Pachaiamman Temple at Arunachala
The Pachaiamman Temple is situated in the north east of the Arunachala
Hill and lies to the north of the main town of Tiruvannamalai. It is
located in a green, wooded area with Arunachala as backdrop and several
water tanks close by.
In 1996, the Sri Pachaiamman Mannarswami Trust was formed comprising 6
hereditary Agamudaiyar families of Tiruvannamalai whose ancestors have
been traditionally serving Goddess Pachaiamman at a location at the
south east slope of Arunachala for many generations. The site of the
current Temple is believed to have originated sometime during the Chola
period (8th to 11th Century). But the Temple, as we now know it, is only
about 120 years old. In 1904 it was known as “arthamandapam”, however a
recent development at the Temple has led to the new name
“mahamandapam”. The new enlarged Pachaiamman Temple was inaugurated in
2004, and additional development continues.
A legend of Pachaiamman (an aspect of Parvati) has it that after
completing her penance at Kanchi, the Goddess started off for
Arunachala. She travelled with 7 rishis and 7 virgins (Sapta Kanniyars)
as part of a protective entourage. Halfway from Kanchi to Arunachala,
the entourage stopped and made camp at the village Vazhapanthal. At that
place the local king tried to molest the Goddess and the 7 rishis
became as munishwaras (guardians) and killed the king.
In the Pachaiamman Compound there are 14 statues of Pachaiamman’s
warrior guardians set out in two lines, with two representations of each
There are also statues of Lord Munishwara’s vahanas (vehicles) in the form of an elephant, a dog and five horses.
Pachaiamman means ‘Green Mother’ and there are several stories connected
with this Goddess which explains the history of her name. In one story,
the sage Gautama Rishi in preparation to receive the Goddess at his
Arunachala Ashram (believed to be located at the place that the now
Pavala Kundru Temple is situated) arranged a ‘parnasala’ (a holy seat).
For this purpose durbai grass was used (a variety of pale yellow green
grass used for yagnas). When the Goddess arrived and came to the
‘parnasala’, the durbai changed colour from the pale yellow-green to an
Another story of how the Goddess received the name Pachaiamman, is that
during her journey from Kanchi to Arunachala, while staying at
Vazhapanthal, Amman sat under a covering of lush green banana leaves –
hence her name.
Part of the various works at Pachaiamman Temple have been the elevation
on the eastside of the mahamandapam including the construction of 6
pillars and 150 statues and the creation of God statues at the Water
Tank inside the Temple Compound.
Other work (which has been partly funded by the Shantimalai Trust,
includes; tiling for weather protection on top of the Temple’s concrete
roof, grills throughout the Mandapam, elevation work on the north, west
and south sides of the Temple. A Community Hall (for marriages and
functions) has also been developed next to the Temple’s Water Tank. The
local Panchayat has agreed to construct a new, shorter roadway to the
Temple thereby giving easier access to pilgrims and eliminating the need
for them to climb the current long steep hill to Pachaiamman Kovil.
Pachaiamman Temple and Sri Ramana Maharshi
In 1905 when there was a plague crisis in Tiruvannamalai, Ramana
Maharshi moved to Pachaiamman Kovil for six months during the worst of
the epidemic and returned to the caves on the south side of Arunachala
when the plague crisis was over. Again between January and March, 1908
Ramana Maharshi returned to Pachaiamman Kovil and lived there with
Ganapathi Muni and others for that period.
When asked how the goddess got the name Pachaiamman, Sri Ramana said,
“Pachai means emerald colour. When Parvati came to Gautamasrama to
perform austerities to appease Iswara, her form was of emerald colour
and she performed austerities at that place. Then, it is said that she
went around the Hill, stayed at several places at different times
continuing her austerities, and finally merged into Siva as half of His
body and came to be known as ‘Apita Kuchamba’.”
It is recorded that Sri Ramana would visit this temple for oil baths. On
one such occasion around 1915 or 1916, the Maharshi, Palaniswami,
Vasudeva Sastri and others left Virupaksha Cave and proceeded to
Pachaiamman Kovil taking oil and soap-nut powder for an oil bath, as
facilities for such a bath were ample at that place.
It was on the way back from such a trip than Ramana had his ‘second death experience’ at Turtle rock.