Trimbakeshwar is one of the twelve famous jyotirlinga (pillar of light) of Lord Shiva. Located in the Brahmagiri hills of Nashik, in the Indian state of Maharashtra, Trimbakeshwar holds a place of specific importance in Hindu mythology. The Shiva Puran mentions the consecration of this holy place as the consequence of the pious and rigorous sage Gautam Muni’s efforts.
It is said that Gautam Muni had his ashram (hermitage) in the Brahmagiri hills. Once, the region experienced a terrible drought which caused rampant destruction. The crops failed, the ground water wells dried up, tress in the forests shrivelled up, animals began dying of hunger and starvation. Moved by the plight of the people and other living beings, Gautam Muni prayed to Varun Dev (god of water) for help. Pleased by his devotion Varun Dev granted Gautam Muni a well of plenty. It had limitless amount of food and water. Gautam Muni shared his gift with everybody and his fame spread far and wide. Jealous of Gautam’s popularity and prosperity some sages decided to defame him. They drove a cow into Gautam’s hermitage and arranged for it to die as the venerated tried to shoo it away with some Dhurba grass.
The cow, which is a holy animal according to Hindu philosophy, was worshipped next to Gods. The killing of a cow was and continues to be a taboo, and considered one of the most severe crimes requiring very high penance for atonement. Gautam and his hermitage was rendered impious by this event and he was asked to bring the river Goddess Ganga to come down to Brahmagiri to wash away the negativity caused. Gautam sat down to worship Lord Shiva. He arranged 10 million shivlingas and dedicated his entire spiritual power to please Lord Shiva. His prayers came to fruition when Lord Shiva came down from Kailash and made himself accessible to the sage. He asked Gautam to utter his heart’s fondest desire as a boon. Gautam asked for Goddess Ganga to be brought to Himgiri. He prayed that She would bless the region by flowing through the land eternally, bringing it sustained prosperity.
Lord Shiva granted Gautam’s wish and summoned Goddess Ganga. The Goddess agreed but prayed to Lord Shiva that She would want Him to stay with her there for all times. Lord Shiva granted Her wish. Ganga transformed herself into Gautami Ganga and began flowing through the region as Lord Shiva assumed the shape of a Jyotirlinga and rested there as Trimbakeshwar.
An alternate version of the legend has it that Lord Shiva had appeared here to end an altercation between Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma over which one of them was to be considered superior. Lord Shiva had transformed himself into a enormous pillar of light that pierced the three realms of Swarg (heaven) Dharti (earth) and Pataal (underworld). Unbeknowest to Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, the pillar had no end at either end. They planned to try finding the ends of the pillar. It was decided, whoever was the first to find the end would be the superior between the two. Lord Brahma went skywards on his Swan and Lord Vishnu transformed into a Varaha (Wild boar) and began digging under the ground. They searched over millennia but in vain. Lord Vishnu realised the futility of the search and surrendered. Brahma though played smart. He found a Ketaki flower falling from above. He picked up the flower and asked it whence it came. The flower replied that it had fallen from the top end of the pillar. It was the most beautiful and fragrant flower in existence. Brahma solicited the help of the flower in his feud with Vishnu. Ketaki promised to help. When they met where the race started, Lord Vishnu accepted defeat but Brahma boasted that he had found the end. Ketaki provided false evidence. Furious with Brahma’s deception, Shiva appeared to the two of them and cursed Brahma that he would not be worshipped anywhere. On Vishnu he bestowed the boon f being worshipped and revered all through time.
Brahma retaliated by cursing Shiva that the jyotirlinga form Shiva had appeared there, would slip into the earth and forever be under the surface. All three of them are said to have then transformed into jyotirlingas, The Linga representing Shiva is said to be eternally sprouting water, symbolic of how Shiva’s promise to Gautami or Goddess Ganga to eternally accompany Her is fulfilled.
The Trimbakeshwar jyotirlinga is said to represent the three aspects of the divine trinity of creation (Brahma), protection (Vishnu) and destruction (Shiva). Since Shiva transcends and subsumes all three functions, he is the ultimate divine entity in Hindu mythology. The assemblage of the trinity was known to be such an auspicious event that all Gods and Goddesses pledged to visit the site every twelve years when Jupiter is in the Leo constellation, to pay their homage. Currently, when said stellar alignment occurs, this site receives plenty of devotees, carnivals and festivals are celebrated. It is believed this is one of the places where the deities grant every wish made by the pious.
The Chidambaram temple is one of the most important Shiva temples in South India. The temple is located in the town of Chidambaram in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the PanchaBhootaSthalams. This temple represents the element sky. The word Chidambaram is divided into two words ‘chit’ and ‘ambalam’. ‘Chit’ means consciousness and ‘ambalam’ means stage. It refers to that stage of consciousness where Lord Shiva dances.
The story of this temple is as follows. In the dense forest of Thillai, lived a group of rishis who started assuming that they were Gods themselves. They fought amongst themselves, cheated and lied. To show the rishis the path of righteousness, Lord Shiva went to the forest and started dancing over there. The rishis were furious at Shiva. They became determined to destroy him by means of incantations. A fierce tiger was created in the sacrificial fires and was unleashed upon Shiva. But Shiva vey calmly stripped off the tiger’s skin and wrapped it around himself. The sages muttered some more incantations and produced a monstrous serpent which Shiva seized and wore around his neck like a garland. The rishis at last unleashed a demon in the shape of a malignant. The name of the dwarf was apasmara. Lord Shiva crushed the dwarf’s back by placing his foot on him and resumed his dance. The rishis after that recognized Shiva’s divinity and asked for his forgiveness. A temple was built here which is now known as the Chidambaram temple.
This temple is the only temple where Shiva is worshipped in his anthropomorphic form also. He is worshipped as Nataraj here. In this temple the idol of Parvati is also kept. It is on the left of Nataraj idol. On the right is the formless form of Lord Shiva since it always remains curtained. This temple is also one of the Paadal Petra Sthalams. There are many rituals which are performed over here. A yagya takes place every day. Gaupuja (worship of cow) is performed six times a day. Before each puja ghee, milk,curd, rice, sandal paste and holy ash is applied to the Shiva linga.
It is said that one who visits this place achieves peacefulness and salvation.
Jambukeshwar temple is a famous Shiva temple of south India. It is in Tiruchirapalli, in the state of Tamil Nadu. This temple is one of the five major Shiva temples of South India. Therefore, they are also known as ‘PanchaBhootaSthalams’ . The Shiva Linga in this temple represents the element water. This temple is also one of the ‘Paadal Petra Sthalams’.
The story of this temple goes like this. Once, Lord Shiva was performing penance for the betterment of the world and goddess Parvati mocked him. Shiva wanted Parvati to realize her mistake. He instructed Parvati to leave Mount Kailash and go down South to perform penance. Goddess Parvati took the form of Akhilandeshwari and went south. She found the‘Jambu’ forest to be suitable for her penance. Parvati made a Shiva Linga out of the waters of the river Kaveri. This Shiva lLnga came to be known as Appu Lingam (water lingam). Lord Shiva, pleased with Akhilandeshwari’s devotion appeared before her and taught her Shiva Gyan.
There is another story regarding this temple. There were two Shiva ganas (soldiers of Shiva) named Malyavana and Pushpadanta. They always fought with each other over one thing or another. In one fight Malyavana cursed Pushpadanta to become an elephant and Pushpadant cursed Malyavana to become a spider. Both the elephant and spider came to Jambukeshwar temple to continue their Shiva worship. The elephant collected water from Kaveririver and performed Abhishek on the Shiva linga every day. The spider on the other hand constructed a web over the Shiva linga to protect it from dry leaves and direct sunlight. Taking it to be dust, the elephant tore the web and cleaned the Shiva linga. The spider became very angry. It crawled into the elephant’s trunk and bit it to death. In the act the spider also ended up dying. Lord Shiva moved by their devotion, relieved them from their curse.
In this temple Goddess Akhilandeshwari is a student and Lord Shiva is a teacher. Thus, no marriage celebrations are conducted here. The idols of Shiva and Akhilandeshwari are placed facing each other. The Jambukeshwar temple is also one of the Shakti Peethas. It is believed that Akhilandeshwari performs her puja to Lord Shiva at noon every day. Due to this belief a peculiar puja is conducted in this temple. The temple priest dresses up in a sari. The priest performs the abhishek of Lord Shiva. The temple devotees worship the priest at this time as the priest is considered to be the goddess. It is also noteworthy that there is a perennial spring near this temple and no matter how much water is taken from it, it never runs dry.
Devotees come and pray here for unity among husband and wife. They also pray for a higher yield in farming and for plenty of water.
Ekambareshwar temple is a Shiva temple which is located in Kanchipuram in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the five major Shiva temples or the Pancha Bhoota Sthalams. The Shiva linga here represents the element earth.
The story of this temple goes like this. Once, Parvati was performing austerities under the temple’s mango tree. This tree is very near to Vegavathi River. To test Parvati, Lord Shiva set her on fire. Parvati started praying to Lord Vishnu so that he could help her. Vishnu subsided the fire. Parvati again started performing her austerities. To disturb Parvati, Lord Shiva sent the river Ganga. But Parvati was successful in convincing Ganga that they were both sister and that she should not harm her. Subsequently Ganga went away. After that Parvati made a shivalinga out of mud to unite with Shiva. Here, Lord Shiva came to be known as Ekambareshwar or ‘lord of mango tree’.
There is another legend also regarding this temple. It is believed that goddess Parvati worshipped Shiva in the form of a prithvi linga under a mango tree. The nearby Vegavati River began overflowing and threatened to engulf the Shiva linga. But Parvati embraced the Shiva linga in order to protect it. Lord Shiva was so touched by this act that he materialized over there and married Parvati.
In this temple Shiva is worshipped as the Prithvi lingam. The Shiva linga here is made out of mud and represents the element earth. The mango tree here is also very important. The name Ekambareshwar is said to have been derived from it. It is believed that the branches of this tree represent the Vedas. It is also believed that the tree has unusual properties. Goddess Parvati and Lord Kartikeya are also worshipped here. Apart from being one of the Pancha Bhoota Sthals, this temple is also a part of the Paadal Petra Sthalas. It is believed that many Nayanar saints got liberated from the materialistic world here. One of the famous Shakti Peetha temples is also located nearby. The goddess is worshipped there as Kamakshi devi.
There are six different kinds of puja which are performed in this temple everyday.They are called ‘Ushadkalam’, ‘Kaalasanthi’, ‘Uchi Kaalam’, ‘Pradosham’, ‘Sayaratchai’ and ‘Ardhajamani’. There are many annual festivals which are celebrated in this temple. They are Ani Tirumanjanam(June-July), kritikai(July-August), Anani Moolam(August-September) and Panguini Uthiram(March-April).
The most important festival is the Panguini festival which lasts for thirteen days. During this festival the Lord Shiva’s wedding is celebrated.