Pancha Bhoota Stalam or Pancha Bhoota Sthala refers to the five Shiva temples, dedicated to Shiva, each representing the manifestation of the five prime elements of nature- land, water, air, sky, fire. Pancha indicates Five, Bhoota means elements and Stala means place. All these temples are located in South India with four of these temples at Tamil Nadu and one at Andhra Pradesh. The five elements are believed to be enshrined in the five lingams and each of the lingams representing Shiva in the temple have five distant names based on the elements they represent. Indian belief associates the origin of life with the five basic elements (Pancha – five, Bhootam – Element) of Wind, Water, Fire, Earth and Space (ether). In Sanskrit, these elements are referred to as Vayu, Jalam (Apah), Agni, Prithvi and Aakasam. The Indian system of belief in Divinity also worships the divine as a manifestation of these basic elements. Accordingly, Shiva is worshipped as a manifestation of these elements in five ancient temples in India.
There is much in common between these five temples. These are among the holiest Saivite shrines in India, and have been glorified by the poems of the Nayanmar Saints of Tamilnadu. Reference to these five temples in various literary works place them in history, in as early as a period as the Sangam period in the very early Christian era.
All these temples are located in South India with four of these temples at Tamilnadu and one at Andhra Pradesh. The five elements are believed to be enshrined in the five lingams and each of the lingams representing Shiva has five distant names based on the elements they represent. The five temples were built according to the yogic sciences, and are placed in a certain geographic alignment with each other, so that the entire region reverberated with the possibility they offered.
A flickering lamp in the SriKalahasti temple shows the play of wind, the water spring in the innermost sanctum of the Tiruvanaikka temple shows the temple’s relationship to the element water, the annual Kartikai Deepam festival at Tiruvannamalai where a giant lamp is lighted atop the Annamalai hill shows the Annamalaiyaar’s manifestation as fire, the swayambhu lingam of sand at Kanchipuram signifies the deitie’s association with the earth while the formless space at Chidambaram shows the association of the Supreme being with formlessness or nothingness.
Pancha Bhoota Temples
The five grand temples associated with the five basic elements are:
- Earth – (Bhoomi or Nilam) – Kanchipuram – Ekambareswarar Temple
- Water – (Neer) – Thiruvanaikaval – Jambukeswara Temple
- Fire – (Agni or Nerupu) – Tiruvannamalai – Annamalaiyar Temple
- Wind – (Vayu or Kaatru) – Chitoor – Srikalahasti Temple
- Sky – (Akaasam or AAkayam) – Chidambaram – Chidambaram Nataraja Temple