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ANNAMALAIYAR TEMPLE


ANNAMALAIYAR TEMPLE 

Annamalaiyar Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva, located at the foothills of the Annamalai Hill in the town of Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, India. Shiva is worshipped as Annamalaiyar or Arunachaleswarar represented by lingam, with his consort, Parvati in the form of Unnamulaiyamman. The temple occupies a significant place in Saivism and is regarded as one of the five temples associated with the five classic elements of nature, called the Pancha Bhoota Stalas. The temple is associated with the natural element fire, called Agni and the presiding deity, Arunachaleswarar in the form of lingam is called Agni lingam.The temple is revered by the Tamil Saiva canonical work of the 7th century, the Tevaram, by Tamil saint poets called the nayanars and is classified as a Paadal Petra Sthalam – the temples reverred in Tevaram. It is believed that the 9th century Saiva saint poet Manikkavasagar composed the Tiruvempaavai in the temple.

The temple complex covers an area of 10 hectares and is one of the largest temples in India. It houses 4 gateway towers, the gopurams, with the tallest being the eastern tower with 11 storeys and a height of 66 metres (217 ft), making it one of the tallest temple towers in India.

The Karthigai Deepam festival celebrated during the full moon day in November–December and a huge beacon is lit on the top of the hill. It can be seen from miles around and believed to be Shiva's lingam of fire joining the limitless skies.The event is witnessed by 3 million pilgrims. During each full moon day, a worship called Girivalam is followed when pilgrmis circumnavigate the base of the temple and the Annamalai hill. The Girivalam is carried out by close to 1 million pilgrims.

LEGEND

Legend has it that Shiva's wife Parvati once closed his eyes playfully in the flower garden of their abode Mount Kailash. The whole universe was darkened for a moment and Earth was darkened for years, translating to a moment of time at Kailasha. Parvati performed penance with other worshippers of Shiva to overcome the darkness. Shiva appeared as a flame of fire at the top of the Annamalai hill and removed the darkness. He merged with Parvati in the form of Ardhanarishvara – the half-female, half-male form of Shiva. The Annamalai, meaning red mountain, lying behind the Annamalaiyar temple is always associated with the temple. The hill is considered sacred and considered to be a lingam, an aniconic representation of Shiva, in itself.

Another popular legend narrates that the Hindu gods Vishnu and Brahma contested for their superiority. Shiva appeared in the form of a heated flame and challenged them to find the source of the flame. Brahma took the form of a swan and flew up to discover the top of the flame, while Vishnu became a boar (Varaha), to find the base. The scene called lingothbava is represented in the western wall sanctum of most Shiva temples. Neither Brahma nor Vishnu could find the source – while Vishnu conceded his defeat, Brahma lied stating he found the pinnacle. Shiva cursed Brahma that he shall no temple dedicated to him on Earth.

History

The present masonry structure and towers date back to the 9th century A.D. This has been determined from an inscription in the structure made during the reign of Chola kings who ruled during that era. Tiruvannamalai was under the Pallava Kings who ruled from Kanchipuram before the 9th century – the earliest inscriptions dating back to early 9th century is an indication. The 7th century Nayanar saints Sambandar and Appar, have mentioned the deity in the poetic work Tevaram. Sekkizhar, the author of the Periyapuranam mentions that both Appar and Sambandar worshipped Annamalaiyar in the temple. The Chola Kings ruled over the region for more than four centuries from 850 to 1280 and have made donations to the temple. During the 14th Century, the Hoysala Kings had their capital at Tiruvannamalai, starting 1328. There are 48 inscriptions from the Sangama Dynasty (1336–1485), 2 inscriptions from Saluva Dynasty and 55 inscriptions from Tuluva Dynasty (1491–1570) that ruled the Vijayanagara Empire, indicating generous gifts to the temple from the rulers. There are also inscriptions from the rule of Krishnadeva Raya (1509–1529), the most powerful Vijayanagara king who made generous contributions to the temple. Most of the Vijayanagara inscriptions were written in Tamil and a few in Kannada and Sanskrit. During 17th century, the temple came under the sway of the Nawab of the Carnatic. There was confusion and chaos after 1753. Muraru Raya, Krishna Raya, Mrithis Ali Khan, Burkat Ullakhan, French Soupries and Sambrinet, English Captain Stephen Smith besieged this place and had their successes and defeats. The French occupied it in 1757 and it came under the control of British in 1760. In 1790, the area was captured by Tippu Sultan. During the first half of the 19th century, it came under the British rule. The temple is currently maintained by the Hindu religious and Endowment board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.




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