The pilgrim’s guide
What to wear
Skanda Vale is an outdoors place, and the weather is often a lot worse than in the cities. You should be prepared, even in summer, for bad weather. We recommend you wear warm outdoor clothing, with waterproofs, umbrellas and sensible shoes for walking on uneven ground. If you are visiting in the winter then you should bring a torch as well. Your temple clothing should be clean and modest. We ask pilgrims not to bring leather jackets, belts or handbags into the temples.
What to bring
All worship, meals and accommodation at the ashram are offered free of charge. If you would like to donate money, food or any other items then you are very welcome, but it should be done so anonymously. In keeping our vows of poverty, we never make suggestions regarding what you should offer to God in the temples. Food offerings should be arranged on trays, and placed on the tables outside any of our three temples before the puja starts. Please remove any unnecessary packaging, and wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly. Money offerings should be placed in the red metal donation boxes outside each of the temples. Please do not offer money in the temple itself.
What to do when you’re here
Skanda Vale is an ashram, not a tourist destination. If you would like to visit, then you should come as a pilgrim, not a sightseer. In preparation for your pilgrimage, we ask you not to consume any meat, poultry, fish or illegal drugs for at least three days before you come here. Please do not bring any of these things into the ashram, and remember that no smoking is permitted anywhere in Skanda Vale. If you have eaten meat in the last three days, then please sit on the terrace of the Shakti Temple, or sit at the back of the Murugan Temple. We ask ladies having a menstrual period to do the same – please feel free to ask a member of the Community if you would like to know more about this.
Most of our pilgrims have travelled a very long way to be here. Please grant them your respect by following these simple temple rules:
• Turn off your phone. Mobile phones and tablets are not allowed anywhere in the ashram.
• Sing, chant and worship God, but don’t talk during pujas.
• No cameras are allowed anywhere in Skanda Vale. Please leave them at home.
• Men and women sit separately.
• Children must be supervised at all times, and must be quiet in the temples.
The grounds of the ashram are sacred, so do not pick any plants or flowers – children found throwing stones at our animals will be in serious trouble. We have continuing problems with pilgrims dropping their rubbish; please understand that we don’t have a big team of cleaners – the swamis who lead the pujas are the same people that have to clean up everything you throw on the floor.
Pilgrims must not offer healing, therapies, counselling or medical treatment, (except emergency first aid) whilst at Skanda Vale. If you would like to volunteer as a health care practitioner, there may be an opportunity for you to help at our Hospice. Please contact us for more information.
As a general rule, you should come to Skanda Vale only to enhance your personal experience of God. It is not acceptable to use the ashram as a network to promote your business, find a partner, or recruit for other religious or charitable organisations. Leaving religious pictures or literature for pilgrims to pick up is not OK.
We have 42 beds in simple caravans and wooden chalets and they are all in very high demand. Beds are offered to genuine pilgrims only, so if you want to stay overnight, you must attend every puja in the Murugan temple (5am, 1.30pm and 9pm). We do not have the resources to take walk-in bookings, so all beds must be booked at least 24 hours in advance. Accommodation can only be booked online.
We have had big problems with pilgrims cancelling their bookings, or not turning up at all. For every booking we make, we have to turn away another four people, so if you cancel last minute then you have denied other pilgrims the opportunity to stay here. For this reason we will ban any pilgrims who consistently fail to honour their bookings.
If you are part of a big group, planning to visit during the busy summer months, you may have to share a room with other pilgrims of the same sex. If we are full please have a look at our list of approved local hotels and B&B’s. There are some nice places just a few minutes drive from our door.
If you are staying overnight, you will need to bring all your own bedding; a sleeping bag is best, or sheets and a duvet, blankets and pillows. We provide you with a mattress and a bed, but you must bring everything else. You should also bring some £1 coins for heating, and an alarm clock.
And finally, because we are a working monastery, we have to politely request that single ladies come accompanied by a female friend or relative. If this is not possible, then please contact us before booking your accommodation.
Pilgrims are very welcome to stay in the ashram for extended periods. If you want to stay longer than one night, we ask that you do four hours work in the ashram each day and remain in the temple grounds at all times. We support family life, and don’t allow pilgrims to stay here at the expense of neglecting their responsibilities at home. If you want to stay with us for more than one night, then please apply at least three weeks in advance, and we will make all the necessary arrangements.
Read a discourse about the spirit of pilgrimage.