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Ashta Lingam: The Guardians of the Twelve Moon Signs
Ashta Lingam : Introduction
The term “Ashta Lingam” [Ashta (=8) Lingam (Shiva Lingam, the Phallic Symbol of Lord Shiva)] generally means eight Shiva Lingams. But the term is reserved for the eight special Shiva Lingams situated in the town of Thiruvannamalai in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. They are considered as the Guardians of the twelve Moon signs in the sky.
The eight lingams are: Indra Lingam, Agni Lingam, Yama Lingam, Niruthi Lingam, Varuna Lingam, Vayu Lingam, Kubera Lingam and Eeshanya Lingam.
Ashta Lingam : Geography
The eight Shiva lingams are located at eight directions and provide an octagonal structure to Tiruvannamalai Town. The central point of the town is a sacred hill called Annamalai / Sonachalam / Arunachalam which is considered as Lord Shiva Himself. People flock from different parts of the country or even outside India just to see the hill, or better, to do a circumambulation of the hill, a ritual called GIRIVALAM.
The 8 shrines of the eight Shiva lingams are located in the 14 km circumference of the hill, & to offer Puja (worship) in these eight temples is an inseparable part of the ritual of Girivalam
Association of the Ashta Lingams & the Moon Signs
- 1. Indra Lingam : It is the Guardian of 2 Moon signs - Taurus & Libra
- 2. Agni Lingam : Guardian of Leo.
- 3. Yama Lingam : Guardian of the Moon sign of Scorpio.
- 4. Niruthi/ Nirudhi Lingam : Guardian of the Moon sign of Aries.
- 5. Varuna Lingam : : It is the Guardian of 2 Moon signs, Capricorn & Aquarius.
- 6. Vayu Lingam : It is associated with the moon sign of Cancer.
- 7. Kuber Lingam : It is again the Guardian of 2 Moon signs, Sagittarius & Pisces.
- 8. Eeshanya (Eeshan) Lingam : It is also the Guardian of 2 Moon signs , Gemini & Virgo.
Of the eight temples, only the Agni Lingam temple is situated on the right hand side of the road of the ritualistic circumambulation (Girivalam) of the Arunachalam hill, the rest are on the left hand side.
Again, of the eight temples, six are situated by the side of the road along which circumambulation takes place, two (the Agni Lingam & the Eeshanya Lingam ) are at a little distance from the road.
Ashta lingam : Individual temples :Indra Lingam
The first on the Girivalam path is a small temple just on the left side of the main road with a small gate entangled with electrical wires that houses the Indra Lingam. Nothing spectacular, the Shiva Lingam inside is a small one. However, the importance of this Lingam is evident by the status given to It as the controller of two Moon signs, viz. Taurus & Libra.
This is the only Ashta Lingam temple which is situated on the right hand side of the Girivalam path. A conspicuous arched gateway indicates the way to this temple which can be approached by a side street & is about a hundred metres from the main road. The temple is a small one, with a small Shiva Lingam inside. Agni Lingam controls the Moon sign of Leo.
This is a moderate sized temple, with a beautiful entrance with an arched top showing Lord Shiva & Goddess Durga on the back of a bull. The Lingam inside is also mid-sized. It controls the Moon sign of Scorpio.
This is again a mid-sized temple, more or less similar to the Yama Lingam temple. It controls the Moon sign of Aries.
The next in line is the temple of Varuna Lingam. This is also a mid-sized temple with a beautiful Shiva Lingam inside. This controls the Moon signs of Capricorn & Aquarius.
Next in line is the temple of Vayu Lingam, which controls the Moon sign of Cancer.
Kuber (Kubera) Lingam
Next in line is the temple of Kubera Lingam. This temple is larger in size than the previous ones. This controls two Moon signs, Sagittarius & Pisces.
Eeshanya (Eeshan) Lingam
The last in line is the temple dedicated to Eeshanya Lingam. It is the Guardian of two Moon signs, Gemini & Virgo. This temple, unlike the other seven, is not situated on the Girivalam path, but on a side road & is about 200 metres from the Girivalam path. The temple & the Shiva Lingam inside are mid-sized.
Religious importance of the Ashta Lingam
As the controller Guardians of the twelve Moon signs, these eight Shiva Lingams are highly venerated by the Hindus. During the ritualistic circumambulation around the Arunachalam Hill (Girivalam) it is customary to offer Puja (reverence) to these Shiva Lingams, as the belief is that doing such will please all the Moon signs so that no evil things will occur to the persons doing this.
India is a huge country with millions of temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. There are big temples & small temples, famous temples & not so famous temples. The Ashta Lingam temples, though very important in religious stature, are not very well known, especially to the North India. This small article, hopefully, will act as an eye-opener.