Arunachalam Temple Tiruvannamalai also known as Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar Temple is an important Shaivite temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Located in Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, this temple belongs to the list of Pancha Bhoota Stalas (the five Shiva temples, each dedicated to the five elements). Also, the presiding deity is in the form of Agni Lingam – the fire element.
Arunachalam Temple History
The Hindu Mythology points to two important legends of the Tiruvannamalai Arunachalam Temple.
Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma once competed against each other to decide who is the greatest. Then they requested Lord Shiva to be the judge. Lord Shiva set the challenge – the one who reaches his crown and feet first will be the winner. He then took the form of a long column of fire or the Agni Lingam.
Lord Vishnu immediately transformed himself into Varaha, the boar and started digging the depths of the earth to reach Lord Shiva’s feet.
Meanwhile, Lord Brahma turned into a swan and flew towards the sky to reach Lord Shiva’s crown.
During the ascent, he saw a flower – the Thazhampu, fall from the crown. He then asked the flower how long he should fly to reach the crown. The flower replied that it had been falling for thousands of years and still hasn’t reached the ground.
Further, Lord Brahma conspires and manipulates the flower and takes it to Lord Shiva. Lord Brahma then claims that he has got the flower from Lord Shiva’s crown. But Lord Shiva sees through the lie and curses both Lord Brahma and the flower.
Ever since, Lord Brahma has no temples dedicated to him, and people don’t use Thazhampu for worship. This story is in the Lingothbhava and Tiruvannamalai Arunachalam Temple murals.
Another legend says that Goddess Parvati playfully closed Lord Shiva’s eyes and the entire universe plunged into darkness. Realising her mistake, she performed penance and as an answer to her prayers, Lord Shiva manifested himself as a magnificent column of fire atop a hill. The column became the Agni Lingam and the hill came to be known as Tiruvannamalai.
Significance of Arunachalam Temple
The Tiruvannamalai Arunachalam Temple construction dates back to several thousand years and according to the inscriptions, it was built by Chola Kings in 9th century AD
The Tiruvannamalai Arunachalam Temple is considered to be the largest Shiva temple in India
The residing deity is Annamalaiyar or Arunachaleswarar and his consort is Unnamalaiyar
Important Tamil literature such as Thevaram and Thiruvempavai by the Nayanars mention the Tiruvannamalai Arunachalam Temple.
Further, this temple and temple town is considered to be rich in spiritual heritage. The area is concentrated with several ashrams and samadhis dedicated to saints and spiritual leaders from all over India. Devotees and followers from different nationalities have made this place their spiritual home
The Tiruvannamalai Arunachalam Temple, sacred hill and surrounding areas are known to give off strong positive vibrations and even today some claim to have sighted ancient Siddhas or holy men deep in meditation
Girivalam, or circumambulating the sacred hill is an important spiritual activity. The significance of this activity is that the walk relieves the devotee from his sins and the cycle of birth and rebirth. Moreover, devotees cover a distance of nearly 14 km on barefoot and worship at the numerous temples, lingams and shrines that are present along the path.
Arunachalam Temple Timings
Arunachalam Temple opens at 5 am and closes at 9:30 pm.
There is a break in the afternoon from 12:30 pm to 3:30 pm.
Arunachalam Temple Sevas and Poojas
5:00 am -Temple Opening Time
5:30 am – Gomatha Pooja
6:00 am – Oudshakala Pooja
8:30 am – Early Sathi Pooja
11:00 am – Mid-noon Pooja
12:30 pm – Temple Closing Time
3:30 pm – Temple Opening Time
6:00 pm – Sayarakchai Pooja
7:30 pm – 2nd Kalam Pooja
9:00 pm – Arthajama Pooja
9:30 pm – Temple Closing Time
Somavaram on Mondays
Sukravaram on Tuesdays
Amavasai (new moon day)
Pournami (full moon day): Performing Girivalam on Pournami day is highly beneficial. Thousands of devotees perform Girivalam right from early morning to midnight.
Festivals celebrated in Arunachalam Temple
Since Lord Shiva is in the form of Agni here, the festival of Karthigai Deepam celebrated in the Hindu month of Karthigai is of great importance in this temple town.
It is a ten-day festival that usually falls between the months of November and December and culminates in the lighting of the Mahadeepam on the Tiruvannamalai hill at sunset.
Crores of devotees flock to the temple each year on this date and donate offerings of tonnes of ghee and oil to light the magnificent lamp.
Chitra Pournami or the first full moon day of the Tamil Calendar is another important festival day here. The five sacred temple cars carrying the deity are brought out in a procession on that day.
How to Reach Arunachalam Temple
Road: Many buses operate from Chennai and all important towns and cities in Tamil Nadu. Buses also operate from Bangalore and Tirupathi.
Rail: All trains that cover the Katpadi to Villupuram route also touch Tiruvannamalai
Air: Chennai is the nearest airport and it lies around 185 kilometres away by road
Arunachalam Temple Accommodation
There are several ashrams and charitable endowments that provide lodging at a very nominal tariff. You can also find modern accommodation options that have mushroomed in the recent years.
Where to Eat in Arunachalam
Most of the hotels that provide accommodation also have restaurant options. You can also find other standalone restaurants near the main bus stand and the temple. Several eateries also function near the Girivalam path.
The Tiruvannamalai Arunachalam Temple is surrounded by eight lingams or Ashta Lingams, denoting the eight directions. Devotees also cover the shrines of the eight lingams during the Girivalam. The eight lingams are South – Yama, West – Varuna, North – Kubera, and East – Indra and four intercardinal points, South East – Agni, South West – Niruthi, North West – Vayu and North East – Esanya.
Sri Ramanashramam: The ashram of Sri Ramana Maharishi, an Indian sage is one of the world-renowned places of spiritual importance in Tiruvannamalai. The Ashram is on the Girivalam path and devotees would usually visit the place to offer their prayers.
Seshadri Swamigal Ashram: Located close the Sri Ramanashramam, the Seshadri Swamigal Ashram was home to Seshadri Swami, a saint who came to Tiruvannamalai six years before Ramana Maharishi.
Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram: Yogi Ramsuratkumar was from UP near Kashi who travelled widely throughout India in search of spiritual enlightenment. His final stop was in Tiruvannamalai where he continued to bless his devotees until his death. His ashram is located very close to the Arunachaleswarar Temple.