Giri Valam in Tiruvannamalai


A visit to Tiruvannamalai, a spiritual hub in Tamil Nadu, serves no purpose if you do not circumnavigate the temple base and the Annamalai hills. The journey is 14 kms long and is known as ‘Giri Valam’. Usually it is undertaken on a full moon night, however, the place can be very crowded. We don’t prefer a crowd, so we decided to embark on this trip a week after the full moon. Devotees have the option to circumnavigate the hills by car though autos are also available aplenty. But we decided to put our middle-aged legs to use and test our stamina in the process.

The four-hour drive from Chennai went off without a glitch. We checked into a hotel and took the much-needed rest.

Rejuvenated, we proceeded to the Annamalaiyar temple and reached there at 4 PM. We bought a bottle of mineral water, and invoking the name of Lord Shiva, started our trek. Enroute the journey, there are 8 lingams, rightly called Ashtalingams.

The first one is Indra Lingam, which is near the main temple. We walked along the road and reached the second one, named after Agni. The halt here was only for a minute, before we started our walkathon to Yama Lingam. After a quick darshan there, we decided to rest our tired legs for a few minutes at Niruthi Lingam.

The next in line was Varuna Lingam, followed by the Vayu. In between, there was a welcome diversion in the form of a Shirdi Sai Baba Temple where we sat on the clean floor and meditated for around fifteen minutes. An indie street dog approached us and extended his paw towards us. We left the temple in a happy frame of mind after the canine handshake.

After that it was a lengthy journey to Kubera Lingam. The crowd here was huge compared to the other temples. Was it due to the fact that it was dedicated to the God of Wealth? The final lingam was opposite our hotel. So we paid obeisance at Eesaanya Lingam and called it a day. We had just undertaken the famous Giri Valam and had survived on a bottle of mineral water. After a light dinner, we retired for the night.

After a blissful sleep, we went to have a darshan at the main temple. The line was serpentine, however, the disciplined nature of the pilgrims in South India and the effective crowd management of the temple authorities never cease to amaze me. We had an excellent view of the Annamalaiyar deity. The main purpose of our visit had been served.

After checking out from the hotel, we went to the Ashram of the great sage Ramana and after a brief stay, we returned to the comforts of our sweet home.

Narayani V Manapadam