Talking about the Panchabootha Stalas, Thiruvannamalai is the place of the most important legend in Saivism. We were lucky to visit the temple at daytime, and had a lot of time to worship and do archanai, and to look around the temple. It is indeed one of the most beautiful temples I’ve visited so far. It’s known for its massive gopurams (temple towers), with a history going back to the 11th century, while the main temple is believed to be much older – more than 2000 years old, with mentions in Thevaaram and Thiruvasagam songs. Unfortunately, there’s not been done anything to protect the temple so far, but there is an appeal going on to UNESCO to make the temple a world heritage monument.
The town of Thiruvannamalai is located near the mountain with the same name, and with the temple at the mountain. This mountain plays a very important role in Saivism. It is also one of the 275 places that has been praised in Thevaaram and Thiruvasagam songs.It is the temple dedicated to Fire, the lord of the temple is worshipped as Arunachaleshwarar or Annamalaiyar, and with the Agni Lingam, while the shakti is worshipped as Abithagujatha or Unnamulai. Karthigai Deepam is a very special festival at this temple, as per following legend. It is also the place where Arunagirinathar was blessed by lord Murugan.
The legend says that the two lords Brahma and Vishnu had a discussion about who’s the biggest of the two. Lord Shiva appeared in front of them and, and asked them to find either his crown or the feet of him. Whoever was the first to see either the crown or the feet will be the greatest.
Brahma took form as a swan and flew to find the top, while Vishnu took form as a pig and began to search the bottom through the ground. While flying toward the top Brahma saw a flower (thazhampoo/pandanus flower) that was falling from Shiva’s crown. Brahma asked the flower about the distance, and the flower told him that it has been falling for 40 thousand years. Brahma then realized that he would not be able to fly towards the top, and therefore asked the flower to act as a false witness.
The flower acted so, and told Brahma had found the top. Shiva became angry on the deception and cursed that the pandanus flower never should be used for prayers to Shiva, and that Brahma should not have any temple on Earth.
Shiva then took form as a huge endless column as fire, appearing on the Thiruvannamalai mountain, to eliminate ego. This happened on the Karthigai day of the Karthigai month, hence Karthigai Deepam is celebrated here.