03 August 2011

Athri Malai [Hills] - A Spiritual Journey up the Athri Malai -The abode of Athri Maharishi

The Second Day Pilgrimage to Athri Nath -  Spiritual Journey up the Athri Malai - The abode of Athri Maharishi

Athri Nath or Athri Hills is a highly divine and spiritual center.  A place of Siddhars. Yogis, and Rishis  They are similar in that they dedicate their lives to the realization of Truth and God. However, they behave slightly differently and belong to of the category of Saints who live according to divine directions. These people will not allow others to get close to them and in order to understand their spiritual enlightenment, one must follow in their footpath to attain sanctity and knowledge.    

The second leg of the Spiritual/adventurous journey by this enthusiastic group of friends was filled with much greater and rich experience and memories that is bound to kindle the very essence of one's sacred beliefs.

The Greenery of the Hill

The entire crew comprising of  Shri NRV and Ramachandran, together with all their associates, would like to extend their heart-felt gratitude and respects by sayng..... :

....." But for the help of சித்தர்  பணியில் உள்ள திரு கண்மணி, of Alwarkurichi  ,
the trip would not have been possible.He was our guide, a person with an experience of 30 years mountaineering [Athri malai].

It should be mentioned here that the  tea prepared by him, for all of the trekkers of this group at the top of the mountain [2500 ft above sea level], with numerous varieties of mooligais [herbs]  --- it's  taste one can never  forget for years...superb quality tea... Exquisite taste and aroma  which kindled everyone's taste-buds........cannot be got anywhere in the City or world, for sure!!!  

A commendable man, with a thorough knowledge of all mooligais [Herbs] on  the hills ; a down-to-earth- person, with no expectations from us  of any kind, was the guiding force for all of us during this trip.  To say he knows the trails like the back of his hand is an understatement and he  has been intimately involved in guiding groups around the wonderful trails of such Hills like these.  He in fact provided us with idlis [very refreshing and tasty ones] for breakfast, after our bath at the base of the hills just  before we started climbing the hills......which lasted not less than 3 Hrs ". ....

The mesmerising  "cool breeze over the mountains" whiffs gently ----Kissing, caressing past you and as you climb these steep mountains, there is a tangent aroma of the strong "Mooligai" [Herbs]  lying thickly populated around the hill, which undoubtedly, gives you a feeling of liberation thereby drenching,  tranquilising and intoxicating you to the maximum!  

Not to mention ----a wonderful experience of inhaling tons and tons of fresh Oxygen in the air....!!

You walk through the most amazing fragrances of herbs and wild flowers as you venture on your journey up these mountains. 

These herbs are indeed exotic,  and it's undeniable fragrance is both pleasant and relaxing. Both the leaves and the flowers of these various plants emit a powerful, yet relaxing, scent.  As you inhale the fragrance with the eyes closed, the mind becomes clear as the vapour courses through the brain cells.  

Most herbs will release their aromas better when they are brushed against or touched. A nice breeze also will carry the herb’s aromatic scent across the yard to you, thereby, refreshing you. This is of course a tonic to you and is definitely an escape from the stress of everyday life!

Rich Mooligai [Herbs]Medicines  in the Hill - Athri Malai

Early morning - Time to start the journey -Athri Malai

Rejuvenated after the tasty and fulfilling breakfast,  Shri NRV, Ramachandran and the entire group were all set to go up the Hills of Athri.  

Athreya Gothram is from the lineage of Brahmarishi Athri and Anasuya Devi.  It should be mentioned here that Shri NRV from this group, who belongs to the Athreya Gothram [belonging to the same Gothram, lineage of Athri] was proud enough to say so, and paid his due respects to the Sage by performing puja and rituals and prayed for the well-being of his family members, friends, relatives and all his acquaintances.

The journey up the hills via Kandana Dam offers scenic views and vistas of nature’s bountiful splendors.

Scenic View - Athri Malai
Although the entire Thamiraparani basin in Thirunelveli district is lush green and pleasing to the eye, all the nearby places and its environs are perennially scenic with cool weather throughout the year and the pleasant "Thenral" [Southern Breeze] from the Pothigai hills which surround the entire area.  Such is the uniqueness of the Hills.  

Up the Rugged Path to Athri Malai

One should be prepared to face all of these hazards to get the feeling of satisfaction in going up these sacred hills. As regards this Yatra, one must bear in  mind the need for enduring hardships and extreme physical discomfort throughout the climb.  The one school of thought is that the trip consists of senior swamis and the extremely ritual-bound holds that the arduous terrain should be retained. They give examples of how it was in those days.There is no doubt that the climb up the Athri Hills itself was pretty tough in those days. In fact there was a point where the only way to climb up was by crambling up the thick roots of a tree in the middle of the path. The conditions are slightly better but still arduous with no concrete path.  One should venture up these  Hills only with a proper guide who is familiar with the route and surroundings and make sure that the paths are free of wild  poaching animals.  

The Dense Athri Malai Forest

Even though everyone is bare -footed, one had little hindrance in walking  faster on bare feet without worrying about the roots, stones and slippery mud during the entire journey.The continuous seeping of rain water has created wonderful natural formations of various gods and goddesses en route.   

A Carved Siddhar Stone en-route Athri Malai 
Certain parts are not open to tourists as these are very dangerous depths.  For elderly and bulky tourists the ascending and descending is a strenuous job. It takes about one to two hours to meander through the pathway and also enjoy the natural rock formation. The floor is slippery due to continuous seepage of water from the top and one should be careful not to get hurt. The route is full of slippery soil, stones and  prickly plants. A test of time and patience no doubt!

Poaching Animals -Deep in the Forests

.....Walk in the Clouds - Trek to your hearts content while the clouds slowly descend upon you......

Small Water falls and rivers enroute Athri Malai 

There are small rivers on the way which appears as a small rivulet which is a pleasure to see and enjoy.  There are  also small lakes set amidst rolling hills.  The water looks milky and whitish due to oxidization of the lime stones with water.  The route is very breath -taking with its meandering paths on the surface of the mountains.  One can see only the trees outlining the rugged pathway with no sunlight or the skyline visible throughout the journey.

It took nearly three hours for us to reach the abode of Athri maharishi.  As you wind your way up the steep, rugged and slippery hill, one can find the surrounding atmosphere to be so serene and filled with tranquility.  This is what you could call....."HEAVEN ON EARTH"...!!!

Shri NRV, Ramachandran along with the members of the group had taken an idol of "Patanjali" to be offered to the Ashram of  the Athri Maharishi.  

A Brief Note on Patañjali

Patañjali [150 BCE or 2nd c. BCE] is the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice, and also the author of the Mahabhasya,  a major commentary on Panini;s Ashtadhyayi.  However, whether these two works are that of the same author or not remains in some doubt.
Patañjali Statue [traditional form indicating  Kundalini
or incarnation of Adi Sesha] 
In recent decades the Yoga Sutra has become quite popular worldwide for the precepts regarding practice of Raja Yoga,  and its philosophical basis. "Yoga" in traditional Hinduism  involves inner contemplation, a rigorous system of meditation  practice, ethics, metaphysics, and devotion to God, or Brahman.  At the same time, his Mahābhāṣya, which first foregrounded the notion of meaning as referring to categorization,  remains an important treatise in Sanskrit linguistic philosophy.   

Shri Ramesh Baba, the leader of the group, and an ardent devotee of sage Agasthiar, did Paal Abhisegham, pooja etc to the Shiva lingam, located under the tree ,on the top of the Hill, and of course, offering Neivedhiyam etc to the Almighty. This Lingam is the one which was worshipped by Sage Athri.......what a blessed man, Shri Ramesh Baba really must be!!
Pooja and Abhishegams done for the Shiva Lingam- -Athri Maram

Another interesting thing is that should be mentioned here is that there are 2 big  idols of Vinayakar at the top of the hill, both in sitting posture, placed side by side.

One on the right is the idol installed some 20 to 30 years ago  but the idol on the left has been  there right from the days of Sage Athri.....yugam yugamagha ....It is really different and more  divine for reasons, beyond words....!!!.

Still memories are etched in the minds of the trekkers on how the numerous sages and tribes have lived / living precariously on the valley.  One could not but raise a question as to  why all over the world the Sages and tribes choose to live on the mineral rich mountains and not on the plains. It is said that such places are natural soothing places which prevent diseases and ensures calmness and tranquility in minds. After visiting the lived / living sages/tribes,  one has no choice but to believe that their world is far off from ours--- they may lack modern facilities and technology we enjoy,  but relatively, they are free and happy with a clean and healthy environment.  

The climb and walk back down the hill was much easier but still required plenty of concentration.

Rain was playing hide and seek throughout our journey  and casting a magic spell to the landscape. There was a constant chill breeze whistling through the trees on our return down the steep hills, giving us signs / warning of impending rain.

 Imagine the fragrance of freshly drenched earth, with the season’s rain. How it cleanses your senses, relaxes and freshens you better than any other thing. Rain in the mountains, which feels like a dose of tranquilizer. ...... 

The slowly increasing drizzle, forms into a downpour over these hills.  These drizzles,  slowly increasing as time goes by, are absorbed by the spong-like cover of the medicinal herbs on the hills.  These herbs, soaked by the rain water, gets its pure medicinal properties which is a  boon to mankind.  It is a marvel to watch the rain water, added with medicinal properties, seeping and percolating down in small streams, and finally joins to form big Waterfalls like Kutralum, Surli Falls etc. in this belt.  

Drenched in the mountain rains and  drinking in the beauty of nature at its best, with a satiated feeling of a thoroughly exiting and eventful  day, the group slowly come to the reality of being on the plains once again. 

Soon after each one realising they  are down, enjoy an easy walk down to the gateway/carpark, to the mode of transport,  to take them back to their hotel rooms for a good night's rest!

To all the members of the group the feeling of self-satisfaction is like a warm bath!

The day was spent wisely and justly and  the entire group members were fully exhausted and drenched in the mystic beauty of these scared mountains---- so full of viberating energy given to the pilgrims,  from the Siddhars who lived here many centuries ago.  

The Mystical Hills of Athri

A brief note on this beautiful and sacred Malai called Athri Malai:

  1. It is near Alwarkurichi in மேற்கு தொடர்ச்சி பகுதியில் 
  2. கோரக்கநாதர் Temple is in Athri malai.
  3. Ganges was created for korakkanathar only by sage Athri Maharishi

Dam Site - On way to Athri Malai

This Sacred Hill is all the more inviting and Special for the following facts:

  • Mountains sustain enormous natural pure energy!
  • So much of medicinal plants which [directly/indirectly used by thavasis] prompt their tapas.
  • Away from human intrusion - uninterrupted tapas.
  • Mountains contain energy points.
  • Caves, which hold a ideal situation [not much warm or so cool] ie., balanced atmosphere.
  • One can be with nature!

Sage Athri Maharishi

Maharshi Athri was one of the manasputras of Lord Brahma and is known as Prajapati. His wife Ansuyaa was the sister of the sage Kapila who was regarded as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.  Sage Kardam and Devhuti were Atri's father and mother-in-law.

As his name implied, sage Athri was the possessor of all the three qualities Sat [pure], Raja [medium] and Tama [dark] and was a supreme devotee. Similarly, his better half, Ansuyaa was also a great devotee. 

The Creator of the Ganga River-Sage Athri

Shri Athri maharishi and Anushya Devi Ashramam. 

Here Sage Athri created the  "Ganga River" for his student Shri Korakkanathar in the form of a spring. Still on that spring water is flowing throughout the year continiuosly. At the center of the spring "Ganga Devi" idol was installed by the Athiri followers. "Thai Amavasai" day is the best day to worship Shri Gangaiamman, Shri Athiri, Shri Anushyadevi, Shri Korakkanathar and  Shri Vanadurga.

Lord Shiva, Korakkar, Athri-Anushia and Agasthiyar in behind of Pothigai hill [Agasthiyamalai] at Western Ghats

Shri Athri Maharishi and Anushia in Athri hills [Alwarkurichi] at Western Ghats

Lord Shiva in behind of Pothigai hill [Agasthiyamalai] at Western Ghats

About Sage Athri Maharishi

Hinduism owes a lot to its ancient sages. One of the most powerful saints in Hindu mythology is Athri maharishi. Now we are going to tell you about Athri maharishi's life history and his concert, mata or mother Anusuya and their power and participation in creating the whole world. They have written palm leaves which are of totally different nature. Atri maharishi's one of the seven sons [Vasistha, Bharadvaja, Jamadagni, Gautama, Athri, Visvamitra, and Agastya,] of creater Brahma. He is the ancestor of some Brahmin and Vaishya communities, who adopt Atri as their gothra. His name means the possessor of Sat [pure), Raja [medium] and Tama [dark] qualities.

Every year the jayanti [birth tithi] of Lord Dattatreya is celebrated all over the country and even abroad on Margasira Purnami.

Here is the story of  His father Athri Maharshi [Atreya means of the Athri clan]. There are many Brahmins, who belong to the Atreyasa Gotra [belonging to the same Gotra, lineage of Atri]. The word Atri [used by many Maharashtrians] and Atreya in Andhra Pradesh originate from sage Athri.

Athri Gotra is from the lineage of Brahmarshi Athri and Anasuya Devi. Anasuya is the daughter of Kardama Prajapati. Brahmarshi Atri is the seer of the fifth mandala [book] of the Rigveda. He is the Manasa Putra of Lord Brahma and was created to help Lord Brahma in the act of creation. He had many sons, including Soma, Datta, and Durvasa, who are the incarnations of the Divine Trinity Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra [Siva] respectively. The Trinity channeled through Brahmarshi Athri when they granted boons to his wife Devi Anasuya for helping the Sun to rise in the east every day. Let us recall that story now.

Story of Sati Sumati and Sati Anasuya
There was a great pativrata named Sumati, who served her husband with great devotion. He was afflicted by leprosy and was unable to walk. However, one day he saw a beautiful courtesan and desire arose in his mind [alas, that is the problem with all sadhakas]. He asked his wife to intercede on his behalf with the courtesan and take him there to fulfill his desire. Being a pativrata, she went to the courtesan and conveyed her husband’s desire and requested the courtesan to accept his request. Knowing that Sumati is a great pativrata and refusing her request would not be in her interest (the courtesans were well read and were God fearing in those days, though compelled to lead a profession that may not be to their liking), she agreed to satisfy his desire for one night.

Since he had no legs to walk, Sumati carried him in a basket on her shoulders and set out from her house after it became dark. Since it was a nil moon night, and she was going through a route away from the city lights, it was pitch dark and she could not see or hear the great sage Mandavya who was impaled but was silent in meditation. The leg of Sumati’s husband brushed the body of the sage causing him a lot of pain and the sage cursed that the person will die at sunrise. The husband and Sumati were greatly affected by this and returned home without completing the purpose of the ill-fated journey! A deeper meaning given to me by grace of Datta is that when the sun of jnana arises in the mind, all desires will die!

Sumati, being a great pativrata willed that the sun should not rise in the eastern sky so that the curse of sage Mandavya will not come to fruition. Needless to say, all the worlds were thrown into a big turmoil and the Gods went to Lord Brahma. He asked them to approach Anasuya and they rushed to her. Being a pativrata herself, she looked at her lord sage Athri. He asked her to accede to the request of the gods and help the worlds. So, they all came to Sumati, who was sitting with the head of her husband in her lap. When Sumati saw them, she was surprised and paid her respects to Anasuya and others. Anasuya requested Sumati to lift her injunction against sunrise and help the world and assured Sumati that she will bring her husband back to life with her pativrata powers. Sumati agreed and allowed Sun to rise in the eastern sky. Anasuya also brought back life to the husband of Sumati. All gods were very pleased and praised Anasuya and Sumati for their pativratya.

Sage Athri and His great Tapas

The Athri Maram[Tree] where the Sage performed Tapas
When sage Athri did great tapas on the Para Brahma, the fire / heat of the tapas became unbearable to the whole world and Lord Brahma had to accept it and gave it a form of a man. He also gave a boon to sage Atri that at the right time a son would be born to him. As he continued the tapas, the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva [Rudra] appeared before the sage. To his question, they replied that they were all equal with different roles and pleased with his great penance they promised to be born as his children.

Soma is called Chandratreya or Chandratre, and Durvasa is Krishnatreya or Krishnatre. Somatreya [Chandra] established the Someshwara Jyotirlinga, used to overcome all kinds of passion. Soma, as the incarnation of Brahma, has the power to cause any species to continue survival.

Soma [Chandra] and Durvasa gave their powers to Datta [Amsa of Vishnu] and went for Tapas etc. Datta, or Dattatreya as He prefers to be known thus carries all the powers and attributes of the Trinity and thus the Nirguna Para Brahma Tatwa and became a Guru and continues even now.
Sage Athri is the first among the Sapta Rishi [seven luminous or eternal sages in the sky] symbolized by the great bear [Ursa Major] and the seven stars around it.

Sage Athri punishes Indra

Once when he was in need of some money, he approached Prithu Chakravarthy for help. Prithu agreed to help the rishi but in turn requested him to help with the Aswamedha Yaga that he was taking up. He asked sage Athri to help his son who was appointed as guardian for the yaga aswa. Indra wanted to cause interruption to the yaga presumably to prevent Prithu from getting more powerful. So, he came disguised and stole the yaga aswa and was carrying it away in the sky. Prithu’s son asked sage Atri whether he should kill him with his arrows.

Sage Athri saw what Indra was doing and wanted to teach him a lesson and so advised that whoever is causing obstacles to the yaga deserves punishment and killing that person or injuring him is allowed by dharma. He indicated that the person was none other than Indra but no one is above dharma. So, the son of Prithu shot an arrow at Indra and Indra was badly hurt. Indra left the horse but again stole it and became invisible. Athri made Indra visible by absorbing Indra’s powers [like a black body absorbs radiation] and Prithu’s son punished him again!

The yaga was completed successfully and the emperor praised Athri to the sky. Sage Gautama, who was present [and is a very great sage himself] felt jealous [or pretended to be so!] and when sage Athri returned the compliments to Emperor Prithu praising him as Chandra and Indra, sage Gautama objected saying that it is against dharma. Athri maharshi responded that he did not do anything wrong and asked the assembly to pass their ruling on this tricky matter. The assembly of learned sages could not decide and they in turn submitted the question to Sanatkumara, another manasa putra of Brahma. He confirmed that since a king or emperor cannot become so without an amsa of Vishnu in him, Athri did not err in equating the king to Indra. All sages including Gautama accepted this ruling.
It is quite probable that sage Gautama wanted to bring out the subtleties of dharma through this incident and of course it is possible for the greatest soul also to momentarily succumb to the internal enemies. For us, the morals of the story are important.

Sage Athri helps Surya and Chandra

Once upon a time, there was a fierce war between devas and danavas [it is a never ending war in our own mind] and Surya and Chandra lost their tejas [effulgence, energy] due to Rahu and Ketu. They approached sage Atri and prayed for his help. He restored their energies so that they can carry out their duties. He also gave them a boon that in future, they would not be adversely affected [except during the brief periods of eclipse]. It just shows the enormous powers that sage Atri had because of his tapas. Let us bow to Him and request His help in regaining our own glory and realize our true nature.

Sage Athri in Mahabharatha

Athri Maharshi had a close connection with Mahabharatha. Drona was made the head of the Kaurava army after Bhisma's fall. Dronacharya fought ferociously and the number of wounded and the dead soldiers was thousands .Their cry of pain rented the skies, blood flowed on the battle field. Dead bodies got piled up and provided a feast for the birds of prey. In this carnage which went beyond all human estimation, Drona stood like a mad hero of demonic proportion.

Sage Athri was very much worried of this because if Drona continued this ,he would cause destruction and human misery beyond hellish proportions. Atri came to the battle field along with six of his companions. It was at this time Dharmaraya had shouted at the instance of Sri Krishna saying that Ashwathama was killed and this put Drona off completely. He lost all hope in his life. He became mad with anger and this sent danger signal all around. Sage Athri felt sad for him and talked to him in a friendly manner consoling him, Dear friend, all along you have done everything against Dharma .This war you are engaged in is the best proof. It is enough and stop it. Stop this carnage. You are a good man. This act is not in tune with your status. You are a scholar of Vedanta par excellence. You have been a Brahman and you have got to practice dhrama .This cruel act does not befit you. Give up your weapons, fix your mind in our glorious Sanathana Dharma. I am sorry that you have wielded the most terrible brahmastra! That too on the innocent soldiers! Put an end to your meaningless killing. When Athri said that Dronachariya decided to give up his arms and stop killing. He drove away his anger jealousy and sense of revenge and his heart became pure. He sat in a yogic posture and started to meditate amidst the cries of pain, killing, flow of blood on the battle field. What a great change!! He concentrated on lord Vishnu and closed his eyes and never opened them again. He then left his body and started his journey towards the lord. If Atri had not come Drona would have destroyed the battle field. Hence Sage Athri's kind nature helped to save many men.

Sage Athri in Ramayana
Sri Rama, the son of Dasaratha, visited Athri Maharishi's Ashram during his fourteen years of stay in the forest. It was Atri who showed the way to Dandakaranya after showering his hospitality on him. At his suggestion, Sita requested and learnt the innermost secrets of Pativarata Dharma from Anasuya mata. It is not that Sita was not aware of them but in an avatar, the Divine behave as if they are normal people and especially in Ramayana, Sri Rama and Sri Sita showed that it is entirely possible to be divine and yet lead a normal life as per the human values. Let us bow to Sri Sita, Sri Rama, Sri Lakshmana, Sage Atri and Anasuya Mata.

Sage Athri in Vedas
Athri Maharishi is considered to be one of the great discoverers of sacred Mantras of Hinduism. In his family line there were a few other seers of mantras namely: Shaavaashva, Avishtir, and Purvaatithi. There were also other great Rishis in that line: Mudgala, Uddaalaki, Shaakalaayani, Chaandogya, etc.

Attri-samhita and Attri-smriti are two works attributed to Attri.
Till the present day, a number of Brahmin families have this sage's name at the head of their lineage, which indicates that he or his descendents tutored that whole lineage.


kk said...


enga irruku athri malai



Jolly R said...

Dear Mr. Karthick,

You may follow this route:

Chennai - Trichy - Madurai Road Route I

Chennai - Chengalpattu(60) - Tindivanam (120) - Villupuram (160) - Ulundurpettai - Trichy (320) - Viralimalai (355) - Melur – Madurai (450) : NH 45 until Trichy and NH 45B to Madurai

Distance: 450 Kms

From Tirunelvelli to Papanasam via Ambasamudram
Distance from Ambasamudram to Tirunelveli
is 41.1 km and can be crossed in about 45 mins [medium]

Halt at Papanasam & visit Agasthiar malai.

Later Papanasam to Alwarthirunagari & then to Athri Malai.

Let me have your experiences after your visit to this place.

Lalitha Ramachandran

ABTC said...

nice post

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