THE IMPORTANCE OF YATRA AND PRADAKSHINA
(Pilgrimage and Circumambulation)
26th June, 1949
Bhagavan has not been keeping good health for some time past. Troubled in my mind on that account and unable to know what to do, I decided to go round the Hill, not only on Tuesdays as usual but also on Fridays and to pray to Arunachaleswara for Bhagavan’s health. With that decision, I went to Bhagavan on Thursday evening to tell him that I was going round the Hill the next morning, “Tomorrow? Is it Tuesday?” asked Bhagavan.
“No. It is Friday,” I said. As if he had understood my purpose, he said “Yes, yes.”
One of the devotees who had recently come and had been staying for some time, asked Bhagavan, “Several people here go round the hill frequently. What is its greatness?” Bhagavan told him the following story:
“The greatness of this Giri Pradakshina has been described at length in ‘Arunachala Puranam’. Lord Nandikesa asked Sadasiva a similar question and Sadasiva narrated as follows: ‘To go round this hill is good. The word ‘Pradakshina’ has a typical meaning. The letter ‘Pra’ stands for removal of all kinds of sins; ‘da’ stands for fulfilling the desires; ‘kshi’ stands for freedom from future births; ‘na’ stands for giving deliverance through Jnana. If by way of Pradakshina you walk one step it gives happiness in this world, two steps, it gives happiness in heaven, three steps, it gives bliss of Satyaloka which can be attained. One should go round either in Mouna (silence) or Dhyana (meditation) or Japa (repetition of Lord’s name) or Sankeertana (Bhajan) and thereby think of God all the time. One should walk slowly like a woman who is in the ninth month of pregnancy. It seems Amba who was doing Tapas here, went round the hill on the day of the Krithika star in the first quarter of the night. Immediately after the Darshan of the holy beacon, she became finally absorbed in Lord Siva. It is stated that on the third day after the festival of the Holy Beacon, Siva himself started for the Pradakshina with all his followers. Really, it is difficult to describe the pleasure and the happiness one gets by this Pradakshina. The body gets tired, the sense organs lose their strength and all the activities of the body become absorbed within. It is possible thus to forget oneself and get into a state of meditation. As one continues to walk, the body automatically gets harmonized as in the Asana state. The body therefore becomes improved in health. Besides this, there are several varieties of medicinal herbs on the hill. The air that passes over those herbs is good for the lungs. As there is no vehicular traffic there is no worry about making way for cars and buses. One can walk care-free according to one’s wishes.
“It used to be very exciting during those days when we were going for Pradakshina. We started whenever we felt like it especially if there was any festival day, we used to halt whenever we felt it was late or we were tired, cook for ourselves and eat. There was no anxiety whatsoever as there was no stipulation that we should stop at any particular place. Before railway travel came in, pilgrimages were all made on foot. They never used to start with an idea of reaching a particular place at a particular time, or that they should stop for a particular period at any particular place. There is a proverb saying that people who go to Kasi (Banaras) and those who go to Kati (cremation ground) are equal. Only those who have no hope of coming Backwould start for Kasi Carrying all their belongings with them, they used to walk along immersed in Dhyana, stop whenever they felt tired and start again in due course. There used to be Dharmasalas (rest houses) at the outskirts of the villages so that there was no need for those pilgrims to go into the village proper. Where there were no Dharmasalas there used to be temples, caves, trees and piles of stones, which were available as places of shelter for them. Those pilgrims became absorbed in their Atma by walking with no other thought than that of God. Giri Pradakshina is also the same thing. The body becomes light and it walks of its own accord. There will not be the feeling that we are walking. The Dhyana that you cannot get into while sitting, you get into automatically if you go for Pradakshina. The place and the atmosphere there are like that. However unable a person is to walk, if he once goes round the hill he will feel like going again and again. The more you go, the more the enthusiasm for it. It never decreases. Once a person is accustomed to the happiness of the Pradakshina, he can never give it up. Look at Nagamma! She used to go round only once a week on every Tuesday. Now she is going around even on Fridays. She goes around all alone in the dark without any fear whatsoever.”
“A Sadhu by name Kannappa, it seems, goes round every day,” said the devotee. “Yes, yes. He is a very old man. He cannot see. So he starts every day at 8 o’clock in the night as there will not be much cart traffic. He has a conch shell which he blows as he goes. Hearing that sound, all people make way for him. There are several devices for people who do not have eyesight,” said Bhagavan.
“Is it a fact that when Bhagavan was going round the hill with the devotees during the night he used to see groups of Siddhas?” asked another. “Yes. All that is written in the Biography.” So saying Bhagavan resumed silence.