Bhagavan’s brief association with Pavalakundru has been noted in all his biographies. Additional stories about his time there appear in books by his devotees. Many of the stories I intend to recount will be familiar to readers of this account. My excuse for retelling them is that I will include a number of photos of the site (such as the one above) that I believe few devotees will have seen before.
Pavalakundru is a craggy outcrop of rock to the north of the Arunachaleswarar Temple. Though the name literally translates as ‘Coral Hill’, it is made up of rugged, grey, granite blocks that tower a couple of hundred feet above the surrounding town of Tiruvannamalai. The origin of the name is unknown. It has been a traditional part of the town’s spiritual landscape for centuries; Bhagavan mentioned that it was one of the possible places that Parvati did tapas in the stories that are chronicled in the Arunachala Mahatmyam and Arunachala Puranam.
The temple of Pavalakundru, taken not long after Ramana Maharshi lived there.
The Pavalakundru Temple, taken from the giri-pradakshina road as one approaches the town centre of Tiruvannamalai. The level ground at the foot of the hill is now covered with shops and other businesses. I would guess that the photo dates from the 1920s or 30s.
Bhagavan retreated to this isolated hill in 1898 when the crowds seeking his attention in the main temple became too much of a disturbance. He had already concluded his tenure of Gurumurtam and was looking for somewhere else to stay. In those early days Palaniswami was the only person looking after him, but even he was occasionally absent. On those occasions Bhagavan would beg for his food on the streets of Tiruvannamalai.
David Godman Books
Books by David Godman on Ramana Maharshi, his devotees and his teachings