Talakad Panchalinga Temples and Panchalinga Darshana

Since the tree that Tala and Kad tried to chop down was a representation of Shiva, many believed that the god had also healed himself when he restored it to good health and transformed the two hunters and host of elephants into immortals.

To commemorate this miracle, Shiva was given the name Vaideyswara and a Shiva linga was built on the spot it took place – which is where the Vaideyswara Temple now stands.

In addition, Shiva was said to have manifested himself in places to the north, south, east, and west of the Vaideyswara Shiva-linga and as a result four more shrines were built to mark these sites.

Called the Arkesvara (east), Patalesvara (south), Maralesvara (west), and Mallikarjuna (north), these shrines together with the Vaideyswara are collectively known as the Panchalinga Temples and are believed to represent the five faces of Shiva.

The five Panchalinga temples of Talakad are worshipped during a festival called the Panchalinga Darshana, which attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims from throughout India. Indeed, the Arkesvara, Patalessvara, and Maralesvara actually have to be excavated from the dunes especially for the occasion, only to be quickly reclaimed by the sands once it is over.

The timing of the festival is calculated according to a complex astronomical formula with stipulates that it must take place not just on a new moon day of the Karthika (eighth) month of the Hindu lunar calendar (this normally corresponds to November in the solar calendar), but also on a Monday and when the sun is in Scorpio.

This means that the Panchalinga Darshana can occur at various intervals, though generally there is a gap of around twelve years between each one. The most recent festival was held in November 2009. The next one is scheduled to take place in 2018.

According to the tradition, pilgrims first bathe in the Gokarnatirtha Lake (where the elephants used to swim) and then make their devotions to the main deity at the Vaideyswara after worshipping at the Chamundeshwari Temple. The pilgrims then go on to the other four Panchalinga temples, stopping off to bathe in stretches of the Cauvery River before praying inside each shrine and returning to the Vaideyswara before visiting the next one. Finally, the pilgrims conclude their devotions at the Kirthi Narayana Temple.

Pilgrims have to complete the ritual in a single day, and cover a distance of over 25km barefoot in what must be an exhausting trek. They believe that it will help them attain prosperity and peace.

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