Located on the foothill of Annamalai hills , Tiruvannamalai has been ruled by the Pallavas, the Cholas, the Later Cholas, Hoysalas, the Vijayanagar Empire, the Carnatic kingdom, Tipu Sultan, and the British. It served as the capital of the Hoysalas. The town is built around the Annamalaiyar Temple like other Nayak capitals.The Bus took almost 1 hour 10 minutes to reach the Town of Annamalai.Tiruvannamalai is one of the
greatest Shaivaite Temples in India, on a sprawling 24 acre temple campus, drawing hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every full moon. The hill here is considered to be a manifestation of Shiva. Tiruvannamalai is one of the Panchabhoota Stalams signifying the 5 elements of wind (Kalahasti), water (Tiruvanaikka), fire (Tiruvannamalai), earth (Kanchipuram) and space (Chidambaram). Kartikai Deepam festival here is of great significance.Deepam will be lit at around 6 pm at the top of 2668 ft high holy mountain. The entire Mountain is Shiva Linga. Maha Deepam will be lit using nearly 3500 kg of Ghee. Sri Arthanareeshwara will bless devotees in the Temple at the time of lighting the Maha Deepam. The Maha Deepam will be visible around the Holy Mountain in a radius of 35 km. Lakhs of devotees will perform 16 km Girivalam (circumambulation of the holy mountain). The Moist Black Ash (what they call as 'Mai' in Tamil) that remains after the lighting of the Ghee & Cotton Wick will be distributed as Prasadam to devotees on the Marghazhi Arudra Darisanam day.
Lakhs of people completed there Girivalam in the morning and standing in a queue to reach the darshan, It will almost take 4 to 5 hours to reach the main shrine.
The Hoysala kings used Tiruvannamalai as their capital beginning in 1328. There are 48 inscriptions from the Sangama Dynasty(1336–1485), two inscriptions from Saluva Dynasty, and 55 inscriptions from Tuluva Dynasty (1491–1570) of the Vijayanagara Empire, reflecting gifts to the temple from their rulers. There are also inscriptions from the rule of Krishnadeva Raya (1509–1529), the most powerful Vijayanagara king, indicating further patronage. Most of the Vijayanagara inscriptions were written in Tamil, with some in Kannada and Sanskrit. The inscriptions in the temple from the Vijayanagara kings indicate emphasis on administrative matters and local concerns, which contrasts the inscriptions of the same rulers in other temples like Tirupathi. The majority of the gift related inscriptions are for land endowments, followed by goods, cash endowments, cows and oil for lighting lamps. The town of Tiruvannamalai was at a strategic crossroads during the Vijayanagara Empire, connecting sacred centers of pilgrimage and military routes. There are inscriptions that show the area as an urban center before the precolonial period, with the town developing around the temple, similar to the Nayak ruled cities like Madurai.
During the 17th century, Tiruvannamalai came under the dominion of the Nawab of the Carnatic. As the Mughal empire came to an end, the Nawab lost control of the town, with confusion and chaos ensuing after 1753. Subsequently, there were periods of both Hindu and Muslim stewardship of the temple, with Muraru Raya, Krishna Raya, Mrithis Ali Khan, and Burkat Ullakhan besieging the temple in succession. As European incursions progressed, Tiruvannamalai was attacked by French Soupries, Sambrinet, and the English Captain Stephen Smith. While some were repelled, others were victorious. The French occupied the town in 1757 and it came under the control of the British in 1760. In 1790, Tiruvannamalai town was captured by Tippu Sultan, who ruled from 1750–99. During the first half of the 19th century, the town came under British rule.
The temple complex covers an area of 10 ha (24acres), and is one of the largest temples in India. It houses four gateway towers known as gopurams. The tallest is the eastern tower, with 11 stories and a height of 66 m (217 ft), making it one of the tallest temple towers in India. The temple has numerous shrines, with those of Annamalaiyar and Unnamulai Amman being the most prominent. The temple complex houses many halls; the most notable is the thousand-pillared hall built during the Vijayanagar period.