Arunachalam Temple in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu is located at the base of Arunachala Hill. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva who is known as Arunachaleshwara or Annamalaiyar. Mata Parvati is known as Unnamalai Amman. This temple is one of the Pancha Bhootsthalas, representing the fire (Agni) element. There are four other temples in Tamil Nadu representing the other elements – Earth, Water, Air, and Sky. Arunachaleshwara Temple is also a Paadal Petra Sthalam.
Largest Shiva Temple in the World
Arunachaleshwara Temple is spread over an area of almost 25 acres of land, making it the largest Shiva Temple in the world. The temple is an architectural splendor with four magnificent Gopurams (Towers) on each side. The tallest of them is the Rajagopuram on the eastern side, rising to a height of 217 feet. The first mention of the temple can be found in 7th century CE texts, indicating it was built before that. In later centuries the temple was enlarged and renovated regularly by the Cholas, Hoysalas, and the Vijayanagara kings.
The Main Shrine and the Magnificent Halls
The main shrine with the sanctum is the oldest structure in the complex. Enshrined here is the Lingodbhava (Shivling). Around the sanctum images of Lord Shiva appearing from the Shivling, Lord Vishnu, Somaskanda, Durga Mata, Chandikeswarar, Gajalakshmi, Nataraja, and others can be seen. Five statues of Lord Shiva’s beloved Nandi can be seen in the temple complex. Several Trishuls can also be seen in the complex, some enclosed by protective wire.
The Arunachaleshwara Temple is particularly noted for its awe-inspiring Mandapams (Halls). The first is a sixteen-pillared Deepa Darshanam Mandapam (Hall of lights). The Kalyana Mandapam (Marriage Hall) and Vasantha Mandapam (Hall of Spring) are magnificent examples of Vijayanagara architecture. However, the most impressive is the 1000 pillared Arunagirinathar Mandapam constructed by Vijayanagara kings. The pillars are carved with images of ‘Yali’, a beast with a lion’s body and an elephant’s head. Later on, Krishnadevaraya constructed the sacred Kund of the temple opposite this hall.
Story of the Lingodbhava
In the sanctum sanctorum of the temple is enshrined a Shivling known as ‘Lingodbhava’. There is an exciting story of how it appeared on the spot where the present Arunachaleshwara Temple is located. There was once a disagreement as to who is superior – Lord Brahma or Vishnu? Lord Shiva created a pillar of fiery light and asked them to reach the end of the pillar and report back. Lord Brahma went upwards to get to the end. Lord Vishnu went downwards. They kept going and going but could not reach the end of the pillar. Lord Brahma encountered a flower that had fallen from Lord Shiva’s crown and asked it to say that Lord Brahma had reached the top. Both Lord Vishnu and Brahma returned. Lord Vishnu conceded defeat and said He was not able to get to the end. Lord Brahma lied and said He had reached the top. Lord Shiva knew the truth and cursed Lord Brahma never to be worshipped on Earth. (This curse was later reduced) Lord Brahma asked forgiveness and requested Lord Shiva to remain at this place forever to bless mankind. The fiery pillar of light turned into what is now known as the Lingodbhava Shivling. It is also known as ‘Agni Lingam’ The place where Lord Shiva was standing is now the location of the Arunachaleshwara Temple.
Patala Lingam in the temple
In the basement of a raised hall is enshrined a Shivling known as ‘Patala Lingam’. This basement extends to a cave on the side of the hill. This was the cave where Ramana Maharishi meditated and achieved Moksha while his body was consumed by ants. This cave is also known as Mukti Sthalam. Ramana Maharishi’s ashram is a little distance down the hill.
Arunachalam Temple Timings
|Kala Santhi||08:00 A.M|
|Irandam Kala||07:30 P.M|
How to reach Arunachalam Temple
The train from Tirupati to villupuram or pondicherry via katpadi runs through Thiru annamalai.many trains from thirupathi to katpadi and katpadi to villupuram are available.
For the bus route, the straight bus is available from Tirupathi to Thiruvannamalai. Otherwise, take a break at Vellore and proceed from there to Thiruvannamalai. plenty of buses are available.
How to reach Tiruvannamalai
Tiruvannamalai Railway Station is about 1.2 km from the temple.
Pondicherry Airport is about 105 km from the temple
Where to stay in Tiruvannamalai
There are a number of comfortable hotels and guest houses to choose from in Tiruvannamalai. Accommodation to suit all budgets can easily be found.
Arunachalam Temple Accommodation
Arunachalam Temple Images
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Distances from Tiruvannamalai
Vellore – 83 km
Pondicherry – 106 km
Kanchipuram – 117 km
Chennai – 194 km
Bangalore – 215 km