Tiruvannamalai temple is one of the biggest and grandest temples in South India. With the hill as back ground it gives the appearance of a fort to those who see it from a distance.
Annamalaiyar Temple Thiruvannamalai
Tiruvannamalai temple is unique on account of its stately towers, high rampart walls, broad quadrangles, spacious gateways, large mantapams and fine tanks. It has also much architectural importance and sculputural beauty.
Tiruvannamalai should have been under the sway of the Pallava Kings who ruled from Kancheepuram before the ninth century A.D. We do not find any inscription in the temple prior to A.D.850 and hence the present temple could not have existed then. Saint Sambandar in his Thevaram relating to this place mentions a temple. Saints Appar and Sambandar belonged to the Seventh Century, Sekkizhar, the renowned author of Periapuranam mentions that both the Saints Appar and Sambandar worshipped Arunchaleswarar in the hill Temple. The Chola Kings ruled over the country for more than four Centuries from 850 A.D. to 1280 A.D.
Some earlier Kings of Vijayalaya dynasty must have begun to construct the inner shrine(Garbegraha). Thiruvannamalai is a famous holy town perched on a hill (malai) in the district of Thiruvannamalai of Tamil Nadu state of India and is the most scared pilgrim center of Hindus in the region. The region was known as 'Thondai Mandalam' in the ancient period. This holy town is the home of highly revered ashram of the mystic saint Sri Ramana Maharshi and the famous Arunachala temple. The city has about 100 temples.
Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar Temple
Pavazhakundur, Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu 606601
Phone Number: 04175 252 438
The 7th-century Nayanar saints Sambandar and Appar wrote of the temple in their poetic work, Tevaram. Sekkizhar, the author of the Periyapuranam wrote that both Appar and Sambandar worshiped Arunachalesvara in the temple. The Chola Kings ruled over the region for more than four centuries, from 850 CE to 1280 CE, and were temple patrons. The inscriptions from the Chola king record various gifts like land, sheep, cow and oil to the temple commemorating various victories of the dynasty. The Hoysala kings used Tiruvannamalai as their capital beginning in 1328 CE. There are 48 inscriptions from the Sangama Dynasty (1336–1485 CE), 2 inscriptions from Saluva Dynasty, and 55 inscriptions from Tuluva Dynasty (1491–1570 CE) of the Vijayanagara Empire, reflecting gifts to the temple from their rulers. There are also inscriptions from the rule of Krishnadeva Raya (1509–1529 CE), the most powerful Vijayanagara king, indicating further patronage. Most of the Vijayanagara inscriptions were written in Tamil, with some in Kannada and Sanskrit. The inscriptions in temple from the Vijayanagara kings indicate emphasis on administrative matters and local concerns, which contrasts the inscriptions of the same rulers in other temples like Tirupathi. The majority of the gift related inscriptions are for land endowments, followed by goods, cash endowments, cows and oil for lighting lamps. The town of Tiruvannamalai was at a strategic crossroads during the Vijayanagara Empire, connecting sacred centers of pilgrimage and military routes. There are inscriptions that show the area as an urban center before the precolonial period, with the city developing around the temple.
During the 17th century CE, the temple along with the Tiruvannamalai town came under the dominion of the Nawab of the Carnatic. As the Mughal empire came to an end, the Nawab lost control of the town, with confusion and chaos ensuing after 1753. Subsequently, there were periods of both Hindu and Muslim stewardship of the temple, with Muraru Raya, Krishna Raya, Mrithis Ali Khan, and Burkat Ullakhan besieging the temple in succession. As European incursions progressed, Tiruvannamalai was attacked by French Soupries, Sambrinet, and the English Captain Stephen Smith. While some were repelled, others were victorious. The French occupied the town in 1757, and the temple along with the town came under control of the British in 1760. In 1790 CE, Tiruvannamalai town was captured by Tippu Sultan, who ruled from 1750–99 CE. During the first half of the 19th century, the town along with the temple came under British rule. From 1951, under the provision of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, the temple has been maintained by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board (HR & CE) of the Government of Tamil Nadu. In 2002, the Archaeological Survey of India declared the temple a national heritage monument and took over its stewardship. Widespread protests and litigation with the Supreme Court of India, however, led the Archaeological Survey to cede the temple back to the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board.
Girivalam is a walk around the Shiva Temple, usually done bare footed, by Shiva devotees. There is this particular hill in Tiruvannamalai and 9 temples(including the Arunachaleshwarar temple) surround it. This little journey is done by foot by most people. Each temple is spaced 1.5 km from the other and towards the left side on an elliptical road called the "Girivalam road". The total distance that need to be covered is around 14 Km and takes around few hours to complete it. It is recommended to start really early in the morning. There are a quite a few temples lined up in the route. The Condition of road is really good and you can easily get food and water. There are Benches where you can take some rest during the walk.
As you see in the photo below, in the centre is the Arunachalam Hill and the 9 temples are around it.
There is an order in which one should visit these temples. One should start with Indra Lingam followed by Agni Lingam, Yama Lingam, Niruthi Lingam, Varuna Lingam, Vayu Lingam, Kubera Lingam, Esaanya Lingam and Arunachaleshwarar temple.
The temple is situated at the bottom of the Arunachala hills, and faces east, lying over 25 acres. The walls on the east and west measure 700 ft (210 m), the south 1,479 ft (451 m), and the north 1,590 ft (480 m). The present masonry and towers date back to the 9th century CE, as seen from an inscription in the structure made by Chola kings who ruled at that time. Further inscriptions indicate that before the 9th century, Tiruvannamalai was under the Pallava Kings, who ruled from Kanchipuram. It has four gateway towers, the gopuram, on its four sides. The eastern tower, the Rajagopuram, is the tallest in the temple. The base of the Rajagopuram is made of granite, measuring 135 ft (41 m) by 98 ft (30 m). It was begun by king Krishnadevaraya (1509–29 CE) of the Vijayanagara dynasty, and completed by Sevappa Nayaka (1532–80 CE). The inscriptions indicate that the tower was built at the behest of Sivanesa and his brother Lokanatha in 1572 CE. The south tower is called Thirumanjangopuram, and the west tower is called Pe Gopuram. Ammani Amman gourami in the north. Raghunathabhyudayam and Sangitha Sudha, both Nayak scriptures, also describe the towers. The Tanjavuri Andhra Raja Charitamu mentions that Krishnadevaraya built the tower and the outer precincts of the temple. The temple has a total of five precincts, each of which holds a huge Nandi, the sacred bull of Shiva. Towers include the Vallala Maharaja Gopuram and Kili Gopuram, or Parrot Tower.
The main shrine of Arunachalesvara faces east, housing images of Nandi and Surya, and is the oldest structure in the temple. Behind the walls of the sanctum, there is an image of Venugopalaswamy (Krishna), an incarnation of Vishnu. Around the sanctum, there are images of Somaskanda, Durga, Chandeshvara, Gajalakshmi, Arumugaswami (Kartikeya), Dakshinamurthy, Swarnabairavar, Nataraja, and Lingodbhava—the last an image of Shiva emanating from lingam. The Palliyarai, the divine room for resting deities, is located at the first precinct around the sanctum. The shrine of his consort, Annamalai Amman, lies in the second precinct, with Amman depicted in a standing posture. Sambantha Vinayagar (Ganesha), the elephant god shrine, is located to the north of the flagstaff and the Bali peeta, or platform for sacrifice. To the south of the thousand-pillared hall, there is a small shrine for Subramanya (Kartikeya) and a large tank. Pathala Lingam, the underground lingam, is the place where Ramana Maharshi (1879–1950 CE) is believed to have performed his penance. The shrine of Sivagangai Vinayagar (Ganesha) is present in the northern bank of the Sivanganga tank.
There is a sixteen pillared Deepa Darshana Mandapam, or hall of light, in the third precinct. The temple tree, Magizha, is considered sacred and medicinal, and childless couples tie small cradles to its branches in obeisance. Vedas write that the mast of the temple separated the earth and the sky during creation of the universe. The Kalyana Mandapam, the marriage hall, is in the south-west of the precinct, and is built in Vijayanagara style. A stone trident is present in the outer shrine of the temple in open air, and has protective railings like a sacred tree. The Vasantha Mandapam, meaning the Hall of spring, is the third precinct, and contains the temple office and Kalahateeswarar shrine. The fourth precinct has an image of Nandi, Brahma Theertham, the temple tank, the Yanai Thirai Konda Vinayaga shrine, and a hall with a six-foot-tall statue of Nandi, erected by Vallala Maharaja.
Inside the doorway of the first tower and the fifth precinct, there is a thousand-pillared hall built during the late Vijayanagara period. Krishnadevaraya constructed the hall and dug the tank opposite to it. The pillars in the hall are carved with images of yali, a mythological beast with body of lion and head of an elephant, a symbol of Nayak power. The Arunagirinathar Mandapam is located to the right of the Kalayana Linga Sundara Eswara Mandapam, and the Gopurathilayanar shrine is to the left of a broad flight of stone stairs that lead up to the Vallala Gopuram.
Sri Ramana Ashram
Sri Ramana Ashram, also known as Sri Ramanasramam, is the ashram which was home to modern sage and Advaita Vedanta master Ramana Maharshi from 1922 until his death in 1950. It is situated at the foot of the Arunachala hill, to the west of Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, where thousands of seekers flocked to be in his presence. His samadhi shrine continues to attract devotees from all over the world.
The ashram gradually grew in its present location after Ramana Maharshi settled near the Samadhi shrine of his mother Alagammal, who died on 19 May 1922. In the beginning, a single small hut was built there. By 1924 two huts were set up, one opposite the samadhi and the other to the north. Amongst its early western visitors were British writer Paul Brunton in 1931, who is credited with introducing Ramana Maharshi to the West through his books "A Search in Secret India" (1934) and "The Secret Path". Writer W. Somerset Maugham visited the ashram in 1938, and later used Ramana Maharshi as the model for the holy man, Shri Ganesha in his novel, The Razor's Edge (1944). Other visitors included Swami Sivananda, Paramahansa Yogananda, Alfred Sorensen (Sunyata) and Wei Wu Wei.
Arthur Osborne stayed at the Ashram for twenty years, and edited the Ashram's journal, The Mountain Path, besides writing several book on Ramana Maharshi and his teachings. Mouni Sadhu spent several months at the Ashram in 1949. David Godman came to the ashram in 1976, and has since written or edited fourteen books on topics related to Sri Ramana Maharshi. He continues to live near the ashram. Niranjananda Swami, younger brother of Ramana Maharshi, who had moved to the ashram along with his mother in 1916, stayed at the ashram for the rest of his life and handling its management. His son and grandson have looked after the ashram in turn.