Lord Shiva is worshipped as “Agni lingam” at this sthala – Tiruvannamalai . Lord Arunachaleswarar and Goddess Apithakuchamba are the main deities.
As per mythology, once Goddess Parvati closes Lord Shiva’s eyes with her hands (playfully) in Kailasam. The whole universe was devoid of light and in darkness. The Goddess then performs a penance, and is reunited with Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva takes the form of a column of fire atop the Annamalai hills thereby returning light to the world. It is thus accepted that the form Lord Shiva embodies at this sthala is fire. His resplendent form dispels darkness and drives away ignorance.
The Kriti composed in Raga Saranga, begins with the pallavi as a prayer. The anupallavi describes the Lord and the temple and caraNam brings out the greatness of the Agni lingam and the kshetram.
अरुणाचल नाथं – सारङ्गा – रूपकं
अरुणाचल नाथं स्मरामि अनिषं
अपीत कुचांब समेतम्
स्मरणात्कैवल्य प्रद चरणारविन्दं
तरुणादित्य कोटि संकाष चिदानन्दं
करुणा रसादि कन्दं सरनागत सुरबृन्दम्
अप्राकृत तेजोमय लिङ्गं
अद्याद्भुत करधृत सारङ्गं
अप्रमेयं अपर्णब्ज भृङ्गं
आरूढोत्तुङ्ग वृश तुरङ्गं
वीर गुरुगुह तारप्रसङ्गं
स्वप्रदीप मौलि विधृत गङ्गं
स्वप्रकाष जित सोमाग्नि पतङ्गं
aruNAcala nAthaM smarAmi aniSaM
apIta kucAmba samEtam
Dikshitar says “I always (“aniSaM”) meditate (“smarAmi”) upon Lord of Arunachala, the one who is with his consort (“samEtam”) apIta kucAmba”.
The pallavi is simple, yet very beautiful. Dikshitar indicates very clearly as to which Lord this composition is dedicated to and who the Goddess is. He defines the kshetra in the opening few lines of the Kriti. The word Arunachala means the “mountain of fire” or “red (aruna) mountain (acala)”. Dikshitar uses possibly the apt word to describe the presence of Lord Shiva as an embodiment of fire residing in this mountain.
smaraNAt kaivalya prada caraNAravindaM
taruNAditya kOTi saMkASa cidAnandaM
karuNA rasAdi kandaM SaraNAgata surabRndam
Dikshitar describes the power of the Lord as “The one with the lotus feet (“caraNa”+”aravindam”), just the thought of which (“smaraNAt”) bestows (“prada”) salvation (“kaivalya”). The one who is the embodiment of pure bliss consciousness (“cidAnandam”) and the one who is as resplendent as a million (“kOTi”) young (“taruNa”) suns (“Aditya”). The one who is the root (“kandam”) of the essence (“rasa”) of all mercy (“karuNA”) and the one unto whom hordes (“bRndam”) of celestials (“sura”) surrender (“SaraNAgata”)”.
Dikshitar starts the anupallavi with “smaraNAt”. It rhymes with the “aruNA” in the pallavi and sets the base for him to use the subsequent rhythmic words in the anupallavi such as “taruNA, karuNA and caraNA”.
Dikshitar emphasizes on the Shakti of the Lord at this kshetra and His ability to grant salvation to the ones who meditate upon him. Great saints such as Bhagwan Ramana maharshi who was led to this sthala by a jyothi are testimony to this. Dikshitar also uses a beautiful contra-position in the anupallavi – though the Kriti is about the Lord being in an Agni form (which signifies energy and ugra), he describes the Lord as an ocean of compassion by bringing in karuNA rasa.
aprAkRta tEjOmaya lingaM
adyAdbhuta karadhRta sAraNgaM
apramEyaM aparNAbja bhRngaM
ArUDhottunga vRsha turangaM
vIra guruguha tAraprasangaM
svapradIpa mauli vidhRta gangaM
svaprakASa jita sOmAgni patangam
Dikshitar progresses in the caranam to describe the Lord as “the effulgent (“tEjOmaya”) lingam which does not have a beginning (“aprAkRta”) and the one who wields a deer (“sAraNgam”) in his wonderful (“adyAdbhuta”) hands (“kara”). The one who is immeasurable (“apramEyam”) and the one who hovers over the lotus (pArvati) (“aparNa”+”abja”) like a bee (“bhRngam”). The one mounts (“ArUDhottunga”) the sacred bull (“vRsha”) as his vehicle (“turangam”)”.
The madhyama kala sahityam beautifully describes the Lord as “the one who is the superior special (“viSEsha”) inner conscience (“antarangam”) of the scholarly and the learned (“vipra”) and the one who is dear to the valorous (“vIra”) Lord Karthikeya (“guruguha”), the one who explained the praNava mantra (“prasangaM”). The self-luminous one (“sva”+”pradIpa”) who wears (“vidhRta”) the Ganges (“gangam”) and the moon (“mauli”) on his head. The one whose luster (“prakASa”) is superior to (“jita”) to the moon (“sOma”), the fire (“agni”) and the sun (“patangam”)”.
Dikshitar describes the “immeasurable nature” of the lingam and the resplendence of the Lord in this form to be superior to all sources of light (sun, moon, stars and fire) that humans are usually exposed to. Dikshitar brilliantly employs the rAga mudra by referring to the physical design of the Lord at this kshetra and brings in the composer mudra by referring to Lord subrahmanya as the one who expounded the ‘Pranava’ to His father. Dikshitar employs his best creativity and genius and brings in the references to fire and light – anisham, tarunaditya, tejomayalingam, svapradIpa, svaprakasha, soma, agni, patanga in this brilliant composition.