Jaya Jaya Sankara Hara Hara Sankara,
Never in my wild dreams I thought I would do this yatra…totally impromptu. I’m glad I undertook this yatra by Periyava’s grace and had the great darshan of Vellingiri Andavar. Have posted a detailed write-up along with a few pics/video clips of the yatra below. There are a handful of videos available in youtube (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=vellingiri+malai). The 2000+ year old mountain temple is open only for 4 months a year (Feb to May). Couple of weeks back, they just closed it this year for public due to the Covid second wave. Please watch those and plan for this extremely challenging yatra next year. Rama Rama
தென்னாடுடைய சிவனே போற்றி!
எந்நாட்டவர்க்கும் இறைவா போற்றி!
அண்ணாமலை எம் அண்ணா போற்றி!
கண்ணாரமுதக் கடலே போற்றி.
சீரார்ப்பெருந்துறை நம் தேவனடி போற்றி
ஆராத இன்பம் அருளும் மலை போற்றி
Manikkavasagar describes Shiva as the “ஆராத இன்பம் அருளும் மலை” – “the mountain that bestows undiminishing joy”. For those of us who have undertaken the pilgrimage, it is hard to miss how aptly this describes Vellingiri Hills in Coimbatore. These hills are revered as the தென்கயிலாயம் – the Kailash of the South. Madhya Kailash is mount Kailash in the Himalayas. Uttara Kailash only exists in the subtle form.
Lord Shiva manifests here as Pancha Lingesha – a swayambhu lingam surrounded by four lingams – together with Manonmani Amman, in a natural cave, about 6,000 feet above sea level.
Puranas say that Parvati waited for Shiva in the form of a young maiden. She gave herself an ultimatum to attain Him. Shiva journeyed from Kailasha to attain Her, but other gods conspired and delayed His journey. Parvati, heartbroken, left and stands today as Kanya Kumari at the southern tip of our subcontinent. Shiva, low in spirits and dejected, retreated to Vellingiri hills to do tapas – hence the name Dakshina Kailash.
Vellingiri goshAlA in Coimbatore has been partnering with us in our Gho Samrakshanam journey. In addition to supporting us on this effort, they have been fighting this cause on their own as well. We have transported over 900 rescued cows to this goshala in batches. We periodically follow-up on our cows to get first-hand updates on their health, living conditions and overall well-being. This time, we decided to visit Vellingiri goshAlA.
Vellingiri goshAlA is owned and managed by shrI Sivaganesh, owner of Shree Devi Textiles, Coimbatore – one of the most passionate fighters of the Gho Samrakshanam cause that we have come across.
We started our journey from Chennai to Coimbatore around noon on Friday, Mar 26, 2021 and reached there late that night. The purpose of our visit was to visit the goshAlA to check up on our cows and to explore other goshAlAs in the area to partner with. Little did we know that Velliyangiri Andavar had a different sankalpam for us. Late that night, we had a conversation with shrI Sivaganesh about Gho Samrakshanam. We had a very productive discussion about various ideas to expand our rescue efforts. During our conversation, he urged us to take the trek up the Vellingiri hills and get the blessings of Velliyangiri Andavar. This seemed like a great opportunity that had presented itself, to seek Parameshvara’s blessings for our PeriyavA Kainkaryam group to continue supporting all the causes we do today and to pray for overflowing compassion to come about in people’s minds towards all creatures around us. We immediately agreed.
There is a Velliyangiri Andavar temple at the base of the Vellingiri hills, about 20 kms outside Coimbatore city, managed by HR&CE. The Swayambhu Pancha Lingesha shrine atop the hills is managed by shrI Sivaganesh using his employees. The hill shrine is open for devotees from Feb to May every year. Devotees from many places come here to undertake this trek during this time every year. Visits on full moon nights are popular among devotees; visits on Shivarathri night – especially so. Women don’t undertake the climb, due to its strenuous nature.
After seeking the blessings of Velliyangiri Andavar and Manonmani Amman at the base of the hills, we ate a light breakfast, packed some water and started the trek around 9:30 am.
There are 7 hills and the total distance of the climb is about 12 kms. We were warned that it would be a grueling climb. There are no finished roads or steps or even semi-finished paths to climb up the hills – just a beaten path that is rocky and uneven, cleared by scores of people who have been traveling for hundreds of years. There is no cell phone reception. There is no way for any vehicles to make it up the hill; all travel must be on foot. Saint Agasthya, Adi Shankara and countless siddhars are said to have wandered these hills and performed tapas. Out of reverence to the hills, everyone climbs barefoot.
The first 6 hills have a few food vendors that sell snacks, buttermilk etc. Everything that vendors sell, everything the temple has and uses, is brought there by people that climb up the hills. Due to this reason, there aren’t many of them. Salted buttermilk is available to quench your thirst, but the catch is – the salt intensifies your thirst a little while later.
The summer heat radiates off the rocks and makes the atmosphere very hot. This makes the climb very exhausting. We saw lots of people resting on rocks and under trees along the way. To avoid the heat, some people climb up and down at night.
There is a natural spring at the base of the seventh hill that serves as the only source of water for the temple and for devotees. This is a popular resting point for people, due to exhaustion. By the time we reached here, we were already pretty exhausted. We stopped there to catch our breath and to quickly freshen up.
Then we continued our climb. To our surprise, the atmosphere of the 7th hill turned breezy and a little cold. The hills are full of medicinal herb plants and the air carries their scent. We finally reached the shrine around 5 pm. Our climb took us about 8 hours. We learned later that younger and more frequent climbers make it up the hill in 3 hours and down in 2 hours. Parama bhAgyam that in spite of the huge challenge of having to climb these hills, they are blessed with several darshans of Pancha Lingesha.
At the start of the season in Feb each year, 6 employees of Shree Devi Textiles climb up the hill and stay at the shrine to perform puja Kainkaryams to Pancha Lingesha. They perform all the temple activities. Water is a precious resource. They don’t even have the luxury of daily showers. They go down to the natural spring at the base of the 7th hill every 4 days to refresh themselves and replenish water for the temple. They have a small kitchen where they cook naivedyam for Shiva and a morsel for themselves. They stay there until the end of May, when darshan ends for the year.
The shrine is a natural cave with a beautiful Swayambhu lingam inside it, surrounded by 4 lingams and ambal. Puja is performed three times daily (trikaala) in Odhuvar tradition with paripoorna bhakti and shraddha. We had no idea about puja timings at the temple, but by periyavA’s anugraham we reached there just 30 minutes before their third kala puja. Since it was full moon night, there was a continuous stream of devotees. ShrI Sivaganesh had sent word to the shrine about us, ahead of our arrival. They acknowledged our arrival. We were famished from the grueling climb, but also extremely happy to have made it.
We had a blissful darshan that night. The swayambhu lingam on the dakshina kailasham and full moon representing Ambal as the “Chandra mandala madhyaga” (She who resides in the middle of the Lunar system), gave us the feeling that Parameshvara and Parashakthi were present in person at the shrine. It was an experience like never before – very unique, fulfilling and unforgettable.
We ate some prasadam they offered us and slept for a few hours. Since we still had to make time to visit the goshAlA to check on our cows, we decided to climb down at night. So, we started our descent at 2:30 am and reached the base of the hills around 11 am. We visited Velliyangiri Andavar at the base again, to offer our prayers and gratitude for the successful pilgrimage.
We felt that the experience pushed hard at our resolve and reminded us that it is not by our effort, but by His will and His will alone that we were able to make this climb. We pray to Parameshvara for more opportunities to come back here to pray at the feet of Vellingiri Andavar.
We urge all our Kainkaryam members to undertake this pilgrimage as often as possible – at least once in this lifetime. Starting the journey around 4 am in the morning and the descent, around 4 pm or very early the next morning, in early February, would be ideal to keep exhaustion from heat to a minimum.
Aside from the fact that this pilgrimage to get the blessings of Velliyangiri Andavar was very fulfilling, there is a deeper connection between our Kainkaryam priorities and the blessed people that manage this temple. Devotees visiting the shrine offer money as part of their prarthana. But shrI Sivaganesh’s employees tell them – “Vellingiri Andavar does not have a tradition of taking offerings here. Instead, He is pleased when devotees use the money to feed and care for cows in their localities”. We were deeply moved when we heard this. PeriyavA’s anugraham and shrI Sivaganesh’s Bhakti and commitment to Gho Samrakshanam have not only enabled scores of people to have a blissful darshan of Parameshvara, but have also been nudging scores of people to engage in cow welfare. Many Jaya Jaya Shankara to shrI Sivaganesh and his team for such dedication and selfless service.
Then we headed to Vellingiri goshala, about 10 kms away. It is a very big goshAlA with 43 permanent shelters, 38 dedicated employees to care for the cows, a dedicated kitchen to provide food for the employees, and over 3,000 cows. About a third of the cows here are ours. Cows are free to move around within their shelters. Upon talking to the people working at the goshAlA, we came to know that shrI Sivaganesh visits the cows in the wee hours of the morning every week, makes note of any concerns or cows that seem uncomfortable or restless, and promptly brings it to the attention of the employees the very next morning. We are grateful to Periyava for His anugraham that has helped us establish this partnership with shrI Sivaganesh, to march ahead with a firm resolve to completely stop cow slaughter.
We spent about an hour and a half at the goshAlA, checking up on our cows and then started back. We reached Chennai around 2 am the next morning. By periyavA’s anugraham, this was a very rewarding and productive trip that continues to energize us towards rescuing and rehabilitating more and more cows.
ஏகம்பத்துறை எந்தாய் போற்றி
பாகம் பெண்ணுரு ஆனாய் போற்றி
பராய்த்துறை மேவிய பரனே போற்றி
சிராப்பள்ளி மேவிய சிவனே போற்றி
காவாய் கனகத் திரளே போற்றி
கயிலை மலையானே போற்றி போற்றி.
Hara Hara Shankara Jaya Jaya Shankara