Pancharama is the name given to those five temples which are dedicated to Lord Shiva. These places are distributed over three districts, East Godavari, West Godavari and Guntur of Andhra Pradesh in India. All Hindus consider visiting these temples as very sacred. Pancha means five and Aarama is peace. Aarama is something related to Buddhism which is actually aims at pleasant state of mind. So Pancharama means five pleasant and peaceful places.
There are two stories related to Pancharama temples. One story related to Pancharama temples is in Bheemeshwara Puranam written by Shree Nathudu. The Story goes like this...
Devatas and Asuras (Rakshasas) stirr the sea to get nectar (Amrit). After getting the Amrit, Devatas meet Lord Vishnu to avoid distributing the nectar to Asuras as it may lead to problems. Lord Vishnu takes the birth as Mohini and distributes Amruth only to Devtas. Asuras get angry and worship Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva gets satisfied by their worship and blesses Asuras with lot of powers.
With these powers Asuras start torturing people and Devtas. Again Devtas worship Lord Shiva to avoid this. Lord Shiva gets angry and starts punishing Asuras. During this war, a Shivalingam worshipped by Thripurasura (Tripurasura) remains un damaged even though all Asuras die. Lord Shiva (Mahadeva) makes this Lingam into five pieces and makes this installed in five different places. These five places (Prathishtapana) are now famous as Pancharama.
The second story begins from Hiranya Kashipu and his son Simuchi. The son of Simuchi, Tharakasura worships Lord Shiva and gets his Atma Linga. Then, Tharakasura starts troubling people and Devatas. As per blessings, Tharakasura dies only by a boy. Devatas go to Lord Shiva to find solution for finding a solution to punish Tharakasura. Lord Kumara Swamy Avtar thus happens and and boy kills Tharakasura. After when Tharakasura dies, the Athmalinga gets divided into five. Each one gets installed by Devatas in five different places. These places are called Pancharama Kshetras.
Below are the details of Pancharama Kshetras and the five faces of Lord Shiva
1. Amararama - Amaravati (Sri Amareswara Swamy)
Amaravati is a historic pilgrimage center and a storehouse of ancient Buddhist sculpture. Amaravati is home to the Amareswara temple which constitutes one of the five Pancharama temples of Andhra Pradesh sacred to Shiva, the other four being Kumararama (Kotipalli), Ksheerarama and Bheemarama and Draksharama. Amaravati is located about 15 miles away from Guntur near Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh.
The temple of Lord Amareswara located on the banks of river Krishna, is rich in Dravidian and Buddist architectures. The Lingam is 15 feet high, carved out of marble. The city was named Amaravati after Indra's capital here. Tradition says that Indra and Devas had worshipped the Lord here. Goddess Shakthi is worshipped as Bala Chamundika Devi.
The white Linga is quite unique and the priests have to ascend the steps for offering abhishekam. As the name Amaravati implies, legend has it that Amaravati was once the abode of the Gods - the Devas, the yakshas and the kinnaras, who performed penances to Shiva to request him to rid the earth of the mighty demon Tarakasura.
Legend has it that Shiva's son Subramanya vanquished the demon. It is believed that the Shivalingam that shattered Into five pieces was a huge one, and the biggest of the five pieces is a fifteen foot long column of white marble which is worshipped as Amareswara at the Amaravati temple (this is very similar to the Shivalingam at the Draksharama temple). Legend has it that it was installed by Indra the king of the Devas, Brihaspati the guru of the Devas and Sukra the preceptor of the Asuras.
The Amaravati temple is located on a small hillock referred to as Krouncha Shaila, alongside the river Krishna which flows for a short distance in a North-Southerly direction, although for the most part, the river heads eastwards towards the ocean. The river Krishna is held in reverence at this pilgrimage site, and a ritual dip in this river here is considered to be meritorious.
The temple has ancient origins, however the structural foundations as seen today, seem to date back to the 11th century CE. The Vijayanagar kings did provide grants to maintain the temple. However it was the local kings of the 18th century CE that provided vast endowments to this temple. The temple is decorated with four lofty gopurams in its outer circumlocutory path.
How to reach Amaravati:
Amaravati is at 35kms distance from Guntur. There are so many non-stop buses from Guntur. It takes about 45 minutes journey. Buses will leave us at temple. In Karthika masam APSRTC maintains special Pancharamas tour buses to cover them all in a single day.
2. Draksharama - Draksharamam (Sri Bhimeswara Swamy)
Draksharamam is a shaivite shrine 185 km. from Vijayawada, 17 km. from Kakinada, 40 km. from Rajahmundry and 466 km. from Hyderabad. Draksharama is considered to be one of the five Arama kshetras dedicated to Lord Shiva. This is located in East Godavari District near Kakinada. The place also known as "Dakshina Kasi" (Southern Banaras) along with SreeSailam and Kaleswara constitute the three sacred Shivalingams of the State, giving its ancient name "Trilinga Desa".
The Bhimeswara temple at Draksharama has two prakaras. The inscriptions here suggest that the temple was built by Bhima, the Eastern Chalukyan King of Vengi(9th -10th centuries), when his kingdom was under attack by the Rashtrakootas. The temple art thus shows the influence of a blend of sculptural traditions of Chalukya and Chola styles.
The temple has four entrances in the outer prakara each marked with a gopuram, facing the four cardinal directions. On the south is the entrance to the inner prakara, which is lined by a pillared two-storeyed verandah.
The main temple is twin storeyed. Two flights of stairs lead us into the upper level of the sanctum. This has a pillared pradakshina on three sides and a Garbhagriha. Bhimeswara is enshrined in the form of a ten feet high Shivalingam in this Garbhagriha. Another feature of the temple is the narrow mantapam that is seen in the premises. Shiva's consort here is Manikyamba. The temple walls and pillars are decoratively carved with mythological figures.
Legend has it that the Saptamaharishis (Seven Sages) to achieve the ends of their penance divided the akhanda (unbranched) Godavari river into seven different streams at Draskharama. Bharadhwaja, Viswamitra and Jamadagni streams known as Antarvahinies, were believed to have gone under ground. There is Sapta Godavari Kundam (Seven river pond) near the temple where the devotees bathe. Sivarathri attracts huge crowds of pilgrims.
Once Daksha Prajapathi decided to perform a Yaga. In pursuance of the same, he had been to Kailasa to invite Gods and Goddesses to sanctify his 'Yazna' and accept his hospitality. But when he had been there, Lord Siva was in his Court immersed in his spiritual splendour. But Daksha Prajapathi out of his ego of being the father-in-law of Lord Siva, mistook the Lord's trance as indifference towards him. So, being put out at the difference of his Son-in-law he came back without inviting the Lord and the Lady to his sacrifice.
Sati in her womanish nature requested Siva to permit her to attend, the sacrifice at her parental home, even uninvited and have the pleasure of the performance and the association of her kith and kin. But Siva explained her the tragic implications that she might have to face at her parental house and let her to at her own wish. But, when she actually stepped into her parental home, none greeted her or even just asked her a mutual exchange of her well-being. Then Sathi was put out with the humiliation she had to face amidst her own blood and then and there, decided to give up her body instead of facing her beloved husband with a fallen face. So, she gave up her body then and there and fell down dead. Siva having come to know of the tragic end, sent his son 'Veerabhadra' to boot down the ego of Daksha.
Siva in his pangs of separation with Sati came down to her dead body and shoultered the corpse over his shoulders and danced in 'Pralaya Thandava'. At this juncture, the Lord Vishnu, the presenting, force of Universe, sent his 'Chakra' to cut down the body of Sathi and redeem the grief of Lord Siva. The Chakra came and cut the body of Sati into eighteen pieces feel in eighteen parts of this 'Punyabhoomi' of ours and came to be known as 'Ashta Dasa Peethas' and out of these eighteen Sri Manikyamba of Draksharama is the Twelfth.
It is said that Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva has killed the demon Tarakasura, on the request of the gods. The Shivalinga in the throat of this ardent devotee of Shiva, Tarakasura, is said to have fell in five different places that became the "Panchaarama Kshetras". They are Draksharama, Komararama, Ksheerarama, Bheemarama and Amararama. It is also said that the linga here was later installed by Vedavyasa.
Another legend says that the three demons Taarakaaksha, Kamalaaksha and Vidyunmaali, who were the children of Tarakasura, have obtained the boon of death by the arrow that could set afire their three cities at once. Finally after the Tripura Samharam, when they were killed by Lord Shiva, all that is said to remain was the Panchaarama lingas.
Famous Telugu poet Srinatha is said to have written Prabandha Kavya Bhimakhanda about this sacred place.
3. Kumararama - Samalkot (Sri Kumara Bheemeswara swamy)
Samalkot is located at a distance of 12 km from Kakinada, 52 Km from Rajahmundry in East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, which now forms part of Samalkot town, is known as Bhimavara Kshetram with its famous temple of Kumararama - Bhimesvara. The village was known in the past as Chalukya Bhimavaram according to the inscriptions found in the temple.
The temple known as Kumararama at Bhimavaram in Samalkot is one among the five important and popular 'Pancharama' temples of Andhra. The other four temples dedicated to Siva are Amararama at Amaravati (Dist. Guntur), Daksharama at Daksharama (Dist. East Godavari), Kshirarama at Palakollu and Somarama at Gunupudi - Bhimavaram (both in Dist. West Godavari). There is an episode on the origin of these 'Pancharamas' which is also found in 'Bhimesvarapurana' written by Srinatha (AD 14th - 15th Century).
According to it, Lord Vishnu, in his charming and fascinating incarnation of Mohini started distributing the nectar (amrita) obtained after the hazardous churning of the ocean to both the demons (asuras) and divined (devas) Dissatisfied with the injustice meted out to them in the manner of distribution of nectar, the asuras lead by the lords of Tripuras resorted to severe penance on the advice of the celestial sage Narada and were blessed with boons by Lord Siva. Thus with the power newly acquired through the boons, they inflicted atrocities on the devas, who sought refuge with Lord Siva.
On hearing the pitiable plea of the devas, Siva killed the asuras with his infallible Pasupata (a spiritual weapon of flame), which reduced them and their kingdoms to ashes. This material aspect of Siva is better known as Tripurantaka. However, a huge stone linga, worshipped by Tripuras, remained intact after the encounter. This was cut into five lingas by Lord himself and distributed for the purpose of installing at five different places which came to be locally known as Pancharams.
According to the inscription at Pithapuram, it is very clear that the temple of Kumaram Chalukya Bhimesvara was constructed by the famous Eastern Chalukya king Chalukya Bhima-I towards the end of the 9th century AD and the presiding god Siva, in the form of tall Sivalinga, was named after the monarch as Chalukya Bhimesvara. The inscription states that Chalukya Bhima, the son of Vikramaditya having been victorious in three hundred and sixty battles ruled the earth for thirty years.
The Bhimesvara temple at Samalkot is similar in architecture to that of the Bhimesvara temple at Daksharama. The temple is surrounded by two prakara walls built of dressed sand stones. The outer prakara wall is pierced by gopura - entrance on all the four sides. The four gopura - dvaras have ardha - mandapas on either side. The inner enclosure wall is divided horizontally into two sections separated by a cornice. It has a two storeyed pillared mandapa running all the inner side.
The main shrine is a free standing monument lying at the center of the inner enclosure. The temple is a rectangular structure and has two storeys. The lime stone Linga, installed in the shrine, is so tall that it rises from the pedestal on the ground floor and enters the second floor by piercing the roof, where the Rudrabhaga is worshipped. The present Vimana of the main shrine has been renovated and is covered with thick plaster. It consists of flat pattas, row of geese kutas, salas, simhalalatas, lotuses and kalasa. It is a dvitala vimana of the dravida order with regional variations.
Like in Daksharama, a miniature temple model, found in the court yard of the temple, shows the whole temple with all the architectural details, possibly used as model before erecting the temple ranging from AD 1147 to 1494, recording gifts made to this temple. These epigraphs refer to the construction of mukhamandapa at the Eastern entrance in AD 1394. Further the erection of the additional structures like Srimukhamandapam and niluvu mandapam on top of it in AD 1422 are also mentioned in the inscriptions.
4. Somarama - Bhimavaram (Sri Someswara swamy)
Bhimavaram is located 107 Kms from Vijayawada & 270 Kms from Visakhapatanam. Bhimavaram is famous for the Gunupudi Someswara (Somarama) temple, which is considered to be one of the holy Pancharamas. Built during the 3rd century A.D., the Shivalinga in the temple is believed to assume a black-cum-brown colour on no-moon day and a kind of white on full-moon day.
Another unique feature here, is that the temple of Goddess Annapurna was built on top of the Shiva temple, something that cannot be seen anywhere in the country. Surprisingly, the Goddess has the sacred thread around her neck and a baby near her feet.
This temple is an old temple but looks like new one because of colored paintings on the walls and sculptures. In front of the temple there is a pond called Chandrakundam. It is fully covered with lotus flowers. There is a big Gopuram as the entrance of temple. In the left side of temple there is a big hall in which temples of Lord Srirama and Hanuma are present. In the right side of temple there is an open hall above the temple office. When crowd is present, pujaris / Pandits conduct puja here for individuals. The temple has so many sculptures which are giving a nice look. In the hall of temple there is a big statue of Nandi. After crossing hall there is a room in front of sanctum. In that room there is a temple of Annapurna mata. In the sanctum we can see Lord Shiva in the form of a beautiful Shivaling. Shivaling in this temple is small unlike in other Pancharamas. There is a speciality in this temple ie. Shivaling will change its color according to Lunar aspect. At the time of Pournami (Full Moon nights) shivaling will be in white color and in Amavasya days (Dark nights) it's color shades black.
Lord Someswara swamy was first worshipped by Moon god here after Tarakasura vadha. Hence in the name of Moon god, came the names Somaramam and Someswara swamy.
5. Ksheerarama - Paalakollu (Sri Ksheera ramalingeswara swamy)
Legend has it that Upamanyu, the son of Kaushika muni requested Shiva that he be granted the desired quantity of milk for the performance of his daily rituals and that Shiva caused the Ksheera Pushkarini tank to overflow with milk from the mythical Ksheera Saagaram (the milky ocean). Hence the names Paalakollu, Dugdapovanam and Ksheeraramam.
Legend has it that Shiva was worshiped by Rama at this shrine as in Rameswaram.
The white marble Shivalingam worshiped in the sanctum is referred to as Ramalingeswara Swami as well as Ksheeraraameswaraswamy. Built during the 10th-llth centuries A.D. by the Chalukyas, it represents the south Indian style and has a 9-storey gopuram that soars 125 feet, one of the tallest in Andhra Pradesh. Colourful images and sculptures of various deities are engraved on the walls and can also be seen inside the temple complex.
20 Kms from Palakollu is the Natta Rameshwaram temple, where the Lingam is made of shells & conchs is worth a visit.