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Timings : 5:30 AM - 10:00 PM

Time Required : 2-3 hrs

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Annamalaiyar temple, Thiruvannamalai Overview

Annamalaiyar Temple, a breathtaking temple complex dedicated to Lord Shiva, is located in the bustling town of Thiruvannamalai, at the base of Annamalai Hills in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. As you walk closer to the grand temple complex, you'll notice how marvellously the structures have been built. This 25-acre complex is sure to mesmerize you with its beauty and elegance. There are numerous intricately adorned shrines and halls within the entire temple complex which is also considered as one of the largest temple complexes in India. Do make it a point to see the splendid eastern gopuram (tower), which is one the tallest temple towers in India as it stands 66 metres tall and the gorgeous thousand-pillared hall that extends serenely in the temple complex.

The Annamalaiyar Temple is considered as one of the temples associated with the Agni or Fire element of the Pancha Bhoota Stalas or the five elements and is significant to the Hindu sect of Shaivism. The priests perform the temple rituals very stringently six times a day and are always punctual. In the region, Lord Shiva is also known as Annamalaiyar or Arunachaleswarar. His idol is referred to as Agni Lingam and Goddess Parvati is referred to as Unnamalai Amman.

Believers visit the temple for religious purposes and for offering prayers to the deities. It is said that visiting this temple and offering prayers with a clean heart will absolve one's sins. It is here that many Sages and Maharishis have attained salvation in the past and it is here that one should come to experience at least a moment of peace in today's fast-paced world.

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History of Annamalaiyar Temple

The Annamalaiyar Temple was constructed in the 9th century CE when the region was ruled by Chola Kings. A proof of this is also seen in an inscription in the structure that was made while the temple was being constructed. Before the Chola Kings, Thiruvannamalai was ruled by the Pallava Kings from Kanchipuram. After the Pallava Kings, the Chola Kingdom ruled the region for over four centuries, and the Chola kings were active temple patrons.

The town of Thiruvannamalai connected military routes and various sacred centres of pilgrimage during the Vijayanagara Empire. In the pre-colonial period, it functioned as an urban centre with the city developing slowly and steadily around the temple complex. The temple has also been mentioned in Tevaram, the poetic works of the Nayanar Saints, Saint Sambandar and Saint Appar. Also, the author of Periyapuranam, Sekkizar, wrote about the Nayanar saints and their faith in Annamalaiyar as they worshipped the deity in the temple.

The Nawab of the Carnatic ruled the region in the 17 century CE as it came under his dominion. After 1753, however, the Nawab lost control of Thiruvannamalai after the end of the Mughal Empire. Subsequently, the Annamalaiyar temple was supervised by Muraru Raya, Krishna Raya, Mrithis Ali Khan and Burkat Ullakhan. The town was later controlled by the French in 1757 and then by the British in 1760. In 1790, the town was captured by Tippu Sultan. However, it was subsequently controlled by the British Raj in the first half of the 19th century.

On further categorisations of responsibilities, the temple was handed to the Hindu Religious Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu. This change of duties was made in 1951 as a part of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act. The Archaeological Survey of India declared the temple complex a national heritage monument and gained control of it in 2002, but due to widespread protests and after proceedings with the Supreme Court of India, the temple was handed back to the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board.

Legend of Annamalaiyar Temple

According to a legend, Goddess Parvati closed Lord Shiva's eyes playfully on top of Mount Kailash. This resulted in years of darkness on earth. When Parvati found this out, she performed penance along with some devotees of Shiva. After Shiva was pleased with her dedication, he appeared on top of the Annamalai Hills as a column of fire, thus returning light to earth. The hill is therefore considered sacred and an iconic representation of Lord Shiva, the lingam. Legend also states that it was here that Shiva merged with Parvati to form Ardhanarishwara which is the half-man, half-woman form of Shiva. The name of the temple was derived as the Annamalaiyar temple as it is located at the base of the Annamalai Hills.

Another legend states, Shiva appeared as a flame and challenged Vishnu and Brahma, contested for superiority, to find the source of the flame. Vishnu took the form of a Varaha (a boar) and searched the base of the hill, while Brahma took the form of a swan and flew on top of the hill to locate the source. Both couldn't find the source. Vishnu accepted defeat while Brahma lied that he found the source. Lord Shiva knew Brahma was lying and hence punished him saying Brahma will never have temples in his worship on planet earth.

Architecture of Annamalaiyar Temple

The 25-acre temple complex is located at the base of Annamalai Hills and faces east. The complex has four gateway towers, one on each side, which is also known as gopuram in the local language. The eastern tower is one of the tallest towers in India with a height of 66 metres. It is also called the Rajagopuram and is made of granite. The walls on the East and West of the complex extend over 700 feet while the walls on the south and North extend over 1400 and 1500 feet respectively. The structure has inscriptions of the rulers that ruled the town since the temple was built. Various offerings were made to the temple by numerous dynasties and empires and these offerings have also been inscribed at different locations on the entire temple structure.

The five precincts in the Annamalaiyar temple have a huge idol of Nandi, Lord Shiva's sacred bull, in front of each one of them. The shrine of Lord Shiva (the main shrine) faces east and is the oldest structure in the temple. The structure houses images of Surya (the Sun) and Nandi (Lord Shiva's sacred Bull). The walls of the sanctum adorn images of Venugopalaswamy (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu), Gajalakshmi, Durga, Arumugaswami, Nataraj, Dakshinamoorthy, Somaskandar and the Lingodbhavar (Shiva emanating from the Lingam.  The Shrine of Parvati, known as the shrine of Unnamulai Amman is in the second precinct of the sanctum. The idol of Parvati here is in a standing pose and beautifully adorned in her traditional attire. The Shrine of the Elephant God, Sambantha, lies to the North of the Bali Peeta (the platform of sacrifice). The shrine of Subramaya lies to the south of the thousand-pillared hall, and the Shivagangai Vinayagar lies to the north of the Sivanganga Tank. The underground lingam, also known as the Pathala Lingam, is located where Maharshi Ramana is believed to have performed penance.

In the third precinct, the Deepa Darshana Mandapam, which is a sixteen pillared hall of light is located. The marriage hall, known as the Kalyana Mandapam, is located to the south-west of the third precinct. This hall is built in the Vijayanagara Style of architecture. The hall of spring, the Vasantha Mandapam, also located in the third precinct. This hall consists of the Kalahateeswarar shrine and the temple management office. The fourth precinct consists of images of Brahma Theertham (the temple tank), an image of Nandi, a shrine of Yanai Thirai Konda Vinayaga, and a hall with a statue of the sacred bull, Nandi that stands six foot tall. The fifth precinct houses the thousand-pillared hall and a tank opposite to it. The pillars contain images of a mythological beast, Yali, carved in them.

Festivals Celebrated at Annamalaiyar Temple

Brahmotsavam: Celebrated in the Tamil months of Karthikai (between November and December). Every Full Moon, believers worship Annamalaiyar by barefoot circumambulation of Annamalai Hill which is a distance of 14 kilometres. It is believed that this act frees one of their shackles and pardons their sins.

Celebrated in the Tamil month Thai, which occurs around mid-January every year. This festival involves worshipping Nandi, Shiva and Parvati. The deities are taken out of the temple to enact the love tiff (also known as oodai) in the evening.

Best Time To Visit Annamalaiyar temple

The best time to visit Annamalaiyar Temple is between November and March as the temperature is pleasant for exploring the region.

Tips For Visiting Annamalaiyar temple

1. Follow a conservative dress code. Do not wear short and revealing clothes.
2. The temple is crowded the most during festivals and days that are important for religious purposes.
3. Keep your belongings safe as there could be petty thieves around.
4. Carry enough water to stay hydrated.

How To Reach Annamalaiyar temple

One can avail local transport buses, cabs or autorickshaws to reach the grand temple complex within the town of Tiruvannamalai. The Tiruvannamalai Bus station and the Tiruvannamalai Railway station are within walking distance from the temple complex.

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Q. Do you need to book or take a tour to visit the temple?


3 years ago
You won't need to take a tour to visit the Annamalaiyar temple unless you want all your travel needs to be taken care of. Annamalaiyar Temple is an easy to reach destination considering its close vic (Read More)inity to the Bus Station and the Railway Station.
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