temple at Arunachaleswarar is the second largest in India. Throughout
its long history, it has enjoyed extraordinary popularity among wealthy
patrons. This remains true today. Just before the Maha Kumbhabhishekam
of 2002, more than a million dollars was spent on temple renovation and
repair. Although a great deal of this money came from affluent donors,
much was also solicited through pamphlets, posters and "door stickers"
as well as on television.
All nine gopurams
were repaired, renovated and repainted. The 1000 pillared mandapam
(main temple hall) was completely cleaned and even outfitted with
electricity. The temple's entire collection of ceremonial utensils were
scrubbed and polished. And much of the old ornamentation was refurbished
with new, intricately designed carvings and designs all gold-plated.
During the ceremony
itself, more than five thousand policemen were on hand to keep order.
The water and fire rituals commenced in coordination with the conclusion
of a nine-day annual festival featuring worship of the Hindu Goddesses
Durga, Amman and Pitari. The inaugural puja
was held in the newly constructed yagasala
(a place of fire worship) on the evening of June 22.
During the next six days, grand homas
(fire ceremonies) were conducted at 102 agni kundams
(fire pits) built in the yagasala
just for this purpose. Each of these homas
was dedicated to a God or Goddess. Thirty-three were for Annamalai (a
form of Lord Siva), 25 for Amman (a form of Goddess Shakti), and five
each for Gods Vinayagar, Murugan, Somaskander and Venugopal. The
remaining 24 were committed to the parivara devathas
(canonized saints devoted to Lord Siva).
Three hundred Sivacharyas, 15 oduvars
(traditional temple singers) and 120 Vedic scholars from all over India orchestrated the homas while 108 tavil
players (temple drummers) and nadaswaram
masters (temple horn players) provided appropriate festival music. The
grand procession around the temple was led by Tyagaraja Gurukkal (69)
and Alasyanatha Gurukkal (54), both long-time chief priests at
Doordarshan, Jaya TV
and a local television channel beamed the Kumbhabhishekam
live as it occurred. All India Radio
also broadcast a running commentary. Dina Malar
a renowned Tamil daily, hired seven photographers to cover the event.
All in all it was a grand event in Tamil Nadu, a gracious gift of
upliftment to its motherland of India, otherwise deeply troubled by the
darker events of 2002.
For hundreds of
years, the town of Tiruvannamalai and the temple Arunachaleswara have
stood foremost among South India's most sought-after spiritual
destinations. Successive South Indian kings always gave great importance
to them both. They dug ponds and wells; built gopurams
, compound walls and prakarams
(temple courtyards) and donated jewels and gold. Famous Indian kings
down through history; like Rajaraja Chola, Rajendra Chola, Harihara
Bukkar, Krishna Deva Rayar, as well as the kings of the Chera, Pallava,
Pandya, Rashtrakotta, Hoysala and Naik dynasties, were proud to have
Tiruvannamalai as part of their kingdom. Some of them even made it their
capital. Even when caught in political crisis, they held onto
about the Arunachaleswarar Temple are revealed in stone inscriptions on
the prakara walls and copper plates of the temple itself. These
inscriptions, which refer to a period of time spanning a thousand years
starting from 750AD, indicate that the greatness of Arunachaleswarar was
made known to the kings of the times primarily through important South
Indian devotional literature like the Thevaram
means “force” and achala means “that which cannot be moved.” So,
Arunachaleswarar Temple represents Lord Siva as indomitable power. The
Arunachaleswarar Siva Temple is located 125 miles from Chennai, the
capital of Tamil Nadu. Its day-to-day administration is currently
controlled by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments
department of the Tamil Nadu Government.
its famous temple are attracting an increasing number of pilgrims every
year. On a single festival day, it may accommodate as many as a million
devotees. And that was before the million-dollar renovation and Maha Kumbhabhishekam
of 2002. Certainly, the best is yet to come.