Shiv Jee | Shiv Temples
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There are stories of two saints linked to Arunaachal Hill and Chidaambaram Temple of Shiv - Guhai Namashiavaaya and Guru Namashivaaya.
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While Mount Kailaash is regarded as is the Divine abode of Shiv, the Arunaachal Hill at Tiruvannamalai, Tamilnaadu, is regarded as Shiv himself. That is why it impels more than 15 lakh (1,500,000) pilgrims to walk barefoot on the 14 km path around it every Full Moon night. In Tamil, the word Arunam means red or fire and Achalam means hill. Since Shiv manifested himself in the form of fire in this place, this name Arunachalam came to be associated with Annamalai hill and the town. The first mention of Annamalai is found in Tevaram, the seventh century Tamil Shaiv canonical work by Appar and Tirugnanasambandar.
In the Sat Yug, the first epoch of Creation, Arunaachal was brilliant gold. In the Tretaa Yug, Arunaachal took on the mellow hue of Panch Lauh. In the Dwaapar Yug, it had the luster of burnished copper. In Kali Yug, Arunaachal appears like a rocky hill with bristles and thorns, but its incredible power remains undiminished. Hence Giri Pradakshinaa or circumambulation of the Hill is still considered auspicious.
It has seven Prakhar and nine great Towers. The Eastern tower was built by the King Krishn Dev Raaya in the 15th century. This tower is called "Raajaa Gopuram" and it is the second tallest tower in India. It is 217 feet high and was built by in stone. The area of the Temple is 25 acres. It has two big tanks, one as "Brahm Teerth" and "Shiv Gangaa Teerth". It has also the "Thousand Pillar Mandapam" which has 1,000 pillars in it.
A Nandee faces the main shrine in each of its five Prakhar (tower). The outermost Prakhar houses the 1,000-pillared hall and the Shiv Gangaa tank and is pierced on four sides with colossal Gopuram. The 4th Prakhar includes the Brahm Teertham, and its eastern gateway Vallal Gopuram holds a statue of King Ballal. The 3rd Prakhar, which dates back to the 12th century AD has several Ling Shrines, and the Kilee Gopuram Entrance. In the East side of the Prakhar stands the Flag Staff while the Northern side is home to the massive shrine of Unnamulai Amman. The 3rd Prakhar surrounds the roofed 2nd Prakhar which houses the pantheon of deities associated with Shiv, which in turn surrounds the shrine of Annamalaiyar.
Another legend is that once, while Vishnu and Brahmaa contested for superiority, Shiv appeared as a flame, and challenged them to find his source. Brahmaa took the form of a swan, and flew to the sky to see the top of the flame, while Vishnu became the Boar (Varaah), and sought its base. The scene is called Lingodbhav (Ling + Udbhava = origin of Ling), and is represented in the western wall at the sanctum of most Shiv Temples. Neither Brahmaa nor Vishnu could find the source, and while Vishnu conceded his defeat, Brahmaa lied and said he had found the pinnacle. In punishment, Shiv ordained that Brahmaa would never have a temples on Earth for his worship.
The Shiv Puraan describes Shiv as the source of power because he contains the energy of the whole cosmos, and yet remains unmoving and stable, with no trace of negative energy. Shiv is static, potential energy and Shakti is dynamic, creative energy. The cosmic dance of Shiv and Shakti creates, sustains and dissolves the Universe. However, while Divinity in the formless state, Niraakaar, can be experienced by enlightened seekers, many find this intriguing. So, Arunaachal, the subtle column of light being still and as eternal knowledge, froze into a static form in order to become more palpable.
The Bharanee Deepam or lamp is lit on its summit every year during the Kaarttik month, when the Bharanee star is ascendant. The blaze, a manifestation of his knowledge, burns brightly on the austere, majestic Hill. It is said that those who obtain a Darshan of the Bharanee Deepam will receive Shiv's grace in the form of total awareness of the Self. He blesses each seeker saying "Let Karm and thoughts of this being be dissolved and let the radiance of soul be unveiled." The flame represents our own Aatm Jyoti, the effulgence of soul.
How does Arunaachal unveil the light of your soul? Normally the mind conceals the soul with thoughts and traps you in time and space. The constantly chattering mind prevents you from experiencing the sound of silence and bliss of soul. Arunaachal splits the mind, segregates thoughts and burns them in the fire of knowledge. So, when you enter the vibrant aura of Arunaachal which pulsates with serenity and tranquility, thoughts disappear, revealing the effulgence of soul. "Arun" means dawning of light and "Achal" means unmoving or still.
Each one of us experiences a pull towards Divinity sometime in life. The pull becomes a propulsion, a constant motion that generates a divine vibration which makes us aware of our Soul. This is the call of Arunaachal. The Shiv Puraan says we can go to Arunaachal only when we get this call. Sages assure us that when we circumambulate the Hill with complete surrender, Arunaachal dissolves the ego by burning our thoughts one by one, as thoughts form a base for ego. The process liberates us from the cycle of birth and death. The glowing beacon of Gyaan or knowledge activates our souls and liberates us from the shackles of time and space forever by making us aware of the limitations of body and senses.
The 9th century Shaiv saint poet Manikkavasagar composed the Tiruvempaavai here.
Staying at the Temple
Created and Maintained by Sushma Gupta
Created on March 15, 2003 and Updated on November 01, 2013