Arunachalam temple locally referred as Annamalai temple is located In Thiruvannamalai of Tamil Nadu. The temple is situated on the piedmont of Annamalai hill, located in the green lush everywhere. This temple is regarded as one of the temples that is dedicated to lord Shiva representing him as the supreme authority of Pancha Bootham (Fire, water, Air, Earth, Space).
Therefore all of these temples were collectively known as ” Pancha Bootha Sthalams “.
Arunachalam Temple – Pancha Bootha Sthalam
Arunachala, more popularly known as Thiruvannamalai is a sacred place, where Lord Shiva is believed to be present in the form of a mountain. While this Aruna-Achala, the red mountain, itself is worshipped as the Lord, a grand Shiva temple also stands at the foothills, where the Lord is enshrined in his Lingam form as Arunachaleswara or Annamalaiyaar, along with his consort Apeetha Kuchambigai or Unnamulai Amman.
- Ekambareswarar Temple (Earth) – Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu
- Jambukeshwarar temple (Water) – Thiruvanaikaval in Tamil Nadu
- Arunachaleswara Temple (Fire) – Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu
- Srikalahasteeswara Temple (Air) – Kalahasthi in Andhra Pradesh
- Chidambaram Nataraja Temple (Sky) – Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu
Lord Shiva is worshipped here with the local name Arunachaleswar and is said to be the resemblance of Agni.
Legends of Arunachalam Temple
There are many great stories existing on the history of Arunachalam temple. According to one of the sources, a tussle took place between Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, regarding their strengths. In order to solve this, Lord Shiva took the form of a gigantic glaring flame with no edges in near vicinity. Shiva challenged Brahma and Vishnu ” Whoever traverses the length of this flame will be declared as the might power “.
Vishnu and Brahma forgetting the entire universe rests in Shiva, they accepted the challenge. At first, Vishnu took the form of a Boar and started travelling towards the interior of the Earth. All of his energy drained out and he gave up the challenge. On the other hand, Brahma, who is in the form of Swan, began to travel towards the upper portion of the Earth. On his way, he found Ketaki flower. He too failed in exploring the entire length of flame.
So, he requested Ketaki flower to lie to Shiva, that he reached the upper portion of the Earth. After returning Brahma lamented about his strengths and success. At this instance, Lord Shiva appeared in his full glory. Therefore on this occasion, Shivaratri is celebrated.
Lord Shiva told them that, “Both of you as well as Rudra and Maheswara were out of me, we are inseparable and represents 5 divine life aspects “. And then Shiva cursed Brahma, that he will not be worshipped by humans on this earth, this is considered to be the reason for a mere number of Brahma temples in India. Shiva also cursed Ketaki flower for lying to him, that it won’t be used to worship god anymore.
According to another legend, Lord Parvathi beloved wife of Shiva closed his eyes when they were in a happy mood. This led to the whole creation to go in the dark. Therefore Parvathi observed strict penance at Thirumunvallai hills. On getting pleased Shiva appeared there as a flame, Parvathi accompanied him and eventually, they became idols on the top of the hill.
The Tiruvannamalai Temple and Festivals
This temple was constructed by King Vijayala Chozan who belongs to Chola kingdom. Besides Mahabaleswaram Temple, Arunachalam temple resembles the artistic excellence of Cholas. Massive gopurams of this temple are so impressive. Four gopurams can be seen on four sides of the temple. This temple was later reconstructed and rejuvenated by Vijayanagara rulers as well as Hoysala kings.
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated with pomp and glory here. Inside and the premises of temple will be echoed with the chanting of ” Om Nama Shivaya “. Unlike rest of the temples in India, here this festival was celebrated during night time. The festivals of Lights, Kartigai Deepam will also be celebrated here. Particularly for this festival people from all parts of the state visit this temple.
This shrine is considered to be the eternal place of knowledge. One, who wishes to find the ultimate truth of his life, will lead his way toward this temple. It is said that many great saints like Appar, Sambandar, and Virupaksha Deva got enlightened here. The great sage Ramana Maharshi also lived here from 1899-1916. One can even find the pictures of Ramana Maharshi in this temple. He translated ‘Arunachala Mahatyam’ from Sanskrit to Tamil. The following verse reveals the greatness of this sanctum-
” On visiting Chidambaram, leaving the world at Kasi, by being born at Thiruvarur, or by merely uttering Arunachala one can achieve liberation “
Thousand Pillar Mandapam at Arunachalam Temple
Thousand pillar Mandapam stands as a testimony to the outstanding work of those artisans and sculptors, who constructed this temple. It was constructed by Bhallala king of Hoyasala. It is believed that Arunagiranadh remained within this mandapam in the form of a Parrot.
Giri Pradakshana at Arunachalam Temple
Giri Pradakshana or circumferencing the Annamalai is considered to be the most pious thing. By doing so one can be freed from all kinds of sins, his/her wishes will be fulfilled, one will be relieved of Karma and finally attain jnana.
While circumambulating the hill one should pray to the Ashta Lingams representing the different phases of Moon –
- Indra Lingam
- Agni Lingam
- Yama Lingam
- Niruthi Lingam
- Varuna Lingam
- Vayu Lingam
- Kubera Lingam
- Easanya Lingam