Neer Sthalam among the Pancha Bhootha Sthalams
Kochenganan Chozha showed his anger against Elephants by building the sanctum with such a narrow passage that an elephant would not be able to enter!!!
Located on the Northern banks of Cauvery is the Lord Jambukeswarar temple in Thiruvanaikaval, one of the Pancha Bhootha Sthalams, where Lord Shiva manifests himself as ‘Water’ (among the five elements). Hence this is referred to as a ‘Neer’ sthalam (‘Appu’ in Sanskrit). Thiruvanaikaval is home to Nava Theertham and the belief is that those who bathe in the Nava Theertham on Chitra Pournami and invoke the blessings of Jambukeswarar and Akilandeswari are said to attain Mukthi.
The temple dates back to the 5th century AD to the rule of Kochenganan Chozha, who ruled from Uraiyur and is an architectural marvel with high roofs, five huge prakaras south of the Coloroon, towering Gopurams in the East and the West and Nava Theerthams.
The Spider and Elephant
Thiruvanaikaval is the first of the ‘Maada Koils’ built by Kochenganan. In recognition of his great contribution to temple architecture and as the one who built the Thiruvanaikaval temple, Kochenganan’s idol is seen inside the temple.
Two devotees – Pushpavana and Mayavana - of Lord Shiva were involved in the process of plucking flowers from the Nandavanam and presenting to the Lord. One day, an argument arose between the two as to who had presented more flowers and they ended up killing each other in the fight that ensued. But having been true devotees through their lives, Lord Shiva provided them darshan at Kailasam and blessed them into birth as a spider and elephant in this Gajaranya Kshetram.
Provided with an opportunity to serve the Lord, the Spider provided shade to the Lord through its cobweb, while the elephant performed pooja removing all the dirt around the lord, bringing water for Abhishekam, plucking flowers and fruits and providing sandalwood.
One day, angered at finding a cobweb above the Lord, the elephant swung his tail and hit out at the web as he saw it as dirt. In retaliation, the spider entered the nose of the elephant. Stung with unbearable pain, the elephant died. The spider caught inside elephant’s body too died of suffocation.
And for the 2nd time, they entered Kailasam. When asked for a wish, the elephant asked for this place where he performed pooja with sincerity to be named after him. Hence this place came to be called Thiru ‘Aanai’ Kaval.
The spider asked to be born as a King who would build everlasting temples.
The spider was thus born as Kochenganan Chozhan in the Chozha dynasty. His parents were childless. An astrologer suggested that if the child was born during a specific time slot, he would become a great king and serve the Lord through his lifetime. Unfortunately, his mother Kamalavathi was slated for a pre delivery. Determined to have the child only during the specified slot, she asked her maids to tie her and hang here upside down till the specified time arrived. And thus she ensured that her son was born at that specified time. As the blood circulation had been disrupted, the child was born with red eyes. The mother called him ‘Ko’ ‘Chenganan’ (the one with red eyes) and died immediately after his birth. It was his aunt who took care of him through his childhood.
Ko Chenganan built over 70 Saivite temples and is also credited with building Nachiyar Koil, the first Vaishnavite temple built by him. With two life time incidents of having fought with the elephant, he carried his anger into this life as well. All of the Saivite temples built by him were such that the elephant could not enter. It was either a small entrance into the sanctum or a high rise that an elephant could not climb. Such temples with either a narrow passage or high rise are referred to as Maada Koils.
Ruling from Uraiyur, the then capital of the Chozhas, Ko Chenganan crossed the Cauvery and found an idol of Shiva beneath the tree. He also remembered his life as a spider when he had provided shade right above. His devotion touched a peak and he built Thiruvanaikal as his first Saivite temple. He then went on to build several more in the Chozha kingdom including the Maada Style temple at Nachiyar Koil that is very different from the typical Vishnu temple in terms of architecture.
One of its kind Uchchi Kaalam Pooja
Ambal takes 3 forms every day here at Thiruvanaikaval. Early in the morning, she provides darshan as Lakshmi. At noon she is seen as Parvathi and in the evening she presents herself as Saraswathi in a white saree.
Legend has it that Goddess Parvathi once scoffed at Lord Shiva’s deep penance and his yogic style. Angered at this gesture, Shiva directed her to Earth. She reached this Jambu Vanam (Rose- Apple Forest) and performed pooja with sacred water that turned into Lingam, thus invoking his blessings. This tradition is followed every day during the Uchchi Kaalam Pooja. The priest dressed as Parvathi (draped in a saree) performs pooja at Jambukeswarar Sannidhi. Following this, he performs pooja on the sacred cow. This form of Uchchi Kaalam Pooja is the only one of its kind in Saivite temples in India.
Once, Brahmma created a beautiful girl in this world. Instead of seeing her as his own daughter, Brahmma cast his eyes on the beautiful damsel. Inflicted with Brahmma Hathi Dosham, he came here, bathed in the Theertham south of the temple and undertook penance invoking the blessings of Jambukeswarar. A pleased Lord Shiva decided to provide darshan to Brahmma and liberate him from the Dosham. As Shiva was preparing to leave, Goddess Akilandeswari too wanted to join. Shiva cautioned that Brahmma had got into this situation lured by the beauty of a young girl and did not want to take a chance once again. They decided to interchange roles – Shiva took the form of Akilandeswari and the Goddess went there as Jambukeswarar and provided darshan to Brahmma. After liberating Brahmma from his Dosham, it is said that they got back into their original forms.
During Brahmotsavam, this interchange between Lord and Ambal is re-enacted on the Rohini day on the South Street of the fifth Prakara. As part of this Pancha Parva Utsavam, the Lord comes on a procession in each of the five prakaras – one of the highlights of the year at this temple.
The largest and outermost prakara – the fifth prakara is referred to as the Vibhoothi Prakara. Several thousands of labourers toiled hard through the day to construct the prakara. As a reward of their hard work, these committed labourers were each given Vibhoothi as prasadam. As they went back home, to their pleasant surprise they found that the Lord’s Prasadam had magically turned into money – a testimony to the truth that the Lord rewards who offer their sincere prayers and works sincerely in their daily lives.
Sundarar’s Devaram Verse
One of Sundarar’s Thevaram verses on Thiruvanaikka refers to an interesting episode that suggests that every devotee should first offer to the Lord before consuming it. A Queen who was a gifted a set of glittering necklaces adorned herself and showcased it with all joy. After bathing in the Cauvery, she found the necklaces missing. Shocked at this loss, the king and the queen invoked the blessings of Lord Jambukeswarar to help find the necklaces. Shortly after, as the priest provided the Lord with the sacred bath the necklaces were seen on the Lord’s Lingam making them realise that in their hour of joy and greed they had forgotten to first thank him for their state of happiness.
This story is beautifully narrated by Sundarar as a message to all devotees that we should not forget the Lord in our hour of happiness.
Adi Sankara’s Contribution
Adi Sankara installed the idols of Vinayaka and Muruga in the front and back of the Ambal Sannidhi to cool an angry Ambal who had undertaken penance here. Adi Sankara also presented the Goddess with two beautiful ear rings – Thaadagam with Sri Chakra. The alankara process for beautiful looking Akilandeswari is a very special feature at this temple.
The unfortunate street of Thiruvanaikaval
A few centuries ago, an expert Vaishnavite cook from the Madapalli at Srirangam used to make a trip every day to Thiruvanaikaval to meet his beloved and they used to be converse for hours together. One evening, he stayed back and slept inside the temple in tiredness. That night, he heard the noise of anklets and woke up to the sprinkling of water on him. As he opened his eyes, he had darshan of Akilandeswari. The sacred water initiated him into sacred thoughts and transformed him into ‘Kaala Megha’ Pulavar. He went on to sing many verses of praise – ‘Thiruvanaikka Ula’ - on the Goddess. However, he never visited that girl again. Subsequent to this episode, the story goes that the street in Thiruvanaikaval from where the girl came became one where girls did not get married since!!!!
This is one of the 8temples in TN with 1000pillared mandapa. The vimanam is a granite structure – similar to the one seen in Thittai. Vikrama Chozha built the 3rd prakara, Sundara Pandyan the 4th prakara, while Shiva Siddhar built the outermost and biggest 5th prakara. An inscription refers to Hoysala King ruling this place from Samayapuram (Vikramapuram).
Saneeswarar is seen with his wife and mother – the only one of its kind in a Saivite temple.
There are hundreds of inscriptions inside the temple dating back to the rule of Chozhas, Pandyas and Hoysalas.
Four Saint Poets and their praise
Appar, Sundarar and Sambandar have sung praise in the Thevaram verses while Manickavachagar too has sung praise of the Lord of Thiruvanaikaval in his Thiruvachagam verse.
Theppotsavam in Thai and Aadi – Only temple to have two Theppam Festival – as this is a Neer Sthalam
Margazhi Thiruvathirai Utsavam
Goddess : Akilandeswari standing on a Padma Peedam
Time : 6am-12noon and 4pm-9pm
Contact: ST Subramanyam (STS) @ 99425 75663 / Hari Archakar @ 98949 14466 / Meera @ 75981 71929
Panchapakesan (Panchu Iyer) @ Ph. 0431 2232958 / 98947 74780) – He performed pooja for the Lord for over 35years including 4 Abhishekams every day and washed Ambal’s clothes every day
How to reach
Thiruvanaikaval is on the old GST road 2kms East of Srirangam and on the Northern banks of the Cauvery.
Auto from Srirangam Railway station to the temple will cost Rs. 40/-. Auto contact @ 97917 56869/99945 62964 (Karthik / Kumar)