NE OF THE MOST sacred cities of Tamil Nadu, this pilgrim town is the place where Shiva is believed to have appeared as a column of fire (sthavara linga) in order to assert his supremacy over Brahma and Vishnu. Arunachala Hill (the “Red i Mountain”), which forms 1 a backdrop to the town, is said to be the site where the fire manifested itself, and is thus perceived as the light of god himself. On the day of the Karthigai Deepen festival¬† an enormous deep (lamp), using 2,000 litres (528 gallons) of ghee and a 30-m (98-ft) wide wick, is lit on the hill, and burns for days. On a full moon night, mile) long circumambulation on foot around the hill.

Arunachaleshvara Temple, the town’s most Important structure, is one of the five elemental shrines of Shiva, where the linga , encased in gold, represents fibre. Covering a vast area of to ha (25 acres), this is also One of the largest temple complexes in India, parts of it doting to the 11th century. It has nine imposing towers, huger prakaras (walled and loistered enclosures), the large Shivaganga Tank and a vast thousand-pillared hall. Tiruvannamalai is also where Sri Ramana Maharishi, the famed 20th-century saint, spent 23 years in meditation. Sri Ramana Maharishi Ashram, near Arunachala Hill is an internationally tenowned spiritual centre that Attracts devotees from all alks of life.

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