The Arunachaleswarar Temple (Also called as Annamalayar Temple) is a famous South Indian Shiva temple, located in Tiruvannamalai town, in the state of Tamil Nadu (180 KM from Chennai; 200 KM from Bangalore). Tiruvannamalai, is the district headquarters, and this temple is in the center of the town. The temple (and town) is located on the footsteps of the Annamalai mountains.
This is one of the Pancha Bootha Sthalams – Grand Temples dedicated to the five basic elements of nature. This one is associated with Fire, because people believe that God manifests as fire, once every year and a huge fire appears on the Annamalai mountains (Actually fire is lit using three tons of ghee on the Annamalai mountains) during the Tamil month of Karthigai (November/ December), on the day of Karthigai Deepam.
This is one of the four Gopurams (East Gopuram) that surrounds the temple and is about 220 feet in height. The other three are located in the other three directions. There are more smaller Gopurams inside the temple as well, But I didn’t want to photograph anything from inside of the temple.
There is a puranic history to this temple (Which you can read from this link, if you are interested). Other than the temple, Tiruvannamalai is famous for the large number of ashrams (both in the town and on the mountain).
One of the famous saints who lived in this place is Sri Ramana Maharishi. He was a follower of Advaita principle, which states that the Self and God (and every other object in this universe) is a manifestation of the same (and, one and only) supreme being. This is more of a philosophical concept, than religious and he believed that religious activities/ pilgrimages are the first step of reaching this level of higher consciousness.
There is one interesting discussion between Ramana Maharishi and U.G.Krishnamurti and it happened when the latter was 21 years old. This is said to have made a deep impact on the latter (Reference – Wikipedia article):
U G Krishnamurti – ‘This thing called Moksha, can you give it to me?’
Sri Ramana Maharishi – ‘I can give it, but can you take it?’
Rajnikanth, is a Super-Star (Hero, Tamil movie actor) in TN. Many people from other states attribute that to his style and mass following. He has even donated some amount for the setting up of sodium vapor lamps all along the ‘Girivalam’ path around this temple. But his image has been carefully constructed over a long period of time. Though unrelated to the temple, there is a song in the movie named ‘Arunachalam’ (The name of a person, named after this temple). I will translate some key lyrics in that song for everyone to understand how he became so popular.
If you had watched this introduction song in the cinema hall, you would not have heard even a single word. The noise fans make is so deafening! There was no way of even getting tickets to his movies in the first two weeks. Some selected lyrics from the song:
‘Andavan nadathiduvan da…. Arunachalam nadandhiduvan da’
“God Proposes; Arunachalam (Rajini’s character) disposes”
“You are the coalition that stays with me till the end” – Referring to God and pointing at the people.
‘Elamayil Uzhaippavan mudhumayil sirrikiran; Elamayil padduppavan mudhumayil thavikkiran’
“People who work hard when they are young, reap its benefits and smile when they are old. People who sleep (lazy) when they are young, suffer when they are old”.
‘Thayendra oru deivam veettoda irrukku; Ne thani thaniya kovil kulam alaivadhuvum edhukku?’
“Your mother is like a God who stays at home – So, why do you want to go to Temples to pray?”
“Being humble gives respect to the saint; Giving money to others gives respect to you; If you are a son, then treating your mother well gives you respect”
‘Thanakkena vazhndavan irrukkayil errakkiran; Pirarkena vazhbavan erandhume irrukkiran’
“If you live for your self, you will struggle while you live. If you live for others, you will live (in the hearts of the people) even after you die”