Another legend is that once, while Vishnu and Brahma contested for superiority, Shiva appeared as a flame, and challenged them to find his source. Brahma took the form of a swan, and flew to the sky to see the top of the flame, while Vishnu became the boar Varaha, and sought its base. The scene is called Lingodbhava, and is represented in the western wall at the sanctum of most Shiva temples. Neither Brahma nor Vishnu could find the source even.
The main shrine of Arunachalesvara faces east, housing images of Nandi and Surya, and is the oldest structure in the temple. Behind the walls of the sanctum, there is an image of Venugopalaswamy (Krishna), an incarnation of Vishnu. Around the sanctum, there are images of Somaskanda, Durga, Chandeshvara, Gajalakshmi, Arumugaswami (Kartikeya), Dakshinamurthy, Swarnabairavar, Nataraja, and Lingodbhava—the last an image of Shiva emanating from lingam. The Palliyarai, the divine room for resting deities, is located at the first precinct around the sanctum. The shrine of his consort, Annamalai Amman, lies in the second precinct, with Amman depicted in a standing posture. Sambantha Vinayagar (Ganesha), is located to the north of the flagstaff and the Bali peeta, or platform for sacrifice. To the south of the thousand-pillared hall, there is a small shrine for Subramanya (Kartikeya) and a large tank.Pathala Lingam, the underground lingam, is the place where Ramana Maharshi (1879–1950 CE) is believed to have performed his penance. The shrine of Sivagangai Vinayagar (Ganesha) is present in the northern bank of the Sivanganga tank.