GIRI VALAM – The circumambulation of the Arunachalam hill

Arunachalam Hill as seen from different points of Giri valam path

Arunachal hill as seen from the Giri Valam path
Arunachal hill as seen from the Giri Valam path
Arunachal hill as seen from another point in the Giri Valam path
Arunachal hill as seen from another point in the Giri Valam path
Arunachal hill as seen from another point in the Giri Valam path
Arunachal hill as seen from another point in the Giri Valam path
Arunachal hill as seen from another point in the Giri Valam path
Arunachal hill as seen from another point in the Giri Valam path
Arunachal hill as seen from another point in the Giri Valam path
Arunachal hill as seen from another point in the Giri Valam path
Arunachal hill as seen from another point in the Giri Valam path
Arunachal hill as seen from another point in the Giri Valam path

Giri Valam : Introduction

Giri Valam is a Hindu religious practice observed in the town of Thiruvannamalai in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is the name given to the ritualistic circumambulation of a hill called Arunachalam Hill situated at the centre of the town of Thiruvannamalai. This 14 km circumambulation of the hill is also called Giri Pradakshina, or simply, Pradakshina.

The Arunachalam Hill, also called Arunagiri, Arunai, Sonagiri, Sonachalam or Annamalaiar Hill is considered as a huge Shiva Lingam & a circumambulation of this sacred hill is regarded as one of the highest sacred circumambulations that have been prescribed in the scriptures.

Giri Valam : When it is done

As per the tradition, a proper Giri Valam should be done on the day preceding every full moon, the best in the Tamil month of Karthigai (November-December). However, many people do this ritualistic circumambulation of the hill on other days as well.

Devotees doing Giri Valam
Devotees doing Giri Valam

The importance of Giri Valam or Pradakshina

The scriptures also mention the rewards of doing Giri Valam on a particular day of the week as follows :

Sunday : A devotee who does this on a Sunday goes into Suryaloka (the Region of the Sun) & attains liberation.

Monday : Doing the Giri Valam on Monday remains free from the afflictions of old age& death.

Tuesday : Doing this on Tuesday makes a person debt-free & an emperor.

Wednesday : A devotee who does this on a Wednesday becomes omniscient & wise in all subjects.

Thursday : Doing this on a Thursday makes one a Guru (Master) & is worshiped by all.

Friday : Doing Giri Valam on a Friday makes one prosperous & takes one to Vishnuloka (The abode of Lord Vishnu).

Saturday : A devotee who does this on a Saturday is rewarded with worldly success & can avert the ill-effects caused by the planets as shown in his/her horoscope.

All Karma-s are destroyed by performing Giri Valam.

Few devotees resting under a tree
Few devotees resting under a tree

Pradakshina : The Spiritual meaning

Great sages had emphasized a special meaning of the term Pradakshina as follows :

PRA = Removing all sins.

DA = Granting desires.

KSHI = Obliterating the fruits of Karma.

NA = Attaining Liberation through Jnana (Knowledge).

A Sadhu on the Pradakshina
A Sadhu on the Pradakshina

How to do Giri Valam

As per the scriptures, the best is to perform the circumambulation in forty days. If that is not possible, it should be done in eleven days. If that is not possible, it should be done on the day before the full moon day in the month of Karthigai. If even that is not possible, it can be done on the day before the full moon day of other months.

Giri Valam is traditionally done barefooted, keeping the hill always on the right side. One should walk slowly doing meditation or chanting the name of Lord Shiva all the time.

The route of Giri Valam

The circumambulation starts at the eastern Gopuram (Tower) of the temple dedicated to Lord Arunachalam or Annamalaiar, the name by which Lord Shiva is known here. The path goes along the city roads, & passes by eight important Shiva temples housing eight forms of Lord Shiva called Ashta Lingam, & a large number of other temples.

In major portion, the Giri Valam path is along the footpath, covered by tiles to facilitate barefoot walking. In some places one has to walk along the main metalled road.

The major portion of the path has trees on both sides, mostly the Tamarind tree, to provide shadow to the devotees who take this strenuous 14 km walk bare feet. There are also provision of drinking water & refreshments along the route.

There are distance markers along the route denoting the distance covered & the remaining distance. In many places, there are PA system blaring gently Shiva Stotrams ( Chanting of Lord Shiva’s name), thus imparting a holy & serene atmosphere.

The sacred hill is kept on the right side all along the route. The hill, jutting like a huge Shiva Lingam, always gives a sense of devotion & fulfilment to a person doing Giri Valam.

The circumambulation ends at the same place where it starts, that is the estern Gopuram of the Annamalaiar temple. Devotees complete the circumambulation by doing a Puja of the Lord Annamalaiar.

The route of Giri Valam

Agni Ganesha; seen on the Giri Valam path
Agni Ganesha; seen on the Giri Valam path
Seen on the Giri Valam path
Seen on the Giri Valam path
One of the numerous temples on the Giri Valam path
One of the numerous temples on the Giri Valam path
Another temple on the Giri Valam route. In the background is the Arunachalam hill
Another temple on the Giri Valam route. In the background is the Arunachalam hill
Stone idols for sale at one point of the path
Stone idols for sale at one point of the path
A sculptor at work; seen at a point on the Giri Valam path
A sculptor at work; seen at a point on the Giri Valam path
Tamarind tree on the Giri Valam path
Tamarind tree on the Giri Valam path
The Giri Valam path
The Giri Valam path
Fruits for sale on the Giri Valam path
Fruits for sale on the Giri Valam path
Juicy melons for the thirsty walkers
Juicy melons for the thirsty walkers
Board displaying the distance covered & the remaining distance
Board displaying the distance covered & the remaining distance
The tiled path
The tiled path
PA system on the road
PA system on the road
The Eastern Gopuram of the Annamalaiar temple, the start & the end point of Giri Valam
The Eastern Gopuram of the Annamalaiar temple, the start & the end point of Giri Valam

The modern touch

The age-old practice of Giri Valam is also touched by the modern technology. At one point of the path, there is a display board stating the availability of a software (“App”) which can be downloaded in a smart phone. This “app” can give many information to the modern-day devotees about the Giri Valam.

Giri Valam going hi tec !
Giri Valam going hi tec !

Ashta Lingam

As said before, this refers to the eight Shiva Lingams situated along the Giri Valam path, & it is customary to worship these eight Shiva Lingams while doing the Giri Valam. They are considered the Guardians of the twelve Moon Signs.

The eight Lingams & the Moon Signs they control are (as per their appearance along the Giri Valam path) :

Indra Lingam (controlling Taurus & Libra); Agni Lingam (Leo); Yama Lingam (Scorpio); Niruthi/Nirudhi Lingam (Aries); Varuna lingam (Capricorn & Aquarius); Vayu Lingam (Cancer); Kubera Lingam (Sagittarius & Pisces) & Eesanya Lingam (Gemini & Virgo).

Of the eight, seven are situated on the LEFT hand side of the Giri Valam path, only the Agni Lingam is on the RIGHT hand side.

Ashta Lingam photos

Temple of Indra Lingam
Temple of Indra Lingam
The gate of the temple of Agni Lingam
The gate of the temple of Agni Lingam
The temple of Yama Lingam
The temple of Yama Lingam
The temple of Nirudhi Lingam
The temple of Nirudhi Lingam
The temple of Varuna Lingam
The temple of Varuna Lingam
The Varuna Lingam
The Varuna Lingam
Temple of Vayu Lingam
Temple of Vayu Lingam
Temple of Kubera Lingam
Temple of Kubera Lingam
Temple of Eeshanya Lingam
Temple of Eeshanya Lingam

Sri Ramana Ashram

The Ashram established by the modern sage & Advaita Vedanta Philosopher Ramana Maharshi , who has a huge world-wide following even long after his demise, merits a special mention here. This serene Ashram is situated on the Giri Valam path, & the devotees make it a routine practice to go to this Ashram to pay homage to the memory of Ramana Maharshi.

Photos of Ramana Ashram

The Ramana Ashram 1
The Ramana Ashram 1
The Ramana Ashram 2
The Ramana Ashram 2

Conclusion

As someone has remarked, India is a country of religious practices, & Giri Valam, though strenuous especially during the hot months, undertaken by thousands of people from all levels of social strata amply proves that. There is no difference whether you are a millionaire or a pauper, if you want to do Giri Valam, you have to undertake the same hardship like the others. Yet, after completing the strenuous journey, despite having blisters in feet & painful cramps in the legs, everyone smiles a smile of fulfillment & joy. Religion, despite having many bad names now-a-days, is really a great leveler indeed.

THE AUTHOR HAS PERFORMED THIS PILGRIMAGE, & HE SINCERELY THANKS GOD FOR GIVING HIM THE CHANCE TO DO THIS.


The memories of Giri Valam : Picture of the famous modern sage Swami Vivekananda with the sacred hill Arunachalam Giri in the background
The memories of Giri Valam : Picture of the famous modern sage Swami Vivekananda with the sacred hill Arunachalam Giri in the background

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Comments 1 comment

SVSKumar 14 months ago

.excited enlightened cleared every thing about giri valam thanks a lot

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