Pancha Bhoota Sthalams – The 5 Shiva Temples
All You Needed to Know and More about Lord Shiva’s Five Primary Manifestations on Earth
Lord Shiva is worshipped for many reasons all over India. However, in South India, He is worshipped as the presiding deity of the five elements of Nature, and is called Bhootapati or Bhootnath.
Na | Ma | Shi | Va | Ya – these five syllables indicate the five elements (known as Bhoota in Sanskrit) – Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether. The five elements are the building blocks of everything in Creation, including the human body, and Lord Shiva is the upholder of the five elements.
There is an ancient saying in India – Without the permission of Lord Shiva, even a blade of grass couldn’t sway to the wind. Honouring this aspect of Lord Shiva (as the upholder of the five elements) are the Pancha Bhoota Sthalams – the five Shiva temples, each of which represent one of the five elements of Nature. All of these temples are located in the Southern part of India and each temple has a unique story to tell with a distinct spiritual essence.
Here is a small attempt to take you on an imaginary tour of the five temples, till you get the opportunity to visit them life size.
Earth Element | Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu
In the Ekambareshwarar temple, Lord Shiva is represented by a Lingam made out of sand to depict the Earth element. This is also known as Prithvi Lingam. Here, Lord Shiva is fondly worshipped as Ekambaranathar and Ekambareshwar. Ekambareshwarar means Lord of the Mango Tree and there is a legend regarding the origin of the temple.
Once upon a time, Goddess Parvathi was in deep penance under a mango tree. In order to test her devotion, Lord Shiva sent the river Ganga to disrupt her penance and test her devotion. Goddess Parvathi then prayed to Ganga not to harm her as they were sisters. Ganga then did not disturb her penance. Goddess Parvathi made a Shiva Lingam from the sand near the Mango Tree in remembrance of the Lord, and consecrated it. Even today, to prevent the sand-made Shiva Lingam from deteriorating, the Abhishekam is done with jasmine oil (as it is a low-density fluid).
Essence of the Story
One does not need special idols or sculptures to enshrine God, but just a fistful of sand with all of one’s devotion.
5 Facts about the Ekambareshwarar Temple
- The temple is the tenth largest temple in India, spread over 23 acres.
- It has one of the tallest Gopurams (monumental ornate gateway tower) in South India, at 190 feet.
- Having been in existence since at least 600 AD, the Ekambareshwarar temple is one of the most ancient temples in India.
- There is a mango tree inside the temple that is said to be more than 3000 years old.
- Many kings have contributed to the architecture of the temple.