I am posting this in response to the thread by http://www.selectiveamnesia.org/2005/08/01/road-to-salvation/. Its just a counter argument :) - I am in no way trying to pull down Chidambaram - because my family is associated with the Chidambaram temple for the last 65 years. We have even built a Madam or Mutt there, but Tiruvanamalai holds a special place in my heart :).
In India there are countless holy places (kshetras) that are sacred toLord Siva or to some other name and form of God, and many of them are more well-known and popular than Arunachala. Yet there is a verse in the Arunachala Mahatmyam, which has been selected and translated into Tamil by Sri Bhagavan, that says:
"Arunachala is truly the holy place. Of all holy places it is the most sacred! Know that it is the heart of the world. It is truly Siva himself! It is his heart-abode, a secret kshetra. In that place the Lord ever abides the hill of light named Arunachala."
Whenever Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi was asked about the special sanctity of Arunachala, he used to explain that other holy places such as Kailas, Kasi andChidambaram are sacred because they are the abodes of Lord Siva whereas Arunachala is Lord Siva himself.
However, as the above verse of Arunachala Mahatmyam says, Arunachala is a secret kshetra. Because it is this place that bestows jnana and because most people have so many other desires and do not truly want jnana, Arunachala has always remained comparatively little known. But to those few who seek jnana, Arunachala always makes itself known through some means or other.
The unique sanctity and power of Arunachala-kshetra was once confirmed by an incident that happened in the life of Sri Bhagavan. Because of his great love for Sri Bhagavan, a certain devotee wanted to take him to his native place, Chidambaram. But rather than directly asking Sri Bhagavan to come to Chidambaram, he began to ask him if he had ever been to see Lord Nataraja in Chidambaram Temple. When Sri Bhagavan replied that he had not, the devotee began to describe the greatness of Chidambaram, saying that it was the most sacred Siva-kshetra in South India, that so many saints and sages had lived there and had sung in praise of Lord Nataraja, and so on and so forth. Sri Bhagavan listened to all he said with patient interest, but showed no signs of wanting to visit Chidambaram. Seeing this, the devotee at last said, 'Chidambaram is even greater than Arunachala, because among the panchabuta lingams [thelingams representing the five elements] Chidambaram is the space-lingam while Arunachala is only the fire-lingam.(6) Since the four elements, earth, water, air and fire, finally have to merge in space, space is the principal element. 'Hearing this, Sri Bhagavan smiled and said, 'All the five elements come into existence only when Sakti seemingly forsakes her identify with Lord Siva, the Supreme Self (Paramatman). Since the five elements are thus only the creations of Sakti, she is superior to all of them. Therefore, more important than the place where the elements merge, is the place where Sakti herself merges. Because Sakti is dancing in Chidambaram, Lord Siva has to dance before her and there by make her become motionless. But in Arunachala Lord Siva remains ever motionless (achala), and hence Sakti automatically and effortlessly merges in him through great love. Therefore, Arunachala shines as the foremost and most powerful kshetra, because here Sakti, who has seemingly created all this manifold appearance, herself merges into the Lord. So for those mature aspirants who seek to put an end to the false appearance of duality, the most powerful help is to be found only in Arunachala-kshetra.
Subsequently, on 24th June 1928, Sri Bhagavan summarized this reply of his in the form of a verse, which later became the first verse of Sri Arunachala Navamanimalai. In this verse he says:
"Though he is truly motionless by nature, in the court [of Chidambaram] Lord Siva dances before Sakti, thereby making her motionless. But know that [in Tiruvannamalai] Lord Arunachala shines triumphant, that Sakti having merged in his motionless form."
Om Arunachaleshwaraya Namah