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The Mystique of Maruthwamala

A Photo Journal - By Sujit Sivanand.

A trek up the hill where Narayana Guru lived a reclusive life in meditation until experiencing Absolute wisdom.

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The Mystique of Maruthwamala

  1. 1. NPHILNPHIL The Mystique Of Maruthwã-mala A Photo Journal By Sujit Sivanand
  2. 2. This Photo Journal is dedicated to • Mrs. Vimala Sreedharan, who encouraged my visit to Maruthwã-mala, the holy hill. Her countless visits to the ‘ashram’ at the foot of the hill have all gone without her once trekking to the hilltop. Her faith in Narayana Guru’s wisdom took her back to the foot of the hill each time. • To the elderly ones who might hold the desire to trek Maruthwã-mala, but health and other limiting circumstances might not permit the climb up this hill. • And, to all those inspired by Narayana Guru’s remarkable humanistic philosophy of oneness, to who this holy hill will remain - the unconquered mountain of mystique.
  3. 3. Maruthwãmala area is marked with an arrow on the map of the Southern tip if the Indian peninsula.
  4. 4. Traditionally, realistic paintings, charcoal sketches and sculpture were the popular methods to create iconography. Sree Narayana Guru’s birth in the mid-19th century AD coincided with inventions and development of photography as a popular new medium for picturisation. Maruthwãmala is the last hill on the southern tip of the Indian peninsula. Just 6 Kms from Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin). Image sourced from Google Maps.
  5. 5. A hill made of matter, mind, or both? Maruthwã-mala After years of austere penance and meditation in the breezy rock-cave atop this hill, the dawn of Absolute consciousnesses was experienced by Narayana Guru - saint, poet and humanist philosopher (1856~1928). Maruthwã-mala to Narayana Guru is like Bodhgaya to Gautama Buddha.
  6. 6. The name ‘Maruthwã-mala’ originates from the Tamil language. In ancient times the hill was known as ‘marunthu vazhum malai’ meaning - ‘the hill where medicines thrive’. The Last HillThe Last Hill Indian mythology and legends attribute the hill to be a part fallen off Sanjeevi, the mountain of medicinal herbs, carried by Hanuman from the Himalayas to Srilanka - medicines for healing the fatal wounds of Lakshmana the brother of Rama, the hero of the ancient Indian epic Ramayana.
  7. 7. Maruthwã-mala has been the spiritual abode of the saints and seekers of Truth from legendary to near recent times. The hill is at the southern tip of the Indian peninsula, surrounded by the Bay of Bengal on the east, the Indian Ocean on the south and the Arabian sea on the west. The Last HillThe Last Hill
  8. 8. Maruthwãmala is the last hill on the southern tip of the Indian peninsula. Just 6 KM from Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin).
  9. 9. On the approach road to the foot of Maruthwãmala. We see buildings at various levels on the lower hillsides . These appear to be temples.
  10. 10. Maruthwãmala hill has a few buildings, including small shrines, on the lower levels.
  11. 11. Buildings and temples at various levels on the lower hillsides of Maruthwãmala. The trekking trails are on the western and southern sides of the hill.
  12. 12. A close-up shot of buildings and temples at various levels on the lower hillsides of Maruthwãmala.
  13. 13. A wandering mendicant. We initially met him at the foot of the hill and later on the peak. On his first visit to destination Marutwa-mala, as one of the four holy hills of the South.
  14. 14. Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham’s Ashram at the foot of Maruthwãmala.
  15. 15. Library at Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham’s Ashram at the foot of the hill.
  16. 16. Where the uphill trek begins. A lady drawing water from the well.
  17. 17. Relief mural of Krishna on the rock.
  18. 18. Initially the road is paved leading a to set of steps. At this point the trek appeared simple. Our thinking was that there were steps - all the way up! The steps end in no time.
  19. 19. To the right of the trail, this seemed to be a small Hanuman temple. Now abandoned. This is just a few meters up from ground zero.
  20. 20. Looking back. A small hillock at the foot of Maruthwa-mala. As the climb progresses this hillock becomes smaller and an indicator of the viewing elevation.
  21. 21. Maruthwãmala’s shrubbery at the lower levels.
  22. 22. From the foot of the hill two friendly dogs joined us as our guides. Uninvited, they took over the responsibility of leading us up the hill, patiently waiting at each stop on the uphill trek.
  23. 23. The second guide dog.
  24. 24. The steps end at the elevation of this temple. There is lower-level cave behind this temple.
  25. 25. The priest at the temple, early on the way uphill.
  26. 26. The lower level cave, just a few meters above sea level. Narayana Guru and Chattampi Swamikal have used this cave for meditation. The main cave is close to the peak of the hill.
  27. 27. A visitor in meditation in the lower level cave.
  28. 28. View of the entrance from inside the lower level cave.
  29. 29. Another view.
  30. 30. Our guide dog reacts to more climbers who, she has sensed, are coming up the hill behind us. She barks off, warning us of intruders into our trekking territory.
  31. 31. The rocky terrain and its vegetation. Mostly shrubbery.
  32. 32. The flora of Maruthwãmala.
  33. 33. Nature’s cantilevered rock formations. This one appeared like a ‘sphinx head’.
  34. 34. This rock appeared like the relief figure of a ‘mother and child’.
  35. 35. More views of the ‘child rock’ and ‘sphinx head’.
  36. 36. View of the plain below and the Arabian Sea. The south-western view.
  37. 37. The dog’s coat blends in with colours of the rocks.
  38. 38. Hazy morning view of the Cape Comorin area from above.
  39. 39. Dog calmly waits for us to see around and proceed. She is listening for other trekkers that might cross our way.
  40. 40. The uphill trek continues.
  41. 41. Cacti on the rocks.
  42. 42. The hillock at the foot of Maruthwãmala now looks so much smaller. Backwaters come into the view.
  43. 43. The villages below.
  44. 44. Zoomed-in shot of the roof of one of the temples in the village below.
  45. 45. The higher the elevation the smaller the hillock and village below.
  46. 46. Falling rocks form natural caves.
  47. 47. Close up of a natural cave formation.
  48. 48. The flora of Maruthwãmala.
  49. 49. The flora of Maruthwãmala.
  50. 50. The flora of Maruthwãmala.
  51. 51. She patiently waits for us to continue the climb, whenever I stop to capture photographs.
  52. 52. The flora of Maruthwãmala.
  53. 53. Another view from a higher elevation. The hillock visibly smaller, on the left of this frame.
  54. 54. The two dogs show us the source of natural water. A spring from the rocks. The dogs drink water to quench their thirst.
  55. 55. The dogs wait at the water source thinking that we might also need some water. Looks like they overheard us say that we might run out of water.
  56. 56. Another view of the vegetation on the rocks.
  57. 57. Co-climbers take rest under the shade of a tree.
  58. 58. Another view from a higher elevation.
  59. 59. A better view of the backwaters below.
  60. 60. The guide’s usual patient wait for us. The dog’s coat now takes the colour of the sand!
  61. 61. The fauna of Maruthwãmala. A lizard that camouflages with the rock.
  62. 62. The fauna of Maruthwãmala.
  63. 63. Another lizard. The fauna of Maruthwãmala.
  64. 64. View of the Cape Comorin area.
  65. 65. Visitors apparently from SNDP Yogam Branch No 888 have ‘left their marks’.
  66. 66. Another view.
  67. 67. Grassy rocks with trees at higher elevations.
  68. 68. A zoomed in view of the Cape Comorin area on the South. The Vivekananda Rock and the towering statue of Thiruvalluvar are visible in silhouettes. It is a hazy morning.
  69. 69. Another view of the plains below.
  70. 70. Getting closer to the peak. Flags are visible atop the peak of the hill.
  71. 71. The last part of the trek to the cave, and the peak of the hill, which is a few meters above the main cave.
  72. 72. The large rock that forms the back wall of the main cave (Pillathadam) on the other side.
  73. 73. Another view of the rock.
  74. 74. The downward entrance to the level of the cave floor. One has to climb down the hole to reach the cave, which is open towards the side of Arabian Sea on the West.
  75. 75. Inside view of the cave where Narayana Guru spent long durations in meditation, leading up to his enlightenment.
  76. 76. Another view.
  77. 77. The mess created by the lighting of lamps and other rituals performed by visitors.
  78. 78. Another view.
  79. 79. More inside views of the cave.
  80. 80. More inside views of the cave.
  81. 81. More inside views of the cave.
  82. 82. View of the world below. View from the main cave atop Maruthwãmala. No wonder man’s differences on the ground had not relevance from this perspective!
  83. 83. At the peak of Maruthwãmala. The cave is just below this level. The flat rock formation on the right serves as the roof of the cave right below.
  84. 84. At the peak of Maruthwãmala. One level above the cave. The flat rock formation in the centre serves as the roof of the cave right below.
  85. 85. View to the Western Ghats in the background. This view is possible only from the peak of Maruthwãmala as the trekking trails are all on the south-western side of the hill.
  86. 86. View from the peak of Maruthwãmala. The flags that we saw from down below.
  87. 87. A windmill farm in the valley below. This is the Eastern view of Tamil Nadu to the side of town of Ambasamudram.
  88. 88. View from the peak of Maruthwãmala.
  89. 89. View of the eastern, Bay of Bengal, side. The mendicant, who we met at the foot of the hill, too has reached the top of the hill.
  90. 90. View from the peak of Maruthwãmala. The mendicant poses for us.
  91. 91. NPHILNPHIL The End