Girivalam - the journey

Girivalam, Thiruvannamallai (3 hours from Chennai), is a 14km stretch that circles the imposing hill, believed to be Lord Shiva himself. What appears to be an unassuming tar road, seems to speak volumes on life and death along its path. We started out, exploring Girivalam, more out of curiocity than with an intension of walking the entire mile.

The first trip we made was by car, at about 9.30 at night. We were told it was reasonably unsafe, though we figured it was not all that bad later. Girivalam hosts a number of way side shrines, holds the life of many sanyasas, who are either there looking for a higher truth or escaping from their reality by drowing themselves in ganja. Girivalam, has something to offer to every one who shows up there. It stays silent to all onlookers, stays peaceful to all passer-bys, holds burial grounds for deceased staunch shaivites and cremates a few other less lucky souls.

Every hill that stands across the path, against the main imposing hill, holds a temple. You would find every one here, Mother Goddess, Ganesha, Krishna, Kannappa nayanar and of course Lord Shiva himself. The stretch itself is covered by a canopy of trees, some shading Naga cult icons smeared with vermilion and turmeric, from the dreadful heat and sunlight. All over is a feeling of peace, and tranquility. In the night, the path looks different, errie for starters, when you walk past a cemetery hosting the cremation of a recently deceased man engulfed in flames, eating into the wood that was his final bed.

The whole stretch has eight lingas located on it, which when visited promise good life, wealth, health, no fear of death, status and what ever else you wanted from your mundane existance, hoping for an easy and better life. Most people come to seek such blessings.

Yes you get everything, as you walk along Giri Pradakshanam. But strangely, Girivalam has more to offer, if you are willing to look for it. The answers to all our inner searches, the next step when you are at a deadend seeking your own truths and just waiting for the "calling". Girivalam calls, to seekers and all you need to do is listen. Girivalam enlightens you to a reality beyond our lives, tells us how much we have been wasting our time looking for happiness in our mundane worlds. There is no happiness in seeking wealth, there is no happiness in human ties. The air of Girivalam holds a host of truths which you will see, only if you are receptive to it.

Girivalam shows life to you as it is. It houses the sanyasa, it houses the escapist, it houses the grihasta, it houses the dead, it houses the siddhas, it houses the Gods, it houses the animals. A complete universe pulsating with every breath of yours as you walk down trying to cover a 14 km stretch. Its indeed a walk through life and beyond... depending on what you want to see....


Aradhya said...

This is Brilliant!

Seriously well maintained blog and interesting too; and the information and legends and myths relate well too! I will mention this blog to interested people for sure.

JC Joshi said...

Hi Kavitha,
When I read the post, I felt you describe what one refers literally as ‘the (essence of) ocean in a pitcher.’

The communication in ‘Nature’ is through physical symbols: The hill has a peak, the meeting point of earth and the sky, or the conscious goal for humans, i.e., ‘infinity’. However, even if one reaches it, one/ all apparently can’t stay there permanently, and from practical point of view - because of the material requirements/ availability - the majority is obliged to reside at the foothill, the base or ‘zero’. It sounds similar to the ancient ‘Hindu’ belief of formless God or the ‘dot’ like ‘Naadbindu’ alone before the ‘Creation’ and His first reincarnation in the Satyuga, Ardhanarishwar Shiva!

When someone has once been to the peak along the ‘beaten track’ even, the tar road in this case, and seen the ‘truth’, i.e., irrespective of one’s physical location, the human behaviour is a matter of a particular category - ‘good’ or ‘bad’ - of each individual’s state of mind or his ‘inclination’. The ‘neutral’ seeker could thus realize how one could remain ever conscious of the ‘truth’ without the need to repeat the journey or perform similarly located other hills elsewhere. Doesn’t it sound like the ancient ‘Hindu’ belief about ‘moksha’, or escape from rebirth?!

About the ‘Creator’ and His ‘Maya’, when I watch old films - that have 'late' heroes/ heroines, viz., Raj Kapoor, KL Saigal, Nargis, Meena Kumari and so on - I find my thoughts at times drifting away. I would suddenly become aware, although momentarily, that they exist no more in this world, and yet their 'ghost images' bring them to life again till the films last, and they are able to bring happiness for some time at least to a large number of people even after many years of their 'departure'.

Could I, worthless in my own judgment, similarly, be one of His 'ghost images', along with those of my ever changing environment, being re-viewed by Him till I last - for His entertainment and eternal bliss?! If that be so, aren’t we lucky to have been given some role by Him, even that of a ‘joker’, in view of the 'fact' that only a selected few actually are considered lucky to get picked up for the man-made films, viz., 'Bollywood/ Hollywood, etc' films, most of which some of us today find not even worth the money one pays for viewing those?

Thanks! And, Best wishes!

Anonymous said...


Can women also take part in girivalam?

kavitha said...

girivalam is open to everyone with no discrimination to sex. thats the beauty of it. walk the 14 kms of life... its simply great.

Niveditha said...


can you please give me any information on people who organise this religious trip? I want to go this month but i have no idea where to start. could you please help me?

Sai Abishek said...

hey, i was researching about girivalam to make a documentary film. would it be possible for us to talk about it in detail?

ramblings of a caffeinated mind said...

Hi Kavitha,

I bumped into your blog a few years too late... just reading all your archives.. I must say thank you for all the wonderful articles.