Pancha bhoota Stalas are Five temples of Lord Shiva. Pancha indicates five, Bhoota means elements and Stala means place They represent the five elements of nature. The physical body of the throbbing life is also composed of these five elements. All these temples are located in South India with four of these temples at Tamil Nadu and one at Andra Pradesh.Shiva in the temple have five different names based on the elements they represent
- Earth – (Land)- Kancheepuram – Prithvi Lingam
- Water- Jambukeswaram – Appu Lingam
- Fire – Arunachalam – Tiruvannamalai – Agni Lingam
- Air – Srikalahasthi – Vayu Lingam
- Ether- (Sky)- Chidambaram – Akasa Lingam
I was lucky to be able to visit all the places, with Shivratri just 2 days away, I thought of taking you through a quick tour of these wonderful temples. Lets start with Kancheepuram..
Ekambareswarar Temple ( Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu)
This is one of oldest functioning temples in India. Shiva is said to have manifested himself in the form of Prithvi Lingam.Legend has it that once Parvati, the consort of Shiva was doing penance under the temple’s ancient Mango tree near Vegavathi river.In order to test her devotion Shiva sent fire on her. Goddess Parvati prayed to her brother, Vishnu, for help. In order to save her, he took the Moon from Shiva’s head and showed the rays which then cooled down the tree as well as Parvati. Shiva again sent the river Ganga to disrupt Parvati’s penance. Parvati prayed to Ganga and convinced her that both of them were sisters and so should not harm her. Subsequently, Ganga did not disturb her penance and Parvati made a Shiva Linga out of sand to get united with Shiva.
|Mango tree at Ekambraeswara Temple|
The pic above is the sacred mango tree, its the same tree where Kamakshi (Parvati devi) did penance for lord Shiva, and later their marriage took place here. Tree is said to be 3,500 years old whose branches are said to yield four different types (tastes) of mangoes. Eka means one and Amra means Mango.. and hence the name Ekambra – Lord of Mango Tree.
How to reach: Kanchipuram is 75kms away from Chennai, regular buses ply from CMBT bus stand. Journey takes less than 2-3 hours. There are series are must visit temples in Kanchi – legend says its a land of 1000 temples.. one among them is the Kamakshi Amman Temple – one of the 18 sakthi peetha. And not to miss is shopping – famous Kanchipattu sarees.
Jambukeswarar Temple ( Thiruvanaikaval, Tamil Nadu)
Thiruvanaikaval or Jumbukeswara is the temple representing Water. The sanctum of Jambukeswara has an underground water stream and in spite of pumping water out, it is always filled with water. As Akilandeswari worshipped Lord Shiva in this temple, even today at noon the ‘Archakar’ (priest) dresses like a female and does Pooja to Jambukeswara.
One of the Legends: Once Parvati mocked Shiva’s penance for betterment of the world. Shiva wanted to condemn her act and directed her to go to the earth from Kailayam (Shiva’s abode) to do penance. Parvathi in the form of Akilandeswari as per Shiva’s wish found Jambu forest (Thiruvanaikoil) to conduct her penance. She made a lingam out of water of river Cauvery (also called as river Ponni) under the Venn Naaval tree (the Venn Naaval tree on top of the saint Jambu) and commenced her worship. The lingam is known as Appu Lingam (Water Lingam).
Siva at last gave darshan to Akilandeswari and taught her Siva Gnana. Akilandeswari took Upadesa (lessons) facing East from Shiva, who stood facing west. The temples idols are installed opposite to each other – Such temples are known as Upadesa Sthalams. As the Devi was like a student and Jambukeswara like a Guru (teacher) in this temple, there is no Thiru Kalyanam (marriage) conducted in this temple for Shiva and Parvathi, unlike the other Shiva temples.
How to reach: The temple is located in Tiruchirapalli (Tricy) It is a major Railway Junction in Tamil Nadu and is well connected all major places by road as well. Train journey takes a minimum of 5 to 6 hours.
Arunachaleshwarar Temple (Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu)
Annamalaiyar Temple is located at the foothills of the Annamalai Hil in the town of Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu.Shiva is worshiped as Annamalaiyar or Arunachaleswarar represented as Agni lingam, with his consort, Unnamulaiyamman (Apitakuchambaal – Parvati).
The temple complex spans 10 hectares and is one of the largest temples in India.It houses 4 gopurams (gateway towers) with the tallest being the eastern tower with 11 storeys and a height of 66 metres (217 ft), making it one of the tallest gopurams in India.
|magnificient view of Arunachala Temple from Annamali hill|
Legend has it that Shiva’s consort Parvati once closed the eyes of Shiva playfully in the flower garden of Kailasha (the abode of Shiva). The whole universe was darkened for a moment and the earth was darkened for years, translating to a moment of time at Kailasha. Parvati performed penance with other worshippers and Shiva appeared as a flame of fire at the top of the Annamalai hill to remove the darkness. He merged his half to Parvati’s in the form of Ardhanarishvara – the half-female, half-male form of Shiva. The Annamalai hill (meaning red mountain) lying behind the Annamalaiyar temple is always associated with the temple.The hill is considered sacred and considered to be a lingam (representation of Shiva) in itself.
|Inside the temple complex|
The Karthigai Deepam festival celebrated during the full moon day in November–December during which a huge beacon lit on the top of the hill. It can be seen from miles around and believed to be Shiva’s lingam of fire joining the limitless skies. Once the beacon is lit, piligrim perform Girivalam – circling the hill by foot and visit then worship the deity in the temple. The event is witnessed by 3 million pilgrims.
How to reach: The place is around 200km from Chennai and well connected by road and train. Regular buses ply from Chennai CMBT Bus stand, the journey takes around 5 to 6 hours.
Srikalahasti Temple (Andhra Pradesh)
Sri Kalahasti temple is situated 36 km away from Tirupati is famous for its Vayu linga. Lord Shiva is worshipped as Kalahasteeswara with his concert Parvati as Gnana Prasunambika Devi.
Legend: According to Hindu mythology, the elephant or Hasti used to clean the Shiva deity by watering the idol with the help of river-water carried in his trunks and pray for him by placing Vilva leaves. The spider or Sri tried to protect the deity from external damage by weaving his web and to provide shelter for the Shiva lingam. The snake or Kala used to place its precious gem on the linga to adorn the lord. In this way, they all worshipped the Vayu linga separately without knowing what the other was doing.
One day, the spider had built a very big and thick web around the deity to protect it from dust and weather while the snake places its gem. The elephant not knowing this and assuming that this form of puja by Sri and Kala is a desecration by the seeming miscreants, pours water on it and cleans it up. This causes a war between the three. The snake punishes the elephant by entering its trunk and in the process kills itself while the elephant runs amok and hits its trunk and head against the shiva linga. During this struggle, the spider is squashed against the linga by the elephant’s trunk and the elephant dies due to the snake’s poison. Lord Shiva then appeared and gave moksha to all three of them for their selfless devotion. The spider takes rebirth as a great king while the elephant and the snake reaches heaven for satisfying all its karma.
This king continues his good work from his previous birth and builds a variety of temples that seeks to protect the underlying deity with tons of stones. It is interesting to note that all his temples, keep the deity beyond the access of an elephant. In this temple, access to the deity is through a narrow passage in the side of the building that prevents an elephant from extending its trunk over the lord from any side.
Rahu – Kethu Sarpa Dosha Nivarana Puja:
Srikalahasteeswara Swamy Temple is reputed as the Rahu Kethu Kshetra, If the People who have Rahu Kethu Doshas and Sarpa Doshas, the un married and No children and those who are facing various problems for long period and perform the most effective Rahu – Kethu Sarpa Dosha Nivarana Puja in this Temple all the Doshas get removed and desired results occur. Thousands of Devotees from the country and abroad perform this puja and fulfill their vows again and again after receiving good results.
How to reach: Srikalahasti is just 38 km away from Tirupati and is easily accessible by rail and road. There are several express trains that travel from Tirupati daily, taking around 30 minutes to reach Srikalahasti.
Thillai Nataraja Temple (Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu)
The deity that presides here is Lord Shiva in form of Nataraj – Lord of Dance. We can see Shiva as in pose of Nataraja performing the Ananda Tandava (“Dance of Delight”) in the golden hall of the shrine. The consort deity here is Sivakami Amman (form of Amman – mother goddess and female energy).The sculptures of Chidambaram inspired the postures of Bharatha Natyam.
|Chidambaram Temple – U can see the golden roofed sanctum|
Legend:The story of Chidambaram begins with Shiva strolling into the Thillai Vanam (vanam meaning forest and thillai trees – botanical name Exocoeria agallocha, a species of mangrove trees – which currently grows in the Pichavaram wetlands near Chidambaram). In the Thillai forests resided a group of sages or ‘rishis’ who believed in the supremacy of magic and that God can be controlled by rituals and mantras or magical words.
Shiva strolled in the forest with resplendent beauty and brilliance, assuming the form of Bhikshatana, a simple mendicant seeking alms. He was followed by his consort, Vishnu as Mohini. The sages and their wives were enchanted by the brilliance and the beauty of the handsome mendicant and his consort. On seeing their womenfolk enchanted, the rishis got enraged and invoke scores of serpents by performing magical rituals. Shiva lifted the serpents and donned them as ornaments on his matted locks, neck and waist. Further enraged, the sages invokek a fierce tiger, whose skins and dons were used by Shiva as a shawl around his waist.
The rishis gathered all their spiritual strength and invoked a powerful demon Muyalakan – a symbol of complete arrogance and ignorance. Shiva wore a gentle smile, stepped on the demon’s back, immobilized him and performed the Ánanda Tandava (the dance of eternal bliss) and disclosed his true form. The sages surrender, realizing that Shiva is the truth and he is beyond magic and rituals.
|Thousand pillar Temple – Chidambaram|
This gold-roofed stage is the sanctum of the Chidambaram temple and houses the Lord in three forms:
- the “form” – the anthropomorphic form as an appearance of Nataraja, called the Sakala-thirumeni.
- the “semi-form” – the semi-anthropomorphic form as the Crystal linga of Chandramaulishvara, the Sakala-nishkala-thirumeni.
- the “formless” – as the space in Chidambara-rahasyam, an empty space within the sanctum sanctorum, the Nishkala-thirumeni.
The Chidambara Rahasiyam:
During the daily rituals, the Chief priest, parts the curtain, indicating the withdrawal of ignorance and reveals the space, and the Lord’s presence.The Chidambara Rahasya, is hence representative of that time when one, in total surrender, allows God to intervene and remove our ignorance, even as we get to ‘see and experience’ His presence and hence – bliss.
How to reach: Chidambaram is around 190km to Chennai, located at Tiruchirappali. Regular buses are avaialble from Chennai CMBT bus stand, journey takes around 5 – 6 hours.