Girivalam, in silence: On a full moon night Thiruvannamallai has a charm of its own. On one end it hosts a million pilgrims who walk the sacred path of Girivalam, and on the other nothing stirs in its silence. Every experience revolves round the sacred hill that hosts far more shrines than whats found scattered around the sacred road. We find all the Gods here, starting with Ganesha, leading the way to the Mother Goddess to Shiva Lingas scattered all over, popularly called the Ashta Dikapala Lingas. Krishna occupies a special seat near a temple tank along the road.
So what makes Girivalam so interesting! A walk down the paths that lead towards the hill off the main road, covered with trees and forests have more shrines than what we would imagine. One such mud road stands silent, with a lot of thorny bushes blocking the pathway with a forbidding picture a Kali at the entrance.The first though is that there could be a shrine for the Goddess further inside, maybe with a stone altar in front of it for animal sacrifice. But interestingly it is quite a different story. We decided to walk into the forests surrounding the hill and debated on what we would do should we encounter some wild animals or snakes in the early evening. Our heated discussion came to an abrupt end when we came upon a silent pond, bathed in traquility far away from all mankind right in the middle of nowhere!
A silent square pond with lots of fish and frogs, green with life with low branches of trees almost kissing its surface brimming with life... we could have almost taken a dive into its cool waters. The pond looked deep and clean as the sun's rays penetrated through the green canopy of leaves. Along the side were large stones with arrows pointing in a direction that indicated this was the ancient path of Girivalam around the main hill. This peaceful setting, the ancient path that disappeared into the forest, shielded from all the noise against the hill, also had a dilapidated house next door with a gaping hope to the side. As we explored the place, we found that the gaping hole led down a stairway to rooms under the earth right next to the pond. Too close i thought. Filled with rubble with the cieling almost falling in, we decided not to get too adventurous and came out of it hoping not to meet any lizards of snakes on the way out.
Once outside, this tranquil little place, spoke of an underground chamber right beneath our feet. We were just left to wonder what it could have been used for! Excited about the find but a little disappointed since we did not find any shrine for the Goddess, we walked back to civilization promising to come back here surely some day.
We drifted through the evening as we saw the full moon slowly climb up the sky from behind the great hill lighting up the whole forest again after the sunlight dimmed out. The night was silent with a cool breeze drifting through the trees. Clouds scattered around the sky drifted over the peak of the hill almost giving it a natural halo that revolved around it for a long while. It was a fantastic sight!
We walked to the Kannappa nayanar shrine embedded deep within the forest, our path now lit up brightly by the moonlight. Kannappa nayanar shrine stood silently ahead, with a stairway leading up to the small sanctum. We walked up slowly, after our conversation merged into the silence. None of us spoke, for what we experienced was true beauty and tranquility at its best.
We sat back on the stony floor, each to himself, bathed in the streaming moonlight, looking over the canopy of trees. The gentle breeze brushed over us leaving behind a cool comfort. The magestic hill stood behind, as my eyes rolled over from the floating clouds outside to the chamber within. A silent Kannappa Nayanar looked straight at me through the small shrine where a small oil lamp lit up his face and his silver plated eyes. It was simply awesome! Kannappa Nayanar stood there, reminding us of lost potency in spiritualism that once rules these lands.
Girivalam will live forever reminding us of every saint who made a mark in our history! Walking the same path is a choice we make.