Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple

Touted as the largest Shiva temple in the world, Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar Temple is located in the town of Tiruvannamalai in Thiruvannamalai district.  The town itself is regarded as one of the most reverenced destinations in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The word 'Annamalai' implies unaccessible mount and the word 'Thiru' were added to indicate its enormousness, and together it is called as Thiruvannaalai in the local language of Tamil.

Arunachaleswarar Temple Tiruvannamalai

The Tiruvannamalai town is considered as one of the oldest heritage locations in the country and is an important hub of the Shaivism. The illustrious Annamalai hills and its surroundings have been mentioned in several classic Tamil Literary works by a lot of notable Tamil poets. Furthermore, Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple is one among the Pancha Bhoota Sthalams, representing the natural element of agni or fire.

History of Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple

The Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple is devotedly called as the Annamalaiyar Temple by the Tamil speaking population. One of the oldest religious sites in the region, the history of the Arunachaleshwarar Temple goes back to the 9th century BCE, as discovered from the letters inscribed on the walls, copper plates and other temple structures made by the kings of Chola dynasty. Another inscription expresses that prior to the 9th century BCE, the region was under the command of kings of Pallava dynasty.
Deepam at Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple

The 7th century poet-saints Thirugyana Sambandar and Tirunavukkarasar Nayanar (Appar) mentioned the glory of this temple in their literary work, Thevaram. Several other inscriptions recovered distinctly evidences the historical significance of this temple. The inscriptions establish the spiritual association between some of the well known dynasties and rulers with the Arunachaleswarar Temple. Some of the important inscriptions that establishe the assorted gifts extended to this temple include inscriptions from the Sangama Dynasty, Tuluva Dynasty,  Saluva Dynasty, Vijayanagara Empire and so on.

From the year 1951, under the provision of the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, the Arunachaleswarar Temple has been administrated by the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department of the Tamil Nadu state government.

Significance of Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple

One among the Pancha Bhoota Sthalams, symbolizing the natural element of agni or fire. Lord Shiva in this temple is supposed to have demonstrated himself as a monumental tower of agni. The presiding deity in this temple, Arunachaleswar aka Annamalaiar is mentioned as 'Agni Lingam', that symbolizes responsibility, virtuousness, selflessness and lastly liberation by and through ascetical life (self denial) at the end of the Agni kalpa.

Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple Complex

Aathara Stalams suggests the locations that are regarded to be personifications of the Tantric chakras linked with the human body. Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple is known as the Manipooraga stalam. The Manipooraga is the chakra for religious ignorance, lust, jealous, perfidiousness, ignominy, fearfulness, illusion, imbecility and unhappiness. It is widely believed that even thinking about Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar will help in attaining mukti.

Legend has it that Goddess Parvati once shut the eyes of Lord Shiva in a playful manner in a garden at their holy abode atop Kailash. Though it was just for a moment, the whole world was deluged with complete darkness for years together. Following the consequence, Goddess Parvati together with other ardent devotees of Lord Shiva went on to perform a penance. Answer the prayers of the goddess, Lord Shiva came along as a column of agni at the summit of divine Annamalai hills, giving back the light to the universe. Lord Shiva then unified with the goddess and appeared as 'Ardhanarishvarar', the half male and half female appearance of Lord Shiva.

Architecture of Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple

The Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple is located just below the holy Annamalai hills, spreading over 25 acres. The massive walls on the northern and southern side measure 480 m and 451 m while the eastern and wastern wall measure about 210 m. This holy abode of Lord Shiva feature five precincts in total, each of the precincts houses a monumental Nandhi - the gatekeeper of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Sanctum Sanctorum of Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple

The temple has four most beautiful gopurams (towers) located on all sides. The eastern gopuram also popularly called as the Rajagopuram of the Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple is the tallest one. The understructure of the eastern tower is constructed of granite. The southern gopuram is known as Thirumanjangopuram, and the western gopuram is known as Pei gopuram. The other two gopurams are called as Kili gopuram and Vallala Maharaja gopuram.

The temple also houses several mandapams (halls) and temple tanks that include Deepa Darshana mandapam, Kalyana mandapam, Vasantha mandapam, Nandi mandapam, Brahma theertham, Ayiram kaal mandapam (thousand pillar hall), Arunagirinathar mandapam, Kalayana Linga Sundara Eswara mandapam and so on.

Girivalam

In most of the temples, it is a common sight that devotees do Pradakshinam (circumambulation) around the sanctum sanctorum. Here, in this temple, the holy Annamalai hills itself is regarded as Lord Shiva. Besides, Lord Shiva devoted his half to Goddess Uma on the Krittika Nakshatra in the Tamil month of Karthigai. Thus, Girivalam is performed by devotees which are nothing but circumambulation of the holy hill.

Poojas to Urchavar - Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple

It is believed that distinguished enlightened souls were adopting this as a prathanai on Pradosha and on the first day of every Tamil month. It is auspicious to perform Girivalam during full moon days. The circumambulation path around the Annamalai hill is about 14 km. The holy path is well lit with sodium lights donated by popular actor Shri. Rajnikanth.

On the Girivalam path, devotees get to see eight shiva lingams, eight nandis and several mandapams and tanks. The eight lingams located on the circumambulation path of Annamalai hills are Indra lingam, Agni lingam, Yama lingam, Niruthulingam, Varunalingam, Vayulingam, Kupera lingam and Easanya lingam.

Girivala - Quick Facts

  • Distance Covered: 14.5 km around the sacred Arunachala Hill
  • There are eight lingams situated at the eight different directions and offers an octangular structure to the holy town of Thiruvannamalai.
  • Eight lingams are: Indra Lingam, Agni Lingam, Yama Lingam, Niruthi Lingam, Varuna Lingam, Vayu Lingam, Kubera Lingam and Esanya Lingam.
  • It is considered auspicious to perform 'Girilvalam' during every full moon days

Name of the Lingam: Indra Linga
Cardinal Direction: East
Installed By: Lord Indiran, the king of Celestials
Dominant Navagraha: Sun and Sukiran
Benefits: Long life and fame

Name of the Lingam: Agni Lingam
Cardinal Direction: South East
Installed By: Lord Agni (God of Fire)
Dominant Navagraha: Chandran (Moon)
Benefits: Relief from diseases and fear

Name of the Lingam: Yama Lingam
Cardinal Direction: South
Installed By: Yama, God of Death
Dominant Navagraha: Sevvai
Benefits: Longevity of life span

Name of the Lingam: Niruthilingam
Cardinal Direction: South West
Installed By: Niruthi, the king of giants
Dominant Navagraha: Raghu
Benefits: Health, Wealth and Fame. Issueless can get children.

Name of the Lingam: Varunalingam
Cardinal Direction: West
Installed By: Varuna, the God of Rain
Dominant Navagraha: Sani (Saturn)
Relief from illness
Benefits: Especially water related diseases

Name of the Lingam: Vayulingam
Cardinal Direction: North West
Installed By: Vayu the God of air
Dominant Navagraha: Kedhu
Benefits: Relief from illness especially the heart diseases, breathing and stomach problems

Name of the Lingam: Kupera Lingam
Cardinal Direction: North
Installed By: Kuperan, the God of Wealth
Dominant Navagraha: Guru
Benefits: Wealth and improvement in life status

Name of the Lingam: Easanya Lingam
Cardinal Direction: North East
Installed By: Easanyan
Dominant Navagraha: Budhan
Benefits: Peace of mind

Tidbits:

Location: Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar Temple, Thiruvannamalai - 606601

Moolavar (Presiding Deity): Arulmigu Arunachaleswar or Annamalaiar
Amman (Consort): Ambal Apitakujamabal or Unnamalai Amman
Thala Virutcham (Temple Tree): Magizha Maram
Theertham: Shivaganga
Agamam (Pooja): Karana, Kameekam

Pooja Timings:
Ukshakala Pooja - 5:30 AM
Kalasanthi Pooja - 8:00 AM
Uchikala Pooja - 11:30 AM
Sayaratchai Pooja - 5:30 PM
Irandam Kala Pooja - 7:30 PM
Arthajama Pooja - 9:00 PM

Important Festivals:
Chitirai Vasantha Urchavam - 10 days
Vaikasi Urchavam
Aani Bramorchavam - 10 days
Ani Thirumanjanam
Adi Pooram Bramorchavam - 10 days
Navarathri Urchavam - 9 days
Karthigai Deepa Bramorchavam - 17 days
Thai Tiruvoodal
Maha Sivarathri Urchavam
Panguni Uthiram Thirukalyana Urchavam - 6 days

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