The Sacred Abode of Lord Shiva

Arunachalesvara Mandir

Also known as the Annamalaiyar Temple

Abstract :

The Arunachalesvara Temple, also known as the Annamalaiyar Temple, is a significant religious landmark located at the base of the sacred Arunachala hill in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is revered by followers of the Shaivism sect and is renowned for its association with the five elements, particularly fire (Agni). In this in-depth research article, we delve into the history, architecture, legends, and the religious significance of this grand temple.

Introduction :

The Arunachalesvara Temple stands as an emblem of spiritual fervor, history, and cultural heritage in Tiruvannamalai. This remarkable temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, known as Arunachalesvara or Annamalaiyar, and features the sacred Agni lingam. Parvati, the consort of Shiva, is venerated as Unnamalai Amman or Apithakucha Ambal. The temple’s roots extend into the 7th century, chronicled in the revered Tamil Saiva canonical work, the Tevaram, authored by the Nayanar saint poets. It also serves as the setting for the Tiruvempavai, composed by the 9th-century Shaiva saint poet Manikkavasagar.

Architectural Grandeur :

Spanning across 10 hectares, the Arunachalesvara Temple is one of India’s largest temple complexes. It boasts four magnificent gateway towers, with the eastern Rajagopuram being the tallest, standing at 66 meters (217 feet), and consisting of 11 stories. This tower is an exquisite example of the Nayak dynasty’s architectural mastery, particularly the craftsmanship of Sevappa Nayakkar.

The temple houses a myriad of shrines, but the principal deities are Arunachalesvara and Unnamalai Amman. It is also famous for the thousand-pillared hall constructed during the Vijayanagara period, showcasing detailed stone carvings.

The initial masonry structure dates back to the 9th century during the Chola dynasty, and subsequent expansions are attributed to the Vijayanagara rulers, including the Sangama Dynasty, the Saluva Dynasty, and the Tuluva Dynasty. Presently, the administration and maintenance of the temple fall under the purview of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu.

Festivals and Rituals :

The Arunachalesvara Temple hosts six daily rituals and twelve annual festivals. Among these, the Karthikai Deepam festival stands out. This festival, held during the full moon day between November and December, features a massive beacon of fire atop the Arunachala hill, symbolizing the union of the Shiva lingam of fire with the sky. The event garners the presence of three million pilgrims.

Another significant practice is the Girivalam, wherein pilgrims circumnavigate the temple’s base and the Arunachala hills barefoot. This spiritual journey, performed by one million pilgrims annually, is believed to cleanse sins and fulfill desires.

Legends and Significance :

Arunachala is steeped in Hindu mythology. The tale of Parvati playfully closing Shiva’s eyes at Mount Kailash, plunging the world into darkness, is the backdrop to the emergence of Arunachala as a colossal column of fire. This divine act restored light to the universe and signified the unity of Shiva and Parvati as Ardhanarishvara. The Arunachala hill, known as the red mountain, is integral to the temple’s significance, symbolizing Shiva’s iconic representation.

The Lingodbhava legend, depicting Shiva’s challenge to Brahma and Vishnu, is also commemorated within the temple’s walls. Both of these tales serve as metaphors for profound spiritual concepts.

Literary Connections :

The Arunachalesvara Temple finds mention in the ancient Tamil literary works Tevaram and Tiruvempavai, composed by saints Sambandar and Appar. Their verses in praise of the temple solidify its status as a Paadal Petra Sthalam, one of the 276 temples sanctified in Saiva canon.

The temple has also been the inspiration for various saints and poets, including Manickavasagar and Arunagirinathar. These luminaries enriched Tamil literature with their devotional compositions.

Conclusion :

The Arunachalesvara Temple, with its rich history, architectural splendor, and profound religious significance, occupies a unique place in the spiritual and cultural tapestry of Tamil Nadu. Its legends, rituals, and literary connections make it an enduring beacon of Shaivism. The temple is not only a site of worship but also a testament to the timeless devotion of countless pilgrims who seek the divine grace of Lord Shiva. It remains a sacred repository of tradition and spirituality in the heart of Tiruvannamalai.

Editor – Kaalchakra Team

[ Note – Before Concluding anything as a Finale, Please Go through Original Scriptures of Vaidik Literature Written in Sanskrit and Also with Meaning of That time of Language. Because English is a Limited language to Explaining the Deeper Knowledge of Vaidik Kaal. ]