Make your own free website on

Traveling To Sri Arunachala:


When Sri Ramana was asked if a journey should be made to India,

he almost always advised against it.

Sri Ramana said that Arunachala is the Self and the Self is within you. 

Sri Ramana said that the Guru is within you. 

When asked specifically if, as with radio, those who are physically nearer the sage

receive the transmission more clearly, Europe being far away from India for example,

Sri Ramana said no,  that physical proximity makes no difference. 

I agree with Sri Ramana’s advice on this

and I also recommend that you do not go to India for any spiritual purpose.

However, I know that people will, against Sri Ramana’s advice, go to India,

and I would like those people to have the best experience possible. 

I have therefore provided this page for the purpose

of helping people to have the best possible experience in visiting Tiruvannamalai.


After clicking this link:


scroll down to Sri Ramana Community then click the “Sri Ramanasramam neighborhood” link. 

Print up a copy of the map and directions and take them with you to Tiruvannamalai. 

Taking the map with you will make your journey much easier

because you won’t have the feeling of being lost. 

You will know where places are.


For a good source of information regarding Travel to India click:



Sri Ramanasramam:


Most people who are planning a short stay, stay at Sri Ramanasramam.

for  information on visiting Sri Ramanasramam click:


However, Sri Ramanasramam may only allow you to stay for a few days,

and you will find a list of guest houses below.


You can take a tour of Sri Ramanasramam online now by clicking:


After viewing each photo, click “Next Photograph” bottom left of the page.


The above two links come from the official web site of Sri Ramanasramam:


The following information (black font) is from the book :


“From Here to Nirvana, the Yoga Journal Guide to Spiritual India”.


If you would like to purchase a copy of this book click:


“Situated at the base of Mt. Arunachala, Ramanashram is large, well maintained, and busy,

with monkeys quarreling in the immense shade trees and peacocks strolling about the grounds.

The ashram offers accommodations for over one hundred people in numerous buildings

and cottages with one, two, four, or more rooms per building.

Most rooms are semiprivate but there are also dormitories and suites for families.

Most rooms have attached bathrooms.  Bedding is provided.

The ashram has a one-day laundry service.


You must write ahead for reservations as the ashram is usually full during the cool winter months.

Your letter should state your date of arrival and expected duration of stay.

You will receive a confirmation letter, which you will be asked to present upon arrival.


Ramanasramam does not accommodate new people unless they can prove that they have received written confirmation of their booking.

New visitors should be advised to bring their letter from Ramanasramam with them when they come.

If you can’t stay at the Ramanashram, there are numerous smaller ashrams and group houses

nearby that can accommodate you.  You can stay at the Ramanashram for one or two weeks only;

if you want to stay longer, you’ll have to find outside accommodations.


About a half-hour’s walk up the mountain is the Skandashramam,

a peaceful tree-shaded hermitage overlooking Tiruvannamalai,

where Ramana lived from 1916 to 1922. 

Slightly further is the Virupaksha cave, believed to contain the ashes of an ancient yogi,

where Ramana lived from 1899 to 1916.


This seems to imply that the ashes are the cremated remains of Virupaksha Devar. Actually, his body turned into vibhuti when he died, and it is these ashes that are stored under the lingam in the cave.

The food is superb south Indian fare, served on banana leaves, with excellent curd,

buttermilk, and milk from the ashram cows.  Meals are only for those actually staying

at the ashram.  Filtered water is freely available in the dining hall.


Schedule:  All scheduled events are optional for guests at the ashram.

Those staying elsewhere are welcome to attend any event except meals.

The daily routine includes chanting of  ‘Forty Verses in Praise of Bhagavan’ at 6:45 am;


There is a brief puja at 6.55 prior to the 7.00 a.m. breakfast.

The morning Sanskrit chanting is from 8-8.45 a.m.
and 5 to 6:15 p.m. at Ramana’s samadhi shrine;

The evening Tamil chanting starts at 6.30 p.m.


In addition to major Hindu holidays, special feast days include Ramana Maharshi’s

birthday in December or January (dependent on the Tamil calendar)

and his mahanirvana (the day he ‘dropped his body’) in April or May.


Fees:  Donations are not required but are accepted at the ashram office

When you are ready to depart.


Mt. Arunachala:


‘Arunachala!  Thou dost root out the ego of those who meditate on thee in the heart,

O Arunachala!’  -- Ramana Maharshi (from Hymns to Sri Arunachala)


‘Sooner or later, everyone must come to Arunachala,’   Ramana Maharshi said.

‘Arunachala is one’s own Self.’   So sacred is Mt. Arunachala in the Hindu tradition

that merely to think its name is said to be enough to bring about liberation.

So intense was Ramana’s love for this dry, rocky hill that from the day he first

came here to the day he died, he never ventured more than two miles away from its base.


Geologically, Arunachala is an upthrust piece of the Earth’s igneous crust,

far older than the Himalayas.   Mythologically, it is Lord Shiva himself – not just his

dwelling place, but his actual lingam, the god himself in physical form. 

According to the Puranas, Brahma (the creator god) and Vishnu (the sustainer)

became embroiled in a terrible fight over which of them was the greatest.

To resolve the dispute, Shiva appeared as a blinding column of light

that reached infinitely into the sky.

Believing that the one who found the source of this column would be crowned as the supreme god,

Brahma and Vishnu set off looking – Visnu digging deep in the ground for the base,

Brahma soaring high toward the summit.  Neither was successful, however,

and both had to humble themselves before Shiva.  In answer to their prayers,

Shiva condensed himself from a column of light into the mountain Arunachala,

and decreed that the mere sight or thought of this hill would suffice to neutraize all karma

and even bestow the state of ultimate knowledge.

Believed to fulfill wishes and bring about miraculous healings,

The 2,668-foot mountain has been the home of saints and sages for countless generations.


Homage is paid to Arunachala through ‘Giri pradakshina’ –

the devotional exercise of circumabulating the mountain clockwise.  On festival days,

the thirteen kilometer Pradakshina Road that rings the mountain is thronged with pilgrims;

everyday at dawn at least a few dozen barefoot sadhus and Westerners in Birckenstocks

set out on the route, which is punctuated by numerous shrines and temples,

each with its own story and significance.

(A map available in the ashram bookstore offers information about the various sacred stops.)

Take the main, paved road only if you don’t mind sharing your pilgramage with trucks,

buses, bicycles, and buffalo carts.  Otherwise, try the much more pleasant, upaved inner path,

which is usually almost deserted.  To find the inner path, go into the Annamalai Ashram

(just up Pradakshina Road from the Ramanashram, on the same side of the street).

Behind the ashram you can pick up the trail, which is fairly clearly marked the whole way

with white paint on stones.  (Women, unfortunately, should not walk alone,

as there have been some incidents of attacks.) 


‘One should go round either in Mouna (silence) or Dhyana (meditation)

or Japa (repitition of Lord’s name) or Sankeertan (Bhajan)

and therby think of God all the time’,  Ramana advised.

‘One should walk slowly like a woman who is in the ninth month of pregnancy.’

He also suggested walking on the left side of the road,

so as not to obstruct the movement of the invisible siddhas and sages

who also go regularly around the mountain.

(The souls of the dead, it is said, do pradakshina clockwise on the other side of the road.)

The walk is traditionally done barefoot – one local rumor holds that the failed monsson

in the last few years is due to foreign pilgrims going around the mountain with their shoes on.


If you want to climb the mountain,  you can take a stone path that leads from the back gate

of the Ramanashram.   A half-hour’s walk will bring you to the Skandashramam,

A peaceful tree-shaded hermitage overlooking Tiruvannamalai,

where Ramana lived from 1916 to 1922.


From the Skandashram you can take a branch in the path to Arunachala’s summit,

a two-to three-hour climb.


Or for someone out of shape physically who needs a lot of rest breaks,

a 5 hour climb up and a 6 hour climb down.


On the final, full-moon night of the festival of Kartikai Deepam in November or December-

which celebrates the union of Shiva and Parvati- an enormous fire is lit on the peak,

its flames visible for miles around.


At the foot of the mountain, in the heart of town, is the massive four  towered temple to Shiva,

one of the largest temples in south India, the oldest parts of which date to the ninth century C.E.

There you can visit the basement chamber where Ramana sat in samadhi when he first arrived

in Tiruvannamalai.  There are daily pujas at the temple at 7:30, 9:30, and 11:30 a.m.

And 5:30, 8:30, and 9:30 p.m..


In recent decades, Arunachala – once the jungly home of cheetahs, elephants,

Leopards, foxes and deer – has been almost completely deforested by goat grazing

and firewood  scavenging.  Intensive reforestation work is being done by the

Annamalai Reforestation Society, which is planting the mountain with drought-resistant,

goat-resistant trees like silk cotton, neem, and jujube.  To get involved,

Contact the Annamalai Reforestation Society, MIG, 95 Thamarainagar,

Tiruvannamalai  606 601.


Local Gurus:


Mt. Arunachala has been attracting saints, sages, and spiritual teachers for hundreds of years.

Many of them prefer to remain invisible;  however, here are a few to look for:


LAKSHMANA SWAMI:  is an elderly recluse, said to have been enlightened by Ramana Maharshi,

who lives in a large house (with a satellite dish) not far from the Ramsuratkumar ashram

and appears for darshan three times a year:


Deepam morning, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.


He sticks mainly to silence,  and when he does give verbal teachings,

they consist of steering devotees to Ramana Maharshi’s teachings.

A gentle man with a close-cropped white beard,

he holds his four annual darshans outside his house under a canopy of flowers.

Gates generally open at 9 A.M.,  but get there earlier if you want to sit up close.

He’ll sit with you in silence for an hour or so,

looking over the crowd with luminous eyes;

then he’ll distribute prasad before going back into his house.


V.  GANESAN:  the grand-nephew of Ramana Maharshi,

V. Ganesan was brought up in the presence of the master.

As an adolescent, he stood near the entrance to Ramana’s room the day Ramana left his body

and witnessed the famous   ‘flash of light’  that moved toward the top of Mr. Arunachala.

Now in his sixties,  he leads small,  informal satsangs six days a week –

from 9 to 11 A.M.  Mondays through Saturdays – at his home,

‘Ananda Ramana’,  a very long walk from the Ramanashram.


(Please note: Sometimes Sri Ganesan has talks at his home and sometimes he does not.

You can go to his home and see if the gate is unlocked around 8:45 to 9:00 AM, if the gate is unlocked, open it and walk to the porch, then see if the chairs are spread out on the porch

with people sitting in them, then there will be a talk.  If not, then there will not be a talk.

Please do not knock on Ganesan’s door. 

Everyone, including Ganesan, deserves to have quiet time to meditate.

Or you can email Smt. Anuradha, Sri Ganesan’s secretary

and inquire if Sri Ganesan will be holding talks during the dates of your visit to Tiruvannamalai,

and if so at what time of morning and on what days of the week. 

Smt. Anuradha’s email address is:


Ganesan earned a master’s degree in philosophy and worked briefly as a journalist,

but most of his life has been dedicated to the Ramanashram.

He was one of the founders and editors of the Mountain Path magazine

and worked for the ashram in various administrative positions for over thirty-five years.

He punctuates his teachings with stories not only of Ramana,

but of all the many saints who have lived in or passed through Tiruvannamalai.

To get to his home,  turn right out the Ramanashram gate

and follow the paved road approximately two kilometers.

Turn left just before the large sign for Anudamen Nursery.

Walk for about 200 meters to an orange or brown solid metal gate with a house behind it.

Satsang is held on the patio.


(If you ask an auto rickshaw driver at Sri Ramanasramam to take you to Ananda Ramana,

Sri Ganesan’s home, they will take you right to the gate. 

It is best to ask them to wait while you make sure that there is actually going to be a talk. 

That way you can ride back with them if there is no talk.

If there is a talk you can ask them to return to pick you up at around 10:45 or 11:00 AM.

I recommend an auto rickshaw instead of walking, it is a very long walk from Sri Ramanasramam.

Attending the Talks of Sri Ganesan, is a relaxing delightful experience

that becomes more wonderful the more talks you attend.)


NANNA GARU:  -whose name simply means ‘respected father’ –

never met Ramana Maharshi in person, 

but he says the received the Maharshi’s darshan in a dream in 1957,

in which Ramana kissed him three times on the cheek.

Nanna Garu’s main ashram is in Andhra Pradesh,

but the spends several months of the year in his newly built Andhra Ashram

in Tiruvannamalai on a side street just up the road from the Ramanashram.

He has a small group of devotees – including a handful of Westeners –

who come to him not for his verbal teachings

(he’s mainly silent, though he speaks excellent English)

but for his warm presence and his piercing glances,

which, as an ashram publication puts it,

‘turns their minds and thoughts from things external towards the Heart Center.’


Nannagaru website:





The first thing you notice about Vellaiyanantha Swami is his hair:

over twelve feet of matted braids wrapped around his head, draped over his ribs,

and spilling to the floor to join in a heap with his equally long beard.

His devotees say he has never had it cut.  They also say that he has not left the chair

he now sits in for twenty-five years and has not eaten or drunk for then

(his protruding belly, they explain, is due to the shakti he has accumulated.)

Drawn by such stories, increasing numbers of people are coming to darshan

in his tiny ashram – really just his house – in a village about thirty kilometers

from Tiruvannamalai.


Vellaiyanantha Swami – also known as Karrumarapatti Swami – has never had a guru.

He speaks no English, buth through a translator he explains that he had a powerful

enlightenment experience when he was about seven years old

and currently spends five or six hours a day in meditation.


Married, with three children, the swami still lives with his wife in a small house

in a village with no paved roads.  Every day devotees come to seek his blessings-

mostly local villagers, but in recent years more and more foreign visitors have come

by rickshaw or taxi from Tiruvannamalai as a day trip.  (One of Swamiji’s devotees,

an enterprising rickshaw driver, has set up a sort of shuttle service and provides both transportation

and translation for foreign spiritual seekers.)  You’ll be escorted into his room

and given a semiprivate audience, in which he’ll answer your questions through a translator,

give you his blessings, and distribute vibhuti.  Don’t be surprised if he puts his hands on you

quite abrubtly (which can be a bit of a shock, since the fingernails on one hand are five inches long).

The swami is playful and energetic, with a ready smile and a quick sense of humor.

Asked where his happiness comes from, he replies, ‘I taste the honey all the time.’


The ashram is really just Swamiji’s house – there are no accommodations or food for visitors

either at the ashram or elsewhere in this little village.  If you come for the day, be sure to bring

all the food or water you will need.


You’re welcome to join Swamiji in his daily meditations from 3 to 7 A.M. and from 4 to 6 P.M..

The rest of the day, he will receive you whenever you happen to show up.


Vellaiyanantha Swami Ashram, P. O. Kotthanthavadi, Via Mangalam, Karrupmarapatti

Tiruvannamalai (T.K.) 606 752, Dist. Sambuvarayar, Tamil Nadu, India


The ashram is in a small village about 30 kilometers from Tiruvannamalai.

You can take a rickshaw or taxi from Tiruvannamalai (the drivers outside the Ramanashram

all know how to find it).


(When I visited the swami he asked me to bring him 1 million rupees, a flashlight

and to build a big ashram for him next time I see him. 

I am not planning on returning to see him so he will have a long wait for the million rupees. 

I do not recommend your seeing this swami. It is really a waste of time.)


To get to Tiruvannamalai from Chennai, take a train. It is not safe to take a taxi in India.

January 2004 update:
There is no train anymore 
since the lines are being upgraded from narrow gauge to broad gauge. 
Anyone visiting Ramanasramam can order a taxi 
to collect them either from Madras airport or from the station. 
These taxis are operated by a devotee in Tiruvannamalai.
Current rate for a collection from the airport is Rs 1,500 (about $35) for the 180 km trip.


The above information (black font) was from the book “FROM HERE TO NIRVANA,


For a list of online bookstores click:


ACCOMODATIONS:  A guest house is a better choice than a hotel in Tiruvannamalai.

The guest houses have a better quality accomodation and are much closer to

Sri Ramanasramam.


ARUNACHALA RAMANA HOME is my favorite guest house.

The rooms are well mantained.  The manager and staff do not bother the guests.

Arunachala Ramana home is around 4 minutes walking time to Sri Ramanasramam.

Directions:  Across from Seshadri Ashram there is an autorickshaw stand.

Between the auto rickshaw stand and a laundry there is a small road.

Arunachala Ramana home is the largest building on that road and is located just where the road turns.  The manager plans to put a computer/internet/phone shop at Arunachala Ramana Home in the winter of 2002.  The managers name is Sathish Kumar.  His email address is:  He does not check his email often, so you may have to wait a long time before you receive a reply.


Sesha Bhavan Guest House:  After passing the Arunachala Ramana Home,

you will see an STD phone shop on the left side.  Pass it and make a left.

The owner, Armani is the president of a temple called Vallalar temple.

What I don’t like about Sesha Bhavan is that Armani becomes too involved with his guests,,

and he will quote a price, let you pay a price and then tell you he needs more money after you move in.


Seshadri Ashram is a nice place to stay.  It is located on the same Girivallam road that Sri Ramanasramam is located on.  It is around a 3 minute walk from Sri Ramanasramam.

They have some rooms with a hot water tank in the bathroom, with AC and western style toilet

at Seshadri Ashram.  To stay there, walk through the ashram gate, after one minute walking,

look to your right you will see a door. Walk through that door and ask them if they have any rooms available.




I do not recommend that you stay in a hotel in Tiruvannamalai.

Tiruvannamalai is noisy and the hotels are not nice.

You would be better off to stay at one of the guest houses listed above or at Seshadri ashram.


For another larger list of Hotels and Lodges click:


or click:


The above two links only give you the last five digits of the phone numbers,

So here are some instructions on how to dial a phone number in Tiruvannamalai

from the United states:


For example to dial the Hotel Ramakrishna:


011 91 41 75 25004


Or the Hotel Ramakrishna fax: 011 91 41 75 25008


What you need when they only give you the last five numbers is:

011 91 41 75 ?????


Often when you see an Indian phone number a zero is added.

If you do not drop the zero, you will not be able to phone from the United States.

For example, on the Hotel Ramakrishna web site they list their phone number

as 04175-25004.  To call from the United states you must drop that first zero.

If you dial 011 91 041 75 25004 from the United States, you will just hear what

sounds like a busy signal.   You have to drop the zero if you want to get through:

011 91 41 75 25004 is correct.  I write this because so often the extra zero

is given at the beginning with Indian Phone numbers.  After you try and fail

just remember to drop that first zero, when  calling from the United States.


Hotel Ramakrishna web site:


Hotel Trishul email:   Person to contact:   N. Umashankar

Hotel Trishul address:  6 K Mudali St.  

Trishul Hotel phone: 011 91 41 75 22219


INTERNET:  Shanti Internet Cafe:  walking from Sri Ramanasramam, soon after you pass

Seshadri Ashram you will see a road on the left and a sign for Shanti Internet Cafe.

Make a left and walk down that road, through its many turns until you almost come to the end of the road. Shanti is on the right.  Kumar is the owner.  Kumar is a nice soft spoken man who can also help you with travel or accomodations.


Directly across from Sri Ramanasramam there is an Internet shop. 

The owners name is also Kumar, however this is a different Kumar.

He has a photo copy machine also, and he also makes travel arrangements.


TRAVEL:  See the two Internet shops above.  One note about travel:

Travel on Indian roads is not safe.  Taxi drivers can fall asleep while driving.

Better to take a train whenever possible.




I cook all my own food in India. 

There are no hygienic eating establishments in India.

You can get sick from eating food prepared at an Ashram also.


Just past Seshadri ashram on the same side of the road as Seshadri Ashram,

there is a road.  Just near the corner there is a store called Veerbhadran.

At that store you can find many things that a foreign visitor would like

such as nuts, cheese, jams, and many imported items.

Check the manufacture date as he often has stale items for sale.


Sri Ramana Supermarket:   Continue walking past Sesha Bhavan guest house

make a right at the first road you come to, walk for 5 minutes,

Ramana Supermarket is on the left side of the road.

Many items that a foreigner might like such as mustard and items from Auroville.


2004 update:  Sri Ramana Supermarket has moved. It is now across the street from Ramanasramam.


If you are not finding what you need, ask an autorickshaw driver to take you to

Poompukar shopping center.


If you need vegetables, ask an autorickshaw driver to take you to the vegetable market.


Apples and oranges are available on Car street.


Here are some more Tiruvannamalai links:



A tiruvannamalai site.

Click the topic that interests you:






Another  Tiruvannamalai site. Click:


Phil Servedio reports on his visit to Sri Ramasramam and Sri Arunachala. Click:


The Ramana Maharshi Centre For Learning in Bangalore. Click:


The following is an email I wrote to someone on November 16, 2003

who is planning a trip to Tiruvannamalai:


Since this is your first trip,
I have a number of recommendations for you:
Click this link:
Then scroll down to “SRI RAMANA COMMUNITY”, 
Then print up the map and directions and take them with you to Tiruvannamalai.
The reason for this is that India is a very different sort of place, a lot of motion and noise, 
and if you have the map with you, there is more of a sense of orientation, of knowing what is where.
Also, by having the map, you don't waste a lot of energy trying to find this and that.
With the map you know what is where and that is a much nicer feeling than the feeling of being lost.
As far as where to stay longer, there are two choices I would recommend to you. 
My first choice is the Arunachala Ramana Home.  
It is on the map and it is only around 4 minutes walking time to Sri Ramanasramam, so it is very close.
It is a large building with a lot of rooms, but that is all it is. In other words, it is not an ashram.  
The manager does not often check his email, but you could write to him and try and reserve a room.
Usually there are rooms available and a reservation is not needed.  
The exception to this would be the once per year lighting of the hill (deepam) when it is
extremely busy, but I think you will be arriving long after that.  
It is busy on the full moon night, once per month also.
One advantage of emailing the manager is so that he will be expecting you 
and you can arrange a time for him to be there. 
Usually he is not there, and the old watchman does not speak English.  
However, I assume he has the internet shop running there by now, 
so maybe by now there would be someone always there you can talk to about renting a room.
You can find the managers name and email address 
and more information about Arunachala Ramana above listed under Guest Houses.
The other choice for accommodation would be Seshadri Ashram.  
It is also around 4 minutes walking time to Sri Ramanasramam, so it is also very close.
The advantage of staying there is that it is an ashram, so maybe a bit more spiritual atmosphere.
The way you rent a room there is to walk into the ashram, 
after one minute walking look right and there is a door. 
Go inside and ask them if they have any rooms available.
You probably could get by OK without AC in January, the fan would probably be enough.  
(December and January, one might get by without AC, 
but it is better to have Air conditioning the other months of the year, 
because Tiruvannamalai can get very hot.
At Arunachala Ramana home there is no hot water in the shower, 
so it would be best to take your shower between 2 PM to 4 PM
when the sun has had a chance to warm the tank.
(This was the advice for someone who is visiting during January.
However the advice for someone visiting during April would be take your shower early in the morning 
or late at night because the sun makes the water almost too hot for a shower during the afternoon).
At Seshadri ashram they do have rooms with a hot water tank. 
At Seshadri ashram they cannot gaurantee your stay, 
so if it got busy and devotees of Seahadri Swami were to come they might kick you out.  
Probably not that likely that that would happen though.
The path to walk on Arunachala is out of the back gate of Sri Ramanasramam.
With your back to the old hall, look at the rooms with the covered walkway.  
Walk to the end of the sidewalk. Then make a left turn and cross over the dirt.
You will see some steps there and the back gate is just over those steps.
Go out that back gate to take your walk on Arunachala.
It is around a 40 minute walk, more or less, from the back gate to Skandasramam.
It is this walk between the gate and Skandasramam that is my favorite walk in Tiruvannamalai.
The reason is because it is peaceful and much more quiet than the noisy city.
Nice trees, and mountain views.
Therefore, to find a happy, relaxed peaceful break from it all, 
on this walk between Sri Ramanasramam to Skandaramam, find a rock to sit down on.
Skandasram and Virupaksha cave have more of an intense feeling and they are very small spaces.
Therefore when I say find a rock to sit down on, I mean long before you reach Sakandashram.
In forty minutes of walking time there will be plenty of choices of rocks to sit down on.
That forty minute walk is so nice and so beautiful and so peaceful.
To go from Skandashram to Virupaksha cave:
at Skandashram if you look down the mountain you will see some steps leading downward.  
Take those very steep steps downward and after around 10 minutes,
Virupaksha cave will be to your right.
Soon after you walk through the back gate at Sri Ramanasramam, 
you may be approached by someone who wants to act as your guide.  
If you are only going to Skandasram or Virupaksha cave, you do not need a guide.
The stone path is well marked, like a stone road and you cannot miss it.  
Therefore, in order not to have the person disturb your peace 
by talking to you for your entire walk to Skandashramam, 
just tell him, I do not need a guide, or “no guide” or “no”.
However, if you decide you want to go to the top of Arunachala, it would be better if you have a guide.
The path is not as well marked to the top, 
and it is really a major undertaking to get to the top and back.  
On your first trip out the back gate, it is best just to go to Skandasramam and Virupakasha cave,
and not try to go to the top of the mountain.
If you decided you want to go to the top, you can meet the guide the next morning to do that.
Whenever you would like a relaxing peaceful break from all the noise, 
just take that walk out the back gate of Sri Ramanasram.  
After only ten minutes walking, you will already be in a very peaceful place.
I do not know what Sri Ganesan's schedule is, 
sometimes he has talks on his porch and sometimes he does not.
Therefore, the best way to find out if he is giving talks is to take an autorickshaw, 
tell them you want to go to Ananda Ramana, Ganesan's home.
Leave Ramanashramam around 8:30 to 8:45 AM.
If he is giving talks, the metal gate will be unlocked, just open the metal gate, 
then you will see the house, then go to the porch. 
If there will be talks that day, then you will see plastic chairs all spread out for people to sit on.
The talks begin at 9:00 AM. There may or may not be talks, 
but if he is giving talks, then that is usually when they are.
My recommendation is if he is having talks, go to all the talks he is having, don't miss any.
The reason for the recommendation is that it is such a beautiful, pleasant, relaxing, 
peaceful experience to attend his talks.  
I am not really recommending him as a spiritual teacher,
because he himself will tell you he is not a sage.  
But it is so nice to attend his talks, just for the peaceful experience, 
do not miss any talks while you are there, 
if he happens to be giving them when you are there.
For a devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi, 
attending Sri Ganesan’s talks is one of the most enjoyable experiences one can have.
Ganesan has so much experience to share about Sri Ramana and Sri Ramana’s devotees.
When it gets very close to the time of departure for your trip, 
maybe a week before you go, you can write to his secretary an email, 
tell her on what dates you will be there and you can ask her if he will be giving talks 
on his porch during that time and if so on what days of the week and at what time.
Or you could just show up and not send him an email.
Please do not knock on Ganesan’s door.
Everyone, including Ganesan, deserves to have quiet time when they are left alone to meditate.
This is the email address for Sri Ganesan's secretary,
Smt. Anuradha
More information on visiting Sri Ganesan can be found above.
Sri Lakshmana Swami only speaks around 3 times per year.  
Although I did not feel anything at those talks, 
and I tend to prefer sitting on a chair instead of on the floor, 
since you are traveling such a long ways, 
if the time of your being there does happen to coincide with one of those rare talks, 
then it would make sense to go an attend it.
Be sure you arrive early enough to sit in the front row, because he speaks so softly, 
that even in the third row you cannot hear Sri Lakshmana Swami.
Every year he threatens to stop giving talks, but Sri Sarada tends to talk him into it.
He is very old, so the opportunity will pass soon.
With the map and directions printed up you can easily find 
Sri Sarada and Sri Lakshmana swami's house and you can meditate in front of their gate, 
even if they are not having a talk when you are there.
Most anything worth seeing is on the map.
Printing up that map and having it with you 
will be a big help in your having a nice experience.
I would say no need to visit Yogi Ram Surat Kumar ashram.
There is nothing of a spiritual nature there.
There are some other health precautions besides malaria pills that are recommended. 
However, they are optional. You can find them at this link:
January 2004 update:
There is no train anymore 
since the lines are being upgraded from narrow gauge to broad gauge. 
Anyone visiting Ramanasramam can order a taxi 
to collect them either from Madras airport or from the station. 
These taxis are operated by a devotee in Tiruvannamalai.
Current rate for a collection from the airport is Rs 1,500 (about $35) for the 180 km trip.
I recommend you take a train and not a taxi to Tiruvannamalai. 
Taking a train is quite a hassle and you have to change to a different train on the way, 
but for safety's sake I have to in good conscience at least make the recommendation 
of a train instead of a taxi.  
If you decide to take a taxi then watch the drivers eyes to see if he is getting sleepy. 
If he is getting sleepy, tell him you want coffee or tea, 
then after he stops at a tea shop,  you buy him some coffee or tea.
It is not safe to take a taxi or a bus or an automobile or an autorickshaw or a motorcycle in India.
Therefore, whenever you have the choice, always take a train instead.
This is not to imply there is absolute safety in taking a train,
it is all matter of more or less safety.
How to get a train from Chennai to Tiruvannamalai?
Well you could go to the train station in Chennai 
and you could try to communicate with someone that you want to go to Tiruvannamalai.  
It is best to write Tiruvannamalai down on paper 
and show it to the person at the information desk and ticket sales window, 
because you will never be able to pronounce Tiruvannamalai properly.  
It is very difficult and complicated to buy a train ticket 
because even with those people who do speak English,
the accent may not be understandable.  
It is not absolutely necessary that you know the schedules in advance, 
but if you want to try to know what the train schedules are then here are some links:
You will have to change trains at Katpadi Junction.  
Here are some links where you can look up the train schedules 
from Chennai to Katpadi Junction and from Katpadi junction to Tiruvannamalai:
Or: after clicking this link, 
look left and click train search,
you can try express trains from Chennai, so click express trains next. 
You want to search first trains from Chennai to Katpadi Junction.
There are three train stations in Chennai.
Then you want to check trains that go from Katpadi Junction to Tiruvannamalai.
You can search through route or through trains that pass through Katpadi station, 
as in the first link above.
There is a way to avoid the hassle of trying to purchase a ticket at the train station:
If you are spending a night in Chennai upon your arrival, 
then you can ask the people at your hotel 
to purchase a train ticket for travel to Tiruvannamali
for the following day.  
You should check with them once per hour after you make the request,
because in India, people often say yes they will do something, 
and then never follow through.
Remember to write the word Tiruvannamalai down on a piece of paper.
This would save you a lot of the hassle of trying to buy a ticket 
at the train station.
It probably is best if you do spend one night in Chennai upon your arrival 
especially if you are planning on traveling by train 
so you are well rested for the train station hassle.
If you have only a small bag that you can carry yourself, 
then it is better to carry it yourself.
The bag porters at the train stations in Chennai, 
tend to go crazy after carrying your bag,
expecting you to pay them 300 Rupees because you are a foreigner, 
instead of the more reasonable, 10 to 20 Rupees per bag.  
They make a big scene, and big commotion too. 
They are very aggressive.
If you need to shop in Chennai, the place to shop is Spencer’s Plaza.  
They have almost everything, including travel services such as American Express.  
Food stores, and many other kinds of shops are there.
If you are planning a long term stay in India and would like to get a hot plate,
a portable electric stove, on the opposite side of the street, opposite Spencers Plaza,
there is a store. I think it might be called Jaimal and son’s or something like that.
Take care,
with Love,
Michael L.