akilandeswari sametha jambukeswarar , thiruvanaikkaval
this is one of the pancha bootha sthalams of siva, which represent the five elements in the world. this temple represents water (appu), and is also called jambukeswaram, after the vennaval (jambu) tree that is core to the sthala puranam of this temple.
once, parvati mocked siva for his ideal of betterment of the world. as a result, siva banished parvati to be born on bhulokam. parvati arrived here on the banks of the kaveri river, and using the water from the river, created a siva lingam for her worship. pleased with her penance, siva came here and gave her upadesam, as her guru. while the siva shrine here faces west, the amman shrine faces east – this type of representation is indication of a guru sthalam (similar to the abhirameswarar temple at tiruvamathur, though there siva faces east and amman faces west). parvati creating the lingam from water is the reason for associating this place with water, out of the five key elements.
we have heard of kochchenga cholan who built 78 maadakoils in tamilakam. this temple, while not a maadakoil, is the starting point of the legend associated with kochchenga cholan himself. pushpadantan and maliavaan – two ganas of siva – were born on earth as an elephant and a spider, respectively. they both worshipped the siva lingam which was under the jambu (vennaval, jamun) tree here. the spider wove a web every day and covered it with leaves – it’s own way of worship. however, when the elephant saw this, it was aghast, and so removed the webbing and brought water from the kaveri river, to worship the lingam. seeing its web destroyed, the spider again wove a web as it did before, and in the morning, the elephant again took it apart. this went on for a few days, until the spider realised what was happening. to stop the elephant from repeating this, the spider got into the trunk of the elephant and bit it. unable to bear the pain, the elephant thrashed its trunk about so hard, that both it and the spider died.
in its next birth, the spider was born as kochchenga cholan, who later became the king of the region, and is one of the 63 nayanmars in saivism. remembering his previous birth, the king built temples with an elevated platform, and a side entrance with uneven steps, so that elephants could not enter the place – those are what we refer to as maadakoils. (read about kochchenga cholan and maadakoils here.) the temple has a separate shrine for kochchenga cholan.
the place gets the name tiru-anai-kkaa, from the fact that the elephant (aanai in tamil) worshipped here. this is also one of the pancha-kaa kshetrams – temples located in places that were forests in the days of yore. the other four are tirunellikka, tirukolakka, tirukurakkaa and tirukodikkaa.
an illiterate devotee named kalamegha varadan once slept in the temple, when he accidentally ate the betel leaves that were meant for amman. when he woke up, he and others were amazed to discover that he had become extremely knowledgeable. eventually, he became a saint and poet, renowned for his knowledge. arising from this puranam, and also since siva imparted jnana deeksha to parvati here, devotees worship at this temple for success in education, among other things.
as a result of the above sthala puranams, siva here is called jambukeswarar and vennavaleswarar (related to the jambu tree), and jalakanteswarar and neerthiral nathar (related to water).
this is regarded as the first temple built by kochchenga cholan (presumably only been the core temple here, and not what we see today). the temple was subsequently renovated and added to by several generations of kings during chola times, the hoysalas (in the 13th century) and more recently (in the early 20th century), by the nagarathars.
the temple also has several inscriptions, particularly those indicating grants by various kings during the chola period during the 11th and 12th century.
the massive temple complex is spread over 18 acres, and has seven gopurams, five prakarams and nine teerthams.the garbhagriham is below ground level, and there is a constant stream of water in the shrine. outside the garbhagriham is a stone lattice with 9 openings – said to represent the 9 teerthams – through which one can worship the moolavar, and this is considered the equivalent of having taken a dip in all 9 teerthams. (the nine openings are also said to represent the nine openings in the human body.)
amman’s shrine is in the fourth prakaram, and itself has two prakarams inside the shrine. it is believed that amman was extremely angry at one time, and devotees were afraid to worship her. when adi sankarar visited here, he realised this, and fitted the amman with earrings (tatakam), after which her anger was quelled. also in front of the amman shrine, murtis of vinayakar and murugan – her children – were installed, to further ensure she is always peaceful. the akhilandeswari amman shrine is also a sakti peetham.
go-puja and annabhishekam are performed every day, early in the morning and during the day, respectively. the noon puja for siva is unique, where the priest wears a saree and crown – representing himself as parvati – and performs the puja. this is said to signify parvati’s penance to siva here, in addition to reinforcing the importance of parvati’s role in saivism and siva worship.
the architecture inside this temple is breath-taking, as are the several mandapams with numerous pillars. however, some of the work on the pillars is recent and not of the same quality vintage as the originals. the fourth prakaram wall – built over a length of over 8000 feet in total – is called the tiruneetru madhil, and has its own legend. it is said that during the construction of this wall, siva came here in the form of a siddhar, and distributed holy ash (vibhuti) to the labourers. the vibhuti later turned into gold, proportionate to the wages that each of the labourers deserved.
most visitors do not go beyond the fourth prakaram. however, if one proceeds further east, there is a separate shrine for adi jambukeswarar (some experts regard this as the original lingam worshipped by parvati and by the spider and elephant).
brahma, vishnu, rama, the ashta digpalakas, as well as several sages have worshipped here. there is also a sthala puranam that says that when vibhishana was carrying the murti of ranganathar given to him by rama (which is currently the srirangam temple), ranganathar stayed back here only so that he could be close to siva and worship him. even today, once a year, the utsava murti from the ranganathar temple comes in procession from srirangam to visit this temple, and returns with a special decoration (alankaram).
arunagirinathar has sung on murugan at this temple, in his tiruppugazh.
sung by: sambandar, appar, sundarar
material provided by my friend aniruddh shankaran who does very passionate and extensive research regarding ancient temples of tamir nadu. he runs a great treasure trove named tn temples project. please visit https://tntemplesproject.in/