Introduction

This Web site is designed to provide devotees and visitors with information and media about each of the sacred points of interest (POIs) around the entire Giripradakshina path. There are different categories of information for each POI, presented under the headings below. The information contains not only text, but links to external resources such as web pages and videos.

There are two ways to approach doing Giripradakshina (also called Girivalam). One is as a devotee, doing the most important and ancient form of worship of Arunachala. While doing Giripradakshina in this way, one focuses on filling one’s heart with devotion and centers one’s thoughts on the Self and allows oneself to be irradiated with Arunachala’s Grace.

The other way is to approach Giripradakshina as a visitor wishing to learn about the sacred culture of South India in the form of a walking tour. The sacred artifacts and locations on the Giripradakshina path are so concentrated and comprehensive, one can almost think of the path as a walking encyclopedia of South Indian spirituality. Doing Giripradakshina in this way is an immersion into the sacred history and culture of South India far beyond what can be gained by reading books or watching videos.

You may want to read the information in the headings at the top of the screen (“About Arunachala”, etc) before you begin Giripradakshina for the first time.

Giripradakshina is always done clockwise, keeping Arunachala on your right. You can start it from any location along the path, as long as you end it in the same place. Most start either from the Arunachaleswara Temple in town or from Sri Ramanasramam. This guide starts from the latter only because it is published by the Ashram and assumes that the main audience is Sri Ramanasramam visitors.

The map shows the location of each POI. Most of the POIs are on the main road, but there are some places where you need to go off the road to get to a POI.

Whenever you are in a foreign environment, it is always important to be respectful of local customs. Some of these customs may be self-evident, but others may not. The Sri Ramanasramam etiquette web page contains a list of important customs regarding behaviour around the sacred places (especially temples and shrines) that you will find on Giripradakshina. It also contains a list of worship practices in case you are inclined to follow them.

Here are a few pointers for having a Grace-filled, pleasant experience completing Giripradakshina:

  • Walk slowly and keep on the left side of the road or path, since the right side is reserved for the siddhas and rishis (invisible beings in astral bodies).
  • The distance of Giripradakshina is about 14 kilometres (9 miles) and takes about four hours. Do not underestimate the amount of physical effort this requires. If you are physically weak, you should go with friends who can provide any help that you might need along the way.
  • Important items to take are:
    • Sunscreen (and possibly sun hat) if you are light-skinned
    • Good walking shoes, unless you are going barefoot. Going barefoot is recommended for maximum spiritual benefit, but do not underestimate the potential for injury to your feet from the grit on the road if your feet are not fully prepared for this.
    • Water
    • Money for temple donations, refreshments, and alms for sadhus (ascetics) and the poor
    • Stick to keep away aggressive dogs
  • Before dawn is a good time to start so that you may see the magnificent spectacle of the sunrise over Arunachala. Starting early also means that you will complete Giripradakshina while it is still cool, avoiding the late morning heat.
  • Circling the Hill in a vehicle confers only minimal benefit. One must do it without any means of conveyance.
  • Ladies should not walk unaccompanied at night, especially if doing Giripradakshina for the first time. There is street lighting on most of the road, but even so, some unpleasant incidents have occasionally happened.

Giripradakshina Route Map

Points of interest around the Giripradakshina Route are numbered 1 to 101. Sri Ramanasramam is 1.


 
Select the Point of Interest