A climb to meet the God: Trekking-cum-Pilgrimage in Velliangiri Hills
The temperature was soaring to 39 degree Celsius in Chennai and I never expected that I would be soon in a place shivering uncontrollably in the cold weather. My friend and I decided to travel to Velliangiri hills to escape the scorching sun during this summer. Located 30 km away from Coimbatore city, Velliangiri is mainly a pilgrimage center that involves arduous climbing of seven kilometers over the mountains.
The journey commences from Poondi temple, and every devotee purchases a bamboo stick, which proves to be an immense help for the ascent. Barefooted, we ascended through steps made up of stones. The first three mountains have similar passageway with steps laid down by human hands. Every stride has to be careful and focused, as one might lose balance on the rugged terrain. The occasional cry of the insects and birds were music to our ears along the way. The odor of herbals growing in the mountains filled our nostrils giving a serene feeling.
|Steps made up of stone|
|Travelling on a rugged terrain in Vellaingiri Hills|
After the fourth hill, the terrain changes into green plateau. There are no steps, but single pathway, which is easier to walk. The landscape is breathtaking, as the clouds pass by caressing the peak of the mountains. Breezy winds, misty clouds, green plateau, filled with ecstasy and excitement, the climb became a romantic experience with the nature.
At the end of the fifth hill, there is a small stream called ‘Bramma Theertham’ where we immersed in the cold water that flows from the top of the mountain. The sixth hills seemed tougher, as we had to climb through huge boulders. However, the excitement was beyond measure. The mist covered mountain and cold breezy winds drenched us partially.
|That's where the Gods Live|
Having engulfed by misty clouds, we were unable to get a glimpse of the peak of the hill. Climbing, climbing, still climbing and it seemed, we were going to meet the God in heaven. With hope and eagerness, we reached the pinnacle of the mountain. Three gigantic rocks standing precariously, Lord Shiva resides amidst them. Torrent cold winds seeping through the gaps of the rocks whipped our body mercilessly.
At 6pm, the caretakers of the shrine began performing Pooja to the three deities namely Lord Vinayaga, Manonmani Amman and Lord Shiva. Few men picked up percussion instruments, cymbals and a conch. With blowing the conch, clanging the cymbals and beating the drums, the loud music reverberated in the entire mountain that seemed to evoke the Gods, who are in a meditative state.
|The caretakers of the Shrine playing music during the Pooja|
With every bang of the instruments, the music gradually reached its crescendo sending thundering waves through our body. Following the music, the head priest began to chant prayers praising Lord Shiva. The troupe, once again, began to play the music and concluded the ceremony.
As the time went by, the surrounding became much cooler, making our hands and legs tremble in the cold wind. Darkness engulfed the mountain, and we had to halt in the mountain during the night. We somehow managed to find a small place in a tea-shop.
|Tea shops that are found on the mountain|
At night, when I looked up at the sky, I stood still in awe, as it was not the ordinary sky that I used to watch from my terrace back home. From the height of 6000 feet above sea level, the sky was appearing much closer, filled with millions of stars glittering like diamonds. Spellbound by the view, I looked down, where the city shone brightly with its electric lambs. We woke up at 4'o clock in the morning and prepared for the descent.
The mountains retain its natural beauty, as it is not accessible by any vehicles. Women are not permitted to visit this place due to certain religious reasons. The favourable season for visiting this place is between February and May. Though the devotees piously take up the pilgrimage, many litter plastic wastes all over the mountains irresponsibly.
I strongly believe that I can never change the society but myself.