While the earliest recorded historical references to Talakad are from the 3rd century AD, the mythical origins of the place stretch back much further to a fantastical legend that explains how the town was given its name and why it became the site of a collection of five Shiva linga temples popularly known as the Panchalinga.
According to the tale, a great ascetic called Somadatta was meditating in Kashi (modern-day Varanasi) together with a reported 16,000 followers when he was asked by Shiva to migrate with them to the place where Talakad now stands. At that time, this was called Gajaaranyam (Gaja means elephant; aaranyam means jungle) because of the elephants that roamed the jungle there.
When they arrived at their destination, the sage and his disciples were all killed by wild elephants and subsequently reincarnated as pachyderms themselves because of their cries of “elephants” when they were dying. In this new form, they continued to worship Shiva and spent their time bathing in a small lake called the Gokarnatirtha and showering lotus flowers on a tree that they had adopted as a linga (shrine) to the deity.
Then one day two hunters, some say brothers, called Tala and Kad came along and started to chop the tree down. To their horrified surprise, the tree started gushing blood as soon it had been hit and they realized that they had struck at a Shiva-linga.
When they begged for forgiveness, Tala and Kad were instructed by a heavenly voice to dress the wound with a paste made out of leaves and fruit from the tree. By applying this balm, the hunters not only healed the tree, but also turned the blood into milk. When they drank this, the two men became immortal and were transformed into “Pramathagenas” (Shiva’s hosts), and were quickly followed into heaven by the elephants. To commemorate this event, the place then became known as Talakad.