Worship of Lord Brahma, Part 45



The Elephant and the Spider
Temple diorama

A serial exploration of places of Lord Brahma's worship.

Lord Brahma at Jambukeswaram

A few kilometers east of Srirangam in Tamil Nadu is an ancient temple known as Jambukeswaram, or the Tiruvanaikkaval Temple. While primarily a Shiva temple, with Shivalingam as the presiding deity, the temple is also home to an extraordinary deity form of the Trimurti, which certainly merits inclusion in our series on Lord Brahma.

We might also remind the reader that in the case of most Shivalingas, including the one at Jambukeswaram, Lord Brahma is actually present in each. The general structure of the linga is that Brahmadeva is embodied in the linga root. This part is often embedded in the earth, and is not visible. The shakties and Visnu are embodied in the mid-section of the linga, and Shiva is embodied in the upper section.

Sri Jambukeswaram Shivalinga

Tiruvanaikkaval Temple, commonly known in ancient times as Jambukeswaram Temple, is situated at Tiruvanaikkava (Tiruvanaikka), near Tiruchirappali. The presiding deity here is Sri Jambukeswarar and his consort Akhilandeswari (Parvati). The temple is known as pancha bhoota stalam, meaning it is associated with the five elements, and also paadal petra stalam, meaning it is one of the 275 temples revered by Saivites.

Shiva Jambukeswara is understood to be an embodiment of the element of water, and is often referred to as Appustalam. The Pancha Bhoota Stalams comprise a group of five temples associated with each of the elements:

Jambukeswarar Temple at Tiruvanaikka – Apustalam (Water) 
Sri Kalahastiswarar Temple at Sri Kalahasti - Vayu Stalam (Wind) 
Annamalaiyaar (Arunachaleswarar) Temple at Tiruvannamalai - Agni Stalam (Fire) 
Ekambranathar Temple at Kanchipuram - Prithvi Stalam (Earth)
Natarajar Temple at Chidambaram - Akasa Stalam (ether)

Shiva is worshipped in each of these temples as a manifestation of the corresponding elements, which in Sanskrit are referred to as Vayu, Jalam (Apah), Agni, Prithvi and Aakasam. Each of these elements manifests in a particular way at the Pancha Bhoota Stalams: At Sri Kalahastiswarar, a flickering lamp shows the play of wind; at Annamalaiyaar, a giant lamp is lit as a manifestation of fire; at Kanchipuram, the lingam is associated with earth; at Chidambaram, a formless space depicts the association of ether; and at Jambukeswarar, the lingam is immersed in a flow of water.

Sri Jambukeswarar Temple was built in the 1st Century B.C. by the Chola King Ko Chenkannan, who built more than seventy temples in the region of Tamil Nadu during the Sangam period (very early Christian era). The temple was patronized by the Chola Pandya, Hoysala, and Madurai Naik kings, and has undergone significant renovations over the last two thousand years. In the 7th to 9th centuries, Sri Jambukeswarar was sung by the Saivite saints.

There was once a forest of Jambu trees near the Chandrateertha tank, which is filled with water of the River Kaveri. Here, Shiva is said to have appeared under one of the trees in his lingam form. Of the many sastric and historical episodes associated with this temple, the most well known is the pastime of the Elephant and the Spider. Two devotees of Shiva were said to have been born under the influence of a curse, which caused them to manifest as a white elephant and a spider. The elephant worshipped Lord Shiva here by bringing water and flowers in its trunk, while the spider built a web over the lingam, protecting it from leaves and falling debris. Each took offense with the other, as the elephant found the web to be offensive, and his water washed away the web each day. The two eventually fought to their death. The Spider is said to have later been born into a royal Chola family in Uraiyur. The temple got its name from the Elephant, Tiruv Aanaikka.

Jambukeswaram Temple Complex


Temple Architecture and Deities

Jambukeswara Temple is a vast complex, having 7 gopurams and 5 concentric circular concrete walls, or prakarams. The second, third and fourth prakarams were constructed in the 13th Century. The walls are 35 ft. high and 6 ft. thick.

The Eastern tower has seven levels, and is highly ornamented with fine sculptures of musical scenes. The Western tower has nine levels. There are intricate carvings on the facade as well as the interior of the towers. Devotees can stand at a particular spot between two stone pillars, and get an amazing view of all five gopurams, laid out in a row.

Gopuram detail

Installed under the ancient Jambu tree is the presiding deity, a Shivalingam that is partially submerged in water. The west-facing linga is also known as Bhava-jala linga, and the temple is sometimes called Jala Linga Temple. From the outside of the garbha gruha, devotees can see the water bubbles coming out from panipetham.

Devi Parvati is worshipped here as a yogini, performing austerities. Her shrine is situated in the fourth prakaram, facing east.

There are many subsidiary shrines within the temple compound, including the beautiful shrine for the Trimurti. This deity is known as Ekapada Trimurti, meaning the Trimurti on one leg. Lord Shiva stands in the center, with Lord Brahma to one side, and Lord Visnu on the other side. Brahmadeva, who is four-faced, and Visnu are connected to Shiva by an adjoining leg, angled out as if they are flying.

Jambukeswaram Trimurti

Lord Brahma carries the conch and an unidentified item of paraphernalia in two hands, with the other two hands in pranam. Visnu hold the conch and chakra. The vahanas of all three deities form of the base of the murti, with Shiva standing on Nandi's back, Hamsa beneath Brahma, and Garuda, along with what appears to be Narada Muni at Visnu's feet. This ekapadamurti is a relatively rare form of Their Lordships.

Other subsidiary shrines include Lakshmi, Natarajar, Ganapathy, Murugan (Subramaniar), Dakshinamoorthy, Raja Rajeswarar linga, Navagraha and Sagasra (1008) Linga, along with Adi Shankar, and the 63 Nayannmars.


Many festivals are held at Jambukeswara Temple, including Pancha Praharam (Brahmotsavam), Aadi Pooram for Devi's procession, Thai Poosam when both presiding deity and consort go on procession, Navarathri, and Panguni Ther, the car festival.