In this post, I have attempted to recap my trip to Thiruvannamalai and my first girivalam experience.
Myself and two other friends decided to go for girivalam on a full moon day (Pournami). Since it was on the night between Saturday and Sunday, we were in no hurry to rush back to Chennai. So we booked a hotel in advance. We stayed at Hotel Ashreya and I have reviewed it separately here.
As the Pournami was between 15-Mar-2014,Sat,09:25PM and 16-Mar-2014,Sun,10:20PM, we planned to start girivalam at 10:00PM on Saturday. We started at 4:00PM from Chennai. We were planning to reach around 8:00PM, have dinner and take some rest before we start. What happened ultimately was totally different! NH45 was quite crowded all the way until Chengleput. Then it got better until we had to take a Right turn into NH66 towards Gingee. The road was horrible, to say the least. Road-work was going on at various places and on the whole for about 70-80 KM, the road was really bad. Finally managed to reach Tiruvannamalai around 9:00PM. The crowd was maddening, traffic-jam everywhere. Barricades set up everywhere and we were not allowed to drive beyond a point and had to park in the Taluk office which served as the temporary parking for girivalam devotees, free of cost. We were very hungry, we had dinner at Nala’s residency which was a short walk away from where we parked the car.
The adventure started now. Crowd was slowly building up and we found out that our hotel was a good 4-5KM away from here ! None of the autos were ready to come as almost all roads leading to the hotel were blocked. We started to walk along with others who commenced their girivalam. Managed to get hold of an auto guy who agreed to drop us for Rs. 150. After all the explaining, he took us to a wrong hotel ‘Akshaya Inn’ instead of ‘Ashreya’. 🙁 Called up the hotel guy and asked him to help us find our way, the auto guy asked for a cool Rs. 700 for a drop at the hotel, and a drop back to the Temple!! We declined to take it and started to walk towards the hotel. We asked the person at the hotel to arrange for a drop to the temple and he confirmed it would be done. Following the GPS, we reached the hotel well past our schedule. It was almost 10:30PM when we reached the hotel after a walk of about 2KM already, though we hadn’t officially started our girivalam. Freshened up, and were ready to leave to the temple around 11:00PM. The auto guy arranged by the hotel demanded Rs.500 for a drop at the temple. We had no choice, we agreed. He drove in all possible routes, totally dark, bypassing all the barricades and finally reached the temple.
We started at the gopuram by lighting camphor and started to proceed about 200m when one of my friend’s colleagues showed up and told us that is not where we are supposed to start. The Rajagopuram was on the other side 🙂 We actually started at the wrong place. We decided that we will do it right and went back to the Rajagopuram. This time, we started rite and the time was 12:00AM on Sunday. We lost about 30 minutes in all this confusion. Hereafter there was no looking back as things slowly fell into place. We followed the other devotees and maintained a constant pace throughout.
On the way, there were many small temples, lingams which were of great importance, and I took time to click a few pictures. We reached the 7KM point with ease. Throughout, it was more like a fair than a pilgrimage. Various stalls selling things from eatables to fancy articles. We kept pace and had just quick break at the lemon soda stall. After we crossed another 2 KM, we stopped to have some water-melon just to keep our body hydrated. We were still not tired, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to walk bare-footed. We slowed down a bit and reached the point where it was 1KM left. That was where we literally dragged ourselves and kept going. As we finally reached the rajagopuram, the sense of accomplishment was unexplainable. It was a wonderful feeling. The time was 4:35AM. We walked for about four-and-a-half hours and completed our first girivalam. We worshipped the lord from outside the gopuram and since I couldn’t get one decent click of gopuram in the dark, we decided to come the next day just for a couple of clicks.
This time, we managed to get an auto and the guy charged Rs 300. Too tired to even think about arguing, we headed straight back to the hotel and crashed into the bed at 05:30AM. We slept until 08:00AM and got up for breakfast. We checked out immediately after breakfast and decided that this time, we will take the route through Vellore. We walked until we spotted an auto and asked him to take us to the rajagopuram. This time, the rates fell to Rs. 100. So I am assuming that on a non-Pournami day, it should be less than Rs. 100. I clicked a few shots of the gopuram and we proceeded to take our car from the parking.
We started around 11:00AM. This road was much better, After the stop of about an hour for lunch, we reached Chennai around 3:30PM on Sunday. With this, our trip came to an end.
Chennai – Tindivanam – Gingee – Thiruvannamalai – 187KM
Thiruvannamalai – Vellore – Chennai – 220KM
Some pointers to those who plan to go on a girivalam during full-moon (Pournami) in coming months –
1. Reach well before Pournami commences so that you can comfortably drive into the town.
2. Book a hotel close to the Rajagopuram as the girivalam starts and concludes here. Some of them I have seen are Hotel Ramakrishna, Hotel Nala’s Residency, Hotel Arunachala. I dont know how they are, but know for sure that they are very close to the temple.
3. Autos can be very expensive, so don’t put yourself in a position that you depend on them.
I am looking forward to repeating this again and God-willing, I will make it in the coming months too. Hope you enjoyed reading this.