August 10, 2009

Velleeswarar Temple, Mylapore, Chennai

Velleswarar temple is the third Sapta Sthana Shiva temple (most important seven temples) of Mylapore in Chennai. (The first and second Sapta Sthana Shiva temples are Karaneeswarar temple and Theerthapaleeswara temple.) The temple is located at the South Mada street and is very close to the famous landmark of Chennai - Kapaleeswara temple.


As per the legend, a rat incidentally raised the lamp's wicks which was about to burn out, while it was trying to eat the ghee from the lamp. Lord Shiva, who was pleased with the rat, blessed it so that it was reborn as Mahabali in the next birth. 

Mahabali, the grandson of Bhakta Prahalada, was known for his charity and his power. The Devas were jealous of him. They sought Vishnu's help to pull him down. Vishnu took the incarnation of Vamana (a dwarf) and was about to ask for three feet of space from Bali. Sukracharya, the Guru of Mahabali, came to know about this. He tried to stop Mahabali but the latter did not listen. Hence, the Guru took the form of a bee and entered the kamandala vessel of Vamana. He blocked the water from coming out so that the Asura could not grant and fulfill the wishes of dwarf. Knowing this, Vamana pierced the eye of bee and blinded Sukracharya. 

Sukracharya prayed to Lord Shiva of this temple and got his sight back. Hence, Lord Shiva is called as Velleeswarar in this temple. (In Tamil, Velli means Sukra).


It is claimed that this temple is as old as Kapaaleeswarar temple. There is no record on the builder or the construction year. We can assume that the temple was built sometime in the 17th or 18th century CE. It is unknown if there was an originally temple where the current structure stands today. 

Temple Layout and Structure:

The south facing temple has a five tiered Raja Gopuram (tower). The stucco images depicting the stories related to this temple such as rat worshiping Shiv Linga, Vamana with Mahabali and others are found on the tower.

Although the presiding deity of the temple is Shiva, the shrine that faces the entrance has Ganesha. There are people who claim that this temple had only Ganesh shrine in the beginning and later it was extended to add the shrines of Shiva and others. Selva Vinayakar is found seated; behind him Ganesh with his two consorts Siddhi and Buddhi are found in the standing posture in this shrine. It is a rare posture.

The presiding deity Velleeswarar is found as a small Shiv Linga in the east facing shrine. The images of Dwarapalas are found at the entrance of this shrine. Nandi is found facing towards the direction of this shrine. The flag staff, bali peetha and Nandi Mandap are found in the outer corridor.

The Goddess Kamakshi is found in a separate south facing shrine.

Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Lingodbhava, Brahma and Durga are found as the Koshta (niche) idols on the outer wall of the Velleeswarar shrine. Chandikeshwara is found near Brahma, as usual.

The prakara has so many sub-shrines and idols. The idols of Ganesh, Sekkizhar, Mei Kanda Sivam and three other saints, Nalvar, Ulagalanda Perumal, Bhairav, Surya, Veerabhadra, Lakshmi and Saraswati are found.

The sub-shrines of Sapta Matas, Muthukumara Swami with Valli-Devasena, the utsav murtis of Muthukumara Swami-Valli-Devasena, the big utsav murtis of Nataraj-Sivakami-Manickavasagar, the utsav murtis of Somaskanda, Vishwanatha (small Linga) and Annamalai (big Linga)-Unnamalai are all found in the prakara.

The small bronze images of Vyagrapada and Patanjali are also located in the sub-shrine of Nataraj. The sub-shrine of Muthukumara Swami has its own flag staff. Even Kamakshi does not have a separate flag staff. 

There is another bigger sub-shrine which has all the remaining bronze images such as Ganesh, Murugan-Valli-Devasena, Nataraj-Sivakami, Uma-Chandrasekhar, Nalvar, Ulagalanda Perumal and others. All the bronze idols of the temple look very attractive.

Navagraha shrine is found in the outer region. Shaneeswara is found in a separate sub-shrine nearby. There is a small Shiv Linga named as Sukreshwara. Sukra is found worshiping this Linga. 

The newly constructed Sharbeshwara sub-shrine flanked by the shrines of Pratyingira and Shoolini is a major attraction of the temple in the recent times. 

Happy travelling.

1 comment:

  1. You have been depicting a very enchanting series on temples in Chennai. But I get puzzled why you mention the names of all these temples with addional "ar" e.g.Velleswarar. But sometimes you write Kapaleeswara and not Kapalees(h)warar, i.e. with "ar" to it.
    I belong to Maharashtra, but have stayed in South for couple of years.I have great respect about Tamil culture, despite its own rigid ways of pronouncing many Indian words.I look at it w/o any bias.Pl explain, since I feel you have some good knowledge about tamil language and culture thru' study.
    Waman Karnik