Sri Arunachala Ashtakam & Guhai Namasivaya Cave

Presenting Sri Arunachala Ashtakam (eight verses to the sacred Arunachala Hill) composed by Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, the saint of Arunachala ( 1879-1950) . It is inspired by the work of the Tamil saint Guru Namasivaya, who lived in Tiruvannamalai circa 16th Century AD and was an ardent devotee of Shiva, much like Ramana himself many centuries later. In Shaiva tradition, the Arunachala Hill is taken to be as a form of Lord Shiva, and Bhagavan Ramana at one point of time in the early 20th Century had taken residence in the cave temple at the foothills of this hill where Guru Namasivaya and his master Guhai Namasivaya (Guhai means “ cave” in Tamil) had resided many centuries back. It’s a quiet, serene and well-maintained place fit for meditation, worship and contemplation. This is also the place of Guhai Namasivaya’s Jiva Samadhi ( living Samadhi), at the age of 200 (according to legend).

Guru Namasivaya (the disciple) was known for his devotion to Shiva and Guhai Namasivaya (much in the Guru-Shishya parampara). He composed numerous verses on Arunachala and Shiva, and was finally sent by his Guru to Chidambaram, the place of the famous Nataraja temple, on a divine mission to enlighten people. According to classical Tamil text, he is known to have performed miracles here such as making the deity Nataraja dance at his behest, witnessed by the three thousand priests of the temple. He is, according to one account, supposed to have passed away at Tirupperundurai, a holy town in Tamil Nadu.

Coming back  to Sri Arunachala Ashtakam ,it  is a beautiful, touching song based on the Arunachala Hill- sung in this video by Manachanallur Giridharan, a well-known Tamil music director and singer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manachanallur_Giridharan).

It is a metaphysical and devotional song steeped in the philosophy of Ramana, which sees the Hill as a manifestation of the Divine and Self (which are not separate), and sings paeans to it in praise.

To put it this way, the hill is not a hill. It is Shiva himself, and it is actually a representation of the human soul. The song sings, “Just as the waters rise up from the sea as clouds, then fall as rain and run back to the sea in streams; nothing can keep them from returning to their source. Likewise the jiva (Soul) rising up from Thee (the Almighty) cannot be kept from joining Thee again, although it strays into many paths on its way.”

Put it this way. No matter wherever you roam about or however you stray in your life, your soul will return to the Almighty, merge with the Divine in its entirety. This is allegory, imagery and devotion at a very refined, yet easily understandable level, which is the hallmark of Ramana’s teachings.

Even if you don’t understand the lyrics, the music will tug at your heart. Here it is:

 

And if you want to understand the lyrics, which are classical and beautiful, here it is with translation:

http://www.arunachalasamudra.org/ramanahymns4.html

I am attaching some pictures of Guhai Namasivaya Cave Temple taken during my visit to Tiruvannamalai in July 2018, which might help in understanding the place. Info about Guru Namashivaya and about Guhai Namashivaya can be had from the highly informative resources on Tiruvannamalai by David Godman :

http://davidgodman.org/asaints/gurunam1.shtml

http://davidgodman.org/asaints/guhainam.shtml

Happy listening and viewing. Om Namo Ramanayah . Om Namah Shivaya.

 

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With Perumal Swamy, a  wandering mendicant from a nearby town, who showed me around . To put his description of Guhai Namasivaya in his own words, “Rhumbho Powerful !” (very powerful) . Charming fellow 🙂  I had given him Rs.20 initially , and then paid for his auto fare back with me to Ramanashramam. We joked, “Ni Perumal, Na Bishnu” (you’re Perumal and I am Bishnu- both forms of  Lord Vishnu) .The autodriver chipped in ,” Na Venkata” ( I am Venkata – another form of Vishnu). We had  a hearty laugh together. There you have it- three guys with Vishnu’s name travelling in an Auto in Shiva’s own town 🙂  How  stranger can life be? 
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Perumal at the entrance to Guhai Namasivaya Temple. He enthusiastically showed me the whole place around. Without his help, I wouldn’t have found the place:) 
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Entrance to the Sanctum Sanatorium where Guhai Namashivaya lies in Samadhi- Jeeva Samadhi means you liberate your body at your will by eliminating the Pranas ( life energy) through your Chakras ( energy centres) – a feat realized only by seekers having supernatural powers
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A shrine below the rock
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Nandi- Shiva’ s mount. As the one who carries Shiva, he is a key feature in all Shiva temples.
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Mantapam inside the temple premises
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Temple premises . You can see the Arunachala Hill in the background.
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Nandi guarding the entrance to the Sanctum Sanatorium. It’s pitch dark inside, and you have to crawl through the rock to reach Guhai Namasivaya’s samadhi. Guhai Namasivaya was said to have attained Jiva Samadhi here.
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Ornate mandala at the entrance.
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Entrance to Jeeva Samadhi of Guhai Namasivaya
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The temple premises
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Banyan tree in the temple premises

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