Arunachaleswarar temple is one of the five Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and is located in Thiruannamalai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The five Shiva temples represent a primordial natural element – Fire, Earth, Air, Water, Sky – with the Arunachaleswarar temple representing Fire. The Annamalaiyar Temple is the most prominent landmark of Tiruvannamalai. The temple complex covers an area of 10 ha (25 acres), and is one of the largest temples in India. It houses four gateway towers known as gopurams. The tallest is the eastern tower, with 11 stories and a height of 66 m (217 ft), making it one of the tallest temple towers in India. The temple has numerous shrines, with those of Annamalaiyar and Unnamulai Amman being the most prominent. The temple complex houses many halls. The most notable is the thousand-pillared hall built during the Vijayanagar period.
Aathara Stala are Shiva temples which are considered to be personifications of the Tantric chakras of human anatomy. The Annamalaiyar temple is called the Manipooraga stalam, and is associated with the Manipooraga chakra. The temple is revered in Tevaram, the Tamil Saiva canon and classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam, one of the 276 temples that find mention in the Saiva canon. Various Tamil and Sanskrit scriptures have explicitly described the incarnation of Lord Shiva and the temple. It is said that, once Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma got into tussle on, who is great among the two of them is. As a result, they wanted to have a competition and asked Lord Shiva to be the judge of the competition. Upon which, Lord Shiva agreed and Shiva told them that the one who can reach the feet and the crown of the Shiva Lingam will be judged as the most powerful. And, consequently Lord Shiva got himself transformed into Jyothi Lingam and Agni Lingam.
Lord Vishnu in order to prove his worth transformed himself into a Boar wild enough to dig into the earth and reach the feet of the Shiva but he could not reach the feet of the Shiva Lingam. And finally, Lord Vishnu, accepted defeat his effort got futile. Lord Brahma, at the same time also took the form of a swan so that he can fly and touch Lord Shiva’s crown. But even after flying for long years he could not reach to the crown and he found the Lotus flower which was falling down and thus Lord Brahma asked the flower that how much time he will need to reach the feet of Shiva Lingam. Upon which the flower replied that, it has been falling down for last forty thousand years but then it has not yet been able to reach the foot of the Lord Shiva. Taking considerations of the fact that, it is not really possible to reach the crown of Lord Shiva, Lord Brahma took the flower into confidence to be a witness of the fact that he had been successful in reaching the crown of the Lord Shiva and that he took the flower from there. Flower got convinced with the fact and went to Lord Shiva, along with Lord Brahma, understood the conspiracy they had done together and out of rage cursed Lord Brahma that he will never be worshipped anywhere on Earth by human being, and the Lotus flower will never be used for worshipping any God.Finally both of Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu requested Lord Shiva to placate and transform to his Lingam form from the Agni form. It’s believed that, at the time of Kritayugam the mountain was in the fire form and in the form of Emerald form in Tretayugam, while it was in the form of Gold in Dwaparyugam and during Kaliyugam in the form of rock.
Appearance of Lord Muruga
Saint Arunagirinathar was the ardent devotee of Lord Muruga. Sambandan was a scholar in the king’s court and had obtained many boons from goddess Kali. Afraid of Arunagirinathar’s popularity, he proposed to the king a competition between him and Arunagirinathar, as to who could bring his chosen deity manifest in the form visible to everyone present.In the competition the devotion of Arunagirinathar brought the appearance of Lord Muruga through a stone pillar. Since then this has became one of the famous places of visit for the devotees of Lord Muruga. The temple has many festivals celebrated throughout the year, out of which the most renowned Karthigai Deepam is of special religious significance. The presence of Lord Shiva in the form of huge column of fire is symbolized by the celebrations on this day during the Tamil month Karthigai, that is, between mid-November and mid-December.
The highlight of this event is the lighting of a massive ghee lamp atop Arunachala. Devotees come and give offerings of ghee- up to 3 tonnes is carried to the top of the hill and lit as the full moon rises on the day of Deepam. The light from this cauldron is visible from many kilometres radius. From the inscriptions, it can be inferred that celebrating Karthigai Deepam has been in place since the 8th century. To mark this event, the processional deity of the Lord Annamalaiyar is taken on circumambulation around the hill. Yet another religiously significant event in this temple is Girivalam. On any given day you will see hundreds of people performing the ritual circuit of Arunachala, but each and every full moon day, this number swells to tens of thousands, and at Deepam the number is well into 6 figures. Over one million people annually walk around Arunachala. It is an event of enormous importance and one of the great rituals of life for South Indian Hindus.Other than the temple, Tiruvannamalai is home to many ashrams where Indians and foreign seekers come for the process of the self-realisation and inner peace. Come and experience the divinity in every aspect of Tiruvannamalai and be blessed by Lord Annamalaiyar. Every full moon, tens of thousands of pilgrims worship Annamalaiyar by circumambulation the Annamalai hill barefoot. The circumambulation covers a distance of 14 kilometres (8.7 mi), and is referred as Girivalam. According to Hindu legend, the walk removes sins, fulfils desires and helps achieve freedom from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Offerings are made in a string of tanks, shrines, pillared meditation halls, springs and caves around the hill.