Pancha Bhoota Stalam or the temples of Pancha Bhoota Lingas are the places where God Shiva had manifested in the form representing the five great elements of nature: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space (Pancha Boothas).
Of these five temples, four are located in Tamil Nadu and one in Andhra Pradesh.
|Ekambareswarar Temple, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu.
|Jambukeswarar Temple, Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu.
|Arunachaleswarar Temple, Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu.
|Srikalahasteeswara Temple, Srikalahasti, Andhra Pradesh.
|Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu.
Located in the historical city of Kanchipuram or Kanchi, the Shiva Lingam manifested in Ekambareswarar temple signifies the element earth of the pancha boothas.
While entering the temple complex, one will be astonished by the large gopuram of the temple, and it is not surprising to know that it is one among the largest gopurams in India.
Once you enter inside the temple you can see various idols carved on the walls and pillars. The inner hall way looks vast with beautiful architecture.
Story of the Prithvi Linga
History shows that the glory of the presiding deity Ekambareswarar has been praised by several great saints and had been recorded in famous Tamil scripture’s like Periya Puranam and Kanchi Sthala Puranam.
Once Goddess Parvati had worshipped Shiva Lingam that was made up of sand under a mango tree here in Kanchi.
To test her devotion, God Shiva made Vegavathi river to flood. Even on seeing the heavy floods Goddess Parvati continued her worship without any fear, The floods became more intense and was about to reach the Parvati’s place.
Parvati was worried about the Shiva Lingam and embraced it with her hands such that it will not dissolute in the floods.
Pleased by the enormous devotion shown by Parvati, God Shiva stopped the floods and appeared before her and took her back to Kailash.
Later on request of Parvati, God Shiva had manifested under the mango tree, hence the name Ekambareswarar.
The Mango Tree Inside the Temple
In the temple courtyard, back to the main sanctum a sampling of the original mango tree can be still seen. Newly married couple offer their prayers to this mango tree as a belief of getting a graceful child.
While entering into the corridors of the main temple, you can still find the bark of the original mango tree (dated around 3500 year old).
How to reach Kanchipuram
Kanchipuram is well connected by road. It is around 60 Kms away from Chennai and 129 Kms from Tirupati. From these cities you can either hire a taxi or reach out to the nearest bus station where you can find several buses to Kanchipuram.
Although the town has a railway station it has got limited trains running from major cities. Coming to the airports, Chennai and Tirupati are the nearest ones.
Located on the banks of river Cuvery(Ponni), Tiruvanaikaval is the place where the great god Shiva is manifested in the form of Jambu Lingam representing the element water of pancha boothas.
The preceding deities here are God Jambukeswarar(Shiva) and goddess Akhilandeswari(Parvati).
Story of the Jambukeswaram
Goddess Parvati once disturbed God Shiva while he was working for the betterment of the universe. Condemning the act, God Shiva directed her to do a penance on earth.
Parvati as Akhilandeswari conducted a great penance under the Jamun Tree by making a Shiva Lingam with waters of River Cauvery. Pleased with her penance, Shiva appeared before her and taught the Shiva Gnana and invited her back to the Kailash.
The Jamun tree Story:
As per the Sthala Puranam, Jambu maharshi, an ardent devotee of great god found a rare white jamun fruit which he offered to the God Shiva. The god ate the fruit pulp and spitted the seed.
Seeing this, Jambu maharshi consumed the seed as a prasada as it came from the mouth of great god himself.
Later,the seed started to grow as a tree from the head and the matted hair locks of the maharshi.
Seeing this the maharshi requested the god to reside under this jamun tree and give him the moksha. Pleased with his devotion god shiva said Jambu mahrshi to do a penance near river Cauvery such that to full-fill his wish.
Another story related to the temple
Two Shiva ganas namely Mayavantha and Pushpadanta used to quarrel each other frequently. One day the quarrel reached its peak and ended up by the curses given by Mayavantha to Pushpadanta to become an elephant and in opposite from Pushpadanta to Mayavantha to become a spider.
Both of them came to Jambukeswaram and started worshipping the Jala Lingam daily. The Elephant worshipped by bringing water from the river to clean the Lingam and the spider used to construct a web on the top of the lingam to prevent it from the dried leaves of Jamun tree.
During this process of worship, elephant used to remove the spider web thinking it as dust which used to make spider angry. One day the spider crawled in to the trunk of the elephant and bit it to death which in the course died too.
Later God Jambukeswara(Shiva) relieved both from their curses.
Although the spider committed sin by killing the elephant but due to its immense punya, it was born as the King Kochengot Chola who was an ardent devotee of Shiva and constructed several Shiva temples.
One among them is the Jambukeswarar temple, which was even further developed and reconstructed by other rulers. The Unique feature of all the temples constructed by the Chola King Kochengot is the entrances of main sanctum of the temple used to be small such that not even a small elephant can enter.
How to reach
The temple is located in the outskirts of Tiruchirapalli city which is well connected by road, rail and air. The temple is present around 15 kms away from the International airport and 11.5 kms from the railway station.
Among the Panchabootha Lingas, it was here the supreme God Shiva manifested as the Agni Lingam representing element fire.
It is believed that God Shiva had appeared as a column of fire at the top of the Arunachalam hill and manifested as Agni Lingam. Devotees also believe that, Shiva himself was present in the form of the sacred hill Arunagiri.
One of the spiritual significance is that, doing circumambulation around Arunagiri is auspicious and thought to bring prosperity.
Story of the Arunachalam
Once Lord Vishnu and Brahma were having an argument on who is the superior one among them. Both of their argument had intensified.
In order to put an end to this quarrel, God Shiva suddenly arose like a column of fire as a jyothi stambam/Lingam in between them. The column of fire was very huge that it’s radiance can’t even be compared.
Surprised by the mysterious object (lingam) in between them both had decided to find the top and bottom of the lingam and who finds it first will be considered as superior to the other.
Immediately Lord Vishnu took the form of a boar and started digging earth to find the root i.e. the origin of the Shiva lingam. On the other side, Lord brahma took his swan to find the top of the Shiva lingam.
Unable to find the end, Lord Vishnu realised that the column of fire is none other than supreme God Shiva who neither has an end nor origin and who is everywhere and infinite.
Meanwhile, Lord brahma who was travelling up to find the top of the Shiva lingam also came to a conclusion that it was impossible to find the top of the lingam and thought to return back to its centre.
Ashamed of returning to the center and also to agree the superiority of Vishnu(if succeeds), brahma thought to lie about reaching the top of the lingam.
Meanwhile, Lord Brahma saw a kethaki flower falling from space and asked to do a favour as a witness and agreeing to his lie.
On returning Lord Brahma told to Lord Vishnu that he was able to find the top of the lingam and shown kethaki flower as his witness. The flower too agreed. At the same time Vishnu said that he was unable to find the origin and agreed his defeat.
Seeing the treachery act of brahma, mighty Shiva got angered and appeared in front of both and revealed the truth and cursed brahma that there will be no temples and pujas for him. On the other hand, he admired Lord Vishnu for sticking to the truth.
Later on the request of Brahma and Vishnu God Shiva had manifested as Agni lingam representing element fire.
The Temple Festival on Karthigai Deepam
Visitng Arunachalaeshwar temple especially in the month of November can be a spectacular event for anyone. Karthigai deepam festival which occurs in this month is a very special occasion and one can find whole temple decorated with beautiful lights.
On this occasion huge mass of devotees and also tourists come here to watch the procession of temple deities and on tenth day of Karthigai deepam festival a huge fire (mahadeepam) is lit on the hill representing God Shiva in the form of Agni lingam.
How to reach
Various Buses are available from major cities like Chennai, Tirupati and Madurai. The town is also well connected from several cities by train. The nearest International Airports to Tiruvannamalai are Chennai and Tiruchirappalli.
Located on banks of river Suvarnamukhi, Srikalahasthi is one of well known Shaiva Pilgrim centres of South India. It is the place where supreme god Shiva is manifested as Vayu Lingam representing the element Air of the five basic elements.
This Pilgrim centre is named on the Sri(Spider), Kala(Snake) and Hasthi(Elephant) that worshipped the great god and attained Moksha.
The Story of Elephant, Snake and Spider
According to the sthala puranam, a story is present regarding these three creatures and their devotion to the God Shiva.
The spider used to worship the Lingam by constructing a web to avoid the dust falling on Shiva Lingam. The snake worshipped Shiva Lingam by leaving a gem on it daily and the elephant worshipped by bringing the water from river Suvarnamukhi to clean the Shiva lingam.
But the elephant’s act of cleaning the linga destroyed the spider’s web and had also made the gem to fall away from the shivalingam. After several days the snake saw the act of elephant and became angry. It crawled in to the trunk and bit the elephant.
In the struggle, the elephant ran amok and hit its trunk to the shivalingam squashing the spider and also leaving the snake inside its trunk to death. The elephant too died due to the snake’s poison.
Looking at their ardent devotion, God Shiva appeared and gave moksha to the three creatures and manifested as Vayu Lingam up on their request and also said that this place will be referred with you three, thus the name SriKalaHasthi.
This is also the place where Kannapa, a great devotee of Shiva and one among the 63 Nayanars had plucked his eye and offered to the Lord Srikalahastheeswara.
How to Reach
Srikalahasthi is located 37 kms from Tirupati. So a person visiting tirupati can easily visit the Srikalahasteeswara temple and it takes around 40-45 mins if you are reaching directly from Tirupathi International Airport.
Thillai Nataraja Temple
Well known all over South India, This Shaivate shrine is considered as one of the holiest place as God Shiva does his Ananda Tandava (Blisfull dance) and manifested as the Akasa Linga in this place representing the element Space of Pancha boothas.
The Story of Chidambaram
Once the region of Chidambaram is a thick forest. In that forest there lived a group of sages who gained several powers including those of black rituals and thought they can control the gods too. They started troubling the people who didn’t accept them.
To put an end to their doings and to reveal the ignorance of the sages, Great God Shiva in the form of Bhikshatanar came to that forest. Seeing the handsome one, the wives of the sages got attracted.
Seeing this the sages got angry and used their magical powers on that guy. But nothing could harm him.
The sages intensified their attack by sending dangerous serpents. He took those serpents and tied them as his ornaments. Later the sages sent a magical tiger on him. But it was killed and its skin was worn as a cloth by him.
The sages then used their powers to recall a demon called Apasmara and sent it on the Shiva who is present as Bhikshatanar. He then stepped on back of the demon Apasmara.
Seeing all this the sages understood that he is none other than the mightiest and the supreme one Shiva and praised for his mercy.
God Shiva then revealed himself and removed the ignorance of the sages and started the great dance, Ananda tandava at that place and manifested as Akasha Linga.
How to Reach
Chidambaram is around 170 kms away from Tiruchirappalli and around 230 kms from Chennai. Buses are available regularly from Chennai and Tirchy.