On July 8th I got an opportunity to go for yatra to Velliangiri Mountain. This is first-of-a-kind in my life and its an amazing journey which challenged my physical and mental strength. Here goes the story of my journey to the Velliangiri Mountain. First a few word about Velliangiri Mountain.
Velliangiri Mountain, a part of the Nilgiri biosphere, situated at the western border of Coimbatore district, Tamilnadu. In Tamil, “Velli” means “Silver”. Since the mountain most of the time covered by mist its get the name, Velliangiri. The Mountain is covered with thick forest with all kind of herbs, fauna & flora which makes trekkers to visit this place in large number. At base of the Mountain, Isha Foundation is located and it’s very famous for Dhyanalinga & Linga Bhairavi temple (Both are consecrated by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev , a Yogi, Mystic, visionary and poet).
Thenkailaya Bhakthi Iyyakam (TBI), a volunteer group, organizes yatra every year in the month of Feb to June. Basically the difference between Yatra and Trekking is, yatra is a kind spiritual tool to enhance one’s spiritual growth where Trekking is purely based on adventure & enjoyment.
Velliangiri consists of seven mountains and the objective of the yatra is to climb all the seven and to reach the top of the 7th mountain (located 6000 ft. above sea level) and have Darshan of swayambu lingam and Sadhguru Sri Brahma cave. The seventh mountain is well known for its chillness, wind force, cloudy mist, and the steepness which is very slippery in nature gives hard climbing for a devotee/Trekker
The seven mountains reverberates the seven basic chakras of human body shows its sacredness. So, anyone who pilgrimages to these powerful mountains with proper Sathana and guidance can receive all the 7 basic dimensions of life.
This mountain also called as Thenkailayam, that is, Kailash of the south. According to the legend, a young maiden at the southern-most point of the Indian peninsular want to marry Shiva and her devotion & austerities crossed all levels of sanity and this stirred Shiva’s compassion and love. So Shiva started making his journey to south India to marry her. She set up a deadline such a way that if Shiva didn’t reach specific times on specific day she decided to leave the body. When Shiva came to know of this deadline he was hurrying down to meet & marry her. But he couldn’t meet the deadline due to a conspiracy set by some people who wish Shiva not to get married with her. Since Shiva didn’t arrive, she left the body by standing position (This place currently called as Kanyakumari). After this happening, Shiva felt very disappointed with himself that he could not make it on time and he started walking back and needed a place to sit and work out his despondency. So he climbed up this Velliangiri Mountain and at the peak of this mountain he sat.
Wherever Shiva spent a little time in mountain, people call that mountain 'Kailash' since the mountains imbibe his presence and reverberate it eternally. So they called the Velliangiri Mountain the 'Kailash of the South'. Apart from Shiva, many great beings bestowed their energy and wisdom in Velliangiri peak making this mountain more significant for one to pilgrimage.
Every pournami between Feb to June people throng this place both for yatra and trekking. People climb the mountain at night and see sun rise at 7th peak and climb down by noon. For a professional trekker, with no rain, it will take 7 hours to cover the total distance of 12 kms. For normal trekker it will take additional 3 to 4 hours extra. If climate become worst it is difficult to trek. The forest is a reserved area since it contains Elephants, King cobra, bears, monkey, cheetah (very few), leech, wild bull & boars. The mountain has “koki mullu kaadu (forest)” which is too dangerous. If anyone struck in that forest it’s almost like a slow & painful death. Usually the villagers will not climb the forest, if they likely to see one drop of rain also. So one has to understand the risk involved in climbing this mountain.
In these mountains, every hill has its own difficulty and 7th hill will be the toughest. In 7th hill the temperature will drop to zero and ice crystals will be formed in leg and hand. Also the wind force will be very high. (Recently a group of people fell down and died because of high wind). In spite of all dangerous things, lakhs of devotees/trekkers throng this place every year to get socked with Shiva’s energy.
Being an Isha meditator, once in a while I visit Isha ashram (for Sadhguru darshan )which is located at the velliangiri foothills and I got very much attracted toward the Mountain. But I never dream to climb it. In June month, I got news that a group of Isha meditators from my locality is going for yatra on July 8th. I felt that this is a good opportunity and I immediately enrolled in the yatra. The yatra is arranged by TBI. The yatra has two option 1) Initiated to a powerful viradham process 2) without viradham process. I enrolled into viradham process which is for 12 days only (usually 48 days). I also informed that this is a special yatra, since the time for climbing the mountain is closed due to the south-west monsoon going to start any time. Also they informed that this time they planned to climb the mountain early morning and finish the trip by 5 PM evening.
The 12 days viradham starts and I followed the process as per the instruction. Along with this process daily morning I will go for a brisk walk which will cover 2 Km. By this way I made myself ready for the journey. Day before the journey, I bought trekking bag, Torch light, Rain coat, warm cloth and Nokia E63 battery for my mobile (as my previous got old & bulged)
On July 7th we started from Chennai by boarding kovai express and reached Coimbatore at 3 PM. Then we travelled to ashram by Van and reached there at 4: 15 PM. Totally 120 members have registered for this yatra through Thenkailaya bakthi iyyakkam (TBI). We have been asked to assemble at one place @ 9 PM. Although TBI is an independent group of volunteers, Isha support them from outside.
At 9 PM, One Brahmachari of ashram, who is going to accompany us in the journey, gave instructions for yatra and asked everybody to be ready at 4:45 AM morning. As per instruction everybody should start climbing the mountain at 5: 30 AM and at 11 AM they need to be at 7th hill. If anybody does not make it they need to wait wherever they are and should not continue the trek. While return those who waited need to return along with the team. If anybody encounters wild animal, the instruction is keep quiet and let the animal take the decision. In the entire trek one has to tell the “Maha Mantra” repeatedly which will keep safe from all the danger. I went to sleep by 10 PM. After a good sleep, I wake up by 4:00 AM and come to the Isha gate by 4: 45 AM. I wore thick warm cloth inside with thin T. Shirt outside and kavi veshti around my waist. For everybody they gave a bamboo stick, water packets, fruits & food packets. From ashram gate we went to Velliangiri base through bus and started climbing at 5: 30 AM.
At the base of the mountain there is a temple. Since its early morning it’s being locked. I prayed from outside and started the journey. Since the hill is very sacred no person is allowed with slippers. I already left my slippers in my stay area and keep walking with bare foot. The first hill is very steep and fortunately stone steps have been put and I started walking. After 100 steps I found very difficult to walk with my current clothing. I removed all my clothing except under ware and a small kavi towel to cover my under ware and continue walking. Its look like semi-nude but I don’t care since I feel very comfortable. In between I saw few people get giddiness and they preferred to stay in that place itself. Continuing the mantra I keep walking, walking, walking. In between I take few sip of water. Soon my energy got drained and I take few burfis, rising and dates. The lush green forest & songs of the birds & trees give me a boost and made me walking continuously. Based on individual walking speed, soon the crowd disappeared and only I found maximum 2 people surrounding with 10 meters of separation. Nearly at 7:00 AM I climbed the first hill. At the end of first hill vinayaka temple can be found.
Velliangiri Temp at base
Me @ first hill
Second hill beginning
Again taking some sweets I started walking. In second hill compared to first hill, the stone steps are not proper. Any way it’s wonderful that someone has laid it for yatrians. This has been laid 20 years before with help of local people. The scenarios are very ecstatic that one can forget walking itself. Initially I made mistake by enjoying those moments. After looking the watch I found that time is running and walked with hurry. At 8 AM I crossed the second hill. At the end of the second hill one can found “Valuku parrai” (slippery rock). This is the beginning of third hill.
As per name the rock is slippery in nature. One has to be very careful. After crossing “Valuku parrai” there comes a sunnai (small opening where water comes) at the side of the hill. It is called pampatti sunnai. The water is very tasty but it contains black particles. I don’t know what it is. Any way drank it and continues walking. Here come the monkeys. A group of monkeys looked at my bag and they want to steal it from me. At first my adrenaline start pumping and I understand the situation and start walking faster. But they are not leaving me. With no body is there to help me, a thought raised in my mind. With my bamboo stick I hit the rocks. It’s really worked and I escaped from the monkeys. Soon I able to felt the raise in altitude with the houses in the village getting smaller and rise in wind speed. Finally at 8: 45 AM I climbed the third hill. At the end of the third hill “kai thati sunnai” can be found. Actually you need to go inside a cave aside the hill to drink the water. Fortunately I saw the people who climb faster than me. They take their breakfast and supposed to start climb the fourth hill.
One of the meditator told me to take breakfast and told me the direction of “kai thati sunnai”. By this time my entire energy come down and I put my bag aside and had my breakfast. Since there is no water with me now and take water from that sunnai and stared walking the fourth hill. By this time again everybody vanished from my sight and I left alone. Now the difficulty starts. There are no stone steps. Only rocks formed in natural way. One side altitude is increasing, wind speed is increasing and my bag weight is increasing. Fourth hill took my mental strength from me totally. Some time I felt that I am not sure whether I am walking in correct path. Nearly at 10 AM I came to a place where the steepness disappeared and flat area came with high wind speed. Here comes one young guy who is going down to base. I enquired him and come to know that I crossed fourth hill.
At the fifth hill, the forest becomes a little thin and here comes the first glimpse of the vast reserve forest below. Now the hill becomes friendlier and less steep. There are many look-out points and while walking suddenly I started crying. Not because of the trek but because of my bag. I got angry with my bag and I throwed it in one place and lie down. Although the bag is same like before the weight is increasing with altitude which makes me tired. Then I open the bag and take 2 water bottles which in my bag and make it empty. Then I take some rest and started walking again. Now I feel liitle lighter weight of my bag. I walked continuously and at one point I decided not to continue further. My entire physical & mental strength disappeared. I sat on one look-out point. After few minutes, I found myself semi- naked and I started laughing about myself. I almost look like a begger.
After few minutes an old man who is also going for trek rested with me. He motivated me to walk further and we started again. Almost at 10: 45 AM we reached sixth hill. The name of the Sixth hill is viboothi malai. (Holy ash mountain). The mud in this mountain looks like viboothi. I take that mud and put it in my fore head. From this hill one can view the seventh hill nandhi. In seventh hill there is a rock which looks like real nandhi. What an amazing view it is. Now the clouds are passing with us and this hill like fourth hill is very difficult as one need to climb down in steep manner. I and the old man continuously walking and finally we crossed the sixth hill. At the end of the sixth hill another sunnai (aandi sunnai) is there and it is like small lake. I take a half-bath and when I look at the watch its 11 AM. I worried very much that I couldn’t able to make it. Since as per instruction I need to wait there and I rested there with old man. After few minutes another three person joint with us and they told us to walk. One of the people is a lady. I am very confused whether to obey the instruction or walk with the new friends. We argue with each other and at the same time we saw the lady keep walking. Suddenly everybody started walking following the lady. After initial hesitation I also stared walking.
fifth and sixth hill
seventh hill from sixth hill (in between a big gap is there. we need to climb down and up again to reach base of 7th hill
While walking on the 7th hill, all of the sudden the climate changed and cloud get thicker with high wind speed starting blowing my face. This makes climbing difficult. I put a thin T shirt (after long time) since I feel very cold and soon the scenario around me disappeared and everywhere there is white and white only. By this time we saw ashram brahmacharis & people coming down. Initially they asked us of why we are still climbing, as time already passed. I don’t know what to do. While explaining to us, few people started walking up. Brahmacharis explained us the situation and they tried very hard to stop us to go up further and the lady started crying (for her it’s second time, first time being failure). At last swami this time makes it very strong and asked everyone who climbing up to come down as the climate getting worst. I could not control my emotion. After such a difficult trek for 6 hours, without going to the peak, I feel very sad. Finally with heavy heart I started climbing down with others.
When almost climbing down reaching sixth hill, a strange thing happens. We saw a young brahmachari walking with 5 people going up. Intially brahmacharis had some conversation and finally the younger one told that he will take responsibility by bringing 5 of them safe to base. Suddenly I find an opportunity and stand there without going up or down. The young brahmachari seeing me enquired whether I had darshan. I said, “no”. Then, he told, “join us”.
I don’t know what to say. I thought it’s all because of sadhguru. Suddenly I got new fresh energy coming within me & I again started climbing up with other 5 people + 3 of us. The old man told that he is not coming and he started going down. Here I met Krishna, Chennai coordinator for this yatra. I asked him for one help to take my bag and place it somewhere that I can take it afterwards. He told me that he will put my bag at aandi sunnai, the sixth hill. I handover my bag to him and started walking upward one more time. After 30 minutes of walk at 1 PM I come to the peak. I found wall of thrisul which leads to the small rock temple. What a happy moment this is. At last after lot of obstacles I am there and in few moments I am going to have darshan of swambu linga. This is it. I had reached and immediately my emotion breaks all barriers and tears flowing from my eyes like a water falls.
seventh hill peak
Then all of 8 people came up and done prayers. I saw the nandhi rock. What a big rock and its look like a real nandhi guarding that place. Apart from nandhi there is another big rock where I spend few moments. When I look down I saw my leg with ice crystal in the tiny hair. It’s almost everywhere in my body. I got thirsty since for 3 hours I didn’t have any water. Since I don’t have any bag, I just whipped the ice crystal and placed in my tongue. I feel nice. Soon everybody ready to climb down and I had a final darshan with siva and started climbing down. Since the climate got worsed, brahmachari told that we cannot visit Sadhguru sri brahma spot. This place is another important place since he is a great yogi who left the body 100 years ago.
In his cave he written like, Nan thirumbi varuven (I will return back again). [This is another big story which is the seed for formation for Isha foundation, dhyanalinga etc., and the story will be told later]. Any way I am very happy that I had darshan of shiva and I though myself that, “Sri Brahma telling to me that I am not ready to visit his cave”.
We stared climbing down and for a strange another brahmachari is waiting for us. He wanted to help all of us. Now we have two people to guide us and when we reached the sixth hill the clock ticking 2 PM. I looked for my bag and I could not find one. Now I don’t know what to do. After having few sip in aandi sunnai. I just sat down in a rock. I am very hungry and brahmachari told to us to finish lunch soon. All of them are eating and I am sitting quietly. One person told that he has extra food and offered me the same. After eating the food when we supposed to start, rain started coming.
Everybody finding a place to hide and brahmachari told not to hide but continue the journey. Since we have only limited time. He told that as per situation it will take 1 hour for each hill to climb down and last hill (first hill) it will take 2 hours. I calculated myself. That means it will take 7 hours. My god without having torch I don’t know how to make it. With this we started to climb down. As rain is heavy I could not able to walk. Usually I will get sinusitis if my head is exposing to water. That’s the reason I wash my head once a week only. But this times no escape. If I use my towel then I will go half-naked and it will not be good since four ladies are there. I asked one person if he has any towel. He said no. Then I asked other and he gives a little big kerchief. I thanked him and put it in my head. Since the length is not big I need to hold it in one hand and other I need to carry bamboo stick. With heavy rain and wind, it’s an arduous journey to me.
At last at 3 PM we reached fifth hill. Now I need to climb up and water is flowing like a mini flood. After few minutes I climbed up and reached flat valley. On the way I see one leech. This is first time I am seeing. Other person told me not to see, since it knows the smell and it come attach to us. So I started walking further. I want to reach the base at least by 7 Pm to avoid dark. But the arithmetic is not favoring me and as brahmachari told it take each hour to climb down the hill. Soon I & another younger guy joint together and we started walking little fast leaving seven people and two brahmacharis.
When we reach fourth hill the time is 4 PM. Now we able to see villages and tiny houses and very big thick forest down. On the side of the fourth hill you can see a dense forest which is called “seetha vanam”. There is a link to ramayan. This seetha vanam is the only place where you will find all kind of fruits, herbs etc., but this is not the place for humans. We can only see it from distance. Now both of us started walking down fast and soon I saw the old man and three others in my journey who all been left behind the team. Any way I started walking speed and my aim is to at least reach first hill by 7 PM. Since there is vinayaka temple, I thought I will be safe. After 30 minutes I saw that I am walking alone since I walked down too fast I left my companion. Finally I reached “valluku paari” at 6 PM. Now sun setting already, rain went away and darkness slowly arises. Since it is very wet instead of walking I used my buttock to climb down “valluku paarai”. Now I noticed a strange sound and I went fast since I don’t want to be food for any animal. Later it is confirmed by another person that it’s a little bear which came and sat in “valluku paarai” after I climbed down.
After hectic journey I reached vinayak temple at first hill at 7 PM. Then I started doing ritual as per instruction since I am in viradham process. The ritual ends officially the virdham process. For my surprise I found my bag at the corner of the temple and big smile appeared in my face as if I got lottery of 1 crore. Soon my companion, old man, another person who’s leg muscles got sprain reached the temple. Since the companion came for just trekking (not viradham) he went down leaving three of us. I helped them with the rituals and it’s almost 7: 15 PM now. I asked other two whether they have torch. They said no. Now since I have torch I need to guide two of them to reach the base. Keeping remembering the brahmachari words that it will take 2 hours to climb down the first hill, I hurry up fast. But since one person leg has problem, the journey affected badly. At 7: 45 PM, the place completely surrounded by darkness. So I switched on my torch and we walked.
May be 30 minutes passed and suddenly the torch is off due to battery down. For the first time I learnt that for trekking we need to buy a different type of torch. This torch is for home purpose. Then we walked in the darkness slowly. At distance we saw one light and its temple light at the base. I very much happy that finally we are going to reach the base soon. Later I realized that we are only walking, walking, walking and we are not nearing anywhere the base. The light is looking same as like before.
I some time walk with leg and most of the time walk with buttock. Then I though let we use our mobiles. One person does not have mobile and the old man has nokia mobile with no light option. Only choice is my E63 mobile and sadly it shown only two point of battery with no signal. With that we walked further. I don’t know how much time it stayed. May be 1.5 hour, after that mobile switched off and darkness is covered. Although first I frightened of dark, then I realized that there is no need for that. After few minutes I notice that our eyes are adjusting to the dark and really we could see things in shades even though there is no moon. I saw few lights here and there and the old man told that it is light bug (minmini puchi). After a dark journey we saw light, not only light, but temple also. We shouted for help, and reply came. It’s my other companion. He reached there and with that lady who cried in the 7th hill (it is still surprise that how she passed us). After few minutes we reached the base and when I saw my watch it is 10: 45 PM. My god, we almost take 3 hours 30 minutes to climb down the first hill.
In the base I changed to normal clothing & sat down to take rest. I asked the temple admin for water and he gave me water. It’s almost 8 hours I didn’t have any water. After that the temple man done some noise and later I understood that Elephants are trying to come. This is usual thing for them since it’s their time and their place.
Then we waited for 2 brahmacharis and 5 more people. But before that we find a car and we departed from there. Since it’s Indica, one person has been left out and he told that he will wait and come next. Afterward I learnt that the last batch came at 1 PM and their journey to ashram stopped due to elephants which is nice story which I will tell later.
I need to thank the young brahmachari and my bamboo stick which become my third leg in my journey. It took nearly 17 hours for me to complete the journey. It is a life experience and I enjoyed it completely. Now I am ready for the next journey which is going to start on March 2013.
The old man later told me that it is tougher than sabari malai (he is guru swami) and Sathuragiri. Many people shared the same thing while returning to Chennai. It can be compred to Amarnath yatra in the north. Now I become very much attracted for this mountain and also for trekking.
The next yatra is planned on next year, day after shivarathri. (March 12).
The next yatra is planned on next year, day after shivarathri. (March 12).