There were a number of things I was afraid of having run-ins with in India that I had, prior to this trip to Tiruvannamalai a couple of weeks ago, not encoutered. They were: scorpions, cobras, and aggressive monkeys. So, in full disclosure, I have still not encountered a cobra anywhere in India yet, which I am perfectly fine with. I will gladly return to America in 4 weeks without that particular anecdotal gem under my belt. However, I kept expecting to see scorpions, and on some level felt disappointed by the idea that I might come all the way here to India and never once encounter one (from a safe distance of course!). Well, as you can see from the above photo, on our hike back down the holy mountain my wait was over! We were very hot and decided to sit in the shade. My friend Nava (She is Vanji’s mom, and an amazing 1st grade teacher who cooks the most incredible vegetarian food I’ve ever eaten) went to make space for me on the boulder where she was sitting by moving a smaller boulder out of the way. When she lifted it up, this scorpion was asleep underneath. The first photo I took of it was pretty much a failure, because a sleeping scorpion so well camouflaged with the rock below it basically doesn’t have much wow-factor. However, Vanji was so excited to get a good photo of it, that he threw a pebble at it to rouse it from its slumber (what, if anything, do scorpions dream of I wonder?) and get it to strike a proper pose. Voila! (No one got stung, by the way.)
The holy mountain, Arunachala, behind the ashram, is a place many religious devotees make pilgrimages to. It’s supposed to bestow good luck on the pilgrim if he or she climbes around the mountain barefoot. We decided to climb with our shoes on going up (though I took mine off on the way down). This very large monkey, who reminded me so much of a Dr. Seuss character come to life, greeted us early on in our hike up the mountain. He had a very dignified and chilled-out way about him.
A couple of weeks ago I went on a trip to Sri Ramana Maharshi’s ashram in Tiruvannamalai. We passed this incredible fortress on our way there.