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Jambukeswarar Temple at
Tiruvanaikka near Tiruchirappalli
Deities: Jambukeswarar, Akhilandeswari (Shiva, Parvati)
Significance: This ancient temple dedicated to Shiva (Jambukeswara) and Parvati (Akhilandeswari) is one of the foremost Saivite shrines in Tamilnadu. Located in the Srirangam island (near Tiruchirappalli) near one of the holiest of Vaishnavite shrines Tiruvarangam, this large temple celebrates Shiva as Jambukeswara, an embodiment of the element water and is often referred to as Appustalam and is hence one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalams the other four being Tiruvannamalai (fire), Chidambaram (Space), Kanchipuram (Earth) and Kalahasti (Air) respectively.
Antiquity: This temple is said to have been built in the 1st century BC and has been patronized by the Chola Pandya, Hoysala and the Madurai Naik kings. Jambukeswarar or Shiva has been sung by the Saivite Saints (7th through 9th century). The temple was built by the Chola King Ko Chenkannan and it was of special significance to the Chola kings. Ko Chenkannan is praised by tamil literature for having built more than seventy temples - and he is historically placed in the Sangam period (the very early years of the Christian era). This temple is said to have been in existence during the Sangam period, and it has undergone considerable modification over the last two thousand years.
Inscriptions from the tenth century AD testify to later Chola patronage. The Hoysalas who had a base near Samayavaram (near Tiruchi) built four temples in Northern Tiruvanaikkaval (Vallaleeswaram, Padmaleswaram, Narasimheswaram and Somaleswaram). The Pandyas and the Hoysalas contributed to the Eastern tower. Adi Sankara is said to have visited the Akhilandeswari shrine. He is said to have adorned her with ear-rings bearing the symbol of the chakram. There is a shrine to Adi Sankara in this temple. Muthuswamy Deekshitar one of the foremost composers in the Karnatic music idiom has sung in praise of Akhilandeswari.
Architecture and Layout: This vast temple has five prakarams with massive walls and lofty towers. The second and the third prakarams date back to the thirteenth century. 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.
Legends associated with the temple: There is said to have been a forest of Jambu trees near the Chandrateertha tank (filled with the water of the Kaveri) here and Shiva is said to have appeared under one of the trees as a Shiva Lingam. Legend has it that two devotees of Shiva were born under the influence of a curse as a white elephant and a spider. The elephant worshipped Shiva with flowers and water brought in its trunk (hence the name Tiru Aanaikka). The spider worshipped the Lingam by spinning a web on top, to protect it from falling leaves. The elephants worship would destroy the spiders web, and the spiders web amounted to desecration in the eyes of the elephant leading to animosity between the two, of such proportion that a fight between them resulted in the death of both. The spider was born again in the royal Chola family (in Uraiyur - during the Sangam period). An interesting tale is associated with his birth. His parents Subhadeva and Kamalavati prayed to Nataraja of Chidambaram for a male successor. The royal astrologer is said to have predicted an auspicious time for the birth of a successor who would be a ruler of great fame. The hour of birth approached sooner though and the royal queen bade her attendants to tie her legs and hang her upside down, with the aim of delaying the birth of the child. She achieved her objective although the royal offspring was born with reddened eyes, earning for himself the name 'Chenkannan' - the red eyed one.
Access and Accomodation: Tiruchirappalli is connected by air with Chennai and with other cities. It is a major railway junction between Chennai and Madurai, and is also connected with Erode on the Chennai - Coimbatore line. Several trains link Tiruchi with Chennai and Madurai. Tiruchirappalli has several modern lodging facilities. Other attractions here include the Rock Fort Temple (Uchhi Pillaiyaar and Taayumanavar) and the Sri Ranganathar Temple at Srirangam. The Regional Engineering College at Tiruchirappalli is one of the leading educational institutions in India. Samayapuram, near Tiruchi is home to the famous Mariyamman temple attracting thousands of worshippers.