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Panchabhuta Stalam : Lord Shiva as the five Prime elements
Introduction : Panchabhuta Sthalam
Panchabhuta refers to the five elements of Nature, viz. Kshiti (Earth), App (Water), Tej (Fire), Marut (Wind) & Byom or Vyom (Sky or Space), & Sthalam means place. Panchabhuta Sthalam are five ancient temples dedicated to Lord Shiva each representing the manifestation of one of these five prime elements of nature. All the five temples are located in South India, four in the state of Tamil Nadu, & the fifth one in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Each of these temples is considered highly sacred, & a visit to these is considered an important act of pilgrimage. A person who completes the trip is regarded a highly pious one, & held in great esteem.
Panchabhuta Sthalam : the temples
The five temples representing the five prime elements are :
- Ekambareswar temple at Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu representing Kshiti or Earth.
- Jambukeswar at Thiruvanaikaval (near Thiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu) representing App or water.
- Annamalaiar or Arunachalam in Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu representing Tej or Fire.
- Shrikalahastiswar temple at Shrikalahasti in Andhra Pradesh representing Marut or Wind, &
- Thillai Nataraja temple at Chidambaram in Tamuil Nadu representing the Vyom or Sky/space.
Panchabhuta Sthalam : Geographical significance
It is highly interesting to note that four of the five (Ekambareswar , Annamalaiar , Shrikalahastiswar & Thillai Nataraja temples ) of these widely separated temples are located in the same longitude of 79 degrees East, & the fifth one(Jambukeswar ) is at 78.7 degrees. How these temples were constructed in the old ages precisely at the same longitude is really perplexing, & signifies the high standard of ancient Indian Engineering & Geographical Science.
Panchabhuta Sthalam : Exact Co-ordinates
These are as follows :
- Ekambareswar temple at Kanchipuram : 12.847604 N, 79.699798 E.
- Annamalaiar or Arunachalam in Thiruvannamalai : 12.231942 N , 79.067694 E.
- Shrikalahastiswar at Shrikalahasti in Andhra Pradesh : 13.749802 N, 79.698410 E.
- Nataraja temple at Chidambaram in Tamuil Nadu: 11.399596 N, 79.693559 E.
- Jambukeswar at Thiruvanaikaval (near Thiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu) : 10.853383 N, 78.705455 E.
Panchabhuta Sthalam : Religious significance
Each of these temples houses a Shiva Lingam which is considered as the manifestation of one particular Prime Elements of Nature. These are :
- Ekambareswar : The Prithvi Lingam representing the Earth;
- Annamalaiar or Arunachalam: The Agni Lingam representing the Fire;
- Shrikalahastiswar : The Vayu Lingam representing the Wind;
- Thillai Nataraja : The Vyom Lingam representing the Sky/Space, &
- Jambukeswar : The Appu Lingam representing the Water.
It is believed that anyone who completes the pilgrimage of visiting the five shrines gets Moksha or Eternal Bliss & will not be born again.
The Panchabhuta Sthalam has such importance both religious & Historical as well as Archeological, that each of these five temples needs a separate discussion. And exactly that will be done here in five separate Parts which follow.