Holy Pilgrimage – Temples in Tamilnadu State
Shiva Temples of Tamil Nadu
Lord Shiva, the destroyer, has innumerable temples dedicated to him throughout the length and breadth of India. Probably nowhere more than in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where there are 2500 Shiva temples of great importance. There are several categories according to importance of these temples in Tamil Nadu.
Pancha Bootha SthalangalThis refers to the temples that are the manifestation of the five elements - land, water, air, sky, fire.
Ekambareswarar Temple, Kacheepuram
Ekambaranathar Temple (Tamil: ஏகாம்பரநாதர் கோயில்) or Ekambareswarar Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, located in Kanchipuram in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. The temple is the largest temple in the town of Kanchipuram and is located in the northern part of the town. The temple gopuram (gateway tower) is 59m tall, which is one the tallest gopurams in India
It is one of the five major Shiva temples or Pancha Bootha Sthalams (each representing a natural element) representing the element - Earth. The other four temples in this category are Thiruvanaikaval Jambukeswara (water), Chidambaram Natarajar (Sky), Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswara (fire) and Kalahasti Nathar (wind). It is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams, where all of the four most revered Nayanars (Saivite Saints) have sung the glories of this temple.
LegendLegend 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 (Ganges) 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. The God here came to be known as Ekambareswarar or "Lord of Mango Tree"
According to another legend, it is believed that Parvati worshipped Shiva in the form of a Prithivi Lingam (or a Lingam improvised out of sand), under a mango tree. ] Legend has it that the neighboring Vegavati river overflowed and threatened to engulf the Shiva Lingam and that Parvati or Kamakshi embraced the Lingam. Shiva touched by the gesture materialized in person and married her. In this context he is referred to as Tazhuva kuzhainthaar ("He who melted in Her embrace") in Tamil.
Tiurkuripputhonda Nayanar, one of the 63 saivite saints, called nayanars was a washerman in near the temple and he washed the clothes of all the Saivities. He was divinely tricked by God Shiva appearing as an aged brahmin and asked him to wash before dawn. At the same time Shiva made a cloudly evening. On observing the approach of the evening, the washerman banged his head in a stone in disappointment. God appeared in his true form and graced his devotee.
HistoryThis vast temple is one of the most ancient in India having been in existence since at least 600 AD. Second century AD Tamil poetry speaks of Kama kottam, and the Kumara kottam (currently the Kamakashi Amman temple and the Subramanya temple).Initially temple was built by Pallavas. The Vedantist Kachiyapper served as a priest at the temple. The existing structure then, was pulled down and rebuilt by the later Chola Kings. Adi Sankara, the 10th century saint got Kanchipuram remodelled along with expansion of this temple along with Kamakshi Amman temple and Varadaraja Perumal Temple with the help of local rulers.
The Vijayanagar kings, during the 15th century, also made lot of contributions to the temple and later developed by Vallal Pachiyappa Mudaliar used to go regularly from Chennai to Kanchipuram to worship in this temple, he spent significant money he amazed during British rule on the temple renovation, Pachiyappa Mudaliar seated at horse back can be seen in the temple pillar. At the later stage a similar temple with same name Ekambareswarar was constructed in Chennai by Pachiappa Mudaliar in order to avoid travelling time to Kanchipuram. The Archaeological Survey of India report of 1905-06 indicates wide spread renovation activities carried out in the temple by Nattukottai Chettiar.
TempleThe temple covers an area of over 23 acres (93,000 m2). Reaching a height of 59 meters, the temple's Raja gopuram (the entrance tower to the temple) is one of the tallest in South India. One notable feature of the temple is the Aayiram Kaal Mandapam, or the "hallway with a thousand pillars", which was built by the Vijayanagar Kings. The temple's inner walls are decorated with an array of 1,008 Siva lingams. The campus is 25 acres with 5 prakarams (or courtyards) and has a thousand-pillared hall. Kampai Tirtha, the temple tank is believed to have an underground holy river. The fourth courtyard contains a small Ganesha temple and a pond. The third courtyard contains lot of smaller shrines. The sanctum sanctorum contains the lingam along with the image of Shiva.
There is no separate shrine for Parvati within the complex as with other Shiva temples in Kanchipuram. A local belief is that Kamakshi Amman Temple is the consort for Ekambaranathar. There is a small shrine for Vishnu named Thiru Nilaaththingal Thundathan inside the temple complex. Vishnu is prayed as Vamana Murthy and the shrine is hailed by the Alvar saints as one of the 108 Divya Desams. The sthala-virutcham or temple tree is a 3,500 year old mango tree whose branches are said to yield four different types of mangoes from its four branches.
Panguni Uthiram festival celebrated during the month of March–April is the most popular of all the temple festivals in Kanchipuram.
Religious significance of the temple
InscriptionsThere are inscriptions dated 1532 CE (record 544 of 1919) indicating the gift of number of villages made by Achutaraya. Vira Narasingaraya Saluva Nayaka who was directed by Achutaraya broke the royal order by gifting more lands to Ekambaranathar temple than the Varadaraja Swamy temple against the instruction of an equal gift to either of the temples. Achutaraya on hearing this equally distributed the lands to both the temples.
In CultureKanchipuram is famous for hand woven silk sarees - a design by name Ekambaranathar obtain its name from the designs of these shrines
Kanchipuram otherwise known as Kanchi (previously romanized as Kāñci-pura, Conjevaram) is a city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, 72 km (45 mi) from Chennai – the capital of Tamil Nadu. The city covers an area of 11.605 km2 (4.481 sq mi) and had a population of 153,140 in 2001. It is the administrative headquarters of Kanchipuram District. Kanchipuram is well-connected by road and rail. Chennai International Airport is the nearest domestic and international airport to the city, which is located at Tirusulam in Kanchipuram district.
Located on the banks of the Vegavathy River, Kanchipuram has been ruled by the Pallavas, the Medieval Cholas, the Later Cholas, the Later Pandyas, the Vijayanagar Empire, the Carnatic kingdom, and the British. The city's historical monuments include the Kailasanathar Temple and the Vaikunta Perumal Temple. Historically, Kanchipuram was a centre of education and was known as the ghatikasthanam, or "place of learning". The city was also a religious centre of advanced education for Jainism and Buddhism between the 1st and 5th centuries. Kanchipuram based Buddhist institutions were instrumental in spreading Theravada Buddhism to South East Asia.
In Hindu theology, Kanchipuram is one of the seven Indian cities in which to reach final attainment, and has the Varadharaja Perumal Temple, Ekambareswarar Temple, Kamakshi Amman Temple, and Kumara Kottam – major Hindu temples. The city is a holy pilgrimage site for both Saivites and Vaishnavites. Of the 108 holy temples of the Hindu god Vishnu, 14 are located in Kanchipuram. The city is well known for its hand woven silk sarees and most of the city's workforce is involved in the weaving industry.
Kanchipuram is administered by a Special grade municipality constituted in 1947. It is the headquarters of the Kanchi matha, a Hindu monastic institution believed to have been founded by the Hindu saint and commentator Adi Sankaracharya, and was the capital city of the Pallava Kingdom between the 4th to 9th centuries.
EtymologyKanchipuram was known in early Tamil literature as Kachi or Kachipedu but was later Sanskritized to Kanchi or Kanchipuram. According to legend, the name Kanchi is derived from Ka referring to the Hindu god Brahma and anchi, referring to his worship of Hindu god Vishnu at this place. The earliest inscription from the Maurya period (325–185 BCE) denote the city as Kanchipuram, where King Visnugopa was defeated by Samudragupta Maurya (320–298 BCE). Patanjali(150 BCE or 2nd c. BCE) refers to the city in his Mahabhasya as Kanchipuraka. The city was referred to by various Tamil names like Kanchi, Kanchipedu and Sanskrit names like Kanchipuram. The Pallava inscriptions from (250–355) and the inscriptions of the Chalukya dynasty refers the city as Kanchipura Jaina Kanchi refers to the area around Tiruparutti Kundram. During the British rule, the city was known as Conjeevaram and later as Kanchipuram. The municipal administration was renamed Kancheepuram, while the district retains the name Kanchipuram.
indus regard Kanchipuram to be one of the seven holiest cities in India. According to Hinduism, a kṣetra is a sacred ground, a field of active power, and a place where final attainment, or moksha, can be obtained. The Garuda Purana says that seven cities, including Kanchipuram are providers of moksha. The city is considered a pilgrimage site for both Saivites and Vaishnavites.
Ekambareswarar Temple in northern Kanchipuram, dedicated to Shiva, is the largest temple in the city. Its gateway tower, or gopuram, is 59 metres (194 ft) tall, making it one the tallest temple towers in India. The temple is one of five called Pancha Bhoota Stalams, which represent the manifestation of the five prime elements of nature; land, water, air, sky, and fire. Ekambareswarar temple temple represents earth.
Kailasanathar Temple, dedicated to Shiva and built by the Pallavas, is the oldest Hindu temple in existence and is declared an archaeological monument by the Archaeological Survey of India. It has a series of cells with sculptures inside. ] In the Kamakshi Amman Temple, goddess Parvati is depicted in the form of a yantra, Chakra or peetam (basement). In this temple, the yantra is placed in front of the deity. Adi Sankara is closely associated with this temple and is believed to have established the Kanchi matha after this temple.
Muktheeswarar Temple, built by Nandivarman Pallava II (720–796) and Iravatanesvara Temple built by Narasimhavarman Pallava II (720–728) are the other Shiva temples from the Pallava period. Kachi Metrali – Karchapeswarar Temple, Onakanthan Tali, Kachi Anekatangapadam, Kuranganilmuttam, and Karaithirunathar Temple in Tirukalimedu are the Shiva temples in the city reverred in Tevaram, the Tamil Saiva canonical work of the 7th-8th century.
Varadharaja Perumal Temple, dedicated to Vishnu and covering 23 acres (93,000 m2), is the largest Vishnu temple in Kanchipuram. It was built by the Cholas in 1053 and was expanded during the reigns of Kulottunga Chola I (1079–1120) and Vikrama Chola (1118–1135). It is one of the divyadesams, the 108 holy abodes of Vishnu. The temple features carved lizards, one platted with gold and another with silver, over the sanctum. Clive of India is said to have presented an emerald necklace to the temple. It is called the Clive Makarakandi and is still used to decorate the deity on ceremonial occasions.
Tiru Parameswara Vinnagaram is the birthplace of the azhwar saint, Poigai Alvar The central shrine has a three-tier shrine, one over the other, with Vishnu depicted in each of them. The corridor around the sanctum has a series of sculptures depicting the Pallava rule and conquest. It is the oldest Vishnu temple in the city and was built by the Pallava king Paramesvaravarman II (728–731).
Ashtabujakaram, Tiruvekkaa, Tiruththanka, Tiruvelukkai, Ulagalantha Perumal Temple, Tiru pavla vannam, Pandava Thoothar Perumal Temple are among the divyadesam, the 108 famous temples of Vishnu in the city. There are a five other divyadesams, three inside the Ulagalantha Perumal temple, one each in Kamakshi Amman Temple and Ekambareswarar Temple.
The Kanchi Matha is a Hindu monastic institution, whose official history states that it was founded by Adi Sankara of Kaladi, tracing its history back to the fifth century BCE A related claim is that Adi Sankara came to Kanchipuram, and that he established the Kanchi mutt named "Dakshina Moolamnaya Sarvagnya Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam" in a position of supremacy, namely Sarvagnya Peetha, over the other mathas (religious institutions) of the subcontinent, before his death there. Other historical accounts state that the mutt was established probably in the 18th century in Kumbakonam, as a branch of the Sringeri Matha, and that it declared itself independent.
Another Mutt which was famous in ancient times was the Upanishad Bramham Mutt, located near Kailasanathar temple, Kanchipuram. It has the Mahasamadhi of Upanishad Bramham, a saint who wrote commentaries on all the major upanishads in Hinduism. It is said tha the great Sage, Sadasiva Brahmendra took to sanyasa at this mutt.
Transport, communication and utility services
The city is also connected the railway network. The Chengalpet – Arakkonam railway line passes through Kanchipuram and travellers can access services to those destinations Daily trains are provided to Pondicherry and Tirupathi, and there is a weekly express train to Madurai and a bi-weekly express train to Nagercoil Two passenger trains from both sides of Chengalpattu and Arakkonam pass via Kanchipuram.
The nearest domestic as well as international airport is Chennai International Airport, located at a distance of 72 km from the city.
Annamalaiyar Temple, Thiruvannamalai,Tamilnadu
Annamalaiyar Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the deity Shiva, located at the base of Annamalai hills in the town of Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, India. It is significant to the Hindu sect of Saivism as one of the temples associated with the five elements, the Pancha Bhoota Stalas, and specifically the element of fire, or Agni. Shiva is worshiped as Annamalaiyar or Arunachaleswarar, and is represented by the lingam, with his idol referred to as Agni lingam. His consort Parvati is depicted as Unnamulai Amman. The presiding deity is revered in the 7th century Tamil Saiva canonical work, the Tevaram, written by Tamil saint poets known as the nayanars and classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam. The 9th century Saiva saint poet Manikkavasagar composed the Tiruvempaavai here.
The temple complex covers 10 hectares, and is one of the largest in India. It houses four gateway towers known as gopurams. The tallest is the eastern tower, with 11 stories and a height of 66 metres (217 ft), making it one of the tallest temple towers in India. The temple has numerous shrines, with those of Annamalaiyar and Unnamulai Amman being the most prominent. The temple complex houses many halls; the most notable is the thousand-pillared hall built during the Vijayanagar period.
The temple has six daily rituals at various times from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and twelve yearly festivals on its calendar. The Karthigai Deepam festival is celebrated during the day of the full moon between November and December, and a huge beacon is lit atop the hill. It can be seen from miles around, and symbolizes the Shiva lingam of fire joining the sky. The event is witnessed by three million pilgrims. On the day preceding each full moon, pilgrims circumnavigate the temple base and the Annamalai hills in a worship called Girivalam, a practice carried out by one million pilgrims yearly
The present masonry structure was built during the Chola dynasty in the 9th century, while later expansions are attributed to Vijayanagar rulers of the Sangama Dynasty (1336–1485 CE), the Saluva Dynasty and the Tuluva Dynasty (1491–1570 CE). The temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu
LegendIn Hindu mythology, Parvati, wife of Shiva, once closed the eyes of her husband playfully in a flower garden at their abode atop Mount Kailash. Although only a moment for the gods, all light was taken from the universe, and the earth, in turn, was submerged in darkness for years. Parvati performed penance with other devotees of Shiva, and her husband appeared as a column of fire at the top of Annamalai hills, returning light to the world. He then merged with Parvati to form Ardhanarishvara, the half-female, half-male form of Shiva. The Annamalai, or red mountain, lies behind the Annamalaiyar temple, and is associated with the temple of its namesake. The hill is sacred and considered a lingam, or iconic representation of Shiva, in itself.
Another legend is that once, while Vishnu and Brahma contested for superiority, 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 The scene is called lingothbava, and is represented in the western wall at the sanctum of most Shiva temples Neither Brahma nor Vishnu could find the source, and while Vishnu conceded his defeat, Brahma lied and said he had found the pinnacle. In punishment, Shiva ordained that Brahma would never have temples on earth in his worship.
HallsThere is a sixteen pillared Deepa Darshana Mandapam, or hall of light, in the third precinct. The temple tree, Magizha, is considered sacred and medicinal, and childless couples tie small cradles to its branches in obeisance. Vedas write that the mast of the temple separated the earth and the sky during creation of the universe. The Kalyana Mandapam, the marriage hall, is in the south-west of the precinct, and is built in Vijayanagara style. A stone trident is present in the outer shrine of the temple in open air, and has protective railings like a sacred tree The Vasantha Mandapam, meaning the Hall of spring, is the third precinct, and contains the temple office and Kalahateeswarar shrine. The fourth precinct has an image of Nandi, Brahma Theertham, the temple tank, the Yanai Thirai Konda Vinayaga shrine, and a hall with a six foot tall statue of Nandi, erected by Vallala Maharaja
Inside the doorway of the first tower and the fifth precinct, there is a thousand-pillared hall built during the late Vijayanagara period Krishnadevaraya constructed the hall and dug the tank opposite to it. The pillars in the hall are carved with images of yali, a mythological beast with body of lion and head of an elephant, a symbol of Nayak power. The Arunagirinathar Mandapam is located to the right of the Kalayana Linga Sundara Eswara Mandapam, and the Gopurathilayanar shrine is to the left of a broad flight of stone stairs that lead up to the Vallala Gopuram.
Worship and festivals
The temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. Like other Shiva temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to the Shaivaite community, a Brahmin sub-caste. The temple rituals are performed six times a day; Ushathkalam at 5:30 a.m., Kalasanthi at 8:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 10:00 a.m., Sayarakshai at 6:00 p.m., Irandamkalam at 8:00 p.m. and Ardha Jamam at 10:00 p.m. Each ritual comprises four steps: abhisheka (sacred bath), alangaram (decoration), neivethanam (food offering) and deepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for both Annamalaiyar and Unnamulai Amman. The worship is held amidst music with nagaswaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument), religious instructions in the Vedas (sacred text) read by priests and prostration by worshippers in front of the temple mast. There are weekly rituals like somavaram and sukravaram, fortnightly rituals like pradosham and monthly festivals like amavasai (new moon day), kiruthigai, pournami (full moon day) and sathurthi.
The temple celebrates dozens of festivals throughout the year. Four prime festivals, the Brahmotsavam, are celebrated yearly. The most important of these lasts ten days during the Tamil month of Karthikai, between November and December, concluding with the celebration of Karthikai Deepam. A huge lamp is lit in a cauldron, containing three tons of ghee, at the top of the Annamalai hills during the Deepam. To mark the occasion, the festival deity of Annamalaiyar circumambulates the mountain. Inscriptions indicate that the festival was celebrated as early as the Chola period (from 850 CE to 1280 CE) and was expanded to ten days in the twentieth century.
Tiruvoodal is another festival celebrated during the first week of the Tamil month Thai at mid-January of every year. On the morning of Maatu Pongal, between January 15 and 16, Nandi is decorated with garlands made of fruits, vegetables and sweets. The festival deities of Annamalaiyar and Unnamamulai Amman are taken out of the temple to Tiruoodal street to enact the oodal (or love tiff) between the two in the evening.
Religious significanceThe Annamalaiyar temple is one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalas, or five Shiva temples, with each a manifestation of a natural element: land, water, air, sky or fire. In Annamalaiyar temple, Shiva is said to have manifested himself as a massive column of fire, whose crown and feet could not be found by the Hindu gods, Brahma and Vishnu. The main lingam in the shrine is referred as Agni Lingam, and represents duty, virtue, self-sacrifice and liberation through ascetic life at the end of the Agni kalpa.
Aathara Stala are Shiva temples which are considered to be personifications of the Tantric chakras of human anatomy. The Annamalaiyar temple is called the Manipooraga stalam, and is associated with the Manipooraga chakra. Manipooraga is the chakra of spiritual ignorance, thirst, jealousy, treachery, shame, fear, disgust, delusion, foolishness and sadness.
Saints and literary mentionTirugnana Sambandar, a 7th century Tamil Saivite poet, venerated Annamalaiyar and Unnamulai Amman in ten verses in Tevaram, compiled as the First Tirumurai. Appar, a contemporary of Sambandar, also venerated Annamalaiyar in 10 verses in Tevaram, compiled as the Fifth Tirumurai. As the temple is revered in Tevaram, it is classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam, one of the 276 temples that find mention in the Saiva canon.
Manickavasagar, a 9th century Tamil saint and poet, revered Annamalaiyar in his writing, describing the deity as "AnnAmalai". He composed the Thiruvempavai in the Tamil month of Margazhi at the temple. Arunagirinathar was a 15th century Tamil poet born in Tiruvannamalai. He spent his early years as a rioter and seducer of women. After ruining his health, he tried to commit suicide by throwing himself from the northern tower, but was saved by the grace of god Murugan. ] He became a staunch devotee and composed Tamil hymns glorifying Murugan, the most notable being Thirupugazh.
The western world learnt of Tiruvannamalai during the mid 20th century, through the work of Ramana Maharishi (1879–1950 CE) The cave where Ramana meditated is on the lower slopes of the Annamalai hills, with the ashram further down at the foothills. The basement of the raised hall inside the temple has the Patala Lingam, where Ramana attained supreme awareness while ants devoured his flesh. ] The place is also called a Mukthi Sthalam, meaning place of salvation, and saints like Seshadri Swamigal, Gugai Namachivayar and Yogi Ramsuratkumar have been associated with the temple.[
Jambukeswarar Temple, Thiruvanaikaval
Thiruvanaikaval (Tamil: திருவானைக்காவல்) (also Thiruvanaikal, Jambekeswaram) is a famous Shiva temple in Tiruchirapalli (Trichy), in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. The temple was built by Kocengannan (Kochenga Chola), one of the Early Cholas, around 1,800 years ago. It is located in the Srirangam island, which has the famous Ranganathaswamy temple.
Thiruvanaikal is one of the five major Shiva Temples of Tamil Nadu (Panchabhoota Sthalams) representing the Mahābhūta or five great elements; this temple represents the element of water, or neer in Tamil. The sanctum of Jambukeswara has an underground water stream and in spite of pumping water out, it is always filled with water.
It is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams, where all of the four most revered Nayanars (Saivite Saints) have sung glories of the deity in this temple. The temple has inscriptions from the Chola period.
Formation of 'Appu Lingam' (Parvathi’s penance)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 Kailasam (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 legend of the name 'Thiru Aanai Kaa'
As an outcome of making sin by killing the elephant, in the next birth, the spider was born as the King Kochengot Chola (kotchengannan cholan meaning red-eyed king) and built 70 temples and this temple is the one among them. Remembering his enmity with the elephant in his previous birth, he built the Siva Sannathi (sanctorum) such that not even a small elephant can enter. The entrance on the sanctorum of Jambukeswara is only 4 foot high and 2.5 foot wide.
Legend behind king's red eyesThere was a story behind the king's red eyes - When he was in his mother's womb the palace astrologer predicted a sacred time to give birth to enable the newborn's well being. The queen went into labor early, before the time predicted by the astrologer. The queen hence told the servant to hang her upside down for the time to come so that she could have a wise and virtuous son who could head the kingdom righteously. This waiting time inside the womb made the baby's eyes red. After becoming the king, he build the temple for Siva and Goddess Akilandeswari in the name of Aanaikka (elephant protected) later days it changed to Thiruvanaikovil.
Goddess Akilandeshwari's shrineThe 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. The sannathy of the goddess Akilandeshwari and the sannathy of Prasanna Vinayaka are in the shape of the pranava manthra called "Om". It is believed that the Amman in the temple was in deep anger hence during one of Adi Sankara's visit he installed the Prasanna Ganapathy idol right opposite to her Sannathy and installed a pair of Sri Chakra thaatankas (ear-rings) to reduce her anger.
The image of Ekapadtha Tirumuthi, the trinity of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, is present in the temple, which can be seen only in Thyagaraja Temple, Tiruvottiyur
There are lot of inscriptions from various Chola kings from 11th - 12th century indicating grants to the temple.
Religious significance of the templePancha Bhoota Stalam (Sanskrit: पन्च भूत स्थल) refers to the five Shiva temples, each representing the manifestation of the five prime elements of nature - land, water, air, sky, fire. Pancha indicates five, Bhoota means elements and Sthala means place. All these temples are located in South India with four of these temples at Tamil Nadu and one at Andra 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 different names based on the elements they represent. In the temple, Shiva is said to have manifested himself in the form of water (Appu Lingam). The other four manifestations are Prithivi Lingam (representing land) at Ekambareswarar Temple, Akasa Lingam (representing sky) at Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram, Agni Lingam (representing fire) at Annamalaiyar Temple and Vayu Lingam (representing air) at Srikalahasti Temple.
CultureIn the third enclosure, there is a coconut grove having a small tank where the festival image of Vaishnavite Srirangam temple used to be brought one day a year. The practice is abandoned due to conflict between the Saivities and the vaishanvites. As Akilandeswari worshipped Lord Shiva in this temple, even today at noon the 'Archakar' (priest) dresses like a female and does Pooja to Jambukeswara and 'Ko Maatha' (Cow). The noon pooja is very famous and a host of pilgrims attend it every day. A special variety of black cow, called Karam Pasu is used for the occasion. Annabhishekam to lingam (ablution with cooked rice) is a daily ritual performed in the temple. The temple is one of the hosts for the annual Natyanjali, a festival of classical Indian dance. The temple has also a school for training nadhaswaram, a classical pipe instrument in Tamil Nadu.
Tiruchirappalli is well connected by road, rail and air with most cities and towns in India. And the nearest Seaport is located ar Karaikal.
Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram
Thillai Natarajah Temple, Chidambaram (Chidambaram Thillai Natarajar-Koothan Kovil or Chidambaram temple) is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva located in the town of Chidambaram, East-Central Tamil Nadu, South India. The temple is known as the foremost of all temples (Kovil) to Saivites and has influenced worship, architecture, sculpture and performance art for over two millennium. The temple is referred to in all devotional literature as Bhooloka kailasam, or kailasam, the Lord Shiva's abode that manifests on earth. The Sangam classics list chief architect Viduvelvidugu Perumtaccan as directing an early renovation of the shrine.
A major shrine of Shiva worship since the classical period, there have been several renovations and offerings to Chidambaram by the Pallava, Chola, Pandya, Vijayanagara and Chera royals in the ancient and pre-medieval periods. The temple as it stands now is mainly of the 12th and 13th centuries, with later additions in similar style. Its bronze statues and stone sculptures depicting various deities and the famous Thillai trees (Excoecaria agallocha) of the surrounding forest reflect the highpoints of early Chola and Pallava art while its famed gold plated gopuram towers are medieval structural additions by the royals Aditya I, Parantaka Chola I, Kopperunchinga I, Krishnadevaraya and Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan. King Kocengannan Chola was born following prayers his parents offered at the temple and later in his life he refined its structure. The shrine gave the town its name.
The deity that presides here is கூத்தன் - Thillai Koothan (Thillai Nataraja - Shiva, Lord of Dance). Chidambaram is the birthplace of the sculpture and bronze image representation of Shiva as the cosmic dancer, a Tamilian concept and motif in Chola art that has since become notable as a symbol of Hinduism. The shrine is the only Shiva temple to have its main deity represented in this anthropomorphic form, as the supreme being who performs all cosmic activities. The consort deity here is Sivakami Amman (form of Amman - mother goddess and female energy). Two other forms of Shiva are represented close to this in the vimana (inner sanctum) of the temple - as a crystallised lingam - the most common representation of Shiva in temples, and as the aether space classical element, represented with empty space and a garland of fifty one hanging golden vilvam leaves (Aegle marmelos). Shiva is captured in pose as Nataraja performing the Ananda Tandava ("Dance of Delight") in the golden hall of the shrine Pon Ambalam (பொன் அம்பலம்). The sculptures of Chidambaram inspired the postures of Bharatha Natyam. The Chidambaram complex is admired for its five famous halls (ambalam or sabhai), several grand smaller shrines to the Hindu deities Ganesh, Murugan, Vishnu and Sivakami Amman which contain Pandyan and Nayak architectural styles, and for its endowment from many water tanks, one of which links it to the Thillai Kali temple.
Chidambaram is one of the five Pancha Bootha Sthalams, the holiest Shiva temples each representing one of the five classical elements; Chidambaram represents akasha (aether). Chidambaram is glorified in Tirumular's Tirumandhiram and was visited by Patañjali and Pulikaal Munivar It is the primary shrine of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams - Shiva Sthalams glorified in the early medieval Tevaram poems by Tamil Saivite Nayanar saints Tirunavukkarasar, Thirugnana Sambandar and Sundarar. Hailed in the Tiruvacakam series by Manikkavacakar, these very volumes of the Tirumurai literature canon were themselves found in secret chambers of the temple. The Periya Puranam, a biography of these Nayanar saints by Sekkizhar commissioned by emperor Kulothunga Chola II, was written in the shrine's Thousand Pillared Hall. In Kanda Puranam, the epic authored by Kachiyappa Sivachariar of Kanchipuram, the Chidambaram shrine is venerated as one of the three foremost Shiva abodes in the world, alongside Koneswaram temple of Trincomalee and Mount Kailash.
LegendThe 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 invoked scores of serpents (nāgas) by performing magical rituals. Shiva lifted the serpents and donned them as ornaments on his matted locks, neck and waist. Further enraged, the sages invoked a fierce tiger, whose skins and dons were used by Shiva as a shawl around his waist and then followed by a fierce elephant, which was devoured and ripped to death by Shiva (Gajasamharamurthy).
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.
Temple structureThe temple is the only great temple complex to date mainly from the later Chola period, and contains the earliest examples of a number of features that are found in many later temples, including "the earliest known Devī or Amman shrine, vŗtta (dance) maṇḍapa, Sūrya shrine with chariot wheels, hundred-and-thousand pillared maṇḍapas, even the first giant Śiva Gangā tank".[
A classical Shiva temple as per Agama rules will have five prakarams (closed precincts of a temple) or circuits each separated by walls one within the other. The outer prakaram will be open to the sky except the innermost one. The innermost one will house the main deity as well as other deities. There will be a massive wooden or stone flag post exactly in line with the main deity. The innermost prakaram houses the sanctum sanctorum (karuvarai in Tamil).
The temple is supposed to be located at the lotus heart of the Universe: Virat hridaya padma sthalam.
This gold-roofed stage is the sanctum sanctorum 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 shrines for the original Shivalingam worshipped by the saints Patanjali and Vyagrapathar – called the Thiru Aadhimoolanathar and his consort Umaiyammai (Tamil:உமையம்மை) or Umaiya parvathi.
- She shrine of the 63 nayanars of Shiva – called the Arubaththu moovar.
- Shrine of Sivagami.
- Ganesha shrine
- Shrine of Muruga or Pandiya nayakan
Govindaraja Swamy ShrineThe Govindaraja shrine is dedicated to Vishnu and is one of the 108 holy temples of Vishnu called divyadesam, revered by the 7th-9th century saint poets of vaishnava (those worshipping Vishnu) tradition, alwars. Kulashekara alwar mentions this temple as Tillai Chitrakutam and equates Chitrakuta of Ramayana fame with this shrine. ] King Kulothunga Chola II is believed to have uprooted the presiding Govindraja image from the shrine.[ The shrine has close connections with the Govindaraja temple in Tirupati dating back to saint Ramanuja of the 11-12th century. Ramanujar fled to Tirupati with the utsava (festival image) of the temple to escape punishment. Down the centuries, king Krishnappa Nayak (1564-1572 A.D.) was instrumental in installing the image of Govindaraja back in the temple. There was lot of resistance from the shaivites (those worshipping Shiva) against placing the Vishnu image in a revered Shiva temple, but the king was unmoved and the image was installed in the present form. There is no satisfactory evidence of co-existence of the Shiva and Vishnu shrines within the same temple built during the same time - there was a dispute even in last century during 1849 A.D. regarding the rights on the Govindaraja idol and Alwar Sannidhi(sanctum of azhwars) between Vaishnavas and Dikshitars and the position of Vaishnavas was upheld by the district court.
Temple TanksThe Chidambaram temple is well endowed with several water bodies within and around the temple complex.
- Sivaganga (சிவகங்கை) tank is in the third corridor of the temple opposite to the shrine of Shivagami. It is accessed by flights of stone steps leading from the shrine.
- Paramanandha koobham is the well on the eastern side of the Chitsabhai hall from which water is drawn for sacred purposes.
- Kuyya theertham is situated to the north-east of Chidambaram in Killai near the Bay of Bengal and has the shore called Pasamaruthanthurai.
- Pulimadu is situated around a kilometer and a half to the south of Chidambaram.
- Vyagrapatha Theertham is situated on to the west of the temple opposite to the temple of Ilamai Akkinaar
- Anantha Theertham is situated to the west of the temple in front of the Anantheswarar temple.
- Nagaseri tank is situated to the west of the Anantha thirtham.
- Brahma Theertham is situated to the north-west of the temple at Thirukalaanjeri.
- Underground channels at the shrine drain excess water in a northeasterly direction to the Shivapiyai temple tank (சிவப்பியை குளம்) of the Thillai Kali Temple, Chidambaram. Due to poor maintenance, it has not been in use
- Thiruparkadal is the tank to the south-east of the Shivapiyai tank
The Ananda Tandava PostureThe Ānanda-tāṇḍava posture of Nataraja represents pancikritya functions of the godhead believed to have created the dynamic force to create the world.
- The demon under Nataraja's feet signifies that ignorance is under his feet
- The fire in this hand (power of destruction) means he is the destroyer of evil.
- The raised hand (Abhaya or Pataka mudra) signifies that he is the savior of all life forms.
- The arc of fire called Thiruvashi or Prabhavati signifies the cosmos and the perpetual motion of the earth.
- The drum in his hand signifies the origin of life forms.
- The lotus pedestal signifies Om, the sound of the universe.
- His right eye, left eye and third eye signify the sun, moon and fire/knowledge, respectively.
- His right earring (makara kundalam) and left earring (sthri kundalam) signify the union of man and woman (right is man, left is woman).
- The crescent moon in his hair signifies benevolence and beauty.
- The flowing of river Ganges through his matted hair signifies eternity of life.
- The sreading of his hair and drape signify the force of his dance.
Religious significance of the templePancha Bhoota Stalam (Sanskrit: पन्च भूत स्थल) refers to the five Shiva temples, ] 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 Andra 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 different names based on the elements they represent. In the temple, Shiva is said to have manifested himself in the form of sky. The other four manifestations are Prithivi Lingam (representing land) at Ekambareswarar Temple, Appu Lingam (representing Water) at Thiruvanaikaval, Agni Lingam (representing fire) at Annamalaiyar Temple and Vayu Lingam (representing air) at Srikalahasti Temple
Aathara Stala indicates the Shiva temples which are considered to be divine impersonification of Tantric chakras associated with human anatomy. Nataraja temple is called the Anthaga stalam associated with Anthagam - the third eye.
Pancha Sabhai refers to the five places where Shiva is said to have displayed his cosmic dance and all these places have stages or ambalams, also known as Sabhai. Apart from Chidambaram which has the Ponna Ambalam - the Golden Hall, the others are the I-Ratthina Ambalam - the Jeweled Hall at Thiruvaalangadu (rathinam – ruby / red jewelled), the Chitra Ambalam - the Painted Hall at Thirukutralam (chitra – painting), the Velli Ambalam - the Silver Hall at Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple (velli – silver) and the Thaamira Ambalam - the Copper Hall at Nellaiappar Temple, Tirunelveli (Thaamiram – copper)
The Chidambara RahasiyamDuring the daily rituals, the Chief priest, of the day, himself in a state of Godliness - Shivohambhava (Shiva - the Lord, in His Sandhi form - Shivo-, aham – me / us, bhava - state of mind), 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.
Daily RitualsThe day begins with the chief priest of the day, performing required rituals to purify himself and assume the Shivoham bhava (Shiva-hood), after which he enters the temple to do the daily rituals. The day begins with the Shiva's footwear (padukas) brought at 7:00am from the palliyarai (bedroom) to the sanctum sanctorum in a palanquin accompanied by devotees with cymbals, chimes and drums. The priest then performs the daily rituals with a yajna and a 'Gopujai' (worship of a cow and her calf). Worship (Puja) is done 6 times in a day. Before each puja, the spadika linga (crystal linga) or the semi form state of Shiva is anointed with ghee, milk, curds, rice, sandal paste and holy ash. This is followed by presenting the naivedhyam or offering of freshly prepared food and sweets to the deity and the diparaadhana, a ritual of showing varied and decoratively set lamps, the reciting of Vedas in Sanskrit and the Panchapuranam (a set of 5 poems from a set of 12 works in Tamil – called the panniru thirumurai). The puja ends with the priest parting the curtains of the sanctum sanctorum to reveal the Chidambara Rahasyam (sanctum).
Before the 2nd puja, apart from the regular anointing of the crystal linga, a ruby Nataraja deity (the Rathinasabhapathy) is also anointed. The 3rd puja is at around 12.00 noon, after which the temple closes until around 4:30pm. The 4th puja is performed at 6.00 PM, the 5th at 8:00pm and the last puja of the day is performed at 10:00 pm, after which the Shiva’s footwear is taken in a procession for Him to ‘retire’ for the night. Before the 5th puja at night, the priest performs special rituals at the Chidambara Rahasya, where he anointed the yantra with aromatic substances and offers naivedyam. The last puja, called the arthajaama puja is performed with special fervor. It is believed that the entire divine force of the universe retires into the deity, when he retires for the night.
A whole year for men is said to be a single day for the gods. Just as six poojas are performed in a day at the sanctum sanctorum, six anointing ceremonies are performed for the principal deity - Nataraja in a year. They are the Marghazhi Thiruvaadhirai (in December - January ) indicating the first puja, the fourteenth day after the new moon (chaturdasi) of the month of Masi (February - March) indicating the second pooja, the Chittirai Thiruvonam (in April- May), indicating the third pooja or uchikalam, the Uthiram of Aani (June–July) also called the Aani Thirumanjanam indicating the evening or the fourth puja, the chaturdasi of Aavani (August - September) indicating the fifth puja and the chaturdasi of the month of Puratasi (October - November) indicating the sixth pooja or Arthajama. Of these the Marghazhi Thiruvaadhirai (in December - January) and the Aani Thirumanjanam (in June - July ) are the most important. These are conducted as the key festivals with the main deity being brought outside the sanctum sanctorum in a procession that included a temple car procession followed by a long anointing ceremony. ] Several hundreds of thousands of people flock the temple to see the anointing ceremony and the ritualistic dance of Shiva when he is taken back to the sanctum sanctorum. Shiva, in his incarnation of Nataraja, is believed to have born on full moon day in the constellation of Ardra, the sixth lunar mansion. Shiva is bathed only 6 times a year, and on the previous night of Ardra, the bath rituals are performed on a grand scale. Pots full of milk, pomegranate juices, coconut water, ghee, oil, sandal paste, curds, holy ashes, and other liquids and solids, considered as sacred offering to the deity are used for the sacred ablution.
There are references in Umapathy Sivam's Kunchithaangristhavam that the Maasi festival also had the Lord being carried out in procession, however this is not in vogue these days.
Natyanjali is a prominent festival celebrated during February every year when Bharatnatyam dancers from all over the country converge to present dance offering to Nataraja
Chidambaram is located in 58 km from Pondicherry, 60 km from Karaikal, and 240 km south of Chennai by rail
Srikalahasti Temple, Andhra Pradesh
(Vayu Tatwa)Srikalahasti Temple is located in the town of Srikalahasti, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. It is one of the most famous Shiva temples in South India, and is said to be the site where Kannappa was ready to offer both his eyes to cover blood flowing from the Siva linga before the Lord Siva stopped him and granted him mukti.
Sri Kalahasti temple, situated 36 km away from Tirupati is famous for its Vayu linga, one of the Panchabhoota Sthalams, representing wind. The inner temple was constructed around 5th century and the outer temple was constructed in the 12th century by the Chola kings and the Vijayanagara kings. Vayu is incarnated as Lord Shiva and worshiped as Kalahasteeswara.
Pancha Sabhai Sthalangal
(The temples where Lord Shiva is believed to have performed the Cosmic Dance.
Thiruvalangadu Temple, near Arakkonam, Tamilandu
(Rathinachabai)Thiruvalangadu (Tamil: திருவாலங்காடு) is a village in Tamil Nadu, India.
Thiruvalangadu is a village on the western suburbs of Chennai. The railway station is located on the Chennai-Arakkonam Route, the penultimate station before Arakkonam. The temple is situated at a distance of 5 km from the station. It can also be accessed by road on NH205 (Chennai-Avadi-Tiruvallur-Renigunta route). A slight detour of about 6 km from NH205 on to the left takes one to the temple town.
The templeThe temple, built by the Cholas during the 12th century, (though inscriptions evidence the 5th century) is regarded as a sacred Shaivaite temple in that it is one of the 5 majestic cosmic dance halls (pancha sabhai) of Lord Shiva, known as "Ratna Sabai". The other 4 "Sabais" are Chidambaram- Kanaka Sabhai, Meenakshi Amman Temple(Madurai - Rajatha Sabhai), Thirukutralam - Chitra Sabha and Nellaiappar Temple(Tirunelveli - Tamra Sabhai). Legend has it that when the Lord was once entranced in a deep cosmic dance, the jewels from the Lord's anklets fell onto the earth and scattered in 5 places, Thiruvalangadu being one of them. The site is one of the 275 celebrated Shaivaite sites in TN ("Padal Petra Stalam")
The temple is known not only for its architectural splendour, but also for the legends associated with mallikarjuna. The primary deity at the Sanctum is known as "Vadaranyeswarar" and the Lord's consort, "Vandarkuzhali Amman". The sthala Vriksham is a large banyan tree located behind the sanctum on the North East. It is here in this temple that Lord Shiva requested the great Karaikkal Ammeiyar (Peyar) to undertake a marathon walk to Mount Kailash on her hands and be an omnipresent witness to his cosmic dance.
The temple is complete in all respects in accordance with the traditional Cholan temple architecture that is typical of a Shaivaite shrine. The shrine's importance is enhanced by the mystic location of the temple on what was once a forest of banyan trees. The temple also sports a Large tank as well.
Shivraatri (during Makara) and Thiruvadirai (during Dhanur) festivals are celebrated in a grand manner in this temple.
Kutralam is a popular tourist resort in Southern Tamilnadu known for its waterfalls, amidst picturesque surroundings - and is a source of inspiration of many a literary work. Thousands visit this town when the waterfalls are in season. Kutralam represents one of the 5 Pancha Sabhas of Nataraja - Chitra Sabhai. The five dance halls of Shiva are Chidambaram, Madurai, Tiruvalankadu, Tirunelveli and Kutralam. Kutralam is also known as Trikootaachalam.
MythologyThe sage Agastyar, at Shiva's request, proceeded southward to stabilize the balance of the earth, and relieve the instability caused by the multitude of entities at Shiva's and Parvati's wedding in the Himalayas, to wait for a glimpse of the divine couple. There he is said to have created the Shivalingam here by shrinking an image of Vishnu, hence the name Kutralam.
Temple structureThe temple has a conch shaped temple(prakaram(closed precincts of a temple)) plan and is referred to as Sangakkovil. In the shrine, Shiva showed himself as Bhrama and Vishnu. The presiding deity lord shiva is called as Kuttralanathar and the Ambal his consort mother Parvathy is called as Kuzhalvoi Mozhiammai. The Tirikootamandapam here is the site of festivities here.Parvati's shrine is also of significance here and is regarded as one of the 64 Shakti Peethams. The Chitra Sabhai or the hall of pictures is located in a picturesque locale away from the main temple. Architecturally the Chitrasabha resembles that of the other Nataraja Sabhas elsewhere in Tamilnadu, and its interior is decked with hundreds of murals, depicting images from the Indian epics. Natarajar is brought here during festivals from the Kurumpalaveesar temple. The sthala vriksham is Kurum Palaa and the Theertham is Chitranadhi.
Poems on this templeTirikootaraasappakavirayar's well known work Kutrala Kuravanji glorifies this shrine. Kurumpalaveesar, sung in Tevaram was done by Sambandar.
FestivalsArudra Darisanam is celebrated in the Chitrasabha, and the Taandava Deepa Aradhanai carried out then is of significance here. In the annual festival Shiva appears as Bhrama, Vishnu, Rudra, Eswara, Sadasiva and Subramanya. Other festivals celebrated here are Vasanta Utsavam in Chittirai, Pavitrotsavam in Kartikai, Navaratri, Skanda Sashti, Chittirai Vishu and Aippasi Vishu. The ivory chariot used in processions is of great beauty.
LocationThis temple is located roughly 5 km from Tenkasi. Tenkasi is connected with other parts of Tamilnadu both by road and Train. Tenkasi can easily be reached by bus from Madurai and Tirunelveli. Bus services from Tenkasi to Courtalam are available.
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to the great devotees , wikisources and Pilgrimage tourist guide for the collection )