This temple offered to Lord Shiva was built by Vijayanagara Kings between the 16th and the 17th centuries. The temple is renowned for its gigantic gopurams (towers). The 11 tier main East Rajagopuram is to a height of 217 feet, while the protected walls perforated with 4 gopura entrances offer an impressive look to this great temple complex . The other three gopurams are: Pei Gopuram, Tirumanjana Gopuram and Ammanaiammal gopuram . Each of the Prakarams (Hall way) has a huge Nandi and several towers such as the Vallala Maharaja Gopuram and Kili Gopuram. The 1000 pillared hall and the temple tank were built by Emperor Krishna Deva Rayar of Vijayanagara. It is one of the 'Panchabhootha' sthalam (five basic elements of the cosmic) and it is representing fire. The other places representing five elements are - Tiruvanaikavil (Appu sthalam - Water) Kanchipuram (Prithvi sthalam - Earth) Kalahasti (Vayu sthalam - Air) Chidambaram (Akasa sthalam - Space)
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Thiruvannamalai is home for the Annamalaiyar Temple situated at the foot of the Annamalai Hill and amongst one of the great Siva Temples of Tamil Nadu. The Saiva sect is a world phenomenon and Thiruvannamalai is the headquarters of Saivism. In Tamil Nadu there are 275 sacred places (Temples of Lord Siva) which were admired by 'Thevaram' (Sacred hymns) and were entitled "Thirumurai Thalangal". Out of these sacred places twenty two are found in Nadu Naadu (Heart of Tamil Nadu ). Thiruvannamalai is the most sacred place of these twenty two. Annamalai Annal is the most sacred of the names of the materialization of Lord Siva.
The Siva Puranam, a sacred book of saivaites, spots out four sacred places for obtaining salvation. Thiruvannamalai is one of them. The importance of this place is that by mere commemoration of Lord Siva (Arunachaleswarar) at Thiruvannamalai gives salvation to all souls. Saint poets Sundarar, Thirunavukkarasar etc., have visited Temples in Thiruvannamalai, worshiped the Lord Siva and have composed divine poems. Saint Manickavasagar had composed "Thiruvempavai - 20" and "Thiruvammanai". Even today, you can find a temple for Saint Manickavasagar on the Girivalam path at Adi-Annamalai.