To 100 km south of Kanchi, on the northern side of Shovaroi hill and around Arunchaleswar Temple Tiruvannamalai, a holy place dedicated to Lord Shiva. At the foothills 1.5 km from rail and bus stands, Tejalingam complex of over 100 temples has come up on 25 acre of land. This is towering temple, the largest in South India, built with the patronization of the Vijayanagar kings of the 16- 17th century.
What legend says about TiruvannamalaiLord Shiva emerges here as Agni Linga or one of the five sources of life in the midst of Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu who clashed for supremacy. Lord Vishnu taking the form of a boar failed to bore the earth to determine the character of the Linga. Similarly, Lord Brahma in the form of a swan failed to scale the peak of the Lingam to do the same. Both accepted the superiority of Lord Shiva at Tiruvannamalai hill. The temple said to have taken 1000 years to built and Lord Shiva is worshipped here as Arunchaleswar. Other deities like Parvati, Subrahmanya (Kartik), Ganesh, Lakshmi, Venugopal are there in the temple.
The 66 meters high 13 storey Mandapam or Gopuram is a beautiful piece of art works. Carvings are simply marvellous. One will find after entering it on the east gate at the first courtyard the beautiful 1000 pillar Mandap built by the Vijayanagar kings. To the north of the temple is a tree, a cross between Neem and Bodhi (Banyan). The holy tree is a symbol of peace, happiness and prosperity. Newly married women come and pray to the holy tree for happy married lives. In November-December on the occasion of Kartik full moon a grand Kartikai Deepam festival is organized. Lord Shiva travels around the town on a chariot alongwith Parvati, Kartik and Ganesh. People from far off places come here to take part in the 10-days festival. One has to make 14 km tour trek up the Tiruvannamalai hill to see the Shiva Lingam.
Other attractions of Tiruvannamalai
Maharshi Raman's Ashram is another attraction. He died in 1950, cremated 2 km on the South West of the town. Further west is the 1100 meter high Shovaroi hill on the right side of the road and 300 meter high Kalrayan hill on the left side.
Opposite the temple to the North West side is the holy hill with its Virupaksha cave. Further up Skandasraman cave.
Where to stay at Tiruvannamalai
Pilgrims and tourists can stay in the Ashram. There after places like
Aruna Lodge, 82 Kosambadam St, Ph: (04175) 2323291;
Udipi Brindhavan Hotel, 57-A, Car St, Ph: 2322693;
Sri Kalaimangal Lodge, opposite north entrance. 14 Vadaothavadai St, Ph: 2324215; Park Hotel, Rajaram Lodge, Devil Lodge, Murugan Lodge, Ranga Lodge, Trishul Hotel, Hotel Akash, Thoumagal Lodge, Modern Cafe tourists can try.
Places to visit surrounding Tiruvannamalai
35 km west of Tiruvannamalai, in the Reserved Forest is Sathanur Dam (built in 1957) on the Ponnyar river which emerged out of North Bangalore. The lake created out of the dam has got a swimming pool and a crocodile project has also been taken up here. The park adjacent to the lake has a good ambience.
Further south is Kuddalore. East India Company set up a commercial house here in 1684. Fort St David was also their creation. However, the French destroyed the fort in 1758. Tourists may visit by bus to sculpturally beautiful Krishna Temple 43 km west of Villupuram.
This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel