(Last Updated on : 14/08/2010)
Tiruvannamalai is accessible from Kumbakonam and Chennai
. The Shiva Temple situated at the foot of a hill at Tiruvannamalai is one of the largest and most important Shiva shrines in the South. Sri Arunachaleswara Temple is dedicated to Tejo Lingam or Jyothi Lingam (the fire incarnation of God). Hence much significance is attached to Tiruvannamalai as one of the Pancha Bhutha Sthalas. The nine imposing gopurams of the temple are a magnificent sight. There is a thousand-pillared hall with intricate carvings. Pathala Lingeswara is enshrined here. There is another shrine for Lord Muruga, known as Kambathu Ilayanar. The holy tank is known as Sivaganga Theertham. One has to cross the Vallaala Maharaja gopuram and Kili gopuram to reach the sanctum. These towers are associated with the life of saint Arunagirinathar, who turned a devotee of Muruga. The Lord is said to have saved the saint when he jumped from a gopuram.
If legends are to be believed then it is said that Devi Parvati performed penance here to obtain the Vamabhaga or the left half of Shiva
. Once a contest arose between Vishnu and Brahma as to their relative superiority. A heated controversy ensued, and Shiva appeared as a huge column of fire to prove that there was yet one power superior to them. Brahma assumed the form of a swan and flew up to discover the top of the flame and Vishnu became a Varaha (boar) and tore the earth with His tusk to discover the base of the flame. Both of them failed. This flame (Jyothi) turned into a Sthavara Lingam, which is believed to be the Arunachal Hill.
In commemoration of the Jyoti a huge beacon is lighted atop the hill every year on Karthigai Deepam day (Nov-Dec). Thousands of devotees visit the temple on this occasion and offer worship to Pancha Murthis.
It is customary to go round the hills (a stretch of 14 km) prior to the worship of Sri Arunachaleswara. On Full Moon days, thousands of devotees participate in this form of worship, known as Giri Pradakshina, when one can have darshan of 8 lingams, Sri Ramana Ashram, Sri Seshadri Swamigal's Samadhi and Yogi Surat Kumar.