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Arunachaleswara Temple

    Arunachaleswara Temple in Tiruvannamalai is dedicated to Lord Siva and it is one of the largest temples in India . Arunachaleswara temple is one of the "Panch Boodha Sthalams" and it is "Agni" Sthalam. It has also the importance as "Padal Petra Sthalam". That is the four famous 'Saiva Saints and Poets' such Appar, Sundarar, Manichkavasakar and Thirugnana Sambandar made several poems on Lord Arunachaleswara.

When we observe the general structure of the temple, we notice that there are five small gopurams on the inner boundary and four big gopurams on the outer boundary. The inner gopurams are  known as Kitti gopurams. There are two gopurams in the East and one gopuram each  for the other three directions. The first of the two Eastern gopurams is called Kili gopuram. There are indications that this was built in the 11th century. The gopurams built during this period have no more than five stories. The Kili gopuram was built by Veera Rajendra Chozhan around 1063 A.D.  He is referred to as Maharaja Thiribuvana Chakravarthigal in the inscription.This name was also given to the gopuram. The Kitti (smaller) gopurams, except the top of the western one, were built by the Hoysala King Vallala Maharaja III.  His name is given to the biggest Kitti gopuram which is in the East.

   Let us now look at the outer gopurams. Historians say the western gopuram is the oldest. The base was built by Vallala Maharaja. The top belongs to a later style. Inscriptions attribute this to Krishna Deva Raya of Vijayanagar. This king  had undertaken important construction  work in this temple. It is said, he built  the base of the other three gopurams. But the architectural style of the base of the Western gopuram was constructed  first and then those of the South, East and North. Though the Eastern gopuram, known as the Rajagopuram  looks older, it was built after the Western one.  This was constructed by Krishna Deva Raya and renovated by king Sevappa Naicker of Tanjore.  There is another view that this was completely  built by Sevappa Naicker. Tamil and Sanskrit inscriptions on the Western gopuram dated 1690 A.D. bear witness to this. Krishna Deva Rayer of  Vijayanagar  also constructed the hundred pillared and thousand pillared halls in the temple. He dug the Sivagangai Thirtham in front of the thousand pillared hall. As mentioned earlier, he built the base of the three gopurams and either began or finished the Eastern Rajagopuram with eleven stories.

   All the kings mentioned above and chieftains  like Kadava Raya, Sambuvaraya and Banas expressed their devotion to Arunachaleswara  by building small temples inside the Arunachaleswara temple as well as around the mountain and elsewhere in the town. These kings were also responsible for digging  many ponds in this region. To the devotees visiting the town and the temple, its architectural splendor and sculptured beauty, its rich lands and ponds, its jewels and appurtenances, the inscriptions and the wealth of literature praising the glory of Arunachaleswara are glowing evidence of the love that the lord has commanded in the minds of kings and commoners through the centuries. Critics may take exception to the absence of continuity in the architectural style but there is no lack of  continuity in the depth of piety of the kings who built it. 

   The atmosphere of the temple and the sensation one feels inside it are indescribable. The variegated architectural style of generations of kings  who built and renovated its massive gopurams and  halls, the living presence of the great saints who stayed here and sang  the Lord's praise and above all, the infinite compassion and grace of Arunachala  gives this holiest of holy places a timeless quality.


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