This well visited Shivastalam located in the vicinity of Tiruchirappalli
and Srirangam This is one of the most
revered temples to Shiva; it is one of the Panchabhoota Stalams
signifying the 5 elements of wind (Kalahasti),
water (Tiruvanaikka), fire (Tiruvannamalai), earth (Kanchipuram) and space (Chidambaram).
The primordial element water, is represented by an undying natural spring in the sanctum.
The saptastanams of this temple are Tiruchendurai, Tirupparaitturai,
Tiruppainneeli, Tiruppaachilasramam, Tiruvedikkudi and Tiruvalaindurai.
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
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. In his life time Ko Chenkannan is said to have been built
several elevated temples - out of reach of elephants, keeping with the legend of his
animosity with an elephant in his previous birth.
The stala vriksham is said to have grown out of a munivar, who offered his worship to
Shiva.Akhilandeswari (Parvati) is said to have meditated upon Shiva here, and her shrine
here, is considered to be of great significance.
It is believed that Akhilandeswari was originally an Ugra Devata of
great fury, and Adi Sankaracharyar is said to have converted the fiery energy of the deity
into a manifestation of peace. Shrines to Vinayaka and Subramanya face Akhilandeswari.
History: This temple has
records of patronage from the Chola Pandya, Hoysala and the Madurai
Naik kings. The temple is said to have been 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).
Inscriptions from the tenth century AD
testify to later Chola patronage. The Hoysalas who had a base near Samayapuram (near Tiruchi)
built four temples in Northern Tiruvanaikkaval (Vallaleeswaram, Padmaleswaram,
Narasimheswaram and Somaleswaram). The Pandyas and the Hoysalas contributed to the Eastern
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.
The Temple: 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
Festivals: Annual festivals here include the Pankuni Bhrammotsavam,
Vasanta Utsavam, the float festival in Thai (Capricorn) , Aadi Pooram (Cancer) and the
Pancha Prakara festival. For more information please see the Templenet Special Feature on Tiruvanaikka.
Travel: 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