|Girivalam, Thruvannamalai, India tvmalai.in|
Going round the prakara in any Hindu temple is part of the religious culture and devotees never fail to do it on their visit to the temple. In most temples such long prakaras (corridors) around the shrines have covered roof made of a series of thick granite slabs or curved roof made of light bricks and lime-mortar and flat smooth floors. So, going round the temple is not a tough one as you do it in the comforts of cool environment that gives you protection from the hot sun and rain.
Doing Girivalam (in Tamil 'Giri' means a hill and Valam means going round clock-wise) or Giri Pradhashna (in Sanskrit Giri meaning hill, Pradhakhana means going round) is altogether is a different religious task. It is both spiritual and religious tasks combined into one. Among the Hindu temples in India, the Arunachaleswarar temple is famously associated with Girivalam. Doing Girivalam around the Arunachala hill here has been a tradition and is considered an important holy religious custom, which has been in vogue for several decades, may be more than a century. Year around lakhs of people do Girivalam preferably on the 'Pournami day' (full moon day) that comes once a month. Particularly in the days, preceding or following Karthigai deepam, going round the holy hill, where the kathigai Deepam (Maha Deepam) is lit, is an auspicious one. The hill was (and is) the abode of numerous Siddha Purushas (Siddars) - mystic sages who did lots of unexplainable wonders through certain mystic powers, it is believed. Besides, in and around this hill in this temple town, there are numerous ashrams where people, including westerners learn yoga and meditation.
|Annamalaiyar Temple.Annamalai hills in the background..en.wikipedia.org.|
Certain norms and rules have to be followed before starting Girivalam. Adherence to them will benefit the devotees. They are as follows:
01. Early morning bath and wearing proper dress are important. Avoid lungies or shorts or pajamas.
02. It is advisable to take Girivalam during full moon nights or else in normal nights. However, one can do it on any day preferably in the early morning or after 3 pm.
03. It is not advisable to wear footwear; devotees are advised to walk barefoot till they complete it. Walking barefoot improves blood circulation.
04. During Girivalam, chanting of the namam of ''Om Arunachala'' is advisable and devotees wont feel fatigued.
05. Viewing the top of the giri and focusing the mind on God all through the Girivalam will give mental satisfaction and fulfilment.
06. Taking plenty of water during pretty long walk is good to avoid fatigue and dehydration.
07. There are eight lingams around the Girivalam Path; each facing a particular direction and a star. Praying all the lingams is advisable.
08. Giri Pradakshina / Girivalam must be done with the hill on the right side.That is clock wise.
09. According to great sage Sri Ramana, Pradakshina gives you the following: removal of sin, fulfillment of desires, free from future births (next janma); simply salvation.
10. Sage Sri Ramana also says every stride we make gives us salvation, happiness in heaven and eternal bliss of Satyaloka. While doing Girivalam or Pradakshina get engaged in either in mouna (silence) or dhyana (meditation) or japa (repetition of Lord's name) or sankeertana (bhajan - devotional ongs). This way till we complete this holy task, our attention will be on the all pervading, omnipresent Arunachala - Lord Shiva who represents Agni (column of fire) here; The 'Shiva's column of fire' clearly implies the Hindu concept of god having no end and no beginning (no Aathi and no Antham).
In many holy places the deity is atop the hill. But here the hill (2668 feet high) itself is holy (Lord Annamalaiyar). "Arunam" means sun and denotes the red color of fire. "Asalam" means "Giri" or "malai" (mountain). Thus "Arunachalam" means the holy hill which is red in color.
For the convenience of devotees the Grivalam path has shops that sell bottled water, etc ., besides there are bore-well pumps to take care of water needs. and the well paved road is well lit with sodium lamps.
Such a religious act will give us peace of mind and respite from this ever-increasing materialistic life and, of course, from the madding crowd, mad traffic and air pollution that haunt the big Indian cities.