Annamalaiyar Temple is a famous Hindu Temple located at the base of Annamalai hills in the town of Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu. This temple is dedicated to the deity Shiva. As the temple associates with the five elements, the Pancha Bhoota Stalas, the temple is significant. Lord Shiva is worshipped as Annamalaiyar or Arunachaleswarar and is represented by the lingam. This idol is referred as Agni lingam , as the temple specifies the element fine or agni. The Chola dynasty in the 9th century built the present structure and later expanded by Vijayanagar ruler of Sangama Dynasty, the Saluva Dynasty and the Tuluva Dynasty. The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu maintains and administers this temple.
In Hindu mythology, Parvati, wife of Shiva, closed the eyes of her husband playfully at their abode atop Mount Kailash. Although only a moment for lords, but all light was taken from the universe and submerged in darkness for years. Parvati performed penance. After that her husband appeared as a column of fire at top of Annamalai hills, in turn returning the light. He merged with Parvati to form Ardhanarishvara and so is the hill considered sacred and represents Lord Shiva.
Architecture of the temple
The temple is situated at the bottom of the hill facing east lying over 25 acres. It has four gateway towers. The eastern tower named Rajagopuram which is made of granite. The western tower Pei Gopuram, the southern tower Thirumanjangopuram and the north tower Sanyasini. King Krishnadevaraya built the towers and the outer precincts of the temple. There are five precincts which each holds huge Nandi. The Vallala Maharaja Gopuram and Kili Gopuram are also present.
The main shrine of Annamalaiyar housing images of Nandi and Surya is the oldest structure facing east. There are images of Venugopalaswamy, Somaskander, Durga, Chandekeswarar, Gajalakshmi, Arumugaswami, dakshinamoorthy, Swarnabairavar, Nataraja and Lingodbhavar. There are shrines of Unnamulai Amman, Sambantha Vinayagar, Subramaya and Sivagangai Vinayagar.
Major Festivals and Pujas
There are regular pujas held in the temple with major festivals bringing in lakhs of devotees from around the state.
On daily basis, the temple rituals are performed six times a day i.e., Ushathkalam, Kalasanthi, Uchikalam, Sayarakshai, Irandamkalam and Artha Jamam. Each ritual comprises of four steps like abhisheka, alangaram, neivethanam and deepa aradanai. Other rituals like somavaram, sukravaram, pradosham, amavasai, kiruthigai, pournami and sathurthi also take place.
The temple celebrates dozens of festivals throughout the year. But there are four prime festivals, the Brahmotsavam, Karthikai, Chitra Pournami and Tiruvoodal. Thousands of people come together to celebrate this festival.
Best time to visit the temple
The best time to visit the temple will be during mid January as the Nandi is decorated with beautiful garland. The deities of Annamalaiyar and Unnamamulai Amman are taken on procession in the Tiruoodal street to enact the rift between them.
How to visit the temple
Thanjavur is well-connected with Chennai, Coimbatore, Tiruchirapalli, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Bengaluru, Nagercoil, Tirupathi, Trivandrum, Ooty and Mysore through regular bus services. Thanjavur is connected by rail with most important cities and town. There is availability of daily as well as weekly trains to Thanjavur. The nearest airport is the Tiruchirapalli International Airport which is 50kms away from the city. And the the Annamalaiyar temple can be reached through any part of the city.