January 16, 2010

A historical temple on which the city was named - Kalikambal Temple, Chennai, India

Kalikambal Temple, which is located in the northern Chennai of South India, might not be known to most of the people in Chennai today. But, it is surprising to know that this is one of the few temples of “original” Chennai city, and even the city got its name from this temple. Let us explore about this historically important temple of Chennai in this post.

The temple is located at Thambu Chetty Street, George Town area, in Chennai city of South India.

Kalikambal, the main deity of the temple, was once called as “Neithal Nila Kamakshi”, “Chennamman” and “Kottai Amman” (Kottai mean fort in Tamil language). The area where the temple is located got the name “Chenna Patinnam” or “Chennai Kuppam” due to this goddess. The British East India Company brought Chennaikuppam, Madras Kuppam and Vadavarukuppam in 1639 CE. In Madras Kuppam aka Madrasa Pattinam, the company built a fort (the St. George Fort of current Chennai located near beach). As the original temple of Kalikambal was located inside the fort area, the company wanted to shift the temple to somewhere else for security reasons. Thus, the idol was shifted to Thambu Chetty Street of today’s George Town area, and a new temple was constructed there in 1640 CE.

It is believed that a fierce ugra form of the goddess was held in worship earlier, and it was replaced with the Shanta Swaroopa (calm) form of Kamakshi aka Kalikambal. At the foot of the goddess is present the Meru, which is believed to have been installed by Adi Shankaracharya. It is believed that the saints such as Vyasa, Agastya,Angreesa, and Varuna have worshipped the goddess. Kuber is believed to have worshipped the deity who is said to have bestowed him with wealth and prosperity. In 1667 CE, the great Maratha ruler Shivaji visited this temple and worshipped the goddess. The great Tamil poet, Subramanya Bharathiar, when he was working for Swadesha Mithran, used to visit this temple often. He song the famous “Yadumaki Ninrai Kali” song on this deity.

The temple has a small Raja gopuram (tower). The main shrine enshrines Kalikambal aka Kamakshi. The idol is strikingly beautiful and at the foot Meru is situated.

Near the entrance of the main shrine, the utsava idols of Kalikambal along with Saraswathi and Lakshmi are located in a separate shrine, which is full of mirrors.

Adjacent to the main shrine, there is a shrine for Arunachaleswar (Shiva) with Unnamalai, and another shrine for Kamadeswarar with Ambal. Kamadeswarar (a form of Shiva) is another main deity of this temple. This temple is actually called as Kalikambal Kamadeswarar Temple.

In the prakara around the main shrine, there are also shrines for Subramanya with Valli-Devasena, Navagraha, and Veera Brahma Sankarar (a guru). The idols of Chandikeswarar, Chandikeswari, Brahma Vidya, Bhairav, Surya, Chandra, Vaishnavi, Mahalakshmi, Durga, Brahma, Dakshinamurti, Ganesha, Durga, Subramanya, Vishnu and Vinayaka are located around the main shrine of Kalikambal.

In the prakara (the corridor surrounding the shrine), there is a shrine for Subramanya along with his consorts Valli and Devasena. There is another shrine for Ganesha along with his consorts Siddhi and Buddhi. The sub-shrines of Gayatri, Durga, Virata Vishwa Brahmam, and Veerabhadra are also found in the outer prakara. Virata Vishwa Brahmam, as per some beliefs, is believed to be the supreme God who created even Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The highlight of Veerabhadra shrine is that there is an idol of Kali also. You can find Veerabhadra and Kali idols together only in few temples. There is a big idol of Pratyangira Devi which has been installed recently. There is also a separate idol for Ganesha located in the prakara.

Happy travelling!

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