Introduction to ‘Living at Arunachala’



Living in India as a Westerner I get this curious question by Indians and sometimes also by other Westerners. ”What made you interested in India?” Well, I once upon a time came across a German Meridian Travel Magazine with a picture of the Kumbha Mela, a religious festival in Northern India, on the cover. There were naked and almost naked men having their bodies besmeared with ashes and carrying trishuls or tridents wading in knee-deep water. They had their long hair tight up and carried it on top of their heads or had long strands of hair falling down to their hips or even longer. Religious markings were seen on their foreheads. It all looked pretty wild. This was in the 1980ies and peaked my interest in India. It looked so different. I have always liked mystical things – and this for sure appeared as such.

Sadhus at Kumbha Mela

In 1988 I took hatha yoga classes and met a girl by the name of Brigitte. Brigitte knew how to rave about India. She had just come back from another three months stay in Kerala, one of the four southern states of India. It was the time before the internet age so she showed me a big stack of photographs she had taken. Now almost 30 years later I don’t remember much except there were some photographs of a very colorful temple adorned with many sculpted figures.

Over Christmas in 1990/1991 Brigitte and I went to the Shivananda Ashram in London, England, and got a bit of a taste of a different life. I then decided to get married in June of 1991 and had a child in January of 1993. That for some time was the end of going to India. My then-husband was not interested yet my dream of going one day continued.

When we moved to the USA in 1994 I eventually started going to spiritual groups like Paramahamsa Yogananda’s Self Realization Fellowship and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s Vedanta Society. I also attended services and festivals at the local Hindu Temple. Later in 2006 I met my guru, Paramahamsa Nithyananda, in California, USA.

It was my guru’s 29th birthday on January 1st 2007 when my longtime dream of going to India materialized and I finally set foot on Mother India’s soil. Just remembering this sends chills up my spine.

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First Impressions

India was exciting from the first moment on. While riding for an hour in a taxi from the old Bengaluru airport to my guru’s ashram about half way between Bengaluru and Mysore, I soaked in the street scenes of India. From the dirt and dust to men peeing in the street to women construction workers carrying heavy loads of sand and bricks on their heads, relaxed cows crossing worry-free the streets and leaving poop behind that was eagerly scooped up with bear hands by some women who use it for outside insulation of their huts, and dried as ‘firewood’ for cooking. I saw those tiny mom and pop shops along with Western looking hotels and shopping malls. Everything I had ever heard of, seen on TV or read about in books and magazines, was presented right there and then to me. I felt right at home.

Female Construction Worker in India

This first month long stay south of Bengaluru was followed by a short trip to Tiruvannamalai, the birth place of my guru, and a day trip going to Mysore and into Bengaluru city.

The same year 2007 I went back for a 3-months ashram stay followed by a 6-months ashram stay in 2010. During these trips I visited Tiruvannamalai and Bengaluru again. Only on my last trip to India in 2013 to spend four months at my guru’s ashram I began living in Tiruvannamalai with trips to Pondicherry, Vellore, Poondi and Tirupati. Overall I have seen a few number of places yet intense living at the feet of the holy mountain Arunachala gave me a deeper understanding of the South Indian culture.

There are a few older stories but most of the stories and observations presented of my life in South India are collected over a period of three years from 2013 to 2015. Some stories are funny, others outrageous, and yet others touch the heart and are simply amazing. I tell the stories and observations the way I experienced them and try to leave any judgment aside. Life in India and for that matter at any place in the world can only be seen from a larger perspective; the perspective of seeing events and happenings and interactions with people as reflections and extensions of myself, of opportunities to expand, transform and embrace my Self.

Arunachalam Greeting

A common greeting in India is ‘Namaste’ which means ‘I bow to the Divine or Self in you’ with both hands held in prayer position in front of the chest. Another common greeting I encountered is to touch the heart chakra with the right hand and giving a small nod with the head. The ‘Arunachalam’ greeting is common in Tiruvannamalai and mostly accompanied with a slight touch of one’s heart chakra. It reminds us of the greatness of Lord Shiva in the form of the sacred Arunachala Mountain.

Once Brahma, the Creator, and Vishnu, the Sustainer, had a dispute who the greatest is among them. As they could not decide, Lord Shiva was asked who manifested himself as a column of light. Shiva then requested Brahma and Vishnu to look for his head and his feet but neither could find them. Thereupon Shiva was seen as the greatest among them all. This column of light then cooled down and manifested as the Arunachala Mountain and is venerated as a manifestation of Lord Shiva himself.

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I welcome you to take one of my Sacred Temple Journeys to explore the mysterious and sacred Arunachala Mountain in South India. Much awaits you beyond your imagination. CURRENTLY WE DO NOT OFFER ANY JOURNEYS TO ARUNACHALA. You are welcome to Contact Us and we’ll let you know when we pick up the journeys again.