Jambukeswarar Temple, Thiruvanaikaval – Temple Architecture
This is a vast temple (18 acres) with lofty gopurams, 5 prakarams and ornate mandapams. The second and third prakarams date back to the 13th century. The Dwajasthampa mandapam has grand sculptural work. There is an image of Ekapada Trimurthy representing the unity of Bhrama Vishnu and Shiva in this temple.
The Akhilandeswari shrine is located in the fourth prakaram. The Eastern tower with seven levels has fine sculptural specimen of musical scenes, while the Western tower has nine levels. The first prakaram has been renovated in this century.
As per Fergusson, the temple surpasses the Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple in architectural terms, which were both constructed at the same time. There are five enclosures inside the temple. The massive outer wall covering the fifth precinct, known as the Vibhuti Prakara, stretches over a mile and is two feet thick and over 25 feet high. Legend maintains that the wall was built by Shiva working with the laborers.
The fourth precinct contains a hall with 796 pillars and measures 2436 feet by 1493. It also has a small tank fed by perpetual springs. The third enclosure is 745 feet by 197 surrounded a wall 30 feet high. This area has two gopurams (gateway towers) 73 and 100 feet tall, a coconut Thoppu and a small water tank. The second enclosure is 306 feet by 197, a gopuram 65 feet high and several small shrines. The inner most enclosure measuring 126 feet by 123 has the sanctum.
The temple is also considered the abode of goddess Akilandeswari, one of the forms of the goddess Parvati. Mother Maha Saraswathi graces the devotees from behind the Lord’s shrine in a standing form but without Veena. Nearby is Chandra the Moon with Karthika and Rohini. Other important shrines are that of Lord Panchamukha Vinayaka (with five faces) and Sani Bhagwan with Jeshtadevi. Kubera Linga worshipped by Kubera is on the bank of Jambu Theertham to whom abishek is performed with three fruits-plantain, mango and jack on Aani Poornima day-full moon in June-July.
This is one of the 8 temples in TN with 1000 pillared mandapa. The vimanam is a granite structure – similar to the one seen in Thittai. Vikrama Chozha built the 3rd prakara, Sundara Pandyan the 4th prakara, while Shiva Siddhar built the outermost and biggest 5th prakara. An inscription refers to Hoysala King ruling this place from Samayapuram (Vikramapuram).
Chola King “Ko Chengata Cholan” (He is also called as Chenganan) constructed this temple in 1st Century B.C. Ko Chengata Chola had built 70 other Shiva temples all over Tamil Nadu and he is one among the 63 “Nayanmars” (Holy Saivite saints). Thiruvanaikoil temple was built according to 'Saiva Aagama Sasthra'. According to Saiva Agamam, the temple reflects the human body and the idol of Lord Shiva are considered as the soul. Many other kings like Pandiyas and Nayakkars of Madurai later renovated this temple.
The 2nd and 3rd Praharams were built in 13th century A.D. and the 4th Praharam was constructed in the late 13th century A.D. There is eight other “Kodi Maram” (flag masts) in this temple in the 3rd praharam. Apart from the main huge “Kodi Maram” in front of the Lord and one in front of Devi Akilandeswari.
Thiruvanaikoil temple was built in an area close to 18 acres and measures 2500 feet by 1500 feet. The temple has five “Praharams”. All the temple “Madhils” (wall) are 35 ft. high and 6 ft. thick and measures 2436 feet by 1493 feet. The “Swami” (Shivalinga) is installed facing West and “Ambal” (Akilandeswari) facing East.
Although the original temple is believed to be built by Kochenganan 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.
Monolithic stone pillars (made from single stone) are found in the mandapam, situated at the entrance of Aariyavittan tower in 3rd Praharam. Stone chains and 12 zodiac signs are beautifully carved on these pillars. Pillars found in 1000 pillar hall and in various parts of temple have artistic sculptural works.
The architecture of the temple is so wonderful that it is said to have even surpassed that of the Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple which was constructed around the same period.
Architecture of the temple is explained in detail as below;
There are many mandapams in the temple, a 1000 Pillar (This Mandapam is on the North West corner of the 3rd praharam. To be precise it’s on your left when you enter the temple) and a 100 Pillar Mandapam (this is on the North East corner of the 3rd Praharam), Vasanta mandapam (The mandapam is surrounded by pool of water where Lord Shiva and Goddess Akilandeswari are worshipped on summer evenings), Somaskanda mandapam, Nataraja mandapam, Trimurthy mandapam, etc. The thousand-pillared mandapam looks like a chariot.
The Sthala Vriksham or holy tree here is the White Jambuka, Syzygium samarangense, found growing along the south-eastern wall of the sanctum sanctorum. The trunk of the tree is protected by a walled structure.
This is the Gopuram in the West 5th Praharam (the main entrance). The other 3 entrances of 5th praharam have no Gopurams.
The East Gopuram is located on the 4th praharam. Pandiya King Jadavarman Sundarapandian constructed this Gopuram.
This is the West Gopuram in the 4th Praharam. King Sandhirabendiran son of King Adhithya Devan built this in 1435 A.D.
This Gopuram is the West Gopuram after Mallappan Gopuram. This was constructed in the early 13th century (at the period of Third Kulothunga Chola).
The temple has a huge and magnificent seven tiered Raja Gopuram in the entrance. The idols of Kali and Veerabhadra are on either side of the entrance. The outermost fifth enclosure is a massive outer wall known as the Vibhuti Praharam. It is two feet thick, over 25 feet high and stretches over a mile. Legend says that Lord Shiva himself assisted the labourers who built the wall.
There are many interesting legends in this temple. When the king “Thirruneetru Sundara Pandiyan” was constructing the 5th Praharam wall on the East Side, he was running out of money to pay to the laborers for the next day of work. On that night in the Kings dream Lord Shiva asked him to continue the work. As per the Lords wish the King continued the construction and at the end of that day a Sanyasi (saint) came there and he gave the laborers pinches of sacred ash. That sacred ash turned into gold equivalent to the work done by them. Then only the King and others came to know that the Sanyasi is none other than the Lord himself. Because of this instance the East Side praharam is known as “Vibhuthi” (sacred ash) praharam.
There is another seven tiered tower with a shrine of Lord Ganesha at the entrance. The fourth precinct encloses a hall with 796 pillars and is 2436 feet by 1493 feet. It also has a tank with ever flowing springs.
At its entrance it has another tower called the Mallappan tower with two shrines of Ganesha and Subramanya at its entrance. The third precinct encloses two gopurams (gateway towers) which are 73 and 100 feet tall, a coconut grove and a small water tank. It measures 745 feet by 197 feet and is surrounded by a wall 30 feet high.
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. The actual temple starts from this area. The second precinct is 307 feet by 197 feet with a gopuram 65 feet high and several small shrines and pillared mandapas. On the left side there is a big sub shrine almost like a separate temple dedicated to Jambukeshwarar-Akhilandeshwari. Beyond that there is ‘Oonjal Mandapa’. After that there is a mandapa full of pillars containing beautiful sculptures.
A small Ganesha idol is located here. The right side area has a small temple like shrine dedicated to Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar, a tank named Indira Teertham, a small shrine with mandapa and prakara for Shiva linga called Kashi Vishwanatha and three sub shrines with small Shiva Linga idols named Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
This enclosure has thinnais or raised platforms with lot of pillars on either side having beautiful sculptures on them. There are sub shrines of Bala Dhandayuthapani and Saneeswara with Jyeshta Devi which is a rare sight. Few Dhwajasthambas or flag posts are found in the backside of the main shrine of this enclosure.
A few small mandapas are located here. In a particular mandapa there are four statues of dancing girls found which are extremely attractive. The 100 pillared mandapa is also located here.
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 Teertham or the holy tank. A big shrine more like a separate temple is dedicated to Shiva Linga named Sankaralingeshwara. The Goddess Sankareshwari, Dakshinamurthy Narthana Ganapathy and Subramanya Valli are also located in this shrine. A big Linga named Kubera Linga, a small linga named Jambu Linga and Akhilandeshwari are found near the holy Teertham.
Goddess Akhilandeshwari’s Shrine:
Unlike the other Shiva temples, there is no marriage conducted in this temple for Shiva and Parvati as here Parvati (Goddess Akhilandeshwari) was like a student and Lord Shiva (Jambukeshwara) was like a teacher (Guru). The temple idols are therefore installed opposite to each other. Such temples are known as Upadesha Sthalas. Goddess Akhilandeshwari and Prasanna Vinayaka are in the shape of the Pranava Mantra ‘Om’.
It is believed that the Goddess was in deep anger hence during one of Adi Sankara’s visits he installed the Prasanna Ganapathy idol right opposite to her (as no mother would be angry in the presence of her child) and installed a pair of Shri Chakra earrings (Thatankas) to reduce her anger.
The entrance to the shrine of Akilandeswari is located at the backside of the main shrine in the second enclosure. This shrine is more like a separate temple with a separate flag post, Bali Peetham and Nandi idol facing the Goddess. The shrine has two prakarams.
The idol of the Goddess is very tall and attractive with four arms. The prakara has two Shanmuga-Valli-Devasena idols, four Ganesha idols and the rare Chandra with his Consorts Rohini and Krithika. The bas-relief images of Iccha, Kriya, Jnana, Durga and Chandikeshwari are found on the wall surrounding the shrine as the Goshta Idols. Few more idols like Saraswati, Ganesha and Bhadra are also located in the temple of Akhilandeshwari.
In the first enclosure there is a sub shrine which houses the tall idols of Nataraja and Sivakami. In this enclosure the idols of Dakshinamoorthy, Chandikeshwarar, Bhairava and two Jura Deva (sandalwood idols of Shiva with three legs and three arms) are all located. The important sub shrine here is Kochenganan shrine, the Chola King who built this temple. There is a sub shrine housing the big idol of Vallabha Ganapathi with 10 arms and holding his Consort.
The Nandi Mandapa is adorned with four wide decorated pillars. There are intricate sculptures in the ceiling of this mandapa. Navagraha shrine is located near the Nandi Mandapa. Facing the main shrine stands the tall flag post (Dhwajasthambha) and an adjacent small flag post along with Bali peetham 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.
There is a small tower at the entrance. In this inner enclosure there are shrines of Subramanya with his consorts, Kalyana Sundara, Nataraja and Sivakami, Navagrahas, Chandikeshwarar, Mahalakshmi, Ganesha, 63 Nayanmars as Utsava idols and a big Shiva Linga- Sahasra Linga. The idols of Bhairava, few Goddesses, Surya, Subramanya Saptamata, Dakshinamurthy and Chandra are also found here.
The Sahasra Linga with 1008 small lingams is opposite to the Navagraha Sannidhi. It is said that even Lord Rama on his return to Lanka after vanquishing Ravana installed a lingam called the Maragatha Lingam to get rid of the ghosts of the Asuras that were following him. Hence devotees pray to Him for removal of obstacles in marriage leading to marital bliss and harmony.
The western side of the sanctum, from where the deity is viewed, is continuous with a large closed hall, the Mukha Mantapa, containing four-pillars and housing a bronze idol of Nandi. The Mukha Mantapa has a large, ornate western door gilded with silver that forms the principal entrance. There are two additional entrances to the Mukha Mantapa on the southern and North Eastern sides as well. A set of three steps descend to the level of the sanctum sanctorum from the Mukha Mantapa. The deity is viewed through a stone window that forms an integral part of the western face of the sanctum sanctorum. The window has nine viewing apertures, believed to represent the Navagraha. There is a panel in bas-relief over the window depicting the sthala Puranam.
The Jambuka tree growing out of a meditating sage's head on the extreme right; the linga of Jambukeswarar under the tree; a spider and an elephant worshiping the linga along with the Goddess Parvati who stands to the left of the linga.
The sanctum sanctorum is divided into the Ardha Mantapam or Antaralam (whose western wall bears the window) and the Garbha Griha where the deity of Jambukeswarar is housed. Entrance into the Sanctum is through a small door on the southern wall, about 4 feet in height. The Ardha Mantapa is about 4 feet X 4 feet and contains an idol of Goddess Parvati on the right side of the door to the Garbha Griha. Devotees are admitted in groups of six into the Ardha Mantapa during Sevas like Abhishekam or on payment of a small fee.
The innermost precinct encloses the sanctum sanctorum which is a square structure open on three sides found independently situated at the center of the enclosure and measures 126 feet by 123 feet. This structure has a shallow moat separating it from the circumambulatory path of the innermost enclosure. There is a Vimana on the roof of the sanctum. The Sthala Vruksha or the holy tree is the White Jambuka which grows along the South Eastern wall of the sanctum sanctorum. A walled structure protects the trunk of the tree. There is a large closed hall on the western side of the sanctum from where the deity is viewed called the Mukha Mantapa.
The Garbha Griha is a wider structure compared to the Ardha Mantapa. At the center, the Brahma Sthana is the self-manifested linga of Jambukeswarar. The upper conical part of the linga is of the color of copper, whereas the yoni-bhaga or the pedestal is of black granite. A brass ring is seen at the point of attachment of the linga to the pedestal. The height of the linga is about 3 feet from the floor of the sanctum. The Garbha Griha and the Ardha Mantapa are unadorned from the inside, the only source of illumination within the sanctum being ghee lamps.
A stream of water is said to emerge from the linga, which is usually demonstrated as the soaking wet clothes in which it is draped. The water flow increases significantly during the Monsoon. The main deity of the temple is Jambukeswara, representing the element water. Jambukeswara is depicted sitting under a Jambu tree, which grows over a small stream that engulfs the deity during the rainy season.
The Shiva Linga (Jambukeswarar) is 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 small idol of Parvati (Akilandeswari) is also located in a corner in the sanctum sanctorum. Facing the nine holed window stands the well decorated mukha mandapa where the bronze idol of Nandi is located.
The image of Trimurthy Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva is present in the temple. There are separate shrines beyond the temple compound namely Lord Muruga in the form of Aandi having the same typical structure as the main shrines in Palani. The temple also has a shrine of Adi Shankara.
This is a temple which any devotee or tourist should not miss.
Other Shrines inside & around the Temple:
There are many small shrines inside this temple in the Praharams dedicated to other goddesses. “Murugan” Sannadhi on the way to Amman temple from Swami temple is an important shrine. Lord Muruga is in the form of “Aandi” (like the one in “Palani”). One the month of “Aadi” on the day of “Krithigai” star (the birth star of Lord Muruga) it draws thousands of devotees from all around. The “Kaavadi” (offerings carried as a procession) and continued “Abishekam” on that day are very famous.
Adjacent to Lord Muruga is the Sannadhi for Lord Saneeswara (Saneeswarar – Saturn) with Jeshtadevi. Thiruvanaikoil is one of the very few temples where you can find a separate Sannadhi for Saneeswarar that to with the goddess Jeshtadevi.
There is a “Vallabhai Ganapathy” Sannadhi on the 2nd Praharam of the Swami temple. It’s on your right just before entering the 1st Praharam of Swami temple.
Raja Rajeswarar Shrine deserves special mention. The Lingam installed here has five faces and is known as Panchamukha Lingam.
In the Swami temple just opposite to the Navagraha you can see the “Sahasra Linga”. Sahasram means 1008. The “Sahasra Linga” is one large Linga on which 1008 small Lingas were carved.
Other Sannadhis at Swami temple are Sangareshwarar, Dakshinamoorthy (Guru Bhagavan), Lakshmi, Subramaniar, Natarajar and statues and “panchaloha” (five metals) idols of 63 Nayanmars.
Sri Rama & Thiruvanaikoil:
Sri Rama on his way back to Ayodhya after the war with Ravana installed a Lingam (Marakata (Green Stone) Lingam now known as Nilavindiswarar) in Thiruvanaikoil to eliminate the ghosts of the “Asuras”, which followed him.
Each and every village will have a “Kaaval Deivam” (Protector God/Goddess). Usually the temple of that God/Goddess will be at the boundary of that village. Thiruvanaikoil also have one “Kaaval Deivam” and its “Pidari Amman” also called as “Ellai Amman” and “Iraniyamman”. This Ellaiyamman is an Ugra Devatha (Goddess with Fury). It’s believed that Ellaiyamman is formed from the sweat of Goddess Devi Akilandeswari.
Ellaiyamman protects the Thiruvanaikoil village from the evil. The temple of the Ellaiyamman is in the South East corner outside the Thiruvanaikoil temple. You can see this in the Trichy – Chennai By-Pass road.
Every year in the month of Thai a five day festival is celebrated for this Goddess and the Goddess is taken into procession in side all streets of village in four different Vahanams (Yanai – Elephant, Kudhirai – Horse, Bootham and Ther – Chariot).
There are hundreds of inscriptions inside the temple dating back to the rule of Chozhas, Pandyas and Hoysalas. 156 Inscriptions have been found at this temple. Inscriptions of King Madurai konda Parakesari Varman Paranthaka Cholan is the oldest among them. Information about renovations and wealth of this temple are found in these inscriptions.
In the year1910, 2 big temple cars were made for god & goddess. ‘Coratham’ (used for procession) and several wooden Vahanas are present in this temple.