Jalakandeswarar Temple – The Temple
The temple is located in Vellore Fort. The Fort is surrounded by moats (Agazhi) with water, to all three sides. The main entrance is located on the south side. The Raja gopuram is of seven tiers and there are three prakarams. The Gopuram of the tower is over 100 ft. in height. The Jalakandeswarar Temple is a fine example of Vijayanagara Architecture. The temple has exquisite carvings on its gopuram (tower), richly carved stone pillars, large wooden gates and stunning monoliths and sculptures.
The temple is adorned with some remarkable sculptures and the best is found on the left side of the entrance, a verandah which contains monolithic pillars of grandeur and delicacy of execution. There are impressive sculptures in the temple particularly outside the swami shrine and inside the main mandapam. These Vijayanagara sculptures are similar to the ones present in Soundara Raja Perumal Temple, Thadikombu, Krishnapuram Venkatachalapathy Temple, Srivilliputtur Divya Desam and Alagar Koyil.
Hindu Trinity with their consorts – Lord Vishnu with Mother Mahalakshmi, Lord Brahmma with Mother Saraswathi and Lord Shiva with Mother Parvathi grace the devotees in the temple. The temple also has a Mandapam, with the hall supported by carved stone pillars of dragons, horses and Yalis (lion like creature). The temple itself built in middle of a water tank (called Agazhi in Tamil), and there is water surround the temple like a garland. The circumference of the water tank is 8000 ft.
Main Deity in the temple is Siva Lingam known as Jalakandeswarar (Jalakandeswarar means ‘Siva resides in water’) and his consort known as Akilandeswari Amman. Urchavar here in this temple is Somaskandar, Chandrasekharar. Sthala Vriksham is Vanni. Kalyana Mandapam is located after entering inside through Rajagopuram. The wedding hall or the Kalyana Mandapam of the temple is as beautiful as the 1000 pillared Mandapam in Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple.
The wedding hall inside the temple has a 2 faced sculpture, that of a bull and an elephant. Pushkarani and Golden Chariot in a closed shed are located to the right side of Kalyana Mandapam. The water user for bathing the deity (abishekam) is drawn from an ancient well called the Ganga Gowri Theertham, within the temple. The well has a natural spring in itself and not dug. A Siva Lingam found from the well is installed near and it is well known as Ganga Palaru Eswarar. As we move further, Kala Bairavar, Navagrahams and Saneeswarar are seen.
There is an earthern lamp on the Balipeeta behind the Adhikara Nandhi (the bull vehicle of Lord Shiva) which would revolve when some people place their hands on it. The revolving is said to indicate that their wishes have been granted. But it doesn’t revolve in all the cases and till today nobody knows the reason. Some devotees of the temple worship the golden and silver lizard sculptures and the snake sculptures in order to get relief from 'Sarpa Dosham'. On the Kanu Festival or Mattu Pongal day (January), special abisheks are performed to Adhikara Nandhi.
The sanctum sanctorum is a small low building and at the entrance there are dwarakapalas in blue granite. Sculpture work on the ceilings and pillars are rich in its characteristics. Kodi Maram and Nandi are located in front of sanctum facing Lord Jalakandeswarar. Inside the Garbha graham main deity Jalakandeswarar is seen in Linga form with Rudraksha mala mandapam above him. Goddess Akilandeswari Amman is seen in separate sanctum in the inner prakaram of the temple when we go around the main sanctum. To the outer walls of Amman sanctum we get the darshan of Vinayakar, Madeswari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Lakshmi and Saraswathi.
In the outer prakara there is a well which has a stone door way opening on a point which is usually below water level. The underground mandapa or Neerazhi Mandapa is said to lead to a subterranean passage leading to the River Palar. A torch called Navasakthi Jyothi is in front of the Goddess – Amman shrine. It never extinguishes and round in shape. The main flame (Jyoti) is at the centre and eight around it. A great lamp above the Jyoti has a diameter of 27 inches representing the 27 stars starting from Ashwini to Revathi. This is called Star Deepa – Nakshatra Deepa.
Inner prakaram can be accessed through another gopuram and a huge Valampuri Vinayakar is located here. Shrines of Selva Vinayakar, Venkatesha Perumal, Subramanyar with his consorts Valli and Devayani, and Adi Sankara, 63 Nayanmars as stone sculptures, Saptha Kanniar and Veerabhadrar are located in the inner prakaram. Shrines of Vinayakar, Dakshina Moorthy, Mahavishnu, Brahma, Durgai, Urchava moorthy of 63 Nayanmars, Somaskandar and Valli Devasena idols can be found in the third prakaram.