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Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple| Ancient Temple Tamil Nadu| History| Important activities| how, when to do|

Informations collected, provided and Narrated by
        Mr. Sethuraman
          Manager, Sri Sarvesha JS Palace, Tiruvannamalai
          Web site: www.srisarveshapalace.com
          Email: srisarveshajspalace@gmail.com
          Contact: 098432 98808

Note form XploreSouth team: The description given is a well written writing on the history of Arunachaleswarar Temple and this writings will give a lighting towards the important things/ Poojas in temple. Devotees will get an idea about what to do there and how to do the offerings. 
So, whoever planning to go to Thiruvannamalai Sri Arunachaleswara Temple please go through this writings.
Also, the route, stay details and when to come details are published in here: http://www.xploresouth.in/2013/10/thiruvannamalai-lord-shiva-temple.html


About Arunachaleswrar Temple:
The Arunachaleswarar temple at Tiruvannamalai is a very ancient temple in Tamil Nadu. It is said to be around thousand years old and patronised by the great saints and poets of Tamil Nadu. This has great reputation among all Shiva devotees since Arunachalaeswar is prayed here in the form of fire, fire being one of the five elements that composed this universe.This beautiful temple is located at the foot of the Annamalai hills.It is believed that Shiva is also in the form of a hill and hence it is called as Annamalai hill. Anna means all powerful in Tamil and malai means hills. Since this god is considered very powerful thus it is compared to the mountain that cannot be moved and strong. This god being believed to be part of the hill, hence it is also called as Annamalayar among its devotees.


Arunachaleswarar temple has six prakarams around the temple. Every full moon day of the month Girivalam is undertaken by the pilgrims. Lakhs of devotees participate every month in this healthy ritual. This word Girivalam is the origin of the tamil word giri meaning hill and valam means coming around. Hence coming around the hill is called as Girivalam in Tamil. 

To come one full round (Girivalam) the road round the hill, it is around 14 kilometres. And people both young and old religiously go round on the full moon day. It is said to bring in abundant peace or calmness for the mental well being and also refreshing for the physical fitness. 

At Arunachaleswarar temple there are eight lingams known as Ashtalingam. They are positioned at different locations and facing various directions. Each lingam signifying different directions of the earth. These lingams are named as Indralingam, Agnilingam, Yamalingam, Niruthilingam, Varunalingam, Vayulingam, Kuberalingam and Esanyalingam.

Each lingam addresses different aspects of man’s life and they bless the devotees with different types of benefits. It is believed to be installed by various gods. Also these lingams have a dominant navagraha and praying to each lingam brings forth various benefits that is being bestowed by that navagraha on the devotees who prays to that particular lingam to achieve the desired results.

About Asta Lingam Dharsan:

The first lingam on the Girivalam is the Indra lingam and this lingam has east as its cardinal direction. It is said to be installed by lord Indran the celestial king. The dominant navagraha of this lingam are the sun and sukiran. Worshipping this lingam blesses the devotees with long life coupled with prosperity in abundance. 

The second lingam on the Girivalam is the Agni lingam. This faces the south east direction. The uniqueness of this lingam is that it is the only lingam that is placed on the right side of the path on which one goes Girivalam on the full moon night every month. Praying to this lingam helps one to keep away sickness and to maintain good health. The dominant navagraha of this lingam is Chandran. It also helps the ardent devotees to counter the problems that they come across in the life’s journey. This lingam is located near the lotus tank. 

The third lingam on the Girivalam is the Yama lingam. This lingam signifies the south direction. It is said to be installed by the god of death Yama. The dominant graham of this lingam is Sevvai. It has a holy tank known as Simma theertham. Worshipping this Yama lingam relieves the devotees of their financial constraints. 

The fourth lingam on the Girivalam is the Niruthi lingam. The cardinal direction is South East. The dominant graham of this lingam is the Ragu. This was installed by the king of the giants. This lingam also has a holy tank called as Sani theertha. Devotees worshipping this Niruthi lingam are freed of their problems.

The fifth lingam on the Girivalam is the Varuna lingam. This lingam signifies the west direction. This lingam is installed by the Varuna god who is the creator of rain on this earth. The dominant graham of this lingam is the Sani. There is a holy tank named as Varuna theertham. Devotees worshipping this lingam are protected from all critical illness. This Varunalingam also takes care to elevate their social development.

The sixth lingam on the Girivalam is the Vayu lingam. This lingam is placed facing the north west direction. Vayu lingam is installed by the god of air himself known as Vayu baghavan. The graham that is dominant is the Kedhu. Offering prayers to this Vayu lingam gives strength to fight all heart ailments, stomach problems, lung problems and general illness.

The seventh lingam on the Girivalam is the Kuperalingam. This faces the northern direction. The dominant graham is the Guru. And the Kuperan or the god of wealth has installed this lingam. Offering prayers to this lingam regularly helps the devotees to achieve prosperity.

The last lingam on the Girivalam is the Esanya lingam. And this lingam faces the north east direction. The god that installed this lingam is the Esanyan. The graham that dominates this lingam is the Budhan. Praying to this lingam gives peace of mind to devotees and develops a positive attitude in them to achieve success in all their pursuits.

Karthigai Deepam:
‘Karthigai Deepam’ festival is world famous; this festival takes place every Nov-Dec in Karthigai (Tamil month) and celebrated for 13 days. The first three days of procession are at the Durga Temple and the remaining 10 days in the Annamalai temple.On the last day, a huge lamp is lit in a cauldron with three to four tons of ghee at the top of the Annamalai hill which is visible all over the city.


On that day, the Bharani Dheepam is lighted in five agantams inside the temple Arunachaleswarar’s Sannithi at four am to symbolise the unification of five elements. In the evening, In the evening the Pancha Murthis, Vinayagar, Murugar, Annamalayar, Unnamulayamman and Chandikeshwarar are taken out from the temple and placed on the Katchi Mantapam. in front of the golden flag mast. At exactly 6 pm, the deity of Ardhanareeshawarar comes out dancing forcefully. Simultaneously, Aganda Deepam in front of flag mast and five torches are lighted. On the hill top there is a big copper turn, a cauldron with around 3 tonnes of ghee in it, in which large quantities of camphor and cloth wicks are added and kept ready. On seeing the torches lighted inside the temple, men at the peak of the mountain light the Maha Deepam. The moment Maha Deepam is lighted, people enigmatically chant ‘Annamalayanukku Arogara’ and all the lights are switched on. People rever the deepam on the hill, which would be visible around 30 km radius. While a few thousand privileged devotees witness the rituals inside the temple, lakhs of others perform the Girivalam.


On the same night the eleven storeyed Gopuram is also lit with ‘Ahals’ (earthern oil lamps) set in rows in all the storeys. Though this festival is special to Tiruvannamalai it is common throughout Tamil Nadu. Lighting festival is celebrated in all the temples of South India including Vishnu temples. All the houses will also be illuminated with number of lamps being arranged in rows to give a beautiful appearance onKarthigai day.
Ardent pilgrims to Tiruvannamalai for this Deepam festival should take one meal on the previous (Bharani) night, worship Bharani Deepam during the early hours (4 am) on the Karthigai Deepam day, go round the hill walking the entire distance of eight miles (Girivalam), see on the way Adi Annamalai temple and fast that day till they see the Maha deepam that evening. He should take food only after this Deepam.


There is ample literary evidence to prove that this lighting festival is one of the oldest in India. Nachinarkiniar, who wrote ‘Tholkappiam’ in about 1000 BC, one of the oldest works in Tamil literature, mentions “the light lit on the Karthigai day of the Karthigai month”. ‘Jeevaka Chintamani’, a Jain work and one of the five great Tamil epics written by Thirthakka Devar mentions “lighting a lamp on the hill on Karthigai day”. Saints Appar and Sambandar who lived in the 7th century A.D. make references too. This bears eloquent testimony to the antiquity of the lighting festival on the hill.

GIRIVALAM:

For the last hundreds of years, the devotees of Shiva have been going around the hill on full moon nights. Now the crowd has increased to a few lakhs of pilgrims on full moon days and this is called the Girivalam or ‘circumambulating’ the ‘the mountain of fire’ barefoot. ‘Giri’ means mountain and ‘Valam’ means clockwise circumambulation in Tamil language. This covers a distance of about 14 km. On the Chitra Powrnami night (full moon in Apr-May) and Maha Sivarathri night, the pilgrims come from across the world for the Girivalam. Many people from USA, UK, Asia and Africa also walk along with you!


The Girivalam path is well tarred and is well lit with sodium lights and hence the pilgrims can walk 24 hours of a day without any fear of security. It takes about 3-5 hours depending on your walking speed on bare foot. Start before dawn or after sunset. Day time may not be suitable because of hot sun and dry humid weather. Full day fasting is recommended, which also makes walking easier; if you have to eat, eat at least 3 hours before commencing the walk. Carry water bottles, first aid medicine, glucose, banana etc. To prevent low sugar problems. Many good samaritans serve free water, milk and juices throughout the girivalam path. Eat after completing the Girivalam. Chant your preferred sloga or mantra while walking. Keep 30-50 coins, one rupee and 50 paise coins, for those who need charity.


During the Girivalam, the pilgrims visit eight shiva lingams, Indra Lingam, Agni Lingam, Yama Lingam, Niruthi Lingam, Varuna Lingam, Vayu Lingam, Kubera Lingam and Esanya Lingam, one each in every direction.


Importance of Girvalam:
GODDESS Gowri requested Sage Gowthama to kindly expound to Her the greatness of the festival of light at Arunachala. Gowthama replied: Gowri! I shall describe to you the glory of that which liberates people from all sins and bestows all prosperity. In the month of Karthika, on the day of the star Krittika during pradosha (i.e. thirteenth day counting from the new moon/full moon) the fortunate ones who perform giripradakshina are not born again. All karmas are destroyed on performance of giripradakshina. It is customary to circumambulate the Hill for a mandala or forty days. One who is not able to do this may perform giripradakshina at least for eleven days. If even this is not possible, then one should go round the Hill on the day of the Deepam. This is equivalent to performing crores of yagnas. He who worships the Deepam lit atop the Hill derives countless blessings. A person residing elsewhere may light lamps in front of any shrine of Siva, atop His temple towers or on the peaks of other hills and he will be blessed. Whatever may be the attitude of the devotee, the mere lighting of the lamp on this day with any type of oil available confers great merit on him.

Informations collected, provided and Narrated by
        Mr. Sethuraman
          Manager, Sri Sarvesha JS Palace, Tiruvannamalai
          Web site: www.srisarveshapalace.com
          Email: srisarveshajspalace@gmail.com
          Contact: 098432 98808

The route, stay details and when to come details are published in here: http://www.xploresouth.in/2013/10/thiruvannamalai-lord-shiva-temple.html

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