Any visit to the abode of spiritual masters is always enriching and enlightening. Our visit to Sri Ramana ashram, Virupaksha cave and Skandashram on Arunachala hill at Thiruvannamalai was no exception. The first time I read about Ramana Maharshi was in the book “Secrets of Spiritual India” by Paul Brunton. In this book, Paul Brunton has described his personal experiences with spiritual masters and godmen in India. He has talked about Ramana Maharshi in glowing terms.
Friends suggest visit to Thiruvannamalai
When I was planning a trip to Chennai in February to attend the marriage of Bokka’s daughter (Bokka is our hostel mate from Delhi College of Engineering), my friend Ramana Rajgopaul suggested that we visit Thiruvannamalai as well. When I mentioned about this plan, S. Natrajan, another friend from Delhi hostel and a follower of Ramana Maharshi, got in touch and provided very useful information.
The words that would describe the feelings as we entered Ramana ashram premises were silence, peace and piousness. There were many devotees but no commotion. The darshan at the temple and the samadhi and everything else was happening in a very orderly manner. It is such a wonderful feeling to be in the abodes of spiritual masters where even after they are long gone, their teachings and legacy remains. The followers of these masters did not engage in noisy and pompous rituals. They went about the expression of their faith in a quiet and private way which would not trouble others as well as the environment.
Everyone who we talked to insisted that we go up Arunachala hill and visit the original abode of Ramana Maharshi as well as the cave where he mediated. Fortunately we started early in the morning and went up the mountain path from behind the ashram. Noticed that an NGO had taken efforts to maintain the vegetation on the hill.
The visit to Skandashram and Virupaksha Cave once again brought back the same feelings experienced while visiting the ashram. We did spend some time in meditation at the cave.
Sunrise in Kumaon mountains overlooking Ramganga valley
Each morning during our stay at Camp Shama in Kumaon mountains, was an experience which was full of delight, curiosity and a sense of fulfilment. No other meditation was required. Looking at the horizon from early morning around 5 a.m. for the next two hours was sheer bliss. The early morning soft rays of the sun would light up the mountain tops one by one and then enter the valley to show the river hidden in the night blanket. When you start seeing the river, it is morning and time for chai.
After a hard day in mountains in Sangla valley in Himachal, this fellow was on his way home. We met him late afternoon near Chitkul. He had a heavy sack on his back. Not very articulate and not keen to talk, his persona reflected the quintessential hill folk. They are rustic, hardy, simple, god fearing and content with life.
Village Chitkul which is the last village on the Indian side (the mountain ranges would lead into Tibet) can be seen in the background, whereas river Baspa is to the left. I shot this picture in early October when the colours start changing from green to yellow to red and the skies are clear. ( Chitkul, 2014)
Twilight in the hills at Shoja in Himachal was a surreal experience. It was a fascinating walk through Shoja in Himachal, a village on the edge of the mountains.
All houses with slate roofs, close knit to be available for each other at a shout and living together with their cattle. To be on the edge all the time is something urbanites cannot imagine. The slate stone shines when the sun rays fall upon it at an angle. From a distance, this is quite a view.
Forest walk in the mountains near Rakcham in this region of Sangla valley was a beautiful trail. Pine trees dotted the entire stretch.
Most noteworthy aspect of this jungle walk was that the only sound was that of the breeze and the fast flowing Baspa river below in the valley. During the entire stretch, we did not come across a single soul. Finally, when we started going down towards the plain after the forest walk got over, we noticed an odd shepherd looking after his large flock.
Sangla valley is surrounded by forested slopes. It offers views of the high mountains. Furthermore, this valley is rich in apple orchards, apricot, Wall-nut, Cedar trees, and glacial streams with trout. Besides Chitkul and Kamru, main villages in the valley include Rakcham, Batseri, Themgarang, Chansu, Brua, Shong ,Kilba and Sapni.
Sangla Valley is a part of Kinnaur and inhibited by Kinnauris. The main livelihood is agriculture. Apples are a major cash crop here. This region grows some of the finest apples worldwide. The soil here as well as the weather contribute to the superior quality of the apples grown here. The valley is shut during winter due to heavy snowfall during the months from December to May. At Karcham, the old Indo-Tibet road connects Sangla to National Highway 05.
( Sangla valley, 2014 )
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