Tiruvannamalai Temple Bird Eye View

The temple at Tiruvannamalai is one of the biggest and grandest temples in South India.  With the hill as back ground it gives the appearance of a fort to those who see it from a distance. It is unique on account of its stately towers, high rampart walls, broad quadrangles, spacious gateways, large mantapams and fine tanks.  It has also much architectural importance and sculputural beauty.

Tiruvannamalai should have been under the sway of the Pallava Kings who ruled from Kancheepuram before the ninth century A.D. We do not find any inscription in the temple prior to A.D.850 and hence the present temple could not have existed then. Saint Sambandar in his Thevaram relating to this place mentions a temple. Saints Appar and Sambandar belonged to the Seventh Century, Sekkizhar, the renowned author of Periapuranam mentions that both the Saints Appar and Sambandar worshipped Arunchaleswarar in the hill Temple. The Chola Kings ruled over the country for more than four Centuries from 850 A.D. to 1280 A.D. Some earlier Kings of Vijayalaya dynasty must have begun to construct the inner shrine(Garbegraha). In the fourteenth Century the Hoysala Kings had their capital at Tiruvannamalai. Afterwards the Kings of Vijayanagar and Nayak Kings of Thanjavur ruled over this part of the Country. In the Seventeenth Century it came under the sway of the Nawabs of Carnatic. There was confusion and chaos after A.D. 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. In A.D. 1790 it was captured by Tippu Sultan. During the first half of the nineteenth century it came under the British rule.

Easten Gopuram Front View

The Temple is situated east at the bottom of the hill half a mile west of the Railway Station. It faces East. It has got four stately towers on all the four sides and four high stone walls just like the rampart walls of a fort. The Eastern Tower called the Rajagopuram is the Highest. The Southern tower is called Thirumanjangopuram, that iin the west is called Peygopuram and that in the north is called Ammaniamma Gopuram. The temple occupies an extent of about 25 acres of land. The walls on the East and West measure 700 feet each. The South wall is 1479 feet long and North wall is 1590 feet. The Rajagopuram which adorns the East Gateway is 217 feet high with 11 storeys, its base measure 135 feet by 98 feet. This tower was built by King Krishna Devaraya of Vijayanagar and completed by Sevappa Nayaka of Thanjavur. Krishna Devaraya also constructed the Thousand Pillared Mantapam and dug the tank opposite to it . Ammani Ammal a Sanyasini built the North Gopuram which is called after her name.

The towers, the pillars in the Mantapams and Vimananms consist of figures of Sculptures Excellence.  In the side walls of the Entrance of East Gopuram there are dance poses and figures of Bewitching Beauty. Generally stone-Idols are fixed with what is called "Ashtabandana". But in this case it is "Swarnabandana" (Gold) which is of Special Importance. There are five inner rounds. Including what is called Madavilagam running just outside the temple walls and the four car streets and the path round the Giri the temple is said to have Seven Prakaras.

Main Gate/Eastern Gate

As enjoined, one should enter the temple by the Main Gate in front of the Sanctumsanctorum. Before entering the Eastern Gate we see the Sixteen-Pillared Mantapam and the Four-Pillared Mantapam. When we pass the Eastern Tower Gate we see the Gopura Ganapathi. This deity is held in high esteem and veneration by all devotees and the first worship to Him. We first come to the fifth prakaram and see before us the Kambathilayanar Sannidhi and Gnanappai Mantapam. Here it was that God Muruga appeared in a Pillar for the sake of the King Prabudadevaraya as prayed for by saint Arunagirinathar in response to his famouns song "Athalasadanarada". To the south there is the sacred tank called Sivaganga Theertham. It has stonesteps and Thirumalapathi Mantapam on all four sides.

In the South East corner of this fifth prakaram there is the Adiyar Viduthi (Devotees rest house), Siddhi Vinayagar shrine is found in the North-West side of the tank. To the West of the tank is the Theerthawarimantapam. There is Mangalavinayagar Sannidhi in the fifth South Prakaram and Thiruvarul Vilasa Mantapam just to the West of the South tower. There is the Kothala Vinayagar shrine in the Western Prakaram. There is nothing worth seeing in the Northern Prakaram except the big banyan tree which is considered sacred. Coming again to the Eastern Side of the fifth Prakaram we see the Mathapirappu Mantappam. A festival with Sri Chandrasekara Swami is celebrated here on the first day of the Tamil Month. Then we see the Thousand Pillared Mantapam and the underground temple of Sri Pathala Linga where at Ramana Maharishi's body was eaten by ants and months in his state of Supreme Awareness. In between Sivaganga Tank and Thousand Pillared Mantapam there are the Rudrakshamantapam and the Big Nandhi Mantapam.

From the fifth Prakaram we now go to the forth prakaram passing the tower gate of Vallala Maharaja Gopuram. Saint Arunagirinathar wanted to shuffle off his mortal coil by falling from this tower. Lord Murugan appeared before him and saved his life. Hence he came to be called Gopurathillaiyanar. Along with this deity we see the image of Saint Arunagirinathar also to the North of Vallalan Gopura Ganapathi, Kalyanasundaeswarar, Keswarar and Viranmindar one of the sixty three saivite saints. On crossing this towergate we enter the forth Prakaram. To the left there are the Kala Bairava Shrine and the temple tank called Barhma Theertham with the Teerthavari Mantapam. To the right we see Puravi Mantapam and the Sakthi Vilasam in which religious discourses are held. To the north of Brahma Teertham we see the shrines of Neleswarar, Vigneswarar, Vidyadhareswara and Brahmalinga.

Connecting the fifth and fourth Prakarams there are short tower-gates (Kattai Gopuram) on the Southern, Western and Northern sides. In the South-Western corner of the fourth Prakaram there are the Amavasya Mantapam, Vinayagar Shrine and what is called Sthula-Sukshma temple. To its north there is the Tirupatha Koil. In the North Western corner of the Thirupatha Koil there is the Karthigai Mantapam and Subramanya shrine. On the new moon day Shree Chandrasekara Swami is taken to the Amavasya Mantapam and Lord Subramanya to Krithigai Mantapam on the Krithigai day.

From the forth Prakaram we now go to the further inner circle, the third Prakaram. For this we have to cross what is called the Kili Gopuram(parrot-tower) gate in the East. Before entering this tower-gate we see on both sides the shrines of yanaithiraikonda Vinayagar, Subramaniar, Bairawar. Just in front of this entrance there is a Sixteen pillared Mandapam called the Katchi Mantapam. The five deities(Panchamurthis) are brought to this mantapam during the grand annual Karthigai Festival. Facing the hill they will give dharsan to the devotees simultaneously with the lighting of the hill top that evening. It is a sight to see and a teast to the devotees heart's desire.

To the south of the Katchimantapam there are the store room, temple kitchen and pannirmantapam and in the north we see Vasanthamantapam (used as Devasthanam Office), Yagasala, and the shrines dedicated to Kalatheeswaras, Chidambraeswara, Ekambareswarar and Jumbukeswarar. Thus we have all the panchastalas in the Arunachalam temple. We have the temple of pidari also. In the third South Prakaram there are the Mahila tress sacred to this shrine, and the Tirukalyana Mantapam and Bhimeswarar and Vigneswarar Shrines. Just near the west gate connecting the third and forth Prakarams there is the shrine of Arunagiri Yogeeswarar. Lord Arunagiri Siddha's centre in the temple is here and it is a very good place for Meditation.

The separate temple for Unnamalai Nayaki or Abidhakujambal is situated in the North Western portion of the third Prakaram. In the Mahamantapam in front of the Arthamantapam of this shrine we see the image of Kalanthagar, Veenadharar, Veerabadrar, Adilakshmi, Santhanalakshmi, Gajalakshmi, Dhanalakshmi, Dhanyalakshmi, Vijayalakshmi, Ayswaryalakshmi, Veeralakshmi, Rudra Durga, Mahasakthi and Saraswathi. In the front mantapam there are also the shrines of Vijayaraghava Vinayagar, Navagrahams and Chitraputhrar. To the back of the sanetum-sanctorum we see the Parasakthiamman, Vigneswarar, Cholalingam and Cheralingam. Inside the Garbhagraha we see the charming and graceful Goddess Unnamulai Ambal, the inseperable partner of Sri Anurachaleswara. The Sanskrit name for the Goddess is Abidhakujambal.

After worshipping at Unnamulai Amman's shrine we come to the third Eastern Prakaram. Facing East at the extreme South and Extreme North there are the Shrines of Sambanda Vinayagar and Palaniandavar. On both sides of the entrance to the second Prakaram we see Ganpathi and Subramaniam and the Dwarapalakars (Gate keepers). Taking leave of Adhikara Nandikeswarar in the passage we enter into the second Prakaram. In the North we see Isanyalingam and all Utsavamurthis (festival idols) and in the South there is Indra Lingam. On all there sides of the second Prakaram there are number of deities. They are given below in detail.

Janakeswarar,Janardaneswarar, Appar, Sambandar, Sundarar, Manikkavasagar, Janandaneswarar, Janatkumareswarar, Kaushikeswarar, Kuthsarishiwarar, Valmikiswarar, Vamarishiswarar, Agnilingam, Naradeswarar, Kasilingam, Vaisambandaneswarar, sixty three Saivite Saints, Yamalingam, Thumbureswarar, Sapthamathas(Chamudi, Indrani, Varahi, Vaishnavi, Kaumari, Maheswar and Brahmi), Gauthamarishi and Duruvasarishi.

Kshethralingam Vinayagar, Niruthilingam, Somaskandar, Amman, Ardanareeswarar (Utsavamurthis), Venugopalaswami with Rukmini and Satyabhama, Varunalingam, Vikrapandiswarar, Gajalakshimi, Arumugam with Valli and Deivayanai,Sahasralingam,Santhalingam,Syamalambal and Jeshtadevar.

Vayulingam, Annapurani utsava idols of valli, Murugan, Deivayanai, Natarajar, Bikshandavar and Chandrasekarar, Kuberalingam, Utsava idols of Sixty Three Saivite Saints, Bhakthanugraha somaskander, Viswamitreswarar, Patanjaliswarar, Vyagrapadeswarar, 108 Sivalingams, Agastheeswarar, Jureswarar, Kalasamhararar, Bairavar, Utsava idols of appar, Sambandar, Sundarar, Manikkavachagar, Natarajar and sivakami.

Sri Arunachaleswarar

After going round the three sides of the Second Prakaram we enter by the East into the First Prakaram which encloses the Garbagraha of Sri Arunachaleswarar, the main deity of the temple. He has got many names. The popular Tamil Name is Annamalaiyar. Other names are Sonachaleswarar, Arunagiriswarar, Sounadriswarar,Bhaktapasavimochakar,Vedamurthi etc.



1. Ushathkalam

05-30 a.m.

2. Kalasanthi

08-00 a.m.

3. Uchikalam

10.00 a.m.

4. Sayarakshai

06-00 p.m.

5. Irandamkalam

08-00 p.m.

6. Ardha Jamam

09-30 p.m.



Vasantha utsavam - 10 Days beginning from Mrigeseerisha Nakshatram


Dakshinaya Brahma Utsavam- 10 Days


AdiPuram - 10 Days ; Last day Fire Walking festival


Navarathri - 10 Days


Kanntha Sashti - 6 Days


Brahma Utsavam; Deepam festival - 10 Days


Manikkavasagar Utsavam - 10 Days


Sankaranthi Utsavam - 10 Days


Uthram Festival - 6 Days



  1. Natarajar Abishekam-Thiruvona Nakshatram.
  2. Thirunavukkarasar Festival-Sathaya Nakshatram.


  1. Abishekam-Visaka Nakshatram.
  2. Thirugnanasambandar Festival-Mula Nakshatram.


  1. Manikkavasagar Festival-Maga Nakshatram.
  2. Natarajar Ani Thirumanjanam Uthra Nakshatram.


  1. Ambal Niramani(Varalakshmi Nonbu)
  2. Sundarar Festival-Swathi Nakshatram.
  3. Arunagirinathar Festival.


  1. Srikrishna Jayanthi.
  2. Pittu Tiruvizha-Mula Nakshatram.
  3. Natarajar Abishekam-Sukla Chathurthai.


  1. Saraswathi Puja-Ambal Niraimani,Sukla Navami.
  2. Natarajar Abishekam-Sukla Chathurthasi.
  3. Arunagirinathar Festival-Mula Nakshartram.


Annabhishekam-Asvini Nakshatram.


1008 Sangabhishekam-Somavaram.


  1. Vaikunta Ekadesi.
  2. Thiruvathirai-Arudra Dharsanam.


  1. Tiruvudal Utsavam.
  2. Manalurpettai Theerthawari.
  3. Kalasapakkam"Theerthawari"-Rathasapthami.
  4. Thai Poosam,theerthawari.


  1. Pallikondapattu Theerthawari-Vellala Maharajan Obsequies-Mega Nakshatram.
  2. Mahasivarathri-Amara chathurthasi.
  3. Natarajar Abishkam,Sukla chathurthasi.


First day of all Tamil Months,all Mondays,Fridays and Saturdays,Sukla Chathurthi,Sukla Sashti,Prathosham,Krithigai,Amavasai and Pournami.

The Panchamurthis(Annamalainathar,Unnamalai Ambal, Vinayagar,Muruga and Chandeswarar) go around the hill a circuit of Eight Miles,twice a year that is on the day next to Karthigai Deepam and on Thiruvudal Festival(2 nd Day of Thai Month).

The Tiruvannamalai temple is under the general control of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endownments(Administration) Department of the Tamilnadu Government. There is a board of Trustees with a Chairman. There is also an Executive Officer, in the Cadre of Assistant Commissioner who is a Government servent to look after the day-to-day administration of the temple.He has got the Devasthanam staff working under him. His office is located within the temple. There is also a library maintained by the Devasthanam.

The temple possesses plenty of jewels and ornaments worth lakhs of rupees. Jewels of all varieties are found here and some of them are very ancient and very rare ones. Some of the pendants are very big in size and of exequisite workmanship. Many of the jewels are set-with precious stones and gems. All the nine varieties of 'rathnam' are found here. It is a feast to the eyes to see the dieties, taken in procession decked with these beautiful jewels.

This temple is noted for the many huge vahanas it possesses. Vahanas of such size are very rare to be seen either in South India or anywhere else. The Silver car of this temple is very magnificent one with rich adornment and of excellent craftmanship. It is used to take the deity round the temple on the 6th day of the Karthigai Brahmotsavam. The Silver bull or Nandi is a unique feature of this temple. Nandi of such a massive size cannot be seen anywhere. On the 5th day of the Karthigai festivel, Annamalaiar and Unnamalai Thayar go round in procession on this Mount. There are several other Silver and Wooden Vahanams which are worth seeing. There are used on various occasions to carry the deities. Everything connected with this temple including the vahanams are huge in size to fit in with the name of the presiding deity,Annamalaiar. The Nattukottai Chettiars are mainly responsible for securing many of these Vahanams for the temple.

There are innumerable Endowments and Kattalais in this Thirukoil instituted for purpose of daily pujas and pujas on special occasion. These Kattalais are mainly responsible for carrying out the unintermittent pujas and for the celebration of the periodical Uthsavams on a very grand scale. Kattalais for feeding the poor, for burning lamps, for supplying flower regularly and providing milk for abishekams and for various other purposes have been created. Many of them are there for centuries together. Even the names of the many of the Kattalais owe their existence to the Nattukottai Chettiar community. The endowment created by Suryanarayana chettiar is perhaps the biggest one. One Kattalai has been created by him for singing 'Devaram' in the mornings and evenings in the temple. A regular bajan group goes round the temple every day singing 'Devaram'. Another Kattalai has been created for feeding poor people on important days.

About 57 years ago this Suryanarayana Chettiar, white washed the Southern tower called Thirumanjana Gopuram at a huge cost. Most of the properties donoted by Suryanarayana Chettiar are big buildings in the main Bazaar Street. His endowment established by Kasivasi Arulnidhi Thambiran of Tiruppanandal are of no less importance.

This temple has vast extent of fertile lands in many villages surrounding Tiruvannamalai, some of the lands belonging to the temple are near Madras. Those lands have been endowed by Kings and Chieftains in Ancient times. Some devotees have recently donated big buildings,fetching good income. But the income of the temple is hardly sufficient to meet the huge expenses connected with the daily administration and innumerable festivals. Big renovations works and repairs could be carried out only by special donations raised for that purpose.

The temple has constructed Four cottages,two rest houses and seventeen rooms(6 double and single rooms) with modern facilities for the use of pilgrims. The twin cottage is situated in North Othavadai Street,just near Ammani Ammal Gopuram. The two rest houses are situated in the Northern side of the 5th Prakaram. The seventeen rooms Unnamalaiamman Lodge are located just by the side of Eastern Raja Gopuram.

The temple was in dispair in the Nineteenth Century. Some seventy years back, the Nattukottai nagarathar(chettiar)took up the renovation of the temple at a cost of 35 lakhs of rupees. The mahakumbaphishekam was celebrated on 12-06-1903. Another ashtabandana Mahakumbapishekam was performed on 04-6-1944,at a cost of Rs.40000/-. Another Ashtabandana and Sowrnabandana mahakumbabishekam was performed on 04-04-1976,at a cost of Rs.40 Lakhs. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Nattukottai Chettiars for their munificence and Philonthropy.

Repairs and renovation works are undertaken now at an estimated cost of Rs.87.50 Lakhs for which Balalayans were performed on 54.99 for 7 donor works including Eastern Raja Gopura and Perya Gopuram. It is a colossal task and it is not possible to meet the huge cost from the slender resources of this temple. Devotees are requested to contribute liberally towards the renovation fund. It is hoped that the Nattukottai Chettairs will come forward with big donations as usual.

We should know in detail about this annual holy beacon festival. Brahma and Vishnu were both quarrelling about their relative superiority. To give a decision on it and to erase their ego Lord Siva stood before them in the form of a blazing mountain. Having failed in their attempt to find out its top and bottom the two prayed to Lord Siva for His grace. He blessed them saying that he would appear in the form of Jothi on the top of the hill every year on the day of Karthigai in the month of Karthigai. To commemorate this event the Deepam festivals is being conducted at Tiruvannamalai every year.

There is ample literary evidence to prove that this lighting festival is one of the oldest in Tamil country. Tholkappiam is the oldest extent work in Tamil literature. In commenting on one of the Sutras in Tholkappiam,Nachinarkiniar, the prince of commentators, mentions"the light lit on the Karthigai day of the Karthigai month". Scholars ascribe the age of Tholkappiam to be three thousand years old. Jeevaka Chintamani, a Jain work and one of the five great Tamil Epics by Thirthakka Devar mentions "lighting a lamp on the hill on Karthigai day". Karnarpathu and Kalavazhinarpathu, the two old Tamil literary works refer to lighting on Karthigai day. Saints Appar and Sambandar who hailed in the 7th century A.D. makes references in this respect. There is a provebial saying "light on the hill" when one wants to express a thing world-wide known. This bears eloquent testimony to the antiquity of the lighting festival on the hill.

Of the five elements earth,water,fire,air and ether, fire is considered important as being in the middle. Adding Sun, Moon and Soul to these it is said that God exposes Himself in eight forms "Ashtamurthams". So the Vedas, Agamas and Puranas extol God as Rudragni Sivajothi and Paramjudar. Just as fire destroys impurity in anything, God destroy the darkness of ignorance and egoism in men and blesses them with the light of wisdom. This is short is the philosophic truth behind the celebration of the festival.

Something should be said about the festival proper which will be of use to devout piligrim. The Karthigai Deepam festival is celebrated in the Tamil month of Karthigai(November-December). It begins on Uttradam day with flag hoisting and goes on for nine days.

Between the raising and the lowering of the flag, the temple is the scene of two types of activity during the day: each morning and evening the five deities, Shiva, the goddess, Subrahmanya, Ganapati, and Chandikeshvara, go around the car-streets in procession; before leaving, they present themselves in front of the sacrificial hall where the fire-ritual is performed twice a day, and receive on their foreheads a protective black spot made of ash mixed with ghee. On the seventh day the same deities, each on a huge wooden car, are led in turn around the four temple streets in a procession which lasts the whole day.

In the early hours of the tenth day Bharani Deepam in five agantams will be lit in Arunachaleswarar's Sannithi. In the evening the Pancha Murthis will be brought to the Katchi Mantapam. At duck(Pradosha) the Karthigai day synchronising with the full moon day, the deity, Ardhanareeswarar is taken out to this place with the five deepams which are put in a big receptacle near the flag-stuff. At the same time the beacon light on the hill is lit. The huge concourse of devotees from all parts of our country in a million voice raise a cry cimultaneously "Harohara to Annamalai" which will rend the air. It is a sight for the Gods to see. On the hill top there is a big copper turn in which large quantities of camphor, ghee and wicks(of cloths) are poured and when these are lighted it will be seen from miles around for somedays after the Deepam festival day. We do not have such a huge light in any other place of our country. 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 throught the Tamil country. 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 beautiful appearance.

It is ordained that a pilgrim to Tiruvannamalai for this festival should take one meal on the previous(Bharani) day, worship Bharani Deepam during the early hours on the Karthigai Deepam day, go round the hill walking the entire distance of eight miles, see on the way Adi(Ani)Annamalai temple and fasting completely that day should see the lighting that evening. He should take food only the next day. The intrinsic truth about seeing the light may be summed up thus; "Body is the hill; mind the vessel; love the wick; incessant meditation the ghee; breath the camphor and wisdom the fire. To light this flame and dispel the darkness is the effect produced on one who sees the light".