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Blessings of Arunachala: A Serialized Travelogue - Part 8 of 12

Parag is a software developer turned writer who loves travel, the open sky, animals, books, and writing.

My Daily Schedule in Tiruvannamalai

I stayed in the apartment till evening, on most days when I was in Tiruvannamalai. The day passed rather quickly, working on my freelance project, cooking lunch, cleaning the apartment, washing clothes, and reading.

I used to step out a little after 5:00 PM to go to the ashram. The road leading from the apartment to the ashram was a small, quiet, and dusty lane until it reached the main road, which was also a highway of sorts.

The neighborhood where I stayed, had a lot of peacocks. When I walked from the apartment to the ashram, I passed peacocks just as one would pass stray dogs and cats in any other place. Watching peacocks strutting on the road was a novelty for me that made the walk even more delightful.

My first stop, on the way to the ashram, was a roadside tea/coffee shop opposite the ashram complex. It was a little shack with two plastic tables in the covered area, and about 10—15 plastic chairs and a long wooden bench outside. The person who prepared tea and Filter Coffee was in full view of the road. In looks, it was similar to vada-pav shacks that you often come across in Mumbai and Pune.

I’d stop there for a large cup of Filter Coffee, which I sipped slowly, sitting on one of the plastic chairs outside. It’s one of the joys of being a tourist -- to sit in roadside shacks with other tourists and enjoy a carefree cup of coffee while watching bikes, cars, trucks, and buses going about their business. It automatically gives you a sense of detachment from the busier world.

The other customers around me were from all over the world who’d enjoy their evening snacks either in silence or with some conversation often centered around exchanging travel tips.

After the coffee, I’d cross the main road and walk into the ashram.

The ashram complex began with a sandy courtyard with parking for bikes on the left and car parking to the right. The watchman’s shack was on the extreme left. It had a large iron rack outside to remove footwear.

After removing my footwear and placing them in the iron rack, I’d walk across the sandy courtyard, passing an ancient 400 year-old tree. The courtyard eventually ended leading to a raised platform upon which the ashram buildings were built.

The first structure on the left is the Matrubhutesware Temple that houses the samadhi of Ramana Maharishi’s mother. The Garbha Griha of the temple contains a Shiva Linga and a Sri Chakra Meru, both of which were sanctified by Ramana Maharishi himself.


Matrubhuteshware Temple in Ramana Ashram

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After the Matrubhutesware Temple comes the samadhi of Ramana Maharishi. A Shiva Linga is installed on the raised platform of the samadhi. You can see devotees doing parikramas of the samadhi during the entire period when the hall is open. The room containing the samadhi is a large room where devotees also sit for meditation or to listen to chants.

Ramana Maharishi's samadhi and meditation hall

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The hall containing the samadhi had a wonderful vibe, and I’d enjoy sitting there in the evenings. On most days, I’d get there early enough to find a good place to sit where I could rest my back on the wall. The hall would soon get packed by the time the evening chanting began. Those who came late usually had to sit outside the hall.

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The evening chants were in Tamil and, even though I didn’t understand the language, the chanting was very melodious and pleasant to hear.

Evening chanting at Ramana Ashram

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After the evening meditation, I’d usually go back to the apartment, prepare and have dinner, and go to the terrace to enjoy a quiet late evening watching the stars and Arunachala.

© 2021 Parag Shah 333

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