Isakki Swamigal also known as Panchamukha Swamigal, belonged to Tirunelveli District. He was born on May 2, 1917 to father Chella Perumal Pillai and mother Muthammal. From his early days, he exhibited strong devotional thoughts and maintained a consistent spiritual practice. At the age of 13 years whilst still a schoolboy, he journeyed with his parents to Tiruvannamalai to attend the Karthigai Deepam Festival. In those days due to haphazard transportation, the family decided to walk to the Festival town. Thus it was after a long and arduous march the family finally arrived at Tiruvannamalai. Soon after arrival they went on circumambulation of Arunachala; on reaching Nirudhi Lingam, the young boy experienced a strong attraction to Lord Siva - and felt a powerful urge to meditate at that place. However as he was only a child, he kept silent about his desire and continued with his parents upon Arunachala girivalam.

Upon arriving at the Panchamukha Peaks, Isakki Swamigal was to say that he had the sensation that he was at the foot of Mount Kailash. As his spiritual thoughts increased, tears flowed from his eyes and his heart was fully inspired to meditate at that place. It was from that day onwards that he felt a strong attachment to Panchamukha Darshanam and in later times spent so much time there that he popularly became known as Panchamukha Swamigal.

On the southside, Arunachala manifests as a single form but on the eastern side - Panchamukha, Arunachala appears as five peak points. The place that Lord Siva from the "One" divides into five moorthis to perform the essential functions that keep the world alive:-

Creation - Sadyojata. West. Earth
Protection - Vamadeva. North. Water
Aghora - Dissolution/Rejuvenation. South. Fire
Tatpurusha - Concealing Grace. East. Air
Ishana - Revealing Grace. North-East. Ether

Thus the five faces of Shiva are represented by the five peaks of Arunachala - Panchamukha Darshanam. Contemplation upon which has a beneficial effect.

After having experienced Karthigai Deepam and Arunachaleswarar Temple, the young boy with his parents travelled northwards and took darshan at; Virinjipuram, Kanchipuram, Thiruthani, Tirupathi, Kalahasti and Thiruvetriyur. Afterwards they travelled visiting Temples at; Virudhachalam, Vadalur, Chidambaram, Sirkali, Rameshwaram and Trichy. At Trichy they worshipped Thayumanavar Swamigal, then proceeded to Thiruvaranagam and Thiruvanaikaval. The young Isakki Swamigal and his parents started their journey in the Tamil month of Ippasi and returned to their village in the Tamil month of Margazhi on Thiruvathira Star Day.

Upon completion of the pilgrimage, Isakki returned home with his parents where he uneventfully completed school. Upon reaching maturity, by arrangement of his parents, he married. Although living the life of a householder the young Isakki's heart was full of thoughts of Arunachala and he often visited Tiruvannamalai and while there would stay at Appar Swamigal Mandapam. When on pilgrimage to Arunachala he would undertake girivalam and meditate near Panchamukha Point - like this several years passed. But soon he began to have the thought to remain at Tiruvannamalai.

Sometime between 1959-1960 in the Tamil month of Avani in the Tamil year Vikari, Isakki left his house at Tirunelveli and came to Tiruvannamalai where he lived with his wife and son in a house near Ammani Amman Gopuram on the southside of Arunachaleswarar Temple. He was at the time around 42 years of age. Many would come to visit him at his house where he consulted as a country Doctor practising herbal and traditional medicine.

For several years Isakki Swamigal daily undertook Arunachala girivalam and started to become famous amongst locals. Groups of people started to follow him around the hill chanting 'Om Namah Shivaya,' and 'Arogahara! Arogahara! Annamalaiku Arogahara!' Increasingly more locals began to follow him during his giripradakshina. On every circumambulation, when reaching Panchamukha Point, Swamigal would stop and engage in meditation. During his days, Swamigal met and saw a number of siddhars and yogis who went round the hill on giripradakshina.

Swamigal performed meditation at several places around Arunachala. It is believed that it was at the northside of Adi Annamalai near the Kavasa Theertham, that Lord Annamalaiyar showered His blessings upon Swamigal, and gave him the power of healing. It was from this time that he exhibited a more intuitive approach to his patients. He would sometimes gather a small piece of earth from Arunachala, make a mud ball and place it into the ear, nose or mouth of the patient. At other times he would give a stone or leaf from the Hill for the patient to carry.

People who came for darshan of Isakki Swamigal started to tell him their problems and ask for his blessings. Some came to Swamigal and requested he cure their disease. He instructed all to surrender to Lord Siva in the form of Arunachala and that by performing girivalam of the Hill, problems would be solved and illness cured. Based on the problems and diseases concerned, Swamigal advised giripradakshina of one mandala (48 days), two mandala (96 days) or for three mandalas (144 days). Many took his advice and performed giripradakshina to relieve their difficulties. To avoid the constantly growing crowds around him, Swamigal moved to another part of the Hill.

During his life, it is reported Isakki Swamigal performed Arunachala angapradakshina (pradakshina by rolling the body in a clockwise movement on the ground) 1008 times. Even today, it is thought that Swamigal in his astral form performs girivalam twice daily. Close to the statue at the Panchamukha Shrine it is believed Swamigal performs meditation each day at noon. Near that place there is a well which he created specifically in order to supply drinking water for devotees.

There are reputed to be 360 ponds dotted around Arunachala girivalam and also several natural springs on the Hill itself. Swamigal said that on the northern side of Arunachala there is a big stone called the 'peacock dancing stone point,' below there is a spring called 'Arasudayan Sunaei,' which has cool, sweet water throughout the seasons. At the southern part of the Hill, there is another natural spring called, 'Pugunthu Kudithan Sunaei,' at this spring the pathway is very narrow and one has to bend close to the ground in order to enter. Inside, it is wide and broad and the water is cool and delicious. It is said that at this place one can always hear the sound of an echo.

Swamigal's Samadhi

Until 1975 from 12.00 to 2.30 p.m. Swamigal performed meditation daily at Panchamukha Point. He had been to all parts of Arunachala and knew each and every bit of the Hill. Isakki Swamigal's samadhi is located at Panchamukha Point. He reached samadhi on January 9, 1991 at the age of 74 years.

Samadhi of Isakki Swamigal

Panchamukha Darshanam
Walking along the outer giripradakshina path, about a hundred yards after the Kubera Lingam shrine, on the right side there is a shrine with five small Shiva Lingams on a raised pedestal circumscribed by a round stone platform entitled 'Arunachala Panchamukha' in Tamil. Arunachala from this point appears as five peaks otherwise known as Panchamukha - five faces.

The point known as the Panchamukha Darshanam located on the northeast side of Arunachala, has been highly revered for many years. It is said that the great Arunachala Saint Sri Seshadri Swamigal when as a child (before even visiting the Hill) whilst living at his native place of Kanchipuram, would draw pictures of Panchamukha Peaks. Although the fame of Panchamukha dates back to antiquity, it is only in the last thirty years that it has become a well known and outstanding aspect of Arunachala girivalam.

One of the reasons for its increasing fame is its association with Isakki Swamigal. It was his great love and belief in Panchamukha Peak that inspired many of his devotees to develop their own special connection with this spot.

It is reported that one of his better known devotees, Mother Umadevi, developed psychic powers because of the time she spent at Panchamukha Peaks and the grace of her Guru. It was this grace and spiritual opening that lead to Mother Umadevi's connection with the late Sri Seshadri Swamigai - of whom she was in her life regarded by many as a channel and spokesperson.

The above statue was installed at Panchamukha Shrine while Swamigal was still living to indicate the spot he favoured during his daily meditations at Panchamukha Darshanam. The statue also marks the place that nowadays he is believed to visit daily in his psychic body to give guidance and encouragement to devotees of Arunachala. The Samadhi of Isakki Swamigal is in a room about 50 yards from the statue and is identified by the presence of a Lingam. Interestingly the Samadhi of Isakki Swamigal was constructed by A.D.M. Panneerselvam as guided by his own teacher Mother Umadevi.

At the Shrine of the Panchamukha Darshanam, there are five lingams which were installed at this Shrine comparatively recently. Each of these lingams correspond both to one of the Hill peaks and to a face of Lord Shiva in his five-faced aspect (Panchanana Siva). In addition each face of the Lord represents one of his fivefold aspects.

Panchamukha Shrine

5 Lingams with Statue underneath

5 Lingams at Panchamukha Shrine

Lingam on top of Platform

Recently built Durga Shrine and 5 Peaks background

An explanation of the five lingams, with each corresponding to a face of Lord Shiva (in his five-faced aspect) and to one of the Hill peaks follows below:

Panchamukha Darshanam

Ishana - Skyward Face:
Also known as Sadasiva, Ishana Siva is associated with Anugraha Shakti (power of blessing). This face is skywards. Which means it is on top of the other four faces which face the four directions. This fifth face of Shiva represents the creation; balance, annihilation energies and control and chaos energies. This is the Lord of creation and represents the mind power (chit-shakti), the element earth (or air according to some), the ritual knowledge of the Vedas, and the manifesting power of the mind. It is represented by pure crystal and signifies the top. Among the senses, this iconography represents the sense of touch and of the body - the hands.

Tatpurusha - East Face:
The word 'Tat' represents Paramatma. Tatpurusha means the Saguna-filled Para Brahman form. Also known as Maheshwara and is associated with Thoridhana Shakti (power of concealment). This represents the form of Shiva that is in meditation and Blessing the world. Hence this eastern face is considered as the first face. The word 'Tatpurusha' means 'his person'. One who is always behind a person to protect is Tatpurusha. It is represented by yellow and signifies the face. Among the sense organs it is the sense of smell, and in the bodily organs, the anus.

Panchanana Siva

Protection - Vamadeva. North. Water

Vama Deva - North Face:
The term Vama means left or innocent. If we stand facing east, the north is to our left. Hence the north facing Shiva is worshipped as 'Vaama Deva'. Vamadeva also termed as Vishnu is associated with Sthiti Shakti (power of sustenance). The left of a person is representative of the Shakti aspect. It represents 'Maya and the feminine strength and beauty', Hence in the Ardhanarishvara aspect, we find the goddess on the left side. Represented by red and signifying the navel. In the body Vamadeva represents egoism (anava), the power of action (kriya-shakti), and the element of air and among the senses; the sense of sight, and in the body, the feet.
Creation - Sadyojata. West. Earth

Sadyajata - West Face:
West is called as 'Paschima or Pratyak'. The soul is called as 'Pratyagaatma'. 'Sadyaha' which means 'just now' and 'Jataha' means 'now born'. Siva makes his presence felt through the countless souls being born. Hence the name 'Sadyajata'. Sadyajata also named as Brahma and is associated with Srishti Shakti (power of creation). Since the very existence of any being starts from birth, the Sadyajata aspect of Lord Shiva is prayed to first. In the panchanana form he represents the northern face. In the body he represents the mind and sense of taste and is represented by white and signifies the foot.

Aghora - South Face:
If we stand facing east, south is our right. Hence the right side is called 'Bala'. As important as the right hand is for humans, the South face is important to Lord Shiva. This is also famously known as 'Dakshinamurthi'.

Aghora also referred to as Rudra, is associated with Samhara Shakti (power of dissolution). Those who worship the Aghora (the non-fearful one) form of Shiva are called 'Aghoris'. Aghoris generally live in graveyards and are naked, use things which the world has branded as 'inauspicious', and perform austere tapas; as their main belief is there is no such thing as 'inauspicious' because all that exists is Shiva. Aghora is represented by black and signifies the heart. He represents the element fire and the power of desire.

Older Lingam and Nandi at Shrine

Isakki Swamigal (Panchamukha Swamigal)
"Encircling the mountain at its foot, is a necklace of road, some eight miles in length. Along this necklace, the pilgrims make their journey, circumnavigating the mountain, travelling in a clockwise direction. It is said that a boon comes to those who make the journey and the more austere the means of travel the greater the boon. Most pilgrims walk around. Those hoping for a greater boon do the eight mile journey on bare feet, while those far advanced in age or suffering from physical disabilities travel by a horse-drawn vehicle or even by taxi.

Isakki Swamigal Panchamukha Darshanam

One man we met on our first visit to Arunachala had done the circular sacred journey round the mountain in an extraordinary way and had a truly remarkable boon. This was Isakki Swamigal of Tiruvannamalai. We met him one evening as we stood by the side of a road coming out of the town. Along the road towards us, with the beat of drum, sounding brass, and tinkling cymbals, came a group of men. There must have been a dozen of them, some carrying a canopy under which walked a man. Surely a prince must be approaching, we thought. And when the group came in front of us and stopped, we could see that he was truly a prince of the spirit. His eyes were shining, a smile lit up his radiant face and around him was the unmistakable vibration of one who has reached a high level of attainment. My wife was so overcome that she pushed in through the crowd of men around him and touched his feet. Then she stood up and moved to join our friend and myself by the side of the road. Then the procession moved on with its joyous marching music.

Our friend, Ma Tallyarkan, who was residing at Tiruvannamalai, told us that it was Isakki Swamigal with a group of his devotees. From her, and from other people, we heard the story of his journey around the mountain and his boon. It seems that, lying horizontally on the ground, he rolled the whole eight miles along the circular route. When he stood up at the end of it, Lord Siva with his consort Parvati, were standing before him. With this boon of the Siva-Shakti darshan, came the gift of healing.

Isakki Swamigal was reported to be able to heal with spiritual power. Miraculous healings were the result and people came to him in great crowds. His consulting rooms could not cope with this huge influx, so he took up a position near the road on the other side of Arunachala from Tiruvannamalai. It was a quiet, pleasant spot. He went there at about three o'clock each morning and droves of people surrounded him at that time. Drawn by his elevated spiritual level, people began to gather around him, treat him at their guru, and move about with him as we saw that evening by the roadside.

[Edited from Howard Murphet 1971]