In ancient times, a krosham was reckoned as a distance of around 1.3 miles (about 2.08 km) in today’s measurements. Pancha Krosham refers to a distance of 5 kroshams, or 6.5 miles (approximately 10.4 km).
Back in the day, some temples were identified as being within that range (which must have had some symbolic or practical meaning, which is lost now). Even now, it is a custom to visit all of those temples on the same day.
There are five main sets of Pancha Krosha sthalams in India. These are at Kasi, Ujjain, Kumbakonam, Pazhaiyarai and Tirunelveli. There are others as well, such as the Kuttalam Pancha Krosha Sthalam.
The use of “pancha” (meaning five) may be confusing when compared to sapta sthanam (sapta meaning 7). While Sapta in the context of Sapta sthanam refers to the number of temples, pancha in the context of pancha krosha sthalams represents a unit of distance. So there could be any number of temples which are together regarded as a pancha krosha sthalam.
In today’s scenario, there are likely to be several temples within a shorter distance, or there may be other temples within the distance of five kroshams of a given central point. The fact that these temples are specifically identified as pancha krosha sthalam temples, suggests that these were perhaps really old temples that existed much before several other temples came up.