Thiruvanaikkaval, Srirangam: We would love to consider that we are super intelligent beings on this planet. Well let’s hold onto our egos a bit and take a look at this story.
There was once a vast forest that surrounded the interior lands around the Kaveri river in Trichy district. It was a forest rich with Jambu trees under one of which was installed a Shiva Linga. Back in the serene world that surrounded this Linga lived an elephant that used to come and worship the Lord every day. The elephant was an ardent devotee of the Lord.
At the same time there was yet another unassuming devotee who used to worship the Lord with as much devotion. A spider used to live around the shrine and tie a web above it so that the leaves from the Jambu tree would not fall on the Lord himself. But there was a problem for every time the spider made his web to protect the Lord, the elephant would destroy it thinking it was absolute sacrilege. This resulted in a mounting fight between the spider and the elephant, a massive clash of egos.
Finally the spider decided one day that it would not take this any more. The next day when the elephant came to worship the Lord he as usual decided to destroy the web the spider had spun over the Linga. This time the spider got smarter and entered into the elephant’s trunk and bit him. The following duel killed both the elephant and the spider. This is when Lord Shiva appeared before both of them, and said that they both had pleased him well with their devotion.
The spider in his next birth was born as King Kochchengan who built the current temple at Thiruvanaikkaval, in the island city of Srirangam to worship Lord Shiva. Interestingly, he built the sanctum sanctorum in such a way that no elephant would be able to enter the Gharbha Griha. Hence this is the only temple where the Garbha Griha is built low, has a very small vestibule (Antarala) and an even smaller chamber within which the Lingam resides. The entrance is extremely small such that no elephant can even find its way in. The only way to view the Lord is through a Jali window placed in front of Nandi, through which the Lord can be seen. It is considered very auspicious to be able to view the Lord through the horns of Nandi Bull through the Jali window.
The story of Lord Shiva’s temple at Thiruvanaikkaval does not end here; they say that even if the Kaveri river dries up in peak summer, the water within this shrine chamber never dries. There is water that surrounds this Linga the year round even if there is extreme heat around this area of interior Tamil Nadu. Such is the power of the Lord. This temple at Thiruvanakkaval is also called Jambukeswara temple as an extension of the Jambu tree under which the Linga was originally installed.
This is about Thiruvanaikkaval, there is more to the spider. Incase tomorrow you decide to clean up the spider webs in your Puja room, think twice before hitting the spiders. Spiders are great devotees of the Lord, and if there is serious devotion in your house, spiders will come and make webs within this section of the house. So next time you decide to clean up, leave the spiders alone!
Photo courtesy: templenet.com