In southern India, a magnet
for seekers of spirituality
By T.S.V. Hari
Nov 26 (IANS) Not many beyond Tamil Nadu know that every full
moon day, this temple town attracts over 300,000 Indian and
foreign visitors who come to trek 14 km clockwise around a
hillock is called Arunachala, literally meaning "sun
mountain", made famous by Hindu saint Ramana Maharishi
who made his home there.
800 people from the US, Europe, Australia, Japan and other
countries live in this town, 190 km south of state capital
Chennai. Their quest for spirituality has brought them here.
the last five years, the numbers have registered a steady
a German who prefers to give out just his first name, lives
here with his wife and two daughters. The children are kindergarten
students whose second language is Tamil.
spiritual experience unravels and grows on us with every passing
day and it cannot be explained in a few minutes. One has to
live here to understand inner peace," Peter told IANS.
and his family help visiting German compatriots with the nuances
of yoga and run an eatery that sells Indian and German vegetarian
also help supply bit roles in movies for people from Europe
in Chennai where hundreds of films are made every year in
four southern Indian languages.
most come here because of the serenity of the Arunachala hillock
where quite a few hermits practise meditation.
restaurants, hermitages and shops selling bric-a-brac surround
a Shiva temple and the oddly shaped Arunachala hillock.
place traces its origin as a bastion of spirituality to Bhagwan
Ramana Maharishi who made the town and its hill his home in
1896. The fame of this holy man clad in a loin cloth attracted
many foreign devotees who began writing about Thiruvannamalai
and its vicinity several decades ago.
first was Frank Humphreys, a British cop who began writing
about this town and its godman in 1911. The first of this
series appeared in The International Psychic Gazette.
next was Paul Brunton, a British philosopher who found spiritual
bliss at the feet of Ramana, in 1931.
Brunton: "I find myself outside the rim of world consciousness.
The planet which has so far harboured me disappears. I am
in the midst of an ocean of blazing light. The latter, I feel
rather than think, is the primeval stuff out of which worlds
are created, the first state of matter. It stretches away
into untellable infinite space, incredibly alive."
other internationally recognised writers like Somerset Maugham,
Julian P. Johnson and Arthur Osborne followed. Maugham's novel
"The Razor's Edge" (1944) described a fictional
guru fashioned after Ramana Maharishi.
more recent times, the serenity of Arunachala has attracted
film personalities like Tamil music maestro Ilayaraja and
thespian Rajnikant who regularly trek around the hill, many
times in disguise to avoid being mobbed.
link to this town in turn has attracted droves of devotees
most of whom come for monthly pilgrimages.
of the devotees is Swami Devananda, a Canadian by birth and
a practising Hindu since 1967.
missionaries spread a canard and create history around it
with more lies. While I still expose these perfidies, I am
here to find out the real meaning of divinity," Devananda
Peter: "The real reason for the fame of this place is
the hermitage of Ramana. In a nutshell that is the unique
selling points of Thiruvannamalai where many seek spiritual
Tibetan Budhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has written
about this place.
heritage of India is enriched with numerous saints and yogis.
Ramana Maharishi represents that tradition and his spiritual
greatness is guiding millions of people. Such masters light
the path and bring solace to suffering humanity," the
Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying.