The Never-Dry Spring at Thiruvanaikaval
The famous Jambukeswarar Temple is located in Thiruvanaikaval, a suburb of the town of Tiruchirappalli on the northern banks of the Kaveri river that surrounds, along with river kollidam, the Thiruvanaikaval-Srirangam Island. As an appu-sthalam, it is one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalams, and Shiva is venerated here as Jambukeshwara, an embodiment of the element water(appu). The spring underneath the lingam never goes dry even in the driest season.
According to the puranas, there was once a forest of jambu trees in the place of modern Tiruvanaikkaval. Lord shiva appeared as a Lingam under one of the trees that came to be called the Jambulingam. Nearby was a tank called Chandratirtha which was filled by water from the river Cauvery. There is a legend that Parvathi worshipped Shiva here and installed the idol in the sanctum. Even today at noon the 'Archakar' dresses like a woman and does Pooja to Jambukeswara and to a special variety of black cow called Karam Pasu.
There is other legends too. A sage called Jambu performed penance in this place on Lord Shiva. Lord granted darshan to the sage and offered Naaval fruit (called blackberry) as prasad. While consuming the Prasad, the sage swallowed the seeds too as he thought it a sin to spit the seeds. Reaching the stomach of the Rishi, the seeds began to grow into a tree and pierced his head thus leading to his salvation. Naaval is called Jambu in Sanskrit.
In the olden days, two siva ganas, namely Pushpadantan and Malyavan who were serving Siva, fell into argument as to who served their lord better. Ultimately one of them cursed the other to be born an elephant and the other cursed the former to be born a spider. Both of them came to the Jambukeswaram forest and began worshipping the same shiva linga.
The elephant would collect water from river Cauvery and perform abhishekam to the lingam every day. This was not liked by the spider because the web constructed by him over the lingam to protect it from hot sunlight and dry leaves was cleared by the elephant by the abhishekam water poured over it. One day, the spider became angry and crawled into the trunk of the elephant, bit and killed it, killing itself. Siva was moved by the deep devotion of the two and 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 means elephant, and kaa means forest).
As an outcome of making sin by killing the elephant, in the next birth, the spider was born as the King Kotchengannan Cholan (meaning, red-eyed king). Remembering his enmity with the elephant in his previous birth, he built this temple and many others. The entrance on the sanctorum of Jambukeswara is only 4 foot high and 2.5 foot wide and is such that not even a small elephant can enter the sannithi.
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.
It is believed that the Amman in the temple was in deep anger hence during one of Adi Sankara's visit. So he installed the Prasanna Ganapathi idol right opposite to her Sannathi and installed a pair of Sri Chakra thaatankas (ear-rings) to reduce her anger and remain in a Sowmya Rupa.
The sannathi of the goddess Akilandeshwari and the sannathi of Prasanna Vinayaka are in the shape of the pranava manthra called "Om". As Lord Siva stood facing West and gave darshan and taught Siva Gnana to Akilandeswari facing East, the idols are installed opposite to each other - such temples are known as Upadesa Sthalams. Marriages are not conducted in the temple because Shiva and Parvati are not celebrated here as a couple but as a teacher and student.