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Annamalaiyar Temple | History, Architecture and facts of Annamalaiyar Temple

Know the Greatness and Divinity of Agni Lingam at Annamalaiyar Temple 

A temple where Lord Shiva is called Arunachaleswara or Annamalaiyar, the Arulmigu Annamalaiyar temple is a prominent Shiva temple associated with the ‘Pancha Bhoota Stalas’, the five elements, in which it is especially connected with the element ‘Agni’. The temple is ideally situated at the bottom of the Arunachala hill in Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu.

The deity Lord Shiva is represented in the form of ‘Lingam’ and is called Agni Lingam. Goddess Parvati, who is the consort of Lord Shiva, is called Unnamalai Amman. God Annamalaiyar is highly revered in Tevaram, which is Tamil sacred work by the saint poets nayanars, in the seventh century. The temple gains a lot of significance for being in the classification of Paadal Petra Sthalam, as well as for being a place where Tiruvempaavai was composed by the poet Manikkavasagam in the ninth century.

Annamalaiyar Temple

Annamalaiyar Temple

Inspiring History of Annamalaiyar Temple

Legends say that the Arunachaleswara temple came into existence because Goddess Parvati once playfully covered Lord Shiva’s eyes with her hands in the beautiful garden on Mount Kailash. It plunged the whole world in darkness and it remained in the same state for years. To exculpate from it Goddess Parvati built a Shivalinga and worshipped it at Thiruvannamalai.

She did it with the help of the Saint Gowthama at Pavalakundru when she was disturbed by the demon Makidasuran. Parvati, in the form of Durga Devi, killed the demon and it was a full moon day in the month of Karthigai (Tamil month). Lord Shiva appeared in the form of Agni or fire on top of the hill and got merged with one half of Parvati’s body to become Ardhanarishwara, which is half-male and half-female form of Lord Shiva. In Karthigai month, Lord Shiva at the Arunachaleswarar temple is presented as Jyothi Swaroopa to devotees.

Another legend says Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu once argued on who is supreme. To bring an end to this, Lord Shiva took the form of a massive ‘Pillar of Light’, which looked infinite. To find the source Lord Brahma flew as a swan upwards, while Lord Vishnu as a wild boar dug in underneath to find the beginning and end of the blazing light.

After searching for several years, they returned to see Lord Shiva smiling at them. Lord Vishnu, who realized the fact, admitted his failure, while Lord Brahma lied saying he could find the end of the light. Lord Shiva got angry and cursed Brahma that people would never worship him though and there will not be any temples for him. It is believed that the place where Lord Shiva stood as ‘Jyotirlinga’ is Thiruvannamalai and it shows that he is formless and infinite.

The significance of Annamalaiyar temple has grown since the 7th century. The Cholas and Hoysalas were the patrons of the temple. Not to stop there, several inscriptions were found from various dynasties of Vijayanagara Empire.

Amazing Architecture of Annamalaiyar Temple

The Arunachaleswarar temple is positioned on the expansive land of 25 acres, which is protected by huge walls that measure 700 feet to 1600 feet high. The towers of the temple were built during the Chola dynasty. The Rajagopuram, which is the highlight of the temple, is made using granite. There are four gopurams. The work of the towers was completed in the Vijayanagara dynasty. They are built to form a tapering oblong and are exquisitely carved. The gopuram has large doors finished in wood. They are built to have several storeys, which narrows at the top and finished with barrel-vaulted roof and a finial.

The oldest structure in the temple is the main shrine, which houses Arunachaleswara facing east. There are images of Venugopalaswamy on the walls, Nandi, Surya, Somaskandar, Chandekeswarar, Durga, Gajalakshmi, Arumugaswami, Dakshinamoorthy, Swarnabairavar, Nataraja, and Lingodbhavar, where Shiva emanates from lingam.

In the third precinct, there is a 16-pillared hall called ‘Deepa Darshana Mandapam’. Similarly, between the first tower and fifth precinct, there is a thousand-pillared hall, which was constructed by Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara empire.

Some Facts about Annamalaiyar Temple

The Annamalaiyar temple is known for the following interesting facts.

  • It is believed to be one of the Pancha Bootha Sthalas, which are five elements, namely earth, water, fire, air and space. The Arunachaleswara temple in Thiruvannamalai represents Agni.

  • The temple is known for the Karthigai Deepam festival, which is celebrated 10 days. Devotees from places across the country visit the temple on this special occasion.

  • During the festival, Mahadeepam on top of 2200-foot high Arunachal hill is lit. For the purpose, a huge cauldron is filled with over 300 kg of ghee and using a large wick made of cotton cloth, it is lighted.

Get to Know Some Festivals of Annamalaiyar Temple

There is a series of festivals celebrated at the Arunachaleswarar temple and some of the popular ones are Chitrai vasantha urchavam, Ani Bramorchavam, Adi Pooram Bramorchavam, Navaratri urchavam, Uthrayana Punyakala Bramorchavam and Karthigai Deepam Bramorchavam. All the festivals extend up to 10 days.

Among these, Karthigai Deepam festival is the grandest. It is held during November and December. The chariot carrying Lord Arunachaleswarar is carried around the Arunachal hill during the festival. A large lamp is lit on the hill and the temples and houses around Thiruvannamalai mark the significance of the festival by lighting lamps in the evenings on all the days.

Annamalaiyar Temple Timings

The temple opens at 5 a.m. and from then on various poojas are performed to the deities. There is ushakala pooja at 5.30 a.m. and kalashanti at 8 a.m. The temple closes at 12 p.m. after the uchakala pooja at 11.30 a.m. It reopens again at 5.30 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. after arthajama pooja.

The poojas are according to the rituals, which has four steps, such as abhishekam, alankaram, naivedyam and deepa aradhanai. They are sacred bath, decoration, offering of food and worshipping using lamps.

How to Reach Annamalaiyar Temple?

The Annamalaiyar temple can be reached using any means of transportation. Where you are traveling by flight, you need to get down at the Chennai International Airport, which is the nearest airport. From here you can travel by car or bus to reach a distance of about 198 kilometers to Thiruvannamalai temple.

There are also trains from various cities and the most convenient ones are from Chennai via Tiruttani and Vellore to Thiruvannamalai. There are buses that connect Thiruvannamalai with major cities, where you can reach via Bengaluru or Chennai.

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