History & Culture

Five for peace

Amararama temple in Andhra Pradesh

Amararama temple in Andhra Pradesh   | Photo Credit: Chitra Ramaswamy

The Pancharama circuit in Andhra Pradesh is linked to the concept of nectar

A chance visit to the Ksheerarama temple in Palakkolu while holidaying at panoramic Dindi, the charming village on the backwaters of the Godavari, prompted us to visit the Pancharama circuit. The Pancharama Kshetras or Pancharamams of Andhra Pradesh are ancient temples dedicated to Lord Siva. In the order in which these broken pieces were rounded, the temples that have come to be associated with them are Amararama in Amaravathi in Guntur district, Kumararamam at Samarlakota near Kakinada, Draksharamam at Draksharamam in Ramachandrapuram, Somaramam at Bhimavaram and Ksheeraramam at Palakollu. It is a widely held belief that a visit to all five temples in a single day would ensure salvation.

There are several interesting puranic stories associated with the origin of these shrines. The most popular one refers to the demon king Tarakasura or Taraka and his destruction by Lord Karthik. According to Amareshwara Skanda Purana, Siva who was pleased with the austerities performed by Taraka presented him with the Amruthalingam. He further assured Taraka invincibility against enemies, from defeat and death, so long as the Lingam was in his possession. Taraka sported this Amrutha Lingam around his neck, and on the strength of the boon, wrought untold misery upon the Devas and other celestial beings.

Karthik, who led the deities to a battle against Taraka, was unable to vanquish him even after using the most potent Shakti weapon on him. Much to the deities’ distress and mortification, though the weapon cut the demon into several pieces, they reunited to give life to Taraka. An exasperated Karthik approached Lord Vishnu for help. Vishnu revealed to Karthik that in order to destroy the demon, he had to first break the Amrutha Lingam and also prevent the broken pieces from reuniting.

Acting upon Vishnu’s suggestions, Karthik used his Agniasthra to break Taraka’s Lingam. The Lingam which exploded into five pieces, tried to unify by chanting Omkara Nadha. At that very instant, Indra, Surya, Chandra and Vishnu himself, joined Karthik in fixing these broken pieces in the locations where they fell. Thus were born the Pancharama (Pancha meaning five and Aarama meaning peace) Kshetras, in five different areas of Andhra Pradesh — Amararama in Amaravati, Bhimeshwara in Draksharamam, Somarama in Bhimavaram, Ksheerarama in Palakkolu and Kumararama in Samalkot. It is believed that the worship of these Lingams, or mere darshan of these shrines, would bestow peace and bliss upon the devotees.

According to the Bheemeshwara Puranam, in the battle between devas and asuras after nectar was obtained the latter were killed. However, a Sivalingam worshipped by Tripurasura, remained intact. Siva himself divided this Lingam into five pieces and installed them in the five places that subsequently came to be known as the Pancharama Kshetras (Andhra Pradesh).

Scaly markings on lingam

A unique feature of the five Lingams which are of varied sizes is that they have scaly markings on them. These are believed to have been caused by the intensity of the Agniasthra as it struck the Amrutha Lingam.

Amararama in Amaravathi, 35 km from Guntur, is also the only one that lies on the banks of the Krishna River while the other four are located, two each in the East and West Godavari districts. The temple located on Krouncha Shaila, a small hillock on the banks of the Krishna, is a blend of Buddhist and Dravidian architecture, with four lofty gopurams in its outer circumambulatory path.

The sanctum sanctorum which is at an elevation from the ground, is accessed by a flight of steps. The presiding deity is known as Amareshwara, Amaralingeswara or Krouchandha. Amarareshwara, the 15 ft tall white marble lingam with a circumference of 3 ft, is the biggest of the Pancharama Lingams. Legend has it that Shukra, the preceptor of the Asuras, worshipped Amareshwara who was installed by Indra with the help of Brihaspathi, the Guru of the Devas. It is widely believed that the dent on the apex of the Lingam and the few lines on its sides were made by Arjuna on Lord Siva during his incarnation as Kirata.

Prayers and abisheka are offered to the Lingam from a height that is reached by steps in the sanctum. Bala Chamundeshwari Devi, consort of the Lord, is the presiding goddess in the temple and is supposed to have been installed by Adi Sankara.

The temple has three circumambulatory paths or prakaras where there are shrines to several gods, including one for Vishnu as Venugopalaswamy, in keeping with Agama sastra. Though the temple is believed to have been in existence since the Vedic age, stone inscriptions indicate worship by members of royal families since 500 BCE.

Massive gates

Samarlakota, located 12 km from Kakinada, is known as Bhimavara Kshetram. According to inscriptions found in the temple, the village was known as Chalukya Bhimavaram in ancient times.

In its design and structure, the ninth century edifice shares common features with the Draksharamam temple. The temple has two circumambulatory walls made of dressed sandstone, surrounding it. The outermost wall of the temple is punctuated by four massive gates with tall gopurams on its four sides. The inner wall is horizontally divided into two sections, separated by a cornice. As in Draksharamam, the temple is two-tiered with the sanctum sanctorum containing the top segment of a 14-ft lingam, covered with silver kavacham.

The lingam rises from the pedestal on the ground floor, and enters the sanctum sanctorum in the second floor where it is worshipped as Rudrabhaga, Siva in facial form adorned with a silver kavacham. The vimanam of the main shrine underwent renovations and in its present form consists of horizontal bands of friezes containing sculptures of various animals and floral motifs.

To be concluded

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 10:05:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/pancharamar-khetrams-dedicated-to-lord-siva/article19174387.ece

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