 or 7 and they were approaching us. We decided to wait till they pass us. And they came nearer to us and guess what? They were also doing what we were doing. Walking around the holy hill 😀
When I came back and did some research, I came to know that the circumambulation is mostly done at night. On every full moon night hundreds and thousands of devotees comes here to walk around the holy hill.
During our further journey we met a few more people walking the path. Unfortunately we did it, Not on a full moon day, so there weren’t too many people. But the streets were almost well-lit by street lights, roads were neat, clean and in very good condition. So barefoot walking didn’t affect us much. Or maybe our barefoot mountain trekking had made us hard-core 😉
Maybe because it was a cold night, we did a lot of watering the plants and adding urea to it while walking. We came across sleep less stray dogs barking at us. We saw people sleeping on the sides of the streets peacefully. We even saw someone asking for alms at that time of the day! We saw temples and Shiva lingas but due to lack of knowledge I didn’t realize their significance. Now I know that there are eight lingams located at the eight directions and provides an octagonal structure to Thiruvannamalai Town. You can read from the experts. CLICK..
We took around 4 hours to complete the walk. We reached around 5.30am at the point were we started. Still the life hadn’t started yet in that small town. In between we stopped for a tea from an early morning tea shop. And when we were about to pay we didn’t have any small notes! So we dug all our purses and found whatever coins we could, and paid. But still were short of money and we got a 2 rupees off!! Yay! 😉
We reached our room by 6. The walk and the effect of tea started working; nature was calling. 😉 Things were sorted out. Soon we went to bed, hoping to wake up and go out by evening. Oh this day was a little long! 😉 But definitely lots of fun.
and then we did a half trekking and visited an ashram and cave where Ramana maharshi stayed for year. Then we prepared our dinner and rest of the story you just read 😉
A lot of adventures and fun are still awaiting to be told 😉
Well walking through an Indian street past midnight isn’t a big adventure. It is just to get your attention I said that. Now that I know I have your attention if you are reading this, I am giving out the secret 😉
Thiruvannamalai is famous for its temple, holy mountain, Ashram of Ramana Maharshi and lots more. The main agenda for the day was to go around the holy mountain and after that scale the holy mountain. It was an ambitious plan considering the distance around the mountain and height of the mountain. The walk around the mountain itself is around 15km. But anyway we, my two travel companions and I decide to do it.
The mood of the mountain looked promising. Wasn’t raining too.
In this place the Holy hill itself is the Deity . People worship the mountain itself as Deity. So people circumambulate the mountain. The circumambulation path is 14 kilometers!
There were actually two paths, one is inner path and the other is the outer path. The inner path is through the forest with raw uneven forest trails, while the outer path is the well maintained highway, the tarred road.
We were adventurous and wanted to try the forest road which unfortunately was closed by the authorities. Upon enquiring about the reason for closing down the inner path, some one told it was because of the forest fire caused by some random traveler sometime ago. Other one told it was because they spotted some wild animal in the forest. Some other told it was because of excessive littering done by the tourists. Anyway the forest department didn’t allow to walk around the mountain through the inner path, and if found breaking the rule they might charge a heavy fine. Two of us wanted to break the rule and pursue the adventure, but the third one wasn’t interested!
After confusion and persuasion we decided to check out the forest path. We found some path cut out on the rocks and followed it.
Surprisingly we had company. There were more people breaking the law! We were not the only ‘adrenalin junkies’!! 😛
But soon we realized that it wasn’t the law forbidden forest path. This path was leading to the top of the mountain. Oh, time for plan B.
That is the beauty of not having a plan. Wherever you reach, you can call it your destination!
So we decided to follow the path and go to the top of the mountain. On the sides of the path there were a few people trying to sell stone, marble and granite artefacts.
And on other side there were monkeys which are notorious for grabbing any food items even from your backpack!
And we walked toward the top.
There comes my partners in crime.
We reached our first view-point. The view from here itself was good!
The clouds, the mountain range in the distance, the nearby town, the reflection, it was a beautiful view.
Even the path ahead was so beautiful with shades and greenery.
And the path did lead me forward to the next view point. And it was..
The Annamalaiyar temple towers, up close and personal for you.
And the town
We spent quite a long time at this point. But still we had quite a long way to cover before it is too hot.
We were heading towards two ashrams. Before talking about the ashrams, we need to know about Sri Ramana Maharshi. (I just realized that ashram has become an English word!!)
Ramana Maharshi widely acknowledged as one of the outstanding spiritual gurus of modern times who believed in the Advaita Vedanta. Read More on Wikipedia..
Sri Ramana Maharshi stayed at various places in Tiruvannamalai and then in several caves on the Arunachala Hill until he finally settled at what came to be called Sri Ramanasramam where he lived until his Mahanirvana in April 1950.
Sri Ramana Maharshi started to live in different caves on the slopes of Arunachala, the holy mountain. The cave where Ramana stayed longest (17 years),Virupaksha Cave, is on the south-east slope.
After that Sri Ramana maharshi moved from Virupaksha to Skandasramam, a little higher up the Hill. [Read more: Source ]
First we reached the Skandasram through the path that started from Sri Ramana ashram, which was our starting point.
Photography was not allowed inside and I didn’t click anything from inside. We spend some time here feeling the peace and vibration of the place and headed towards Virupaksha cave.
I wondered how someone could live in such tiny spaces for years! We could only spend some time there and then we headed towards the peak of the mountain.
To get much better views..
But Sun started working its magic and my partners in crime were not interested in getting cooked in solar energy!
So we spent some more time at the view point before we came back. On return journey we took another route. And we ended up some place with lots of garbage. As it was a holy trail we decided to do the walk without footwear. But this part wasn’t very holy I guess.
After passing through some narrow streets and local houses at last we ended up reaching the town near the temple. We decided to rent bicycles. Even though it is a holy, spiritual and peaceful place, the people were more interested in materialistic things like getting more money out of the tourists, selling things at higher price etc! So we thought bicycles could save us from the highway robbery of auto rickshaws aka tuk tuks. Even the cycle rent was a bit over priced in comparison with our previous destination, Auroville. It was ₹50 per 6 hours for bicycle here while it was ₹40 for a moped per day at Auroville.
We then went to the Annamalaiyar temple, the temple towers you saw in the bird’s eye view
In the temple, Photography and half trousers were not allowed! And both affected me badly! I am having a camera that count be hidden in any pockets and I was having a pocket on half trousers!
But luck did favor that time. Before coming here. we were looking for a laundry place and had a few clothes with us. So I ended up wearing a girl’s pants 😛 Out of all the male species in that temple that day, I had the flashiest long trousers 😛 The guards at the gate , both male and female ones who sent us away because of my half trousers were giving me ‘some’ different kind of smile upon my re-entry 😉 I was super self-conscious the whole evening! 😀
Anyway we could go inside the temple and enjoy its the majestic grandeur. And the colorful views both inside and outside. Again no pictures from inside.
After the super funny temple run episode we explored the town on our bicycles in search of our dinner and next day’s breakfast. It is always better to make/cook your own food if possible rather than eating out. It will be economical and healthy.
We found out a local market somewhere far from the center of the town and spent ₹100 to buy some fruits and vegetables.
See what we made for our dinner.
This eventful day started with morning walk almost came to an end..
But you never know what can happen next!! So wait and see