Saturday, October 17, 2015

Velliangiri Mountains, Coimbatore

Velliangiri Mountains, Coimbatore
The Velliangiri Mountains, a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, are situated at the Western Ghats border of Coimbatore district, Tamil Nadu. Known as the "Thenkailayam - Kailash of the South", these mountains are held and revered on par with spiritually most powerful place on the planet - Mount Kailash, the legendary abode of Shiva. On the top of the Velliangiri Mountains, Shiva is worshipped as Swayambu, one who is self-created and in this form, he graces the devotees.

This temple is known as Rajathagiri, Velliangiri, Dakshin Kailash or Bhoo Kailash. The presiding deity is Lord Shiva in the form of Panchalingesa and HIS Consort Parvathi in the form of Manonmani Amman. Besides, the Shiva Temple of Velliangiri, the presence of the Dhyanalinga is another reason why people throng to the Velliangiri Hills.
Velliangiri is a part of Western Ghats containing natural herbs and all kinds of natural flora and fauna, can be enjoyed here. Here, on the top of the hill, under a natural cave, which is nearly 6000 feet above the sea level, Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of natural (Swayambu) Linga. This Linga is surrounded by adjoining four Lingas. So it is named as "Pancha Lingas".

This cave can be reached after crossing seven hills. During the annual pilgrimage season, devotees in large number, throng this place day & night. The experience which one enjoys here can be compared with the "Amarnath Yatra" of the North. Here too, Lord Shiva personifies in the form of Linga inside a natural cave. This place is also called a "Dhakshina Kailash"; the pilgrimage season lasts for four months in a year (i.e.) from February to May, corresponding to the Tamil month between Masi and Vaikasi.
The main attraction here is a Lord Shiva temple atop the mountain, under a natural cave. This mountain is also known as Seven hills because while climbing there are seven undulations which gives a feeling like crossing seven hills. 

Velliangiri Mountains is an ideal destination for the adventurous, nature lovers and devotees alike. These hill ranges are rich in natural flora and fauna, which include rare herbs. The last hill peak is totally wind - blown and nothing except grass grows here. The trek is 8 km long and steep at some places. 

A Yoga and meditation centre run by the Isha Foundation at the base of the hills is also a major tourist attraction. There are many TNSTC buses from Coimbatore to Poondi. Marudamalai Temple, Dhyanalinga Temple, Eachanari Vinayagar Temple, Patteeswarar temple, Parambikkulam, Aazhiyaar Dam, Kovai Kuttralam and Black Thunder Theme Park are some other attractions situated in the vicinity.

The foothills of Vellingiri hills have a rich spiritual ambience. No wonder! The holy shrine of Vellingiri Andavar and His consort Manonmani Amman is situated here. Countless Siddhas have made this their home in the past. Even today, many Siddhas reside here and perform penance.
Poondi is a small village. But it is the abode of Lord Panchalingesa. This place is filled with the vibrations of the five elements- water, fire, wind, the earth and the sky. It is the abode of the Lord of Vellingiri. Tamilnadu has thousands of temples with majestic gopurams, artistic mandapams, lengthy parikramas / prakarams, exquisitely carved sculptures and colorful festivals. 
They are the living symbols of spirituality. They have also become inseparable parts of the people of this land. Even the small, ancient temples in the tiny villages are equally rich in their spiritual association. The sacred temple of Vellingiri Andavar and His consort Manonmani Amman situated at the foothills of Vellingiri in Coimbatore district is one such. This acts as the threshold for Vellingiri, the abode of the Siddhas. 
Poondi is situated at the foothills of Vellingiri, which is a part of the Western range of mountains. Poondi village is 30 kilometers away from Coimbatore. Those who wish to climb the hill should begin from Poondi. They can have a darshan of the Swayambu Lord, after climbing the seven hills. Saint Agasthya has lived here. Countless Siddhas have walked around this place. 
People usually carry the necessary articles including food and water while climbing this hill. Women are not allowed to climb this hill. One can climb this hill between the first of Thai till Vaikasi Visakham. Climbing begins usually at dawn is the best. Vellingiri hill has an altitude of 6000 ft and one has to trek a distance of 8 k.m. to reach the summit. 
Devotees of Shiva believe that there is a Kailash in the north (Uttara Kailash), one in the centre, (Madhya Kailash) and the third in the south (Dhakshina Kailash) Among them, Uttara Kailash is present only in the subtle form. Madhya Kailash is in Tibet. Vellingiri hill is the Dhakshina Kailash. So it is referred to as ‘Then Kayilayam’ or South Kailash. 
It is believed to be the abode of Saint Agasthya and so his successors worship this hill with great devotion. People say that Adi Shankara came here and offered his worship to the Lord. This hill is considered as a symbol of Lord Shiva. It is also looked at as a symbol of penance as saints have been doing penance here since time immemorial. 
Vellingiri has been sanctified by the presence of Mahayogi Pazhani Swamigal, Shivayogiyar, Sadguru Shri Brahma, Aghori Vimalanadaa, Azhukku Samiyar, Soundarapandi Samiyar, Kalathri Samiyar, Mysore Samiyar, Etti Kotta Samiyar, Milagaay Samiyar.  Vellingiri symbolically represents the seven chakras (energy centres) in the human body. The height of Velliangiri Hills is 2438 meters or 8,127 ft.
First Hill
The shrine of Velli Vinayagar
Second Hill
Pambatti sunai
Third Hill
Mani poorakam
Symbol of Agni, kai thatti sunai
Fourth Hill
Sidhar Ottar’s Samadhi
Fifth Hill
Bheeman kaliyurundai hill
Sixth Hill
Sethizhai cave, Aandi sunai
Seventh Hill
Swayambu lingam, the lord of Vellingiri
This Velliangiri Hills is sacred because, according to a puranik tale, Lord Shiva descended on this sacred mountain to marry a maiden. The story is there was a young maiden in the southernmost tip of India, who aspired to hold Shiva’s hand as his wife. She started working towards making herself suitable to draw him, and she remained absolutely focused upon him. She set up a deadline, ‘If I am not married to him by sunrise on this day, I am going to leave my body.’ Shiva came to know of this and started hurrying down to South India. But all the other gods conspired. They thought, if he gets married here, he may not return. He may start living in South India. When Shiva was just a few kilometers from the place where the maiden was, the gods created a false sunrise by setting up a huge mound of camphor.

When the light came up, Shiva who was so close, just 22 kilometers away, thought it was over and turned back. So the maiden left her body standing. Even today she stands as Kanya Kumari. There is a shrine at the very tip of the Indian landmass which is the maiden’s shrine. So Shiva turned back, despondent and frustrated with himself for not having made it in time. He started walking back and he needed a place to sit and work out his despondency. So he climbed up this Mountain and at the peak, he sat. It is a very strange kind of place because he was not sitting here in blissfulness, he was not sitting in meditation, and he sat here in a certain kind of despondence and anger about himself.
He stayed there for a considerable amount of time, and wherever Shiva stepped and spent a little bit of time, people called that place Kailash. So they called this the ‘Kailash of the South.’ It is a fortune that we are sitting here at the foothills of this Mountain. Kailash is considered as Lord Shiva himself. Lord Shiva is known as Swayambu who is the creator of this world. Normally pilgrim’s journey to this place is very hard. Even today going for Kailash is not possible for many.

The places like Pambatti Siddhar Kugai (cave), Ottar Samadhi, Sadhguru Shri Brahma’s Samadhi are near to these Velliangiri Mountains. The five faces of Lord Shiva, Maheshwara, Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Sadasiva are seen as Panchagiri and as Panchalingas refer to the panchabhutas in Velliangiri. The Velliangiri Mountains consists of rich natural resources which include rare herbs. The hill ranges have abundant natural resources, which include rare herbs. The best time to visit this hill is between February and May.
General Information
Vellingiri comprises seven hills and is a part of the western range of mountains. The Lord of Vellingiri resides in the seventh hill in the form of a ‘Swayambu’ (not man-made but formed by itself). It is situated at an altitude of 6000 feet. 
The devotees of Shiva consider it as one of the most important centres of pilgrimage. This hill is celebrated as ‘South Kailash’ for two reasons. First-Lord Shiva Himself found this place congenial for his penance once. 

Second-the weather on this hill is similar to that of Kailash. The best season for undertaking this pilgrimage is between the first of the month of January (14th) and May. 
Climbing this hill is easier during this season. Cool storms, hails and severe chillness make it difficult for the pilgrims to climb on other days. 
One can leave by 6 a.m. in the morning and reach the summit by 10 or 11 a.m. It is possible to reach the foothills by 6.p.m. if one starts climbing down by 2 p.m. after worshipping the Lord. 
People climb this hill every full moon day and new moon day at dawn and climb down by dusk. They usually go in groups of 10 to 15. 
Carrying a rain coat, a plastic sheet, food items, water bottles, a torch light and a bamboo staff will be helpful. Very few springs are available in the hills. So it is better to carry enough drinking water. 
The forest is home for wild animals such as bears, panthers, elephants, wild buffaloes and snakes. So, one has to be very cautious. It is advisable not to go alone. 
Travelling in groups is always safe. There are many common shelters at the Poondi foothills. So, the pilgrims can stay there the previous night and begin their trek early in the following morning. 

There are no shelters on the hill and so climbing down before it gets dark is a must.
The Velliangiri hills form a major range in the Western Ghats in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The seven hills with altitudes ranging from 520 m – 1840 m are bordered by the Palghat district of Kerala on the western boundary, the plains of Coimbatore district to the east, the Nilgiri Mountains to the north, and the Siruvani hills on the southern boundary. The annual rainfall is quite variable in the hills (500 mm – 7000 mm) with temperatures ranging from 0 °C during winter to 41 °C in the summer. Many seasonal rivers such as the Neelivaikal, Mayar or Andi sunai traverse the hilly landscape.
The Noyyal River originating from Velliangiri hills is one of the major tributaries of the Cauvery, which irrigates about 100,000 of hectares of agricultural land in the plains. The Velliangiri hills watershed feeds into the Siruvani dam, which is the main drinking water supply for 1,500,000 people in the urban centre of Coimbatore.

Vegetation is predominantly dry deciduous forests of foot hills, second and third mount have evergreen forest and last four belt up Shola forest types.
Normally pilgrimage to a place is unlike trekking. Even today going for Kailash is not possible for many. So in this sense, Thenkailayam yatra has become significant and great possibility for one.
The places like Ottar Samadhi, Sadhguru Shri Brahma's Samadhi are supposedly found here.
The Siva Temple
Of all the mountain shrines in Kongunadu, the Siva temple of Velliangiri in the western boundary is considered to be the most famous. Known as Rajathagiri, Velliangiri, Dakshin Kailash or Bhoolok Kailash, this sacred spot, according to legend, is where Siva performed his cosmic dance on the request of his consort Uma devi.
The five faces of Lord Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Maheshwara and Sadasiva, are seen as Panchagiri and as Panchalingas pertaining to the panchabhutas, in Velliangiri. The hill ranges have abundant natural resources, which include rare herbs.
Lord Panchalingesa and his Consort Manonmani amman alias Parvathi, bestow their grace on the devotees who throng here annually between February and May. With the support of devotees on Feb 2015, the temple people erected Lord Murugan Sannidhi along with Valli and Deivanai near Manonmani Amman Sannidhi near the cave temple.
Earlier ladies between 12 to 45 years of age were not permitted to go up the mountains. After erecting Murugan, Valli and Deivanai Sannidhi, now ladies are also allowed by the temple people to climb the Velliangiri Mountains. There is a plan to provide shelters and temporary toilets near Andi Sunnai for the devotees during the season.
Ø 07:00 Am Milk Abishekam at Poondi temple
Ø 12:00 Pm Uchikala pooja at Poondi temple
Ø 06:00 pm Sayankala pooja at Poondi temple
Ø Amavasya, Pournami, Pradosham at Poondi temple (free Annadhanam for devotees during these days)
Ø During Pilgrimage season regular Pooja’s at 7th hill.
A unique feature of Dhakshina Kailash (Then Kayilayam or Kailas of the south) is the Annadhanam organized by the Arya Vaisya jewellers for the past two centuries, for four days during Mahasivarathri. It is now carried out by the jeweler community and the Lala group. Festivals celebrated during the Pilgrimage Season:
Ø Thai Pongal
Ø Thai Pusam
Ø Mahasivarathri
Ø Panguni Uttaram
Ø Tamil New Year
Ø 1st May
Ø Chitra Pournami
Additionally, all other important Hindu festivals are elaborately celebrated at the Poondi Temple (at the Velliangiri foothills)
The season that are suitable for trekking this mountain is between Feb to May, and we have to be careful about Elephants near Bamboo Trees and other animals. During the season there is forest check post at the base camp to filter the plastics which will harm the wild animals. It’s good to support the forest people for checking and collect some thrown away plastics back from the hills.
It is located 5 km from the foot hills or the Poondi temple. 30 km from the commercial center Coimbatore city and near Siruvani, Altitude: 6000 ft. Dhyanalinga is just 2 km away from Poondi temple, walkable distance.
The restaurants at the foothills allow people to sleepover on the floor. Nearby upscale Tamara Resort is one other option. These are the option for people who want to start climbing very early. There is no accommodation to stay at the hills. To stay at the hill, one has to carry tents and sleeping bags as it gets very cold at night.
For bath, since it will be too crowded during the season in the foot hills, it’s better to take a dip in Theerthakund (Dhyanalinga) before trek to Velliangiri hills.
Sri Velliangiri Andavar temple,
Velliangiri malai Poondi
Phone: +91 422-261 5258, 2300238
The Transport Corporation plies buses between Coimbatore (Gandhi Puram) and Poondi every day. Special bus services are available during festive occasions like Maha Shivrathri. Coimbatore is on the international circuit with flights connecting it to Singapore and Sharjah. On the domestic front it is well connected to Kozhikode, Chennai, Kochi, Bangalore, Mumbai, and Delhi by both rail and road.
By Bus: 
There are buses to Poondi every 2 hours from Coimbatore- Gandhipuram town bus stand. Travel up to Poondi and from there one has to climb the sacred Velliangiri Mountains.
Bus Routes
Gandhipuram to Poondi
Am :
6.40, 7.45, 9.40, 10.35
Pm :
1.05, 2.00, 4.00, 5.00, 6.50, 8.00, 10.10
Gandhipuram to Thanneer Pandal
Am :
6.15, 6.55, 8.45, 10.10, 11.40
Pm :
1.20, 2.35, 4.15, 5.30, 9.10
Poondi to Gandhipuram
Am :
6.15, 8.00, 9.00, 11.20
Pm :
12.20, 2.20, 3.20, 5.20, 6.20, 8.20, 9.10
Thanneer Pandal to Gandhipuram
Am :
6.15, 8.00, 9.00, 11.20
Pm :
12.20, 2.20, 3.20, 5.20, 6.20, 8.20, 9.10
Cab Facilities:
·        Linga Cabs: 9443505336
·        Menaka Cabs: 9976955433
·        Ponnan Cabs: 9787473124
·        Shakthi Cabs: 9865373752
By Railways: 
After entering into Coimbatore city, Take a bus or hire a taxi to Poondi which is 40 kms away to the Velliangiri Mountains which is situated 30 kms from Coimbatore to visit the Lord Shiva temple.
By Flight: 
After reaching Coimbatore airport; Taxis and private cabs are available at Coimbatore Airport to take devotees to Poondi. From here one has to climb Velliangiri Mountains to worship Lord Shiva.