Girivalam

The sacred place of Parvathamalai is some 25 kms from Arunachala and infused with Arunachala's radiating spiritual power. The Sage of Kanchi (Kanchipuram) the great Sri Shankaracharya Chandrashekarendra Saraswati twice undertook pilgrimages of the Indian peninsula on foot from Benares in the North to Rameshwaram in the South. On one of those pilgrimages (written about in Paul Brunton's book, 'In Search of Secret India') he visited Parvathamalai after his time at Arunachala. On seeing Parvathamalai he declared that it is in actual fact a Siva Lingam and proceeded to walk the 25 kms circumference base of the Hill. From that time the fame of Parvathamalai girivalam has spread.

"On the first of Margazhi month in 1944, His Holiness Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati Swamigal fondly known as Maha Periyava performed Girivalam of Parvathamalai which is located off the Thiruvannamalai-Chengam Road. His Holiness started on foot from his camp at Kadaladi accompanied by devotees and went round the mountain through jungles and hills, returning to the camp late in the night."

Subsequently since 2009 on the first day of the Tamil month of Margazhi, a special girivalam is organised (including food) by Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. On that day thousands of devotees perform girivalam of Parvathamalai.

The following narrative tells of the origin of prasad given to devotees at the time of Margazhi Parvathamalai girivalam.

"The Puranas say that Lord Maheswara always thinks about saving the world feeding all living creatures.

Similarly Lord Maheswara, Maharshis and Paramacharyas also think that everyone should live happily and responding to the needs and deeds of all at the appropriate time - was the main thought they had.

Near to Tiruvannamalai are villages like Kanchi and Kadaladi which are covered with thick jungle forest. Even in the daytime it was hard to reach such places, as the forest had wild animals roaming around. Next to the villages are large mountains, on one such hilltop named Parvathamalai, is a Temple dedicated to Siva (Lord Mallikarjuna) and Shakti (Sri Brahmarambika).

People perform Tiruvannamalai girivalam during the full moon day, similarly at Parvathamalai, on the first day of the Tamil month Margazhi, village people from surrounding areas go for Parvathamalai girivalam. Paramacharya also performs girivalam when he goes to Parvathamalai. It is approximately 25 kms distance around the hill. All who walk with the Acharya struggle to complete the arduous walk, but the Acharya goes around the hill in a normal, fast way without struggle or discomfort.

On one occasion, during that particular day on the Tamil month of Margazhi, many went to Parvathamalai on the eve of the appointed girivalam. Nearly two lakhs people were expected to gather and start girivalam at 3 a.m. Acharya had decided to also start girivalam at the same time.

The Ashram people accompanying the Acharya, had their dinner and fell asleep. Around midnight one of the ashramites woke and roused the others. He reported that the Acharya appeared in his dream saying, "you people are young, and will complete pradakshina even though you are hungry, but the villagers, what will they do for food? Some have to carry children in their arms, others will not have had proper food for days, some will be old. So you should do something to ensure all are given food."

Others from the group of ashramites reported that they also had the same dream. Another told that in his dream, the Acharya asked, "why can't sweets be cooked and good food given to all?" The group was fully awake and after discussing the dream, decided that free food with sweets had to be given to all villagers who performed girivalam.

The cook reported that there was insufficient rice to feed such a large number of people. During their discussion, suddenly in the middle of the night, a bullock cart drove up to the front of the camp. The driver on seeing everyone was up, remarked he was surprised that they were not asleep. He explained that he was driving from a nearby village on his way to Kanchipuram to see the Acharya and to deliver food to that Ashram that had been donated by local villagers. On setting off, the bullock cart driver learnt the Acharya was situated at a camp near Parvathamalai - thus, he came to deliver the food supplies that had been donated to Kanchipuram Mutt.

The food donation comprised 30 bags of rice, sugar, dhal and other items. The man gave all food supplies to the camp, and asked the Acharya be informed of his delivery. He then departed to his own place.

The ashramites believed this coincidence to be evidence of the Acharya's blessings. Feeling happy and satisfied, the cooks of the group started their preparations; making good, nutritious food and a delicious sweet. All were busy engaged in cooking. Around 3 a.m. the Acharya came to the kitchen and commented, "30 bags of rice will be sufficient to serve all - and not a single person will be left out." He said this with a smile and then left to go on his Parvathamalai girivalam.

The ashramites were surprised because no-one had informed the Acharya about the donation of 30 bags of rice and other foods. Just as the Acharya had foretold, when the food was cooked and supplied to all who had come on girivalam - it was discovered that there was sufficient to allow for all to partake of the prasad."

Nowadays many devotees and pilgrims visit and climb the hill to worship at the Temple on the summit in order that they may attain bliss and enlightenment. Others following the example of the Shankaracharya prefer not to walk on the Hill itself but instead choose to perform the 25 km (approximately 8 hours to complete) girivalam around its base. The busiest times at Parvathamalai are the days of full moon, no moon and new moon.


Roadways converge at path to Hill


Many arrive at Parvathamalai Hill by bus or car via Highway 133 or Highway 38. The convergence of these two major roads at Thenmadhimangalam, is also the start place of the main pathway to the top of the Hill. In addition its the most popular place to start clockwise circumambulation of the 25 km pathway around the base of Parvathamalai.


Girivalam of Parvathamalai



Thenmadhimangalam and start of girivalam


Before starting the 25 km girivalam of Parvathamalai Hill, some choose to go through the gateway arch on the Thenmadhimangalam Route, and visit the Shrines situated at the base of the Hill.


Pachaiamman Temple



Muniswarans at Pachaimman Temple



Temple, Parvathamalai background



Sri Veerabathirar Temple



Vana Durga Temple



Vana Durga Temple Trident


Occasionally the girivalam roadway joins up with the tarmac highway, but mostly the walk is on minor roads and dusty country tracks winding their way through reserve forest and agricultural areas. The below photographs are sequential showing landscapes and places of interest on the girivalam roadway.

The 25 km girivalam is mostly unpopulated so take plenty of water and either wear shoes or carry a pair for emergencies in your bag. The area in which you will be walking is for the most part deserted, ensure your security by walking with others and not carrying valuables.

















Road above goes to Swami Mouna Vithoba Ashram about a 15 minute walk from this point


Swami Mouna Vithoba lived on the top of Parvathamalai for 16 years attending to his sadhana and also helping to maintain the beautiful Temple of Lord Mallikarajuna Iswara located on the Hill's summit. After completion of these 16 years on the summit, the saint came to the bottom of Parvathamalai Hill and performed intensive sadhana for 4-5 years engaged in puja and worship of the murti of Goddess Sri Rajarajeshwari.


Swami Mouna Vithoba


This saint deceased sometime during 2001-2002 but the work at the top of the Hill continues in his name.




In this respect a renovation Trust named 'Triplicane Sri Paruvathamalai Adiyargal Thiruppani Sangam' has been set up to:

(1) continue improving walkways to top of Parvathamalai,
(2) develop and maintain Lord Mallikarajuna Iswara Temple on summit,
(3) complete construction of Mouna Guruswamy Ashram on summit and,
(4) continue managing Mouna Guruswamy Ashram at foot of Hill.


Ashram at base of Hill


When Swami Mouna Vithoba passed away (at his place) at the bottom of the Hill, an ashram slowly developed and on January 29, 2012 a grand Kumbhabhishekam function was performed at the samadhi of Mouna Vithoba Swami at what is now an Ashram dedicated to him at the foot of Parvathamalai.


Samadhi of Swami Vithoba


Food and accommodation is available at the Mouna Guruswamy Ashram at the bottom of Parvathamalai. To make enquiries please call the person in attendance at that place Sri Ramesh at +919843417989. Much of the girivalam road is inaccessible to all vehicles except two-wheelers however if coming from Thenmadhimangalam, one may drive all the way to this Ashram.


km after ashram


One can continue on the girivalam pathway or start on a path which eventually leads to the top of Parvathamalai. The next three photographs below show the beginning of the pathway to the summit, starting a short distance from Swami Mouna Vithoba Ashram.


1. Direction Board showing way to summit



2. Beginning the hike to summit



3. Pathway leads to rocks and upwards to Summit


On continuing on this route climbing the hill, the Kaladi pathway meets up with the Thenmadhimangalam route and both continue to the Summit of the Hill.




The above photographs numbered 1, 2 and 3 show the beginning of the roadway after the Ashram to the summit of the Hill. The rest of the below photographs show the pathway after the Ashram, which continues onwards on the 25 km girivalam road.






















Most of the girivalam road is deserted save for the occasional house and farm. There are also three main structures of interest to pilgrims. The first is the Vithoba Ashram, the second is the Pachaiamman Temple and the third is the ancient Siva Temple.


Ancient Pachaiamman Temple currently under renovation



The Goddess in temporary structure whilst Her Shrine is being renovated



Devotees on grounds of Temple



Muniswarans at Pachaimman Temple


The Sapta Muniswarans here are represented as 7 brothers. The warrior guardians are:

Vaalmuniswaran (knife)
Karumuniswaran (dark)
Ladamuniswaran (playful)
Vedamuniswaran (book)
Jadamuniswaran (red)
Muthumuniswaran (pearls)
Veeramuniswaran (strength)

Muniswarans are a class of powerful spirits. These spirits are also known as Siva Ganas. They are considered to be servants of Siva and his female-half Shakti. Due to their nature, the Munis are classified as guardian deities.
They can be former warriors, kings or sages who achieved the status of a Muniswaran after their human death. Some of the Muniswarans worshipped were created as Muniswarans and are not of human origin. Muniswarans are worshipped in various ways including tree and stone worship. At this Temple they are worshipped in the form of Statues (Uruvam Vallipadu)
According to the Rig Veda, Muniswarans are trained in various magic arts and believed to be capable of supernatural feats.

After stopping at Pachaiamman Temple, the 25km girivalam pathway continues through the countryside.

















Highway 133 turns right on to small lanes


For a while the pathway merges with Highway 133 but now continues winding its way through small roadways and country lanes.













Towards the end of the girivalam walk, one arrives at an ancient Siva Temple. The Temple which has Shrines to the Lord and the Goddess is now not in use and puja to the Gods is maintained in a small room near the original Shrines.


Original Siva and Shakti Shrines












The statues are kept in this building.






Veelanthangi Iswara Alayam - Devotees staying place


A few yards from the building housing the statues, is the residence for the Temple priest - which is also a staying place for devotees.
















After completion of the 25 km girivalam roadway, the pilgrim returns to the start place of Thenmadhimangalam.


Thenmadhimangalam - also the beginning spot for easiest route to Parvathamalai summit