Arunachaleshwar temple at Thiruvanamallai is one of the biggest and grandest Shaivite temple in South India. The temple has four stately towers on all the four sides and four high stone walls just like the rampart walls of a fort. The eastern tower is called the Rajagopuram and is the highest. The southern tower is called Thirumanjanagopuram, the western one is called Peygopuram and the northern one is called Ammaniammagopuram. The temple occupies an area of about 25 acres of land and is one of the biggest in South India. The walls on the east and west measure 700 feet each. The southern wall is 1479 feet long and north wall is 1590 feet. The Rajagopuram, which adorns the east gateway is 217 feet high with 11 storeys, its base measure 135 feet by 98 feet. There are five inner rounds and the temple is said to have seven prakaras.The fifth prakaram (enclosure)
One enters the temple by the main gate in front of the sanctum. Before entering the eastern gate we see the sixteen-pillared mandapam and the four-pillared mandapam. When we pass the eastern tower gate we see the Gopura Ganapathi. To the south there is the sacred tank called Sivaganga Theertham. In the south-east corner is the fifth prakaram. The Siddhi Vinayagar shrine is found in the north-west side of the tank. To the west of the tank is the Theerthawarimantapam. There is Mangalavinayagar Sannidhi in the fifth Southern prakaram and Thiruvarul Vilasa Mantapam just to the west of the south tower. There is the Kothala Vinayagar shrine in the western prakaram. Between Sivaganga Tank and thousand pillared mantapam there are the Rudrakshamantapam and the Big Nandhi mantapam.
The fourth prakaram (enclosure)
On crossing the tower gate we enter the fourth prakaram. To the left there is the kala bhairava shrine and the temple tank called Brahma Theertham. To the right is the Puravi Mantapam and the Sakthi Vilasam in which religious discourses are held. To the north of the Brahma Teertham are the shrines of
Neeleshwar, Vigneshwar, Vidyadhareshwara and Brahmalinga.Connecting the fifth and fourth prakarams there are short tower-gates (Kattai Gopuram) on the southen, western and northern sides. In the south-western corner of the fourth prakaram there are the Amavasya Mantapam, Vinayagar Shrine and what is called Sthula-Sukshma temple. To its north there is the Tirupatha Koil. In the north western corner of the Thirupatha Koil there is the Karthigai Mantapam and Subramanya Shrine. On the new moon day Shree Chandrasekara Swami is taken to the Amavasya Mantapam and Lord Subramanya to Krithigai Mantapam on the Krithigai day.
The third prakaram (enclosure)
From the fourth prakaram we go to the third prakaram. For this we have to cross what is called the Kili Gopuram (parrot-tower) gate in the east. Before entering this tower-gate we see on both sides the shrines of Yanaithiraikonda Vinayagar, Subramaniar, Bairawar. Just in front of this entrance there is a sixteen pillared mandapam called the
Katchi Mantapam. The five deities (Panchmurthis) are brought to this mantapam during the grand annual Karthigai festival.To the south of the Katchimantapam there are the storeroom, temple kitchen and pannirmantapam and in the north we see Vasanthamantapam (used as Devasthanam Office). Yagasala, and the shrines dedicated to Kalatheeswaras, Chidambraeswara, Ekambareswarar and Jumbudeswarar. Thus we have all the panchastalas in the Arunachalam temple. In the third southern prakaram there are the Mahila trees sacred to this shrine, and the Tirukalyana Mantapam and Bhimeswarar and Vigneswarar Shrines. Just near the west gate connecting the third and fourth prakarams there is the shrine of Arunagiri Yogeeswarar which is a very good place for meditation.The separate temple for Unnamalai Nayaki or Abidhakujambal is situated in the north western portion of the third prakaram. In the Mahamantapam in front of the Arthamantapam of this shrine we see the image of Kalanthagar, Veenadharar,Veerabadrar, Adilakshmi, Santhanalakshmi, Gahalakshmi, Dhanalakshmi, Dhanyalakshmi, Vijayalakshmi, Arswaryalakshmi, Veeralakshmi, Rudra Durga, Mahasakthi and Saraswathi. In the front mantapam there are also the shrines of Vijayaraghava, Vinayagar, Navagrahams and Chitraputhrar. Behind the sanctum-sanctorum we see the parasakthiamman, Vigneshwarar, Cholalingam and Cheralingam.Inside the Garbhagraha we see the charming and graceful Goddess Unnamalai Amman, the inseparable partner of Sri Arunachaleswara. The Sanskrit name for the Goddess is Abidhakujambal.After worshipping at Unnamalai Amman's shrine we come to the third eastern prakaram. Facing east at the extreme south and extreme north there are the shrines of Sambanda Vinayagar and Palaniandavar.
The second prakaram
On both sides of the entrance of the second prakaram we see Ganpathi and Subramaniam and the Dwarapalakars (Gate keepers). Taking leave of Adhikara Nandikeswarar in the passage we enter into the second prakaram. In the
north we see Isanyalingam and all Utasavamurthis (festival idols) and in the south there is Indra Lingam. On all three sides of the second prakaram there are a number of deities.