By having darsana of Chidambaram
By being born in Kamalaya
By dying in Kasi
and in the case of Arunachala by mere remembrance,
one attains liberation.
Without ‘Movement’ there is no pilgrimage. Even a movement from one standpoint to another is a pilgrimage. It is said: ‘The duration taken for the self to reach the Self is time; and the distance covered by the self to reach the Self is space.’ And we can also say: ‘The effort put forth by the self to be the Self makes up the ‘Pilgrimage to Arunachala’.
         One residing in Arunachala or elsewhere, remembering that one is no more conditioned by time or space, is the beginning of this pilgrimage. From the pleasures of the external to the bliss supreme within, is this sacred yatra. The sages affirm that when one realizes that there has never been any dvandva; the dyads of outer and inner, then this pilgrimage is completed. The yatra, the pilgrim and Arunachala-kshetra, Infinite Column of Fire, all these in one is Arunachala Siva!
         From miles away, from whichever direction one travels towards Arunachala, whether by car or train, the first glimpse of the Hill brings about a silent change, a sense of increasing joy! Bhagavan as a boy only once travelled (by train) towards the Hill. When Dr. T.N. Krishnaswamy, the photographer royal, was wondering from which angle he should take the best picture of Arunachala, Bhagavan, of His own accord, said:
“A few miles before reaching the railway station, there is a small river-bridge. If you take the photograph from there, the Hill top and the big Temple tower would form one vertical line.”
The Heart held the whole Hill; the Eye saw clearly the features of the Form.



The rear view of the Hill is glorious, indeed! See how Paul Brunton describes It:
“The Hill now towers over our heads. It is not without its rugged grandeur, this lonely peak patterned with red, brown and grey boulders, thrusting Its flat head thousands of feet into the pearly sky . . .  I find a queer feeling of awe arising in me as I gaze up wonderingly at the steep incline of Arunachala.”


Another admirer, Anne Marshall, in her book Hunting the Guru in India, rhapsodizes:
“The sun was clearing the horizon. The gopurams of the Temple were silhouetted against the perfect cone of Arunachala Hill. It rose three thousand feet out of flat terrain, and being so close it completely dominated the scene. The summit was at that moment hidden in a cloud which deepened to a crimson coronet as it caught the first rays of sunlight. I had seen the Taj Mahal by moonlight, and the vast expanse of the snow-clad Himalayas stretching for a hundred miles, but in all India I never saw anything to equal this first glimpse of the holy Hill, rose-crowned by the glory of the morning light. It so dominated my mental horizon that I feel unequal to the task of impartial judgment.”
It is stated that ‘Arunachala’ is the one kshetra where the Hill, the Temple deity and the town all bear the same name. In Tamil it is called Annamalai. And from the Puranas downwards to the recent Mahatmas like Isanya Desikar, Guhanamasivaya, Virupakashadeva, Seshadri Swami, Ramana Maharshi and Yogi Ramsuratkumar, It has been regarded as Siva Himself.
         It is repeatedly stressed in ancient texts that while Mount Kailas is only the abode of Siva, Arunachala is Siva Himself! So it was very aptly called Annalmalai, Annal, like Atthan, being one of the Tamil names of Siva. In due course of time, Annalmalai came to be called Annaamalai. The name Annaamalai suits Arunachala very well, too, because it means “the mount which is beyond all reach” – not even Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma could reach either Its top or bottom, according to the sthala purana.
         The Hill is the solid, frozen form of the column of Fire, the manifestation of Siva as transcendent Being, beyond ‘I’ and ‘mine’. Poet Muruganar says:
“The sudden rise of the blazing column of Annamalai in front of Brahma and Vishnu symbolizes the sphurana of the Heart Centre as the real Self of the intellect and the ego.”
Saint Arunagirinathar extols Arunachala as the:
“essence of Jnana which consumes all knowledge”.
The sage Jnanasambandhar saw the Hill as:
“A mass of Jnana (Illumination)”, with the power to destroy at once and for all the vasanas of those who view It.
For Bhagavan Ramana, Arunachala:
“Is the holiest of all holy places: God Himself”. He sings: “To look for God while ignoring Thee, O Arunachala, who are Being and Awareness is like going lamp in hand to look for darkness.” (Ashtakam, v.4).
Supplementing the Child Saint’s statement, Bhagavan Ramana explains how this:
“Mass of Jnana” operates: “This Hill, the Lodestone of lives, arrests the movements of anyone who so much as thinks of It, draws him face to face with It, and fixes him motionless like Itself (the Self), to feed upon his soul (buddhi, ahamkara) thus ripened;”
(Pathikam, v.10).
Again, Arunachala:
“frees the mind from attachments, from the misery of darkness and makes it abide in the Bliss of Self.” (Navamanimalai, v.3).
He also gives the formula to receive Arunachala’s Grace:
“He who turns inward with untroubled mind to search where the ‘I’ arises, realizes the Self . . .  Thee, O Arunachala!” (Pancharatnam, v.3).
[by V.G.]