According to Hindu Mythology, Lord Shiva is the most supreme power among the Trinity. The five basic elements of nature (Sky, Earth, Air, Water, and Fire) are under his control. The Pancha Bhoota temples or Pancha Bhoota Stalam as they are collectively called refer to five temples built in honour of Lord Shiva. Each temple represents the manifestation of the lord in the form of one of these elements of nature. All the Pancha Bhoota temples are based in south India. Four of them are in Tamil Nadu while the fifth one is in Andhra Pradesh.
Let’s find out more about them.
Thillai Nataraja Temple – Sky
This shrine is based in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. This temple is related to the sky or space god and thus, is also addressed as Akashastalam. Shiva takes the form of the cosmic dancer, Nataraja. The linga here is called Aagaya lingam or Akasha lingam. Interestingly, a part of the shrine is also dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The gopuram of the shrine is one of the biggest temple towers in India. There is an empty space in the temple to signify the relationship with nothingness or without form. A pooja is performed to the linga six times in a day and once a day in the morning to the figure of the lord in Nataraja form.
Ekambareswara Temple – Earth
This temple is located in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu. The god of earth is associated with this temple. This is represented by a lingam made of sand known as the Swayambhu lingam or Prithvi lingam inside the premises. The sand highlights his connection with earth.
Shiva is worshipped as Ekanbaranathar or Ekambareswar while his consort Parvati takes the form of Elavarkuzhali. This is one of the biggest temples in the country and conducts six daily rituals during various times of the day.
Sri Kalahasti Temple – Air
This shrine is located in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh. Lord Shiva is worshipped by the name Sri Kalahastishwar while Parvati is depicted as Gnanaprasunambika. The Shiva linga here represents the element Air and hence the temple is called Vayustalam. There are flickering lamps inside the temple to represent the flow of air or wind. The shrine is also referred to as Dakshina Kailasam that means Kailas of the south. It is very famous for its Rahu-Ketu pooja that are performed by many people every year.
Jambukeshwara Temple – Water
This temple is based in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu. The temple is associated with the Water element here. This is represented by an underground water stream in the innermost sanctum. There is always water in the stream and it never runs dry.
Shiva takes the name of Jambukeshwar while Paravati is worshipped by the name Akhilandeshwari. It is one of the various paadal petra stalams or greatest Siva temples in the country.
Arunachaleshwara Temple – Fire
This shrine is located in Tiruvanamalai, Tamil Nadu. Lord Shiva is associated with the Fire element here. Hence, the lingam is known as Agni lingam and the temple as Agnistalam. During the annual Kartigai Deepam festival, a huge beacon is lit on top of the hill representing the fire. This signifies the fire lingam joining the sky. The festival takes place on a full moon day between November and December. The lord is portrayed as Annamalaiyar or Arunachaleshwara while Parvati is represented as Unnamalai Amman. Hindus believe that their deity appeared here on multiple occasions as Ardhanarishwar to bestow his blessings on the devotees.
These temples attract hordes of devotees during festivals like Shivaratri when special poojas are done.
All of these temples were constructed based on yogic sciences. They are situated such that each temple has a specific alignment with respect to the others so that their surrounding areas experience their positive vibrations. Three of the shrines are positioned in a geographically straight line. These are the Ekambareswar temple, the Nataraja temple and the Srikalahasti temple. The Jambukeshwara temple is positioned 1 degree to the west while the Arunachaleshwara is positioned 0.5 degrees to the west of the northernmost tip of the divine axis.