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Stambheshwar, Lord Shiva who plays hide and seek in the sea

Dr. A K Chatterjee is a seasoned writer with more than 330 blogs in English and Bengali and 10 books mostly on travel, trekking and temples.

Stambheshwar temple; Kavi Kamboi, Gujarat

Stambheshwar temple; Kavi Kamboi, Gujarat

Introduction

There are Shiva temples which are famous for one or more of a myriad of reasons. Some are of great religious significance like the "Dwadash Jyotirlingam" temples distributed in different states of India or "Panch Kedar" temples in the Himalayas or the "Panch Bhuta lingam" temples in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh; some are famous for the size of the Shiva Lingam like the Vrihadishwarar temple of Thanjabhur of Tamil Nadu or the Maha Bhairav temple of Tezpur, Assam; some are famous for the material by which the Shivalingam is made of like the Amarnath Lingam of Kashmir which is made of ice or the "Parad" Shiva Lingams of several places where the Lingam is made of mercury; some are famous for their locations like the Tunganath temple (one of the five Panch Kedar temples) which is the Shiva temple situated at the highest altitude etc.

But there are at least three Shiva temples where the Shiva Lingam plays hide and seek with the devotees in the sense that the Lingam is submerged in the sea during high tides and reappear during the low tides. These temples are the Gangeshwar temple of Diu, the Nishkalank Mahadeva temple near Bhavnagar, Gujarat and the third is the Stambheshwar temple of Kavi Kamboi, Gujarat.

The subject of the present article is the Stambheshwar temple.

Stambheshwar Shiva temple

Stambheshwar Shiva temple

Stambheshwar Shiva Lingam in the process of being submerged in sea water

Stambheshwar Shiva Lingam in the process of being submerged in sea water

Location

The Stambheshwar temple is situated on the shore of the Gulf of Cambay or Khambat (which is a part of the Arabian Sea) in the village of Kavi Kamboi in Jambusar Taluka in Bharuch district of the state of Gujarat. It is located about 80 km from Vadodara, the second largest city of Gujarat.

Stambheshwar temple (in the distant background) on the shore of Gulf of Khambat

Stambheshwar temple (in the distant background) on the shore of Gulf of Khambat

Stambheshwar temple on the shore of Gulf of Khambat

Stambheshwar temple on the shore of Gulf of Khambat

Legends

This temple is associated with the legend of the killing of Tadakasura, an evil demon, by Lord Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva.

In Hindu mythology, the great sage Kashyapa had two wives - Diti and Aditi. The Deva-s or gods are the sons of Aditi, and the Asura-s or demons are the sons of Diti.
One of the sons of Diti and Kashyapa was Vajranga. Vajranga had a son named Tadakasura by his wife Varangi. Though an Asura (demon) by birth, Tadakasura was very pious by nature, and he was a great devotee of Lord Bramha, the Creator in Hindu mythology. Tadakasura meditated for many years to please Lord Bramha, and got the boon of being almost invincible, and none other than a boy of seven years of age would be able to defeat and kill him.
Getting this boon and the (almost) unlimited power associated with it, Tadakasura gradually became wicked as the power corrupted him. He defeated the gods and conquered the universe. The gods were helpless as Tadakasura was invincible by Lord Brahma's boon. So, they went to Lord Brahma and asked for mercy, and a way to kill Tadakasura.
Lord Brahma, now angry with Tadakasura for misusing the power of the boon granted to him, told the gods that only a son of Lord Shiva could kill Tadakasura.
The gods went to Lord Shiva and narrated everything. Lord Shiva agreed to have a son who would be able to kill Tadakasura, and thus Lord Kartikeya was born.
Lord Kartikeya, at the age of seven years, fought and killed Tadakasura.
However, the story does not end here.
After killing Tadakusura, Kartikeya was very aggrieved, because though a demon, Tadakusura was pious and a great devotee of Lord Brahma, and Kartikeya had actually sinned by killing him. To atone his sin, Kartikeya established three Shiva Lingams in different places and worshiped those.
Stambheshwar Shiva Lingam is one of them.

Lord Shiva and GoiddessDurga with baby Kartikeya; terracotta relief work; Rameshwar temple; Ilambazar, Birbhum; West Bengal

Lord Shiva and GoiddessDurga with baby Kartikeya; terracotta relief work; Rameshwar temple; Ilambazar, Birbhum; West Bengal

History

Though as per the mythology, the Shiva lingam at Stambheshwar was established by Lord Kartikeya and the temple was built by the gods, the current temple was constructed only about 150 years ago.

Journey to Kavi Kamboi

For outsiders, the best starting point of a journey to Kavi Kamboi is Vadodara, the second largest city of Gujarat. Vadodara is well connected with different parts of India by rail, road and air.

From Vadodara cars and bigger vehicles are available to go to Kavi Kamboi situated at a distance of about 80 km.
The road is very good except at few places. From Vadodara to Padra the road is an excellent 4-lane highway. From Padra to Jambusar the road is 2-laned, but road surface is good, but in Jambusar the road condition is not so good. From Jambusar the road is good, though mostly single lane and narrow.

Vadodara Railway Station

Vadodara Railway Station

The road from Vadodara to Padra

The road from Vadodara to Padra

Padra; from this road junction the right handed road goes towards Jambusar.

Padra; from this road junction the right handed road goes towards Jambusar.

Road from Padra to Jambusar

Road from Padra to Jambusar

Scroll to Continue
Arriving at Kavi Kamboi

Arriving at Kavi Kamboi

Kavi Kamboi

Kavi Kamboi is a small village on the Gulf of Khambat. There are few dwelling houses of the inhabitants. The chief attraction of this desolate place is the temple of Stambheshwar Shiva which stands at the end of the beach on shoreline. During low tide, the sea water retreats about 100 meters from the temple. The "sea" is actually a part of the Gulf of Khambat, and the town of Khambat can be seen across the waters at the distant horizon. The beach is sandy, but the water is completely muddy.

There is a big Ashram with a large multistoried building just opposite to the temple over an elevated land where one can have free good quality vegetarian lunch, or can stay.

There are some make-shift stalls near the temple which serve food and drinks at a reasonable price. There is a parking place near these stalls where one can park vehicle without any charge.

The main gate of the temple is near the road, and from the gate a long canopied pathway leads to the temple.

Stambheshwar temple with the canopied pathway in front

Stambheshwar temple with the canopied pathway in front

The main gate of Stambheshwar temple

The main gate of Stambheshwar temple

Stalls serving snacks and drinks; Kavi Kamboi

Stalls serving snacks and drinks; Kavi Kamboi

The Ashram which serves free vegetarian food to the devotees

The Ashram which serves free vegetarian food to the devotees

Getting ready to serve the lunch at the Ashram

Getting ready to serve the lunch at the Ashram

Visitors enjoying free lunch at the Ashram

Visitors enjoying free lunch at the Ashram

The beach; Kavi Kamboi

The beach; Kavi Kamboi

Gulf of Khambat during low tide; Kavi Kamboi

Gulf of Khambat during low tide; Kavi Kamboi

The temple

The temple of Stambheshwar Shiva stands at the end of the beach on shoreline, and is connected with the road by a long canopied pathway. The temple is said to be about 150 years old.

The architectural style of the temple does not follow the standard temple architecture like the Nagara (North Indian) style or the Dravida (South Indian) style.
To start with, there is no wall of the temple. It stands on a number of "Stambh"-s or pillars. There is an outer ring or polygon (10 or 12 sided) supported by the same number of pillars, and an inner hexagon with 6 pillars. The inner area represents the sanctum housing the Shiva Lingam.
From outside, the temple is two storied. The lower bigger portion is polygonal, and the upper smaller portion is hexagonal. The roof consists of corrugated tin, painted red.
There is a "Parikrama Path" or pathway to perform circumambulation of the Shiva lingam, from which one can enter the sanctum.
The sanctum is constructed in such a way that it is few feet below the "Parikrama Path".
On the western or sea-facing side of the sanctum, there are 4 channels through which sea water can enter the sanctum during high tides.

Stambheshwar temple from the front of the main gate

Stambheshwar temple from the front of the main gate

Stambheshwar temple from one side

Stambheshwar temple from one side

Stambheshwar temple

Stambheshwar temple

The canopied pathway leading to the temple

The canopied pathway leading to the temple

The sanctum as seen from the "Parikrama Path"; Stambheshwar temple

The sanctum as seen from the "Parikrama Path"; Stambheshwar temple

The hexagonal ceiling of the sanctum; Stambheshwar temple

The hexagonal ceiling of the sanctum; Stambheshwar temple

The Shiva Lingam

The stone built Shiva lingam is about 4 feet tall, with a diameter of about 1.5 feet. during low tide, when it is out of water, it is decorated by a big silver made snake with a broad hood with 10 mouths. The snake coils round the Shiva Lingam. The snake is removed before the high tide when the Lingam goes under the water.

Though in other temples Shiva Lingam is worshiped by white flowers specially Datura flowers ("Devil's Trumpet"), here the Lingam is worshiped specially by red or pink water lilies.

Shiva Lingam, Stambheshwar; please note the silver snake with a broad hood with 10 mouths.

Shiva Lingam, Stambheshwar; please note the silver snake with a broad hood with 10 mouths.

Shiva Lingam, Stambheshwar; a close view

Shiva Lingam, Stambheshwar; a close view

Shiva Lingam is worshiped by pink Water Lily; Stambheshwar

Shiva Lingam is worshiped by pink Water Lily; Stambheshwar

The silver snake kept aside during the high tide; Stambheshwar

The silver snake kept aside during the high tide; Stambheshwar

The Nandi idol

Every Shiva temple has an idol of Nandi the Bull, the "Vahana" or mount of Lord Shiva. The Nandi idol is usually placed a little away from the Shiva lingam, but almost always facing the Lingam (there are only a few rare exceptions to this placement of the Nandi idol).

Here, there are two Nandi idols. One, a small stone-built Nandi idol is near the sanctum, and it seems an old idol. There is, however, a big black Nandi idol placed in a separate small temple placed a little away from the main temple at a height higher than the main temple. This Nandi idol seems to be a new one.

The smaller, older Nandi idol inside the main temple; Stambheshwar

The smaller, older Nandi idol inside the main temple; Stambheshwar

The much bigger, new Nandi in a separate temple; Stambheshwar

The much bigger, new Nandi in a separate temple; Stambheshwar

A closer view of the big Nandi idol; Stambheshwar

A closer view of the big Nandi idol; Stambheshwar

The disappearing act of the Shiva Lingam

The temple is constructed in such a way that during low tides the sanctum is dry, and devotees can perform "Puja" (worship). However, during high tides, sea water enters the sanctum, first through the 4 channels, and then as sea water level rises, flooding the the temple.

During very high tides during the full moons and the new moons, the lower portion of the temple gets completely submerged. Even the canopied pathway connecting the temple to the main gate near the road is also submerged.
The scene of sea water entering the sanctum gradually drowning the Shiva lingam is really fascinating. It looks like as if Varuna Deva, the god of the Sea, is doing a "Jalabhishek" (Worshiping by bathing with water) of the Shiva Lingam.

Stambheshwar Shiva Lingam during low tide

Stambheshwar Shiva Lingam during low tide

Sea water starts entering into the sanctum at the beginning of the high tide

Sea water starts entering into the sanctum at the beginning of the high tide

Sea water just touched the Shiva Lingam; Stambheshwar

Sea water just touched the Shiva Lingam; Stambheshwar

The Shiva Lingam has started to submerge

The Shiva Lingam has started to submerge

The Shiva Lingam is more than half submerged

The Shiva Lingam is more than half submerged

Only the top of the Shiva Lingam is visible now, the rest of it submerged in water

Only the top of the Shiva Lingam is visible now, the rest of it submerged in water

Wow! The Shiva Lingam has vanished! It is totally under sea water now.

Wow! The Shiva Lingam has vanished! It is totally under sea water now.

Conclusion

Stambheshwar is a special temple, and though architecturally it is not very significant, the fact that the Shiva Lingam gets submerged in sea water twice daily is no doubt a great attraction to all, devotee or not.

Interestingly, there is a Hindu temple called the " Temple in the Sea" dedicated to Lord Shiva, Goddess Durga, Ganesha, Hanuman and Krishna built inside the Gulf of Paria at Waterloo, Carapichaima, Trinidad and Tobago (one of the countries of the West Indies). The interesting history of the temple can be read from Wikipedia.

Final words

Reference :

Different internet sites including the official site of the temple and Wikipadia.

* All photos are by the author.

* Date of visit : 11 June 2022

© 2022 Dr A K Chatterjee

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