Thiruvannamalai is one of the 'Panch bootha sthala'
dedicated to Lord Shiva. Here He appeared as a 'Jothi' or
Fire and is worshipped as a Jothi lingam. The name
Thiruvannamalai is taken from the hill near the temple and the
deity is called 'Arunachaleswarar'.
Thiruvannamalai has a railway station on the Villuppuram
-Katpady line on the Southern Railway. There are bus services to
this town from all the major towns in Tamilnadu. Accommodation is
available both in the guest-houses maintained by the temple
authorities and in the hotels in the town.
The temple occupies an area of about 25acres with four large
'gopuram' on each side. The largest 'gopuram' is
above the eastern entrance which is the main entrance. There are
five 'praharam' or corridors around the central structure
with a high wall running on all four sides at the edge of the
outer 'praharam'. There are numerous shrines for other
deities in the temple complex and Goddess Parvathy has a separate
shrine on the third 'praharam'. She is worshipped as
Annamalai achieves its importance as a venerated and holy
place as it is mentioned in Hindu mythology and legends and also
by its association with saints, sages and religious men and women
who have sung the praises of the deity in their devotional
outpourings. The temple also has an important place as a
repository of historical chronicles with its large amount of
inscriptions on its walls and pillars. These are studied and
researched by historians in an attempt to understand the life in
the country centuries ago.
Once there was a dispute between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu
as to who was superior. This created untold suffering among all
living things as their respective duties of creation and
protection were being left unattended. Lord Shiva in order to put
an end to this dispute appeared before them as fire in the shape
of a glowing mountain.. The two who were quarrelling did not
realise who or what this 'mountain of fire' was. So they
decided to search for the 'Aathi' (beginning) and the
'Antham' (end) of this 'Jothi' and whoever
succeeded first would be declared the superior god. Lord Brahma
took the form of a swan and flew upwards in search of the
beginning and Lord Vishnu took the form of a 'Varaha'
(wild boar) and went burrowing in the earth in order to find the
end. Each after flying high and borrowing low failed in his
attempt to find the beginning or the end. Brahma did not want to
concede defeat. While coming down he saw a petal of
'Thalampoo' floating in the air. He asked the flower to
be his witness that he had seen the beginning. The flower agreed
to his request. They arrived together and found Lord Vishnu and
told Him that Brahma had seen the top and this flower
'Thalampoo' was the witness. At this juncture the
'Jothi' transformed itself as Lord Shiva and admonished
Brahma for telling lies and the 'Thalampoo' for bearing
false witness. He also decreed that no temples would be dedicated
for Lord Brahma and that 'Thalampoo' should never be
offered in worship.
Brahma and Vishnu realising their mistake prayed to Lord Shiva
to remain there as a 'Jothi lingam'. Thus every year
during the Tamil month of 'Karthigai' (November/December)
on the 'Karthigai' day a blazing fire is lighted on the
top of the hill to celebrate the appearance of Lord Shiva as
'Jothi'. This occasion is an important day in the
calendar of Thiruvannamalai.
There is also another legend that says that Goddess Parvathy
once playfully closed the eyes of Lord Paramasivan. This caused
the entire universe to become dark and all activities to cease.
This made Lord Shiva angry and in order to chastise Parvathy, she
was banished to the earth. She came upon this earth and arrived
at Kancheepuram. Here she fashioned a Sivalingam in sand and
prayed to Lord Shiva to forgive her and take her back. Lord Shiva
was pleased with her devotion and prayer and asked her to go to
Thiruvannamalai and pray to Arunachaleswarar. Goddess Parvathy
arrived at Thiruvannamalai and was finally united with the Lord
by taking half his body on the left. This transformation of half
Parvathy and half Shiva is called 'Arthanareeswarar'.
Though this temple is famous as a Shiva temple, there is a
shrine dedicated to Lord Subramanya in the outer 'veethy'
The deity is called 'Kambaththu Ilayanar'. This is where
Lord Subramanya appeared on a pillar. The legend is as follows.
Arunagirinathar, the saint poet and an ardent devotee of Lord
Subramanya, lived in Thiruvannamalai. He had squandered his
wealth by his youthful waywardness and had contracted an
incurable disease as a result. Finally he got fed up with his lot
and climbed a temple tower and jumped from there in an attempt to
kill himself. Lord Subramanya stopped him falling in mid-air and
blessed him with wisdom and set him in a path of piety and
devotion. From that day he brought forth his devotion and piety
in the form of devotional verses called 'Thiruppugal'.
This brought fame and respect to Arunagirinathar. A court member
of the king of Thiruvannamalai named Sambathanthan got jealous of
Arunagirinathar. He was a devotee of Goddess Sakthi. He
challenged Arunagirinathar for a contest. He said that he would
make Goddess Sakthi appear before him and challenged
Arunagirinathar to do the same with his Lord. Arunagirinathar
accepted the challenge. When Sambathandan prayed to Goddess, She
appeared in front of him but only he could see her. When
Arunagirinathar prayed to Lord Subramanya His figure appeared on
a stone pillar for everybody to see. It is this pillar with the
image of Lord Subramanya which is installed in the sanctum of
Kambathu Ilayanar temple.
Opening Hours and Festivals.
The temple opens at 7am and closes at 12 noon. Then it opens
at 5.30 pm and closes at 10 pm.
There are festivals practically every month of the year, but
the biggest festival takes place on the 'Karthigai' day
in the month of 'Karthigai' when a beacon at the top of
the mountain is lighted and is seen for miles around.
The 'Ramana Maharishi Ashram' is in the vicinity of
the temple. People from far and wide are drawn to this
'ashram' where they enjoy an atmosphere of peace and
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