The concept of God probably emerged from the worship of the 5 elements of nature – Agni, Vayu, Prithvi, Akasha and Jala, the Pancha Bhootas. It is interesting to note that, in India, Lord Shiva as Rudra, considered the earliest form of a Deity, has 5 temples worshipping him as a manifestation of the Pancha Bhootas and these temples are collectively called the “Pancha Bhoota Sthalas” – the Vayu Linga at Sri Kalahasti, Agni Linga at Thiruvannamalai, Akasha Linga at Chidambaram, Prithvi Linga at Kanchipuram and Jala Linga at Thiruvanaikoil.
The many names and stories of Thiruvanaikoil
Thiruvanaikoil is the abode of the Pancha Bhoota Shiva Linga representing the element, water. The temple is less than a kilometer from Srirangam temple.
Also known as Thiruvanaikaval, Jambukeswaram, Jambu Linga, Appu (Water in Tamil) Linga, there many interesting stories and legends associated with the place. A popular story talks about how an elephant and a spider always fought while trying to worship the Lord giving the place the name Thiruvanai (Aanai = elephant in Tamil), another one talks about Parvathi’s penance for Lord Shiva under in the Jambu tree forest and hence the name Jambukeswaram and so on, you could read all these stories and myths on the internet. What is also interesting is the story of elephant and spider, Sri Kalahasti, one the Pancha Bhoota Sthalams in Andhra Pradesh has exactly the same story behind its name, here there is a third angle of a snake along with a spider and elephant ! Fascinating how these names, legends and myths came about !
Myths apart, the temple’s history goes back more than 1000 years. In fact, it is believed that the temple’s foundations were laid during the time of Kocengannan, a Chola king who ruled around 1st -2nd Century A.D, which means the temple is atleast 1800 years old !
Unmatched magnificence !
This was our second visit to Thiruvanaikoil and this time we had all the time to go around and visit the temple leisurely.
When you enter the gopuram, the temple looks simple and unassuming. There was ankle deep water as we waded our way through the temple entrance, we do not know if this is a regular feature or because there was some temple fest going on.
Go further inside the main complex, you will be taken aback by the grandeur, you will really stop in your tracks. You cannot even begin to imagine how magnificent the temple is unless you actually see it ! The interiors are massive, with high ceilings, hundreds of pillars and the temple has some amazing work of sculpture, for that matter you wouldn’t find a single temple in South India without such sculpture !
With temples like these, you wish you could just let the pictures do all the talking because your words will fail. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the temple and we could only take a few pictures of the outer enclosures.
We found some peahens on the temple walls. This one seemed busy going for an evening stroll !
Lord Jambukeswara’s mystery spring
The sanctum sanctorum is located at a level that is almost underground, a few steps lead down to it. The entrance is very small and one has to bend down to go in. Inside the dimly lit Garbha Griha is the Appu Lingam.
As the priest does the puja, he shows you water oozing out from the ground, you can see the flow and the hear gurgling sound when the water is disturbed. They say there is an underground spring that flows at the foot of the Shiva Linga and water oozes out from it all around it.
Is there really a spring? Was the spring there when the temple was built? Did they install the Shiva Linga knowing that there was a spring there? Not much is known about this mystery spring. More questions, are these really Divine mysteries or intelligent architecture? Either way, they continue to mesmerize people for thousands of years !
One of the most beautiful things about the temples in Tamil Nadu is the lack of artificial lighting inside the Garbha Griha, the only source of light is oil lamps, even to this day and gives you a completely mystic, Divine and spiritual feel.
The presiding Goddess here is Goddess Akhilandeswari. The Goddesses in these ancient temples have such a radiant look that you would think there is a Goddess standing before you for real !
There was the Theppotsavam or the temple Float Festival going on while we were there. The entire temple resounded with the loud drums, bells and other musical festival. As you get used to it, the deafening sounds become a rhythmic trance. It has something to do with the environs of the temple that such loud celebrations feel spiritual. So different from the noise and nuisance out on the roads in the name of God !
The brightly lit and decorated Float made its way through the temple tank while we managed to click a picture through the crowd.
Trust us, our post doesn’t do justice to magnificence of the temple in any way. Just go and experience it for yourself. Though we had been to Thiruvanaikoil before, this time, we really stopped, wondered at and admired the temple, we know we will be coming back here again and again.
– Thiruvanaikoil is open from 6 AM to 1 PM and 3 PM to 9 PM.
– For a Darshan close to the Garbha Griha to see the water near the Shiva Lingam, you might have to buy a ticket for special darshan.
– The temple is very close to Srirangam temple, if you exit from the Vellai Gopuram side, you could even walk up to the temple.
Coming up next, Thanjavur !
We left the temple around 7.30 PM and headed to Thanjavur. It takes about an hour from Srirangam to Trichy, the road between the two cities is great !
At Thanjavur, it took us almost half an hour to locate our hotel, Abhi’s Inn, because we chose to go by Google Maps and not ask for directions ! While going round and round, we also caught a glimpse of the greatest monument ever. After checking in to our hotel, we made a quick trip to see it again in the dark, while it rained outside. Here it is, blurry to the camera under the lone tube light and lightning effect !