Aathara Sthalam: Abodes of Shiva, Guardian of the Tantrik Chakra-s of the human body
Aathara Sthalam: Introduction
The Tantra is an ancient science (or Study of the Mystic) which deals with the relationship between the human anatomy, human mind, the life energy & the Supernatural Spirit or God. There are several variants of Tantra, for example, the Hindu Tantra, Buddhist Tantra, Jain Tantra etc. as well as Tantra of various countries outside Indian subcontinent .
The roots of Indian Tantra can be traced back to the pre-Vedic civilizations as figures in Tantrik postures have been unearthed in the ruins of Harappa & other places of Indus Valley civilization.
In all types of Tantra, an inherent part is the concept of Chakra.
The term “Chakra” means a wheel, but the meaning may be extended into a “Vortex”. Chakras are energy points or nodes in the subtle body & are the meeting points of the subtle (non-physical) energy channels (Naadi-s).
Different authorities give a different number of the chakras, but the unanimous opinion is that there are seven chakras that are considered to be the most important ones. They are described as being aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the top of the head, & they are often associated with autonomic nerve plexuses & endocrine glands.
Athara Sthalams are places in each of which there is a specific Shiva temple considered as the guardian of a particular chakra. Though there are seven major chakra-s, there are six Athara Sthalams with six presiding Shiva Lingams.
Major Chakras & associated Aathara Sthalams with the names of Shiva
Name of the Chakra--> Position in the body -->Aathara Sthalam -->Shiva Lingam
Ajna Behind the centre of Forehead ; Chidambaram,Tamil Nadu; Nataraja
Visuddha At the centre of throat; ShriKalahasti; Andhra Pradesh; ShriKalahastiswar
Anahata At the centre of chest; Varanasi; Uttar Pradesh; Viswanath
Manipur At the level of the navel; Thiruvannamalai; Tamil Nadu; Arunachaleswar
Svadhishthana At the level of Sacrum; Thiruvanaikaval; Tamil Nadu; Jambukeswar
Muladhara At the tip of coccyx; Thiruvarur,Tamil Nadu Thyagaraja Swami
Individual Chakras & the Aathara Sthalams
It is described as a lotus with two petals. It is said to balance our higher & lower selves, & is associated with intuition. Its association with the Pineal Gland gives it a special status as the Pineal Gland controls our diurnal rhythm through the secretion of the hormone Melatonin. In some lower animals this gland is represented as the third eye.
The Aathara Sthalam associated with Ajna Chakra is Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu & the presiding Shiva is Nataraja Swami. Chidambaram is the only major Shiva temple where Lord Shiva is worshiped in His three forms, viz., Formed (Nataraja), semi-formed (Linga) & Unformed (the Vyom Lingam or Void). It is also one of the 5 Pancha Bhuta Lingams (Vyom Lingam representing Sky or Space).
It is described as a lotus with 16 petals, & is situated at the centre of the throat at the level of the Carotid plexus & the Thyroid gland. The thyroid gland secretes the hormone thyroxin, which is associated with mental & physical growth. The Visuddha Chakra is also associated with growth & communication. It is believed that all good orators have “awakened” Visuddha Chakra.
The Aathara Sthalam associated with Visuddha Chakra is Shrikalahasti in Andhra Pradesh & the presiding Shiva is Shrikalahastiswara Swami. The Shiva is also one of the 5 Pancha Bhuta Lingams (Vayu Lingam) representing Vayu/Marut or Wind.
It is described as a lotus with 12 petals & is situated in the centre of chest at the level of the heart & Cardiac plexus. It is also very close to the Thymus gland, which is an important part of the Immune system of the body, more active in early childhood. The Anahata Chakra is associated with Love & devotion, & is often called Gurukshetra (seat of the Master).
The Aathara Sthalam associated with Anahata Chakra is Kashi (Varanasi) in Uttar Pradesh & the presiding Shiva is Viswanath or Visweswara.
Kashi (Varanasi), the oldest living city in the world, is situated on the western bank of the holy river Ganga & is considered the holiest of all the holy places to the Hindus, & Viswanath (or Kashi Viswanath) is the most important Shiva Lingam in the world. It is one of the twelve Jyotirlingams of Lord Shiva.
It is described as a lotus with ten petals, & is situated at the centre of the abdomen associated with the Solar plexus of the Autonomic Nervous System & the Pancreas, associated with secretion of several digestive enzymes & the hormones Insulin & Glucagon which control blood sugar level.
The Manipur Chakra controls the need of power & the conversion from base instincts to higher ones.
The Aathara Sthalam associated with this Chakra is Arunachalam in Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu & the presiding Shiva is Arunachaleswara or Annamalaiar. The centre point of the town is a hill called Arunachalam Giri which is believed to be a huge Shiva Lingam. Arunachaleswara is also one of the 5 Pancha Bhuta Lingams (the Agni Lingam representing Tej or Fire).
It is described as a lotus with six petals, & is situated at the level of the base of genital organ in the sacral region, & is associated with the Sacral Plexus of nerves . This Chakra is associated with basic physical needs like anger, violence, carnal pleasure & enthusiasm.
The Aathara Sthalam associated with this Chakra is Thiruvanaikaval (Tiruchirapalli) in Tamil Nadu & the presiding Shiva is Jambukeswara, which is also one of the 5 Pancha Bhuta Lingams (The App lingam representing Water).
This is described as a lotus with four petals situated at the base of the spine at the level of the tip of the Coccyx. It is associated with the Gonads (testes /Ovaries). This Chakra is associated with mental faculties like survival, sensuality & security.
The Aathara Sthalam associated with Muladhara Chakra is Thiruvarur in Tamil Nadu & the presiding Shiva is Thyagaraja Swami.
Thiruvarur (Thyagaraja temple)
Aathara Sthalam : Conclusion
The Aathara Sthalams are important to anyone practicing Tantra. It is believed that a Chakra can be easily “awakened” if meditated upon sitting in the Aathara Sthalam associated with the particular Chakra. A pilgrimage to all of these six places is considered a great spiritual journey & a boon from the Lord to the person completing this.