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We would like to enlist your support to make the Holy Hill of Arunachala a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As many of you might already know, the sacred mountain Arunachala is a mountain of great spiritual significance and power located in Tiruvannamalai, South India. It is praised in many ancient scriptures such as the Vedas. The hill was also the abode of many great saints and sages throughout the centuries. In the 20th century, this includes Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, who, during his lifetime, never left the base of the mountain and whose ashram is still there.
Arunachala is a spiritual center for millions of seekers every year from all around the world. Hundreds of thousands walk around it in Giripradakshina every full moon. Moreover, every year Arunachala attracts millions of devotees during the most ancient festival in South India, called Karthagai Deepam.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site (WHS) program designates places around the world that have outstanding importance regarding the common heritage of humanity.
The primary goal of this World Heritage Site Initiative is to preserve and protect Arunachala’s sacred and natural integrity for future generations. The World Heritage Site Program can provide funds and other resources for restoration, preservation, and training. World Heritage Sites promote local and national pride in the site, which sustains and intensifies preservation efforts.
Why is the WHS Initiative necessary? Because this is a critical time for Arunachala.
There are many houses, businesses, shrines, and temples that have already been built on Arunachala. If we do not do something now, it is inevitable that there will be more man-made structures on the mountain. This is simply a matter of time. The pressure for development is unrelenting, due to the increasing value of the land.
This kind of development is part of global environmental degradation of spiritual centers, due to demand for open land, even if that land has religious significance.
We have already witnessed the defilement of Tirupati, in Andhra Pradesh, by human development activity. If it can happen there, it can happen here as well. This encroachment on holy sites is gradual and often seems innocuous. A structure is built, then expanded, bit by bit, without arousing opposition. But before we know it, there will be a despoiling of the natural beauty of the mountain by houses, roads, commercial buildings, temples, and shrines.
We believe the Tamil Nadu state government should submit Arunachala for nomination as a World Heritage Site.
Currently there are 29 World Heritage Sites in India. Four of these are in Tamil Nadu: the Great Living Chola Temples, the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and the Western Ghats.
Arunachala meets three criteria for WHS status. The most relevant criterion from the World Heritage Site program guidelines is #6, which says:
“is directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.”
“Sacred Sites” fall under Section 6 and are now an object of particular attention by the WHS program.
Arunachala obviously qualifies as a sacred site. It is one of the oldest and most sacred holy places of Lord Shiva in all of India.
The Puranas narrate the story of how Brahma and Vishnu (two of the Divine Trinity of Siva, Vishnu, and Brahma) were bestowed the vision of the immeasurability of Lord Shiva as an endless cosmic pillar of light. This pillar became the Arunachala Hill.
Over the centuries, many sages and saints, including recent ones like Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, as well as ancient ones such as Guhai Namasivaya, have been attracted by the magnetic pull of Arunachala. Today, to protect this Holy Hill, we need your help.
Thank you for your help!