This was a trip to remember, a trip i have made across to shrines of Lord Shiva. The first stop i drove down to was Thiruvannamallai. The place for the agni linga, the place where the ashtadikpala lingas surround the main hill. The place where i first found peace. The place where i met my Guru.
Thiruvannamallai speaks for itself. The hill is collared by a road leading into forests hosting a lot of shrines. The road, girivalam, hosts promises to all who live along its path. Sanyasas dot its various parts, around the miniature shrines that surround the main hill. I went around with a handycam, with a hope to catch a glimpse of the lord himself in his aniconic symbol.
This was remarkable, but contradicting. I managed to get a few shots of seven shiva lingas. the 8th was simply not possible. This was interesting because i wondered what was wrong with shooting the garbha griha. Why is it not allowed? There are mixed opinions on it. Some priests are not game since they think its disrespecting the idol, other just love to throw rules around the place to assert them selves, a play of ego may i call it. Still others were completely open to it and infact performed doubly well since they were being photographed.
The reverence with which one comes to temples, to connect with the deity and to gain some peace in their lives is simply getting killed in the process. I was very disappointed with the levels of corruption i saw across the temples. It almost made me cry. But do i say that i was plain lucky when i realized that i had managed to shoot at least twenty odd lingas out 25 that i have visited in my life.
I had climbed the main hill of Tiruvannamallai, twice in my life. The view from up there is simply breath taking. Not to miss the feeling of accomplishment for having reached the top, for the hill is so forbidding, its a revelation if one makes it up there. The first part is to climb a smaller hill, whose steep sides give no hint of the mammoth hill standing behind. And just when you stand exhausted you figure out you have covered only one third of the entire height. The climb is a little dangerous as there are no steps made to just walk up. In fact one just manages to go up the beaten track and not lose their way. Once on top, the breeze and the view is completely worth it. I climbed to the farthest point where at the tip of the rock were the feet of the Lord himself carved into the rock. The say lord Arunachala leaped from one hill to the other, leaving a foot print here behind. Well that is anybody's guess but it just felt good for having made it to the top of the hill.
Descending down took another hour and an half. The slopes getting even steeper as i could feel my weight in my knees. Coming down was tough but when i reached the ground, it felt good to be back on earth. The hill itself is Lord Shiva some say, othere say it is the next Kailasa. What ever it is, there is a mixed opinion that nobody should climb it. There used to be the presence of Sidhdhas along the Girivalam road. When i walked around the hill the first time, i was one among few who did get to have an introduction to these celestial beings.
Yes i know it sounds wierd but trust me its true. When i walked the first time, i tasted vibhuti in my mouth, as i crossed the Goddess's shrine. Oh she is a piece to marvel, just a head with fantastic eyes and power just rolling out of her very form. Another companion smelt jasmine flowers. These were incidents that happened among us in the middle of the night as we walked around the hill.
The main hill too hosted a whole range of herbal plants on itself as one got near the peak. The air i remember was fresh and smelt of all sorts of herbs though the second trip up the hill didnt prove as fruitful. Tiruvannamallai is dying, with the increased wishlist of the people in the Kaliyuga. This is what you get to hear from the Sadhus when you ask them about the possiblities of meeting a Sidhdha in the spirit world. Sidhdhas dont inhabit the place anymore. Change for the worst is underway and the slow death of Thiruvannamallai is very visible.
It will take a devotee persistence, sincerity, and love to see the true grace of the Lord.