The Lord enshrined in the great Temple here is known by the name of Arunachaleswara* (Tamil: Annamalaiyar). The Mother Uma enshrined in the Temple is known as Apithakucha Nayaki (Tamil: Unnamulai Amman). The Lord has in truth no name, no form; He embodies Himself in name and form, so that His devotees may easily see and love Him.
The Tamil land has indeed the fortune to be studded with sacred shrines of the embodied Lord; this has enriched her culture and made her glorious. Of these great shrines, Tiruvannamalai is unique in that Brahma and Vishnu sought the furthermost limits of Arunachala, while He stood as a huge column of Fire. The failure of their efforts brought the two primal Gods to realize the truth of their own Being, and rid them of the sense of doership. The day these Gods first worshipped Arunachala is known as the Mahasivaratri Day.
* The problem of scientific and common sense transliteration of Sanskrit and Tamil words is very hard to solve. In this volume, whereas usually the normal scientific method has been adopted, in the case of certain words like ‘Maharshi’, ‘Vishnu’, etc. which have become so familiar in their common form, it was felt that to change the spellings would be pedantic. When words have been used a number of times in this book, it has not been found necessary to translate them every time or to adhere to the diacritical points of their correct spellings. Tamil forms of semi-anglicised words like ‘Ashram’ have been dropped.
Mother Uma covered Siva’s eyes with her palms, and the result was a huge deluge of the Worlds. Siva admonished Uma for this untimely deluge, and ordered her to go into the world to make amends for her action. So Uma did penance here in Arunachalam under Rishi Gautama’s guidance. During this penance she encountered and killed Mahishasura. On the full moon day of Karthikai, Siva blessed her with the light of His Being. Uma went round the Hill and obtained her rightful half in Siva; the ‘Karthikai’ Festival is held to commemorate this, when a huge concourse of devotees gather from all parts of India to witness. The mere sight of the Hill helps them control the fluctuations of their thoughts (vritti); one-pointedly they are devoted to the thought of Arunachala, go round the Hill, gaze at the Beacon on its summit, and cry “Harohara to Annamalai!” The millions of voices must indeed be heard even in the heavens, while here down below people are blessed with entry into their ecstatic being.
Rishi Bhringi would not worship the diverse manifestations of Maya here and would contemplate only the Absolute Being Himself. As he was emaciated for want of the grace of Divine Power (Sakti), Siva blessed him with a third leg to support himself on. He is said to have pierced the male-female (ardhanariswara) form of Siva and to have gone round Siva alone. Siva granted Liberation to this Sage, and Parvati was angry at this slight. It is in commemoration of this event that the grand Tiruvudal Festival is held; the darsan of Arunachala on that day is a sight fit for Gods to see with joy.
Of the great Five Establishments (Panchabhutasthala) Arunachalam stands at the very centre; of the Six Support places (sadadhara) Arunachalam is the navel; of the Four Places that give Liberation (Muktisthala), Arunachalam has the reputation of granting deliverance at the very thought of it. It has all the requirements of Form, Pilgrimage and Place — the attributes of a perfect place for giving Liberation.
In the first Age (krta) its form was fire; in the Second (treta) it was emerald; in the Third (dwapara), gold; and in this last (Kali) age it is seen in earthy form. In this holy place was the seat of the kingdom of King Ballala, whose one delight was never to say “No” to anyone who sought anything from him. Arunachala came in the form of a Child and played in this King’s lap, and the Lord said that as the King had no progeny He would Himself perform his annual ceremonies (sraddha) for all eternity. Even today there is a festival to commemorate this fact every year.
The Hill here is considered the very Form of Arunachala. Many have gone clockwise round the Hill and obtained great powers (siddhi) — gods, sages, kings, and many beings of the lower kingdoms; it is said that groups of Perfect Ones (siddhas) are eternally going round Arunachalam.
The Lord Himself goes round the Hill with His Consort twice a year. On the eight cardinal points round the Hill there are eight lingas and eight nandis (stone bulls) with their holy waters. Round the Hill there are 360 sacred waters (of
which only a few are now visible), such as the Indra Tirtha, Agni Tirtha, Isanya Tirtha and Khadga Tirtha; the Brahma Tirtha and Sivaganga are inside the great Temple of Arunachaleswara, and the Mulaipal Thirtha is some way up the Hill. Like the gigantic forms and constructions of the Temple, the Vehicles (vahanas) are equally huge and imposing; so too are the beautifully decked deities that ride on them. It is rare to find such grand processions elsewhere.
Sri Jnanasambandar and Sri Vageesa, two of the Saivite Saints have visited this spot and sung of Arunachala and Uma; five of their Hymns on Arunachala are found in the Tevaram, and the world famous Tiruvembavai of Manickavachakar was first sung near Adi-Annamalai Temple behind the Arunachala Hill.
It was here also that the great Arunagirinathar with his grand experience of the Self (jnananubhuti) flourished and spread the glory of Lord Subramania by his Tiruppugal songs. It was here that he triumphed over Sambandandan, the worshipper of Uma, and here he obtained darshan of Lord Subramania for King Prabuddhadevaraya; in commemoration of the latter event we have the Shrines of Kambattu Ilayanar and Gopurathu Ilayanar in the great Temple.
“Arunachalam attracts those firm in wisdom (jnana)”; this is the glory He has earned by the gift of His Grace. In accordance with this fame of His, many are the great souls who have been drawn to Arunachalam, among whom
only a few are Guhanamasivaya, Gurunamasivaya, Isanyadesika, Seshadriswamy, and Ramana Maharshi. They came here from far off places, and rejecting all spots on the way chose to live and merge in Arunachalam, the Primal Being. This very thought uplifts our mind towards the ever-present Arunachalam.