Pancha Bootha Sthalams are the five important temples of Lord Shiva where He is manifested as the Five elements of Nature. Pancha means Five. Bootha means Elements of Nature and the Sthalas means place. Each of these temples represents the 5 different forms of Nature. All these temples are located in South India (TamilNadu and Andhra Pradesh). The Shiva Lingam of each temple is called by different name based on the elements that they represent.
Let’s have a look into the significances of these temples one by one.
This is one of oldest temples in India. In this temple, Lord Shiva is said to have manifested himself in the form of Prithvi Lingam representing Earth. This temple was built by the Pallavas during the 5th Century and it was later renovated by the Cholas and the Vijayanagara Kings.
As per the Sthalapurana, Goddess Kamakshi did penance for Lord Shiva by making a Shiva Linga out of sand under a Mango Tree. In order to test Her devotion, Lord Shiva caused the neighbouring Veghavathi River to flood the town. Ignoring Her safety, she embraced the Sand Lingam tightly, leaving the imprints of Her bangles on it and hence, giving the Linga an unusual Conical Shape. Being moved by Her devotion, Lord Shiva decided to marry Goddess Kamakshi. Since Lord Shiva (Eshwar) got united (Ekya) with Goddess Kamakshi under a mango (Aamra) tree, this Mud Linga is known by the name ‘Ekambareshwar’. The sacred Mango Tree is still seen in the temple and it is said to be 3500 years old. It is said to yield 4 different types or tastes of Mangoes representing the 4 Vedas.
Sri Jambukeshwarar temple is located in a place called Thiruvanaikkaval in Trichy and it is one of the Pancha Bootha Shiva Linga representing ‘Water’ (Neer). Hence the Lingam here is called Appu Lingam. It is said that a stream of water would emerge from the Bottom of the Lingam which is usually demonstrated as the soaking wet clothes in which the Linga is draped. The temple was built by Kochenghat Cholan during 1st -2nd Century A.D.
As per the Sthalapurana, Devi Parvathi was once born as a human as directed by Lord Shiva. She performed tapas in the forest called Jambu forest that is located in Thiruvanaikoil. She made a Lingam out of water from the Cauvery river and she kept it under Jambu (Blackberry) tree. Being impressed by her prayers, Lord appeared and gave darshan to Devi and taught Her Siva Gnana. Devi Akhilandeswari took His Upadesa (lessons) by facing the East and the Lord stood facing the West. As the Devi acted like a student and Lord Jambukeshwarar was like a Guru (teacher) in this temple, there is no Thiru Kalyanam (marriage) conducted in this temple, unlike the other Shiva temples. Also don’t miss the noon pooja that is conducted in this temple, when the priest himself dresses up like the Goddess and does Pooja to the Lord.
This temple is considered as the spiritual hub of South India where the Lord is worshipped as Agni Lingam representing the Fire. This holy temple lies at the base of the Annamalai Hill (the Red Mountain). The temple was believed to have been built by the Chola Kings in 9th Century and renovated by the Vijayanagara Kings during 13th – the 16th Century.
As per the Sthalapurana, Goddess Parvati once closed the eyes of Shiva playfully in the flower garden of Kailasha. As a result, the whole universe was darkened for a moment and the earth was darkened for years. Then the Goddess Parvati realized Her mistake and started performing penance. Lord Shiva then appeared as a flame of fire at the top of the Annamalai hill to remove the darkness. Then He merged his half to Parvati’s and granted darshan in the form of Ardhanarishvara – the half-female, half-male form of Shiva. So, the Annamalai hill (meaning – red mountain) lying behind the Arunachaleshwarar temple is always associated with the temple. The hill is considered sacred and considered to be a Shiva Lingam itself. Hence on every full moon day, lots of devotees perform the ritual called Girivalam (i.e) Circling the hill by Bare Foot. Also, Karthigai Deepam festival is celebrated in a grand manner by lighting a huge fire (Bon Fire) on the top of the Hill. This light (Jyothi) can be witnessed from miles around.
Sri Kalahasthi temple is one of the Pancha Bootha Temple located in a place Kalahasthi that is 36 Kms from Tirupathi. Here Lord Shiva is worshipped as Vayu Lingam representing the Wind. The temple was initially built by the Pallava Kings and later Cholas and the Vijayanagara Kings contributed to the structural improvement.
The unique feature of the Vayu Linga is that it is shaped like an elephant trunk with tusks on each side and a figure of a spider at the bottom. When we look at the Shiva Linga from the top, it looks like a five-headed snake. There is a popular story about how an elephant, spider, and the snake had their own way of worshipping the Lord behind this formation of the Shiva Linga. The snake would place its precious Gem on the Linga to adorn the Lord. The spider would spin its web above the Linga to protect it from sunlight. The elephant in order to perform Abishekam for Lord Shiva would pour Holy water on it thus destroying the Web and the Gem. The snake got angry by this act of the elephant and so it went inside the elephant’s trunk in an attempt to kill itself. The elephant became restless by the act of the snake and hit its trunk against the Shiva Linga thus squeezing the spider to death. Then the elephant also died of snake poison. It is believed that the spider took rebirth as the King Kochenghat Cholan and built many Shiva temples. He made sure that the temples are safe enough from the attack of the elephant by making the temple entrance and the pathways narrow.
In this Kalahasthi Temple, one can witness yet another miracle inside the main sanctum of Vayu Linga. The lamp in the sanctum constantly flickers despite the absence of air or windows. This happens even when the deity room is shut.
This is the temple where Lord Shiva resides in the form of Nataraja – Lord of Dance representing the Sky (Akasha). We can see Him performing the Anandha Thandava in the Golden Hall of the temple.
As per the Sthalapurana, it is believed that Lord Shiva was wandering into the Thillai Vanam (Mangrove forests) where the sages and Rishis were performing the rituals in the forest. Lord Shiva took the form of handsome Bikshatana and roamed around the forest seeking alms. He was followed by the His consort Vishnu as Mohini. The wives of the sages got attracted by the beauty and the handsomeness of Lord Shiva and they started going behind the Bikshatana. The sages got enraged on seeing this behavior of their wives. So they gathered all their strengths and invoked powerful serpents to attack the Bikshatana. But Lord Shiva wore them as ornaments on Neck and waist. Then they invoked a fierce Tiger. But the Lord used its skin as a cloth around His waist. Then finally, they invoked a powerful Demon named Muyalakan, who was considered as the symbol of complete ignorance and arrogance. Then Lord Shiva stepped over the demon’s back and immobilized him. Then He performed the eternal Ananda Thandavam and showed off His true form. Then all the sages realized their mistake and surrendered to Him.
Yet another fascinating feature/ aspect of this Temple is the Chidambara Rahasiyam (The Symbolism !!). The Chidambara Rahasiyam is the Deep Concept where we worship the empty space meaning – we surrender to The Emptiness to Enjoy the Eternal Bliss. During the daily rituals in the temple, the chief priest puts a curtain indicating the withdrawal of ignorance and revealing the Lord’s presence.
In Gosthala, We arrange for a Special Trip that covers these Pancha Bootha Sthalas in a 3D/2N package.