The holy hill of Tiruvannamalai is renowned for the Arunachaleswara Temple, which is regarded as one of the Pancha Bhoota (nature’s five elements) temples of Lord Shiva. On the special day of Deepam, thousands of devotees go on Girivalam (circumambulation) around the hill to receive the graceful blessings of Lord Shiva. In the oath of circumambulation, there are Ashtalingam (8 Shiva Lingams) installed guarding each of the eight directions. The 8 Lingams are arranged in an octagonal shape, praying to whom can confer significant blessings.
Ashtalingams At Tiruvannamalai
The main temple of Lord Arunachaleswara is surrounded by eight lingams, each installed at one of the four cardinal points (North, East, South & West) and four inter cardinal points (North East, North West, South East and South West). The guardians of the four cardinal points are called ‘Lokapalas’ and together with the guardians of the inter cardinal points, the eight deities are called ‘Ashta Lokapalas’.
The names of the Ashtalingams are:
It is believed that each lingam is associated with one or many of the Navagraha (9 planets) and appeasing that lingam can benefit you with the blessings of that particular graha(s) (planet).
Indra Lingam (East)
Indra Lingam is installed facing East and is associated with the celestial Lord Indra. According to mythology, Indra is the king of heaven with Indrani as his consort. His vehicle is a four-tusked white elephant called Iravatham. Lord Indra is depicted seated on his vehicle with his weapon Vajra (thunderbolt) in his hand, with which he abolishes ignorance and bestows spiritual wisdom on his ardent devotees.
Indra Lingam is associated with the Navagrahas – Surya (Sun) and Shukra (Venus). Propitiating Indra Lingam can bless you with prosperity and longevity.
Agni Lingam (South East)
Agni Lingam is installed facing the direction of South East and is associated with Lord Chandra (Moon). Lord Agni is depicted with seven hands and seven tongues and has the goad Saga as his vehicle. He is the fire of knowledge and is the source of light for the entire cosmos. He is usually invoked during Homas (fire labs), during which his vehicle serves as the sacrificial beast.
Offering your prayers to Agni Lingam can relieve you from diseases, help maintain good health and offer you strength to face hurdles and problems in lives.
Yama Lingam (South)
Lord Yama is the God of death and Yama Lingam is installed facing the South direction. This lingam is associated with the planet Mangala (Mars). Lord Yama is portrayed with a black buffalo named Mahishan as his vehicle and two monstrous dogs by his sides. He is believed to carry a huge lasso with which he would drag a person at the time of death to heaven or hell based on his or her karma.
Worshipping Yama Linga can unblock financial constraints and is also conducive for longevity.
Niruthi Lingam (South West)
Niruthi Lingam has South West as its direction and is associated with the nodal planet Rahu. Niruthi is the king of Asuras (demons) and has a dog as his vehicle. He is believed to rule the southern realm along with Lord Yama, the god of death. According to legends, king Nala took bath in the Niruthi Lingam Theertham (holy tank) for relief from his sins.
It is believed that this Lingam can protect people from the ill effects of black magic and other negativities. Worshipping Niruthi Lingam can bestow you with good health, wealth and fame and progeny blessing. This Lingam is also believed to help the devotees attain detachment from the worldly desires.
Varuna Lingam (West)
Varuna Lingam is installed facing the West and has Lord Shani (Saturn) as the dominant planet. Varuna’s vehicle is Makara – an amphibian (lives both on land and water) with the head and front legs of an antelope and the body and tail of a fish.
According to mythology, Varuna is the ruler of appreciation and delight and governs the whole world. He is regarded as the god of rain and all the water bodies in the universe. Legend states that the eye of Varuna is Surya and when Surya falls in the constellation of Makara, the special event is celebrated as Makara Sankaranti during Mid-January every year. This festival is observed as Pongal in Tamil Nadu.
There is a holy tank called Varuna Theertham located here. Worshipping Varun Lingam can protect you from illnesses, especially water-borne diseases. It is also believed to wash away the accumulated sins.
Vayu Lingam (North West)
Vayu Lingam is situated facing the North West direction and has the nodal planet Ketu associated with the Lingam. According to legends, Vayu is the god of wind and is the source of the life-giving breath for all the beings in the universe. His vehicle is the deer and he is often associated with Lord Indra.
It is widely reported that anyone entering this temple at any time of the year is welcomed with a gush of wind. Appeasing Vayu Lingam can relieve you from heart diseases, stomach and lung disorders and general ailments.
Kubera Lingam (North)
Kubera Lingam is installed facing the North and has Lord Brihaspati (Guru or Jupiter) as its associated planet. According to mythology, Kubera is the chief of the yakshas and the banker of heaven, who protects the riches of the celestial beings. He is depicted with three legs and eight teeth and has a female goat as his vehicle. He resides in the Himalayas with his consort Yakshi.
It is believed that Kubera came here to worhip Lord Arunachaleswara to maintain his wealth and abundance. Hence, a Lingam is installed at this spot facing North from the mountain. Kubera is the God of wealth and material comforts. He is regarded as the one who distributes wealth among his devotees and does not create wealth.
Esanya Lingam (North East)
Esanya Lingam is installed facing the North East direction and is associated with Budha or planet Mercury. According to mythology, Esanya is one of the seven Rudras of Lord Shiva. He is depicted with matted locks, fiery eyes, body covered with ashes and a crescent Moon and Ganga in his hair locks. He is seated on a tiger skin and is surrounded by ghosts. His body is covered by coiled serpents and his hands hold the drum and trident.
Worshipping Esanya Lingam can bless you with inner peace and contentment.