"Arunachala Siva - On the Girivalam Path" by Dr. Bharat Bhushan imagines stories at each of the Asta Lingams on the perimeter of the Girivalam Roadway around Arunachala. Those stories have been created from memories of ancestral tales, legends, folklore and the experiences of pilgrims.

Story of Vayu Lingam - God of Wind

Vayu Lingam has the north-west direction as its direction. It is situated on the girivalam pathway, about one kilometer after the village of Adi Annamalai.

Vayu is the Hindu god of wind and he is often associated with Indra. His vehicle is the deer. Kedhu (Kethu) is the dominant Navagraha of this Lingam. As Vayu is the God of wind, He provides creatures with vital life-giving breath thus sustaining the entire Universe.

It is reported that at any time of the day, and in every season, when one enters this shrine one is always greeted by a gust of wind.

Relief from heart diseases, stomach problems, lung problems and general illness are conferred to the devotees on worshipping this Lingam.

Arunachala Shiva!!!
My thoughts ride on the swift wind, to you...

" Arunachala!" She exclaimed, "May the blessings of the Vayu Lingam be upon me!"

Dipika raised her hands together in salute, in prayer, gesturing towards the Vayu Lingam temple as she approached. She had walked swiftly with her son and daughter since the morning, not stopping at any of the ashtalingams on the Girivalam path. This was her normal routine, once in two months, to journey in from Tirupati by the night bus, visit the Annamalai temple for a quick prayer, do a rapid 2-3 hour pradakshana, go into the temple for a relaxed darshan, and take the night bus for the return journey.

An athlete by training, as were her children, and in excellent fitness, she was content to complete the pradakshana as a personal goal, every two months. Usually accompanied by her adult children, Dipika could outdo both of them at speed walking even at 51 years of age. Her daughter was getting slower each year, she had remarked, since dropping out of competitive hockey. Her son was a total non-athlete now, she thought. IF not for the bi-monthly compulsory rounds around the sacred Arunachala, they would be too happy to avoid any form of strenuous walking. Speed was a qualifying factor for her. Dipika measured her status in life by the speed and stamina that she demonstrated in walking on the Girivalam path. Once in a while, if she were to be accompanied by newcomers to Tiruvannamalai, she would take them into each of the ashtalingams on the path for a quick prayer, or a brief spot of rest, while she would fume impatiently to herself.

It was only 8.00 a.m. and she had started from the temple at about 6.30 a.m. The clouds had hidden the sacred peak of Arunachala, preventing her from gazing upon her beloved Shiva as she would often on earlier pradakshanas. As she approached the Vayu Lingam temple, Dipika's daughter asked her to stop for a while as she was thirsty and wanted to get a tender coconut. Instantly, her son also declared that he was tired, so the three of them could get tender coconuts and take a break at the Vayu Lingam temple. For Dipika, this was akin to inefficiency. It was only a fifteen kilometer walk, and one should just complete it. That was that. Thirst or tiredness was not part of her routine. But since it was to be a break at one of the ashtalingams, she could not refuse. Grabbing at one of the tender coconuts, she drank hastily and went inside the Vayu Lingam temple to worship.

The Vayu Lingam temple is very unlike the Yama Lingam, Niruthi Lingam or the Varuna Lingam temples. The outer sanctum area is not as extensive as the others. There are very few places for one to sit relaxed. Dipika chose one of the only two locations in the anterior from where one could sit and gaze at the sacred peak of Arunachala Shiva. Her son and daughter were chatting with the tender-coconut vendor. An elderly man, sitting near the small shanty, possibly the lady vendor's husband or father or brother, sat nearby, waiting to pick up the coconut, if Dipika was to throw it anywhere on the temple premises. Her daughter anticipating Dipika's impatience came up and took the coconut and dropped it in a bin near the shanty in front of the temple. Just then, the clouds began to move around the sacred peak of Arunachala. They were moving about, around the peak. The dawn light had come and gone when she had been walking from the Agni Lingam temple to the Yama Lingam temple.

She could see a number of foreigners grouped together, waiting to get the early dawn photographs of Arunachala between Sri Ramanashram and the Yama Lingam temple. They should have been here, she thought, watching the clouds play about and around Arunachala. The clouds did not seem to want to move away from Shiva, she said to herself, smiling.

Dipika was sad within herself, watching the clouds and the sacred peak of Arunachala. She could sense her thoughts, and she could sense that she wanted to speak about what she felt at the sight, but who could she share it with? Her children would mock her. They would get back to Tirupati and tell the 200 or more relatives in her very extended family that their mother was getting poetic or crazy while on the Girivalam path. She looked around, and there were only one another in the temple. The priest at the Vayu Lingam temple was the only other person, and he was busy. Whom could she talk to?

Her daughter came up to her and said that she would take a quick nap now, since they seemed to be resting. Instantly, as always, her son also declared his intention to take a nap. Dipika was irritated but she understood their plight. They must have stayed awake in the bus journey through the night and must be very tired. Whom could she talk to? The lady coconut-vendor was busy and she would not move away from her shop. There was only the elderly man sitting at the shop, silently, watching out for people littering at the shop or at the temple premises. There were no other options. He would have to do, Dipika thought, and gestured for him to get her another tender-coconut. Smiling, at getting some action, he bounded up and got a coconut from the lady and brought it over. There! Dipika thought, now she had him. She asked him," Enna Periappa, how come I am not able to see the sacred peak of Arunachala as yet, clearly, though dawn is long gone, and it is not winter or monsoon days?"

The elderly man looked up at the sacred peak and the clouds covering the upper slopes, and said, "That is the magic of Arunachala! HE decides if HE wants you to see HIM or not! It is that simple. It has nothing to do with the monsoon or winter, day or night. On some nights, I have seen the sacred upper slopes of Arunachala, glistening in the moonlight. On some stormy days, when I could not see the Girivalam path, due to heavy rain, I could only see the uppermost peak, dry and clear in the noon sun that struck it from above. How would we know why HE stays hidden or decides to come out and show HIMSELF?" As he stood patiently near her, waiting for her to drink all the tender coconut water, Dipika asked him, "But, there is no wind out there, at all! The clouds are not moving and not going away. Look at the trees, the coconut trees. They are all still, absolutely still. Why is it so strangely quiet? I cannot hear any birds, not even crows. Even the dogs are in hiding. There are not many devotees walking about today! Have you seen such a day, Periappa? You seem to be very old and wise, old man, and you must have lived all your years in the shadow of Arunachala. Do you feel blessed enough to know why it is so quiet?"

The elderly man sat down near Dipika, resting himself against one of the pillars of the Vayu Lingam temple. He said, "Blessed? Blessed, did you say? I have never noticed if we are different from those who are as poor as we are, from those who live in other places and sell tender coconut water. Someday we are happy and someday we are sad. Sometimes we have very bad problems. Our son is in Chennai, and he sells flowers near the Parthasarathy temple at Triplicane. He is married and lives in a small hut that he has made for himself behind his shop. At night, his children sleep in the shop. We must be blessed, we feel, on some days. Then I see you and other devotees walk here on the Girivalam path. I see your devotion and I see the intent on the faces of old and young. I do not understand it myself."

"Someday I think I should go on a pilgrimage somewhere else," he continued, "I want to understand it, that brings so many people here to Arunachala is. Every day is the same for me here, and yet, every day is different. I have begun to recognize some of the regular devotees over the years now. I have seen you before. This is the first time that you have stopped to get tender coconut water from us. There is one man who gives me a hundred rupees, each time that he comes on the Girivalam path. I had picked up a coconut that he had thrown. Since then, he gives me a hundred rupees each time that he comes. Because of him, I know that the month has gone by, for he comes only once in a month. I have never noticed that he wind has stopped moving about on Arunachala. I do not notice things like that."

Dipika was happy just to listen to him speak. She felt the same at Tirumala and Tirupati. So many hundreds of thousands of pilgrims came to Tirupati every day. They came to see the deity for a view of less than five minutes, or 2-3 minutes for some. It was merely the journey, she thought. She came here, each month, just for the journey, to visit the temple and walk on the Girivalam path. She had never had any exclusive prayer or special requests to Arunachala. To give credit to her children, they had never questioned her for her journeys to Tiruvannamalai, and they had never refused to accompany her on the pilgrimage or on the Girivalam path. The elderly man must also be feeling the same sort of thoughts that she and others felt at Tirupati and Tirumala.

She asked the elderly man, "How can you not notice the wind, Periappa? You are at the Vayu Lingam temple! If there is any place in the world where you must absolutely notice the presence or absence of wind, it must be here! For, this is the Vayu Lingam temple, where the god of wind, Vayu, himself, is supposed to have rendered prayers to Lord Shiva. He is one of the strongest guardians of the directions among the eight dikapalas. We cannot even live if there would be no wind!"

The elderly man laughed and said, "Yes! You are correct! How can we search for the wind when we are already at the Vayu Lingam temple? I have never thought in this manner. We are here, every day, in service to all the devotees and pilgrims who come walking on the Girivalam path. For us, the sacred peak of Arunachala is in front of us all the time. There are clouds in the upper slopes on some days, and on other days, there are none. Does it make Arunachala any different? Do you get any special blessings if you can see HIM, and do you get denied from blessings, if you cannot see HIM? I have never thought like this. For me, and my old lady, and for those like us, from this land, HE is there. That is absolute. Why do we need to question that just because of clouds, rain, wind or lightning?"

Dipika looked at the elderly man with respect. He spoke so profoundly and with such splendid clarity. Yet, he spoke in a very simple language. She thought back to all the great vidhwans who came to Tirupati, including sages and seers who spoke for hours at the special sessions organized by the local institutions. They wore special dresses, and were given tremendous respect, and there would usually be very restrictive protocol about them. There were some who disliked being touched, and there were others who would actually keep a ring of junior sages around them to prevent close contact. They explained godly matters using very complicated verse. This elderly man was very different, simple and direct. This was the magic of Arunachala, she thought to herself, and the joy of being on the Girivalam path. You could speak to anyone and one could learn about various aspects through simple anecdotes or statements.

She spoke again, to the elderly man, "You are very correct, Periappa. A few clouds cannot hide Arunachala . However since we are here at the Vayu Lingam temple, and Vayu is one of the eight guardians of the directions, I wondered if there was anything significant in the aspect of the absence of wind on the higher slopes. My questions were merely in humour. How would it matter to the aspect of the Vayu Lingam temple and his prowess and strength? Yesterday, I was at Tiruvannamalai, and I saw an old sadhu near the Agni Lingam temple being given some food by a foreigner. For him, it was the only thing that mattered. Whether he got any food for the day or not? Would he wonder if he would get food because there were any clouds, or if there was any wind? Certainly not, I guess."

The elderly man smiled and pointed at the priest at the Vayu Lingam temple, and replied, "What do you think that the priest sees? From where he stands, he cannot see the upper slopes of Arunachala. Each time he turns around, he sees the inner sanctum of the Vayu Lingam , and he sees the Lingam, and nothing else. His entire dedications, all the prayers that he recites, are all in appreciation to Shiva. But, each time that he turns away, he sees the devotees standing there, trusting him to convey their prayers to Shiva. He sees the Vayu Lingam, multiplied in the eyes of every devotee. But, do you know the unique mathematical riddle that he wonders about every day?"

Laughing heartily to himself, the elderly man continued, "You and other devotees on the sacred Girivalam path certainly do proclaim that Arunachala Shiva is within the heart of every devotee. That HE is deep within us, when we are in HIS shadow, below the sacred peak. If that is to be true, then how does the priest at every temple resolve the riddle of seeing the Shiva Lingam reflected in each eye of every devotee facing the inner sanctum? If one sees Shiva in each eye of a devotee, is he twice-born within each devotee? These are questions that we make up for ourselves, and these are questions that do not have answers. We make up these questions and we will look wise only if we give complex answers. For me, HE is there, and HE is here, with me and with you. That's all that matters."

Dipika smiled in acceptance. How could one agree or argue? It was just a simple statement from a person who was not dismayed that years of presence in the shadow of the sacred Arunachala had not resulted in any exceptional material benefits. He simply accepted Shiva without any question and without any demand. There was no dilution. Again, she thought back to her children. They had never argued with her on the occasions that she brought them with her to Tiruvannamalai or took them along to Tirumala or Shirdi. They did not seem to get excited or content or blissful during these pilgrimages. She had herself never thought about any significant change that had come over her due to these journeys. Perhaps her children were also as minimalistic in their dedication to deities, as was this elderly man.

At that moment, two cars drove up speedily and came to a halt at the Vayu Lingam temple. A group of 7-8men, dressed in visibly stylish all-white clothes stepped out, decked in gold necklaces, gold wristwatches and thick gold rings on several fingers. Must be a group of rich businessmen, she thought. They rushed into the temple, worshipped at the Vayu Lingam, touched the sacred ash to their foreheads, placed considerable amounts of money on the plate containing the sacred ash and rushed out to their vehicles and were gone. Their entire visit must not have been more than 2-3 minutes. The elderly man sighed, and spoke, "What would you say to this? They come on this extra super fast visit, going to all the ashtalingams on the Girivalam path, worshipping
Shiva in such a rapid manner. They come every month and they do not spend any additional time on the path.

Once, one of their drivers said that they were all from Puducheri, but had businesses all over Tamil Nadu. They had come together on the first occasion on a surprise visit, while driving through Coimbatore or Salem. Subsequently, their businesses began to prosper. They meet up somewhere and they drive in, visit all the ashtalingams and Annamalai at the big temple and they get back to wherever they came from. Why do they benefit and become very rich when they do not contemplate on the sacred Arunachala in a peaceful manner? Why does my old lady continue to sell coconuts in spite of being here, in the shadow of the sacred Arunachala for all her life? Should I place the blame on Arunachala Shiva?"

Dipika nodded in agreement, and thought to herself, 'He is so correct! I have been an athlete over so many years. Have I won races or matches only because of Shiva's blessings? If it were to be so, would he not be wrong to bless only one player or one team? Gazing at the higher slopes of the sacred Arunachala, she said, "You are very right, Periappa! It does not matter if we are going to prosper because of Shiva's blessings. It is sufficient for us to retain our belief in HIM and ensure that we come back to HIM, whether on the Girivalam path, or in our homes, or within ourselves. Our defeat to HIM is our victory. I come back on the path, again and again, not knowing what to expect. I come, carrying all my burden of troubles, worries, fights and all the bad events that have occurred to me. I come here and hand them over to Arunachala. HE takes them all away from me without any question."

"I think that is the only guarantee. That HE will be here, that as we go around HIM, I know that I have to only turn towards my right, and I can see him all the while. I can tell him to take away all my troubles. Beyond every single day, is the aspect of Arunachala Shiva, and I know that he will call me, to come to HIM, and take me in HIS embrace and forgive me, nurture me and allow me to live in his shadow, in only one single relationship. Me and HIM. That is the only truth."

Story of Kubera Lingam - Lord of Light

Kubera Lingam has the North as its direction. It is located on the girivalam pathway before entering the town and a few hundred metres before the Panchamukham.

The Kubera Lingam has Lord Brihaspati (Guru or Jupiter) as its dominant graham. He has three legs and eight teeth. His vehicle is a female goat. His abode is in the capital of the Himalayas. His consort is Yakshi. He is the Chief of the Yakshas who safeguards the riches of the Devas. He is a very friendly with Shiva.

It is believed that Lord Kubera came to this place to worship Arunachala in order to maintain his wealth and prosperity. Hence a Shiva lingam was installed and consecrated at a point exactly north from the mountain.

Kubera is the God of wealth and material possessions. He does not create wealth, but he is believed to be the one who distributes wealth amongst his devotees.

Arunachala Siva !!!
Bless me, that I will always return, to you...

"Arunachala!" he whispered, "What is this amazing family of the night that you create!"

Rangabhashyam sat at the open seat-ledge outside the Kubera Lingam temple. It was a Girivalam full-moon night, around 2 a.m., and he sat amazed, watching the nearly hundred devotees and pilgrims walking, sitting, worshipping, chanting, sleeping and eating near the temple. The Kubera Lingam temple was amazingly comfortable and perhaps, thoughtfully improved, this year in 1975, he thought. Pilgrims starting on the Girivalam walk from the Annamalai temple or Sri Ramanashram would be happy to take a break by the time they would reach the Kubera Lingam temple. There were open spaces alongside the temple, and the pavement was ample here, with some improved amenities in the mid 70s. Devotees, pilgrims, vendors, sadhus, mendicants and local volunteers, everyone found a place near the temple on the Girivalam full-moon night.

He had started walking at 11.30 p.m., and it had been slow progress, walking with the groups of devotees along the path. There must have been at least a thousand or more pilgrims walking on the Girivalam path tonight. Somehow, slowly, resting when possible, Rangabhashyam had managed to get up to the Kubera Lingam temple. The devotees had queued up outside the temple and there were clusters of devotees standing around the outer sanctum. Some devotees were throwing coins towards the temple, as was the unusual or usual practice at the Kubera Lingam. There were also groups of 3-4 sadhus and mendicants seated in a disciplined manner on the pavement seeking alms from the devotees. Vendors were selling foodstuffs, devotional items and memorabilia.

Rangabhashyam loved this experience. He had been on the Girivalam path, years ago, with his parents, when they had travelled up from Srivilliputtur with his two sisters. They had stayed at a choultry, cooking their own food, travelling meagrely, and enjoying every aspect of the pilgrimage. He had many memories of that visit. His father had been very enterprising and loved to travel. They had travelled all over Tamil Nadu, Kerala and as far north as Ahobilam and Tirupati. Those were the years between 1910 and 1925, and these places were not even named as such. Later, he had made one more pilgrimage after his marriage, to Tiruvannamalai, with Kodai, his wife, and three of his children, journeying from Srirangam, where they had migrated to, from Srivilliputtur. From one pilgrimage centre to the other, he thought, a Vaishnava in search of Shiva!!!

Those were the only two pilgrimages to the Girivalam path, as he remembered. His father had been travelling all the while and later he had moved away from Tamil Nadu. Memories, he thought, memories were a treasure. Walking on the Girivalam path in those days, with his parents had been a true adventure. The road as one saw it today was not there. It was a network of cart-tracks inside thick forests and scrublands and one had to walk from one of the ashtalingams to the other. Each of the ashtalingams was in the custody of a resident sadhu who had settled at the premises. Beyond the 2-3 other helper sadhus in those days, ten pilgrims were considered a crowd. Years later, when he had come with his wife and kids, they had hired a local couple from near the Agni Lingam temple. The man had carried their bags and the woman had helped them cook food and took care of the children. It had been difficult, he remembered, thinking of those days.

Today, it would be his third pilgrimage, he thought. The road was much better, with comfortable walking tracks, volunteers providing food and water, eating-stalls, quick prayers at the ashtalingams, and the sight of thousand pilgrims being recognised as not being enough. Rangabhashyam sat at the Kubera Lingam, thinking of all those who had gone ahead, of those who he would not meet again. And yet, he thought, as he sat there, he could almost reach out and talk to his father and mother. In spite of his marriage of many years, his children having grown up and with their own families, for Rangabhashyam, the most precious and most treasured memories were the years that he had been blessed with his parents. If given a chance, he would give away everything that he had gained to be back with his parents. That would not be, he thought, but being on the Girivalam path, brought everything back, flooding in.

There was a significant memory of his visit with his parents to the Kubera Lingam temple, sometime in 1910 or thereabouts. He had been 10-11 years of age, and his mother had been tired and she worried about the night journey with the girls. They had been advised by the priest at the Kubera Lingam temple to stay at a nearby hut across the cart-tracks towards the sacred peak of Arunachala. A mendicant sadhu covered in a blanket, had gone ahead and informed the family staying there. His father had paid four annas for the night, and had given a half-anna to the sadhu who had helped. The family was very unique, and that was why he had remembered them, after all these years. The man was a dwarf, and his wife had been incredibly tall, compared to him. Rangabhashyam's parents had not thought it to be amusing but he had never forgotten them.

The dwarf, tiny as he was, had been extremely fat, with a big belly. He had had a golden necklace and walked about with the support of a stout staff. He had been very kind and had asked his wife to warm up goat milk with jaggery for the two girls. One of his sisters had disliked it intensely and had passed on the clay container to Rangabhashyam. He had thought it to be very tasty. Today, sitting here, at the Kubera Lingam temple, he thought, what would he give, perhaps a month's salary, to get that hot cup of goat milk sweetened with jaggery. His mother and the dwarf's wife had been chatting all the while, and worked out the dinner together and Rangabhashyam could remember the snip of the tasty coconut-oil flavoured sambar to this day. Those days were gone, forever.

In his second visit with Kodai and his children, Rangabhashyam had delayed the pradakshana at the Kubera Lingam temple. Would he find the dwarf? Would that house be there? He had wondered about it and had keenly crossed the earlier ashtalingams quickly. Kodai had not known about his intent. It was sometime in 1929 or 1930, he remembered, two sons and a daughter had accompanied them, and Kodai was keen to seek the blessings of Arunachala after tragedy had taken away a child earlier. Rangabhashyam had asked the priest at the Kubera Lingam if he knew of a family across the road towards the sacred peak of Arunachala, of whom, the husband was a dwarf, and who had kept goats for their milk.

The priest had explained that he was new to the temple and he went back daily, by dusk, to a village near the panchamukham area. He had never crossed the road to explore the settlements in the lower slopes of the sacred Arunachala. They were all newcomers in any case, and there were only 6-10 houses in the area. Rangabhashyam had asked the local mendicants and sadhus who were camping at a small prehistoric type of ancient stone temple-structure nearby. None of the sadhus had helped him. But, Rangabhashyam had been keen, and had gone to a nearby hut and requested their help for his family to stay the night. They had allowed them, but they did not speak of a dwarf, his tall wife and his goats.

Now, in 1975, and in his third visit, Rangabhashyam was alone. They had all gone earlier, parents, sisters, Kodai - his beloved wife, and five of his children, had all journeyed before him to the great temple in the heavens. He had come down from Bombay, where his two sons had settled, to visit his daughter in Madras. With time to spare, he had got away by a bus and got a bed to sleep at the Gentlemen's Choultry at Sri Ramanashram. It had been pure bliss, getting away, finally. He could not remember when he had been entirely alone, by himself. Walking on the Girivalam path, all the memories came flooding back. He had actually sat down at the Yama Lingam and Niruthi Lingam temples and had broken down in tears.

Sitting here, he could sense his mother holding his hand, and sometimes he could remember the feel of his sisters' hands in his, holding on to him for support. He could close his eyes and feel the loving hands of Kodai, seeking his strength, and later asking him to carry their three year old son over the stony path.

The roads were well made now, tarred, with buses and cars driving by, and night lighting at some spots providing the welcome feeling. Pilgrims no longer cooked their food on the Girivalam path, out of absolute necessity. Eatables were available easily. He had taken a break at a 'tiffin kadai', actually a simple shanty made of palm leaves. They had served him a medley of two idlis, one masala vada, two types of chutneys and a small container of buttermilk - all for one rupee. He had almost laughed at the cost. It would have been at least two rupees in Bombay.

Rangabhashyam walked about, within and around the outer sanctum of the Kubera Lingam temple. Whom could he ask about the family he had met, nearly sixty years ago? Who would know? Turning towards Arunachala, he looked up at the sacred peak, in sharp silhouette under the full moon. It would not do any harm, he thought, and he spoke to Arunachala, within himself. "O Shiva! O Arunachala! My father taught me that you are the first Vaishnava. As you did, so did my beloved Kodai. She carried the Shankhu and the Chakram on her bare shoulders, and yet, she loved you dearly. Who was it that allowed my parents and sisters to stay the night, so close to you? Who was it that allowed you to love my parents, sisters, my Kodai and my children so much, that you have taken them in your embrace?"

As he said these thoughts, he saw a sadhu, aged, walking towards him, distinctively covered entirely by a blanket around him. There was something in his confident walk, the way he walked proudly, the repeated glance towards Arunachala, the steadfast denial to look down, and in his strong shoulders. Rangabhashyam extended his hands towards him and placed a five rupee note in the sadhu's palms. The sadhu looked startled. People rarely gave more than fifty paise and the rich would sometimes give a rupee. But, five rupees? This was surprising. He looked at Rangabhashyam enviously, and blessed him, "Swami, may Arunachala bless you!"

Hearing his voice, Rangabhashyam was sure. This was the same sadhu who had guided his parents to the dwarf's house. His father had given him a half-anna for his help. Smiling, Rangabhashyam said to him, "Periyanna, this is my resolution to a very old debt. Sixty years ago, you had helped my parents and my sisters stay for the night at a kind family's house for the night. My father had given a half-anna for your help. Do you remember? How can you remember? You meet so many pilgrims every day on his sacred path. Perhaps you can help me. Do you remember the family who had allowed us to stay at their home for the night? The man was a dwarf. Is the family alive?"

The mendicant sadhu smiled. He looked closely at Rangabhashyam and asked him to sit with him at the stone ledge outside the Kubera Lingam temple. He said, "You are that small boy, about ten years old, I remember, on that day. That dwarf, as you say, is my stepbrother. He could never stop talking about your family. He stayed in touch with your father, and they met each other once or twice at Tiruvannamalai. Yes. He is alive, older than me, of course, but very much present. His wife is also alive. They had moved their house to a secluded place inside the forest."

Rangabhashyam was happy. He looked up at Arunachala, conveyed a quiet prayer of thanks and spoke to the mendicant sadhu who was covered up with his blanket, "Periyanna, I never knew that you were related to the family we stayed with. Who was he? Why is his memory so strong in me? Why do I feel like I have to know about him? I had come here, when I was married, with my wife and children, sometime 45 years ago. But nobody knew about him. They never knew that there was a dwarf and his wife in the foothills of the sacred Arunachala in front of the Kubera Lingam temple."

The mendicant sadhu replied, "That is the tragedy now. The newcomers do not know of the siddhars who are the real guardians of the sacred region. Some say that they have been for hundreds of years. As much as you can remember, and as I can, all changes have taken place in these hundred years and as I feel, for the better. My brother seeks solitude and has very minimal needs. He is happy to be with Arunachala. Actually, he is a very rich man. Coconut groves, cultivation and dairy farms, away from Arunachala belong to his family. His wife's family and his children manage his properties. He lives as he taught. There are no personal needs in life. He does not need anything. I have been with him since my childhood. Sometime people like you place alms in my hand. I use it for the stuff that I cannot get in a normal way."

Rangabhashyam nodded and asked, "Can I meet him? Can I talk to him? He has been a part of my memories that I have not shared at all with my children, grown up as they are, with their children. I have thought of him, every day, in my prayers, in my sleep, in my thoughts about my parents, my sisters and my children who are no longer with me. Is it possible to go to his house and meet him?"

The mendicant sadhu said, "Wait here. Tonight is a full moon. He has to come to the temple. he has not come until now. It would be about time now. After his prayers, he will sit here for some time and watch everyone. He loves to watch the crowds, the devotees, the families and the manner in which the Girivalam path has become accepted among everyone. You wait here. I will join you when he comes."

It was about 4 a.m. or thereabouts, and devotees were moving about in waves. Many dropped coins at the open area outside the Kubera Lingam temple. Some families sat for a while. Several devotees placed coins in the open bowls in front of the sadhus who were seated in groups and chanting some prayers. The mendicant sadhu covered in a blanket stood silently, away from the crowd. He seemed very calm, unaffected by all the hustle and the numbers of people. He did not seem to be in need of alms. He was watching the dark lower slopes of Arunachala. He was waiting. After a while, he seemed to have spotted something. He shouted a prayer loudly and went inside the Kubera Lingam temple and took up a place in the premises in the outer sanctum. 3-4 mendicants came up from other places in the crowd and stood with him.

Rangabhashyam looked towards the lower slopes of Arunachala. He could not see anything. He continued to search. Then, he heard it. A faint bleat of a goat. There was an ancient prehistoric sort of medieval temple structure on the outer side of the road. It was a deserted place and in the darkness of the night, it looked like a haunted place. Suddenly as he watched, a goat stood there, quiet, watching, waiting. He kept looking at the goat. He was there; he could make out, a small shadow alongside the goat. The dwarf was there.

The goat stood still at the temple-like ancient structure while the dwarf man crossed the Girivalam path from the side of the sacred Arunachala to the Kubera Lingam temple. The groups of mendicant sadhus stopped singing. Some stood up to greet him in silent respect. He did not look like he was ninety years or more, in the manner in which he walked. He strode confidently, covered in a shawl, looking around, smiling and not stopping to talk to anyone. At the entrance to the temple, a group of 3-4 mendicant sadhus bowed in respect and touched his feet. At that moment, Rangabhashyam saw, he did not seem to have changed at all in his rotund shape.

He was fat, with a large belly, but despite it, nobody seemed to be noticing him for his shape at all. he had a golden necklace and was carrying a money bag that he handed over. One of the mendicants accepted the money bag and went over to the groups of waiting sadhus and kept handing over fistfuls of coins to them. As he saw, Rangabhashyam could notice, he now had a full-length silvery beard and a great moustache. Silvery hair, that seemed to make him look like a very wise man.

The mendicant sadhu with the blanket walked up to him from the outer sanctum and went with the wise looking dwarf to the temple. He did not push the pilgrims aside and did not break the queue. Quietly, without any showy display, he conveyed his prayer, and walked out to the garden area. He seemed to be carrying some pomegranates in his hand that he handed over to the kids who were picking up the coins being thrown by the devotees. The mendicant sadhu with the blanket spoke to the wise looking dwarf and pointed towards Rangabhashyam. Nodding, the wise looking dwarf came up to him.

"It has been a long time, Son, a very long time." He said, "You are an old man now, with your own grandchildren. Why did you not come earlier?" Rangabhashyam broke down in tears, and bowed down to touch the feet of the wise looking dwarf. The mendicant sadhu with the blanket said, "Anna, he has lost five of his children. They went back to Vaikunta as kids." The wise looking dwarf looked at Rangabhashyam quietly, thinking of all those who had gone, and made him sit on the stone ledge. He said, "I understand. You are in search of your people; you are in search of your memories. I am in search of that family who came to meet me sixty years ago. I remember your mother and your father. I remember your sisters."

"Come, come with me to my hut on the foothills of Arunachala, and stay with me for 2-3 days. My lady will be so happy. She remembers your family. Mind it; you were the only family to stay with us in all these years. The memories of that single day have made them feel like they were our family. We can talk to you about what your father and mother said, and how they loved to take care of you and your sisters. My lady will tell you how much your sisters loved you and how they gossiped. Come. My life has not changed much. My friend, my beloved Arunachala, does not allow me to go back to him, though I ask him to call me to him every day."

Rangabhashyam stood up and walked away obediently with the wise looking dwarf to the foothills of the sacred Arunachala in the hours of the early dawn. This would be his longest Girivalam pradakshana, he thought.