Pancha Bhutha Sthalams

Arunachaleswara

ArunachaleswaraArunachaleswara Temple in Tiruvannamalai is dedicated to Lord Siva and it is one of the largest temples in India . Arunachaleswara temple is one of the “Panch Boodha Sthalams” and it is “Agni” Sthalam. It has also the importance as “Padal Petra Sthalam”. That is the four famous ‘Saiva Saints and Poets’ such Appar, Sundarar, Manichkavasakar and Thirugnana Sambandar made several poems on Lord Arunachaleswara.

Tiruvannamalai is one of the greatest Saivite shrines 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. Manikkavacakar composed his Tiruvempavai here.The Paatala Linga shrine is connected with the spritual savant Ramana Maharishi. Arunagiri Nathar began composing his Tiruppukazh here at this temple.

Legend here goes that Shiva assumed the form of a huge column of fire, whose origins Bhramma and Vishnu failed to trace.

When we observe the general structure of the temple, we notice that there are five small gopurams on the inner boundary and four big gopurams on the outer boundary. The inner gopurams are known as Kitti gopurams. There are two gopurams in the East and one gopuram each for the other three directions. The first of the two Eastern gopurams is called Kili gopuram. There are indications that this was built in the 11th century. The gopurams built during this period have no more than five stories. The Kili gopuram was built by Veera Rajendra Chozhan around 1063 A.D. He is referred to as Maharaja Thiribuvana Chakravarthigal in the inscription.This name was also given to the gopuram. The Kitti (smaller) gopurams, except the top of the western one, were built by the Hoysala King Vallala Maharaja III. His name is given to the biggest Kitti gopuram which is in the East.

In the outer gopurams, historians say the western gopuram is the oldest. The base was built by Vallala Maharaja. The top belongs to a later style. Inscriptions attribute this to Krishna Deva Raya of Vijayanagar. This king had undertaken important construction work in this temple. It is said, he built the base of the other three gopurams. But the architectural style of the base of the Western gopuram was constructed first and then those of the South, East and North. Though the Eastern gopuram, known as the Rajagopuram looks older, it was built after the Western one. This was constructed by Krishna Deva Raya and renovated by king Sevappa Naicker of Tanjore. There is another view that this was completely built by Sevappa Naicker. Tamil and Sanskrit inscriptions on the Western gopuram dated 1690 A.D. bear witness to this. Krishna Deva Rayer of Vijayanagar also constructed the hundred pillared and thousand pillared halls in the temple. He dug the Sivagangai Thirtham in front of the thousand pillared hall. As mentioned earlier, he built the base of the three gopurams and either began or finished the Eastern Rajagopuram with eleven stories.
All the kings mentioned above and chieftains like Kadava Raya, Sambuvaraya and Banas expressed their devotion to Arunachaleswara by building small temples inside the Arunachaleswara temple as well as around the mountain and elsewhere in the town. These kings were also responsible for digging many ponds in this region. To the devotees visiting the town and the temple, its architectural splendor and sculptured beauty, its rich lands and ponds, its jewels and appurtenances, the inscriptions and the wealth of literature praising the glory of Arunachaleswara are glowing evidence of the love that the lord has commanded in the minds of kings and commoners through the centuries. Critics may take exception to the absence of continuity in the architectural style but there is no lack of continuity in the depth of piety of the kings who built it.

Chidambaram

ChidambaramChidambaram is about 200 kilometers south of Chennai in Tamil Nadu, South India. Nataraja temple is located in the centre of the town of Chidambaram and covers an area of 40 acres. Is is one of the ancient temples of Tamil Nadu. The roof of the sanctum sanctrorum is covered with gold plates. The Eastern tower rises to a height of 40.8 metres. 108 Bharatha Natyam Dance gesture can be seen on the Eastern tower as well as on Western tower. The Northern tower rises to height of 42.4 metres.The Sivakamiamman temple, the Sivaganga tank, the thousand pillar hall are other important features of the Temple.

Chidambaram is associated with Nataraja, or Shiva in his Ananda Tandava pose (the Cosmic Dance of bliss) in the cosmic golden hall and the hall of consciousness (Chit Sabha). The word “Koyil” or temple in the Tamil Saivaite tradition refers to none other than the Chidambaram Nataraja temple.

Chidambaram is one of the Panchabhoota Stalams signifying the five elements of wind (Kalahasti), water (Tiruvanaikka), fire (Tiruvannamalai), earth (Kanchipuram) and space (Chidambaram).

Four most revered Saivaite Saints (Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Manikkavachakar) have worshipped at Chidambaram, and the bulk of Manikkavachakar’s work is in praise of Shiva at Chidambaram. Accordingly, their images are placed in the temple entrances corresponding to their points of entry into the temple. (Sambandar – South, Appar – West, Sundarar – North and Manikkavachakar – East).

This temple is home to Chidambara Rahasyam, concept of nothingness (aroopam). Shiva is said to have revealed a vision of his cosmic dance to Patanjali, Vyagrapadar and to all the Devas here. In terms of its antiquity, richness in terms of worship & festival traditions, in architectural & sculptural splendour, in its association with music & dance, Chidambaram is a center second to none in truly representing the rich Indian cultural heritage.

PLACES OF INTERESTKali Temple: The Thillaikaliamman temple is on the northern end of the town. It was built by Kopperunjingan, who ruled between 1229 AD and 1278 AD.

Annamalai University: It is a residential University founded by the Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiar. It is a great centre of Tamil learning and carnatic music; now offers educational facilities in various disciplines including Medicine, Agriculture, Engineering etc.

Pichavaram: Pichavaram, 16 kms. east of Chidambaram, ranks among the most exquisite scenic spot with abundant and varied tourism resources. The backwaters which are interconnected by the Vellar and Kollidam system offer abundant scope for water sports – parasailing, rowing and canoeing.

Neyveli: It is about 30 kms. from Chidambaram via Vadalur. It is one of the biggest industrial complexes in the country. The lignite mined here is used for thermal power generation. Apart from fertilisers ceramic wares and Leco (cooking coal), a number of by-products are also produced from lignite.

Kalvarayan Hills: The Kalvarayan hills are situated 150 kms north west of Chidambaram on the western side of Kallakurichi Taluk. Spread over an area of 600 sq. kms. approximately with the height ranging from 315 mts. to 1190 mts. these hills offer a temperate climate and quiet solititude. There is a botanical garden on the hills. There are two waterfalls here. The area is ideal for trekking. A summer Festival is also held every year in May.

Tarangambadi: Once the site of a Danish settlement, Tarangambadi has the remains of the Dansborg fort built by Ore Gedde, the commander of the Royal Dutch Navy, in the 17th century. The fort constructed in 1620 with two storeys was the most important building which housed the top echelons of the Danish officials. Apart from the ramparts, the rest of the buildings are in good condition.

Jambukeshwara

JambukeshwaraThiruvanaikoil is a beautiful small urban village at Tiruchirappalli district (‘Trichy’, ‘Thiruchirapalli’, ‘Tiruchinopoly’, ‘Tiruchi’) in Tamil Nadu of Southern India. Thiruvanaikoil is also familiarly known as Tiruvanaikoil, Tiruvanaikaval, Thiruvanaikaval, Thiruvanaika, Thiruanaikaa.

Thiruvanaikoil is around 3 Kms away from the heart of Trichy city and adjacent to Srirangam another small historic town and one of the holy places in India. Thiruvanaikoil and Srirangam are in the banks of river Cauvery. Literally these two places form an island, surrounded by river Cauvery and river Coleroon.

This ancient temple dedicated to Shiva (Jambukeswara) and Parvati (Akhilandeswari) is one of the foremost Saivite shrines in Tamilnadu. This large temple celebrates Shiva as Jambukeswara, an embodiment of the element water and is often referred to as Appustalam and is hence one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalams the other four being Tiruvannamalai (fire), Chidambaram (Space), Kanchipuram (Earth) and Kalahasti (Air) respectively.

The Sri Jambukeshwara Temple is dedicated to Lord Siva and has five concentric walls and seven gopurams. It is built around a Siva lingam partly submerged in water that comes from a spring in the sanctum sanctorum. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple. The complex was built in the same time when Sri Ranganathaswamy temple was also built.

The presiding deity is Lord Siva as Kalahasteeswarar. The Siva Linga here is one of the five supreme Lingas representing the five elements (Panchabutha Lingams): water (appu), fire (tejas), air (vayu), ether (akash) and earth (prithivi). The Linga form in Kalahasti is believed to represent vayu. Even today the flame placed in Garbhagraha inside the temple flickers indicating the presence of the wind while there is no entry of wind to disturb the flame. The air is just sufficient to breathe in. This according to a belief is the existence of Shiva in the temple.

According to the legend there was once a forest of jambu trees in the place of modern Tiruvanaikka. Nearby was a tank called Chandratheertha which was filled by water from the river Cauvery. Lord shiva appeared as a Lingam under one of the trees. The lingam came to be called the Jambulingam. Due to a curse, two of the shiva ganas Pushpadanta and Malyava, were born in the forest as a white elephant and as a spider. The elephant worshipped the Lingam with flowers and with water brought in its trunk. The spider too worshipped the Lingam, spinning out a web over the Lingam to prevent leaves of the tree from falling on it. The spider’s web appeared to be unclean for the elephant and it destroyed the web. This lead to big clash between the two and ultimately resulted in their death. Lord shiva granted Mokshaa (salvation) to both. The spider was born in a royal Chola family as the great king Ko Chenkannan who built about 70 temples (Maadakovils) including the temple of Jambukeswarar at Tiruvanaika. Because the king remembered about his earlier birth, he built the temples in a such way that no elephant can enter the sanctum sancotrum and come near the Sivalingam.

The temple at Tiruvanaikaval is a big one covering an area of about 18 acres with high walls and gopurams on all the 4 sides. The temple has 5 prakarams. The main sanctum sancotrum (the 5th prakaram) can be reached by entering a series of Gopurams (Towers). The shrine for female deity Akilandeswari is situated in the 4th prakaram.

Theerthams: There are nine Theerthams (Holy Water Points) near this temple.

Sreemath Theertham
Rama Theertham
Chandra Theertham
Agni Theertham
Indira Theertham
Akasthiya Theertham
Jambu Theertham
Surya Theertham
Brahmma Theertham

Kanchipuram

KanchipuramKanchipuram is known as one of India’s Seven Sacred cities. Kanchipuram was, one of India’s seven sacred cities. Kanchipuram was the historical capital of the Pallavas. It was under the Pallavas from 6th to 8th century A.D and later became the citadel of Cholas, Vijayanagar Kings, the Muslim and the British. It has been a centre of Tamil learning, cultural and religious background for centuries. Kanchi is also known centre of the finest silk sarees made in the country. Kanchi has magnificent temples of unique architectural beauty bearing eloquent testimony to its glorious Dravidian heritage. Adi Sankara established his episcopal seat (Kamakotipeetam).

Kancheepuram is situated at a distance of about 77 km from Chennai on the Arakkonam – Chengalpattu section of the Southern Railway. It is easily accessible both by road and by rail. The town of Kanchi can be divided into two sections, the Shiva Kanchi and the Vishnu Kanchi. There are many small temples and shrines scattered all over Kanchi.

This is one of the most revered temples to Shiva. It is one of the Panchabhoota Stalams signifying the 5 elements of wind (Kalahasti), water (Tiruvanaikka), fire (Tiruvannamalai), earth (Kanchipuram) and space (Chidambaram). It is a vast temple with many an endowment from the Vijayanagar rulers, as seen in the long corridors, towering gopurams and mandapams. This is the 1st of the 32 Tevara Stalams in the Tondai region of South India.

All the various temples in Kanchipuram belong to the south Indian style of temple architecture. As one nears the city of Kanchipuram, one is greeted by a cluster of temple shikharas (prominent roofs that surmount the sanctum sanctorum of the temples) and gopurams (tall and elaborately carved temple gateways), which are typical of the south Indian style of building temples.

TEMPLES
Ekambareswarar Temple: Ancient temple of Kanchipuram, it has been renovated by the Pallavas, the Cholas and the Vijayanagar Kings. This is one of the Panchabootha sthala where the Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of ‘Prithvi’ (earth) Lingam. The 57 metres (188″) high Rajagopuram is one of the tallest towers in South India. The 2,501 – year old mango tree inside the temple has 4 branches each yielding different varities of mangoes. This temple has five spacious corridors (prakrams) and a beautiful 1,000 – pillar hall.

Legend is that goddess Parvathi in a playful mood closed the eyes of Lord Paramasivan. This created darkness in the whole universe. Every creature came to an abrupt stop as they could not see. Lord Shiva opened his third eye and gave light to the whole universe. To make her realise the folly of her action Lord Shiva renounced Goddess Parvathi. She then left her abode in ‘Kailash’ and came down to Kancheepuram. She was pining to be reunited with her Lord. In order to atone for her sin, she moulded a Sivalingam out of sand and installed it under a mango tree on the bank of River Kampa. She prayed to the Lord daily requesting that she be forgiven and taken back. Lord Shiva wanted to test her devotion and caused the river to swell. Parvathy fearing that her Sivalingam would be washed away clasped it to her bosom to protect it. Lord Shiva was pleased with her dedication and devotion and took her back to her rightful place.

There is a very old mango tree in the compound of the temple. This tree bears four different types of mango fruits on four different branches. These four different branches are believed to represent the four Vedic scriptures that form the basis of Hindu philosophy. The tree is venerated and worshipped by devotees visiting the temple. People who are longing for children or young women who want to find suitable husbands make offering to this tree in the belief that their wishes would be fulfilled.

ERUMELI SASTHA TEMPLE: Erumeli Sastha Temple, an important meeting place in the pilgrimage trip to Sabarimala is famous on many counts. There is also a Muslim Temple very near to the Sastha Temple. Ayyappans go to Sabarimala after worshipping at these two temples, that symbolise the Hindu-Muslim unity. The pilgrims go to Sabarimala after ‘Pettathullal’ at Erumeli. Pilgrimage to Sabarimala without Pettathullal and worship at the above mentioned temples is against the traditional dogmas. Erumeli Temple is at a distance of 38 Kms from Kottayam. Nearest Railway station is Kottayam.

PANDALAM VALIYAKOYICKAL TEMPLE: According to legend Ayyaappa as a babe was found lying on the banks of the river Pampa, by the Raja of Pandalam. The Raja had no issue and the child was considered as a God-given gift. It was therefore brought up in court with all regal honours. Ayyappan grew up endowed with heavenly splendour, super human wisdom and physical powers. Sree Dharmaa Sastha of Pandalam Valiyakoyickal Temple is Dharma Deva to King to Pandalam. One of the Major events associated with the Makaravilakku Festival is the procession of the Thiruvabharanam of Lord Ayyappa from this Temple. The nearest town and railway station is Chengannoor-12 Kms away.

KULATHUPUZHA SASTHA TEMPLE: The Sastha Temple at Kulathupuzha is a very ancient one. The idol at Kulathupuzha is called ‘Manikantan’. It is believed that the Temple was constructed by the Raja of Pandalam. But the idol was discovered by a Brahmin from Kottarakkara after several years and he started pooja there. The King of Kottarakkara heard about this and he constructed the present temple. Feeding the fishes in the nearby river is an important vazhipadu in the Temple.

ACHANKOIL SASTHA TEMPLE: Achankoil Sastha (Arachan) temple is a sacred place of worship where pilgrims from Kerala and Tamilnadu come in groups through out the year. According to a legend the God gave ‘Darshan’ to a worshipper who had undertaken long term penance at Kandamala, where the the present temple stands. The main festival season here comes during the Mandalam puja. The nearest town and railway station is Shenkottah-Tamil Nadu.

ARYANKAVU SASTHA TEMPLE: The legend behind the Ayyappa of Aryankavu is similar to that of Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha. The only difference between the two is that Sastha was brough up by the Pandi Raja of Madura and not the Raja of Pandalam. The temple is constructed about 35 feet below the road level. It is at a distance of 2 kms from the majestic Pallaruvi waterfalls located in the deep dense forests. It is believed that Ayyappa had relationship with Sourashtrans while living in the palace of Raja of Madura. Even now Sourashtrans reach here in groups during the time of Mandalapooja. The temple rests 86 Kms away from Thiruvananthapuram.

Srikalahasti

SrikalahastiSrikalahasti is a place of Hindu pilgrimage with a temple here dedicated to Lord Shiva. Located at 36 km from Tirupati, 578km from Hyderabad and 326 km from Vijayawada, Srikalahasti is a town in Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh.

The presiding deity is Lord Siva as Kalahasteeswarar. The Siva Linga here is one of the five supreme Lingas representing the five elements (Panchabutha Lingams): water (appu), fire (tejas), air (vayu), ether (akash) and earth (prithivi). The Linga form in Kalahasti is believed to represent vayu. Even today the flame placed in Garbhagraha inside the temple flickers indicating the presence of the wind while there is no entry of wind to disturb the flame. The air is just sufficient to breathe in. This according to a belief is the existence of Shiva in the temple.

The main Lingam in Kalahasti is in the shape of the trunk of an elephant with tusks on either side and the figure of the spider at the bottom. Sri is the name of the spider. Kala is the serpent and hasti is the elephant.

This temple is situated between two steep hills on the banks of river Swarnamukhi. Chola kings built the main temple. The great Chola king Kuluthungal constructed the Caligopuram in 11th century A.D. Veeranarashimha Yadavaraya built the present Prakara (compound wall) and the four Gopurarns in 12th century AD. Krishnadevaraya built 100 pillared Mandapa in 1516 A. D. According to the inscriptions, the temple was built at the base of the Kailasagiri by great Pallava kings and later by Tondaman Chakravarthi (Pandyam Kings).

There is a legend that a Spider (Sri) built the web over it, a snake (Kala), placed a gem on the Linga and an elephant (Hasti) washed the Linga with water from its trunk, had offered prayers in their devotion and worshipped the Linga. The marks that correlate the legend are still visible on the Linga, which is a Swayambhu (Natural). Sri,Kala and Hasti put togather becomes the name of this temple Srikalahasti.

The Goddess, Gnana Prasannamba, the divine spouse of Kalahasteeswara, is said to be the sister of Tirupati Lord Venkateswara.

There is another legend of sacrifice and devotion of a well-known, Saint, Kannappa. He was once a hunter and a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He used to offer part of his hunt to Shiva everyday. One day while he was offering the hunt, both eyes of the deity appeared. One of the eyes of the deity was profusely bleeding. In the state of helplessness to remedy the deity, he pulled out his own eye in total devotion and fixed it on the deity’s eye. While the bleeding stopped in one, the other eye of the deity started bleeding. Kannappa’s endless devotion made him pull out his second eye also and offered to the deity. The diety pleased with the depth of his devotion granted him Moksha (Salvation)

As a result of the dispute between Adisesha, the serpent God, and Vayu, the God of Air, three blocks separated themselves from Mount Meru and fell at three different places – one is Kalahasti, the other is Trichy (Malai Kottai), and another is Trincomalee in Sri Lanka.

It is believed that the goddess with divine powers here has cured women who were possessed by evil spirits. The main festival in this temple is Mahashivratri, which lasts for 10 days in the month of February and March. This temple has a reference in the Skandapurana where Arjun is said to have worshipped Srikalahastiswara during his Theerth Yatra, (pilgrimage).

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