Girivalam is the path around Arunachala and the performance of Pradakshina, to go around the hill on this path, is one of the principle activities prescribed for devotees.
Whether undertaken as an act of devotion, duty, or to achieve boons or blessings, millions of people have made and continue to make this action a part of their spiritual experience.
Although Pradakshina may be performed at any time, certain times and days are thought to have special results and influence on our physical and mental existence.
For those devotees seeking liberation through self-realization, Pradakshina is a meditative act of worship seeking oneness with Arunachala and the realization that the Self, being all pervasive, is experienced as this state of oneness and identity with the Hill.
Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi observed that Pradakshina is “All is within me” (‘Talks #212) . In these pursuits, the Grace of Arunachala is sought by devotees on the Girivalam path.
Through a series of articles, Arunachala-live will present more in depth information on the Giri Pradakshina, its history, the shrines, temples and other features found along the path.
If you would like to contribute through written articles, or photographs on GiriPradakshina you can submit them here. Our editorial board may edit and arrange these on the site to best represent this important aspect of Arunachala.
A devotee has provided an introduction to the history and nature of Giri Pradakshina which we present below.
The Giri Pradakshina manifests a double ordination of space. On the one hand, it follows a course provided by a center which is the vertical axis of the Mountain. On the other hand, it is oriented by relation to the cardinal points by the distribution (on its perimeter) of shrines consecrated to the lingams of the 8 directions (Astha Lingam).
This route is 14 Kms long and about 8 metres wide. [In two places, the original path has been modified in order to shorten the way. The first place is at Adi Annamalai, where 2 mandapams and a Nandi are found, now, at a distance away from the path. Secondly, between the Eluttu mandapam and the temple of Kubera, there is a Pandya milsestone foot imprints and a Nandi which are in the middle of a field. These show the trace of an older path.]
The ritual circuit is paved with:
tanks / pools
resting place of the deities (mandapam)
Nandi in a mandapam
(Padam) – foot imprints
In the Arunachala Puranam by Saiva Ellappa Navalar, it is recommended to do the circumambulation (Giri Pradakshina) in the month of Margazhi, to bathe in the tirthams, to be clean and fasting. One must also be covered with sacred ash, wear a rudraksha mala, repeat in one’s heart the panchakshara mantra and to walk with hands joined at the chest or above one’s head and one should have the gait of a pregnant woman carrying a full pot of oil on her head – in order not to disturb the creatures of the earth.
Next there are the list of benefits that one can gain by doing the Giri Pradakshina:
If begun in the month of Margazhi, it is equivalent to a daily Pradakshina during one whole year and results in one reaching the paradise of Shiva.
Each step around the mountain is equal to a thousand aswamedha sacrifices.
Giri Pradakshina done in the month of Thai which is the month chosen by Gods and Rishis to adore Arunachaleswarar grants pardon of one’s sins.
The enumeration of merits corresponding to the different times of the day are:
Morning: Cancels one’s sins.
Noon: Fulfills desires.
Evening: Gives prosperity.
Sunday: Makes sickness to disappear, cures diseases, makes one search the paradise of Siva.
Monday: Cancels one’s sins, makes one reach the paradise of Chandra.
Other days: Gives happiness and liberation.
On the Full Moon of Chithirai, the pradakshina grants one the vision of Siva.
3 Pradakshina in succession are equivalent to visiting hundreds of thousands of temples.
The ashthanga-pradakshina allows one to be transported to paradise upon a chariot of flowers for 1000’s of years.
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi on Giri Pradakshina:
One of the devotees asked Sri Ramana “several people here go around the hill frequently. What is its greatness?” Bhagavan then recounted the following story:
It seems Amba who was doing tapas went around the hill on the day of the Karthigai star in the first quarter of the night. Immediately after the darshan of the holy beacon (deepam) she was absorbed in Lord Siva. Bhagavan said to a devotee:
“The word pradakshina has a very precise meaning. The letter pra stands for removal of all kinds of sins; da stands for fulfilling desires; the syllable kshi stands for freedom from future births, na stands for giving deliverance through jnana.”
Bhagavan himself used to frequently go on pradakshina of Arunachala hill for several days at a stretch and used to advocate the practice to spiritual seekers saying, “what better sadhana can there be than going round the hill?”
Hindu mythology also explains the significance of circumambulating the hill. The story goes that Parvati on the advice of Sage Gautama worshipped Arunachala. She circumambulated the hill everyday in the company of Her friends with the aim of getting her desires fulfilled. She adored the Lord of Arunachala and gave herself to Him mentally. She thus practiced penance in the prescribed manner. Finally she was absorbed in Arunachala.
Another story says that Sage Durvasa, king of sages, once cursed two vidyadharas. They then beseeched him to be merciful, forgive their trespasses and redeem them from his curse. To which Durvasa unequivocally stated, “the curse cannot be lifted by any act except that of circumambulating the Arunachala hill”. He then proceeded to relate what Siva himself had declared in an assembly of devas and others: “he who circumambulates with devotion the Arunachala hill which is my form, attains a form like mine (saroopya). He becomes the Lord of the entire world and reaches the highest state”. He then advised King Vajrangada whose mount attained liberation because he rode on it and performed circumambulation. When he saw his horse attain liberation easily, he was greatly pained that he had done a great misdeed by going round the hill on a horse. The two vidyadharas (celestial beings) appeared before him and said, “the Lord of Aruna hill is a repository of compassion and his glory is great. Circumambulate the Aruna hill on foot as a means of release from suffering”. The king heeded their advice and with great zeal and devotion he performed circumambulation and attained liberation.
Tiruvannamalai: un lieu saint sivaite du Sud de l’Inde, Tome 5: La ville – C.Guilmoto, P.Pichard, M.L.Reinieche, Pondichery, Publications de l’EFEO, 1990.
Ramana’s Arunachala – Ocean of grace divine, by Sri Bhagavan’s devotees, Publication of Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, 2000.
Tiruvannamalai, South India
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