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Of serenity and spirituality

Enveloped in an ambience of spirituality, Thiruvannamalai is one of the most serene destinations in Tamil Nadu. Part 13 of an Outlook special on lesser-known destinations in the state.

Thiruvannamalai is a destination that is steeped in history and spirituality. From temple trails to serene scenery, Thiruvannamalai has it all. 

Temple trails 
The Annamalaiyar Temple makes Thiruvannamalai a sought-after spiritual tourism destination. Lord Shiva, worshipped here in the form of a lingam, is believed to be present as Agni while Goddess Parvati is worshipped as Unnamulaiyamman. Spread over 10 hectares, Arunachaleshwar is one of the largest temples in India and has the tallest gopuram in the country, standing at 66 metres. 

A monthly ritual on all full moon days is held at the temple where lakhs gather at Thiruvannamalai for a 14-km-long holy walk around the temple, covering the Ashtalingams, each lingam standing for health, wellbeing and wellness. 

Sri Ramana Ashram and Sri Seshadri Swamigal Ashram are other important tourist spots. Sri Ramana Ashram, about 3 kilometres from the railway station, was home to the modern sage and Advaita Vedanta master Ramana Maharshi. His samadhi continues to attract devotees. Just about 100 metres away is the Sri Seshadri Swamigal Ashram that marks the samadhi of the “Saint with a golden hand”, who was born in Kanchipuram, but predominantly lived in Thiruvannamalai. 

Sri Varadharaja Perumal Temple in Injimedu is another important temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Various yagnas were performed in this village for Lord Perumal leading to it being called Yagnamedu, later colloquialised to Injimedu.

Brahmotsavam, the celebration of four prime festivals between November and December each year, is a beautiful time to visit. One of the biggest attractions is the celebration of Karthikai Deepam, a festival of lights. In Thiruvannamalai, lakhs look forward to and attend the lighting of the Maha Deepam -  a five-foot tall deepam containing three tonnes of ghee which is lit in the temple atop the hill. This lighting of the lamp is attended by lakhs of devotees and watched by many more from the surrounding areas.

Serene scenery
The area also has some beautiful scenic sights.  The Javadhu Hills, an extension of the Eastern Ghats spread across parts of Vellore and Thiruvannamalai districts, is a still-unexplored tourist destination.  This range is bisected into eastern and western sections by the Cheyyar and Agaram rivers. Bluish-grey granite peaks averaging 3,600–3,800 feet, these hills are sparsely populated and inhabited predominantly by Malayali tribespeople. 

Another significant spot is Parvathamalai, located near Thenmathimangalam village, about 20 kilometres from Polur. The hill is home to the Lord Mallikarjunaswamy temple, which is believed to be 2000 years old. The other significance of this hill is that it is rich in herbal plants. 

If you are in the area, a day trip to Sathanur dam, some 35 kilometres from Thiruvannamalai, is highly recommended. Ideal for pleasant picnics, the area also has a crocodile farm and mini zoo. Two more attractions are situated a short distance away - Padaveedu village or the village of temples and Javadu Hills. 

By itself, Sathanur Dam is a stunning engineering marvel. Built on the river Thenpennai, the reservoir is called the Sathanur Reservoir. Strikingly beautiful during monsoons, this has been a favourite spot for many feature films. 

Getting there
By flight: Chennai, 172 kilometres away, is the nearest airport.
By rail: Tiruvannamalai has its own railway station and is connected to all major cities.
By road: The city is well connected by road to all major cities in south India. 

Hotel Tamil Nadu
Polur Road, Thiruvannamalai - 606 601
Contact: 9176995816

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