Jambukeswarar Temple, Thiruvanaikaval - Legends
The Formation of 'Appu Lingam' (Parvati’s Penance):
Once Devi Parvati mocked at Lord Shiva’s penance for betterment of the World, Lord Shiva wanted to condemn her act and directed her to go to the earth from 'Kailayam' and do penance. Devi Parvathi (Akhilandeshwari) as per Shiva's wish found 'Jambu' forest (Thiruvanaikoil) to conduct her penance. Devi made a Lingam out of water of river Cauvery (also called as river 'Ponni') under the 'Venn Naaval' tree (the Venn Naaval tree on top of the saint Jambu) and commenced her worship. So, the Lingam is known as 'Appu Lingam' (Water Lingam).
Lord Siva at last gave darshan to Akhilandeshwari and taught her Siva Gnana. Devi Parvati took 'Upadesa' (lessons) facing East from Shiva, who stood facing West. So as the temples idols are also installed in the same direction. Such places are known as 'Upadesa Sthalams'. As the Devi was like a student and the Lord like a Guru in this temple, there is no 'Thiru Kalyanam' (marriage) conducted in this temple for Lord & the Devi, unlike the other Shiva temples.
Since Devi Akhilandeshwari worshipped Lord Shiva in this temple, even today at noon the 'Archakar' (priest) dresses like a female and performs Puja to Lord Jambukeswara and the holy Cow. The Shrine of the Devi Akhilandeshwari and the Shrine of Lord Prasanna Vinayaka opposite the Devi Shrine are in the shape of the Pranava Mantra called "OM".
The Legend of the Name - 'Thiru Aanai Kaa':
There were two Siva Ganas (Siva’s disciples who live in Kailash) by name 'Malyavan' and 'Pushpadanta'. Though they are Shiva Ganas they always quarrel with each other and fight for one thing or other. On top of all in one fight 'Malyavan' cursed 'Pushpadanta' to become an elephant in earth and the latter cursed the former to become a spider in earth.
Both the elephant and the spider came to Jambukeswaram and continued their Shiva worship. The elephant collected water from river Cauvery and conducted Abhishekam to the lingam under the Jambu tree daily. The spider constructed his web over the lingam to prevent dry leaves from dropping on it and prevent Sunlight directly felling on Shiva.
When the elephant saw the web and thought that as dust on Lord Shiva and tore them and cleaned the Linga by pouring water. This happened daily. The spider became angry one day and crawled into the trunk of the elephant and bit the elephant to death killing itself. Lord Siva, moved by the deep devotion of the two relieved them from one other curse.
As an elephant worshipped the Lord here, this place came to be known as 'Thiru Aanai Kaa' (Thiru – Holy, Aanai – Elephant, Kaa (Kaadu) – Forest). Later the actual name ‘Thiruaanaikaa’ becomes 'Thiruvanaikaval' and 'Thiruvanaikoil'.
In the next birth the Spider was born as the King Ko Chengata Chola and built 70 temples and Thiruvanaikoil is the one among them. Remembering his enmity with the elephant in his previous birth, he built the Lord Shiva 'Sannathi'(Sanctorum) such that not even a small elephant can enter. The entrance on the sanctorum of Lord Shiva is only 4 foot high and 2.5 foot wide.
Thiruvanaikkal is also called as 'Jambukeswaram' and the Lord as Jambukeswara, Jambunathan and Jambulingam. The myth behind this is, there was a Sage by name 'Jambu Munivar' (Munivar – sage). He once got a rare and sacred 'Venn Naaval' (Venn – White, White variety of Naaval fruit) fruit and he offered that fruit to Lord Siva. The Lord after eating the fruit spitted the seed.
Jambu Munivar took and swallowed the seed, as it is sacred as the seed came from the Lord’s mouth. Immediately a 'Naaval' tree began to grow in the Saint's head. The Saint prayed to Lord Siva that he should take his abode under that tree. Lord accepted and asked him to continue his penance in the forest on the banks of river Cauvery and said that he will one day come there and abode under that tree.
After many years Devi Akhilandeshwari worshiped Lord Shiva under that tree doing her penance. Thus as he took adobe under the tree on Jambu Munivar he was called as 'Jambukeshwara' and the place is called as 'Jambukeswaram'.
Also thus the 'Venn Naaval' became the 'Sthala Vriksham' (Temple’s sacred tree). The Shiva Lingam is placed under the Venn Naaval tree in this temple. Even today you can see that Venn Naaval tree at the temple, which is said to be many hundred years old.
Story behind Kochenganan Red Eyes:
There was a story behind the king's red eyes - When he was in his mother's womb the palace astrologer predicted a sacred time to give birth to enable the newborn's wellbeing. The queen went into labor early, before the time predicted by the astrologer. The queen hence told the servant to hang her upside down for the time to come so that she could have a wise and virtuous son who could head the kingdom righteously. This waiting time inside the womb made the baby's eyes red. After becoming the king, he built the temple for Siva and Goddess Akhilandeshwari in the name of Aanaikka (elephant protected) later days it changed to Thiruvanaikovil.
This painting of Ko Chengata Chola is installed at the Swami temple. This painting reminds us the earlier birth of the King (as a spider), which worshipped Lord of Thiruvanaikoil
A small separate 'Sannadhi' (Sanctorum) was built for Ko Chengata Chola in 1980’s at the Swami temple (near the “Urchava Moorthy” mandapam), where his idol has been installed and worshipped.
Thaadanga Pradhishtaa / Adhi Shankara:
Once Goddess Akhilandeshwari was fierce like 'Ugra Devatha', Sri Adhi Shankara transferred her ferocity into 'Thadangas' (ear rings) and the adorned her with the 'Thadangas'. He also installed 'Prasanna Vinayaga' (Lord Ganesh), opposite to her shrine so that she might look on with a beneficent eye. The Thaadanga Pratishtha is done even today (once in few years) by the Sankaracharya’s (successors of Adhi Shankara) of the Kanchi Kamakoti Pitham.
The Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam is also running a 'Vedha Paadasalai' (religious school where the Vedas are taught) on the North Car Street at its Mutt.
Once a learned Saivite started to penance to Akhilandeshwari to achieve wisdom in all arts, Devi Akhilandeshwari came before him in an ordinary women disguise wearing a white sari and asked him to open the Saivites mouth to spit the petal leaves she was chewing. The Saivite out of much dislike insulted Devi.
At that time 'Kalamegam' was sleeping within the temple premises, Devi Akhilandeshwari appeared before him and spat into his mouth the betel that she was munching. “Kalamegam” immediately obtained wisdom and went into poetic raptures. He became a very great Tamil poet then was called as “Kavi Kalamegam”. He then sung 'Tiruvaanaikka Ula' praising Devi Akhilandeshwari.
Kalamega Pulavar sung the 'Saraswathi Maalai' on Akhilandeshwari, envisaged her as Goddess Saraswathi (Goddess of Wisdom).
Ko Chenganan built over 70 Saivite temples and is also credited with building Nachiyar Koil, the first Vaishnavite temple built by him. With two life time incidents of having fought with the elephant, he carried his anger into this life as well. All of the Saivite temples built by him were such that the elephant could not enter. It was either a small entrance into the sanctum or a high rise that an elephant could not climb. Such temples with either a narrow passage or high rise are referred to as Maada Koils.
Ruling from Uraiyur, the then capital of the Chozhas, Ko Chenganan crossed the Cauvery and found an idol of Shiva beneath the tree. He also remembered his life as a spider when he had provided shade right above. His devotion touched a peak and he built Thiruvanaikkal as his first Saivite temple. He then went on to build several more in the Chozha kingdom including the Maada Style temple at Nachiyar Koil that is very different from the typical Vishnu temple in terms of architecture.
Uchchi Kaalam Pooja:
Ambal takes 3 forms every day here at Thiruvanaikaval. Early in the morning, she provides darshan as Lakshmi. At noon she is seen as Parvathi and in the evening she presents herself as Saraswathi in a white sari.
Legend has it that Goddess Parvathi once scoffed at Lord Shiva’s deep penance and his yogic style. Angered at this gesture, Shiva directed her to Earth. She reached this Jambu Vanam (Rose- Apple Forest) and performed pooja with sacred water that turned into Lingam, thus invoking his blessings.
This tradition is followed every day during the Uchchi Kaalam Pooja. The priest dressed as Parvathi (draped in a sari) performs pooja at Jambukeswarar Sannidhi. Following this, he performs pooja on the sacred cow. This form of Uchchi Kaalam Pooja is the only one of its kind in Saivite temples in India.
Once, Brahmma created a beautiful girl in this world. Instead of seeing her as his own daughter, Brahmma cast his eyes on the beautiful damsel. Inflicted with Brahmma Hathi Dosham, he came here, bathed in the Theertham south of the temple and undertook penance invoking the blessings of Jambukeswarar. A pleased Lord Shiva decided to provide darshan to Brahmma and liberate him from the Dosham.
As Shiva was preparing to leave, Goddess Akilandeswari too wanted to join. Shiva cautioned that Brahmma had got into this situation lured by the beauty of a young girl and did not want to take a chance once again. They decided to interchange roles – Shiva took the form of Akilandeswari and the Goddess went there as Jambukeswarar and provided darshan to Brahmma. After liberating Brahmma from his Dosham, it is said that they got back into their original forms.
During Brahmotsavam, this interchange between Lord and Ambal is re-enacted on the Rohini day on the South Street of the fifth Prakara. As part of this Pancha Parva Utsavam, the Lord comes on a procession in each of the five prakarams – one of the highlights of the year at this temple.
The largest and outermost prakara – the fifth prakara is referred to as the Viboothi Prakara. Several thousands of labourers toiled hard through the day to construct the prakara. As a reward of their hard work, these committed labourers were each given Viboothi as Prasadam. As they went back home, to their pleasant surprise they found that the Lord’s Prasadam had magically turned into money – a testimony to the truth that the Lord rewards who offer their sincere prayers and works sincerely in their daily lives.
Sundarar’s Devaram Verse:
One of Sundarar’s Thevaram verses on Thiruvanaikaa refers to an interesting episode that suggests that every devotee should first offer to the Lord before consuming it. A Queen who was a gifted a set of glittering necklaces adorned herself and showcased it with all joy. After bathing in the Cauvery, she found the necklaces missing.
Shocked at this loss, the king and the queen invoked the blessings of Lord Jambukeswarar to help find the necklaces. Shortly after, as the priest provided the Lord with the sacred bath the necklaces were seen on the Lord’s Lingam making them realize that in their hour of joy and greed they had forgotten to first thank him for their state of happiness.
This story is beautifully narrated by Sundarar as a message to all devotees that we should not forget the Lord in our hour of happiness.
The unfortunate street of Thiruvanaikaval:
A few centuries ago, an expert Vaishnavite cook from the Madapalli at Srirangam used to make a trip every day to Thiruvanaikaval to meet his beloved and they used to be converse for hours together. One evening, he stayed back and slept inside the temple in tiredness. That night, he heard the noise of anklets and woke up to the sprinkling of water on him. As he opened his eyes, he had darshan of Akilandeswari.
The sacred water initiated him into sacred thoughts and transformed him into ‘Kaala Megha’ Pulavar. He went on to sing many verses of praise – ‘Thiruvanaikka Ula’ - on the Goddess. However, he never visited that girl again. Subsequent to this episode, the story goes that the street in Thiruvanaikaval from where the girl came became one where girls did not get married since.
Offering betel nus and leaves as Neivedhyam:
Once, a Brahmin aspired to become a poet. He prayed to Goddess Akhilandeshwari seeking her blessings. The Goddess materialized as a woman chewing betel leaves. To test him she sought his permission to spit the betel juice in his mouth as she could not desecrate the temple. This angered the Brahmin and he refused to allow her to do it.
Meanwhile another devotee named Varadhan who was very particular about cleanliness and purity in temples visited the temple. The Goddess went to test him and when she placed the same condition, he readily agreed. He later became a famous poet named Kalamegam. Thus even to this day betel nuts and leaves are offered to the Goddess to ensure success in education.