Girivalam: A Sacred Journey Around Arunachala Hill

Girivalam: A Sacred Journey Around Arunachala Hill
  • Jun 10, 2024

Girivalam: A Sacred Journey Around Arunachala Hill


Girivalam, also known as Giri Pradakshina, is a revered spiritual practice in Tiruvannamalai, where devotees circumambulate the sacred Arunachala Hill. This ancient tradition is deeply rooted in the belief that Arunachala Hill is a manifestation of Lord Shiva. Pilgrims from all over the world undertake this 14-kilometer journey with immense faith and devotion. In this blog, we will explore the spiritual significance of Girivalam, the detailed route, and practical tips for making the most of this sacred journey.

The Spiritual Significance of Girivalam

Girivalam holds immense spiritual importance for devotees of Lord Shiva. The practice is believed to bring about purification of the mind and body, offering spiritual liberation and blessings from the divine.

Key Beliefs

  • Divine Presence: Arunachala Hill is considered an embodiment of Lord Shiva, representing his eternal and formless nature.
  • Karmic Cleansing: Circumambulating the hill is believed to cleanse one's karma, leading to spiritual growth and liberation (moksha).
  • Enhanced Devotion: The act of walking around the hill is seen as an expression of deep devotion and surrender to Lord Shiva.

The Route of Girivalam

The Girivalam path is approximately 14 kilometers long and encircles the base of Arunachala Hill. This route takes devotees through various significant landmarks and offers a profound spiritual experience.

Detailed Route

  1. Starting Point: Most devotees begin their journey at the Annamalaiyar Temple, proceeding in a clockwise direction.
  2. Adi Annamalai Temple: One of the oldest temples on the route, offering a serene spot for prayer and reflection.
  3. Indra Lingam: The first of the eight lingams along the path, each dedicated to different directions and deities.
  4. Agni Lingam: Known for its association with fire, this lingam is believed to purify the soul.
  5. Yama Lingam: Dedicated to Yama, the god of death, symbolizing the cycle of life and death.
  6. Niruthi Lingam: Associated with protection and removal of obstacles.
  7. Varuna Lingam: Linked to the water element, believed to enhance spiritual knowledge.
  8. Vayu Lingam: Associated with the air element, promoting inner peace and clarity.
  9. Kubera Lingam: Symbolizing wealth and prosperity.
  10. Eesanya Lingam: The final lingam on the path, representing spiritual enlightenment and divine grace.

Tips for Undertaking Girivalam

Embarking on the Girivalam journey requires some preparation to ensure a fulfilling and safe experience. Here are some practical tips for pilgrims:

Planning Your Journey

  1. Choose the Right Time: The most auspicious time for Girivalam is during the full moon (Pournami) days, but it can be undertaken at any time of the year. The cooler months from October to March are ideal.
  2. Start Early or Late: Begin early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the heat, especially if walking during summer.

What to Carry

  1. Comfortable Footwear: Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes to navigate the varied terrain.
  2. Water and Snacks: Carry enough water to stay hydrated and light snacks for energy.
  3. Protective Gear: Use a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses to protect against the sun.

During the Walk

  1. Stay Hydrated: Drink water regularly to prevent dehydration.
  2. Pace Yourself: Walk at a comfortable pace and take breaks as needed.
  3. Be Respectful: Maintain silence or chant softly, respecting the sanctity of the journey and fellow pilgrims.

Safety Considerations

  1. Travel in Groups: Walking with a group is safer and more supportive.
  2. Emergency Contacts: Keep local emergency contacts handy.
  3. Health Precautions: If you have any health issues, consult your doctor before undertaking Girivalam and carry any necessary medications.

Sacred Spots Along the Route

The Girivalam path is dotted with significant spiritual landmarks, enhancing the pilgrim's journey:

Adi Annamalai Temple

An ancient temple offering a peaceful spot for reflection and prayers.

Panchamukha Hanuman Temple

A unique temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman with a five-faced idol, symbolizing his various forms.

Virupaksha Cave

Though slightly off the main path, this cave associated with Ramana Maharshi offers a deeply spiritual atmosphere for meditation.


Q: How long does it take to complete Girivalam? A: It typically takes about 4-5 hours to complete the 14-kilometer circumambulation, depending on your pace and the number of stops you make.

Q: Is there an ideal time to perform Girivalam? A: While Girivalam can be done any time of the year, full moon days and the cooler months from October to March are ideal.

Q: Can Girivalam be performed barefoot? A: Many devotees choose to walk barefoot as an act of devotion, but wearing comfortable shoes is advisable if you're not accustomed to walking barefoot over long distances.

Q: Are there facilities for food and rest along the route? A: Yes, there are several stalls and eateries along the path where you can buy refreshments. However, it's a good idea to carry your own water and snacks.

Q: Is it safe to walk the Girivalam path at night? A: While many pilgrims walk at night, especially on full moon days, it's recommended to be cautious and preferably walk in groups.

Wrapping Up

Girivalam around Arunachala Hill is more than a physical journey; it's a deeply spiritual practice that connects devotees with the divine presence of Lord Shiva. Covering a distance of 14 kilometers, this sacred circumambulation offers an opportunity for reflection, devotion, and spiritual growth. Whether you're a seasoned pilgrim or a first-time visitor, Girivalam promises a profound and transformative experience.

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