Tiruvannamalai the home of Annamalayaar
or Arunachaleswarar (Shiva worshipped as a Shiva Lingam) and Unnamulaiyaal
(Apitakuchambaal - Parvati), is one of the largest temples in India.
It occupies a special place in the Saivite realm
and is regarded as one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalams (one of the five grand temples
associated with the five basic elements) associated with the element Fire,
the other four being Tiruvanaikkaval (Water), Chidambaram (Space), Kanchipuram (Earth) and Sri Kalahasti (Wind)
Legend has it that Shiva
manifested himself in the form of a massive column of fire, whose crown and feet, Bhramma
and Vishnu attempted in vain to reach. (See: Lingodbhavar)
A celebration of this manifestation is seen today in the age old traditions observed in
the Shivaratri and the Kartikai Deepam Utsavams held here.
There is an air of deep mysticism
around the temple, the hill and its environs and the town itself has been known for its
long association with Yogis, Siddhas, the well known spiritual savant Ramana
Maharishi and several others. The origin of this temple dates way back in time,
although much of the temple structure as seen today, is a result of building activity over
the last one thousand years.
Seventh century Tamil poetry glorifies
this temple. All of the four Saivite Saints Appar, Sambandar, Manikkavacakar and Sundarar have sung the
glory of this temple and it was at this temple that Arunagirinathar
began composing his immortal work Tiruppugazh. Muthuswamy Deekshitars
kriti Arunachalanatham pays tribute to the presiding deity of Tiruvannamalai.