January 16, 2010

Kalikambal Temple - Chennai

Did the great Maratha King Sivaji visit Chennai? Did the Britishers demolish a temple to build Fort St. George? Is the city named after a Goddess? Let me discuss about all these in this article on Kalikambal Temple.

Who is Kalikambal? 

Kali is a ferocious form of Goddess in Hinduism. She is also called as Kalika. Hence, Kalika Ambal refers to Kali. Similar to Delhi (Kalkaji mandir) and Kolkata, Chennai city also has an ancient temple of Kali.

Where is this temple located?

Kalikambal Temple is located in Thambu Chetty Street in George Town area. It is easily reachable from Parrys Corner or Beach Railway Station.

Kalika or Kamakshi?

Although the Goddess of the temple is called as Kalika, the iconography of the idol does not resemble any form of Kali. She is found in the seated posture similar to that of Kamakshi. She is also called as "Neithal Nila Kamakshi".

Although there is no historical evidence or record, it is widely believed that the original temple of Kalikambal was located in the area where the Fort St. George is found. The temple was reportedly shifted to the current location in the 1640s by the Britishers.

It is also believed that the original ferocious form of the Goddess (Kalika form) was replaced with the new idol of Kamakshi.

As the temple was shifted from the fort area to a new location, there are people who call the Goddess as "Kottai Amman". (The word "kottai" means fort in Tamil language).

Chenni Amman

It is also believed that the Goddess was also called as Chenni Amman in those days. No historical book support this. But, still there are few people who claim that the original Chenna pattinam village was named after Chenni Amman. (Chenna pattinam and the other adjoining villages developed as the modern day Chennai.)

Did Sivaji visit the temple?

There are historians who argue that Sivaji, the great Maratha King, never visited Chennai city. However, the temple authorities strongly claim that he had visited the temple on 3rd October 1677 CE.

What do historians say?

The historians do not deny that the current temple is there in this location from the middle of the 17th century CE. However, they are unable to say when this temple was built and by whom.


As per the temple authorities, Bharatiar had visited this temple and had authored his famous "Yadhumagi Ninrai Kali" on Kalikambal. (Well, the historians have never denied this so far. :-) )

Mythological Connection

As it is believed that the original temple in the Fort area was there for hundreds of years, there are few legends about this temple.

It is believed that the holy Meru image that is found in the sanctum was installed by Adi Shankaracharya.

It is believed that the sages Agastya, Vyasa and Angeerasa worshiped Kalikambal of this temple. Varun and Kuber are also said to have prayed to the presiding deity of the temple. Kalikambal bestowed Kuber with wealth and prosperity.

Temple Entrance

The temple has two entrances. The east facing entrance is located in Thambu Chetti Street, which is used by most of the people. The west facing entrance is located in Armenian Street. Both the entrances have towers, with lot of stucco images depicting the Goddess in different forms. The temple towers are constructed in the 1980s and they are not very old structures.


The west facing sanctum enshrines the beautiful image of Goddess Kalikambal a.k.a. Kamakshi. She is found with four arms and in the sitting posture. The entrance of the sanctum has two big images of Dwarapalikas. (They are named as Jaya and Vijaya.)

The sanctum is surrounded by a cluster of sub-shrines. The enclosure that contains this sanctum and the other sub-shrines has the south facing entrance.

The flag staff and bali peetha are situated facing outside this enclosure and they face towards the direction of the sanctum.

Brahma Vidya, Saraswati, Vaishnavi, Maheswari and Lakshmi are found as the niche images around the sanctum.


To the right side of the sanctum, the shrine of Kamateswarar, a small Shiv Linga, is located. He is one of the presiding deities of the temple. Actually, the temple is called as Kalikambal Kamateswarar Temple, although Kalikambal has outshoned Kamateswarar in popularity.

Nandi is found facing towards Shiv Linga. The small prakara around this shrine has very small bas relief niche images of Ganesh, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Vishnu Durga. Chandikeshwara is also found.

Inner Prakara

The enclosure which contains the sanctums of Kamateswarar and Kalikambal as well as the inner prakara has few more sub-shrines such as Subramanya-Valli-Devasena, Arunachaleswar-Unnamalai, Brahmendra Swamigal (utsav) and Navagraha. The idols of Ganesh, Subramanya, Shiv Linga, Nagas, Surya, Chandra and Bhairav are also located in this enclosure.

Periya Nayaki

To the backside of the sanctum, there is a big east facing mandap. The bronze idol of Periya Nayaki with Saraswati and Lakshmi on her either sides is found in this mandap. The utsav deity of Kalikambal is called as Periya Nayaki.

Veerabhadra and Kali

In the outer prakara, in a separate sub-shrine, eight armed big image of Veerabhadra and four armed Kali are found. It is not usual to find Bhadra and Kali together in a single shrine in and around Chennai.

Virat Vishwa Brahma

The temple is administered by Vishwakarma community. According to them, the supreme deity is Virat Vishwakarma a.k.a. Virat Vishwa Brahma. The big idol of Virat Vishwa Brahma with five heads and ten arms is found in a separate shrine. As per Vishwakarmas, his consort is Gayatri. She is also found in small sub-shrine nearby.

Pratyingira and Dakshinamurti

The very big stucco idols of Dakshinamurti and Pratyingira Devi seated on lion are new additions to this temple.

Other Shrines

Some of the other shrines that are found in the outer prakara include:

  • Ganesh and Subramanya-Valli-Devasena at the entrance of the enclosure. Subramanya shrine is called as Vada Kathirkamam.
  • Ganesh-Siddhi-Buddhi
  • Subramanya-Valli-Devasena
  • Shanmukha-Valli-Devasena as utsav murtis
  • Nataraj-Sivakami
  • Utsav murti of Durga
  • Ganesh and Naga Subramanya at the entrance of the east facing mandap 

Happy travelling.

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