Located on the Northern banks of Cauvery is the Lord Jambukeswarar temple in Thiruvanaikaval, one of the Pancha Bhootha Sthalams, where Lord Shiva manifests himself as 'Water' (among the five elements). Hence this is referred to as a 'Neer' sthalam ('Appu' in Sanskrit). Thiruvanaikaval is home to Nava Theertham and the belief is that those who bathe in the Nava Theertham on Chitra Pournami and invoke the blessings of Jambukeswarar and Akilandeswari are said to attain Mukthi. The temple dates back to the 5th century AD to the rule of Kochenganan Chozha, who ruled from Uraiyur and is an architectural marvel with high roofs, five huge prakaras south of the Coloroon, towering Gopurams in the East and the West and Nava Theerthams.
The Spider and Elephant
Thiruvanaikaval is the first of the 'Maada Koils' built by Kochenganan. In recognition of his great contribution to temple architecture and as the one who built the Thiruvanaikaval temple, Kochenganan's idol is seen inside the temple.
Two devotees – Pushpavana and Mayavana - of Lord Shiva were involved in the process of plucking flowers from the Nandavanam and presenting to the Lord. One day, an argument arose between the two as to who had presented more flowers and they ended up killing each other in the fight that ensued. But having been true devotees through their lives, Lord Shiva provided them darshan at Kailasam and blessed them into birth as a spider and elephant in this Gajaranya Kshetram. Provided with an opportunity to serve the Lord, the Spider provided shade to the Lord through its cobweb, while the elephant performed pooja removing all the dirt around the lord, bringing water for Abhishekam, plucking flowers and fruits and providing sandalwood.
One day, angered at finding a cobweb above the Lord, the elephant swung his tail and hit out at the web as he saw it as dirt. In retaliation, the spider entered the nose of the elephant. Stung with unbearable pain, the elephant died. The spider caught inside elephant's body too died of suffocation and for the 2nd time, they entered Kailasam. When asked for a wish, the elephant asked for this place where he performed pooja with sincerity to be named after him. Hence this place came to be called Thiru 'Aanai' Kaval. The spider asked to be born as a King who would build everlasting temples.
The spider was thus born as Kochenganan Chozhan in the Chozha dynasty. His parents were childless. An astrologer suggested that if the child was born during a specific time slot, he would become a great king and serve the Lord through his lifetime. Unfortunately, his mother Kamalavathi was slated for a pre delivery. Determined to have the child only during the specified slot, she asked her maids to tie her and hang here upside down till the specified time arrived. And thus she ensured that her son was born at that specified time. As the blood circulation had been disrupted, the child was born with red eyes. The mother called him 'Ko' 'Chenganan' (the one with red eyes) and died immediately after his birth. It was his aunt who took care of him through his childhood.
One of its Kind Uchchi Kaalam Pooja
Ambal takes 3 forms every day here at Thiruvanaikaval. Early in the morning, she provides darshan as Lakshmi. At noon she is seen as Parvathi and in the evening she presents herself as Saraswathi in a white saree. Legend has it that Goddess Parvathi once scoffed at Lord Shiva's deep penance and his yogic style. Angered at this gesture, Shiva directed her to Earth. She reached this Jambu Vanam (Rose- Apple Forest) and performed pooja with sacred water that turned into Lingam, thus invoking his blessings. This tradition is followed every day during the Uchchi Kaalam Pooja. The priest dressed as Parvathi (draped in a saree) performs pooja at Jambukeswarar Sannidhi. Following this, he performs pooja on the sacred cow. This form of Uchchi Kaalam Pooja is the only one of its kind in Saivite temples in India.
Once, Brahmma created a beautiful girl in this world. Instead of seeing her as his own daughter, Brahmma cast his eyes on the beautiful damsel. Inflicted with Brahmma Hathi Dosham, he came here, bathed in the Theertham south of the temple and undertook penance invoking the blessings of Jambukeswarar. A pleased Lord Shiva decided to provide darshan to Brahmma and liberate him from the Dosham. As Shiva was preparing to leave, Goddess Akilandeswari too wanted to join. Shiva cautioned that Brahmma had got into this situation lured by the beauty of a young girl and did not want to take a chance once again. They decided to interchange roles – Shiva took the form of Akilandeswari and the Goddess went there as Jambukeswarar and provided darshan to Brahmma. After liberating Brahmma from his Dosham, it is said that they got back into their original forms.
During Brahmotsavam, this interchange between Lord and Ambal is re-enacted on the Rohini day on the South Street of the fifth Prakara. As part of this Pancha Parva Utsavam, the Lord comes on a procession in each of the five prakaras – one of the highlights of the year at this temple.
Other Shrines inside and around the Temple
There are many small shrines inside this temple in the Praharams dedicated to other goddesses.
"Murugan" Sannadhi on the way to Amman temple from Swami temple is an important shrine. Lord Muruga is in the form of "Aandi" (like the one in "Palani"). One the month of "Aadi" on the day of "Krithigai" star (the birth star of Lord Muruga) it draws thousands of devotees from all around. The "Kaavadi" (offerings carried as a procession) and continued "Abisheka" on that day are very famous. Adjacent to Lord Muruga is the Sannadhi for Lord Sanishwara (Saniswarar – Saturn) with Jeshtadevi. Thiruvanaikoil is one of the very few temples where you can find a separate sannadhi for Sanniswarar that to with the goddess Jeshtadevi. There is a "Vallabhai Ganapathy" sannadhi on the 2nd Praharam of the Swami temple. It’s on your right just before entering the 1st Praharam of Swami temple. Raja Rajeswarar Shrine deserves special mention. The Lingam installed here has five faces and is known as Panchamukha Lingam. In the Swami temple just opposite to the Navagraha you can see the "Sagasra Linga". Sagsram means 1008. The "Sagasra Linga" is one large Linga on which 1008 small Lingas were carved. Other Sannadhis at Swami temple are Sangareswarar, Dakshinamoorthy (Guru Bahavan), Lakshmi, Subramaniar, Natarajar and statues and "panchaloga" (five metal) idols of 63 Nayannmars.
Sri Rama & Thiruvanaikoil
Sri Rama on his way back to Ayodhya after the war with Ravana installed a Lingam (Marakata (Green Stone) Lingam now known as Nilavindis - warar) in Thiruvanaikoil to eliminate the ghosts of the "Assoras", which followed him.
Each and every village will have a "Kaaval Deivam" (protector God/Goddess). Usually the temple of that God/Goddess will be at the boundary of that village. Thiruvanaikoil also have one "Kaaval Deivam" and its "Pidari Amman" also called as "Ellai Amman" and "Iraniyamman". This Ellaiyamman is an Ugra Devatha (Goddess with Fury). It’s believed that Ellaiyamman is formed from the sweat of Goddess Devi Akilandeswari. Ellaiyamman protects the Thiruvanaikoil village from the evil. The temple of the Ellaiyamman is in the South East corner outside the Thiruvanaikoil temple. You can see this in the Trichy – Chennai By-Pass road. Every year in the month of Thai a five day festival is celebrated for this Goddess and the Goddess is taken into procession in side all streets of village in four different Vahanams (Yannai – Elephant, Kudhirai – Horse, Botham and Ther – Chariot).