Thiruvannamalai is one of the important district in tamil Nadu india. It is a historic holy place, about 175km from Chennai. It also called us 'Mukthi Sthalam' (Place of Salvation) for several saints like Gugai Namachivayar, Seshadri Swamigal, Ramana Maharishi, Arunagirinathar etc. and the place is studded with caves and shelters of holy men. Thiruvannamalai is one of the 'Pancha Bootha Sthalams' (places of five elements) and the element here is Fire or Agni. It is called 'Sonachalam' in Sanskrit meaning red mountain symbolic of fire.
Also known as, Sonachalam in Sanskrit it means Red Mountain, symbolic of fire. Tiruvannamalai is one of the 'pancha bootha sthalams' (places of five elements), where Lord Shiva is revered as Arunachaleswara (God incarnate of Fire). The Arunachale-swara Temple is the largest temple of Shiva and Parvati and a major pilgrimage centre. The place is studded with caves and shelters of holy men, which have been the 'mukti sthalam' (place of salvation) for several saints like Gugai Namachivayar, Seshadri Swamigal, Ramana Maharishi, and Arunagirinathar etc.
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Arunachaleswarar Temple is the most famous Siva temple and as mentioned earlier, one of the five element forms of Siva. It is at the foot of the hill - Thiruvannamalai. The temple is dedicated to Jothi Lingam or God incarnate as fire. Arunachaleswarar Temple is one of the ancient temple in Tamil Nadu. The Cholas, Vijayanagar kings, Hoysalas and the Nayakas of Thanjavur have all done various works and extended the temple to the present magnificence.
It has imposing gopurams (portal towers) on all four sides and provides a majestic look. It is said that there are about 100 temples here but the chief one is this. The main gopuram is 66m high and has 13 storey's. The work was started by Krishna Devaraya and completed by Sevappa Nayaka of Thanjavur. There are many circumambulatory corridors and two large tanks inside the temple. There is a 1000 pillared mandap with floral paintings in its ceiling. Inscriptions of various rulers and chieftains abound the temple walls. Legend has it that Lord Siva stood in the form of a huge pillar of fire and the attempt of Vishnu to find his feet and the attempt of Brahma to find his head were futile. The lofty mountain is symbolic of this incident.
Every year during Karthigai Deepam (November-December) a huge bonfire atop the hill is lighted i a cauldron serving as a lamp and thousands of tons of ghee poured in it with bales of cloth for wick. Laksh of people from all over India throng to have a darshan of the sacred fire Annamalai deepam which is visible around for many days despite heavy rains. The kili Gopuram or parrot tower inside is very auspicious since Saint Arungirinathar is said to have taken the form of a parrot while attaining salvation shedding his mortal coils. A sculptural representation of the could be seen on this gopuram.
The Pathala Lingam or underground Lingam where the Saint Ramana Maharishi did penance is a main attraction in this temple. The samadhis of Seshadri Swamigal and Ramana Maharishi on the path round the mountain attracts streams of pilgrims graceful places of peace and serenity. On full moon days, people throng here to walk round the mountain and reach the temple for worship. This is known as 'Girivalam' or going round the mountain. The Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation runs specal buses from Chennai on these days.
A few kilometers east is a hamlet where the parapets of a tank is profusely covered with erotic sculptures rivaling Khajuraho. The legend has it that a Vijayanagar chieftain in order to enlighten his daughter who was averse to earthly pleasures, caused this to be carved on the parapets of the tank where she used to take her bath.
Sitting at the foot of the Arunachala Hill, it is an ancient Shiva shrine, dates from the 11-century but built mainly in the 16 and 17-century. Among the 100 or more temples here in this Saiviate town, the Arunachaleswara Temple is the most outstanding with its four large gopurams, on at each cardinal point, the tallest of which is 66m and 13 storied high.
The temple covers about 10 hectares of area and has many circumambulatory corridors with the main entrance at the east end. There are some remarkable carvings on the gopurams. There is a 1000 pillared mandapam with floral paintings in its ceiling. The pillars are ornately carved with figures of horses, riders, and Yalis. The middle court also has a columned mandapam and a tank. The innermost courtyard has the main sanctuary whose walls have stone-carved images of various deities. In the south ae Dakshina Murti, Brahma in north, and the west shows Shiva appearing out of a lingam. The Kili gopuram (Parrot Tower) is very auspicious since reportedly saint Arunagirinathar took the form of a parrot while attaining salvation here. Each full moon the place swells withhundred thousands of devotees who circumnavigate the base of the mountain, about eight miles long to seek the blessings of the Lord Arunachala. The annual Karthikai Festival (Deepam) on full moon day in November to December attracts about half a million people to this holy town,.
Thirukoilur is 25km down on the banks of Pennar stands a temple dedicated to Thirivikrama the Lord who measured the entire earth and sky with just two strides of His feet. It is an ancient temple with beautifully carved pillars. The temple tower on the eastern side is one of the tallest in South India. On a rock in the river bed stands another temple worth visiting. Gnananandagiri's Tapovanam is a main attraction in this place. Gnanananda Giri, the guru of Haridoss Giri is well known saint of yester-years and he was supposed to possess occult powers and was a renowned telepathist. His samadhi and Brindavan are here. Every day Bhajans are held and there is free feeding for the devotes. Even today people from every nook ad corner of the world visit this place to get peace and consolation.
Another place nearby where stands a Siva shine of olden times with three caves carved by the Pallavas. The saint Ramana Maharishi got his first vision of supreme truth here and was drawn to Thiruvannamalai.
Gingee Fort (Senchikkottai)
Gingee Fort is about 150km away from Chennai on the road ot Thiruvannamalai. This fort was a stronghold of the Cholas during the 9th century. The Vijayanagar kings later fortified and made it an impregnable citadel. This fortified city has been built on seven hills, the most important being Krishnagiri, Chandragiri and Rajagiri.
Sathanur Dam is a place of relaxation and rest, 22 miles away from Thiruvannamalai. The dam is constructed across the river Penar submerging a huge forest between two mountains. A well laid out garden and well it fountain enchant the visitors. A swimming pool, a crocodile park and motor launch also attract the tourists. Separate cottages with boarding are also available. If one wishes one may stay a day or two in the beautiful place and relax forgetting all forgetting all this commitments.
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Rajagiri is the tallest rising 600ft. It is enclosed by massive granite walls pierced with gates and towers occupying about an area of 12sqkm. The ascent to citadel is through a serpentine fight of rough steps. Granaries, dungeons, queen's quarters, cool pools and a temple called Kuvalakanni temple could all be seen on the way. The citadel is unapproachable being perched on a steep cliff surrounded by deep chasms. The only access is by an artificial bridge thrown across one such yawning gap of 25ft. wide and more than 80 ft. in depth. A big cannon is quartered in a mandap there facing the plains which once might have roared emitting volleys of fire on the enemy army approaching the plains. Beehives cling to the precipitous sides and one can witness a thrilling sight of the hill tribes extracting honey dangling in the air. The Cholas, Vijayanagar kings, Rajputs, Marathas, French, Nawabs, the Nayaks and the English evinced keen interest in keeping the strategic citadel.
The small hill is ascended by a fight of step cut on the buttress of the fort. There is an audience hall atop and one could experience the cool fast winds embracing him/her. The fort is immortalised in the ballads of Raja Desingh a hero of the Moghul period who with undaunted courage defied the Moghuls. When he was killed treacherously, the entire harem committed sathi self immolation. Even today a pit near the tank called 'Chakkara Kulam' is shown as the place where it happened.
The tutelary deity of Raja Desingh was Lord Vishnu called Ranganatha and can be seen on the hill at Singavaram, 32km north. It is cave temple furnished by Mahendra Varma Pallava. The God is in the recumbent posture here. In the prakara of this temple, one could see the relief of a chilling specatacle of a devotee severing his head as an offering to Durga.
Mandagappattu is about 17km on the way to Gingee from Villupuram stands this famous rick-cut cave temple of Pallava king Mahendra varma who had the nom-de-plume of Vichitra Chittan and who boasts that he has built temples that will last forever as they are made without mud and wood.
Kuvakam Kootandavar Koil
Kuvakam Kootandavar Koil is 22 km south of Thirukoilur stands this village famous for its annual festival of Aravan, the son of Arjuna. It occurs in May and the unique feature of this festival is that eunuchs from all over India assemble here to perform a vow to get married to Koothandavar at night and to be widowed by next dawn. Thousands of them visit and perform this vow.
It is on the way to Tindivanam from Gingee. Temples dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras could be sen here. It is the headquarters of the chief Jain monk and possesses rare Jain manuscripts. In the beginning of Christian era when portions of Mylapore were submerged under the sea, the Jain temple that existed there was shifted to this far off place inland. Whatever could be salvaged were removed and brought to this place. There are some fine carvings in the temple. Jain research scholars visit this temple. A good number of Jains scattered nearby come for worship.
Another rock-cut temple exist here, built by Mahendra Varman, the Pallava king. The temple is called Satru Malleswaram. The name derives from Satrumalla one of the titles of Mahendra Varma.
Tindivanam on the banks of the river Varaha Nandhi. Here is a temple, part of which was erected by Sambian Mahadevi, the Chola queen. It is curious in many respects. The entrance way is not aligned in a line. The Nandi of this temple is planted away from its usual place in front of the sanctum. There is an unusual mudra of the Chathura Dance pose of Nataraja. It is a place famous for trees that have become rocks and fosslised due to passage of time. They are displayed in a special park. During full moon days, hundreds of people gather here to worship the multi handed Kali known as Vakra Kali Amman enshrined near the front gopuram.
By a strange convention, in this temple, the regular Pooja is performed in the period known as 'Ragukalam' or the period under the influence of Ragu.
Panamalai is on the road to villupuram from Gingee on the southern side lies this place. Here Pallava king Rajasimha has built a famous temple to Thalapuriswara a Siva Temple. There are some fine frescoes existing in good condition illustrating the Pallava style.
On the way to Pondicherry from Tindivanam one can reach this place where an elaborately carved stone bull stands. Valudavur, a nearby place has the ruins of a fort, once the residence of Mahabath Khan, the minister of Raja Desingh.
Sri Ramana Maharishi Ashram
It is about 2km southwest of the town is Sri Ramana Maharishi Ashram dedicated to Sri Ramana Maharishi, revered as a spiritual personality, who died her in the year 1950. Sri Seshadri Swamigal Ashram is also a holy place in this town, which together with the former adds an air of mysticism to the place. Accommodation is available in several lodges with good vegetarian restaurants exist near the temple.
Sathanur Dam is about 35km to the west of Thiurvannamalai, Sathanur Dam constructed on Ponnaiyar River is a popular picnic spot with its well-laid garden, a pool, and the crocodile farm.
How to get there?
Thiruvannamalai is about 175km from Chennai and many buses ply daily. It is 66km from Pondicherry and 68km from Villupram. As it is on the Katpadi Villupuram broad gauge railway track, one can also reach it by train . It is about 85km south of Vellore or 175km from Chennai, the holy town of Tiruvanamalai is on the Vilupuram-Katpadi rail route. Buses leave frequently for Chennai, one-hour service. Regular bus service also connects it to Puducherry (65km), Vilupuram (68km), gingee (30km), and all major centres in Tamil Nadu and even Kerala and Karanataka.
Tiruvannamalai Distance Guide
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