Tamilnadu state of India has 5 major centers/temple regions dedicated to powerful lingas worshipping the 5 natural elements. It is ancient worship of the elements in the form of solidified lingas. Concentrating their natural power into stone and into the place where the temples may have been constructed.
The 5 Temples are: (in no particular order)
1) Ekambreshwara: At the very famous and dis-reputed town of Kanchi. This represents the earth element
2) Jambukeshwara: This representing the Water element. I haven’t seen this place yet.
3) Arunachaleshwara: At the holy town of arunachala, where the natural mountain is the real shiva woshipped as such for eons now.
4) Kala-Hasti: Representing the air element, legends of a spider and an elephant worshipping together for a lifetime at the same shiva linga, which is considered to be very old.
5) Chidambaram: Representing the subtle ether element. The dancing tandav master Shiva is in his glorious dancing form worshipped here. Dance and creative love for the divine has been encouraged and propagated from here since a long time.
The Union in Sand and Stone:
I went last year to Kamakshi, as the goddess here is worshipped as much if not more in devotee volume compared to the holy Earth Linga of Ekambreshwara here. The goddess’ temples is independent (unlike most other temples where the shakti sanctum lies within the shiva temples) and through time this place has cultivated infinite legends but the most pertinent among these is the one -when adi-shankara found this place (the original shankaracharya), the goddess’ energy was present somewhere in a cave nearby and the power exuding this entire place was just too much to handle or be worshipped by masses. Sankara made a shakti pit/peeth- consisting of the shri yantra to worship the goddess in a benign form. The power here intially to my understanding was immense, and it was toned down through the use of a yantra (most places use yantras to amplify the effect of natural energy). The region also corrosponds to the shakti peeth of the goddess where her divine navel supposedly fell (one of 52 such other sites where sati power is present).
The reason why power here is toned Down has a reason as per my understanding, Kamakshi and ekambreshwara are located in a power full place. The legend is that this is the place where Shiva weds Parvati who comes down to earth as a beautiful 16 year old virgin- known as tripurasundari or even sodasi. She is virgin paramount energy. This place hosts the exact moment where Power/Shakti comes alive to look for the keeper of herself and her force. That is shiva.
Parvati does tapas here, and the idol made in the little temple show the goddess sitting in a lotus posture (with both legs bent), indicating her extreme power and energy. She is a yogin beyond classical imagery here. That is why this force feminine is known as the ‘one who is beautiful in all three worlds’, any world or dimension, she is the epitome of beauty and power. She is gorgeous, She is ripe and she is a powerful mother waiting for her partner. The partner who will wed her into this web of life.
Ekambreshwara temple is a humongous site. Its a huge temple and most of it is just architectural delight. There is no stone unturned, something very characteristic of shaivite kings in this region (chola chola and the like), who with devotion and power towards consciousness built massive structures unimaginable until seen with one’s own physical (or mind’s eye). The temple hosts a very old mango tree as well, which is the supposed site where shiva meets parvati and unites in wedlock. The tree is very peaceful to sit under, though its a lot shrivelled to look at (atleast when I last saw it), but the calmness is not imagined or concocted at such a benign beautiful location.
Ekambreshwara is a very unique shiva linga. (atleast according to me). To my knowledge or its limits, the iconography of the god shiva depicts a man who is immersed in practices which are psycho-kinetic in nature. Heating himself and his body/mind physically doing this for years, leads to Shiva to be constantly cooled (the classic imagery of water source ganga flowing from his head depicts this). Hence every linga made for worship contains a dhara on top. Something which pours water on the union of shiva-shakti as the linga. There is ofcourse the exception-
In ekambreshwara there is no dhara, as the linga is made of a particular sort of sand, the local priest told me that it was made from some sort of pheromone of the sevet cat, which might constitute parts of the linga, but I saw the linga and it looked very unique in its own way, Long tapered and most definitely made of some water soluble material. I did not know at that time that this represented the place where Parvati made this linga out of sand and meditated on it for eons until shiva descended from his own trance pulled to his love.
The esoteric Representation:
This place to me represents the Muladhara-chakra. The base chakra of the human anatomy, where the sleeping kundalini sleeps around a so called svayambu (self made) linga. The rising kundalini wakes up and then we can see ‘her’ in all her glory, in her benign yet powerful radiant and beautiful form as the virgin energy looking for her other half. The linga becomes the union of shiva consciousness and Kamakshi/Tripurasundari Power. This is what people at kamakshi must have felt, when they built the grand idol and the shri yantra forever capturing (or trying to) the eternal beauty of the feminine (the youth, virility and fertility- all for which kamakshi is known for- granting boons to finish kama/desires once and for all to reach her).
The place is very crowded due to the presence of the kama-kothi peeth established by following shankaracharyas over time. The place hosts over a thousand old temples in a few kilometer radius (it is also known as a temple town across south india). But the shine and grace of goddess and the strength and stability of the Sand/Stone god of consciousness are the reasons why this place till date comes alive in the hearts of devotees of life wherever they may be,
They always come back to the golden feet of Devi Kamakshi~