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Annamalaiyar Temple, Tiruvannamalai (Fire)


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Thiruvannamalai the home of Annamalaiyar or Arunachaleswarar and Apeethakuchalambal (Unnamalayal) is an ancient city named after the holy mountain. Annamalaiyar mountain is visible everywhere in thiruvannamalai. Annamalaiyar mountain is worshiped as lord siva. Earth is composed of Five Elements (Pancha Bootha Sthalam), they are Earth ,Water ,Fire, Air, Ether ,Of which Tiruvannamalai is the place of the Pancha Bootha Theyu(Fire) Sthalam. On Full Moon(Pournami) days and Karthigai hundreds and thousands of devotees circumbulate (GIRIVALAM) the mountain and get the blessings of the Lord Annamalaiyar.

Arulmigu Annamalaiyar kovil(Arunachaleswarar Temple) is the central point of devotees who worship in Tiruvannamalai. Annamalaiyar temple was built by the great Vijayanagar king Kirshnadevarayar over an extent of 24 acres. Lord Annamalaiyar or Arunachaleeswarar and Apeethakuchalambal or Unnamalayal are the god and goddess name of the Thiruvannamalai Annamalaiyar Temple respectively. Daily six times poojas are conducted regularly. Apart from daily poojas special Poojas are conducted during Amavasai, Kiruthigai, Pradosham, Pournami, Sathurthi etc.

Architect

The Tiruvannamalai Annamalaiyar temple owes its grandeur to four lofty towers - the eastern one called Rajagopuram is the tallest and measures 217 feet, the western is called the Pey gopuram, the southern - Tirumanjana gopuram and Northern - Ammani Amma gopuram. It has five prakarams, and the walls are broad and high, resembling the rampart wall of a fort. In each of the prakara, there are tanks and many mini shrines. Totally there are six prakaram(enclosures) and nine Gopuram(tower) present in Tiruvannamalai Annamalaiyar Temple. Raja gopuram is the biggest of all has 11 tiers(stories) of 217 feet height. It is the second largest Gopuram(tower) in south India. Entering through the Rajagopuram, devotees worship Gopura Ganapathi. In this prakaram, ( the fifth) lies the thousand pillared mandapam and an underground temple enshrining Patala Linga. Bhagavan Ramana did penance here in his Purvasramam. Then they enter the fourth prakaram passing through Vallaha Maharaja Tower. The Brahma Thirtham (temple tank) is situated here & a bath in its holy waters is said to purge one of all his sins. There are several other shrines dedicated to Arunagirinathar (Gopurathilayanar), Kesavar, Kalyaneswar, Viranmandir & the Panchasthalas. Next, they cross the Kili Gopuram to step into the third prakaram.

In the third precicnt, the main feature is the 16 pillared "Deepa darshana mandapam" (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 temple mast separated the earth and the sky during the creation of the universe. The "Kalyana Mandapam" (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", the temple office and Kalahateeswarar shrine are present in the third precinct. In the fourth precinct lies an image of large Nandi, "Brahma theertham" (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 gopuram (or the fifth precinct), there is a 1000-pillared hall built during the late Vijayanagara period Krishna Devaraya constructed the hall during the late Vijayanagara period and dug the tank opposite to it. The pillars in the hall are carved with images of yali(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".


Arunagirinathar is said to have entered the body of a parrot in order to fetch the parijatha flower. His enemy Sambandan burnt his body & hence Arunagirinathar settled himself on the temple tower in the form of the parrot and sang his famous Kantharanubhuthi. There is a form of a parrot in one of the sthubis, testifying to this story. In this prakaram there are temples dedicated to Bhimeswar and Vigneswar besides the Mahila trees. In the second prakaram the temples of Ganapati and Muruga are situated on either side of the entrance. Finally, the first prakaram enclosing the garbha griha of Sri Arunachaleswarar (Tejolingam) - the presiding deity of this glorious temple. Devotees refer to this deity by various other names such as Sonachaleswara, Arunagiriswarar, Vedamurthi, Annamalaiyar, Bhaktavashankar, etc. It is recorded that there are as many as 360 thirthas and 400 lingams in the eight-mile circuit of this sacred hill. Around the hill are many hermitages inhabited by holy personages of supreme spiritual eminence such as Ramanashram, Seshadri Swamigal Sannidhi, Durvas Ashram, Goutama Ashram, Adi Annamalai tmeple, Manickavachagar temple, Isanya Gnanadesikar Mutt, Durga temple besides the famous Virupaksha cave, Sadai Swami cave and Mamarathu cave.

Legend

Legend has it that Shiva’s consort Parvati once closed the eyes of Shiva playfully in the flower garden of Kailasha (the abode of Shiva). The whole universe was darkened for a moment and the earth was darkened for years, translating to a moment of time at Kailasha. Parvati performed penance with other worshippers and Shiva appeared as a flame of fire at the top of the Annamalai hill to remove the darkness. He merged his half to Parvati’s in the form of Ardhanarishvara - the half-female, half-male form of Shiva. The Annamalai hill (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 (representation of Shiva) in itself.

History

In Thiruvannamalai, Lord Shiva took the form of a column of fire which had no beginning or end. This was done to destroy the ego of Lord Vishnu and Brahma. Lord Shiva in Ardhanarashwari avatara ,with one half being Goddess Umadevi is said to have given dharshan to his devotees. Sri Annamalaiyar temple was expanded by Chera, Chola, Pandiya and Nayak rulers.
The present masonry structure and gopurams date back approximately 9th century A.D. This has been determined from an inscription in the structure made during the reign of Chola kings who ruled in the 9th century A.D Tiruvannamalai should have been under the sway of the Pallava Kings who ruled from Kanchipuram before the 9th century A.D – 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 Tevaram. Sekkizhar, the author of the Periyapuranam mentions that both Appar and Sambandar worshipped Arunchaleswarar in the temple. The Chola Kings ruled over the country for more than four Centuries from 850 A.D. to 1280 A.D. During the 14th Century, the Hoysala Kings had their capital at Tiruvannamalai starting 1328 A.D.  There are large number of inscriptions from the Sangama Dynasty (1336-1485 A.D.) and some inscriptions from Tuluva Dynasty (1491-1570 A.D.) that ruled the Vijayanagara Empire indicating generous gifts to the temple from the rulers. There are inscriptions indicating Krishnadeva Raya (1509–1529 A.D.), the most powerful of the Vijayanagara kings making generous contribution to the temple. During 17th century, the temple came under the sway of the Nawab of the Carnatic. There was confusion and chaos after 1753 A.D.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 1790 A.D., it was captured by Tippu Sultan.During the first half of the 19th century, it came under the British rule. The Annamalaiyar temple is currently maintained by the Hindu religious and Endowment board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.

Auspicious Days

Pournami (Full Moon) Day and also yearly once karthigai deepam.

Pujas at Annamalaiyar Temple

Traditional pujas start everyday at 7.30 AM followed by Kalasanthi at 9.30 AM. Uchikala poojai begins at 11.30AM. Sayarakshai Poojai starts at 5.30PM & the Ardhajama poojai at 9.30 PM. Special poojas are offered every Monday, Friday, Saturdays, on the first day of every Tamil month, Sukla Chaturthis, Sashti, Amavasya and Pournami.

Festivals celebrated at Annamalaiyar Temple

In addition many annual festivals like Chitrai, Ani, Adipooram, Puratasi, Aipasi, karthigai, Margazhi, Thai and Panguni are celebrated and these normally last for 10 days. Among the galaxy of spiritual celebrities Sage Gautama, Pangu Muni, King Brihadatta, demon king Pulakathipa, Appar, Sambandar, Sundarar, Manickavachagar, Arunagirinathar, Guhai Namasivayar, Isanya Gnana Desikar, Virupaksha Devar, Daivasikhamani Desikar, Ramana Maharishi, Seshadri Swamigal, Jatini Shanmuga Yogini and Iswara Swamigal deserve special mention. Karthigai Deepam is the most important festival, when devotees walk round the hill and worship the Bharani Deepam. The deepam is lit in a gigantic, circular metal vessel that can hold about 2000litres of ghee. It is five and half feet in height and five feet in diameter. For making the wick, 30 meters of ghada cloth is used and is burnt with 2 kilos of camphor on the night of Karthigai Pournami. The jyoti can be sighted from nearly 10km around.

Places of Interest

  • Ramana Ashram - Raman Maharishi, the 20th century saint lived here and taught simple methods of meditation to his disciples from all over the world. He attained mukthi in 1950, but his Ashram continues his work by propagating his teaching and voluntary services. The tourists visit from all over the world and they feel that they get peace and spiritual elevation by visiting the Ashram. Kandashramam were Ramana once meditated is half way up the hill and mountain path used by him is beautiful and tranquil.

  • Sathanur Dam - Located 35 kms away from Thiruvannamalai. The dam built across the River Pennar,with hill surrounding, is a quiet and beautiful place to visit. The greenery around and the children's park with a mini-zoo keep the children happy. There is crocodile farm run by the State Forest Department. Being a transport services are available from Thiruvannamalai.

  • Padaveedu - This village of temples is 35 kms from Thiruvannamalai. Remains of a 13th century palace of the Sambuvarayars who were chieftains of the Chola Empire can be found near by.
  • Javadu Hills - It is situated 75 kms from Thiruvannamalai. It is situated in the northwestern part of Thiruvannamalai, and a part of the Eastern Ghats. The beautiful mountain lies at about 2350 feet to 3500 feet above sea level, Javadu hills have many scenic spots. The cliffs and precipices of hills allure and excite tourists. Places of interest in the Javadu hills are Beema Falls, Komutteri Lake, Kavalur Observatory,Amirthi Forest, and the Glass House.
  • Glass House - Situated on the highest peak of Javadu hills, is Melpattu village. In Melpattu village there is a Glass House that was constructed during British rule, and this is a tourist attraction. The Forest Department also maintains a herbal farm here. The Kilseppili-Valparai cave-like houses constructed by stones more than 5000 years ago are the Stone age houses, and they are worth seeing.
  • Kavalur Observatory - This is 11 kms from Jamunamarathur on the border of Vellore District. This is the biggest observatory in Asia. Astronomy, stargazing and research on the stars are the main activities of this observatory. This is under the control of Government of India for protection and maintenance. Scientists from all over the country and abroad visit this place for observation and research. The biggest telescope that is controlled by computers is one of the main attractions for tourists.
  • Komutteri Lake - This is the biggest lake in the Javadu hills and it is also known as Kolappan lake. This is one of the scenic places that attract tourists. Recently this lake has been developed with boating facilities for the benefit of tourists. In the midst of the lake an island is developed for the enjoyment of the tourists.

Getting there and around
  • By Air - The nearest major airport to Thiruvannamalai is Chennai International (185km). Chennai International Airport is well connected to all major cities in India.
  • By Rail - The nearest railhead is Thiruvannamalai.
  • By Road - National Highway NH-66 links Thiruvannamalai to the rest of the country. Thiruvannamalai town is well connected by Tamil Nadu Road Transport Corporation buses.

Accommodation

Several good hotels are available there . Hotel Aakash , Phone - 04175-252151 is one of them. Hotel Shiva Residency , Phone -04175 233003 is another very good hotel.







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