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Trip to Thiruvannamalai

by Lakshmi Menon
(Bangalore, Karnataka, India)

Arunachaleswarar Temple is located at the foot of Arunachala Hill in Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu.. It is dedicated to lord Shiva who is known here as Arunachaleswar and worshipped as Agni Lingam. This temple is also known as Annamalaiyar Temple. The temple has numerous shrines, with those of Annamalaiyar and Unnamulai Amman being the most prominent.

The temple is one of the Pancha Bhuta Sthalams dedicated to the manifestation of five natural elements. Legend has it that Lord Shiv has manifested himself as an element of fire in this temple. The other four temples He appeared are the Ekambareshwar temple in Kanchi as the Prithvi lingam, representing land, in the Jambukeshwar temple in Thiruvvanaikaval as the Appu lingam, representing water, in the Kalahastheeswar temple in Andhra Pradesh as the Vayu lingam, representing air and lastly in the Natarajam temple in Chidambaram, as the Aakasha lingam, representing the sky.

Arunachaleswarar temple is spread over 25 acres and is known for its architectural and sculptural splendor. It has 4 gopurams and the eastern one is with 11 storeys standing at a height of 66 meter, and is one of the largest gopurams in India.The temple complex houses many halls; the most notable is the thousand-pillared hall on your right, which was built during the Vijayanagar period.. On your left you can see a large tank. Then to your front there is another gateway which leads to the inner sanctum where Lord Shiva as Agni Linga is worshipped. Goddess Parvati is also worshipped here as Unnamalaiyaal.

History of the temple
According to legends, once Lord Shiva decided to pierce the three worlds as an endless pillar of light. Both Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma started upwards and downwards respectively to find the end of the light. Brahma lied that he had found the end while Vishnu could not find and accepted defeat. Lord Shiva got angry with Lord Brahma for lying to him, and cursed Lord Brahma that he would not be worshipped in temples on earth while Lord Vishnu would always be worshipped.

Girivalam is the most prominent feature of Thiruvannamalai temple. It is a popular religious practice in which devotees circle around the Annamalai Hill, covering around 14 kms chanting Om Arunachala mantra, on the occasion of full moon every month. Those who are unable to visit the temple during this time can do the girivalam on other days too. Girivalam is usually practiced barefoot. Devotees from various parts of the world would visit the temple and walk around, to seek the blessings. On the Girivalam path, there are eight lingams located at the eight directions. The eight lingams are Indra Lingam, Agni Lingam, Yama Lingam, Nirudhi Lingam, Varuna Linga m, Vayu Lingam, Kubera Lingam and Isanya Lingam. During girivalam the devotees are supposed to visit each of these lingams and offer prayers.

The temple celebrates four Brahmotsavams every year. The Karthigai Deepam festival popularly known as Karthigai Brahmotsavam celebrated during the Karthigai month November- December is the major festival here at Arunachaleswarar Temple. This ten-day event concludes on the day of Karthigai Deepam. On that evening, a huge lamp is lit with three tons of ghee at the top of the Annamalai hill. The other festivals are Mahasivarathri, Navarathri and Panguni Uthram which are celebrated here.

The other important place to visit here is Sri Ramana Maharshi Ashram but due to shortage of time we couldn’t make it and kept it for another visit.

On our way back, we stopped at Hotel Himalaya for a late lunch. The place was really neat and the food was also good.

The nearest railway stations to reach Thiruvannamalai are Villupuram (76 km) and Katpadi (65 km).

We reached back home by 8 pm on the same day.

You can see the video here.


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