Pancha Bhoota Temples


Pancha Bhoota Stalam or Pancha Bhoota Stala(Sanskrit: पन्च भूत स्थल) refers to the five Shiva temples, dedicated to Shiva, each representing the manifestation of the five prime elements of nature- land, water, air, sky, fire.  Pancha indicates Five, Bhoota means elements and Stala means place. All these temples are located in South India with four of these temples at Tamil Nadu and one at Andhra Pradesh. The five elements are believed to be enshrined in the five lingams and each of the lingams representing Shiva in the temple have five distant names based on the elements they represent. Indian belief associates the origin of life with the five basic elements (Pancha – five, Bhootam – Element) of Wind, Water, Fire, Earth and Space (ether). In Sanskrit, these elements are referred to as Vayu, Jalam (Apah), Agni, Prithvi and Aakasam. The Indian system of belief in Divinity also worships the divine as a manifestation of these basic elements. Accordingly, Shiva is worshipped as a manifestation of these elements in five ancient temples in India.

There is much in common between these five temples. These are among the holiest Saivite shrines in India, and have been glorified by the poems of the Nayanmar Saints of Tamilnadu. Reference to these five temples in various literary works place them in history, in as early as a period as the Sangam period in the very early Christian era.

A flickering lamp in the Sree Kalahasti temple shows the play of wind, the water spring in the innermost sanctum of the Tiruvanaikka temple shows the temple's relationship to the element water, the annual Kartikai Deepam festival at Tiruvannamalai where a giant lamp is lighted atop the Annamalai hill shows the Annamalaiyaar's manifestation as fire, the swayambhu lingam of sand at Kanchipuram signifies the deitie's association with the earth while the formless space at Chidambaram shows the association of the Supreme being with formlessness or nothingness.

Pancha Bhoota Temples

The five grand temples associated with the five basic elements are:
1. Earth – (Bhoomi or Nilam) - Kanchipuram - Ekambareswarar Temple
2. Water – (Neer) - Thiruvanaikaval - Jambukeswara Temple
3. Fire – (Agni or Nerupu) - Tiruvannamalai - Annamalaiyar Temple
4. Wind – (Vaayuvu or Kaatru) - Srikalahasti
5. Sky – (Akaasam or AAkayam) - Chidambaram - Chidambaram Temple

Ekambreswarar Temple, Kanchipuram (Earth)

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. There are several Shiva temples scattered all over Kanchipuram, and it is to be noted that there is no separate shrine for Parvati in any of them.The Kamakshiamman temple is the only Ambal shrine in Kanchipuram. In Kanchi, the Ekambreswarar, Kamakottam temples with Kumarakottam in between denote Somaskandar.

History:
This vast temple with high rising Gopurams dominates the skyline of Kanchipuram the historic capital of the Pallavas. Kanchipuram - a temple town is considered to be the foremost among the seven prime pilgrimage centers in India. Along with Mamallapuram and Tirukkalunkunram, this town attracts the attention of several tourists in Chennai. Also in Kanchipuram is the grand Varadarajar temple along with several other temples revered by the tamil hymns of the Alwars of the 1st millennium. The Pallavas, Cholas and the Vijayanagar Kings especially Krishna Deva Raya have contributed to this temple. Second century AD Tamil poetry speaks of Kamakottam, and the Kumarakottam (currently the Kamakashi Amman temple and the Subramanya temple). Tiruvacakam, Tirukkovaiyaar, Kanchipuranam, Manimekalai etc. speak of the glory of Kanchi the city.The existing structure then, was pulled down and rebuilt by the Pallava Kings. The Cholas who came in later also made several contributions to the temple.

Architecture:
The temple covers an area of over 40 acres. The Raja Gopuram or the entrance tower to the temple which rises to a height of 172 feet was built by the Vijayanagar Monarch Krishnadevaraya. The pillared hall in front of the sanctum was also built by the Vijayanagar Kings.

Deities:
The presiding deity here is Ekambareswarar or Shiva, worshipped as the Prithivi Lingam. A Somaskanda panel featuring Shiva, Parvati and Skanda adorns the rear of the main shrine, which has been held in worship for centuries together. It is believed that Parvati, the consort of Shiva worshipped him in the form of a Prithivi Lingam, or a Lingam improvised out of sand, under a mango tree. Legend says that the neighboring Vegavati river overflowed and threatened to engulf the Shiva Lingam and that Parvati or Kamakshi, embraced the Lingam, and Shiva, touched by the gesture materialized in person and married her. In this context he is referred to as 'Tazhuvakkuzhainthaar' in Tamil. As mentioned before, there is no separate shrine for Ambal or the Goddess in the temple as she is worshipped along with Shiva, as in every other Shiva temple in the precincts of the town of Kanchipuram. There is another shrine of Shiva and Kamakshi under the Stala Vruksham or the Temple tree, which is a mango tree said to be 3500 years old. The mango tree is said to be the embodiment of the four Vedas and the tree is said to bear fruits of four different tastes each season here. The Saint poet Sundaramoorthy Nayanar is said to have recovered his eyesight (left eye) after offering worship here.

Festivals and Services:
Six worship services are offered each day in this temple - namely UshadKalam, Kaalasanthi, Uchi Kaalam, Pradosham and Sayarakshai and Ardhajamam. Colorful festivals such as Ani Tirumanjanam (June-July), Adi Kritikai (July-Aug), Avani Moolam (Aug - Sep), Navaratri (Sep-October), Kartikai Deepam (Nov-Dec), Thai Poosam (Jan-Feb), Panguni Uthiram (Mar-Apr), Chitra Pournami (Apr-May) and Vaikashi Vishakam (May-June) mark the temple's annual calendar. The Panguni festival lasts for 13 days and it is during this festival that the wedding of the presiding deity is celebrated, and the venerated Tamil poems of the Nayanmars (Tirumurais) are sung in great splendor. Nilaathungal Tunda Perumaal - Vishnu is worshipped in a small shrine in one of the corridors.The works of the Alwars refer to the Vishnu shrine here and it is revered as one of the 108 Divya Desams as well.

Jambukeswara Temple, Thiruvanaikaval (Water)

Thiruvanaikoil 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

Annamalaiyar Temple, Tiruvannamalai (Fire)

Tiruvannamalai is one of the greatest Saivite shrines in Tamil Nadu,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. The temple has 9 towers and seven parakrams. The main tower (Rajagopuram) is 217 feet high with eleven stories, and is the second largest tower in South India.

History:
In Thiruvannamalai, Lord Shiva took the form of a column of fire which had no beginning or end. This was done to destroy the ego of Lord Vishnu and Brahma. Lord Shiva in ardhanarashwari with one half being Goddess Umadevi is said to have given dharshan to his devotees. This temple was expanded by Chera, Chola, Pandiya and Nayak rulers.

Auspicious Day: Pournami (Full Moon) Day and also yearly once karthigai deepam.

Kalahasteeswarar Temple, Srikalahasti (Wind)

This ancient temple dedicated to Shiva is one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalams (temples celebrating Shiva as the embodiment of the primary elements), air being the element in case here, the other five temples being Tiruvannamalai (Fire), Chidambara (Space),Tiruvanaikkaval (Water) and Kanchipuram (Earth) respectively.

Kalahasti is located near the pilgrimage town of Tirupati and is visited by thousands of pilgrims. This temple is also associated with Rahu and Ketu, (of the nine grahams or celestial bodies in the Indian astrological scheme).

Antiquity:
This temple has been referred to in pre-Christian Tamil literature. The Tamil Saivite saints of the 1st millennium CE have visited this temple and sung its fame. The adjoining hill Dakshina Kailasam has many a fine Pallava carving.

The Tamil Cholas and the Vijayanagara Rulers have made several endowments to this temple. Adi Sankara is said to have visited this temple and offered worship here. There are Chola inscriptions in this temple which date back to the 10th century CE. The Telugu poem 'Sri Kalahasti Satakam' explains the traditions associated with this temple.Muthuswamy Deekshitar, one of the foremost composers in the Carnatic Music Tradition has sung the glory of this temple in his kriti 'Sree Kaalahasteesa'.

Other works on this temple include the Sree-Kalattipuranam of the three brothers Karunapprakasar, Sivapprakasar and Velappa Deekshitar, Tirukkalattipuranam by Aanandakoottar of Veerainagar and Tirukkalatti Ula by Seraikkavirayar.

Architecture:
The vast west facing Kalahastiswara temple is built adjoining a hill, and on the banks of the river Swarnamukhi. At some points, the hill serves as the wall of the temple. The temple prakarams follow the contour of the adjoining hill and hence the temple plan is rather irregular. North of the temple is the Durgambika hill, south is the Kannappar hill and east is the Kumaraswamy hill.
Krishnadevaraya built a huge gopuram, a few feet away from the entrance to the temple. The entrance to the temple is crowned with a smaller tower. There is an underground Ganapati shrine in the outer prakaram, while in the innermost prakaram are the shrines of Shiva and Parvati.

The present structure of the temple is a foundation of the Cholas of the 10th century, as testified by inscriptions; improvements and additions were made during the subsequent years of the Chola rulers of Tamilnadu and the Vijayanagar emperors.
The Manikanteswarar temple, also in Kalahasti dates back to the period of Raja Raja Chola I (early 11th century), and it was reconstructed in stone in 1196 by Kulottunga III. Shiva here is also referred to as Manikkengauyudaiya Nayanar. There is also a Vishnu shrine in this temple.

Legends associated with this temple:
The legend here is similar to that of the Jambukeswara temple at Tiruvanaikka. Shiva is said to have given salvation to a spider, elephant and a serpent who were ardent devotees of the Shiva Lingam located here. The spider is said to have attained salvation in Kritayuga (the first of the four yugas in the Hindu tradition), while the elephant and the snake were devotees in Treta Yugam, the succeeding aeon. The elephant's devotional outpouring was a source of disturbance to the serpent's display of devotion and vice versa, resulting in animosity between the two, until Shiva's intervention gave both the devotees their liberation.

Kannappa Nayanaar, a hunter is said to have been a great devotee of Kalahasteeswarar. Legend has it that he offered his own eyes to the Shivalingam, and for this reason earned the name Kannappan (his original name being Thinnan), and the distinction of having his statue adorn the sanctum. Nakkiradevar, Indra, Rama, Muchukunda and others are believed to have worshipped Shiva at this temple.

Festivals: Maha Shivratri which occurs in the Tamil month of Maasi (Feb 15 through March 15) is one of the greatest festival seasons here, and the celebrations are marked by processions of the deities. The fifth day of the festival in the month of Maasi coincides with the Maha Shivratri.

Chidambaram Temple, Chidambaram (Sky)

The temple occupies an area of about 51 acres. Four imposing towers rise on the four sides of the temple. Each of these towers rises to about 135 ft and are comprised of 7 storeys and are topped with 13 copper 'Kalasam' (finials). The entrances at the base of these towers are quite large rising at least to a height of 40 ft. The outer perimeter wall is about 30 ft high enclosing the outer 'street' (veedhi) and the inner enclosures (praharam). The shrines of Mukkuruni Vinayagar, Katpaga Vinayagar, Subramanya, Somasundarar, Sivakamasundary and Pandyanayagar are all built along this outer 'street'. The sacred tank 'Sivaganga' and the thousand-pillared mandapam - 'Raja Sabah' - are also situated along this 'street'. The second 'praharam' (enclosure) is connected to the outer 'veedhi' by two entrances, one on the west and the other on the east. On entering the second praharam you can see the shrine of Kalasamhara moorthy, Oorthavathandava moorthy, Luxmi and Thandayuthapani. The Flagstaff can be seen on the southern section and the 'Nrithya sabah' houses the idol of Oorthavathandava moorthy. The shrine of 'Pollapillaiyar and the shrines for the four 'Nayanmars' Appar, Sundarar, Sambanthar and Manikkavasagar are seen here. The 'Deva Sabah' is also situated along this corridor. At the entrance to the inner enclosure the golden roof of 'Chittambalam' comes into view. It is in this 'manadapam' that Lord Nadarajah performs his dance (the Anandathandavam) eternally. The Chitsabah and the Kanakasabah are linked together and are called 'Ponnambalam'. This is also called as 'Chittambalam' and 'Gnanasabah'. There is a small entrance to the right of the Dancing Siva ('Nadarajah'). During 'pooja' the curtain hung at the entrance is drawn aside and 'araathi' is shown. There are no images inside but only a garland of golden 'vilva' leaves is seen. This represents the 'Chidambara Rahasyam' representing the Lord in the form of space. Chidambaram thus represents one of the five elements (ether) and is called 'Aakasa sthalam'.As you stand in front of the 'Chitsabah' at the entrance to the inner circuit you can see the South facing Nadarajah and the East facing Govidaraja Perumal (Vishnu). There is no other temple in the south where you can see both the Saivite god Shiva and the Vaishnavite god Vishnu from the same spot.

Legends Rishi Madyandinar had a son. He, under the direction of his father, came to the forest of Thillai and worshipped the 'Lingam', which had appeared there. He usually got up early before daybreak to collect flowers with which to perform his pooja. One morning he could not collect the flowers early as it was dark and cloudy and he could not see the flowers. After daybreak he went to collect the flowers and found that the flowers had been polluted by the bees and was grief stricken. Lord Shiva on seeing his devotee grief stricken took pity on him and gave him the eyes and limbs of a tiger so that he could see in the dark and climb trees easily to collect the flowers. Thus he came to be known as 'Vyagrapadar' and the forest where he lived as 'Vyagrapuram' or 'Puliyoor'. During this time the rishis living in the forest known as 'Tharukavanam' became very arrogant as they had mastered all the 'Vedas', 'Agamas' and 'Shastras' and could raise powerful creatures from the sacrificial fires to do their bidding. Lord Shiva wished to show these rishis their limitations and appeared as a handsome mendicant with Vishnu as his wife 'Mohini'. This created chaos in 'Tharukavanam' as the wives of the rishis fell under the spell of this charming, handsome mendicant while the youthful rishis fell for the allure of Mohini. The older rishis became very angry and wanted to destroy the pair. They raised a sacrificial fire ('Homam') from which appeared a tiger which was directed at the pair. Lord Shiva killed the tiger, peeled off its skin and tied it around his waist. Then the rishis produced a poisonous serpent, which Lord Shiva caught and wore around his neck. The rishis also sent a demon 'Muyalakan' against Lord Shiva whom he crushed under his feet. Then the rishis sent the sacrificial fire against him which he put on his left hand. The rishis having lost the fire sent the vedic 'mantras' which the Lord wore around his ankles. At this the rishis conceded defeat and the Lord revealed himself by dancing the 'Oorthava thandavam' with his matted hair unfurling in all eight directions and the world reverberating to his steps.Lord Vishnu described this incident to Adishesa, the serpent on which Lord Vishnu reposes. Adishesha wished to see this dance and taking leave of Lord Vishnu went and prayed to Lord Shiva to grant him the honour of witnessing his dance. Lord Shiva advised Adhishesha to go to Vyagrapuram where he would one day perform this dance. Adishesha was then born on this land and was given the name Pathanjali. Pathanjali approached Vyagrapadar and told him of his quest. As Vyagrapadar himself was eager to see the Lord's dance he was delighted to receive Pathanjali and accompanied him to the temple of Lord Shiva and prayed for the Lord's appearance. On an auspicious day the celestial beings arrived at Thillai along with other Rishis, and sages and assembled where Vyagrapadar had his temple. The heavenly musicians too arrived. Then Lord Shiva appeared with one of His right hands beating the drums and the other hand bestowing grace.With His left hand holding the fire and the other pointing to his right leg trampling Muyalakan under the foot, He appeared with His left leg raised in a dancing pose. The guardian of the forest in Thillai, Goddess Kali, refused to allow Lord Shiva to dance in Her domain. Lord Shiva therefore challenged Her to a dance competition on condition that if He won then She would be banished from that area. The competition began. While Naradha played the veena, Nandikeswara played the drums and other celestial musicians accompanied with their instruments Lord Shiva danced with his hair flung in all directions. With the 'vedas' as his anklets, the serpent as his waist band, the tiger skin as his attire with Ganga and the crescent moon on his crest, He performed the 'Ananda thandavam'. At one stage Lord Shiva took a pose with His left foot raised above His head but modesty prevented Goddess Kali matching the same pose. Thus She lost the competition and had taken residence in the northern end of Chidambaram in the Thillaiamman temple. Every devotee who comes to Chidambaram after worshipping at the Natarajar temple visits this temple too. Pathanjali and Vyagrapadar prayed to Lord Shiva to remain at Thillai as the eternally dancing god 'Lord Natarajar' so that all the earthly beings could witness his dance and receive his grace and blessing.

Opening Timings: The temple is open from 6 am to 12 noon and then from 5 pm to 10 pm


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