Of course, no trip to Thiruvannamalai is complete without visiting the caves where Ramana Maharshi meditated for years. One of these caves is the Skandhasram and the other is called the Virupaksha cave. These are located on mount Arunachala and accessible on foot (it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get there) from the Ramana Maharshi ashram. Ideally, one need to walk barefoot to get there. However,for those not used to walking barefoot, canvas shoes may be an option.
Ramana Maharshi Ashram and Mount Arunachala in the background
Since the caves are open from 8 am to 5 pm - depending on how you take the walk -you may start walking by around 7.15am to reach in time and be among the first few when the premises is opened in the morning. Post 10 pm, there are a lot of devotees at the caves. So reaching there early is a good idea. These caves are (at least the Skandhasram is) protected monuments under ASI. The insides of these caves have been preserved as it was at the time of Ramana Maharshi. The exterior has been modified for protection and safeguarding it for posterity.
The path to the caves
The view of the top of the hill is quite spectacular, as you can see from the two photos below. It was not warm for an early October in Tamil Nadu. However, a month later it could be colder and may need a cardigan.
At Skandasharam.The cave is behind the grills
At Virupaksha caves
While the path from Ramana Maharshi asharma to Skandasharam is quite walkable the same cannot be said of the 10 to 15 minutes walk from Skandasharm to Virupaksha caves. It is quite steep and at times a little slippery. One does need to take additional care while walking this stretch.
Inside the cave, the original environment has been retained. It is quite hot inside. However, it is very peaceful and easier to meditate.
As with other journeys, the return journey to the main asharam appeared to take much less time.