Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Arunachaleswarar Temple, Tiruvannamalai, Tamilnadu

The Temple at Tiruvannamalai is one of the biggest and grandest temples in South India.  With the hill as back ground it gives the appearance of a fort to those who see it from a distance. It is unique on account of its stately towers, high rampart walls, broad quadrangles, spacious gateways, large mantapams and fine tanks.  It has also much architectural importance and sculputural beauty.

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Tiruvannamalai should have been under the way of the Pallava Kings who ruled from Kancheepuram before the ninth century A.D. We do not find any inscription in the temple prior to A.D.850 and hence the present temple could not have existed then. Saint Sambandar in his Thevaram relating to this place mentions a temple. Saints Appar and Sambandar belonged to the Seventh Century, Sekkizhar, the renowned author of Periapuranam mentions that both the Saints Appar and Sambandar worshipped Arunchaleswarar in the hill Temple. The Chola Kings ruled over the country for more than four Centuries from 850 A.D. to 1280 A.D. Some earlier Kings of Vijayalaya dynasty must have begun to construct the inner shrine(Garbegraha). In the fourteenth Century the Hoysala Kings had their capital at Tiruvannamalai. Afterwards the Kings of Vijayanagar and Nayak Kings of Thanjavur ruled over this part of the Country. In the Seventeenth Century it came under the sway of the Nawabs of Carnatic. There was confusion and chaos after A.D. 1753. Muraru Raya, Krishna Raya, Mrithis Ali Khan, Burkat Ullakhan, French Soupries and Sambrinet, English Captain Stephen Smith besieged this place and had their successes and defeats. In A.D. 1790 it was captured by Tippu Sultan. During the first half of the nineteenth century it came under the British rule.
The Temple is situated east at the bottom of the hill half a mile west of the Railway Station. It faces East. It has got four stately towers on all the four sides and four high stone walls just like the rampart walls of a fort. The Eastern Tower called the Rajagopuram is the Highest. The Southern tower is called Thirumanjangopuram, that iin the west is called Peygopuram and that in the north is called Ammaniamma Gopuram. The temple occupies an extent of about 25 acres of land. The walls on the East and West measure 700 feet each. The South wall is 1479 feet long and North wall is 1590 feet. The Rajagopuram which adorns the East Gateway is 217 feet high with 11 storeys, its base measure 135 feet by 98 feet. This tower was built by King Krishna Devaraya of Vijayanagar and completed by Sevappa Nayaka of Thanjavur. Krishna Devaraya also constructed the Thousand Pillared Mantapam and dug the tank opposite to it . Ammani Ammal a Sanyasini built the North Gopuram which is called after her name.



Annamalaiyar(Arunachaleswarar) Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva, located at the foothills of the Annamalai Hill in the town of Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nardu, India. Shiva is worshipped as Annamalaiyar or Arunachaleswarar represented by lingam, with his consort, Parvati in the form of Unnamulaiyamman. The temple occupies a significant place in Saivism and is regarded as one of the five temples associated with the five classic elements of nature, called the Pancha Bhoota Stalas. The temple is associated with the natural element fire, called Agni and the presiding deity, Arunachaleswarar in the form of linrgam is called Agni lingam.The temple is revered by the Tamil Saiva canonical work of the 7th century, the Tevaram, by Tamil saint poets called the nayanars and is classified as a Paadral Petra Sthalam – the temples reverred in Tevaram. It is believed that the 9th century Saiva saint poet Manikkavasagar composed the Tiruvempaavai in the temple.
The temple complex covers an area of 10 hectares and is one of the largest temples in India.It houses 4 gateway towers, the gopurams, with the tallest being the eastern tower with 11 storeys and a height of 66 metres (217 ft), making it one of the tallest temple towers in India.
The Karthigai Deepam festival celebrated during the full moon day in November–December and a huge beacon is lit on the top of the hill. It can be seen from miles around and believed to be Shiva's lingam of fire joining the limitless skies.The event is witnessed by 3 million pilgrims. During each full moon day, a worship called Girivalram is followed when pilgrmis circumnavigate the base of the temple and the Annamalai hill. The Girivalam is carried out by close to 1 million pilgrims.
Legend has it that Shiva's wife Parvati once closed his eyes playfully in the flower garden of their abode Mount Karilash. The whole universe was darkened for a moment and Earth was darkened for years, translating to a moment of time at Kailasha. Parvati performed penance with other worshippers of Shiva to overcome the darkness. Shiva appeared as a flame of fire at the top of the Annamalai hill and removed the darkness.He merged with Parvati in the form of Ardhanarishvara – the half-female, half-male form of Shiva.The Annamalai, meaning red mountain, lying behind the Annamalaiyar temple is always associated with the temple.The hill is considered sacred and considered to be a lingam, an aniconic representation of Shiva, in itself.
Another popular legend narrates that the Hindu gods Vishnu and Brahma contested for their superiority. Shiva appeared in the form of a heated flame and challenged them to find the source of the flame.Brahma took the form of a swan and flew up to discover the top of the flame, while Vishnu became a boar (Varaha), to find the base.The scene called lingothbava is represented in the western wall sanctum of most Shiva temples.Neither Brahma nor Vishnu could find the source – while Vishnu conceded his defeat, Brahma lied stating he found the pinnacle. Shiva cursed Brahma that he shall no temple dedicated to him on Earth.


The present masonry structure and towers date back to the 9th century A.D. This has been determined from an inscription in the structure made during the reign of Chola kings who ruled during that era.Tiruvannamalai was under the Pallava Kings who ruled from Kanchipuram before the 9th century – the earliest inscriptions dating back to early 9th century is an indication.The 7th century Nayanar saints Sambandar and Appar, have mentioned the deity in the poetic work Tevara. Sekkizhar, the author of the Periyapuranam mentions that both Appar and Sambandar worshipped Annamalaiyar in the temple.The Chola Kings ruled over the region for more than four centuries from 850 to 1280 and have made donations to the temple.During the 14th Century, the Hoysala Kings had their capital at Tiruvannamalai, starting 1328.There are 48 inscriptions from the Sangama Dynasty (1336–1485), 2 inscriptions from Saluva Dynasty and 55 inscriptions from Tuluva Dynasty (1491–1570) that ruled the Vijayanagara Empire, indicating generous gifts to the temple from the rulers.There are also inscriptions from the rule of Krishnadeva Raya (1509–1529), the most powerful Vijayanagara king who made generous contributions to the temple.Most of the Vijayanagara inscriptions were written in Tamil and a few in Kannada and Sansrkrit.During 17th century, the temple came under the sway of the Nawab of the Carnatic.There was confusion and chaos after 1753.Muraru Raya, Krishna Raya, Mrithis Ali Khan, Burkat Ullakhan, French Soupries and Sambrinet, English Captain Stephen Smith besieged this place and had their successes and defeats. The French occupied it in 1757 and it came under the control of British in 1760.In 1790, the area was captured by Tippu Sultan.During the first half of the 19th century, it came under the British rule.The temple is currently maintained by the Hindu religious and Endowment board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.


The main shrine of Annamalaiyar facing east houses images of Nandi and Surya, the Sun.It is the oldest of all structures in the temple.Right behind on the walls of the sanctum, there is an image of Venugopalaswamy, an incarnation of Hindu God Vishnu. Right around the sanctum, there are images of Somaskandar, Lingodbhavar (image of Shiva emnating from lingam), Durga, Chandekeswarar, Gajalakshmi, Arumugaswami, Dakshinamoorthy, Swarnarbairavar, Nataraja and Palliyarai (divine room meant for resting deities) – these are regular features of Shiva temples in South India. The shrine of the consort, Unnamalai Amman lies in the second precinct of the temple – the Amman is in standing posture. Sambantha Vinayagar (elephant god) shrine is located to the north of the flag staff and Bali peeta (platform for sacrifice).To the south of the 1000-pillared hall, there is a small shrine for Subramaya and a large tank."Pathala Lingam" (underground lingam) is the place where saint Ramanar is believed to have done his penance.The shrine of Sivagangai Vinayagar is present in the northern bank of the Sivanganga tank.


In the third precinct, the main feature is the 16 pillared Deepa Darshana Mandapam, the hall of light. The temple tree, Magizha, is considered sacred and medicanal; childless couple tie small cradles in the branches as a form of worship. Vedic texts describe the mast of the temple separated the earth and the sky during the creation of the universe.The Kalyana Mandapam, the marriage hall is in the south-west of the precinct and built in Vijayanagara style. A stone trident is present in the outer shrine of the temple in open air and has protective railings like a sacred tree.The Vasantha Mandapam, meaning the Hall of spring, the temple office and Kalahateeswarar shrine are present in the third precinct.In the fourth precinct lies an image of large Nandi, Brahma theertham (the temple tank), Yanai Thirai Konda Vinayaga shrine and a hall with a big Nandi 6 ft tall erected by Vallala Maharaja.Inside the doorway of the first tower and the fifth precinct, there is a 1000-pillared hall built during the late Vijayanagara period.Krishna Devaraya constructed the hall and dug the tank opposite to it.The pillars in the hall are carved with images of yali, a mythological beast with body of lion and head of an elephant, commonly used as the symbol of Nayak power.The Arunagirinathar Mandapam is located to the right, the Kalayana Linga Sundara Eswara Mandapam and Gopurathilayanar shrine to the left of the broad flight of stone stairs that lead upwards to the Vallala Gopuram.


The temple celebrates dozens of festivals throughout the year. Four prime festivals, called the Brahmotsavam are celebrated every year, the important of which is celebrated during the Tamil month of Karthikai (November/December). The celebration of Karthikai Deepam marks the conclusion of the ten-day festival. A huge lamp is lit in a cauldron with three tons of ghree at the top of the Annamalai hill during the Deepam. To mark the occasion, the festival deity of Annamalaiyar circumbulates the mountain. Inscriptions indicate that the festival was celebrated during the Chola period itself, while it was expanded to 10 days in the 20th century.
Every full moon night, tens of thousands of pilgrims worship Annamalaiyar by circumambulating the Arunachala hill barefoot.The circumambulation covers a distance of about 14 km. and is referred as Girivalam.Legend has that the circumbulation removes sins, fulfillment of desires and freedom from cycle of birth and rebirth.Offerings are made in a string of tanks, shrines, pillared meditation halls, springs and caves around the hill.The practise is followed during normal days also and is referred as Giri Valam. On the yearly Chitra Pournami, the full moon night in the Tamil calendar, lakhs of pilgrims come from across the world to worship Annamalaiyar. Five temple cars, called ther, with wooden carvings, are used for the procession.
Tiruvoodal is another festival celebrated during the first week of Tamil month Thai (from 14 till 18 January) every year.On the morning of maatu pongal (15 and 16 January), Nandi, the sacred bull of Shiva, is decorated with garlands specially made with variety of fruits, vegetables and sweets. Annamalaiyar and his consort come out of the temple to perform the oodal ceremony in the evening. This particular event happens outside the temple on the Tiruoodal street.
1. Ushathkalam                                      05-30 a.m.
2. Kalasanthi                                          08-00 a.m.
3. Uchikalam                                          10.00 a.m.
4. Sayarakshai                                       06-00 p.m.
5. Irandamkalam                                    08-00 p.m.
6. Ardha Jamam                                    09-30 p.m.

Chitrai       Vasantha utsavam - 10 Days beginning from Mrigeseerisha Nakshatram
Ani             Dakshinaya Brahma Utsavam- 10 Days
Adi             AdiPuram - 10 Days ; Last day Fire Walking festival
Purattasi    Navarathri - 10 Days
Aipasi         Kanntha Sashti - 6 Days
Karthigai     Brahma Utsavam; Deepam festival - 10 Days
Margazhi    Manikkavasagar Utsavam - 10 Days
Thai            Sankaranthi Utsavam - 10 Days
Panguni      Uthram Festival - 6 Days



  1. Natarajar Abishekam-Thiruvona Nakshatram.
  2. Thirunavukkarasar Festival-Sathaya Nakshatram.

  1. Abishekam-Visaka Nakshatram.
  2. Thirugnanasambandar Festival-Mula Nakshatram.

  1. Manikkavasagar Festival-Maga Nakshatram.
  2. Natarajar Ani Thirumanjanam Uthra Nakshatram.

  1. Ambal Niramani(Varalakshmi Nonbu)
  2. Sundarar Festival-Swathi Nakshatram.
  3. Arunagirinathar Festival.

  1. Srikrishna Jayanthi.
  2. Pittu Tiruvizha-Mula Nakshatram.
  3. Natarajar Abishekam-Sukla Chathurthai.

  1. Saraswathi Puja-Ambal Niraimani,Sukla Navami.
  2. Natarajar Abishekam-Sukla Chathurthasi.
  3. Arunagirinathar Festival-Mula Nakshartram.
Annabhishekam-Asvini Nakshatram.
1008 Sangabhishekam-Somavaram.

  1. Vaikunta Ekadesi.
  2. Thiruvathirai-Arudra Dharsanam.

  1. Tiruvudal Utsavam.
  2. Manalurpettai Theerthawari.
  3. Kalasapakkam"Theerthawari"-Rathasapthami.
  4. Thai Poosam,theerthawari.

  1. Pallikondapattu Theerthawari-Vellala Maharajan Obsequies-Mega Nakshatram.
  2. Mahasivarathri-Amara chathurthasi.
  3. Natarajar Abishkam,Sukla chathurthasi.

How to reach Thiruvannamalai

The nearest Airport from Tiruvannamalai is Chennai which is 182 k.m.   Tiruvannamalai is situated in between Katpadi and Viluppuram Junctions on the railway line.  It is well connected by road with various parts of country.   During festival times Government Transport Corporation runs special point-to-point buses to all parts of State.   By car it will take four to five hours from the State Capital Chennai.

Chennai to Thiruvannamalai 189 km
Bangalore to Thiruvannamalai 204 km
Coimbatore to Thiruvannamalai 313 km
Hyderabad to Thiruvannamalai 689 km
Pune to Thiruvannamalai 1050 km

Trains to Thiruvannamalai (TNM)


Starting Station              Train       Arrival atThiruvannamalai      Service Days

Kharagpur Jn              Kgp Vm Sf Exp             08:29 PM                             Wed
                                         (22603)            (duration: 30h 19m)
Madurai (MDU)            Mdu Tpty Exp                04:34 AM                         Thu & Sat
                                         (16780)            (duration: 9h 19m)
Mannargudi (MQ)           Tirupati Exp                11:18 AM                   Wed, Fri & Sun
                                         (17408)            (duration: 5h 48m)

Purulia (PRR)                 Prr Vm Exp               08:29 PM                              Mon
                                         (22605)           (duration: 33h 54m)

Tirupati (TPTY)              Tpty Mq Exp               03:34 PM                   Tue, Thu & Sat
                                         (17407)            (duration: 4h 54m)

                                      Tpty Mdu Exp              06:04 PM                       Fri & Sun
                                         (16779)            (duration: 4h 49m)

Villupuram (VM)             Purulia Exp                12:08 PM                              Sat
                                         (22606)            (duration: 1h 28m)

                                     Kharagpur Exp           12:08 PM                               Mon 
                                          (22604)            (duration: 1h 28m)


Thiruvannamalai Attractions

Arunachaleswara Temple, Thiruvannamalai
Arunachaleswara temple, located on Arunachala hills, in Thiruvannamalai is one of the most scared Shiva temples in India. The temple is dedicated to the form of Lord Shiva known as Arunachaleswarar. It is one of the five Panchabhoota (five elements wind, water, fire, earth and space) Stalams. This temple is for fire. The other four temples are in Kalahasti (wind), Tiruvanaikka (water), Kanchipuram (Earth) and Chidambaram (Space).
The temple has majestic towers and pillars adorned with sculpted images showing the artistic excellence of the ancient periods. The walls showcase many beautiful inscriptions of successive rulers and chieftains. This temple witnesses huge inflow of pilgrims all through the year. Krithika Deepam - the light festival celebrated in the month of Krithika, Pournami – the full moon day and Thiruvoodal – the sacred quarrel are the major festivals in this temple.
Ramana Ashram, Thiruvannamalai
The Ramana Ashram in Thiruvannamalai is a calm and inviting ashram offering tranquility and secluded meditation options. This ashram displays the life, philosophies and teachings of Bhagwan Ramana Maharishi, the revered mystic saint who attained Samadhi at this place.
The legends say that Saint Ramana Maharishi had received his vision of the Supreme Truth at Arakandanallur, a place nearby to Thiruvannamalai. This place has an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and houses caves carved by Pallavas. This ashram is visited by Hindu pilgrims admiring the Maharshi Ramana. The ashram carries out many social services for the upliftment of spirituality.
Seshadri Swamigal Ashram, Thiruvannamalai
Seshadri Swamigal Ashram is a sacred spot in the Thiruvannamalai town. This is located close to the famous Ramana Ashram. Mahan Sri Seshadri Swamigal was a 20th century saint who had displayed majestic powers. The devotees believe that he had carried out many miracles and has the power to bless the devotees who offer worship at this ashram.
Devotees from all over the globe visit this sacred Ashram. There is a beautiful garden in the premise of this garden. It is a perfect place to do meditation and religious rituals. The ashram offers accommodation facilities to the visitors.
Skandashramam, Thiruvannamalai
Skandashramam in Thiruvannamalai town is located on the north side of the Arunachala hill where the famous Arunachaleswara temple exists. This ashram is also near to the renowned Ramana Ashram. This is one of the caves where the saint Ramana spent his period of stay in Thiruvannamalai.
A long trek is required to reach the cave ashram. Skandashram hosts the disciples of Sri Ramana Maharishi all through the year. This Ashram witnesses huge flow of pilgrims from all over the world, all through the year. The Skandashram offers majestic panoramic views of the downhill.
Virupaksha Cave, Thiruvannamalai
Virupaksha Cave is a cave ashram in the shape of a perfect ‘OM’ located on the eastern slope of the famous Arunachala hill in Thiruvannamalai. This holy cave is perched on a small peak just below, about 200 ft below, the Skandasram cave. This cave has a small gopuram on the eastern side of it. Down the peak, there are seven sacred springs on the slope of the hill.
Virupaksha Cave is named after the renowned 13th century saint named Virupaksha Deva. It is believed that saint Virupaksha spent most of his life in this cave and surroundings. Legends tell that his body turned into ashes just after his Samadhi. The sacred ash (vibhuti) is assumed to be preserved here and daily pujas are offered.
Sattanur Dam, Thiruvannamalai
The Sathurnur Dam in Thiruvannamalai is a major tourist attraction in this place. It is built across the River Pennar. The dam site houses imposing gardens, beautifully landscaped regions, imposing fountains and many other relaxing and entertaining facilities. The Dam is placed at a picturesque locations and it offers breathtaking views of the surroundings.
The water flow from the Dam resembles a natural water fall. The dam region has a swimming pool, boating facilities and a crocodile park. Thirnkoilur temple is a nearby attraction. It is an ancient temple with architecturally carved pillars and towering gopurams. It lies on the serene shores of the river Pennar.



Best Season / Best time to visit Thiruvannamalai

Thiruvannamalai has hot climates during summers and moderate climate during winters.
  • Summers (March to May) are hot with temperature hovering around 28°C to 39°C. Tourists prefer to keep off from visiting during the hot summer days in April and May months.
  • Monsoons(June to September) offer medium to heavy rainfalls bringing comfort from hot summer days.
  • Winters (December to February)are pleasant during with the temperature in the band of 20°C to 26°C.
The best season to visit Thiruvannamalai is from October to March.
  • October to March is ideal for visits in scenic locations in Thiruvannamalai and also for pilgrimage in the temples.
  • June to September is good for people liking cool showers. It is good for short trips and temple visits.
  • April-May are hot and keep enough water to avoid dehydration.


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