Tuesday, November 6, 2012

2012 Tour of Shiva temples (5 elements)

My first ever posting in this blog was about our trip to Aarupadai Veedu (6 sacred temples) of Lord Murugan in September 2011. Upon landing in KL after that trip, I got a phone call the very next day from my friends to arrange another temple tour in India this year. The plan for this year's journey begun to take shape. 

At first 3 of us booked, then another 4 joined in. We decided to tour the 5 temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and the 5 elements, the Panchabootha Sthalas ("pancha" – meaning five, bootha – meaning the elements: earth, water, fire, wind and space and "sthala" meaning location) : 
  • the Jambukeswarar temple at Thiruvanaikaval, in Tiruchirapalli, where the Lord is worshiped in his manifestation as Water
  • the Natarajar temple at Chidambaram, where the Lord is worshiped in his manifestation as space, some refers to sky
  • the Annamalaiyar Temple at Tiruvannamalai, where the Lord is worshiped in his manifestation as Fire 
  • the Ekambareswarar temple at Kanchipuram, where the Lord is worshiped in his manifestation as Earth  
  • the Kalahasti temple at Srikalahasthi, where the Lord is worshiped in his manifestation as air/wind. 

After a year of waiting, last month we managed to complete the tour of the temples, together with some other famous temples across Tamil Nadu. The story of our journey is depicted in the images below:

Our 1st stop was Trichy's landmark Pillayar (Ganesha) temple. It was raining non-stop for few days in Trichy, which made our climb on top of the 83 meter high steep rock formation was treacherous and dangerous.

The 5 of us, who began the tour of temple (with umbrellas). From left Jayabalan (JB), Sureshkanna (Boy), Sujendran, Shanmugam & me.

The awesome view of whole Trichy, from the top of the rock hill.

Sri Ranggam temple can be seen in the rain mist from the rock hill, with mighty river Kaveri running in the foreground. I'm already thinking of another tour around Vishnu temples in the future :).

The 'cute' Pillayar Sannathi, it can't fit more than 20 people at a time, I wonder how Vinayaga Chathurthi crowd will be.

Carving of Naalvar on the rock face.

The 5 element temples that we planned to visit is scattered around the south east of Tamilnadu - Trichy, Chidambaram, Tiruvanamalai, Kanchipuram and Kalahashti (Andhra).

1st temple - Water element : Tiruvanaikka Jambukeswarar Temple. This column is more than 20 meters high, hand carved in the ancient times.

Another view of the mass columns.

Auto-timer shot at the temple.

View of the Gopuram at Tiruvanaikka Jambukeswarar Temple. In this temple, the Lingam is situated on water source (ootru) from river Kaveri. The water is visible for 6 months in a year.

2nd temple - Space element : Chidambaram Natarajar temple. In this temple, there's a space which is usually  referred as Chidambara Rahasiyam (the secret of Chidambaram). In this area it was believed the Lord and his consort has taken the form of space.

Huge space, built entirely on carved granite. Makes you wonder how they managed to build these temples without any modern technology.

We met with JB's cousins (2 on the right) who've been studying music at Annamalai University for the last 8 years. With them is a Japanese, who got hooked on learning Tavil drum after watching some videos. He's also based in Chidambaram for the last 5 years!!

We took a day off to rest at Pondycherry (Pudhucherry) the French colonial settlement. Here you can see the state-town built on grids similar to France. This particular building was featured in movies like Ayyan. 

The view of Bay of Bengal from the beach cafe. Its still raining, continuously.

JB is wondering if the rain will ever stop.

Wet, but largely clean Pondy is definitely a place to spend some good time, in summer.

Colonial architecture, this is a Dutch church.

Inside a huge cathedral in Pondy.

Inside a huge cathedral in Pondy.

Cathedral in Pondy.

3rd temple - Fire element : Annamalaiyar Temple, Tiruvannamalai. Online resource stated :
History of the temple:
There is a very interesting story behind the existence of this temple. It is said that goddess Parvathi once closes the one eye of Lord Shiva in a playful mood for a moment’s time. But to the earthly world, it is equivalent to thousands of years. Upon the prayers of all humans and Devathas, Mata Parvathi requests lord to emerge on earth to provide light. He accepts the request and emerges as fire from Annamalai Hills. Hence the temple here is related to the element fire. The very hills of Annamalai are considered as the Linga of Shiva.   

So far completed the tour and darshans at 3 out of 5 targeted temples. The feeling is great.

We had our well-deserved rest at Kanchipuram after hours of traveling from Tiruvannalamalai. In the morning, we got ready to visit the temples in Kanchipuram. The set is now dressed for the occasion :)

View from the main entrance of the Kanchi Kamatchi temple. I was instructing the 'cameraman'!

4th temple - Earth element : Ekambareswarar Temple. Legend has it Goddess Parvathi, was once separated from her husband, came to Kancheepuram and made a Sivalingam out of sand and installed it under a mango tree on the banks of a river and worshipped it and got Shiva's hand in marriage.

The legend of earth Lingam formation under the mango tree. We witnessed the unique Lingam during our darshan.

Complex carved granite columns at the temple. Very minute detail are seen.

Happy crew, JB begining his varma kalai mudras.

Inside the temple.

We briefly stopped at the Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple, which was built using mixture of sand. This temple preludes the Tanjore big temple, which has striking resemblance.

From Kanchipuram, we head to Chennai before our trip to last temple of Panchabootha Stalam in Andhra.

5th temple - Air element : Sri Kalahasthi Temple. Among the 5, this temple's Lingam is the most unique. Read the info in following picture.

About Sri Kalahashti and the Lingam.

The shape of the Lingam at Sri Kalahashti

5 friends, 5 temples across 1000 kilometers. We've done it! Thank you God for keeping us safe throughout the journey.

En route to Tirupathi Tirumala temple. One of the 7 hills leading the Ezhumalaiyan temple.

Tirupathi Tirumala temple in view.

View of Andhra from top of the hill.

We completed the journey and waiting, for almost 7 hours in total. Fulfilling though.

At the foot of the hills, after completion.

The gang of 5, we'll be back for more!!