Going around the Mountain (Girivalam distance : 14 kms): Arunachala is a manifestation of the God wearing the crescent moon upon his head who is lord shiva himself. The manifestation of sambhu in ancient times appeared as a column of fire in order to settle a dispute between Brahma and Vishnu.
Both became haughty and once argued as to who was the Superior of the two. The dispute led to the danger of disruption. To resolve the dispute the two gods, lord Shiva appeared as a column of fire and make the two realize their folly. Both the Brahma and Vishnu set out to find bottom and top of fire effulgent, but could not find. Their ego – sense completely destroyed in the effort they became humble and pious.
Then the Omnipresent Being who transcends space and time, the Sambhu (i.e Shiva), told them he had taken this form to solve the dispute and make them know who the actual superior was. On the request of Brahma and Vishnu, Lord Shiva took the form of a Hill, “Girivalam” which inturn looks like the shape of lingam, by withdrawing the blazing effulgence and abide as the lingam with the name of Arunachala for the welfare of the world. Lord Shiva said that he will remain back in the form what they requested for. And also told let those who worship the Linga attain prosperity and Liberation. Worshipping the Arunachala Hill with a tranquil mind expiates our sins and regain our position in life, wishes get fulfilled.
The Sun god abides on eastern side of the hill, Visvamitra on southern side, Varuna on the Western side, Trisula on northern side, On northern slope, a banyan tree throws shade all around. The great Shiva abide under it in the form of Siddhapurasha (Shiva). There are eight lingas at eight cardinal points round the hill. The holy river Sona flows near as a clear stream.
The people circumambulate the hill, take a bath, put on clean clothes smears the body with sacred ash and put a garland of rudraksha beads. One should walk slowly with a serene mind remembering Siva all the time. Going round the mountain, one can attain liberation there through gifts, austerities, Sacrifices and worship. The Culmination of the festival occurs two days later, when the deities are carried around the holy hill in magnificent borne palanquins on the shoulders of Male devotees. Along the fourteen kilometer long road there are, at intervals, sacred tanks, small shrines and scared resting places where the Gods will stop to bestow blessings and receive offerings offered by the devotees. The procession always starts from the eastern Gopuram with lord music from big trumpets.
Drummers dominate the group for the way, then the dances from the temple who express in their rhythmical way and do accompany only part of the way. The procession itself keeps moving forward to the sound of the drummers and chanting of the devotees. On the way pilgrims and local residents stop the procession near shrines of near their houses to offer flowers, betel, bananas sugar candy. The priests place these gifts on a tray illuminated by a small camphor flame before offering them to the Gods.
They even have meals and rest for the strength to continue the day long procession. The sacred resting places are called “Mandapams” with three enclosed sides and a wide opening in the front. Arriving on these the deities are placed in the middle, fruits, flower garlands, fine dhotis and costly sarees, and rose water to refresh the Gods. The priests unfold the clothes and drape them over the dieties on their return they will store them in the temple. The devotees who have made the offerings receive as prasadam along with sacred ash.
As night sets in the procession returns to the temple. The going around the sacred hill on a normal poornima is also very sacred. But for once in life times going on a Karthikai Deepam day is equal to whole life going round the hill on every po6rnima day. This will surely bless us, by the Lord Shiva, for the salvation and make our janma “punya”. Circumambulating Arunachala: This holy pilgrimage at Tiruvannamalai is as ancient as of the 16th Century. The temple at Tiruvannamalai was well-known to us by 1845 itself.
The glory of Arunachala, Lord Shiva is very enthusiastic as it is pertained to the universe, Supreme power whose darshan make our janmam Sarthakam. Lord Shiva himself is told Gautama about how and when the devotees have to circumambulate the sacred hill. He has told that, He is abided gloriously on Earth as Arunachala all the devatas, munis circumambulate them. At every step that one takes on the path, round Him all the Sins committed in one’s past lives are expiated. By circumambulating the sacred hill, one obtains the merit of performing thousands of horse sacrifices innumerable vajapayas, bathing in all the tirthas.
Medidating on this great Lingam one should circumambulate it slowly. One will not be born again and will certainly become eternally one with Lord Shiva. At every point one should meditate and being the palms together in praise and reverence. One should walk carefully, slowly and noiselessly. Before setting out a bath should be taken clean clothes should be put on, sacred ash applied on the body and rudraksha beads worn.
While circumambulating one should meditate on Shiva. Thousands of invinsible manus, devtas siddhapurushas others accompany a devotee who circumumbulates in this manner. One may walk in the company of devotees singing the sacred names of Siva and dances. This hill is incomprehensible being beyond speech and thought. It is unapproachable, being a mass of fire. It is the absolute and therefore called the Supreme. One should remember the Siva in the heart with love and devotion while circumambulating.
A devotee who circumambulates the Hill on a Sunday penetrates the region of the Sun and attains liberation. He gains the world of Siva. He who circumambulates the Hill on a Monday lives free from the afflictions of old age and death. He who circumambulates the Hill on a Tuesday is released from all debts and becomes an emperor. If Pradakshina is done on Wednesday he becomes omniscient and wise.
On Thursday he is worshipped by all the devas and attains fame as a guru. Circumambulating on a Friday brings prosperity and takes him to the abode of Vishnu, a Saturday Pradakshina brings worldly success and averts the ill-effects threatened by the planets in one’s horoscope.
If those who suffer from physical and mental ailments, as well as those who are weak and emaciated, circumambulate Him, their ailments are cured.
Meaning of Pradakshina (Circumambulation):
PRA – rooting out sins
DA – granting desires
KSHI – obliterating the fruits of Karma
NA – bestowing liberation.
Even Lord Shiva Himself circumambulates Arunadri, the div5nely efflugent Linga in the company of ganas, devas, rishis at the time of the which the holy season of uttarayana commenses is an auspicious day for men. When the Goddess Gowri requested sage Gowthama to kindly explain to her the greatness of the festival of light at Arunachala at Tiruvannamalai he described the glorly, which liberates people from all sins and bestows all prosperity.
In the month of Karthika, on the day of the star Kritika during pradosha (13th day counting from new moon / full moon) the fortunate ones who perform giri prada2shina are not born again. All Karmas are destroyed on performance of circumambulation. It is customary to circumambulate the Hill for a mandala i.e forty days. One who is not able to do this may perform giri pradakshina atleast for eleven days.
If even this is not possible, the one should go round the Hill on the day of the Deepam. This is equivalent to performing crores of yagnas. He who worships the Deepam lit atop the Hill derives countless blessings. A person residing elsewhere may light lamps in front of any shrine of Siva, a top his temple towers along peaks of other hills and he will be blessed. The mere lightning of the lamp on this day with any type of oil available confers great merit on them.