In South India Shaivism adherents are more in number compared to the Vaishnavas and therefore you will find more temples dedicated to Lord Shiva here. Out of these several Shiva temples, five temples known as "Panchabootha Sthalas" are of great importance. These temples represent the five different Panchbhoot elements - Earth, Air, Water, Fire and Universe. Arunachaleswara temple or Annamalaiyar temple, which is located at the Foothills of Annamalai hill range in the town of Thiruvannamalai is one of these Panchbhoot Sthalas and represents the element Fire.
It is believed that this temple was built in 9th century AD. Arunachaleswara temple complex is spread over an area of 10 hectares. Arunachaleswarar temple is one of the largest temples in India and it has four Gopurams out of which one Gopuram - The Rajagopuram stands apart with eleven stories and a height of 66 meters. In fact, it is the tallest Gopuram in India as well. This tower which is made of granite was built by King Krishnadevraya. Arunachaleswara temple has got many shrines and halls in it. The main hall of Arunachaleswarar temple is known as "Deepa Darshan Mandapa".
According to legends, Shiva's consort Parvathi once closed her eyes playfully in the garden of Kailash and the whole universe darkened. To remove darkness, Shiva appeared as a flame of fire at the top of a hill. That hill itself is considered as a lingam now and is associated with Thiruvannamalai temple. During each full moon day Annamalai hill is swelled by around one million pilgrims who perform Girivalam and worship Annamalaiyar in the temple.