Home to some of the world’s most unique and beautiful temples, which are not just powerful, but are also architectural marvels in themselves, the Southern Peninsula draws millions of pilgrims all through the year.
Southern Sojourn, a program by Isha Sacred Walks, offers you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to embark on a journey to some of the most stunning temples down South. Most of these sacred spots were not just created as places of worship; rather, they are energized spaces that leave a lasting impression and impact on everyone who visits them. Here are seven reasons why you should not miss the chance to be a part of the Southern Sojourn.
The ancient South Indian temples were built based on an intricate science. These are not places for prayer but to simply sit and charge yourself with a powerful energy that enhances life in a phenomenal way.
Breathtaking Dravidian masterpieces in stone that date back to the 3rd century. Towering gopurams that will stun you with their beauty. Brightly-colored sculptures in exquisite detail. Ancient engravings that tell stories of Gods, demons and mortals. South Indian temples are a rich treasure trove of stunning design and colorful mythological tales, and they hold great spiritual significance for pilgrims who travel from far and wide to lay their eyes on these timeless marvels.
▵ Tamil Nadu: Land of Temples
South India is home to thousands of temples, the majority of which can be found in Tamil Nadu. Known as the “Land of Temples”, the state is home to nearly 33,000 ancient temples, some as old as 800 to 1,200 years.
▵ Jambukeshwarar Water Element Temple
The Jambukeshwarar temple at Thiruvanaikaval, dedicated to Lord Shiva, honors the element of water. It has an underground water spring that naturally fills the sanctum where the linga stands.
▵ Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Lord Murugan, Lord Hanuman and Amman
While a majority of the temples venerate Lord Shiva and his fierce Bhairava avatar, many of the great places of worship in South India are dedicated to Lord Vishnu, as well as Lord Murugan, Lord Hanuman and Amman. Each temple is rich in stories, legends, architectural styles and awe-inspiring legacies.
▵ Towering gopurams, majestic pillar structures
Temples in the South are characterized by towering gopurams, majestic pillar structures, sprawling temple complexes and ornate, embellished entrances. Boasting complex architecture, a variety of sculptures and rich inscriptions, the temples remain the very essence of the culture and heritage of South India, with historical records dating back to at least 3,000 years.
▵ Brihadeeswarar – Big Temple
Many temples in Tamil Nadu are nothing short of marvels. Constructed over 1,000 years ago, the Brihadeeswarar temple at Thanjavur, better known as Periya Kovil (Big Temple), is considered the greatest glory of Chola architecture with its imposing 216 feet-high central tower, one of the tallest in the world. This incredible temple tower is capped by a single stone weighing 100 tons, which remains an engineering enigma even today.
▵ Arunachaleshwarar Fire Element Temple
Each of these sacred spaces leave you feeling enriched. The Arunachaleshwarar temple, also known as the Annamalaiyar Temple, in Tamil Nadu, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva, is said to be a spiritual space which was home to saints and sages who lived for thousands of years. The temple is built for the element of fire and is one of the Pancha Bhuta temples, the ancient shrines built for sadhana (spiritual practices) pertaining to each of the five elements — earth, water, fire, air, and space.
For all this and more, a journey with the Southern Sojourn is an intensely spiritual experience, complete with the inclusion of meditation sessions, satsangs, spiritual processes and much more. The week-long trip will take you to the Isha Yoga Center, from where you will travel to the Arunachaleshwarar temple, Ramanashram and Virupakshi Malai caves, the Jambukeshwarar temple, Sadhguru Sri Brahma’s ashram at Trichy, Brihadeeswarar temple at Thanjavur, Ramanathaswamy Temple in Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi. The Southern Sojourn offers you an opportunity to admire the brilliance of these sacred spaces which were built not by mere men, but by dedicated devotees. The sheer scale and magnificence of these marvelous structures reveals the absolute devotion and passion that went into making them.
With our team of highly skilled, trained and dedicated teachers and volunteers always ready to help you with every step you take on this memorable journey, you will be enveloped in a sense of endless energy, tranquility and oneness.
The journey begins at night from Isha Yoga Center, and we head to the first of our destinations, the town of Thiruvannamalai.
We reach the town early in the morning and make our way to the Arunachaleshwarar temple, where many saints and sages have lived for thousands of years. In the last century, Ramana Maharshi spent many years in samadhi here. The temple is built for the element of fire and is one of the Pancha Bhuta temples, the ancient shrines built for sadhana for each of the five elements – earth, water, fire, air, and space. The temple is located at the foot of the Arunachala hill, which is itself held as a sacred linga. There are many Shiva legends associated with Arunachaleshwarar, one of which recounts how, at this place, Shiva transformed himself into a towering column of fire touching heaven and earth.
The temple is well known for its 1000-pillar mandapam, its rajagopuram, which is among the tallest in the country, and the pathalalinga – the place where Ramana spent years in sadhana.
After the temple, we trek a short way up the Arunachala hill to the Ramanashram and Virupakshi Malai caves, where Ramana Maharshi spent over a decade in meditation. It was while he was in these caves that many of his first devotees visited him, and he came to be known as Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi.
After our day at the temple for fire, we journey to the Jambukeshwarar temple at Thiruvanaikaval, built for the element of water. At the temple, an underground water spring fills the sanctum where the linga stands. Uniquely, the priests at the temple dress up as women before performing the afternoon rituals. The story behind this practice is that Parvati performed penance on this spot and created a linga from the waters of the nearby Kaveri River.
From the temple, we travel to Sadhguru Sri Brahma’s ashram at Trichy, a place where Sadhguru Sri Brahma sat in a state of samadhi for a certain period of time. This powerful place still reverberates with an energy that cannot be missed.
Early morning finds us at the Brihadeeswarar temple at Thanjavur. Though not a Pancha Bhuta temple, Brihadeeswarar is one of the most famous of India’s temples, known the world over. Over 1000 years old, it is sometimes simply referred to as the “Big Temple.” Considered the pinnacle of Chola dynasty architecture, its most famous architectural feature is the immense 66-meter tall shikhara, or central tower, which is capped by a single stone weighing almost 100 tons. The interior of the shikhara is lined with steps, giving us the opportunity to climb up the tower and glimpse this audacious piece of engineering up close. Brihadeeswarar was associated with Karurar, one of the siddhas in yogic lore, whose samadhi is situated within the temple compound.
From here, we travel to Rameshwaram and stop at Ariyaman beach a few kilometers before the town. The pristine blue ocean and white sand make it a picture-perfect beach. The ocean here is very still, making it an ideal spot for swimming, even for less-experienced swimmers. The quiet beach is also a great place to relax and unwind.
At Rameshwaram, we visit the Ramanathaswamy temple, the southernmost of the twelve Jyotirlingas. The Jyotirlinga is one of many lingas at the temple, which include a linga made of salt, one of crystal, and one of sand. Legend has it that both Rama and Sita worshipped Shiva here, and Sita created the linga of sand after Rama defeated Ravana. The temple is also famous for its 22 teerthams, or sacred water bodies, which were consecrated by none other than Patanjali, the father of modern yoga.
Each of the teerthams has a unique quality and a different temperature and feel to the water. The temple is also famous for its corridors, considered among the longest and most beautiful in the world. Their total length is over a kilometer and they are lined with over 4000 pillars. The corridors are so high that elephants walk through them during temple festivals.
We also travel a short distance to Dhanushkodi, one of the last points on the Indian mainland, immortalized in the Ramayana as the point where Rama’s bridge to Lanka begins. Dhanushkodi was once a bustling town, but it was completely destroyed half a century ago by a cyclone. All that is left today are a few remnants. Train tracks, a railway station, a school and a few other buildings stand amidst the shifting sands and winds of the beach, giving the place an otherworldly feel.
Visit the Madurai Meenakshi temple, a powerful shakthi peetam, popularly known as “Manonmani peetam”. Spend time at Natadreeshwarar temple (meaning “Shiva in the middle of the river”). This temple was consecrated by Sage Agasthya himself.
We begin the return journey and arrive back at Coimbatore around 6 PM and Isha Yoga Center at around 8 PM on this day.
The program culminates with Guru Pooja, an offering of gratitude to the great beings of the past who have made available the powerful possibility of self-transformation.
The sojourn starts and ends at Isha Yoga Centre, Coimbatore
Accommodation will be provided at the best hotels at each location (on twin sharing basis). During the journey, a mix of Indian and continental vegetarian meals will be served. Comfortable travel in an air-conditioned vehicle, entrance fee at all places and mineral water are also part of the services offered. A doctor will accompany us on the sojourn. We also make special arrangements to meditate in the temple parikramas which are generally off-limits to overseas visitors.
Note: Please plan for costs towards personal expenses, souvenirs and other expenditures not mentioned here.
Isha is not a tour company – we offer this sojourn with the intention of providing you with the opportunity to experience these sacred places in their true depth and dimension. Imbibing the overwhelming power, energy and grace of these spaces opens one up to higher dimensions of life – even more so when the guidance of a realized Master illuminates every step.
- The Inner Engineering Program with Shambhavi Mahamudra and / or Shoonya Initiation is a prerequisite for participating in Isha Sacred Walks Sojourns.
- For upcoming programs near your city, visit the Inner Engineering Programs locator.
- These simple but powerful energy processes for inner transformation will greatly enhance your experience of the vibrant places that you will be visiting and will also prepare you both mentally and physically for the sojourn.
Most of the sojourn involves bus travel, so it is advisable to pack as light as possible. Due to space restraints, all items must be packed in one suitcase or bag. Inside the bus, you can carry one bag with items required for daily use. It is advised to bring luggage that is water-resistant and durable.
We recommend the following items
- Personal clothing. It is advised to bring clothing that fully covers the arms and legs. Please wear Indian-style clothing while entering the temples. At the beach, women are requested not to wear swimsuits, but long T-shirt and pants, in keeping with the local culture.
- Quick-dry towel
- Toilet paper
- Mosquito repellant
- Hand sanitizer
- Shawl or jacket
- General footwear
- Water bottle
- Sun glasses
Please carry a personal medical kit with electrolyte packs, medication for fever, common cold, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, indigestion, and any other medication necessary.
Contact Sacred Walks
ISHA SACRED WALKS
Thannerpandal, Velliangiri Foot Hills, Ishana Vihar Post,
Coimbatore – 641 114,
Tamil Nadu, India
INDIA REGISTRATION CONTACT
TAMIL NADU, KARNATAKA & KERALA
+91 9488 111 333
ANDHRA PRADESH & TELANGANA
+91 9488 123 999
REST OF INDIA
+91 9488 111 555 / +91 9488 123 555
OVERSEAS REGISTRATION CONTACT
USA & CANADA
UK & EUROPE
+44 7415 990433
SINGAPORE, MALAYSIA & AUSTRALIA
+65 8771 3634
+971 50 802 4893