Groups of temples constitute pilgrimage clusters all
over India. Thus we have the Pancha Bhoota shrines dedicated
to Shiva, the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines all over India,
the Alwar Nava Tirupati shrines of Tirunelveli district
in Tamilnadu, Arupadai Veedu shrines of Skanda and so
on. Temples in each group are linked through a common
thread of legends and beliefs. The Pancharama temples
in Andhra Pradhesh constitute an example of one of these
groups of pilgrimage centers.
Several puranic legends are associated with these five
shrines and the foremost of it has to do with the destruction
of the demon Tarakasura by Skanda.
Legend has it that when Subramanya killed the demon
Tarakasura, the Shivalingam in his throat broke and
fell in five different spots, which became the Pancharama
kshetras. The foremost of these is Amareswara at Amaravati
where Indra and the Devas are believed to have worshipped
Shiva. The others are Draksharama, Kumararama at Kotipalli,
Bheemarama at Samalkota and Ksheerarama or Palakollu.
Some beliefs refer to Amararama, Draksharama, Somarama
at Bhimavaram, Bhimarama or Kumararama at Samalkota
and Ksheerarama at Palakollu as the five Pancharama
Kshetras, while some even refer to the Chalukya Bhimeswara
temple at Bhimavaram as Bhimarama. Thus we also have
Draksharama, Amararama, Kumararama at Kotipalli, Ksheerarama
at Palakollu and Bhimarama at Bhimavaram constituting
the five Pancharama kshetras.
By all accounts Draksharama, Amararama and Ksheerarama
housing tall columnar Shivalingams fall in to the scheme
of all classifications. Kumararama at Samalkota houses
a tall Shivalingam too and so do Somarama and the Bhimeswara
temples at Bhimeswaram. Thus six temples fall into this
classification with unique features common to the Pancharama
temples. Although sources refer to Kotipalli as Kumararama,
its legends related to the river Godavari outweigh references
to the Tarakasura vada myth.
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 ten feet high Shivalingam
at the Draksharama temple).
While the Arupadai veedu shrines represent the Soorasamhaara
mythology (Skanda) in Tamilnadu, the pancharama shrines
are linked with the Taaraka vada mythology again related
Yet another legend has it that when Shiva destroyed
the three Tripuras (Tripura Samharam), all that was
left was a Shivalingam, and that he divided it into
five pieces and placed them for worship at the Pancharama
It is also beleived that the Amaravati and the Draksharama
shrines were originally centers of Buddhist worship.
Yet another legend links the pancharama kshetras. The
five Shivalingams worshipped at these shrines are said
to be a part of a single Shivalingam said to have been
created by Surya or the Sun God. This original Shivalingam
is said to have been held in worship by the seven rishis
- Kasyapa, Atri, Gowtama, Kousika, Bharadwaja, Vasishta
and Jamadagni. These rishis are believed to be present
in the seven tributaries of Godavari, of which the Bharadwaja,
Kousika and Jamadagni Godavaris are not in existence
anymore. It is believed that the seven rishis brought
water into the Godavari river from their points of origin.
It is also believed that the waters from the seven tributaries
constitute the water sources in the temple tank