Arunachaleswarar Temple, Tiruvannamalai
Arunachaleswarar or Annamalaiyar Temple is located at the base of Arunachala Hills (2668 feet tall) in Tiruvannamalai. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is of immense importance to the Hindu sect of Saivism. The temple is one of the Pancha Bhootha Sthalangal of Lord Shiva who is worshipped as Agni Lingam, symbolizing fire – one of the five primordial elements. His consort Parvati is worshipped as Unnamalai Amman.
The temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of the Govt. of Tamil Nadu.
History of Arunachaleswarar Temple
Let’s have a look at the history of the temple under the various ruling dynasties –
- The temple was initially built by the Chola kings back in the 9th century CE.
- The inscriptions in the temple reflect that further expansions were made during the reign of Vijayanagara kings.
- Subsequently, the temple came under Hindu and Muslim stewardship at different periods of time.
- The town of Tiruvannamalai came under the control of the French in 1757 before it was occupied by the British in the year 1760.
- The town was later captured by Tipu Sultan in 1790 CE.
- During the first half of the 19th century, the town along with the temple came under British rule.
- From 1951, the temple has been maintained by the Hindu Religions and Endowment Board.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma once argued amongst themselves about who was supreme, ignoring their duties. On seeing this, Lord Shiva appeared in the form of fire and told them that whoever it is that finds the top or bottom of the fire is the greatest. While Lord Vishnu took the form of a boar (Varaha) and delved into the earth to find the bottom of flame, Lord Brahma took the form of a swan (Annam) and flew up towards the skies. Both their efforts were in vain and when finally they gave up their ego, Lord Shiva appeared before them. The day on which Lord Shiva appeared as a pillar of fire is celebrated as Thirukarthigai/Karthigai Deepam.
Reference to Literature
Lord Shiva at this temple is revered in the 7th century Tamil Saiva canonical work, the ‘Tevaram’ written by the Tamil poets Nayanars. The temple is revered as Paadal Petra Sthalam. The famous work of Manikkavasagar, ‘Tiruvemparai’ was composed here.
The Arunachaleswarar Temple Structure and Shrines
The temple is one of the largest in India covering around 10 hectares of land. One of the main attractions of the temple is its four Gopurams. The tallest Gopuram is at the Eastern side with 11 stories and a height of 217 feet.
The most prominent features of the temple its numerous halls (the thousand-pillared hall being the most notable one) and its numerous shrines.
Arunachaleswarar Temple Timings
The temple is open from 5:30 AM to 12:30 PM and from 3:30 AM to 9:30 PM.
Arunachaleswarar Temple Pooja Timings
|Name of the Pooja||Timing|
|Irandam Kalam||7:30 PM|
|Artha Jama Pooja||9:00 PM|
Arunachaleswarar Temple Festivals
Major festivals observed in the temple are:
- Chitirai Utsavam – 10 days festival during the Tamil month of Chitirai (April-May)
- Ani Brahmotsavam – 10 days festival during the Tamil month of Ani (June-July)
- Adi Pooram Brahmotsavan – 10 days festival during the Tamil month of Adi (July-August)
- Kanda Shashti Utsavam – 6 days festival during the Tamil month of Aippasi (October-November)
- Karthigai Deepam Brahmotsavam – 17 days festival during the Tamil month of Karthigai (November-December)
- Uthrayana Punyakala Brahmotsavam – 10 days festival during the Tamil month of Thai (January-February)
- Panguni Uthiram Thirukalyana Utsavam – 6 days festival during the Tamil month of Panguni (March-April)
Tiruvannamalai Karthigai Deepam
Karthigai Deepam is observed during the Tamil month of Karthigai (November-December). To mark the festival, a huge fire lamp (Mahadeepam) is lit up on the Arunachala hills, which is visible for several kilometres around the area. Thousands of devotees throng Tiruvannamalai during Karthigai Deepam.
Girivalam or circumambulation path around the Arunachala hill covers a distance of 14 kilometres. The term ‘Arunam’, in Tamil language, means sun and denotes the red colour of fire. ‘Asalam’ means mountain or hill. Thus ‘Arunachalam’ is the holy hill which is red in colour denoting fire (the form in which Lord Shiva graces this place).
Pilgrims are engaged in Girivalam throughout the year. Every full moon day, pilgrims from various parts of the State worship Arunachaleswarar by circumambulating the hill barefoot. By doing this, it is believed that one’s desires are fulfilled. There are eight lingams devotees offer their worship to, in the 14 kilometres circumference of the hill. These lingams are associated with the 15 moon signs and are collectively termed as Ashta Lingam.
How to reach Tiruvannalamai Arunachaleswarar Temple
Buses to Tiruvannalamai are available from all major towns in Tamil Nadu. Tiruvannamalai Bus Station and Railway Station is at walkable distance from the temple (2 kilometres away). Chennai is the nearest airport at a distance of around 185 kilometres
One of the largest temple complexes in the country, the Annamalaiyar Temple leaves its devotees mesmerized with its beauty and elegance. The air of spirituality around the hill and the intricately embellished halls and shrines, not only satisfies one’s religious pursuits but also offers an experience of peace and tranquility.