I received few requests to elaborate more about the atmosphere of Tiruvannamalai.
The fiery mountain is known for its power.
Our march around Arunachala was not at all monotonous, especially with the full moon. We were passing dozens of different large and small chapels, where monks celebrate their prayers and sing various songs.
You can also stuff the lime on the trident, which according to local believe would help you to get rid of your ego. As well you could squeeze yourself through the stretch/ hole in the magic stone to be “reborn” without any burden of the past.
During Happy Pongal people offer food for the pilgrims, sing and play drums late into the night in a relaxed and festive atmosphere.
In Tiruvannamalai, you will also find a huge center dedicated to Sri Ramana Maharshi with few temples, accommodation facilities and a canteen for the poor and hungry. But to describe it would take a new chapter.
For breakfast, we went to Shanti Cafe, a typical place for people from the west, located in the attic of the house, covered by palm leaves
Shanti is hosted by a German lady who married a Hindu, and now also runs a pub and a school for poor children.
All Shanti products are organic, great coffee, porridge with banana and pomegranate seeds, or salad with crispy baguette and cheese.
Butter from the sacred cow – delicious with orange marmalade.
Additionally choice of various juices and smoothies. At lunch time we usually had a very mature papaya with lime juice on the roof of our ashram
For dinner we used to go to the Dreaming Tree (also owned by a German lady and Hindu men) where we usually had hot soup, the cream of fresh tomatoes or spinach-lentil were my favorites.
Complimented with gluten-free toasts with a few drops of olive oil and choice of salads.
For the main course (rarely needed) we had either thai curry (vegetables and millet), Kychery, a kind of vegetable soup with rice. For dessert best was sweet dosa, a pancake filled with shredded coconut and banana with honey.
My favorite was chocolate cake with almonds (no flour), totally black topped with dark chocolate
The average price per dish is 2-3 dollars :) it is not an error. All washed down with Kampucha, a kind of sour compote with rose petals, black tea and Himalayan mushroom, which help to build good bacterial flora, so I drank it in large quantities.
Both places were always full and it was difficult to get a table. I met there people from Belgium, Germany, Texas, Slovenia, Russians, and Polish, with all sorts of different accents in their spoken English.
Everyone was kind to each other, always welcoming and nobody smoked or drunk.
No alcoholic drinks were served anyway. Saturday evening there was a party, people danced to the rhythms of Parov Stelar:) and booty swing.
Norwegian lady Leila (which most of the year lives in Poland, learned about my birthday and brought a vegan chocolate cake with a candle and the group sang Happy Birthday to me.
Leila organizes culinary workshops, specializing in vegan desserts without flour and baking.
We agreed on a joint cooking in our Karma House in Gościeńczyce. Everybody welcomed :)
Traveling to a new place in Nellikupam lasted about 3.5 hours. Luckily the bus was empty when we boarded, so we took quite comfortable seats.
Interestingly, there was no timetable - bus arrives, people get on and drive away.
Along the way, people were getting on and off, the bus filled with an unbelievable crowd.
Our driver was clearly rushing, drove very fast, passing slower vehicles and using horn all the time, blowing your head away.
People were getting on and jumping off when the bus was still in motion…. We sat in the back of the bus and I preferred not to look at what is happening outside, filled with sound and vibration of driving.
We arrived at another ashram safely, each packed in a carry on little backpack good for 7 days.
We were welcomed by Papa, an old man with white beard, wearing a snow-white scarf doti, despite his age, he walked quite fast.
Together we walked to ashram gardens. As you may know, the gardens are my passion. What I saw there was beyond my amateur knowledge.
We saw impressive coconut palm trees, mango, papaya and many others.
They grow here virtually everything they need for living. They add aromatic leaves, which they call here Curry, to most meals. I asked for seedlings, which I'm going to take back home.
Some of the produce is used to make various medicines. Papa, besides creating general values for healthy living, like yoga, pranayama, also specializes in treating infertility by offering young couples herbal medicines and appropriate asanas for daily exercise
We have witnessed people thanking him, kissing his feet.
Known are many stories of him helping many with their health problems.
In the garden we have gathered some green papaya for dinner, each stalk of papaya, which we kept in the hands was full of milk.
I have never eaten such a mature and fresh papaya in my life.
I offered to make all Thai salad for dinner, which I learned to do in Amanpuri on Phuket.
No one refused me the pleasure, and my travel comrades and all staff were helped me to shred papaya.
We also added not very ripe mango, a little lime juice, sugar cane paste, sesame oil and dices hard tomato.
Finely chopped coriander and mint gave a savory finish to the salad.
All loved it and even Papa, who generally eats very little, had some.
For dinner, we got tomato chutney on a large banana leaf with garlic and ginger, rice and two other quite savory vegan dishes, which had to be mixed at the discretion into small balls with rice.
Nobody uses knife and fork, you use your right hand to eat. To wash it down was pure water that tasted like a gentle oil. I've never tasted anything like it.
Morning, wake up at 7, yoga classes for almost 3 hours. After the breakfast meeting with Papa, lunch, pause, meditation, breathing exercises, and dinner.
On Sunday, many local people joined yoga classes as on Sundays the ashram is opened to the people from the town
They practice yoga and meditate, then Papa is giving a lecture to all and offers food prepared specially by volunteers.
After breakfast, we drove with Papa’s son to the vegan village established by one of the later saints. There was a time for meditation, and we got at the end a very weak coffee, the first one in few days.
Then we visited the shop of his wife (Lakshmi finished university in London), with sari clothing. I loved it but I know that the women living in our cold climate would like it less.
On the way back, at the request of one of the journalists, a friend of the Papa’s family, we went to the demonstration supporting the culture and history of Tamil, which the central government is fighting with.
All in white clothes struggled through the crowds of people and cordons of police with wooden bats, we were the only white people in the full sense of this word.
When we arrived at the main stage in the middle of the crowd, we called mad enthusiasm and cheering crowds. It was as if The Beatles appeared on the stage!!!
As the first microphone got our mentor, who recited in previously learned Tamil formula.
The crowd roared with delight. Then our companion, Polish actor got the microphone and recited like a Caesar, "We are supporting the culture of Tamiland and Tamiland people. Be United. Don’t give up! "
Our colleague felt like a fish in the water, like any good artist who has established an emotional connection with the audience. Then I spoke one Tamil sentence, causing modest applause, but it was enough that I picked up the banner, which I previously got, and the crowd again roared with delight.
Our speech was filmed by five television stations and by our colleague journalist and hit the main news.
We went back to our base. After group singing and Papa ‘speech, all the guests were fed and went home.
We remained three more days in the ashram.