|Vallimalai Pongi Amma|
After witnessing Kanda Sashti festival at Tiruchendur, if one makes a bee-line north straight to the Andhra Pradesh border in Vellore district, one will arrive to Valli Malai, the birthplace of Valli Amma according to tradition, just at the time of the annual Guru Puja commemorating the samadhi on 22.11.1950 of Vallimalai Śrī Satchidananda Swamigal, who popularised Saint Arunagirinathar’s Tiruppukazh songs and Valli Malai all across South India during the early part of the 20th century.
The power and beauty of this sakti peetam (Skt: ‘seat of sakti or subtle power’) are among the better-known secrets known to Murugan bhaktars. Indeed, Valli Malai remains as Valli Amma’s own playground where She and Bala Murugan romp and play Hide-and-Seek with each other and with their devotees to this day. The stunning beauty of Valli Malai with its pools, fresh greenery, caves and unusual rock formations stands as mute testimony to the continuing presence of the ever-youthful Goddess Herself.
Unlike towering Mount Kailasa in the trans-Himalaya where Lord Siva abides in cold silent majesty, the Valli Malai hills by comparison are child-sized. Indeed, the whole of Valli Malai appears designed to please the goddess of Valli Malai, Valli Amma or Pongi (literally ‘bubbling over’, i.e. with joy). Pongi is the spirit of a twelve-year old girl, just as Murugan always remains a kumara or youth. Valli Malai was the birthplace in prehistoric times of Lord Murugan’s sweetheart Valli and to this day her spirit remains here and in the hearts of her devotees.
|Sūrasamhāram: Pongi Amma after the battle|
|Ascent to Pongi’s Vallimalai Asramam|
|Pongi’s servant Balananda Sadhu (below) bathes Pongi with milk abhisekam (above)|
|Guru Puja 1999 in Pongi’s cave|
Vallimalai Śrī Satchidananda Swamigal has since been succeeded by his disciple Valli Malai Balananda Sadhu, whose renown as a friend of Pongi Amma and exponent of Tiruppukazh songs has been spreading across the world of Murugan devotees. Balananda Sadhu has single-handedly restored the delapitated Vallimalai Satchidananda Tiruppukazh Ashram and turned it into a model ashram and center of devotional activities including daily annadanam and annual functions that attract and feed hundreds of devotees.
A life-long brahmachari and former automotive engineer, Balananda Sadhu is well-endowed with the energetic drive and talents needed for one who serves as Pongi Amma’s own cook, driver, manager, engineer, foreman, accountant, priest and secretary all rolled into one. He is constantly engaged in devotional service of Pongi Amma and Lord Murugan. Lately he has also accepted invitions to visit devotees in Kuwait (early 1999) and USA (May-June 2000). At the time of writing (Feb 2000) he is involved in organisation work and canvassing for support to mark the golden jubilee Guru Puja of Vallimalai Satchidananda Swamigal in November 2000.
It should be said that nowadays most visitors to Valli Malai regard it not so much as a sacred sakti peetam but rather as a splendid destination for a school outing or picnic. This has resulted in a gradual diluting of the sacred atmosphere that is noticeable to devotees. The best way to counter this trend is to follow the example set by Balananda Sadhu who tries to educate young and old, devotee and casual visitor alike to respect Valli Malai, Pongi Amma and Her traditions. One should kindly note that Valli Malai does not offer comfortable facilities for visitors, who must ‘rough out’ and sleep out of doors like Balananda Sadhu who does so year-round.
Valli Malai is situated in North Arcot district near the town Walaja. There is a Murugan temple for Lord Muruga along with Valli and Devayanai.
Behind the temple there is a kulam Saravana Poikai. Near the kulam there is a Valli temple also. On the top of the hillock there is another temple for Lord Muruga. One has to climb 444 steps to reach this temple that is carved in a single rock. On the steps there are a number of resting mandapams. Out of the many canopies one of them is still not renovated. When they tried to renovate it, Mr. Arunachalam, Mr. Apathurai and Kripananda Variar tried to remove the stone. When they had smoke incense smell coming from the chamber below the stone they had the vision of siddhas and rishis seated in yoga posture. All the three had a shock and became unconscious. From that time the stones were closed and this particular canopy has been left as it is without renovation. There are a number of stories about this.
Valli Malai Shakti Peetam (Iccha Shakti)
Here Valli Devi has importance from very ancient time many siddhas lived on this hill. In fact one may call it a Siddha Bhumi. On top of Valli Malai near the ashram there is a place where Valli made a paste of turmeric for taking bath. Nearby is the place where Murugan took the form of a tree. Valli Malai Swamigal removed what remained of the tree and made it into a water pool.
One day while Vallimalai Satchidananda Swami was walking on the hill he met Valli in the form of a little girl who sang Virakara Nokkiyam. Swamigal felt very happy and was astonished. He asked the girl who she was.
She said, “It does not matter who I am, but did you not feel very happy in your mind upon hearing my music?”
From that time Valli Malai Swami started singing with rāga and tāla. He gave the name Pongi to Valli. He consecrated her on a rock called Pongi Parai.
|Ganesa Giri||Ganesa Puja|
|Vallimalai Asramam view from peak|
There is a natural rock formation like an elephant and Lord Ganesa has helped in the Valli Tirumanam. Lord Ganesa is in the form of a natural rock formation the Ganesa Giri and protects all the bhaktas.
|Vallimalai hill peak: Tirumal Girīswara|
|Panoramic view of Vallimalai Swami’s|
Tiruppukazh Asramam as seen
from Tirumal Girīswara
|Valli Malai Subrahmanya Swami’s ther (chariot) takes four days to drag around Valli Malai during the annual festival in February.|
Near the Valli Malai rock temple the asramam is situated. Swami Satchidananda accepted Tiruppukazh as the Veda Mantra and taught all with music. In 1950 he attained samadhi. This samadhi is made of a single rock. Presently this asramam is administered by Śrī Balananda Swami.
On the top of the hillock there is a Siva lingam called Tirumal Gireeswara. Here Vaisnavism and Saivism commingle. After the puja the priest blesses the devotees with sadari proving that this is a Vaisnava site.
On the west of the asramam, there is a spring which is called Suriyan Kanā Cunnai, meaning the pond that does not see the sun, i.e. the sun’s rays never touch it. The story goes that Lord Murugan came as an old man and asked Valli to give honey and tinai maha (millet flour) to eat. On eating the same he had hiccups and asked for water from a pond which does not get either sun rays or moon rays. The water is perennial and is considered as Ganges water. There are references about this spring on palmyra leaf sources. Young women sprinkle this water on their head and pray to Valli for a good husband.
Maha Visnu’s daughters were Valli and Devayanai. They wanted to have a husband who will never get angry. They performed penance and Lord Muruga appeared before them. Both of them wanted to get married to them. He said that Devayanai will be married as daughter of Indra and Valli to Veddas and then he will marry them.
After destroying Surapadma, Lord Muruga restored the Indra Loka to Indra As a gift Indra gave his daughter Devayanai to Lord Murugan in wedlock. Valli was born on Valli Malai and brought up by Vedda king Nambi Raj. Valli and Lord Muruga played a lot of leelas for nearly twelve years and ultimately married. This hillock where Valli was born therefore gets the name Valli Malai.
During the annual ten-day Valli Malai festival, after the Valli Tirumanam, all sumangalis married women with living husband are offered mangal sutra, kumkuma red vermilion and turmeric powder presented by Tiruppukazh Asramam.
On the way back form the Valli temple there are Jain caves. They are very old and many exquisite sculptures are seen there. Indian Archaeological Dept is currently administering the site.
This is the platform where Valli did penance. Near the Muruga temple Kripananda Variar has built this Tavapeetham. You have the Arupadai Murugan Sannidhi in this tavapeetham. Variar Swamigal used to say that every person born in this world should at least visit Valli Malai at least once and have a darshan of Lord Murugan. He used to repeat this in almost all his lectures.