Traveling in Tamil Nadu 2017

Vaithiswarankoil Temple dedicated to Shiva (the Divine as Healer)  - Tamil Nadu, India
Vaithiswarankoil Temple dedicated to Shiva (the Divine as Healer)  Associated with the Planet Mars (Beginning 1070-1120 CE)  - Tamil Nadu, India
Ramalingam - (Vallalār) Temple - Siddha/Siddhar/ Saint Poet - Dissoved into the "Divine"  - Sathaya Gnana Sabha Temple  -Vadalur, Tamil Nadu - India
MahaSamadhi of Ramalingam - (Vallalār) - Siddha/Siddhar/ Saint Poet - Dissoved into the "Divine" -Vadalur, Tamil Nadu - India
Wall Painting of Goddess, Vaithiswarankoil Temple dedicated to Shiva (the Divine as Healer)  - Tamil Nadu, India
Statue of a Siddha, Vaithiswarankoil, Tamil Nadu, India
Vaithiswarankoil Temple dedicated to Shiva (the Divine as Healer)  - Tamil Nadu, India
Vaithiswarankoil Temple dedicated to Shiva (the Divine as Healer)  - Tamil Nadu, India
Temple Sacred Pond, Vaithiswarankoil, Tamil Nadu, India
Sri Ramalinga Swamigal Temple, Vadalur, Tamil Nadu, India
Shrine of Sri Ramalinga Swamigal Temple, Vadalur, Tamil Nadu, India
Another Shrine of Sri Ramalinga Swamigal Temple, Vadalur, Tamil Nadu, India
Vaithiswarankoil Temple -- Ajata in his home state of Tamil Nadu, India
Procession of Devotees for village Goddess, Vadalur, Tamil Nadu, India
Village Goddess, Vadalur, Tamil Nadu, India
Devotees at worship in Shrine of Sri Ramalinga Swamigal Temple, Vadalur, Tamil Nadu, India
Shrine of Sri Ramalinga Swamigal Temple, where he disappeared into light behind the door
Vaithiswarankoil Temple dedicated to Shiva (the Divine as Healer)  - Tamil Nadu, India
Procession to Arulmigu Shri Dhandayuthapani Temple - Palani, Tamil Nadu - India
There are 18  major Siddha Saints in the Dravidan Spiritual Tradition this is Sri Bogar the main Siddha Associated with the Palani Temple- Palani, Tamil Nadu - India
Entrance to Interior of Arulmigu Shri Dhandayuthapani Temple 2 -5 cen. C.E - Palani, Tamil Nadu - India
Gompura of Vaithiswarankoil   Temple - Dedicated to Shiva as Healer Associated with the Planet Mars (Beginning 1070-1120 CE)  - Tamil Nadu, India
Pilgrims at the Arulmigu Shri Dhandayuthapani Temple 2 -5 cen. C.E. (Dedicated to Muruga aka Subramanya) - Palani, Tamil Nadu - India
Arulmigu Shri Dhandayuthapani Murugan Temple, Palani-Tamil Nadu- India
- Palani, Tamil Nadu – India
Vaithiswarankoil Temple dedicated to Shiva (the Divine as Healer)  Associated with the Planet Mars (Beginning 1070-1120 CE) - Tamil Nadu, India

Roots of Ancient Dravidian Culture in Tamil Nadu - South India

South India and especially Tamil Nadu is not generally at the top of the list in the itinerary of tourists visiting India (nor with North Indian tourists). Although, many business people involved in the high tech computer industry from around the world go to Chennai for the expertise of South India’s computer programmers.  (South Indians continue to be disproportionately responsible for the development of India’s computer industry.)

Tamil Nadu is the seat of ancient Dravidian culture and of a remarkable empire that once evolved highly complex philosophies, poetry and literature, as well as magnificent architecture. Dravidian culture extends to the states of Andra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Pudacherry as well as, Tamil Nadu.

Historically, South India was never successfully invaded by any military, so it is the only location in India that has enormous stone temple complexes taking up many acres dating back a thousand years. Each Southern state has one or two such temples, but the majority are found in Tamil Nadu. (see:
Embrace Sacred Places. Org  which has five of the complexes including Srirangam)

Also, all South Indian languages have their roots in Tamil, the language of Tamil Nadu.


The influence of Dravidian religious culture and most especially architecture can be easily seen in the Hindu stone temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia, in the stone Cham Temples of Viet Nam and even in stone carvings in stone Hindu temples of Java, Indonesia.

; Embrace Sacred Places.Org - Hinduism; Java, Angkor Wat (has it’s own section on the menu and Viet Nam.


A City with Heart

Palani is the Spiritual Heart for Hindu Dravidians. Palani is a very open-hearted, open-minded town which is uncharacteristically friendly for Tamil Nadu, (with the exception of Tiruvannamalai which has seen many visitors due to the international appeal of the saints Ramana Maharishi, Ram Surat Kumar and Seshadri Swamigal) who made Tiruvannamalai their home. It is the opposite in reserve that most outsiders will encounter, for instance, in the famous temple town of Chidambaram.                                                                                                          

Palani attracts thousands of pilgrims every day. (A photo of some of them at the temple can be seen above. It should be noted that beards on men are quite popular in Tamil Nadu and they have no bearing on pilgrimage procedure. Shaving the head and covering it with sandalwood paste is a part of the ritual for some devotees. The elderly woman rolling sideways towards the temple entrance has had a prayer answered and is showing her devotion.)   

Background on the Siddha (Siddhar) Tradition

Those that follow the path of the Siddha tradition which is a philosophy and practice very similar to Northern India Yoga, is not considered a religion. However, whether individual Siddhas agree with inclusion or not, like Yoga, it is included by Hindus into their fold.

It is believed that the Siddha tradition was founded by early saints with extraordinary miraculous abilities - originally numbering 18. The first Siddha is generally noted to have lived in the 7th or   8th century, B.C. (Many scholars believe that North Indian Yoga was established through the South Indian Siddha tradition.)

Siddhas (or Siddhars) are not necessarily monks and can marry if they wish. Orthodox monks and ashrams have not been part of the traditional Dravidian culture although changes in this perspective in some areas ,including Palani, in recent times have come about. However, traditionally orthodox celibate swamis and monks have not been well received in Tamil Nadu.

Some Aspects of Culture & Government in Tamil Nadu

Another unusual characteristic that people from North India or those who have spent time in North India will see, is the wearing of ocher cloth by non-religious lay people. For those accustomed to greeting swamis or monks in North India according to the ocher robes, ocher kurda etc, this requires consideration.

For decades, the Tamil Nadu state government has proclaimed that it is atheist, but politicians frequently participate in religious ceremonies, even going to the extent of requiring that they be honored with Deparathi and expect bowing as though they are incarnations of the “Divine.”

Hypocritical politicians are certainly nothing new for this world!  The vast majority of Tamil people are religious. 

Although the Hindu greeting “Namaste” is universal throughout most of Northern India, in Tamil Nadu it is Namaskaram or Namaskar.

Temple Complexes - Nayanmars & Siddhas

Most ancient temple complexes in Tamil Nadu are dedicated to Shiva as the “Divine.”  In Dravidian tradition there are 63 Nayanmars, (devotional saints who are connected to South Indian Shaivism.) Often all 63 Nayanmars are represented in the large temples. In the case of Vaithiswarankoil Temple (seen in some of the above photos), the Nayanmars are not represented. Interestingly, reverence has been shown to the temple by some of the earliest philosophic Siddhas who reputedly performed  Abhisheka (Abhisekam - rituals) there. In addition, the more recent Ramalinga Swamigal, considered a Siddha composed beautiful poems about the temple.

As always, nothing is absolute in any Indian philosophy or religion.

Staying in Chidambaram as a Base

Many visitors traveling to Palani, Vaithiswarankoil Temple and other near by pilgrimage sites, will stay in the town of Chidambaram. (The large temple complex in this town being the home of the  famous Nataraja (dancing Shiva) statue. (see: Embrace Sacred Places.Org - Hinduism

Though Indians have a reputation worldwide for entrepreneurship when given the opportunity. This is in no way evidenced in Chidambaram. The town makes few concessions to visitors that could make their stay easy or necessarily pleasant.

Chidambaram: Food - Times for Eating etc….

One of the problems, is what you can eat and when you can eat it.  The number of restaurants are limited and they cook and prepare what they want when they want. The general times for eating breakfast, lunch or dinner in most countries worldwide has little bearing on what is available to eat during those times in Chidambaram.  In short, they do what is convenient for them and is generally not convenient for anyone else.  We have surmised that as Chidambaram is a Shiva temple the townspeople have decided that, like Shiva, an ascetic, all visitors should observe abstinence from frivolous living including eating.

There is more than ample opportunity for anyone with initiative to make a healthy profit from the pilgrimage, tourist industry. However, few locals take advantage of this fact and there is much that pilgrims and visitors need and want which is not available to them.

(As they say in New York - “Go figure.”)

Conclusion -

The Joy of Palani

Visiting Palani and staying there is a wonderful experience. There are a variety of hotels and pilgrim lodges that are comfortable and clean. The proprietors and front desk staffs are generally perceptive and quite helpful. There are numerous food outlets. Many which are vegetarian. If you like Indian sweets there are ample delicious bakeries with inquisitive and amusing teenagers working in them. (They might even sneak in some extra sweets for you)

Finding and learning ancient traditions from modern teachers following the Siddha path or born into the Siddha path is a noteworthy experience and a genuine pleasure. Shrimath Sivananda Pulipani Swamigal (see: his photo in CURRENT) was incredibly patient with the Founders asking him dozens and dozens of questions and he is a kind, as well as, knowledgeable person that was born into a Siddha linage.

Vaithiswarankoil Temple

Vaithiswarankoil Temple is in the worst physical condition that we’ve seen in any temple anywhere. We were unable to provide many photos of it, due to its’ desperate need of cleaning, repairs and maintenance.  Nevertheless, despite the deep litter and trash running from Chidambaram to the temple clogging every stream, the temple should be seen.  Other parts of Tamil Nadu are pristine. The neglect in this area is an embarrassment.

Beloved Ramalinga

Both Ramalinga’s  - Sathaya Gnana Sabha Temple and Siddhi Valagam where in January 1874 he dissolved into light, leaving no trace of his body behind, are deeply spiritual places. Many people (even Europeans who have found their way there) feel a pulsing coming from the wall and door of the room where he left the physical world.

The people here are very polite, feed the hungry and are well educated in large numbers. They are prepared to help anyone in any way possible who comes to visit. One woman who hailed us told us that she has two daughters getting university educations in the United States and Canada.  Ramalinga’s temple and the Siddha Valagam should not be missed.

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