Annamalaiyar Temple is located at the base of Annamalai hills in the town of Thiruvannamalai,Tamil Nadu,situated 185 km from Chennai.This is one of the Paadal Petra Sthalams. The 9th century Saiva saint poet Manikkavasagar composed Tiruvempaavai here.
Thiruvannamalai is one of the Pancha Bootha Sthalams (five holiest Shiva temples), each representing one of the five natural elements. Thiruvannamalai represents agni(Fire). The other four temples are Jambukeswara at Thiruvanaikovil,near Trichy (water), Ekambareswara (earth) at Kanchipuram,Chidambaram Natarajar akasha (upper sky) at Chidambaram, and Kalahasti Nathar (wind) at Kalahasti.
There is a saying that 'if you are born in Tiruvarur you will attain Moksha, if you die at Varanasi you attain Moksha, if you have a darshan at Chidambaram you attain Moksha, but just thinking about Thiruvannamalai can give you Moksha'. Such is the greatness of this place.
It is believed that this hills took different forms at different period of time and age. During the Kirthayugam it was in the form of fire,in the next Threthayugam it was in the form of emerald,during Dweparayugam it was in the form of gold. In the present Kaliyuagam it is in a rocky mountain state.
The legend behind the temple As per one legend, Vishnu and Brahma contested for superiority and asked Lord Shiva to be judge. Shiva appeared as a flame, and challenged them to find his feet and his head. Vishnu tok the form of a boar(Varaha), and tunneled through the earth to find the source of the fire and Brahma took the form of a swan, and flew to the sky to see the top of the flame. He saw a 'Thazhambu flower' from Shivas crown falling down and Brahma asked the flower about the wherabouts of Shiva's head. The thazambu replied that he has been falling from the sky for several years and Brahma realised that it will be futile to search for Shiva's head. As neither Brahma nor Vishnu could find the origin and end of the fire,Vishnu gracefully accepted his defeat, but Brahma lied and said that he had found the crown of the fire. Knowing that Brhama was lying, Shiva cursed Brahma that he would never have temples on earth in his worship, and also cursed that the Thazhambu, who was an accessory to Brahma's lie, will never again adorn his head.On the request of Vishnu and Bramha, Siva who was in the form of a fire, took the form of a Shivalingam at the foot of the hill which is where the Annamalaiyar Temple is located.
As per another legend Parvati once closed the eyes of her husband Shiva playfully. As a result the whole Universe became dark and the earth was engulfed in darkness for years. Parvati performed penance and Shiva appeared as a column of fire at the top of Annamalai hills, returning light to the world. He asked Parvathi to come around the holy hill in a clockwise direction. Lord Shiva then as Umapathi appeared in his Rishaba vahana and offerred half his body to Parvathy as Arthanareeswarar.
The temple is one of the largest in India. It has four gopurams. The tallest is the eastern tower, with 11 stories and a height of 217 ft, making it one of the tallest temple towers in India. As you enter through the main gopuram on the east, you can see the 1000 pillared hall built during the Vijayanagar period and 'Padala Lingeswararar'. Sage Ramana Maharishi did his penance here for a long period.
Within the third Praharam is the 'Padhinaru Kaal Mandapam' (16 pillared hall). On the Karthigai deepam day, during the pradosha kaalam (evening), the idol of Ardhanareeswarar is brought out and the giant 'aganda deepam' (fire) is lit accompanied by the chants of 'Annamamalianukku arohara' (we bow to Annamalai) by several thousands of the devotees.
In the last praharam is the sanctum sanctorium where we can worship the self manifested Arunachaleswarar in lingam form. Facing east is the sannidhi of Abidhakuchalambal (Unnamalaiammai). There are sannidhis for Somaskandar,Venugopalan,Lord Subramanya, Gaja Lakshmi and others.
Girivalam Girivalam or circumbulating the holy mountain is a divine practice observed by the devotees. This Girivalam is mostly done during the full moon. One full round (Girivalam) on the road around the hill is around 14 kilometres. A few decades ago the roads were very not laid properly and a very few street lights. Devotees had to rely on the moonlight.Now ,the roads are very well laid with plenty of street lightings in the recent days.
There are eight lingams known as Ashtalingam that are positioned at eight different directions of the earth. These lingams are called as Indralingam, Agnilingam, Yamalingam, Niruthilingam, Varunalingam, Vayulingam, Kuberalingam and Esanyalingam.
The best period for circumbulating the holy mountain is early in the morning 3:00 am. You can complete your circuit by the sunrise at a leisurely pace. After praying to Lord Arunachala and mother Abidhakujalambal, you start from the Eastern tower. Have a darshan of Ganesha and start your Girivalam.You need to pass the adishtanams of Seshadri Swamy,Ramana Maharishi, Visiri swamiyaar (Shri Yogiram SurathKumar) and take their blessings.
Some advise while going Girivalam
Daily Pooja Pooja is done 6 times in a day, Ushakalam starting at 05:30 am and culminating at Artha jama pooja at 09:30pm.
The Annamalai Deepam on the Karthigai day is the most important festival where devotees from all over the world assemble to have a darshan of the witness this glorious and sacred deepam festival.This Karthigai Deepam is celebrated as a ten day festival and it widely known as Karthigai Brahmotsavam.Karthigai Deepam festival starts at around four o clock in the morning with Bharani Deepam lit at the temple. In the evening the Mahadeepam is lit on the top of the hill just during the sunset.
Thiruvoodal Festival is celebrated in the month of Thai approximately on January mid during or after Pongal. 'Thiru' means holy and 'Voodal' means 'a petty quarrel', between the married couple in a love relationship which lasts only for a brief period. Legend has it that Parvathi was not happy with the appearance of Lord with his dangling hair, skull garland and semi naked body smeared with holy ashes. This takes place inside the compound of Arunachaleswarar Temple and the Utsava murthis of Shiva and Parvathy are taken out in a palanquin on the streets and on the girivalam pathway. Thiruvoodal Festival is regarded in such high esteem that one of the roads is named as Thiruvoodal Street.During this enactment of the quarrel, Parvati enters the temple alone by herself, leaving Shiva outside, and Shiva circumambulates the Annamalai hill. It is said that during such trip, he granted liberation to the Sage Rishi Bhringi. Shiva loses his jewels in the West side of the town and he then recovers the lsot jewellery in the eastern side of the town, and then returns to the temple the folowing morning.
The Arudra Darisanam in the month of Margazhi (Dec 15 through Jan 15) is another grand celebration of the cosmic dance of Shiva.
Apart from these,each occurrence of the full moon is a celebration in itself, as hundreds of thousands throng to circumambulate the Annamalai Hill, to perform the Girivalam. Monthly Pradoshams,monthly Sivarathri, Maha Sivarathri are all celeberated.
Temple Timings The temple is open from 5:00 AM till 12 noon and from 3:30 pm till 10:00 pm
How to reach?
Thiruvannamalai is well connected by roads.By road from Chennai the travel time is around 3.5 hours. Frequent bus services are available from Chennai, Trichy,Tirupathi, Salem, Madurai and from other important cities in Tamil Nadu.There is a train service and Thriuvannamalai is located on the railway route in between Katpadi and Villupuram.
State: Tamil Nadu
Famous for: Pilgrimage
Best Season: Throughout the year. Summer( from May to July) could be very sultry when the mercury shoots to 40 degree celsius.
Weather: Summer 33-42°C, Winter 16-28°C
Altitude: Sea level