There are two major holy power places for a shaivite (a shiva path follower) in India, One is in extreme north- Mount Kailas and mansarover which now lies in China, and the other in extreme south in tamilnadu called the hill of Arunachala.
Well Kailas is the abode of Shiva, its where he lives, but arunachala is a lonely hill (almost surrounded by barren fields for over 50 off kms everywhere). Arunachala towers up, and its pointed and alone, This is not where Shiva stays, this is who Shiva is. the hillock is considered the shiva-linga itself. The hill is the god. Its so beautiful that Indians can and do find and worship divinity wherever they can lay their sights upon. (its one thing to do idol worship- but when everything you see is the idol- then you do non-dual worship)
The mythology behind the form of Shiva appearing here is as follows (most of us would have heard it)
One day lord brahma and lord Vishnu had some sort of ego tussle to see who is the greater more powerful god amongst them, so as they couldn’t solve it themselves, they go to Shiva and ask him to resolve this issue. Shiva sets up a test, he says that brahma must go up and try to find his (Shiva) head and Vishnu must go and find his feet, and there is a flower which they must get back as proof (I forget the flowers name).
So brahma goes up but Shiva extends into infinity above; so brahma cheats and just plucks the flower from the earth and comes back, while Vishnu becomes a boar and starts digging under ground to see Shiva's feet, and he is unable to find it.. being humble Vishnu accepts defeat and comes back empty handed. This blazing column which Shiva becomes to test both the gods is Arunachala itself. It is a blazing pillar of fire, and hence arunachala is the centre of fire worship and the fire-element shiva linga is situated here. Well shiva brands brahma a cheat and liar and tells that there would be no more brahma worship held anywhere and Vishnu is held victorious… and the myth ends. The result is that the pillar of fire is made into stone and consecrated as the holy mountain arunachala itself~
Well I had the lovely fortune of going and spending some time at arunachala (I actually went during a powerful full moon night- where perhaps around or more than a lakh pilgrims do “giri-velam”- or circumambulation of the holy hill barefoot all night long- which spans over 10 kms). Well I did not do that, but I did visit the hill, Most pilgrims who walk on this hill do so barefoot- and believe you me there is no path to walk upon which is kind to the sole of the feet, and yet its so inspiring to see men and women walk around cruel rocks laden in the name of a path without flinching or cribbing all year around for eons till date!
There was a very funny or incidental thing which happened to me when I stepped on this holy mountain, There is a small forest gate which one must cross through to enter into the hill (as its a forest conservation region)… well the very first step of mine onto the hill coincided with a pellet/rock fired at me by a small kid who was sitting at a distance; which hit me on my left temple (right next to my left eye). I at that point was thinking something; whether I should take my sandals off to step in; and with my first step a rock changed my mental tapestry for moments all together; everything blanked out and I was without memory. I don’t think it was my thought which provoked it or anything; but I believe the holy hill gave me a good reckoning… sometimes it happens like this; a direct physical jolt to the body changes the energy configuration of the system… I should have had the grace to accept what hit me as beneficial, but I as usual lost my cool and went to the kid who was playing robin hood with his weapon and shouted at him… I was mad cause I thought that if the rock hit my eye; I would have been blind, but I cooled down and continued with my walk without anything else much significant taking place. I reached the place where the sage ramana maharshi stayed for over a decade before descending to the foothills in silence. The place is surreal, the view 360 degrees of the plains and the arunachaleshwar fire temple is beautiful to say the least. The silent meditation if only for a short duration in the ashram on the hill was rejuvenating. The aim of Shiva in the guise of a kid had been perfect; I now understand in retrospect. It made me overflow in the love that is Shiva-consciousness~
There are more foreigners who visit this place than the average middle class Indian over the years because us folks who live and thrive in this country still don’t know the significance of this beautiful and silent power place, the hill still claims to host divine beings of light and energy (siddhas and maunis), some in physical and others in energy form. There are also inaccessible places present and the average trekker is not advised to venture into many parts of the hill, There is also presence of secret kund and trees which appear to those in silent power meditation apart from secret tunnels which supposedly lead to the sanctum of the temple, which the siddhas travel by to worship without being seen one bit.
Its a treat to visit the place, you don't have to be a holy person or pilgrim or religious or superstitious to see the power and peace which arunchala has exuded over lifetimes…. that's the thing with power places, the less mental stigma or rigidity you possess; the greater the chances that something extraordinary and beneficial will happen once you are there. That has always been my experience.
Peace and Thavam~