The Pancha Bootha Sthalas

Na = Earth Ma = Water Si = Fire Va = Air Ya = Space

Kanchipuram: (Earth)

The most famous Siva temple at Kanchipuram is the Ekambareswara temple where he is worshipped in the form of Earth Linga and its 11 storey structure temple tower which is adorned with beautiful sculptures is one of the tallest temple tower in South India.

As per mythology, when Lord Siva was deeply immersed in the task of creating, protecting and destroying the Universe, Parvati, his consort, in a jocular mood, closed his eyes.This resulted in staying the process of creation and destruction as well as obstruction to the natural law of things. It was a serious matter and Siva became angry and cursed Parvati to go to the Earth and expiate her misdeed. Accordingly Parvati came to the banks of the river Kampa under a single mango tree at Kanchi and made a Shivalinga out of sand and worshipped it.

To test her sincerity Siva placed various obstacles and hindrances in the way of Parvati's penance. But with the help of Vishnu she could tide over all the difficulties. At last Siva hurled a deluge by taking out the Ganges from his matted hair, to wash away the Linga worshipped by Parvati. She clasped it with all veneration to her breasts and this pleased Siva who took her again as his consort. The temple is said to have been built at the spot where the lord forgave her.

Another version of the story is that Siva and Parvati fell out in a game of dice. Siva cursed Gowri (Parvathi) to become become ugly. With the help of Vishnu Parvati propitiated Siva by performing penance under a single Mango tree at Kancheepurarn on the banks of the Kampa River, and regained her beauty with dazzling eyes, from which the name of Kamakshi has been derived for the tutelary goddess of the temple. As Parvati rejoined with Lord Siva under the mango tree the name of Ekamranatha (Ekaone, amra - mango, and natha-Lord) was given to Lord Siva. It later became Ekambareswara. Another legend connected with the marriage celebration is that connected with Agastya being vouchsafed its darsan when he had come South from Kailas.

The ancient mango tree in the courtyard is worshipped by all even today with great veneration. It has got four branches representing the four Vedas. Each branch bears fruit with a different taste and the leaves are also different in appearance. It is a popular belief that if a childless woman takes the fruit of the tree she is blessed with children. In the prakaram round the mango tree is a lingam which is a composite of 108 small lingams and another one of 1008 small lingams. There are idols of the 63 Nayanmars also. There are two tanks in the temple, Kampa Nadi and Sivaganga. There is a Vishnu shrine in the Siva temple and the name of the Vishnu is Nilatingal Tundattan. Here, Lord Siva is worshipped as Earth or Prithivi, which is one of the five elements.


The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is surrounded by a beautiful grove. The Lingam is installed under a 'Jambu' tree and the tree is said to be many hundreds of years old. Thus the deity is also called Jambunathar, Jambukeswarar or Jambulingam. The consort is called Akilandeswary or Akilandanayaki. This is one of the five 'Panchabootha sthala' representing one of the five elements - water.

The legend connected with the 'viboothi' wall is this. During the construction of the temple by a king a mysterious voice told him not to build the wall surrounding the fourth enclosure. After a few days an ascetic arrived on the scene and started constructing the fourth wall. At the end of the day this ascetic gave his labourers a pinch of holy ash (viboothi) as their wage. When the workers arrived at their dwellings the 'viboothi' would turn into gold. Thus the wall came to be known as 'viboothi wall' and the enclosure as 'viboothi praharam'.

Once two Devas quarrelled among them as to who was more devoted to Lord Shiva. During one of these quarrels they cursed each other and one became an elephant and the other a spider. Realizing their predicament they prayed to Lord Shiva to redeem them from their curses. Lord Shiva instructed them both to go to this jungle full of 'Jambu' trees and worship the 'Lingam' that had appeared there under a 'Jambu' tree. Thus both the elephant and the spider were born in this jungle of jambu trees. The elephant brought water from the pond nearby in its trunk and washed the 'Lingam' and kept the place tidy. The spider, however, wove a web over the 'Lingam' as a canopy to prevent dry leaves and rubbish falling on the 'Lingam'. One day the elephant while tidying up the area saw the spider's web over the 'Lingam' and pulled it down. The spider was outraged at this and crawled into the trunk of the elephant and bit it. The elephant unable to stand the pain dashed its trunk against the trees and died. The spider too was killed. Lord Shiva took pity on these two creatures and gave salvation to both of them. The elephant by its ardent devotion to Lord Shiva gave this place the name Thiru+Anai+Kaa (Holy+elephant+jungle) which later became Thiruanaikkaval or Thiruvanaikkovil as it is known now.

The Lingam in this temple is said to be an 'Appu Lingam' (Water Lingam) and when the river Kaveri or Coleroon is in spate water can be seen oozing from the Lingam. The shrine of Goddess Parvathy is facing east while Lord Shiva is facing west as if facing each other. This is to depict that Goddess Parvathy herself once worshipped Lord Shiva here and received answers to her doubts about creation. Thus this temple is also called an 'Upathesa sthala'. The priest of the Amman temple, when he performs the worship to Lord Shiva dressed as a woman, enacts this theme every noon.

There are many shrines in this complex dedicated to various deities. One such is the shrine for Raja Rajeswarar. The Lingam installed in this shrine has five faces and is known as 'Panchamukha Lingam'.

'Ko-pooja' (cow worship) and 'Annabhishekam' (heaping of cooked rice on the deity) are a daily ritual in this temple.


Annamalai achieves its importance as a venerated and holy place as it is mentioned in Hindu mythology and legends and also by its association with saints, sages and religious men and women who have sung the praises of the deity in their devotional outpourings. The temple also has an important place as a repository of historical chronicles with its large amount of inscriptions on its walls and pillars.

Once there was a dispute between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu as to who was superior. This created untold suffering among all living things as their respective duties of creation and protection were being left unattended. Lord Shiva in order to put an end to this dispute appeared before them as fire in the shape of a glowing mountain. The two who were quarrelling did not realize who or what this 'mountain of fire' was. So they decided to search for the 'Aathi' (beginning) and the 'Antham' (end) of this 'Jothi' and whoever succeeded first would be declared the superior god. Lord Brahma took the form of a swan and flew upwards in search of the beginning and Lord Vishnu took the form of a 'Varaha' (wild boar) and went burrowing in the earth in order to find the end. Each after flying high and burrowing low failed in their attempt to find the beginning or the end. Brahma did not want to concede defeat. While coming down he saw a petal of 'Thalampoo' floating in the air. He asked the flower to be his witness that he had seen the beginning of this jothi. The flower agreed to his request. They arrived together and found Lord Vishnu and told Him that Brahma had seen the top and this flower 'Thalampoo' was the witness. At this juncture the 'Jothi' transformed itself as Lord Shiva and admonished Brahma for telling lies and the 'Thalampoo' for bearing false witness. He also decreed that no temple would be dedicated for Lord Brahma and that 'Thalampoo' should never be offered in worship. Brahma and Vishnu realizing their mistake prayed to Lord Shiva to remain there as a 'Jothi lingam'.

There is also another legend that says that Goddess Parvathy once playfully closed the eyes of Lord Shiva. This caused the entire universe to become dark and all activities to cease. This made Lord Shiva angry and in order to chastise Parvathy, she was banished to the earth. She came upon this earth and arrived at Kancheepuram. Here she fashioned a Sivalingam in sand and prayed to Lord Shiva to forgive her and take her back. Lord Shiva was pleased with her devotion and prayer and asked her to go to Thiruvannamalai and pray to Arunachaleswarar. Goddess Parvathy arrived at Thiruvannamalai and was finally united with the Lord who took half her body on his left. This transformation of half Parvathy and half Shiva is called 'Arthanareeswarar'.

Thiru Kalahasthi (Air)

This is an important temple dedicated to Lord Siva. This temple has one of the elemental lingas, the vayu (air) linga. There is a lamp inside the inner sanctum that is constantly flickering despite the lack of air inside. The Vayu-linga can be observed to move even when the doors to the main sanctum are closes and which does not have any windows. One can see the flames on several ghee lamps flicker as if blown by moving air. The linga is white and is considered Swayambhu, or self-manifested. To the east of the temple, lies the Kannappan hills and to the west flows the river Swarnamugi. Saints of yore have proclaimed that merely one visit to this temple is adequate for an aspiring devotee to attain salvation and free himself from the cycles of births and deaths. Offering prayers at this temple will enable one to overcome all malefic effects of the two serpentine planets Rahu and Kethu.

Here, Lord Shiva embodies in himself all the 8 planets except Saturn. That is why there is no separate sanctum sanctorum for the eight planets. There is only one solitary altar for planet Saturn.

Legend has it that a spider, a snake and an elephant vied with one another in a very destructive way to offer prayers to Lord Shiva. The lord acknowledged the sedulous devotion of all the three creatures and called himself Sri (spider), Kala (snake), Hasthi (elephant).

This temple draws millions of pilgrims during the Tamil month of Masi (Feb 15th to March 15th) when special prayers are offered to Lord Shiva on all the 30 days.


Chidambaram is one of the holiest and most venerated temples in Tamilnadu dedicated to Lord Nataraja. The temple has attained such sanctity and sacredness due to its antiquity and its association with so many miracles mentioned in Hindu scriptures. Many sages, saints and religious savants have sung in praise of the presiding deity. It is of great religious as well as historic and cultural significance. Chidambaram is associated with Lord Nataraja or Shiva in his "Ananda Tandava" pose (the Cosmic Dance of bliss) in the cosmic golden hall and the hall of consciousness ('Chit Sabha').

Lord Shiva is worshipped here in the "formless form" of the Chidambara Rahasyam, and the temple is known for its "Akasha" Lingam (Sky Lingam), an embodiment of Shiva as the formless Space. This is one of the few temples where Shiva and Vishnu are enshrined under one roof.

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 ('Natarajah'). 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 Natarajah and the East facing Govidaraja Perumal (Vishnu).