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....