This is a pilgrimage town that has a sacred hill. In this place Lord Shiva is known as Annamalayar or Arunachaleswarar, and hence this place has earned the name Tiruvannamalai. It is the largesttemple in the world dedicated to Lord Shiva, making Tiruvannamalai truly the capital of Saivism.
The deity is found atop a hill in most holy places, but in the case of Tiruvannamalai the hill itself is the deity [Lord Annamalayar]. Arunam means sun [which is the colour red] and Asalam means Giri or mountain. The holy hill which is 2668 feet high is red in colour.
The KarthigaiDeepam is a very special event at the Tiruvannamalai, where a huge fire is lit on top of the holy mountain. The entire mountain is considered a Shiva Linga and 3500 kgs of clarified butter are used to light it. Called the Maha Deepam, it can be seen from 35 kms away. [This para is available in Experiences: Festivals: Karthigai Deepam 2nd para]
Dedicated to Lord Shiva this massive temple is located at the foot of the sacred hill and spread over 25 acres. This is a Pancha Bootha Sthalam and Annamalayar is represented by a lingam, called the Agni Lingam. Parvati is represented as Unnamalai Amman. The temple dates back to the period between the 10th and 16th Century.
Girivalam: On full moon days, and on days of the Karthigai Deepam, the temple attracts large crowds and people perform the Girivalam – the 14 km trek around the holy hill. There are 8 lingams on this path of Girivalam.
Born in Tiruchuli as Venkataraman Iyer, the sacred hill of Arunachala attracted him, and in 1896, as a boy of sixteen he attained enlightenment. Six weeks later he left his uncle’s home in Madurai and journeyed to Tiruvannamalai where he took sanyas.
This ashram was his refuge and is being administered by his disciples. He attained mukthi in 1950. Kandashram, where the swami meditated in his early days, is on the Girivalam path.
It forms the Sathanur Reservoir and is one of the major dams in the state. It was constructed in 1958. There is a large crocodile farm, and it has many parks to attract children.
Many centuries ago, this region is believed to have had two forts, and was home to 1008 Shiva temples and 108 Vishnu temples. It was also the capital of Sambuvarayar chieftains around the 13th Century. The temples were buried due to some unknown natural disaster and are being recovered.
Repeated in Vellore
These falls are active 8 months a year and the slower the gush the more enjoyable the experience. They are 5 kms away from Jamunamarathur.
It’s the largest lake on these hills and is also known as the Kolappan Lake. There’s an artificial manmade island and boating facilities are available.
The VainuBappu Observatory is an astronomical observatory which started in 1968. Scientists from all over the world visit this research center. The computer controlled Big Telescope is a big favourite among tourists.
Glass House- Melpattu Village:
It was constructed during the British rule and is located at Melpattu village, the highest peak of Javadu hills. There is an Herbal Farm that is being maintained and run by the Forest Department. Cave like Stone Age Houses that are more than 5000 years old, found at Kilseppili-Valparai, are the stunning attraction.
Road: Tiruvannamalai has private and government bus services.
Rail: There are train services to Tiruvannamalai, but it is a small station with limited trains.
Air: The closest airport is in Puducherry [87 kms], but it has a single service. The largest airport is in Chennai, 172 kms away.