Friday, October 22, 2010

Strange experience in Thiruvannamalai

A couple of years back, in November of 2008, Surya, Me, Neeraja and my uncle and aunt from the US had gone for a visit to Thiruvannamalai.

On the night of the 10th, we spent a lot of time in the temple and sat for a while at the Kalabhairava shrine near the temple tank. I was telling Surya about the Kalabhairava temple we went to in Varanasi with Swamiji and the story of how he took away one of Brahma's heads.

The next day a little before 6 am we all started on the 14 km Girivalam or circumambulation around the Arunachala hill. A few minutes into the trek just as we crossed the South Gopuram, a small beige dog started following us. My first instinct was to shoo it away. It moved back but kept tagging along. After a while I felt sorry for the dog. After all we were in the territory of Ramana who was friends with all animals in the area. So I stopped shooing it. I figured it was hungry and following the visitors was an adaptation by the animals to get food. At a small shop on the way we got some biscuits and placed them before the dog. It sniffed the biscuits a little and moved away without eating them. Odd I thought. But maybe biscuits were not its thing. At any rate I was not wasting more money on the dog. It was Pradosham that day and we ourselves were planning on not eating through the day till evening.

After a little while, the dog ran ahead of us and we found it waiting for us outside the Dakshinamurthy shrine before Ramanashram. Having found the dog there, we went inside the temple to have a Darshan and some Vibuthi. As we resumed our walk, the dog continued following us. It did this walk ahead and stop routine in a couple of other temples on the way - including some like a Ganesha temple that was to give one a lot of wealth which I hadn't noticed on earlier trips.

I was getting a little curious about the dog as time went by. Every 100 meters or so, it would be attacked by the dogs of that territory. For a small dog, it was very brave and would snarl back. Though it looked timid, it had unusually large, sharp and menacing teeth. Most dogs got scared of that. When the attackers were too many in number it would lie down meekly and let them gather around him and bark away to glory till they realized that he wasn't planning on staying in their turf but was just a transit passenger. This ritual happened every 10 minutes and was pretty scary. After the first couple of times when my aunt - who is mortally scared of dogs - reacted strongly to the dogs, he would cross over to the other side of the road whenever dogs attacked so that the confrontation would happen away from us. This itself was very strange awareness on its part.. but at that time it didn't strike me as too odd. I had read enough about animals being sensitive to humans.. and I thought this might have been a lost pet that was trying to become friendly with us.

Half way through the walk the rest of the group had moved ahead and it was just Surya and me with the dog. Surya had by then taken a liking to the dog and named him Kala - given that the Vahanam (or mount) of Kalabhairava was a dog.

Somewhere a little before the mid point, he suddenly went off into a narrow path that led away from the main road towards the hill and the rougher "inner path". Having been used to the follow-kala routine by now, we went along to see where it was going. After walking for 5 minutes or so, we came to a small lake and the path got less defined and more thorny. Since we were not wearing slippers our speed slowed down considerably. After a little more time, a number of other dogs started gathering around us in a distance and it looked like a showdown with Kala was going to happen again. I got scared and decided to get back to the road. As we walked away Kala tried to stay put indicating that we should follow him.. But when he realized that we were not staying, he ran ahead of us, stopped and then amazingly did a full sashtanga namaskar to the hill - with both his front and back legs flat on the ground. I have never seen a dog do anything like that before. He stayed that way till both me and Surya did the same.. and then he trotted back on to the road.

By that time I realized that this was no ordinary dog.. But my logical mind came up with numerous other possibilities such as that it belonged to a local swami and hence was just following the path taken by that person etc.. And we walked on..

It was now four hours since we had started. Once more we tried getting food for Kala. This time we got some chappathis. But he wouldn't touch them. The fights with the local dogs kept happening on a regular basis. Another strange thing that happened was that he would be totally pissed off by monkeys and crows. Whenever any of them came near us he would bark at them and drive them away for a 100 feet or more. I still don't understand why he did this.

Then at one point we saw that he wasn't following us anymore. We looked around and couldnt see him anywhere ahead or behind. We traced back our steps to the Kubera Linga temple. And there we realized that the abhishekam was going on and they had had a screen in front of the deity. We had left the temple earlier because we were getting late. But Kala has stayed on outside. He was not let into the temple.. so it is unlikely that he could have seen that the screen had been drawn in front of the deity. But as soon as we came, the screen was opened and we could see the deity. And when we left this time, we had Kala tagging along right behind!

I was now worried about Surya getting too attached to the dog. I was also thinking that as we got into the bus, the dog would try to follow us back to Bangalore. But then I had learnt enough over the last year not to worry too much thanks to the wisdom of my Guru Swami Nithyananda whom I was totally hooked to. We walked the next few kilometers back to the starting point - the north gopuram of the Arunachala temple. Just as we came close to the main gate, Kala walked under a small deserted stall and lay down quietly. He wouldn't come out even if we called. We realized that it had been 6 hours since it had taken any food or water and bought some other food. Again it didn't touch it. In awe we went to the temple to tell the others who had gone ahead about what happened.

I have no idea how to explain the incident or what it meant. Later on I read a story about how in Ramana's life there was a dog that used to eat from Bhagavan's plate. And how one day it committed suicide by jumping into the well because one of the disciples had criticized it for eating from his plate. Bhagavan apparently chided the disciple and said that the dog was a Siddha who had taken birth just to be with him. So perhaps Kala was another such being that was hanging around Thiruvannamali just to go around the hill.

I have heard about such strange incidents happening around there in books. But having seen it first hand was something indescribable for me and Surya. It makes us realize how little we know of the amazing and mystical world we live in..


  1. IMHO, Divinity does not defy science for science itself is a law defined by God. Humans, blinded by science, think that they have "discovered" the truth behind every event. Sadly, science is man's friend & enemy as well.

    I've listened to a number of stories like this. It takes some spiritual propensity and willingness to see with "soul" to understand certain things. And that sight itself would be the result of a number of past lives' spiritual journey.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences AC. Keep them coming! Spiritually young people like me who mingle with agnostic and atheistic people for professional reasons, need a rope from elders like you to cross this ocean of maya.

    Good day!

  2. I had a similar incident. A dog followed me and my wife as we were doing the circumambulation. It joined us at about the 2 km point and was with us till we reached the temple area. I also thought that it was expecting food. But, it didn't seem to relish the cake I bought for it. It is a strange thing for a dog to follow anybody for about 10 km, that through hostile territories. I would therefore love to suspend reason and succumb to think that it was a divine incident. Incidentally, I did three circumambulations. Two on the first day and one on the following morning. This incident took place in the first round. I didn't happen to see the dog in the second and third. -

  3. Beautiful story! :)