Location: Thiruvanaikaval, near Trichy city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights:One of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams (the most important temples of Lord Shiva)
Nearest Railway Station:Trichy
How to reach:Well connected by road from Trichy
Hotel: Go to Trichy where there are a lot of options
Restaurants: Go to Trichy where there are a lot of options
Thiruvanaikaval is a town located near Trichy city in Tamil Nadu state of South India. It has an important Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple is considered as the 60th among the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams (274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in Chola country north of Kaveri river.
Appar, Sundarar and Sambandhar have revered the temple in their verses in Devaram.
One of the 'maada kovil' temples built by Kochchenganan Chola.
The birth place of Kochchenganan Chola.
One of five Pancha Bhoota Sthalams and represents water element.
Instead of an entrance, there is a stone window with nine holes representing nine outlets in human body or Nava grahas (nine planets) in front of the main deity.
The sanctum sanctorum is always partially submerged in the water.
God - Jambukeswarar aka Neerthiralnathar
Goddess - Akilandeswari aka Akilanda Nayaki
Sthala Vruksha (holy tree) - Vennaaval tree (naaval = blackberry)
Teerth (Holy water) - Kaveri, Indira Teerth and Chandra Teerth
As per the legend, Lord Brahma fell in love with Tilottama who was created by him. To get rid of his sin, he pleaded to Lord Shiva. It is said that Goddess Parvati wanted to accompany Shiva. As Shiva was doubtful about the behavior of Brahma, he disguised himself as Parvati and made her to disguise as himself before appearing to Brahma. It is believed that Brahma got rid of his sin in this site.
While constructing the fifth enclosure (prakara) of the temple, the Chola king had to face his enemy in a battle. He couldn't concentrate much in the battle due to incomplete construction. Lord Shiva took the form of Vibhuti Chittar and completed the construction of the fifth corridor.
There are many temples where the sage Shankaracharya installed Sri Chakra to pacify the furious Goddess. In this temple, he made two ear rings instead of Chakra to pacify the Goddess Akilandeswari.
Lord Shiva appeared and presented Naval fruit to a sage Jambu by name. As the sage ate the fruit without spitting the seed, it is said that the Naval tree grew from his stomach piercing his body. He thus attained holy death and the tree became the sthala vruksha (holy tree) of the site. The Goddess took the human form and did penance to marry the Lord. She made Shiva Linga with water under the Naval tree. Lord Shiva is called as Jambukeswarar due to the incident related to the sage Jambu (in Sanskrit language the word Jambu means Naval tree). Also, as the Shiva Linga was made with water, it is called as Appu (water) sthalam among the five Pancha Bhoota Sthalams.
It is believed that there were two Shiva Ganas named Pushpadanta and Malyavan They quarreled and cursed each other. Malyavan was born as a spider and Pushpadanta was born as an elephant. The spider used to spread its web around the Shiva Linga idol as it thought it would serve as a protective cover from the dry leaves and direct sunlight. The elephant, on the other hand, used to remove the spider web and conduct ablution (abhishek) to the idol by pouring water. When the spider came to know this, it got furious and entered into the trunk of the elephant. It bit the elephant to the death killing itself. As the elephant worshiped Lord Shiva here, the site is named as 'Thiru Aanai Kaa' meaning holy - elephant - forest. Later, the name became 'Thiruvaanaikaval'.
The spider was born as the Chola king Kochchenganan (it means red eyed king). It is believed that he was born in this site. He built 70 temples and this temple is one among them. Remembering his enmity with the elephant in his previous birth, he built the temples in 'maada kovil' architecture thus preventing the elephants from entering inside.
Although the original temple is believed to be built by Kochchenganan Chola, there are more than 100 inscriptions of various dynasties such as Cholas, Pandyas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara kings and Madurai Nayakkars are found in this temple. This is one of the largest temples in South India.
The temple has a huge and magnificent seven tiered Raja Gopuran in the entrance. The either side of the entrance has the idols of Kali and Veerabhadra. Once you enter into this entrance, you will reach the outermost prakara (enclosure) which is believed to be built by Lord Shiva himself.
There is another seven-tiered tower with a Ganesha shrine at its entrance. Entering into this entrance will take you to the fourth prakara where there is a pillared mandapa and a small tank are found. Third Enclosure:
There is another tower named as Mallappan tower with two shrines of Ganesha and Subramanya at its entrance. This is the third enclosure which has a small four pillared mandapa, a small tank and a garden with a lot of coconut trees.
Beyond that, there is a huge seven tiered tower. It is the second enclosure. The actual temple starts from this area. This area has a lot of shrines and pillared mandapas. On the left side, there is a big sub-shrine (almost like a separate temple) dedicated to Jambukeswarar-Akilandeswari is found; beyond that there is 'oonjal mandapa'. After that there is a mandapa with full of pillars containing beautiful sculptures; a small Ganesha idol is located in this area. The right side area has a small temple like shrine dedicated to Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar, a tank named 'Indira Teerth', three sub-shrines with small Shiva Linga idols named as Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva; a small shrine with prakara and mandapa for Shiva Linga called as Kasi Vishwanatha.
The second enclosure has raised platforms (thinnai) on both the sides with a lot of pillars located on them. All the pillars have a lot of beautiful sculptures. The sub-shrines of Bala Dhandayutapani and the rare Shaneeswara with Jyestha Devi. Few flag posts (dhwajastambhas) are found in the backside of the main shrine in this prakara. There are few small mandapas located in this prakara. In a particular mandapa, there are four extremely attractive statues of dancing girls found. The 100 pillared mandapa is also located in this prakara.
There is an entrance from the backside in this prakara. There are two towers found in this section. The area between the two towers have few sub-shrines and Jambu Teerth - the holy tank. A big shrine more like a separate temple dedicated to Shiva Linga named Sankaralingeswarar. The Goddess Sankareswari, Nardana Ganapati, Dakshinamurti and Subramanya-Valli-Subramanya are also located in this shrine. A big Linga - Kubera Lingam, a small linga Jambu Linga and Akilandeswari are found near the holy teerth.
The entrance to the shrine of Akilandeswari is located at the backside of the main shrine in the second enclosure. The shrine of the Goddess is more like a separate temple with a separate flag post, bali peetha and Nandi idol facing the Goddess; also the shrine has two enclosures (prakaras). Akilandeswari's idol is very tall with four arms; it's very attractive; the ear rings are notable. The prakara has four Ganesha idols, two Shanmukha-Valli-Devasena idols and the rare Chandra with his consorts Krithika and Rohini. The bas relief images of Ichchaa, Kriya, Gnana, Durga and Chandikeswari are found in the wall surrounding the shrine as the koshta idols. Few more idols such as Saraswati, Bhadra and Ganesha are also located in the temple of Akilandeswari.
Facing the main shrine stands the tall flag post (dhwajastambha) and an adjacent small flag post along with bali peetha and big Nandi idol. The Nandi mandapa is adorned with four wide decorated pillars; the ceiling of this mandapa also has intricate sculptures. Navagraha shrine is located near the Nandi mandapa.
In the first enclosure, there is a sub-shrine which houses the tall idols of Nataraja and Sivakami. The idols of Goddesses, Dakshinamurti, Chandikeswarar, Bhairava and two Jura Deva (Shiva with three legs and three arms - sandalwood idols) are all located in this enclosure. The important sub shrine in this enclosure is Kochchenganan's shrine; he was the king who built the temple. There is a sub-shrine housing the big idol of Vallabha Ganapati with 10 arms and holding his consort.
If you enter further inside, there is another small tower at the entrance. In this inner enclosure, there are shrines of Subramanya with his consorts, Kalyana Sundara, Aadalarasu (Nataraja) and Sivakami, Navagraha, Maha Lakshmi, Chandikeswarar, Ganesha, 63 Nayanmars as utsava idols and big Shiva Linga - Sahasralinga. The idols of Ganesha, Bhairava, few Goddessess and Shiva Linga, Surya, Subramanya, 63 Nayanmars, Sapta Mata, Ganesha, Dakshinamurti and Chandra are also found here.
The sanctum sanctorum is a small square structure. The Shiva Linga (Jambukeswarar) is very small idol found always submerged partially in the naturally formed underground stream water. The west facing shrine doesn't have entrance there. Instead it has a window with nine holes. The devotees generally worship the idol through the holes. Nevertheless there is an entrance at the southern side. The sthala vruksha - white Jambuka - is located adjacent to the shrine. The small idol of Parvati (Akilandeswari) is also located in a corner in the sanctum santorum. Facing the nine holed window stands the well decorated mukha mandapa where the bronze idol of Nandi is located.
This is a temple which any devotee or tourist should not miss.