Significance of its Name :
In ancient times, the term "Annamalai" meant an inaccessible mountain. The word "Thiru" was prefixed to signify its greatness, and coupled with the two terms, it is called Thiruvannamalai.
Maha-Visnu and Brahma puffed up with arrogance sought to perceive the end and beginning of Siva. Visnu took the form of a boar and started searching Siva's terminal, while Brahma assumed the form of a Swan and commenced seeking the head of Siva. Siva, stood in the form of light - Fire just to snub their vanity. Thiruvannamalai, is the sthala Where the Lord Siva took the form of Fire, This anecdote has been praised by Thiru gnanasambanda by a psalm.
Because Lord Siva assumed the Form of fire to be out of reach for Vishnu and Brahma here , the place took the name Annamalai.
"Annal', is a Special name for Siva. That is the reason Gnanasambnda Speaks of the greatness as the "shadow of Annal ". The Fire-light form assumed by Annal became the mountain of this Sthala. Hence this mountain came to be known as Annal Malai, slowly corrupted to Annamalai.
That which cannot be approached, the inaccessible mountain, is Annamalai. Because the Lord Siva took the inaccessible form of Fire, neither the crest nor the root could be approached, it got the sacred name Annamalai.
This term Annamalai, was called Arunachala, Arunagiri in sanskrit. Aruna means crimson colour. Arunachalam means the red mountain(achala means immovable). As Siva Stood in the form of Fire it became a Fire Mountain. A mountain of Fire is red in Colour.
This Thiruvannamalai sthala is also known by the names Arunagiri, Annamalai, Arunachalam, Arunai, Sonagiri and Sonachalam. Arunai is only the corrupt form of the name Arunagiri , Arunamalai and Arunachalam. All these names signify only one thing - the Fire Mountain.
True to the convention of calling this sthala by various names stressing the prime name Fire mountain, to this day the Mountain of this sthala is clothed in a crimson light like Fire at daw,when the sun rises in the East.
Grandeur of This Sthala :
This Tiruvannamalai is one of the greatest Saivite shrines in India, on a sprawling 24 acre temple campus, drawing hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every full moon. The hill here is considered to be a manifestation of Siva.
The Earth is composed of Five elements. Earth ,Water ,Fire, Air, Ether are these five elements.They are also known as prithivi, Appu, Thejo, Vayu and Akasa. Tholkappiar in his composition (1589) has categorically stated some thousand years ago tha this world is composed of these five elements . The physical body of the throbbing life is also intermingled by these five elements.
Our ancients, having understood the essence of the five elements, have caused temples to be erected for each elements. They Are known as the Sacred spots of the five Elements. They are:
Earth (land) - prithivi - Thiruvarur, Kancheepuram
Water - Appu - Thiruvannakikka
Fire - Theju - Thiruvannamalai
Air - Vayu - Thirukkalathi
Ether - Akasa - Chidambaram
Thillai Kalambakam beautifully Expresses about this five sthalas of elements.
Of the sthalas of five elements, Thiruvannamalai is the Teju Sthala : and stands foremost in bestowing grace. To be born in Thiruvarur, to die in Kasi, to see Thillai, to think about Thiruvannamalai bestows liberation; hence this sthala naturally stands supreme. oneshould reach a place to see, and to die, but to think one need not move an inch. One can think from the place and think of Annamalai. Beacuse this place bestows libration, this has securedthe names Muktipuri and Sivologam.
The Mukti sthala - Thiruvannamalai is supreme through three aspects, Deity, Sthala, and Tirtha (holy water). Located (holy water). Located 42 miles (67 kms) from villipuram, this Mukthi sthala spreads through an expense of 24 acres containing the temple of Annamalaiyar with towers piercing the sky. This shrine is Famous not only in South india but throughout India. Its fame is immeasurable. It is the utterence of Saint Thirunavukarasar that one's sins will be washed off by a worship here.
It was in this sthala of "Fire" that the shapeless Supreme assumed a cognisable Shape. Saint Manickavachagar has put forth this idea in one of his psalm as "i bow to the Formless and the Form.
The mountain in this place is like a medical cure and hence is called "Malai Marunthu" (medicine mountain), As It got the name Arunachalam.
Legends declare that those who pronounce the name of this sthala once, secure the bliss of repeating three crores of time the pancakshara (the Mantra of Five Words) and that not only those who visited and worshipped in this stala, but also their descendents upto 21 generations will get liberation.
Brahma and Visnu filled with joy on seeing the Lord in the form of a Mountain addressed him supplicating how can they worship if he were to remain as a huge mountain and requested him to take the form of a sivalingam at the foot of the hill. Lord Siva conceded to their request to becme a sivalinga and vanished within the hill. Immediately a Sivalinga appeared there.
Overwhelmed with joy, Brahma and vishnu caused a temple to be erected through the divine sculptor Mayan. A prosperous city and three hundred holy pools sprang there. Besides the celestial Ganga and Kalpaka became Wells and trees. The Epics declare that Devas and Sages were born as men.
Legend also reveals that while Nandikeswara was extrolling the greatness of this sthala to sage Markandeya, he explained that while all others sthalas can be deemed to be Body, this Arunachala is the Face with Lord siva as its eyes. He also told that the fame of this stala is unfathomable.
Those who bathe in the Holy tanks like Indra Tirtham,circumambulate the hill, perform "Dhapas" (donate gifts). Worship Arunachala, witness the Deepa Darshana and meditate sincerely will be blessed with vast wealth and attain liberation.
Uniqueness of the place :
As the vedas have declred "though formless, being without beginning or end", the Lord of effulgence will present himself in a form," Thiruvannamalai is the unique holy spot where He has shown himself in a Form of Linga. The primary Lord from his shapless mass of Mountain has assumed the shape of a Linga in the Temple for all to view. This sacred temple is a light beacon for all to steer through the sea of birth and reach the Shores of Mukti (Liberation).
As one enters the town Annamalai, the Rajagopura,standing Majestically,soaring 217 feet(65m) comes to view first. This tower is a standing testimony to the artistic genius of the vijayanagara Dynasty.
Inside the Temple in the south west corner of the thousand pillared hall patala (underground) Linga, worshipped by the inimatable Ramana Maharishi.This is the palce where Ramana Maharishi did penence and absorbed in the Bliss of Meditation secured liberation.
The Kamabath IIayanar Sannadhi in the temple is a famous one. Adornred with the temple is a famous one. Adorned with 16 pillars, this spot was the hallowes place where Arunagiri Swami, the Author of Thiruppugazh, was granted Mukti by the Lord. God Muruga bestowed grace on this devotee under the sixteen pillars after accepting the devotion by the token Tamil Tiruppugazh.
The IIayanar sannadhi near the Gopura is the place where Arunagirinadha disgusted with life, fell from the Vallala Maharajah tower; Lord Muruga saved him by receiving him in his hands. Muruga further blessed him in this sannadhi by appearing with his spouses Valli and devasena.
The Kiligopura in this Temple has an interesting background. Proud Deva Raya wanted a Parijata flower from paradise , and Arunagirinadha after shaking of this physical body, assumed the form of a parrot for that purpose. Sambandan, his foe, viciously circulated that Arunagirinadha has expired on which all cremated his physical body. After the lapse of some time, Arunagirinadhar returned only to find that his body has been burnt and he had to live as aparrot in the kili Gopura, while he sang the charming Kandar Anubhudi. That is why that tower was kili Gopuram. In a niche in that tower can be seen a mortar image of a parrot.
It is not an empty boast to tell that the shrine of Annamalaiyar is a forest of Gopurams. Nine tall Gopuras and nine vimanas adorn the temple. Of these the Thirumanjana gopuram is 157 ft high; Ammani ammal tower soars 171 ft and the Peiy Gopuram extends 144 ft. comprising 6 enclosures, we eross each through miniature towers of 70 ft high.
The Temple is rich in Mandapams too. Of these the Jnanapal mandapam, Tirthavari Mandapam Thirvarul Vilasa mandapam, Madhapirappu mandapam, Rudraksha mandapam, Nandhi mandapam, Amavasai mandapam, Panner mandapam and Katchi mandapam are noteworthy.
Thiru kalyana mandapam is a poem in stone, its wooden canopy being roofed with copper tiles, embellished with exquisite murals and artistic pillars. It was built in 1903 by Nattukotai Nagararthars, and stands as a sailent witness to the grandeur of Nagarthar's handwork. In short it is a Museum of Art.
Opposite the Kiligopura stands the Sixteen pillared pavillion. In the Month of Karthigai When the Great Fire is Lighted atop the hill, the panchamurtis (Five deities) assemble here. At the time when the Lamp in front of the Bali peere is lighted, the huge beacon fire of light burning at the crest of the hill, with lakhs of Devotees chanting in unison "Annamalaiku Arohara", what an entrancing sight it offers.
Another important ritual that is celebrated in the temple is he Bharani deepa at 5 am on the 10th day of the Karthigai Festival and the Mountain Deepa Darshana at 6 pm.
In the third Enclosure,one can see the subshrines of sokalathiswarar, Ekambaresvarar, Chidambaresvarar, and Jambukeswarar. The unique feature here is that those who cannot visit the panchabudha sthalas located can have darshana of them here itself.
Near the sanctum, one can see rings hanging from the mouth of an Yali (a lion like mythical animal) like entiwined chain. This object draws our Mind to the various mental attributes of man : affection possesion, passion, Illusion and desire.
Proceeding along the outer enclosure, worshipping the 63 Nayanmars, We reach the sanctum of Vishnu, Who was responsible for the Annamalaiyar temple. Vishnu is enshrined here with the Name of Venugopala.
The shrine of Chitragupta, the scribe of Dharma Devata who register all our acts, is located next to the Navagrahas in the Amman temple (Shrine of The goddess).
The stone pillars that support the Mahamantapa of the Devi Shrine are of extraordinary beauty. The 16 pillars of this Mandapa are a treasure house of Art, revealing the intricacies of Silpa canons.
Within the Sanctum, the goddess reveals Herself in a Young maiden form. This illustrates a Mystery. In her right hand is the lotus flower; the left hand hangs limpy expressive of the humility of a charming girl. The pose expresses that one can live in this world happily bereft of sorrow if only they live like a fragile flower clothed in humility. In the enclosure of the Devi Shrine, the psalms poured forth by Jnanasambanda, Navukarsar, Arunagirinadhar and Manickavachakar about this sthala are written on the walls.
The inscriptions of the walls in the third enclosure display the Meykirtis of the Cholas, Pandiyas, Pallavas, Hoysalar, and vijayanagara rulers. We learn from the epigraps that kopperunjinga donated Thiruvasi, the Holy feet of Nataraja, agold throne and gold ornaments.
From another inscription we learn that during the vijayanagara rule and especially during krishna Deva Raya's period, the thousand pillared hall, the holy tank of Vasanthosthsava the gopura of 11 tiers, a car for vinayaka, Indra vimana and such 20 great gifts were made.
From the the time of the historic Cholas through Vallala Maharaja, Krishana Deva Raya, Tanjore Nayaks, and of late from patrons like Nattukotai Nagarattar, this Annamalaiyar temple grew gradually in artistic splendour.
Ani Annamalai also called Adi Annamalai is the ancient temple and is in on the route of circumambulating the hill. Nearby stands a seperate shrine for Manickavachaka.
Encircling the hills are 360 sacred pools, and in the eight cardinal directions are the Asthalingas and Asthanandis.
Annamalai sthala has a special place in the history of our Tamil culture and Religous life. Manikavachaka has praised this sthala in no words, and Thiruvmbavai, the divine composition, owes its blossoming to this place. And it was in this Sthalathat saints Thirunavakarasar and Gnanasambandar sang their Thevarams hymns.
This is the Sthala where Muruga blessed saint Arunagiri with the grace. It was Muruga who initiated Arunagiri to compose and even provided him with the first line. It was at Thiruvannamalai that Arunagiri lived and on 15th August, every year a festival is conducted here for him. The Thiruppugazh is a devotional composition paving the way for salvation by including the devotees to become spiritual .The song commencing with the words "Muthai Tharu",in in Thiruppugazh was provided by Lord Muruga and in this sthala.
Kanda Puranam, Thiruvikaiadal Puranam etc. give us glimpses of the shrines of Muruga and the piligrim route of Agastiyar, mentioning Thiruvannamalai as an important place.
Thiru Arut Vallalar Ramalinga Swamigal has sung about this effulgent Thiruvannamalai.The Thiruvannamalai addenam at kunnuakudi was established by a great seer, Deivasigamani Desigar about 500 years ago. Sivapragasar a man of versatile imagination, Vanna Sarabham Thandapani Swamigal and such Great men lived here.
Though this town is known by the name "Thiruvannamalai" strictly speaking it is not correct, as it is only the name of the hill. This sthala has already attained fame by the presence of Seshadri swamigal who came here some time before Ramana Maharishi. The samadhi of Seshadri swamigal, the ashramam of Ramana,and Isanya mutt are all located here. The cave of Patala Linga, where Ramana Maharishisecured bliss is within the temple.
Thiruvannamalai, is a sthala without beginning or end, shines with its own effulgence, that burns the ego afflicting human beings. The temple is big, the towers big, the tank big, the philosophic import big, the vechiles big, the deities big, the walls big, the cooridor's big; in short, everything about this temple is Big.
History of Thiruvannamalai :
The history of this town dates from the early Chola period i.e. the period of Aditya I and Parantaka I (A.D. 871-955) when the Chola empire had expanded northwards to include practically the wholes of Tondaimandalam. After Parantaka I till the reign of Rajendra I, Chola rule over this region is not attested by the Thiruvannamalai inscriptions, possibly on account of the Rashtrakuta invasions and occupation of this area by Krishna III. This is perhaps indicated by a single inscription of Kannaradeva (Krishna III) found in this temple. (475;63). the recovery of this region by the Cholas Was a slow process and reached its successful conclusion only towards the close of Rajaraja I's region i.e. AD 1014, for even Rajaraja is conspicuously absent in the inscriptions of Thiruvannamalai.
While the rule of Rajeddra I and Rajadhiraja I over this area is attested by their inscriptions, once again a fairly long gap of over a hundred years is indicated by the absence of any Chola inscriptions till the beginning of Kulottunga III's region (AD 1183)
Large scales activities in the period of Kulottunga III and Rajaraja III are indicated by a number of records in the temple. Further, the frequent references to a number of Chola feudatories of this period would also show a gradual ascendancy in their power and importance till the final establishment of independence by the Kadavaraya chieftains in the second quarter of the 13th century A.D. In this connection mention may be made of an interesting inscription at Thiruvannamalai, which records the agreement entered into by a number of feudatory chieftains to support one another and swearing allegiance to the ruling Chola king (Kulottunga III-A.D. 1210), pointing to a period of great political tension under the late Cholas. (516;106).
The inscriptions of Kopperunjinga clearly show that by the second quarter of the 13th century, the Kadavarayas had established complete mastery over this region leading to the final decline of Chola power.
A brief period of Pandya supremacy over this region is indicated by the inscriptions of the Pandyas of the second empire such as Jatavaraman Srivallabha and Tribhuvanachakravartin Kulasekhara in the 13th century AD (481,571 etc; 70,162 ect,).
The Hoysalas under Vira Vallaladeva (Ballala III) also exercised sway over this area (459, 509; 89 and 99 - dated AD 1340) indication that the Hoysala power continued to influence Tamil politics even after the Muslim invasions of Malik kafur.
After the Hoysalas, Thiruvannamalai passed into the hands of the Vijayanagar rulers, whose southern invasions under kampana are well known and led to the establishment of Vijayanagar authority over practically the whole of Tamil Nadu.
Vijayanagar inscriptions in this temple are fairly large in number and range from the period of Harihara II to the late Vijayanagar ruler Venkatapatideva Maharaya i.e. late 14th to the 17 th centuries AD Following them, their Kayak feudatories of Tanner, established their independent sway over this region and under the famous Sevvappa Nayaka, carried out large scale renovation and building activities in the temple.
After Nayak rule, this region seems to have gradually passed into British hands except for a brief period of subordination to the Mysore Odeyars (AD 1816).
Town and Temple :
Thiruvannamalai is one of the major sacred places of Tamil Nadu, It is impossible to ignore this because of the great area occupied by the Siva temple, the many processing, and the frequent festivals, especially that of Kartigai, the festival of fire, which more then doubles the population. This influx of pilgrims is received in cboultries or hostels, most of which are situated in the north and south car-street.
Another aspect of the temple which has determined the physical form of the town was the construction of the fourth and fifth enclosures. This important extension caused the relocation of residences, especially of brahmins who usually live around the temple in the square formed by the four car-streets.
At Thiruvannamalai, the west car-street behind the temple has very few houses because the mountain slopes upward almost immediately. As for the east and south streets, which follow the main regional highways, they are quite naturally crowded with shops, and also hostels for pilgrims, who thus benefit from the passing processions.
Besides occupying a large area, the great temple radiates its influence throughout the whole town due to its connections with outlying tanks. The sacred bath which takes place at the close of each of the numerous temple festivals is performed either in one of the two temple tanks, or in one of the outlying tanks: Indra Tirtha, Tamarai Kulam, Agni Tirtha, and Ishanya Tirtha. The last two of these lie at the two extremities of the circumambulatory route around the mountain; that is, at the outer limits of the town, where the cremation grounds lie. For this reason they are used for ablutions after funerals. In Thiruvannamalai the Shiva temple is omnipresent and all-powerful, so that there is no Vishnu temple. Apart from three abandoned Shiva temples, there are about a hundred temples to the goddess or to Ganapati. These are street shrines or community temples, all of which relate to the great Shiva temple. During their festivals the processions from these proceed through the four car-streets of the great temple. The final bath takes place, depending on the location of the temple,either in the Ishanya Tirtha to the north or in the Agni Tirtha to the south.
This town Thiruvannamalai is situated in 187 kilometers away from Chennai, formerly known as Madras- Capital of Tamil Nadu and there is a railway station on the villupuram - Katpadi rail route. This town stands on an elevation of 266ft ( 79.80 M ) above sea level.
South India Map
This is a South India Map. To view Tiruvannamalai Town Map, click Thiruvannamalai