The Skanda Mahapurana and a portion from the Linga Purana were translated into Tamil verse by Saiva Ellappa Naavalar, who lived about three hundred years ago during the reign of the Tanjore Nayaks. Running to 649 verses, this work is known as Arunachala Puranam. It is an exquisite original composition and enjoys the status of a Sthala Purana (in Tamil) on the 'story' of holy Arunachala (Tiruvannamalai).

Origin of the Hill
HERE at Arunachala, Siva shines forth as the Yogi Supreme, with his forehead smeared with three lines of sacred ashes and adorned by a patch of musk, clad in a loincloth, wearing a brilliant garland, the invincible serpent on his body and the crescent moon on his head. Vyasa said: The holy men of Naimisaranya asked Suta: We desire to know from you about the greatness of Arunachala, please tell us. Suta thereupon described it as follows:

In former times Sanaka asked Brahma the same question. I shall repeat what Brahma narrated to Sanaka. Listen attentively: Now I shall describe how Siva, the Ocean of Grace, manifested as Arunachala, the Light of Consciousness. From the Supreme Effulgence which is the Eternal Siva, Narayana (Vishnu) and I were born in accordance with His desire. Both of us manifested spontaneously. Once, out of egoism, we engaged in an argument and started a fight. Seeing the terrible rage into which we had fallen while quarrelling, the Lord reflected: Why should there be a destructive fight between these two, as to who is greater? If I do not reveal myself immediately to both and stop their fight, the world will cease to exist. These two who have in their anger lost their senses, do not know the Vedic truth that my glory transcends everything. Each creature considers itself superior to every other creature. The ignorant who cannot realize and concede equality or superiority of another must necessarily suffer defeat and fall. I shall reveal myself in a definite form somewhere in the world, so that even a mean human being can attain me the moment he thinks of me.

Having so decided, the Eternal Siva manifested Himself as a Column of fire before us. The Column transcended all the worlds and its limits could not be perceived. Blinded by the sight, both of us stood still. We became confused and unnerved on seeing that blazing Column of Effulgence. Then there arose a voice in the air: Children, why do you fight? Siva alone knows your strength and weakness. The form of Sambhu has now appeared before you as a Column of Effulgence. He who finds out the beginning or the end of it is the greater of the two. Upon hearing these words we stopped fighting. To discover the limits of Sambhu in the shape of a beginningless and endless Column of fire, one of us decided to trace the beginning and the other the end. Like a child who tries to seize the moon reflected in water, each of us began to measure the Supreme Effulgence in order to understand it. For this purpose, Vishnu in the form of a huge boar began to dig the earth vigorously to find the lower end. I took the shape of a swan and soared swiftly to find its summit. Madhava (Vishnu) bored into the earth and went beyond, but found that the Column of fire went still lower. Even after seeking for millions of years it was not possible to find out the source of that beginningless Column of fire. Therefore Vishnu became dispirited and discouraged. He was weary and tired and he was forced to return.

Then Vishnu, whose intelligence is immeasurable, sought refuge in Siva, the Universal Refuge and began to think thus: Ah! On account of my immense stupidity caused by my ego I forgot the Supreme Self, my Lord. He is truly the Supreme Siva, the source of all the devas, the Vedas and the worlds. I was born out of Him who is beginningless and endless. Assuming the form of a brute I tried to gauge Siva who is of such greatness. By the Grace of Sambhu, Self-knowledge has dawned on me.

When Lord Sambhu chooses to protect someone, the person will immediately and spontaneously lose his ego and gain wisdom. I am no longer strong enough to worship the Universal Guru. Therefore I shall surrender unto Him. Vishnu praised Siva in this manner, meditated upon Him, and by the Grace of the Lord, he regained the surface of the earth.

As for me, I was flying for many years until my eyes became dim and my wings tired. The splendid Effulgence of Siva in the form of a linga of Light rose higher and higher. Siddhas who found me trying to reach the immeasurable top of the Supreme Effulgence exclaimed: Ah! this is nothing but ignorance. He is still putting forth his efforts. Even when the body is about to fall the ego does not fade away. Even though his wings are broken and weary and his eyes dim, he is bound by the vain delusion that he can discover the limits of the limitless Effulgence. Vishnu who became similarly despondent, regained good sense by Siva's spontaneous grace and retraced his steps. If a finite being desires to realize the Effulgence which is the origin of Brahma and the devas, he should dive within himself and meditate on Siva, the Supreme Self, who will give him knowledge so that his ego will vanish. On hearing these kind words I became humble and began to reflect thus:

Knowledge of Siva can be attained only through Siva's Grace, not through the Vedas, nor austerities, nor dips in holy waters. Even though my wings are tired and my limbs too weak to move, my mind desires to nourish the ego. Alas! Always active and dependant upon the strength of the non-self, I have become despicable. My salutations to the siddhas who have fixed their minds upon Siva. I shall associate with them and perform austerities. I shall turn my mind inwards and realize this Effulgence of Siva which appears in front of me. The devas have conquered their enemies by worshipping Siva and have crowned themselves with glory. Even the great Vedic mantras do not throw light on His Reality. Therefore I shall seek refuge with Siva. I came into being through devotion to Siva who wears the crescent moon. Ah! How strange that with the egos born of Siva, both Vishnu and I fought each other, and that Sankara Himself revealed His greatness and humbled our pride! He who worships the Eternal Siva, who is the Lord worshipped by the devas as this column of Light of Consciousness, realizes Siva, and serves as a boat to cross the ocean of samsara.

Parvathi's Penance at Kanchi
Sanaka addressed Brahma thus: O Bhagavan! Having obtained the grace of Siva through you, it has been possible for me to hear with joy the glory of Arunachala. I now understand that the beginningless and endless Siva himself stands as the Aruna Hill in order to grant the devotee the fruits of his penance, that the Hill destroys all sins and that one obtains Liberation by merely uttering 'Arunachala' once. All desires are fulfilled when one stands before it. All tendencies (vasanas) are destroyed. The very name 'Siva' is nectar. Repeating the name is itself worship of Siva. Pray, tell me, who else worshipped Arunachala, the bestower of boons? On hearing this, Brahma, the Lord of the celestial beings, mentally prayed to the Lord of Arunachala, the embodiment of compassion, and resumed his narrative:

Child! I shall now narrate how in days of yore, the Universal Mother, Goddess Parvati sought and won the left-half of Her Lord, Arunachala. Once on Mount Kailas, it was spring time and the place was filled with the balm, incense and scent of beautiful flowers. Bees swarmed and hummed among the hanging clusters of flowers. Peacocks spread out their colourful feathers dancing to the tune of humming bees. Elephants and lions, natural enemies, strolled about in harmony and contentment. Sages chanted hymns from the Rig, the Yajus and the Sama Vedas, the last mentioned being most dear to Siva. Brahmarishis and Rajarishis were deeply absorbed in the Self, while devas, siddhas, ganas, the protectors of the quarters and holy devotees of Siva wearing sacred ash and rudraksha beads stood in prayerful attitude. Hosts of Apsaras (celestial damsels) sang and danced to the accompaniment of the sweet-sounding veena (a stringed musical instrument), the venu (the flute), the mridangam (a small drum) and other musical instruments. Lord Siva and Parvati, the Universal Parents, sat on their throne in all their glory, pouring their Grace on their children who were worshipping them.

Devas, rishis and other hosts of devotees, after being granted the boons they desired, prayerfully took leave of their Lord. Now Lord Siva rejoiced in the company of Goddess Uma (Parvati) on the snow-clad peaks of the Himalayan mountains. A cool and refreshing breeze from the rivers below wafted gently, carrying with it the sweet scent of flowers from the plains. In a joyous mood the Goddess, who thought that Her Lord's attention was entirely centred on Her, slipped behind Him and playfully covered the three eyes of Sambhu with Her lotus-like hands, and asked, 'Tell me, who is it?' As soon as the three eyes representing the Moon, the Sun and the Fire of Knowledge were covered, a dismal darkness spread over the universe. It lasted for millions of years because half a moment for Siva is aeons for us. The darkness produced by the playfulness of the Goddess proved to be the cause of the untimely dissolution of the worlds, for in the dense darkness no activities were possible and consequently, living beings perished without giving birth to new generations. The devas became inert and the Vedas could not be chanted. By this unforeseen darkness cause and effects were nullified. Seeing this state of affairs, the ever glorious siddhas by their yogic powers discovered the cause, but could not comprehend the divine play of the Lord.

The siddhas prayed to Sambhu with devotion and addressed Him thus: "Glory to Sambhu, the origin of the universe and the Supreme Immanent Being. The power (sakti) which is not apart from you sportfully creates, sustains and dissolves the universe. She (Sakti) is half of you. Siva and Sakti together constitute a single form.

The great Lord is One. There is nothing different from you. An untimely deluge has now overtaken the worlds on account of the Goddess' sport. But your compassion is infinite. May it reveal itself now for the well-being of the universe. Therefore, O Sadasiva! (Eternal Siva), Kala! Embodiment of time), Embodiment of Compassion! Be merciful. Pray, stop this sport! In response to this prayer of devotees and siddhas, Siva commanded: 'Gowri! Leave my eyes alone'. Immediately the Goddess removed Her hands from Siva's eyes. Light pervaded the worlds. On asking the siddhas who stood in an attitude of worship, as to how much time had elapsed, they replied, 'Half a second for Thee, but millions of years for us.' On hearing this the Lord turned with a smile to his beloved and graciously spoke some words on dharma and artha: 'Gowri, how can you be so thoughtless! You who are the Mother of the world have been the cause for its dissolution. O, how can you, the very embodiment of love and compassion, cause pain to your children?'

On hearing Sambhu's words of reproach, Uma, stricken with remorse, pleaded with Him to advise Her as to the course to be adopted for expiation of this fault of hers. At this Lord Siva was pleased with the repentance and devotion of the Goddess and said: 'What penance can you perform without me? All dharma, Srutis (Vedas), Smritis (scriptures based on the Vedas), karmas (rituals), kalpas (code of virtues), various branches of learning, the devas, etc., are all your forms only. You who symbolise my power and who desire to recreate the world are not different from myself. Goddess! The timeless Vedas declare you to be the All. Therefore I shall prescribe a penance for you in accordance with prevailing practice. I cannot remain without you even for a moment. Being the universal Self, I shall myself go through the austerities. Let the entire world become sacred by the glory of your penance. People will be relieved of all troubles by surrendering at your lotus feet. By having your darshan when you perform austerities and by association with you they (the devotees) will get sanctified. May you perform meritorious acts for the welfare of all creation. People will acquire firm faith in dharma by seeing you performing penance. There is no doubt about it. Your grace shall sustain the earth and its dharma.

'The city known as Kanchipuri is heaven on earth. A little penance done there yields boundless results. Even devas, saints and others desire to live there. There flows the holy river, the Kampa which washes away the sins of all the people living in its vicinity. At that place there is a divine mango tree which is always shady, full of leaves and fruit. Homas (fire offerings), japas (repetition of sacred names), and the least good action performed under its shade yield boundless merit. May the many groups of celestial beings headed by Vishnu surround and worship you. I shall also remain there in the lotus of your heart in my formless state as the Absolute Pure Being. Therefore you need not suffer the pangs of separation from me.' On hearing this the Goddess with Her companions proceeded at once to the holy city of Kanchipuram situated on the banks of the Kampa to do penance. There She saw the pure and holy waters of the Kampa worshipped by hosts of sages and a magnificent mango tree full of fruits and flowers among which koels sang and sported. Amidst such a beautiful setting the Goddess meditated on Her Lord.

Her body tortured by the pang of separation from Her Lord, immediately became emaciated as if She had been performing penance for a long time. Turning to Vijaya, one of the maids who stood near Her, Goddess Gowri, in uncontrollable sorrow spoke thus: 'Those who perform austerities with the object of worshipping Siva directly seek this sin-destroying mango tree and always live here. This well-known Ekamra (lit., a mango tree which bears just a single fruit) increases my pain of separation. How am I to bear this? The sure remedy for this must be to remember and concentrate in the heart on Chandramouleeswara (the wearer of the crescent moon).' At this Vijaya bowed devotedly to Ambika and praised Siva fervently in order that the Goddess regain Her composure.

She said: 'Oh Devi! You will not be abandoned by Siva at any time. For, you are His very life and the Supreme Sakti. It is only when you desire to spread out your maya (power of illusion), that the Lord, though always one with you, appears to be separate. You have come here at the command of Sambhu to worship Him and you cannot transgress it. You may perform tapas in this temple erected by Siva without any rituals (karmas). Moreover, as you are yourself the world, the protection of the world is in your power. You will again join Siva and uphold dharma. That being so, Parvati, how can you feel the pain of separation? Devotee of dharma, may your religious observances become known to the world and set an example to your devotees.'

On hearing her maid speak thus, Gowri continued to practise austerities on the banks of the Kampa. She discarded Her fine clothes and ornaments and wore the bark of a tree as garment and beads of rudraksha. Her entire body was smeared with sacred ash. She subsisted on corn picked by herself. The name of Siva was always on Her lips. Thrice a day She bathed in the Kampa, lovingly shaped its sand into a linga and devoutly worshipped it with leaves as traditionally prescribed. The Goddess observed the dharma of alleviating the misery of all creatures thus showering Her compassion on Her children. In summer She surrounded herself with fire, lay on the bare ground in the rainy season and stood in ice-cold water in winter. She respectfully welcomed the holy sages (Maharshis) who came to pay homage to Her. The sages were struck with wonder at Her austerities.

One day, Parvati collected flowers from the forest and began to worship a linga made of sand on the bank of the Kampa. Siva, to reveal to the world Her devotion to Him, made the waters of the river Kampa suddenly rise and overflow its banks. Seeing the spate of the river, Her companions raised an alarm, whereupon the Devi opened Her eyes and saw the approaching flood. Distressed at the danger to Her worship, She at once embraced the linga lest it dissolve. She then addressed Her maids, 'What is to be done? Worship ought not be discontinued, come what may. In this world, only those blessed ones who have acquired merit can reap the benefits of their good deeds and establish dharma which is capable of fulfilling one's desires.

This Sivalinga is made of sand. It will dissolve in this flood. Should this happen, a true devotee of the Lord cannot bear it. This flood has risen through the maya of Siva to test the sincerity of my devotion. I shall continue without the least fear. Friends! Go away quickly!' Saying this, Parvati though surrounded by the fast rising waters, devoutly adored the linga clasped to Her breast and with open eyes meditated on Sadasiva with one-pointed devotion.

Then a divine voice was heard: O child, noblest of beings! This great flood has subsided. You can now let go of the linga. This linga worshipped by you will achieve everlasting fame as the one worshipped by the gods and will be capable of granting boons. May your penance be successful! May the human beings who have darshan and worship this linga installed for the upkeep of dharma attain their lives' goal! I myself shine on this earth in the form of the Effulgent Arunachala for the liberation of mortals. The name signifies that the accumulated sins of the worlds will completely vanish at the sight of it. Rishis, siddhas, gandharvas, yogis, etc., come to Arunachala and fervently worship it, forsaking even the peaks of Kailash and Mount Meru. You may go there and learn from the Sage Gautama about devotion to me and the glory of Arunachala and perform further penance. I shall reveal to you my Effulgent form there in order that all sins of the world may be destroyed and may prosper.

On hearing these words of Siva, the Devi said, "So be it", and got ready to leave at once for Arunachala. Turning to the rishis who desired to follow Her, She said, "Devas! Rishis resolute in religious observances! Remain where you are. Perform your austerities on the bank of the sacred Kampa. This linga of sand which removes all sins and brings all kinds of prosperity bears the marks of my embrace. Worship it. Let my devotees know that I shall be known as Kamakshi as I fulfil all their desires and bless them. Let them also worship me and obtain the boons they desire. I am entirely under the control of Sambhu, the Lord of the devas. I shall therefore go to Arunachala and carry out His command. After I have performed penance there and obtained the grace of Sambhu you may come and see me."

Gowri Arrives at Arunachala
AS narrated previously, Gowri at Her Lord's bidding came to Arunachala. There She worshipped with great fervour the Effulgent Lord along with Her companions to the sound of divine dundhubis accompanied by the dancing of apsaras. As a result of worshipping the motionless Linga in such a rigorous manner She became emaciated. On arrival, the Goddess saw siddhas, yogis, rishis and devas dwelling there. The devas said, "Atri, Bhrigu, Bharadwaja, Kasyapa, Angirasa, Kutsa, Gautama and siddhas, vidhyadharas and devas perform severe penances here for the fulfillment of their wishes. The Ganga and other sacred rivers worship this Linga-Hill. This is the noble and divine Linga known as Arunadri."

The Maharshis prayed to Her to be their guest, but She expressed Her desire to see Gautama first, as per Siva's command. So they directed Her to his ashram.

Gautama, foremost among sages, had gone out into the forest in the morning to procure flowers and other articles for worship. Devi went to his hermitage where She was received by his disciples with great respect and hospitality. With humility they entreated Her to wait a little for the sage and sat around Her.

Gautama returning from the forest with paraphernalia used for performing rituals, saw from a distance his ashram glow in resplendent beauty and wondered as to its cause. He then divined through his yogic powers that this was due to the arrival of Gowri. He hastened with great eagerness and joy to welcome the Mother of the Universe. His disciples came to meet him and informed him about Gowri's arrival. The elated Maharshi foresaw in the visit of the Goddess the fruition of his austerities.

Goddess Gowri came forward to welcome Gautama. Years of rigorous tapas had endowed him with a radiant countenance. Sporting a flowing white beard and red-brown rudraksha beads, smeared with sacred ash and clad in bark, the sage reached the front yard of the ashram chanting Vedic mantras dear to Rudra. His voice was deep and resonant, and his words brimmed with love and compassion like that of Siva himself. The Sage resembled the sun, such was his lustre and benevolence. On seeing this great sage coming with his band of disciples, Uma, full of divine grace, Her slim body resembling a creeper folded Her hands respectfully and made obeisance to the Sage. When Gautama saw the Mother of the worlds bowing to him, he restrained Her from doing so and himself bowed to Her. He said: 'Gowri! Welcome! Auspicious Mother of the Universe! Ocean of Mercy! You seem to have come here for performing tapas, and yet you shower grace upon your devotees. O Adorable Goddess, but for a play of maya how can the universe come into existence! It is impossible for anyone to comprehend or describe fully your maya.' Saying this the old sage welcomed Ambika.

With humility and respect he offered Her a seat woven of sacred grass and water for washing Her feet. After completing the worship he took a seat at the bidding of the Goddess. With devotion and bliss overflowing and his voice choking with emotion, the Sage addressed the Goddess: Ah! This can surely only be the outcome of Sambhu's boundless grace. He who loves His devotees has sent you here with the object of protecting them. O Mother! Is there anything wanting or not attained after seeing you? Bhagavati! Be so gracious as to command me, Thy servant, as to what I can do for you.

The Greatness of Arunachala
On hearing the words of the all-knowing Maharshi, Ambika praised him and said graciously: It is because your glory is so great that Siva, the Lord of the devas, commanded me to meet you. You alone have reached the other shore of the Agamas and the Vedas. By your austerities you alone among the devotees of Siva have become very dear to Him. My Lord told me that He abides here as Arunachala, and directed me to learn its glory from you. I have therefore come to practise austerities in the vicinity of Arunachala. By merely seeking you, one will obtain the Grace of the Lord. The object of taking birth in this world is companionship with the devotees of Siva, listening to His praise and worshipping Him in all His forms. I look upon you as my father for you are the personification of wisdom. Therefore, pray, kindly enlighten me on the glory of Arunachala. On hearing Gowri speak thus, Gautama, the repository of austerities, meditated upon the Lord for sometime and addressed the Goddess: Gowri, you are the embodiment of universal knowledge and represent Siva's divine illusion as maya. What have I got to say about the glory of Arunachala that you are not already aware of! Probably, you love to hear from the lips of devotees about the greatness of your Lord! To speak of the greatness of Siva is as auspicious as the study and recital of the Vedas. My austerities have borne fruit only now. By the grace of Hara and Gowri I am now going to describe the Effulgent glory of Arunachala. This ancient, sacred lore shall be listened to with faith, devotion and in rapt attention by generations to come and shall be known as the glory of Arunachala!

Even a million tongues cannot delineate fully how the formless, Supreme Being out of compassion took this holy form of Arunachala Hill. Nay, even if a million Brahmas came together, they would fail to narrate His glory satisfactorily. Arunachala in this form was in former times worshipped by Brahma, Vishnu, Soma (the moon), Surya (the sun), Agni (fire), Indra and the other devas, dikpalakas (the protectors of the quarters), siddhas,haranas, yakshas, vidyadharas, gandharvas, nagas, serpents, birds, divine sages, siddha yogis and others, in order to get rid of their sins and to obtain the fulfilment of their desires. The Lord of Arunagiri is capable of removing all the sins of those who merely see Him and of fulfilling all the desires of those who worship Him. He is capable of granting Liberation even to those who utter the word 'Arunachala' from a distance. It is well known that what is called 'Arunadri' is the embodiment of Effulgence. Yogis meditate upon it and attain union with Siva. Offerings, sacrifices, and japa made in its vicinity yield immeasurable results.

In olden times, Brahma and Vishnu who had come into existence from a tiny part of the Effulgence of Siva, became egoistic, and wishing to assert their supremacy fought with each other. Sadasiva, in order to destroy their pride, appeared in their midst as a blazing Column of Fire without beginning, middle or end illumining the entire cosmos. They desired to ascertain what It was. So they assumed the forms of a swan and a boar and proceeded towards the sky and the nether regions respectively. Seeing them tired and distressed at being unable to find either beginning or end of the Column of Fire, Bhagavan, the embodiment of compassion, took pity on His children and emerged from the brilliant Column with the intention of blessing them and granting the boons desired by them. Their pride now stood completely annihilated. At their request Siva took the form of a motionless hill known as Arunadri and also consented to abide there eternally in the form of a linga, so that they and other devotees could worship Him as prescribed in the Agamas. This Effulgent Linga, in the form of a hill was duly worshipped by the previous ninety-six Brahmas, creators of the worlds.

Gautama further related how Tilothama, the celestial damsel, was saved from the amorous advances of Brahma who in his lust wanted to covet her. When she sought refuge at the feet of Arunachala, the Lord saved her and chastised Brahma. Brahma implored Siva for forgiveness. The Lord on His part bestowed His Grace on Brahma and said: 'The time which has already been allotted to you by me will not undergo any change. Not even the greatest are free from the evils of desire. Therefore, meditate upon the Effulgent Linga known as Arunachala and be rid of all your sins. All the evil produced by mind, speech and body shall be destroyed the moment one beholds Arunachala. This Arunagiri will cleanse all the sins of those who circumambulate it, prostrate to it, remember it and offer flowers, or praise it with devotion. While mountains like Kailasa and Meru are my places of abode, this Arunagiri is my true form and here I abide eternally as this Hill. By merely looking at its peak not only will all sins be destroyed but the eye of wisdom will be opened.

'Once upon a time one of the Brahmas who had come into existence from a tiny part of my person bathed in the Pushkarini (sacred pool) bearing his name and got rid of his delusion. You who are in the form of the world, may also, after bathing in the Brahma Tirtha and after offering flowers to me, silently go round the hill, get rid of your sins and be blessed.'

On hearing this, Brahma bathed in the pool and worshipped Mahesa who stood in the form of a mountain.

This Brahma worshipped Arunagiri with great devotion, with a mind made pure by control (yama-niyama), got rid of his sins and became the lord of the world. Gautama continued: Once Lord Narayana, the protector of the universe, having the thousand-tongued serpent Adisesha (representing intellect and knowledge) as his couch, was reclining in the ocean of milk (kshirasagara), absorbed in yoga-nidra and oblivious to the dissolution of the universe. The whole cosmic space was enveloped in complete darkness. The sages were worried over this state of affairs. They prayed to Lord Siva. The Lord manifested Himself before them with the object of protecting the universe. From the Effulgent Sambhu, thirty-three crore devas emerged as sparks and scattered in all directions. These devas went to Vishnu and informed him of what had happened. He pondered: Overcome by darkness (ignorance) I fell into an untimely sleep, forgetting my real nature. Sadasiva, the supremely Effulgent Being, seems to have revealed His form in order to wake me up and taken upon Himself the task of creating the worlds. What remains for me or Brahma to do?

Then meditating on Sadasiva, Vishnu prostrated before Him and repeatedly saluted Him. Thus he absolved himself of his omissions. Whereupon, the protector of those who seek refuge in Him, blessed Vishnu with compassion and bade him rise. Vishnu then stood up and prayed thus: Lord of the three worlds! Thou who once destroyed the three cities of the demons by Thy laughter! According to the law of cause and effect, through the crores of devas Thou performs deeds by Thy will alone. Out of ignorance I fell into yoga-nidra, O Sambhu! Kindly forgive my sin! When Hara (Siva) heard Hari (Vishnu) lamenting in this manner He prescribed the following penance for Vishnu:

I abide on earth in the form of Arunachala. The moment you set your eyes on it your ignorance will be destroyed. On a previous occasion I gave a boon to another Vishnu at that place. My manifestation at that time was known as the Effulgent Linga of Arunachala. That Effulgent Linga has cooled down for the sake of the world.

Nevertheless, it is fiery, unmanifest and of untold glory. Since its Effulgence is latent, streams, rivers and rainwater are absorbed by it. Moreover its glory gives sight to the blind, ability to walk to the lame, progeny to the childless, and speech to the dumb. Arunachala confers all siddhis, cures all diseases, destroys all sins and grants all boons. After declaring thus Mahadeva (Siva) disappeared and Vishnu came to Arunachala. He practised austerities and worshipped Arunachala. He visited the devas living in the forests around the Hill and built holy ashrams for the sages. He recreated the Vedas, Vedangas and Upanishads, etc. He bathed in the Brahma Tirtha, circumambulated Arunachala, got rid of his sins and attained the lordship of all the worlds.

Surya (Sun) the lord of all the planets, in an attempt to cross over Arunachala, lost his splendour and could not proceed on his heavenly orbit. He then, on the advice of Brahma, worshipped Arunachala, whereupon he regained his strength by His grace and was able to proceed on his course. Since then, Surya does not pass over the Red Hill; he goes around it.

Further, the Sun who was harassed by the asuras (demons) devoutly worshipped the Lord of Arunachala. He bathed in the holy Brahma Tirtha and circumambulated Arunachala. Thereby he conquered all the asuras and gained the ability to circumambulate Mount Meru. He also acquired the power to outshine all other celestial luminaries.

Chandra (Moon) who was harassed by the curse of Daksha Prajapati, worshipped Arunachala as advised by Siva Himself and regained his original form. Agni (Fire) although tainted by the disease of consumption under the curse of a Brahmarishi, was cured by worshipping Arunachala.

Indra had incurred sin by slaying Vritra, Bala, Paka, Namuchi and Jrimbha who had in ancient times obtained boons from Siva and had become lords of the worlds. He lost his vigour and his kingdom. As directed by Siva, he worshipped Arunachala in the prescribed manner and got rid of his sin. Afterwards he performed Aswamedha yaga and pleasing Siva thereby, regained his status as lord of devas.

The serpent Adisesha worshipped the Lord of the Red Hill and acquired, by Siva's Grace, the strength to bear the earth. The other serpents as well as the gandharvas, siddhas, apsaras and dikpalakas obtained the boons they desired by worshipping the Hill. The devas who wished to conquer the asuras paid their obeisance to Arunachala and obtained His grace.

In ancient days the devas who lost their limbs at the sacrifice of Daksha gained new limbs by the grace of Arunachala. Sukra, Aruna, a king named Pratardana, a gandharva named Pushpaka and many others expiated their sins and regained their original forms by worshipping Arunachala. Such is His glory!

The land within a radius of three yojanas (approximately thirty miles) of this place is famous as Sivabhumi (the land of Siva). Those who reside within this limit will certainly attain Liberation. In olden days the 'Seven Rishis' who were under a spell, worshipped Arunachala regarding Him as their Lord. The Lord of Arunachala thereupon redeemed them. Grateful, they dug a tank near the Hill, bathing in which all sins are removed.

A sage who was lame, came to Arunachala hoping to regain his legs. Praying mentally, with crutches in hand and knees worn out, he proceeded to the bank of the river Sona to quench his thirst. Having left his crutches on the bank he began to drink the water. At that time someone pretending to be quenching his thirst first threw the crutches into the water and then asked him angrily, "How dare you come to Arunachala with crutches? Why do you need them?" then he disappeared. The lame man at once regained the use of his legs. With folded hands he saluted Arunachala and proceeded towards his house.

Other noble devotees of Siva marvelled at this miracle and saluted the lame sage who had regained his limbs. Vali, the son of Indra, once tried to pass over Arunagiri while travelling from Udayagiri (the hill of sunrise) to Astamanagiri (the hill of sunset) but lost his strength and fell down to earth. Then Indra, his father, came and told him that this was no ordinary Hill and extolled the greatness of Arunachala. Upon this, Vali worshipped the Linga of Effulgence and regained his strength.

Nala, who was the personification of dharma, worshipped this Hill and ruled his kingdom in a just manner. He was transformed into a woman for entering the garden of Gowri. Not knowing why this had happened to him, he asked his preceptor (guru) and, on his advice, worshipped Arunachala. He regained his original masculine form. Soma, advised to think of Arunagiri always, did so, and obtaining by the strength of his austerities, the Lord's grace, got rid of his curse and also attained a state unattainable even by the immortals (amaras). Hari felt great sorrow on account of his separation from his consort. But, on the advice of the sage Bhrigu, he worshipped Arunagiri and got over his sorrows in all his incarnations. Saraswati, Savitri, Sri Devi, Bhoo Devi and other goddesses and the rivers were blessed and attained immortality by the Grace of Lord Arunachala. Surya abides under the protection of Arunachala in the east, Visvamitra in the south, Varuna in the west and Trisuladeva (the Lord of the trident) in the north. These four gods dwell on the hills which are at a distance of two yojanas and do obeisance to Arunachala. The gods who dwell in the four corners of Arunachala bow down to Siva who abides in the form of Arunachala.

On the northern peak of Arunachala there is a giant banyan tree. Maheswara sits beneath it in the guise of a siddha. Its shade extends to a long distance around it. Even the gods look upon it in wonder. This Hill shines with eight lingas placed in the eight quarters, and is worshipped by the protectors of the respective quarters. There is a wish-fulfilling bakula tree at this place. The Sage Vamadeva is reputed to be performing meditation under it. Agastya and Vasishta worshipped the Lord of Aruna. In ancient days Sonanada, the son of Hiranyagarbha, performed severe austerities and made the Ganga appear here. That holy river now flows here as the Sona river. The sacred river named Vena flows round the Hill. Bhagavan Marut bathed in the holy tank of Vayu in the quarter belonging to Vayu, and became the life-breath (prana) of the world.

The Fight with Mahishasura
The devas who were oppressed by Mahishasura, a demon who had taken the form of a buffalo, came down to earth and sought refuge with the Goddess. They cried in fear, 'O Goddess! Save us!' When She asked what the matter was, Indra and the other devas folded their palms respectfully and told Her about their suffering at the hands of Mahishasura. They said: Mahisha sports in the woods of Nandana with the apsaras (celestial nymphs), having brought under control Airavata (Indra's elephant) and other dig-gajas (elephants belonging to the eight cardinal points). He has taken possession of Uchaisravas (Indra's Horse) and other horses. He also keeps millions of goats which are the mounts of Agni, and allows his sons to ride them. He yokes the bison, the mount of Yama, to his chariot. Siddhas have been enslaved, are compelled to do his bidding and wait upon him. If there is anything in all the three worlds that he does not possess, he is not satisfied until he gets hold of it. As for us, we live in fear of him as his servitors and are compelled to obey his commands.

This asura (demon) is invincible. Having obtained a boon from Siva he is more powerful than devas and all others. Harrassed by Mahisha, the king of the seas wails in desperation and offers his jewels. With his horns Mahisha digs the mountains. His strength is unequalled. Nobody can oppose him. You will discover this yourself when you come to destroy him. You are the power (shakti) of Sambhu in the form of a woman. It is destined that he should be killed by you; for he has obtained a boon from Sambhu that no man shall kill him. Goddess! You must save us! Hearing them cry out in fear in this manner, the Goddess in all graciousness assured them of Her protection. She spoke endearingly: Devas! My children! It is said that one of the objectives of doing penance is protection of those who seek refuge. Your enemy will perish in a short time. I shall kill that great asura by strategy. It is not right to kill one who is innocent. He who acts contrary to dharma, against those who abide by dharma, will die like an insect. Their fears having vanished upon hearing these words of assurance, the devas bowed to the daughter of the mountain, and returned in peace to their abode. After their departure the lotus-eyed Gowri manifested herself as the power of resplendent delusion (Mohini), and appointed four noble Bhairavis to keep watch on all four sides of Arunagiri. These four celestial damsels, named Dundubhi, Satyavati, Anavami and Sundari, had followed Gowri to serve Her when She came away from the Kailasa Mountain.

She now issued the following orders to them: Admit only those who have come to worship Arunachala and are tired, hungry and thirsty. Others should not enter. She then appointed strong men to guard the boundaries of Arunachala and continued Her penance at Her ashram.

While She did penance in this manner, the place had plentiful rains. The crops grew lush and green. Even the creatures which are mutually hostile forgot their hostility. The ashram became a place for all creatures to live in harmony. Arunagiri was protected by guards for a distance of two yojanas all around. Everyone felt safe. Lust and violent passions were unknown. All the munis were pleased. They praised Gowri and Her ashram as if it were the world of Siva. She continued to practise Her austerities day and night, greatly rejoicing in attending to those matters which pleased Siva.

One day the arrogant Mahisha entered the forest of Arunachala which was far from his own country with the intention to hunt. He and his followers hunted the animals that roamed fearlessly in the forest. Seeing his warriors roaming about with bows, the animals fled in fear. Some of them took refuge in the ashram of the Goddess. The asuras were promptly prevented by the guards from entering the ashram. When they asked the reason, the guards replied: 'Gowri is doing penance here. Therefore She is bound to protect those who take shelter within these precincts. This is a place meant for munis. No one shall forcibly enter.' The asuras turned back, pondering on their next move. They then entered the ashram in the guise of birds and, sitting on the branches of the trees within the ashram, saw the Goddess. Afterwards they praised the enchanting beauty of the Goddess to Mahisha. On hearing their words he was stricken with lust. Disguising himself as an old man he entered the ashram and was welcomed by the companions of the Goddess.

He pretended to be pleased by their hospitality and asked them: 'Why are you doing penance here?' They said: 'Bala (lit. maiden) has been doing penance here for a long time in order to obtain a husband. But She can never find one who possesses the qualities She desires. It seems that She has decided to marry only a valiant person who can perform great deeds.'

Upon hearing this Mahisha laughed and said to Gowri: 'O Maiden! Performer of penance! I seem to have come here only in answer to your prayer. Listen! I shall describe my glories. I am Mahisha the extremely valiant king of the asuras. All the three worlds are under my control. I alone possess such matchless valour. O maiden! I am the embodiment of love. I can give you every pleasure. Take me for your husband. I shall grant you the fruit of the austerities of all beings with the help of the wish-fulfilling tree. I can create even Visvakarma (the divine architect) by my power. I can create thousands of kamadhenus (wish-fulfilling cows) in a moment. Around me are the nine nidhis (repositories of precious objects) with the aid of which all desires can be instantly fulfilled.'

When the Goddess heard what he said, She remembered the prayer of the devas. Abandoning Her vow of silence She said jestingly: 'I will become the wife of only a valiant man. I have been doing penance for a long time with that object in view. If you are such a man, display your strength. If you fail, admit that you are weak.' On hearing these words Mahisha became very angry. He roared: 'You are now as good as dead! Who are you to speak to me thus?' and sprang towards the Goddess with the object of killing Her. At his approach Gowri quickly transformed herself into Durga the fiery and invincible Goddess. As soon as Mahishasura saw the blazing Maha Maya before him, he made himself exceedingly huge like the Meru Mountain. He tore off mountain peaks and hurled them at Her and gathered around him his vast armies from all quarters. Hari and Sadasiva offered Goddess Durga five arrows each and Brahma four. The dikpalakas, the devas, the mountains and the seas all offered their respective ornaments, weapons and missiles to the Goddess and praised Her splendour. She put on armour and immediately mounted a lion.

Being unable to look at the all-pervasive Effulgence and afraid to face the mighty Goddess, Mahisha ran.

Thereupon Gowri thought that the wicked Mahishasura should be killed only by a stratagem: 'Just as hunters prod animals to make them enraged and turn about, even so I shall make him angry by sending some clever messengers and make him return at once to the battlefield. Those who are extremely unrighteous will not listen to the words of dharma. For, if they do so, their way of living will be adversely affected. On the contrary, if he listens to the words of dharma and becomes peaceful he shall be saved. Then he will not violate dharma. Those who do penance do not become angry. Penance should make one free from anger. One should not do anything which is not in accordance with dharma.

Reflecting thus, Goddess Gowri sent a monkey-faced muni named Suraguru to Mahisha. She said to him: 'Maharshi Vanaramukha! Endowed with the power of maya which I shall bestow upon you, you shall go to Mahisha and make him return quickly with the following words: ' "Do not oppress anyone around Arunadri as you wickedly intend to do. The valour of wicked persons who do so will be completely destroyed in a moment. The afflictions of the age of kali and troubles from asuras have no place there. For it is a holy and auspicious place meant for the devotees of Siva. By the merit you have acquired in some former life you now possess valour and good fortune. Let not your demonic nature make you fall into the fire of Arunachala like a moth. The boon acquired by you by the grace of Siva and through your penance will be completely burnt and destroyed like twigs in a forest fire. Only those who follow dharma and are devotees of Siva may live there. Those who oppress others will develop all kinds of diseases. You have more power than others and your valour cannot be challenged by anyone. Hence you should not lose it by your rashness.

I too saw the maiden coveted by you. She is truly abala (destitute). Still, as She is under the protection of the Lord of Arunachala, She cannot be conquered. If, however, you do not listen to my advice and come to battle, She will destroy all the boons which have made you an arrogant oppressor.

'Station all your armed forces in front of the Goddess. She will destroy them in a moment. When you are killed by Her weapons you and your followers may or may not attain Liberation. Who can divine the plan of the Lord? One is bound to reap the fruit of the deeds prompted by one's inherent tendencies. No one can prevent it." In this manner teach him his own dharma and make him abandon what is not dharma.'

When Vanaramukha who was sent by the Goddess with these instructions delivered the message to Mahisha, the latter was enraged and approached the muni with the intention of killing him, but the muni escaped through the power of maya. The wicked demon then gathered all his armed forces and prepared for battle. His forces came from all quarters and surrounded Arunagiri. As soon as Gowri saw the asura army, She brought into existence fierce warriors, bhuta ganas, and monstrous creatures. Then the Goddess blew Her conch. As soon as the asuras heard the sound and saw Her, they shot a host of arrows from all sides in order to show their valour. But the Goddess stopped them all with Her arrows. The bhutas and vetalas created by the Goddess fought fiercely. The attendant goddesses killed many of the enemies quickly. Amidst the dead bodies of the asuras, the bhutas danced in victory. The Goddess stood fully armed along with Her maidens, Dundubhi, Satyavati, Anavami and Sundari.

As soon as Mahisha saw Her he became enraged. He pierced the clouds with the tip of his horns, darted his flame-like tongue hither and thither, butted the earth with his horns, pawed the earth with his hooves raining clouds of dust on all sides and roared fiercely. He lifted his hairy tail and shattered many of the weapons of the devas who became frightened. Then he turned towards the beautiful Bhavani who was mounted on a lion and charged towards Her only to meet his doom!

Mahisha rained arrows and many other weapons on Goddess Gowri. But She stopped them all at a distance with Her arrows and pierced his body in many places. While assailed thus with discs, axes, maces, spears and many other weapons he disappeared suddenly and came back a moment later in the form of a fierce lion. Roaring terribly he raged about the battlefield attacking with his teeth and sharp claws. Every time he was defeated, he took a new form. Thus he came as a tiger, then an elephant and then a fierce warrior with a sword. The Goddess who was carrying a sword, shield and a disc fought with him and cut off his head. But he resumed his form of Mahisha and fought with Her tirelessly.

Then the devas and munis approached Gautama who praised the Mother of the world and reminded Her of Her innate glory. Gautama pleaded with Bhagavati to eliminate the asura immediately.

The Goddess pierced Mahisha with Her trident. His body was as big as a mountain range but he could not withstand the valour of the Goddess. He fell and rolled on the ground but could not extricate himself from the trident. He looked like a red sea with blood flowing from his face and limbs. The Goddess cut off his head with a sharp sword and stood dancing upon him. Seeing this the siddhas, gandharvas and Maharshis hailed Her as Goddess Durga. Indra, the king of the devas, bowed down before Her and with folded hands he praised the Goddess. He prayed that Her form as Mahishasura Mardhani (the destroyer of Mahisha) should be a source of prosperity and happiness for all creation.

When the Goddess was praised in this manner and worshipped by Indra and adored by the rishis, She complied with their request and said, "Let it be so". She created an image bearing all kinds of weapons and installed it in the world of the devas. Then She took Her place here again assuming Her tranquil form surrounded by Her companions. She looked at the severed head and neck of Mahisha. Seeing a linga there She quietly took it with the object of worshipping it. She looked at the blood smeared linga carefully for a long time. When She did so the linga stuck to Her hand. She could not remove it! She exclaimed:

"Why has this happened?" In distress She went to Maharshi Gautama and said: "This devotee of Siva was killed by me. I am therefore overcome by sorrow." Pained at what She had done She continued: "O Sage! You know all the dharmas! I wanted to protect the devas. So I assured them of my protection. While fulfilling my promise, though meant for protecting dharma, I have committed an act of adharma. This linga which was around his neck clings to my hand. How shall I expiate the sin of killing a devotee of Siva? Until I obtain the Grace of Siva I shall go on a pilgrimage with this linga and do penance. Afterwards I shall bathe in the holy waters flowing at places sacred to Siva and expiate my sin." Gautama who was well-versed in the dharma of Siva said: "Gowri! Do not fear that you killed a devotee of Siva by mistake. Mahisha could not be conquered by the devas not because he had the good fortune to possess the linga, but because he had to be killed only by you, the beloved of Siva. He roused the anger of Maharshis who were the devotees of Siva, hated them and scorned them. Consequently he was cursed by them thus: 'As you behave like a buffalo you shall become a wild bison.' And he immediately became Mahisha (bison). But when he bowed to them, praised them and begged for release from his curse, they were pleased to give him the following advice: 'Although you have become a bison, by Siva's command, you will be slain by the Goddess herself. You need not be depressed at your plight. Who is not punished for scorning the siddhas who are actually Siva? Although you have, on account of your sin become a bison, you will be released from the curse through the grace of the siddhas.'

"O Gowri, Mahisha has been killed by you because of your penance. If necessary you may for the sake of pleasing Siva, have darshan of Arunachala, the Effulgent Linga. Mahisha was a devotee of the Lord of Arunadri in his previous birth. Afterwards he became a wild buffalo but somehow he acquired a linga. Who is there in the three worlds who can kill the wearer of a linga? "It is said that a linga which is worn without proper initiation will bring ruin upon the wearer. Or perhaps, he swerved away from the virtuous path by evil counsels. There is no doubt that he has been liberated by coming into contact with your lotus feet, as a result of the austerities performed by him in his former lives, by the remembrance of his real nature and the wearing of the linga. In any case, the sight of this noble Hill is the sure means of expiating all sins.

"Goddess! This sin can be expiated in the following manner: You must bring some followers of Saiva Siddhanta and settle them here. You must then make all the holy waters meet here and form a single holy pond, in which you must bathe wearing the linga and uttering the aghamarshana mantra (mantra which expiates sins). You must bathe thrice daily and, at the end of one month, perform Deva Yaga (sacrifice for the gods) and worship the Lord of Arunadri."

When Bhagavati learnt from the muni this secret about Siva, She took the necessary steps for bathing in such a holy pond and expiating Her sins.

The Goddess Joins Siva
When Gautama spoke in this manner Gowri's doubts were cleared. A sweet voice was then heard coming from the sky. It said: "Daughter of the mountain! You need not go anywhere else to expiate your sin. Split open a rock with your sword. All the nine tirthas namely, the Ganga, the Yamuna, the Sindhu, the Godavari, the Saraswati, the Narmada, the Kaveri, the Sonanadi and the Sonanadam will appear in that cleft. Bathe in them uttering the sin-destroying mantra in the month of Asvija (October-November) in the asterism of Jyeshta (Antares). You must bathe in this holy water and at the end of the month install on the bank of that holy tirtha the linga in your hand consecrating it for the welfare of the world. If anyone bathes in that tirtha and worships that linga he will undoubtedly be free from the three kinds of misery. the form of the Maha Purusha, the Eternal Bridegroom, adorning divine garlands, perfumes, robes and gem-set ornaments.

Great Lord! Let deva and gandharva maidens adore Thee, dancing and singing to the accompaniment of musical instruments. Let Thy devotees also adore Thee unceasingly. Let this vision of our united form Ardhanareeswara, be always, by Thy Grace, capable of inspiring intense devotion, of bestowing prosperity and of fulfilling all desires."

The Lord of Arunachala listened to these words of the Goddess and fulfilled Her wishes. With great affection He said, "An Asura named Pulaka once performed austerities, assuming the form of an animal for that purpose, and obtained a boon from me. Thereupon his body began to emit a fragrant smell. Due to this the celestial damsels were attracted to him. This enraged the devas who then appealed to me. Thereupon I summoned the asura and ordered him to abandon his body. He bowed to me, adored me with devotion and said, 'Lord of the devas! I shall abandon this body according to Thy command. This fragrant substance is fit to be adorned by Thee alone. Thou must therefore graciously accept it as my offering. O Lord of the world! I shall now happily abandon this body of mine. Let this perfume be worn by Thee and by the Goddess.

Let my descendants, i.e., civet cats, acquire this fragrance by virtue of my sacrifice'. I granted him the boon. Pulaka then entrusted his life to me and abandoned his body. I am now offering you this perfume. You may wear it."

Parvati then narrated the greatness of the Ekamra linga which was installed by Her during Her penance at Kancheepuram.

Brahma continued: On hearing this the Lord of Sonachala granted all the boons the Goddess asked for. The Lord himself now appears as Sonachala (the red Hill) which is adored by the world. It grants every boon. Shambu Himself, with Gowri shines as Arunachala. Those who have darshan of it or meditate upon it, attain liberation. All kinds of wealth accrue to those who hear of the glory of Arunachala. Those who remember Arunachala will become pure in mind. They shall be absolved of their karmas. A mere darshan of Arunachala will grant the benefit of bathing in all the holy tirthas and performing all yajnas and yagas. He will obtain the grace of Sadasiva. Among the various places on earth which are sacred to Siva, it is only at this place that Sambhu fell in love with His own majestic and magnificent form. He lost the desire to dwell at Kailasa. He asked Parvati, all the rishis and devas to come and perform penance, austerities and all rituals that are laid down in the scriptures. In Bharatavarsha dharma is cherished because of the presence of Arunachala.

Devotees whose sins have all been destroyed in the blaze of Arunachala live in bliss. Arunachala fulfills the wishes of those who adore Him with circumambulation, prostration and perform austerities. A single darshan of Arunachala pleases Him much more than austerities, offerings and yagnas performed at other kshetras. The Vedas and the epics in the form of hills surrounding Arunachala pay their obeisance to Him. Neither I nor Vishnu with all our skill can adequately describe the glory of Arunachala. Myself, Vishnu, and the devas always worship it while remaining invisible. Disease, distress, mental worry and other miseries incidental to the dark age of kaliyuga do not affect those who always adore Arunachala. The power of Arunachala nullifies the influence of planets. I have thus described to the best of my ability the glory of Arunachala which bestows Liberation in a trice on one who contemplates upon Him.

Suta said: When Sage Sanaka heard with rapt attention the glorious and nectar-sweet story of Arunagiri that flowed from the lips of Brahma, he was full of bliss.