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The Annamalaiyar temple​

The temple has the history of several Hundreds years andbuilt by several Kings during their period. The temple has been built by several Tamil kings such as Cholas andPandiyas.And several small kings donated and built several small things. 

Significance : 

This temple is one of the "Panch Boodha Sthalams" and it is "Agni" Sthalam. It has also theimportance as 

"Padal PetraSthalam".

The temple was built by many kings on several periods. The first twoprakaras was the oldest one and built by the oldest and
first Pandiyan Kings. Then the Chola Kingsand Pandiyan Kings built the other prakaras. Later in the Thirteenth centuary
the 'Hoysala Kings' from Karnataka builtsome small sannadhis and prakaras in the temple. They also make some
contributions to the temple. 

The Eastern tower was built by the King 'Krishnadevaraya' of AndraPradesh. So the temple has 'StoneScripts' of olden Tamil,Telugu and Kannada. But most of the 'Stone Scripts'were in 'Grantha'-a form ofsanskrit language. From the 'Stone Scripts' we came to know that LordArunachaleswara has several names and the temple has very good tradition sincevery long time. 

Complex and towers
The temple is situated at the bottom of the Annamalai 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). It has four gateway towers, the gopuram,on its four sides. The eastern tower, the Rajagopuram, is the tallest inthe temple. The base of the Rajagopuram is made of granite, measuring135 ft (41 m) by 98 ft (30 m).It was begun by king Krishnadevaraya (1509–29 CE) of the Vijayanagara dynasty, and completed by SevappaNayaka(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, Pei Gopuram. Ammani Ammal, a Sanyasini, built the north tower which carries her namesake. Raghunathabhyudayam and SangithaSudha, both Nayak scriptures, also describe the towers.

The Tanjavuri Andhra Raja Charitamu mentions that Krishnadevaraya built the tower and theouter 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.
Worship and festivals
The temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) duringfestivals and on a daily basis. Like other Shiva temples of Tamil Nadu, thepriests belong to the Shaivaitecommunity, a Brahmin sub-caste. The temple rituals are performed six times aday; Ushathkalam at 5:30 a.m., Kalasanthi at 8:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 10:00a.m., Sayarakshai at 6:00 p.m., Irandamkalam at 8:00 p.m. and Ardha Jamam at10:00 p.m.Each ritual comprises four steps: abhisheka (sacred bath), alangaram(decoration), neivethanam (food offering) and deepa aradanai(waving of lamps) for both Annamalaiyar and Unnamulai Amman. The worship isheld amidst music with nagaswaram(pipe instrument) and tavil(percussion instrument), religious instructions in the Vedas read by priests and prostration byworshippers in front of the temple mast. There are weekly rituals like somavaramand sukravaram, fortnightly rituals like pradosham and monthlyfestivals like amavasai(new moon day), kiruthigai, pournami(full moon day) and sathurthi.

The temple celebrates dozens of festivals throughout the year.Four prime festivals, the Brahmotsavam, are celebrated yearly. The most importantof these lasts ten days during the Tamil month of Karthikai, between November and December, concluding with the celebration of Karthikai Deepam. Ahuge lamp is lit in a cauldron, containing three tons of ghee, at the top of the Annamalai hills duringthe Deepam.To mark the occasion,

the festival deity of Annamalaiyar circumambulates the mountain. Inscriptions indicate that the festival was celebrated as earlyas the Chola period (from 850 CE to 1280 CE) and was expanded to ten days inthe twentieth century.
Every full moon, tens of thousands of pilgrims worship Annamalaiyar bycircumambulating the Arunachala hill bare foot.The circumambulation covers adistance of 14kilometres (8.7 mi), and is referred as Girivalam.Accordingto Hindu legend, the walk removes sins, fulfils desires and helps achievefreedom 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.Thecircumambulation continues during the rest of the month. On the day of yearly ChitraPournami, the full moon of the Tamil calendar, hundreds of thousands ofpilgrims come from across the world to worshipAnnamalaiyar. Five temple cars,called ther, with wooden carvings, are used for the procession.

Tiruvoodal is another festival celebrated during the first week of the Tamil month Thai at mid-January of every year. On the morning of MaatuPongal, between January 15 and 16, Nandi is decorated with garlands made offruits, vegetables and sweets. The festival deities of Annamalaiyar andUnnamamulai Amman are taken out of the temple to Tiruoodal street to enact the oodal(or love tiff) between the two in the evening.

Religious significance

The Annamalaiyar temple is one of the PanchaBhoota Stalams, or five Shiva temples, with each a manifestation ofa natural element: land, water, air,sky or fire. InAnnamalaiyar temple, Shiva is said to have manifested himselfas a massive column of fire, whose crown and feet could not be found by theHindu gods, Brahma and Vishnu. The mainlingam in the shrine is referred as Agni Lingam, and representsduty, virtue, self-sacrifice and liberation through ascetic life at the end of the Agni kalpa.AatharaStala are Shiva temples which are considered to bepersonifications of the Tantric chakrasof human anatomy. The Annamalaiyar temple is called the Manipooraga stalam,andis associated with the Manipooragachakra. Manipooraga is the chakra of spiritual ignorance, thirst, jealousy, treachery, shame, fear, disgust, delusion, foolishness and sadness.

It is said that, even thinking of Lord Annamalaiyar will give Moksha.

Saints and literary mention

Tirugnana Sambandar, a7th-century Tamil Saivite poet, venerated Annamalaiyar and UnnamulaiAmman in ten verses in Tevaram,compiled as the First Tirumurai.Appar, a contemporary of Sambandar, alsovenerated Annamalaiyar in 10 verses in Tevaram, compiled as the FifthTirumurai.As the temple is revered in Tevaram, it is classified as PaadalPetra Sthalam, one of the 276 temples that find mention in theSaiva canon.

Manickavasagar,a 9th-century Tamil saint and poet, revered Annamalaiyar in his writing,describing the deity as "AnnAmalai".He composed the Thiruvempavai
in the Tamil month of Margazhiat the temple.Arunagirinatharwas a 15th-century Tamil poet born in Tiruvannamalai. He spent his early yearsas a rioter and seducer of women. After ruining his health, he tried to commitsuicide by throwing himself from the northern tower, but was saved by the grace of god Murugan.He became a staunch devotee and composed Tamil hymns glorifying Murugan, the most notable being Thirupugazh.

The western world learnt of Tiruvannamalai during the mid 20th century,through the work of RamanaMaharishi (1879–1950 CE).The cave where Ramana meditated is on the lower slopes of the Annamalai hills, with the ashram further down atthe foothills.The basement of the raised hall inside the temple has the PatalaLingam, where Ramana attained supreme awareness while ants devoured hisflesh.The place is also called a Mukthi Sthalam, meaning place of salvation,and saints like SeshadriSwamigal, Gugai Namachivayar and Yogi Ramsuratkumar have been associated with the temple.




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