Importance of Thiruvannamalai
Thiruvannamalai is a holy town. It is home to the grand temple of Lord Shiva, which is famous not only in Tamil Nadu but also in the entire country. The greatness of the town rests in the belief that Shiva himself resides there in the form of a mountain known as Arunachala here, and so the Lord enshrined in the temple there in the form of a Linga is also known by the name Arunachaleswara. He is also called as Annamalaiyaar in Tamil. The festival of Karthigai Deepam celebrated here with great religious fervor attracts lakhs of devotees, when a big flame is lighted on top of the Arunachala hill and is worshipped as the Lord himself.
The Significance of the Temple, Lord and the Goddess
Thiru Anna Malai or Arunachala refers to the sacred red mountain, at the foothills of which stands the majestic temple of the Lord. The universe and all its contents are made up of the five fundamental elements of existence, known as the Pancha Bhootas, and these are the earth, water, fire, air, and sky or space. Thiruvannamalai is regarded as one of the unique Pancha Bhoota Sthalas, representing Agni, the fire, whereas the Lord himself is believed to be present here as the mountain of fire.
Arunachaleswara or Annamalaqiyaar can be worshipped in the temple along with his consort Apeetha Kuchambigai or Unnamulai Amman, as Goddess Parvati is called here.
Legend of Thiruvannamalai
As per mythology, once, when Shiva and Parvati were enjoying their time in a flower garden in their abode mount Kailash, the Goddess playfully closed the eyes of the Lord with her hands. This, however, resulted in a catastrophe, as Shiva’s eyes were nothing but the Sun and the Moon, and their blocking resulted in the universe plunging into complete darkness. As the Gods and other living beings panicked not knowing what to do, life came to a standstill everywhere. Though normalcy returned soon with the universal parents Shiva and Parvati restoring order, the Goddess herself wanted to atone for her mistake. She came down to earth, did severe penance towards Shiva and the pleased Lord appeared before her in the form of a colossal column of fire, in which Devi Parvati merged blissfully. This remarkable incident is believed to have happened in Thiruvannamalai, where the massive column of fire is still standing as the Arunachala hill. Hence, the hill itself is worshipped here as the sacred Shiva Linga.
It is also believed that the Lord merged with the Goddess here and formed the male-female-combined form of Ardhanareeswara.
Thiruvannamalai, the Sacred Land
Thiruvannamalai itself is regarded as sacred land, considered variously as the spiritual center of the world and the spiritual incubator of the universe. This has attracted saints in very large numbers, who came here from different parts of the country, were consumed by its holiness and decided to spend the rest of their lives here. They include Ramana Maharishi, Seshadri Swamigal, Yogi Ram Surat Kumar, Guhai Namasivayar, etc. It is believed that many Siddhars are still residing in the hills in their subtle bodies.
Girivalam, the Circumambulation of the Hills
Thiruvannamalai is regarded as a Moksha Puri, a place that can provide salvation to the devotees. As Shiva himself is present in the form of the mountain, going around the hills with devotion is believed to be a scared exercise, which devotees in very large numbers undertake on auspicious days like Pournami. Known as Girivalam, this is capable of bestowing people with immense spiritual and material benefits. There are also Ashtalinga shrines, the temples of 8 Shivalingas worshipped by various Gods and divinities and these add to the sacredness of the place.