Thiruvanaikaval (also Thiruvanaikal, Jambukeswaram) is a famous Shiva temple in Tiruchirapalli (Trichy), in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. The temple was built by Kocengannan (Kochenga Chola), one of the Early Cholas, around 1,800 years ago. It is located in the Srirangam island, which has the famous Ranganathaswamy temple.Thiruvanaikal is one of the five major Shiva Temples of Tamil Nadu (Panchabhoota Sthalams) representing the Mahābhūta or five great elements; this temple represents the element of water, or neer in Tamil.The sanctum of Jambukeswara has an underground water stream and in spite of pumping water out, it is always filled with water. It is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams, where all the four most revered Nayanars (Saivite Saints) have sung glories of the deity in this temple. The temple has inscriptions from the Chola period.
Once Parvati mocked Shiva’s penance for betterment of the world. Shiva wanted to condemn her act and directed her to go to the earth from Kailasam (Shiva’s abode) to do penance. Parvathi in the form of Akilandeswari as per Shiva’s wish found Jambu forest (Thiruvanaikoil) to conduct her penance. She made a lingam out of water of river Cauvery (also called as river Ponni) under the Venn Naaval tree (the Venn Naaval tree on top of the saint Jambu) and commenced her worship. The lingam is known as Appu Lingam (Water Lingam). Siva at last gave darshan to Akilandeswari and taught her Siva Gnana. Akilandeswari took Upadesa (lessons) facing East from Shiva, who stood facing west.
There were two Siva Ganas (Siva’s disciples who live in Kailash): ‘Malyavan’ and ‘Pushpadanta’. Though they are Siva Ganas they always quarrel with each other and fight for one thing or other. In one fight ‘Malyavan’ cursed ‘Pushpadanta’ to become an elephant on earth and the latter cursed the former to become a spider on earth. The elephant and the spider came to Jambukeswaram and continued their Siva worship. The elephant collected water from river Cauvery and conducted ablution to the lingam under the Jambu tree (Eugenia jambolana, the rose-apple tree) daily. The spider constructed his web over the lingam to prevent dry leaves from dropping on it and prevent sunlight directly falling on it. When the elephant saw the web and thought it was dust on lingam. The elephant tore them and cleaned the lingam by pouring water and the practice continued daily. The spider became angry one day and crawled into the trunk of the elephant and bit the elephant to death, killing itself. Siva, in the form of Jambukeswara, moved by the deep devotion of the two, relieved them from the curse. As an elephant worshipped Siva here, this place came to be known as Thiru Aanai Kaa (thiru means holy, aanai is elephant, kaa (kaadu) means forest). Later the name ‘Thiruaanaikaa’ become ‘Thiruvanaikaval’ and ‘Thiruvanaikoil’.
As an outcome of making sin by killing the elephant, in the next birth, the spider was born as the King Kochengot Chola (kotchengannan cholan meaning red-eyed king) and built 70 temples and this temple is the one among them. Remembering his enmity with the elephant in his previous birth, he built the Siva Sannathi (sanctorum) such that not even a small elephant can enter. The entrance on the sanctorum of Jambukeswara is only 4 foot high and 2.5 foot wide.
There was a story behind the king’s red eyes – When he was in his mother’s womb the palace astrologer predicted a sacred time to give birth to enable the newborn’s well being. The queen went into labor early, before the time predicted by the astrologer. The queen hence told the servant to hang her upside down for the time to come so that she could have a wise and virtuous son who could head the kingdom righteously. This waiting time inside the womb made the baby’s eyes red. After becoming the king, he built the temple for Siva and Goddess Akilandeswari in the name of Aanaikka (elephant protected) later days it changed to Thiruvanaikovil.
Goddess Akilandeshwari’s Shrine
The temples idols are installed opposite to each other – Such temples are known as Upadesa Sthalams. As the Devi was like a student and Jambukeswara like a Guru (teacher) in this temple, there is no Thiru Kalyanam (mar riage) conducted in this temple for Shiva and Parvathi, unlike the other Shiva temples. The sannathy of the goddess Akilandeshwari and the sannathy of Prasanna Vinayaka are in the shape of the pranava manthra called “Om”. It is believed that the Amman in the temple was in deep anger hence during one of Adi Sankara’s visit he installed the Prasanna Ganapathy idol right opposite to her Sannathy and installed a pair of Sri Chakra thaatankas (ear-rings) to reduce her anger.
The image of Ekapadtha Tirumuthi, Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, is present in the temple, which can be seen only in Thyagaraja Temple, Tiruvottiyur. There are lot of inscriptions from various Chola kings from 11th – 12th century indicating grants to the temple. The temple was widely expanded by Hoysala king, Someswara, the son of Vira Narasimha. During 1236-37 CE, he built a lot of shrines namely Vallaliswara, Padumalisvara, Vira Narasingeswara and Somleswara evidently named after his grandfather Ballalla II, grandmother Padmaladevei, father Vira Narasimha and aunt Somala Devi. The 7-tiered rajagopuram is also believed to have constructed by the Hoysala king. There are separate shrines beyond the temple compound namely Aadhi haing a typical structure as the main shrines. The temple and its pagodas were subject to frequent conquest between French and English forces between 1751 and 1755 CE. The temple has been widely maintained by Nattukottai Chettiars during the 19th and early 20th centuries.