I remember, mom and granny used to take us to an Ashram roughly since 1993's. Not sure if I visited Thapovanam during my college days 2001-2005. But, I didn't visit it after my college days. Last couple of weeks, I had an inherent urge to travel to Thapovanam. Last weekend (25 May 2013), I, granny and mom started after lunch and reached Thapovanam around 4:30pm. We took accomadation at Thapovanam premises and registered for morning poojas. We attend the evening poojas. Next day morning, after the morning poojas, around 11:00am we started to Ulagalandha Perumal Temple at Tirukovilur. Subsequently we reached back to Pondicherry. Though it was hardly a 24 hour trip, it was such a memorable pleasant trip one can ask for which I asked for.
About Gnananandha Thapovanam
Gnananandha Thapovanam can be tagged as an ashram, as a mutt, and as a veda padasalai (Veda School). This humble ashram is located on the banks of River Thenpennai. One would would find a peaceful temple with lots of open space. There are many trees within the premises giving a close to nature feeling. This Thapovanam was founded by Sri Gnananandha Giri Swamigal. Every morning, poojas are performed starting at 4:00 am - Purushasuktam, Suprabhatham, 5:00am - Ko Pooja, Deepa Jyoti, 6:00 am - Ganapathi Homam, 7:15 am - Paadha Pooja and 8:30 am - Adhistaanam. Everything would be over by 10:00am. In the evening, poojas are performed at 5pm - Manimandapam (an Abisheka for Gnananandha Giri Swamigal & Sloka chanting), 6:15pm - Adhishtaanam, Nei Vilakku and Anjaneyar Vadamalaai. Everything would be over by 7:45pm. A simple delicious lunch (Sambar, Curry, Rasam, Mor) is served at 10:30am and 8:00pm.
I have just said you the daily schedule. But, intrinsically, the rituals are much more than what we could read as texts. They are religiously performed in the most unhurried manner you could ever see. And the plainly dressed young children (who are mostly from the Thapovanam premises) flawlessly chant Slokas (including Vishnu Sahasranaamam) in unison which are so divine to listen on an early morning and in the evening. It is nowadays getting rare to see and be part of such non-profit oriented rituals. I am glad that Thapovanam is still the same as I first visited in mid 1990s. That is precisely a reason I would want to go regularly. There are no silence boards nor volunteers to protect the silence, but a gentle silence blankets the entire premises.
Within Thapovanam there are many portions where people stay. Many of them are purohits of the temple and other staff members viz cooks, watchmen etc. Opposite to the temple, there are accommodation facilities for visitors (for those who are performing poojas on next day morning). They do not ask any money for it.
If one goes there to find bamboo cane based chairs, vanish painted teak pillars, tables, cupboards, group people humming chants and doing mediation or somebody having a kiosk for some rejuvenating camp or yoga-cum-meditation camp, or well maintained lawns - then one would be disappointed. They only serve pooja's to God. They only serve to God.
I would highly recommend this place to everyone. People who want rejoice or solace can definitely escape to Gnananandha Thapovanam.
Gnanananda Thapovanam Website: http://www.gnanananda.org/