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Tiruvannamalai: The Place for Healing & Meditation | Where to Stay and Eat?

The Holy Town of Tiruvannamalai: An introduction ----

One of the most amazing things I find about my religion, Hinduism, is that we don’t always need an idol to pray. So, there are ancient temples where different forms of Gods or Goddesses are worshiped as deities and at the same time, there is Mother nature where elements necessary for our everyday existence and sustenance are venerated as deities.

Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu Sunset on Arunachaleshwara
First View of Arunachaleshwara Mountain from the state transport bus

One such pilgrimage I took last month was to the temple town of Tiruvannamalai in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu where the mountain Arunachala itself is the God and the whole town revolves around it. Although there is a temple here, and a very prominent one at that, and yet you don’t really need to go to the temple to pray. Just pull the curtains of your window and chances are that you will be blessed with the divine darshan of the sacred hill, right there in front of your eyes.

This particular characteristic is what especially drew me closer to the town, this profound sacredness that highlighted the basic spiritual law that God is everywhere, in nature, if only we opened our eyes and looked.

What adds to this holiness of Tiruvannamalai is the sacred shrine of Lord Arunachaleswar (also called Annamalaiyar Temple), one of the largest Shiva temples in the world with a complex covering 10 hectares and associated with the five elements, the Pancha Bhoota Stalas, and specifically the element of fire, or Agni. The lingam here is called Agni Lingam.

Why Tiruvannamalai is Perfect for Meditation and Healing?

Life is not easy. How many times have you felt that?

We have all had our existential moments or two, those moments in the dark when life and living, seemed to make little sense. And it’s imperative, in those times, for stress to take over and disturb our physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

When we talk about inner workings and emotional health, Tiruvannamalai is the place to be.

The spiritual aura of the town is such that many sadhus and saints have found their abode here, and this is the reason why you can find numerous ashrams dotting the landscape.

What makes the place what it is the 25 acre mountain of Sri Arunachaleshwara, spread generously bang in the middle of the town. It’s not just any mountain though, it’s living, it’s Shiva who had appeared as a flame to get rid of the darkness in the world.

Virupaksha cave path - Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu
A Nandi sits atop the Arunachaleshwara Mountain

Just like how it’s impossible to remain untouched by light, it’s impossible to not be blessed by this holy mountain when you’re in Tiruvannamalai. No matter where you go or where you are, what you’ve achieved or who you are, it’s visible to everyone, from everywhere!

As an act of reverence and faith, pilgrims also walk around the hill; a ritual called Girivalam. Eight lingams are present on the path around the hill – all of which are covered by people. People… walking bare foot, on their knees, on an empty stomach – so staunch is the devotion! It is said to be a cathartic experience and usually done on full moon days. The practice gains even more significance during the full moon of Karthigai Deepam.

Girivalam Tiruvannamalai - Tamil Nadu
A temple of Sai Baba on the Girivalam Path

Our Airbnb host Rengesh Siva R, was kind enough to take us for Girivalam, albeit by car. As the car gently curved around the hill amidst green forest cover on the sides, my mind raced back to Govardhan parikrama in North India, the highly revered mountain that Lord Krishna had lifted on his little finger and I couldn’t be more amazed at the uncanny similarities. I couldn’t be more amazed by how diverse we can be in our traditions and cultures from the south to the north yet how alike in our core – the threads of faith and prayer that ultimately unite the human spirit as one big family.

A short trek above the hill, takes you to a cave ashram known as Virupaksha caves, venerated since the 1300s, first because of the saint, Virupaksha Deva, then more recently due to Sri Ramana Maharishi. Sri Ramana Maharishi spent 16 years of his formidable transcendent years, from 1899 to 1916 in this cave. This was the place where he meditated, found answers to many a life’s mysteries, shared his unconditional love and teachings to all those who came to him for guidance. His well-known book ‘Self-Inquiry’ and ‘Who am I?’ originated from here only. 

Walk to Virupaksha caves - Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu
The trek up the Arunachaleshwara Mountain to Virupaksha Caves

All the years gone by, but even today the spiritual mysticism the town holds is not lost on every discerning traveler. Even today, Virupaksha caves (and Skandashram) continues to draw and inspire all those seeking enquiring earnestly, who come here looking for answers to life’s challenging questions.

Ramana Maharishi Ashram - Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu
Can you feel the calm of the Ramana Mahirishi Ashram?

There’s nothing quite like being one with yourself amidst a postcard-perfect landscape adorned with silence and solitude. It’s here that you will find yourself the perfect spot to just sit and let it all go. Everything is so silent that you can literally hear your own breath punctuated only by the whistling of trees. Every breath here is then, a prayer, every moment a meditation, and those who have even spent a few minutes in this sacred place would vouch for the fact that it does reward you with a greater level of awareness, transformation and inner healing.

The point offers stunning panoramic views of Arunachaleshwara Temple and the temple town from above.

View from atop the Arunachaleshwara mountain  - Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu
A panoramic view of the Arunachaleshwara Temple from atop the holy mountain

Travelling to Tiruvannamalai not only transforms and heals you, but also gives you the wonderful opportunity to pay homage to arguably the largest Shiva temple and the eighth largest in the world – The Arunachaleshwara Temple. The temple is situated at the base of the Tiruvannamalai hills and spread in an area of 25 acre. The deity finds mention in the ancient Hindu sacred text the ‘Tevaram’ which was written by the fabled Tamil ‘Nayanars’ (saint poets).

Arunachaleshwara Temple during sunset - Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu
9th century Arunachaleshwara Temple during sunset

The structure as it stands today dates back to the 9th century according to the inscriptions found in the premises, and was built by the Chola kings. Expansions and renovations were later carried out by the Vijayanagara rulers, and then subsequently by the Saluva Dynasty and the Tuluva Dynasty. Some inscriptions also indicate Tiruvannamalai was ruled by the Pallavas before the 9th century. The ancient Tamil saints Appar and Sambandar are also believed to have worshipped Annamalaiyar in the temple.

Arunachaleshwara Temple Gopuram - Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu
The temple has an imposing structure with a marvellous architecture
with 4 gateway towers or gopurams 

The temple has a total of five precincts, each of which holds a huge Nandi, the sacred bull of Shiva. Towers include the Rajagopuram, Thirumanjangopuram, Vallala Maharaja Gopuram and Kili Gopuram, or Parrot Tower in all the four directions.

Rajagopuram Arunachaleshwara Temple tallest Gopuram - Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu
The eastern tower, Rajagopuram - with 11 storeys, at a height of 66 m - one of the largest in India

The temple has numerous shrines, with Unnamalai Amman being the most significant of them dedicate to Goddess Parvati; mandapams and halls, the most remarkable being the thousand-pillared hall built during the Vijayanagar period.

Arunachaleshwara Temple Nandi Bull - Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu
Nandi Bull guearding Lord Shiva inside the temple

We reached the temple when the sun was just about to set and the moon was rising in that part of the sky, where the Gopuram kissed the heavens. Just at the entrance was an akhand deepam – and as I felt the warmth of this fire on our hands… the light seeped within.

Akhand deepam at Arunachaleshwara Temple - Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu
The fire right at the entrance of the temple.

Nature… the element fire associated with the mountain, the temple and Lord Shiva – we felt it… we felt the fire in the sunset, in the moonrise and in the light of the deepam; and to be a witness to it all… felt magical, the sight was blissful and we truly felt blessed.

Where to Stay in Tiruvannamalai?

Honestly, Tiruvannamalai was never on my map of places to explore. A chance interaction on Facebook led from one thing to another finally giving me the blessed opportunity to explore a land as sacred as Tiruvannamalai for which I am truly grateful for.

Airbnb home in Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu
"Feel The Creator by Rengesh Siva" The Airbnb house we stayed at, in Tiruvannamalai

We stayed in an Airbnb, on the ground floor of a single storey house, hosted by Rengesh Siva R. We reached in the evening and met the owner’s mother, a lovely lady who looked pretty young for her age.

Aptly named, Feel the Creator, the house is quiet and serene which vibed perfectly with the spiritual aura of the town itself. 

Peaceful Airbnb house at Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu
A temple near the house

Located around a km off Shri Ramana Mahirishi Ashram on the Main road, the house had all the basic amenities one would need for a comfortable stay.

Way to our Airbnb home in Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu
The lane leading to our rental airbnb house in Tiruvannamalai

The ground floor itself was quite large - had a spacious living room which opened into the other rooms viz. the office work room, the kitchen and the bedroom.

Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu Airbnb house to stay
The spacious living room - includes a TV as well.

The living room had a sofa unit facing the TV screen but guess what kept me glued the entire time I was there?

The view from the window!

View from our Airbnb house in Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu Airbnb
The amazing view of the Arunachaleshwara mountain from the living room

Beyond the window was a field, and the great Arunachaleshwara mountain. I peeped outside the window many times a day – early morning after I got up, in the afternoon and during the sunset time. I don’t know why but I felt a certain sense of calm every time I saw the holy mountain.

The bedroom was a bit more basic than the living room, though still perfectly comfortable. The bedroom came with an attached bathroom, an AC and a double bed.

Tiruvannamalai - AirBnb house to stay
The living room opens into the double bedroom 

The kitchen was well equipped with a fridge, a washing machine, an oven and everyday utensils like tawa, pan, etc. which could be used to cook your meals if you wanted to.

Tiruvannamalai - Budget AirBnB Stay Kitchen
A well equipped kitchen to cook  you own meals

For those like us, who didn’t have the time nor the inclination, Swiggy was just a tap away. There are a couple of good South Indian restaurants like Hotel Ananda Ramana and Hotel Akash Inn where one can order food from and we still remember the meals we had from there.

Arunachaleshwara Temple where to eat - Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu
Ghee Roast from Sri Abirami Pure veg just outside the Arunachaleshwara Temple

The office room had a writing board, a chair and a desk with multi plug points which made it perfect for hubby to carry on with his work, restfully without any distractions.

Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu Airbnb workation home
The office room

Wifi worked smoothly making it a good place for long stays as well and helped us with our internet related work activities.

All in all, we enjoyed a pleasant and homely stay at our rental house "Feel The Creator" in Tiruvannamalai. There was something so simple, so down to earth, so authentic about Tiruvannamalai that it lured me in, the moment I was there, even before I was enamored by the many layers and stories it held within its folds. Our Airbnb host, Rengesh generously shared stories of the town, and of himself, highlighting the very fact that this town wasn't as simple as it seemed - but held an immense power to heal and transform lives inspiring many an accomplished and materially successful people from all over the world to call Tiruvannamalai home in a bid to live a simple yet profound way of life.

He once remarked I really don’t know what you guys are doing here probably because TVM wasn’t really a place for two people who had married only recently.

He was right.

We actually din’t know why we were there. We hadn’t even known about this place before we spoke to him. Perhaps, this was just a stroke of luck. Or perhaps, this was, like they say, a call from The Master. Or perhaps, this was something more. But one thing we knew for sure, to be on this sacred land and to walk on the same earth as some of the greatest thinkers and spiritual reformers, it was indeed one of the great blessings of life.

How to book your rental house in Tiruvannamalai?

Spacious Airbnb house in Tiruvannamalai suited for couples, family, groups -->  https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/46988272?source_impression_id=p3_1649831075_zhZTsBtAqQ%2BsFd2o

How to reach Tiruvannamalai?

By Air: Chennai is the nearest airpor at a distance of 172 km.

By Rail: There are about 60 odd trains running from Chennai to Tiruvannamalai. Tiruvannamalai is also well connected to other major railway stations like Madurai, Tirupati, Pondicherry, Bengaluru and Vellore.

By Road: Tiruvannamalai is well connected to Cities like Chennai, Bengaluru, Pondicherry, Vellore, Madurai, etc. by road and national highways. Regular buses of the Tamil Nadu state bus Corpo. ply between the route or can even reach here by their own cab/ hiring a taxi.

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If you are interested in visiting Tiruvannamalai and have any specific questions, do leave a comment. Or if you are looking for an itinerary and need help with planning a tour, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me at ushatravelpoint@gmail.com or DM me on instagram or drop me a line via my contact form. I will be happy to help!

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2 Comments

  1. Such a beautiful post. It was like being with you. This is a town I like to visit again and again. But like you mentioned we can only if He calls. That's Lord Arunachaleswara.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Namaskaram,
    The way you put everything together speaks of something special about you. It seems you are a seker who wants to know.
    Thank you so much and I was blown over by the view of the sacred mountain from the living room.
    Gratitude & Pranam

    ReplyDelete

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