The long awaited wish of my grandmother to go to Tiruvannamalai on a full moon day for a Girivalam was fulfilled on January 26 this year. On each full moon, lakhs of people walk barefoot for 14 km in the well-lit girivalam path, surrounding the mountains — chanting ‘Om Arunachaleswaraya namaha’ — to get their wishes fulfilled. I was excited to go with her.

We left at noon after having a quick brunch. The journey from Chennai was about five hours.

The town was cordoned off with barricades to prevent vehicles from entering, so that the devotees could undertake the ritual.

We finally reached the resort. We had already booked a couple of rooms as finding one on a full moon day is difficult. We refreshed ourselves and went on to join lakhs of people at the girivalam path.

People from different nationalities joined us. We started walking at 7:00pm. It was a bright full moon day. The first three hours of walking were brisk but the last few hours were hectic and we took a break. It took us five to six hours to cover the girivalam path. People around me were constantly chanting ‘Om Arunachaleswaraya namaha’.

There were lots of makeshift stalls selling everything from water bottles, energy drinks, fruits to readymade dresses and devotional cassettes. There were small temples and ashrams on the way distributing prasadam to devotees and the poor.

Even though our family was exhausted after we finished the girivalam, I could see the happiness on my grandmother’s face at having completed in one go she had thought would not be possible.

The next day we went to the Arunachaleswara temple and the Ramanashram, and then returned to our resort, packed our things and drove back to Chennai.

VINAY BALAJI, V, National Public School