Arunachaleswarar Temple Thiruvannamalai

By Sanjeev Nayyar esamskriti@suryaconsulting.net | 2016

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This is called the Annamalaiyar Temple and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. View of Rajagopuram. All gopurams were being repaired and painted so covered. "The Rajagopuram is 217 feet high with 11 storeys, its base measure 135 feet by 98 feet. This tower was built by King Krishna Devaraya of Vijayanagar and completed by Sevappa Nayaka of Thanjavur. Shiva is worshipped here in the form of Agni. One of the panchaboothas that is used as an element to incarnate this earth or universe."

In hotel was this pic, just clicked. This temple is "unique on account of its stately towers, high rampart walls, broad quadrangles, spacious gateways, large mantapams and fine tanks. We do not find any inscription in temple prior to 850 a.d." Notice the number of praharams (walls), gopurams in each direction and the smaller gopurams. Shiva is known by devotees as Annamalayar or Arunachaleswarar.

Close up of Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharshi Samadhi in the ashram ie minutes away from the temple. Town is 180 kms from Chennai, 80 kms from Vellore. To see pics of Ramana Maharshi Ashram Click here

Rajagopuram. Behind temple is holy Arunachala mountain. "The arrangement of the Asta Lingams around the octagonal perimeter of Arunachala reflect the geometry of a Cosmogram. The octagonal shape is surrounded by a total of eight Lingam Temples (Asta Lingams). Each of these Temples are located at the four cardinal and four inter-cardinal points."

Sadhus inside temple. One on the right is glowing. "Arunachala is surrounded by eight lingams (Asta Lingams) each residing in one of the eight directions of the four cardinal points (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 – Esanaya). To read more Click here

At main entrance door, sculptures on both sides. Lower level is lady think with snake in hand. Above is a 8 handed man with weapon in hand. The temple has seven prakaras (inner walls) and nine gopurams.

Top is Narasimha avatar I think, man sitting on elephant and man with eight hands weapon in hand. "The greatness of this Arunachaleswarar temple was glorified through poems written by salivate poets Appar, Sundarar, Manickavasagar, and Sambandar." In the thirteenth century the Hoysala kings from Karnataka built some sannadhis and prakaras in the temple.

This animal has the body of a lion and face of a tiger. Reminds me of the royal emblem of the Hoyasala dynasty that I saw at the Belur Temple. To see pic of emblem Click here

On wall sculptures of women dancing. "The most significant factor is that lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of fire. Every year during the month of Karthikai, the flame is lit on the hill top and this ritual is witnessed by millions of devotees. This festival is widely called as Karthikai Deepam in Tamil."

Found this image in many temples. Can you help with caption.

As you enter temple on right is the Thousand Pillared Mantapam and left is tank made by the great Vijayanagar king Krishna Devaraya. I missed seeing the underground temple of Sri Pathala Linga where at Ramana Maharishi''s body was eaten by ants and months in his state of Supreme Awareness.

Yali animal, corner of the 1000 pillared hall. Cannot enter hall, all along the exterior of the hall are Yalis. Opposite hall as you enter on right is Gopura Ganapathi.

Entrance of 1000 pillared hall. Opposite is tank. "The Silver car of this temple is a very magnificent one with rich adornment and of excellent craftmanship. The Nattukottai Chettiars are mainly responsible for securing many of vahanams for the temple."

You see Sivaganga Tank, behind is Rajagopuram ie eastern tower. Left of pic is Gopura Ganapathi if I remember correctly. "In between Sivaganga Tank and Thousand Pillared Mantapam are the Rudrakshamantapam and the Big Nandhi Mantapam, the latter you see in next pic.

Early morning view of Nandi. "The Silver bull or Nandi is a unique feature of this temple. Nandi of such a massive size cannot be seen anywhere." You cross inner wall through smaller gopuram as you shall in the next pic.

Gopuram in centre is second gopuram, smaller one is third gopuram, tank is Barhma Theertham with the Teerthavari Mantapam. Close by is Kala Bairava Shrine.

Right of pic is North gopuram. It was made by Ammani Ammal a Sanyasini. Centre is Nandi. And in each Prakaram (inner wall) there are Nandhi statues placed facing the Lord Arunachaleswarar temple.

On my return saw ladies lighting diyas or holy lamp at the feet of Nandi. Back is South gopuram. "Each of these five elements of Panchaboothas are associated to different places of worship in Tamil Nadu and Andhra. Water is associated with a temple in Thiruvanaikaval, Space is attributed to a temple at Chidambaram, Earth at Kanchipuram and Wind at Sri Kalahasthi in Andhra nearer to Tirupathi."

Inside is the sanctum with holy Arunachala in the background. This the First Prakaram encloses the Garbagraha of Sri Arunachaleswarar, the main deity of the temple. "He has got many names. The popular Tamil Name is Annamalaiyar. Other names are Sonachaleswarar, Arunagiriswarar, Sounadriswarar,Bhaktapasavimochakar,Vedamurthi."

Close up of the images in centre of the garbagraha. Centre is Shiva Parvati, left of pic is Ganesha on his vehicle the mouse, right is Murugan on his vehicle the peacock. Not sure what other images represent.

When was doing parikrama round the sanctum met these women who sportingly allowed themselves to be clicked. Something very powerful about Arunachala. Did the 14 kms parikrama round the holy mountain. Earlier you could trek up the hill, now you walk on road around Arunachala. From Ramanana Maharshi Ashram you can climb to the caves to where Bhagvan meditated. For shortage of time did not do in the faith that Bhagvan will call me again.

Vimana about sanctum. Centre is Shivji in sitting posture.

I think this is the Unnamalaiamman or Parvathi temple. It is on the right of the sanctum.

Courtyard as you enter sanctum area. Left of pic is north side gopuram on right a smaller gopuram through which you enter sanctum area. In front is a small mantapam.

Since vehicle is peacock must be Murugan - but 3 headed makes me not sure. Sculpture in wall of eastern rajagopuram.

In wall of rajagopuram was this image. Can you help with description.

As I walked out of temple saw devotees feeding the cow, all smiles.

Lots of sadhus outside the temple. U can know how popular a temple is with devotees by the number of sadhus outside and within the temple. To see pics of Arunachala hill and temple view from there Click here

Temple has monkeys and monkeys. Be careful they snatch away stuff to eat. I consider myself blessed to have visited this temple and Ramana Maharshi Ashram and pray that bulava to visit comes again. To see pics of various festivals in temple Click here

Smiling flower sellers is what I shall always remember. To know all about the temple Click here