All over India, numbers of temples constitute pilgrimage clusters. These divine places hold centuries and millenniums of beliefs. Such is the belief and the legends behind the Pancha Bhoota shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Hindus regard Lord Shiva as one of the greatest gods, hence, the name Mahadeva. Also, he is the god responsible for transition and destruction for a new beginning. As per playing his role as one of the Hindu Trinity (Trimurti), where the other two members being Lord Brahma – the creator and Lord Vishnu – the protector. Mahadeva controls the 5 elements of nature named as the Pancha Bhoota – Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space. Lord Shiva is worshipped as the embodiment of each of the five elements. Therefore, it is obvious to have a set of five Saivite temples in the name of the five great elements, Pancha Bhoota.
Thus, the collection of five temples known as Pancha Bhoota Stalam lies in South India which is held in reverence for centuries. These temples at Chittoor, Tiruvanaika, Tiruvannamalai, Kanchipuram, and Chidambaram each is rich with its legend, history, sculptural wealth and festival traditions. Including which, it’s a striking fact that all these temples are geographically placed in almost a straight line. Among the five temples, three temples, which are Chidambaram Nataraja Temple, Ekambareswarar Temple, Srikalahasti Temples lie exactly at 79 degrees, 41 minutes, East in longitude and the other two temples, Thiruvanaikkaval is located at around 3 degrees to the south and 1 degree to the west of the northern tip exactly of this divine axis, while Thiruvannamalai is around midway at 1.5 degrees to the south and 0.5 degrees to the west.
The Pancha Bhoota Stalam or the Pancha Bhoota Shrines are:
1. Ekambareswarar Temple
Ekambareshwar temple is located in Kanchipuram in the state of Tamil Nadu. This temple signifies the element Earth (Prithvi). The presiding deity here is Shiva who is worshipped here as Ekambareshwar. The Shivlinga here is known as Prithvi Lingam.
2. Jambukeshwara Temple
The Jambukeshwara Temple which is in Tiruvanaika is an ancient temple is dedicated to Shiva and Parvati. The Shiva linga here signifies the element water. Lord Shiva has worshipped here as Jambukeshwar and goddess Parvati as Akhilandeshwari.
3. Annamalaiyar Temple
The Annamalaiyar temple lies in the town of Tiruvannamalai in the state of Tamil Nadu. The Shiva linga here represents the element fire (Agni). The vast temple complex at Tiruvannamalai enshrines Arunachaleswarar or Annamalaiyaar and is referred to as the Agnistatlam.It is believed that Lord Shiva appeared here in his Ardhanarishwar form to bless his devotees.
4. Sri Kalahasti Temple
The Sri Kalahasti temple which is situated in Chittoor district of the state of Andhra Pradesh is also referred to as the Vayustalam. The Shiva linga here represents the element air (Vayu). Lord Shiva is worshipped here as Sri Kalahastishwar and goddess Parvati is worshipped here as Gnanaprasunambika.
5. Chidambaram Nataraja Temple
The Chidambaram Nataraja temple lies in the town of Chidambaram in the state of Tamil Nadu is also is referred to as the Aakasastalam where Lord Shiva is in the form of the cosmic dancer, Nataraj. This temple is also dedicated to Lord Vishnu with Mahadeva and the Shivalinga here represents the element sky (Akasha).
Along with being built according to the significance of yogic sciences these placed in a certain geographic alignment with each other, so that the entire region reverberated with the possibility they offered. These set of five temples are considered to be of great importance in south India. Hence, the geographic alignment of the five Hindu temples is astounding as temples were constructed centuries ago, which was definitely at a time without satellite technology, GPS or any other advanced scientific engineering tool. Yet a mystery, the highly accurate placements of the temples is an engineering, astrological and geographical wonder.