The importance of the sacred place of Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu lies in the secret of its being the centre of the thejo linga kshetra and in its being the secret abode of the Supreme Lord Shiva in his elemental form of fire. While the celebrated linga adorns the temple of Arunachaleswara, Skandapurana comes out with the exciting fact that the mountain of Arunachala is itself the present version of the original fiery linga in the form of a pillar that confronted Brahma and Vishnu in times of great antiquity, the Lord having settled himself in the form of the mountain in order to bless all beings who go round it. He is the august divinity living seemingly silent as a pradakshinapriya. But those who have gone round and worshipped him know he is not silent but verily vibrant as a beacon of light – as a jyoti sui generis.
The great one who first beckoned me through the emerald route leading to the sanctity of Arunachala was none other than Bhagawan Sri Seshadri Swamigal himself. Early in the 1970s, I had not even heard of his name. But one day, as I was meditating in Bangalore in the early hours of the morning his effulgent figure appeared before me. The thejasic vision with the golden face and form was such that I had no two opinions about his being a great one. I was only keen on the identity of the central figure of my visionary experience. It was only when I saw his portrait on the same evening in a great devotee’s place that I came to know about his identity. I thanked him silently for his kindness of the type that has no parallel in this world.
As I learnt that his samadhi and abode of tranquillity glorified Arunachala, I embarked on a pilgrimage to the ashram shortly thereafter. It was past midnight when my friends and I reached the samadhi. After about two hours of rest, I woke up early and found that the whole landscape around was totally plunged in darkness because it was a new moon day (Amavasya); even the electrical lights were not visible. But lo! It was not dark in one spot behind the ashram at the foot of the mountain of Arunachala! A huge elliptical ball of brilliant light stood from the ground to a gigantic height. The sight of what I would like to call Aruna-jyoti was also shared by another who came out with me at the same time. The jyoti vanished after two minutes.
I should hasten to add that the jyoti of Arunachaleswara is not confined to any particular form or denomination. Everything depends upon His will, grace and illimitable kindness. Indeed, the Lord is everywhere, inside every jeevan, inside the mountain of Arunachala and outside. What makes visits to the ashram exciting is the rewarding experiences of the jyoti – thanks to Arunachaleswara’s manifestations of his jyotirmaya form. What is even greater about the Lord is that, as the scriptures proclaim, he is visible in his jyoti state both in the Antarmukha and Bahirmuka – in the microcosm and the macrocosm.
Variety and Vividness
The jyoti that becomes visible either as a result of the grace of Sree Seshadri Swamigal or Sree Arunachaleswara is so variegated that no one can say anything precise about a great God who defies description. But it can be categorically asserted as emphasized by Skandapurana that Arunachala offers more vivid experiences of the celestial light or jyoti than any other kshetra.
It would be fitting to conclude this brief narrative on the greatness of Arunachala with two or three fairly recent experiences.
The huge star
Once there was an Akhanda Chandi Homa in the meditation hall (Dhyana Mantapam) at the ashram and Sri Seshadri Swamigal manifesting through Smt. Uma Devi, had told us the previous day that the jyoti would be visible after commencement of the Chandi Homam at about 4-45AM. Exactly at that time, the jyoti appearing ilke a star (of the size of moon) started twinkling slowly and zooming brightly for five to ten minutes from the top centre of the eastern block of the mountain facing the ashram. A sister and a niece of mine witnessed the starry phenomenon along with me.
The Saptha Rishis
During a pradakshina on the western side, I stopped for a while to offer prayers – intently gazing at the mountain peak. What was the wondrous sight? Seven streaks of bright light emerged one after another from the peak – from the bosom of the mountain – and reached the Saptha Rishi Mandala above. We continued our pradakshina. Later in the day we all met in Sri. Muthukumaraswamy’s residence for a brief spell. Although I had kept the remarkable sight of the Rishis to myself, Smt. Uma Devi asked me if I had seen the Saptha Rishis in the form of light! She was not in the group (with us) that did the pradakshina!
The Aurora of Arunachala
Perhaps the most spectacular of the jyoti phenomena is the aurora of Arunachaleswara emerging from the top of the mountain in a fantastic cluster of rays beaming to great heights on all directions. This was visible once on the eve of our pradakshina from Sree Sehadri Swamigal’s ashram as the starting point of pradakshina. What is significant is the same aurora in miniature form is sometimes also visible from the top of the jyotirlinga in Arunachaleswara temple!
Arunrchaleswara holds more in his bosom than we know and there is more in the mountain than meets the eye! If those who undertake a pradakshina or worship of Arunachaleswara or those who seek refuge in their chosen Sadgurus or those who get a glimpse of the greatness of Arunachala through these introductory articles based on the legendary authority of Skandapurana, happen to come face to face with the celestial jyoti, I verily believe that the light I have sought to throw on the greatness and aurora of Arunachala will not be in vain.
Let Sri Arunachaleswara and Sree Apeeta Kuchamba dwell prominently in the heart of all devotees and let the Rishis, Saints and Sadgurus en-kindle their aspirations!
-Om tat sat-
Prayer to Sree Seshadri Swamigal:
Karunaasaagaram Shaantam Arunachalavaasinam
Sri Seshadri Gurum Vande Brahmibhutam Taponidhim.