A famous Telugu script translates –
Without the permission of the great Lord Shiva even a glass blade will not sway to the air.
Source: Free Stock Illustrations
Lord Shiva, one of the most influential God in Hindu denominations, is revered as Mahadeva or the ‘greatest of gods’. In Kashi, Lord Shiva is the bestower of salvation and in Rameshwaram he is the respite of Rama by the peaceful waters of Indian Ocean. From Kashmir to Kerala, Gujarat to Arunachal, Lord Shiva has brought this country together since the immemorial time.
Lord Shiva is considered as ‘the destroyer or the transformer’ of the Trimurti tradition. He controls the 5 elements of nature named as the Pancha Bhoota – land, water, air, sky and fire. Pancha Bhoota Stalams are the 5 Shiva temples which manifest each of these 5 elements respectively. Skanda Purana states that each of the elements are enshrined in the lingam. And it’s quite interesting to note that these 5 temples are located in a diameter of about 500 km in and around Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
The Pancha Bhoota Stalams of Lord Shiva:
1. Ekambareshwarar Temple, Kanchipuram.
- Shiva is worshipped as ‘Ekambareshwar’ in this magnificent piece of architecture located in Kanchipuram. The city is also called as ‘The city of thousand temples’ .
- Shiva is manifests as ‘Prithvi Lingam’, representing the earth or land element.
- The lingam here is made of the earthen mud.
- To prevent it from deteriorating against liquids, abhishekam to the lingam is performed by jasmine oil (a low density liquid).
- Ekambareshwar means ‘Lord of Mango Tree’. Once Parvati was performing penance to a lingam made out of mud near Vedavathi river. To test her, Shiva sends Ganga. To protect the lingam from the water, Parvathi embraces the lingam rendering the name ‘Ekambareshwar’.
- The Pancha Bhoota Stalam has been a prominent seat of Saivism based learnings and has history which dates back to 600AD.
Attractions: Don’t miss the Kanjeevaram saree stores which the city is famous for. And of course, the Kanchi Kamakshi temple. Did we miss mentioning the South Indian food!
2. Jambukeswarar Temple, Thiruvanaikaval.
- Trichy is as spiritual as industrial it is. The house to Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, the most revered Vishnu temple.
- It also houses the Jambukeswarar Temple in Thiruvanaikaval.
- Thiruvanaikaval is located a little away from the hustle bustle of Trichy on Srirangam island surrounded by River Kaveri.
- Shiva is worshipped as ‘Appu Linga’ which enshrines the Jala or water elements.
- In the shrine of the temple, a stream of water flows under Lingam. This is always filled with water embodying the water element.
- Parvathi is worshipped as ‘Akhilandeshwari’ here.
- Pleased by Parvati’s penance to the lingam made out of water, Lord Shiva is said to have blessed the mother goddess with Shiva Gnana.
- Shiva and Parvathi assume a guru-shishya relation here. Therefore, the traditional and eye pleasing ‘Girija Kalyanam’ is not performed here to honor the bond.
Attractions: The Srirangam Temple cannot be missed for the sake of anything. It is estimated to be the largest functioning temple complex in the world area wise. Dont miss ‘Our Lady of Lourdes’ church located in the center of the city. A glimpse at ‘Grand Anicut’ built by Karikala Chola in 2nd century AD will surely delight you. It is the oldest water distribution system in use.
3. Arunachaleshwara Temple, Thiruvannamalai.
- Arunachaleswarar Temple located in the quiet town of Thiruvannamalai is the most famous Pancha bhoota stalam. Superstar Rajinikanth did a film named after the temple!
- In this temple, Shiva is worshipped as ‘Agni lingam’ which represents the fire or Agni element.
- Legend says that once Vishnu and Brahma contested for superiority. To settle the conflict, 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. Neither Brahma nor Vishnu could find the source, and while Vishnu conceded his defeat and declared Shiva as ‘Mahadeva’. Whereas, Brahma lied and said he has found the pinnacle.
- As a punishment to his behavior Shiva ordained that Brahma would never have temples on earth in his worship.
- The scene is called ‘Lingothbava’ and is represented in the western wall at the sanctum of most Shiva temples.
- This flame is said to have manifested as ‘Arunachaleswara’. The vast temple with the majestic Gopurams (8 of them) with 4 gigantic and 4 sub gopurams makes it one of the most gorgeous and largest temple complexes in the world.
- ‘Karthika Deepam’ festival here is a special attraction in the months of October and November.
Attractions: One of the most revered spiritual thinkers of India, Ramana Maharishi who is a powerful and an influencing personality of 20th century lived his life here. His ashram is a special attraction and many renowned people including our beloved music director Ilaiyaraaja have visited here. The Annamalai hill and its circumblation is a very loved sight here.
And if you love photography, then Arunachalam is one of the must visit Pancha Bhoota Stalam.
4. Sri Kalahastiswara Temple, Kalahasti.
- This Pancha Bhoota Stalam is located very close to the grand temple town of Tirupati. Sri Kalahastiswara Temple hosts the ‘Vayu Linga’. It represents the Vayu or Air form of Lord Shiva.
- Srikalahasti gets its name from ‘Sri’ a spider, ‘Kala’ a snake and ‘Hasti’ an elephant who pleased Shiva with their selfless devotion.
- Kalahasti Temple is an epitome of Bhakti.
- A staunch devotee of Shiva, Bhakta Kannappa was ready to offer both his eyes to cover blood from the lingam.
- There is a lamp inside the inner sanctum that is constantly flickering despite the lack of presence of air inside.
- The air-linga or Vayu-Linga can be observed to move even when the priests close off the entrance to the main deity room, which does not have any windows.
- The linga is white and is considered Swayambhu, or self-manifested.
- Kalahasthi is reputed to be Rahu Kethu Kshetra. Hundreds of people come here to perform Rahu – Kethu Sarpa Dosha Nivarana Puja to protect themselves from the ill effects of the planets Rahu and Ketu.
5. Natarajar Swamy Temple, Chidambaram.
- Quite a common name among Tamil names, the town of Chidambaram houses the exotic yet elusive temple of Thillai Natarajar. It is worshipped as ‘Akasha Linga’, one of the Pancha Bhoota which represents the sky element.
- The iconic deity in bronze and silver of Natarajar performing cosmic dance is said to have originated here.
- Nataraja is the deity worshipped by practitioners of the South Indian dance form Bharatanatyam.
- A fierce fight between Lord Shiva and a group of saints resulted in performance of Ananda Tandava by Shiva. This crushed the demon of ignorance and arrogance manifesting him as Thillai Natarajar (Thillai represents the mangrove forests).
- ‘Chidambara Rahasyam’ or the ‘greatest secret’ is said to be originated out of the famous form of worship in this temple.
- As a part of the daily worship, the priest removes the curtains (representative of human ignorance) revealing an empty space which is true form of the Lord. The priest henceforth reveals the Chidambara Rahasya.
Attractions: Along with the Nataraja temple, the complex also houses the revered Govindaraja temple. A very sacred divya-desam temple inside. The govindaraja temple has the Vishnu in his Vaikuntam sleeping pose. There are a dozen water bodies around the temple. They embody the temple complex including Sivaganga, Kuyya Theertham and Pulimoodu. The mangrove forest located very close to the temple is a special attraction to the flora and fauna lovers. The city also is the seat of Annamalai University which is one of the oldest centers of learning down south.
So, if you are either a worshipper or devotee of Lord Shiva then you surely have to visit these Pancha Bhoota Stalams.
Southie: Surya Tej Borra