January 16, 2010

Worshipped by Tortoise - Kachaleeswarar Temple, Chennai, India

Kachaleeswarar or Kachabeswarar means “the Lord worshipped by a tortoise”. As Lord Vishnu took the form of a tortoise (Koorma incarnation) and worshipped Lord Shiva, Shiva got the name “Kachabeswara”.

Kachaleeswarar temple is located at Armenian Street in the George Town area of Chennai, South India. The main railway station of the Chennai city, Central Railway Station is located at a distance of around 3.5km from this temple.

There is a famous temple for Lord Kachabeswara in Kanchipuram city, which is around 75 kms from Chennai. Talavay Chettiar, a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva used to visit Kachabeswara temple in Kanchipuram whenever he wished to. But during one of such visits, he could not reach Kanchipuram due to heavy rains and had to return. He was extremely sad over the incident. Then, he built a temple for the same God – Kachabeswara in Chennai. He took eight years to complete the work, and the temple got completed in the year 1720 CE. In due course, the name of the Lord became Kachaleeswara.

The main deity of the temple, Kachaleeswarar, is portrayed with five seats – koormasanam (tortoise), ashtanagasanam (eight serpents), simhasanam (lion), yugasanam (time), and kamala vimalasanam (lotus flower). Lord Shiva is portrayed as lingam in all the South Indian temples. But in this temple, at the back side of the lingam, Lord Shiva is portrayed with five heads as Sadasivamurti along with his consort Manonmani. This is something rare which cannot be found in the other temples. Also, the tortoise at the foot of Shiva linga is Lord Vishnu. The main goddess Soundarambikai is found in a separate shrine.

The inner prakara (corridor surrounding the main shrines) has a lot of small shrines for various gods and godesses such as Panchamukha Vinayaka (Ganesha with five faces) along with his consorts, Shanmukha with his consorts, Nalvar, Natraj with Sivakami, 63 nayanmars, Navagrahas in which Surya alone is found with his consorts, Somaskanda and Durga. There are idols such as Ganesha, Karthikeya, Dakshinamurti, Ganesha, Lingodbhava, Brahma, Durga, Chandikeswarar, various forms of Shakthis, Akora Veerabhadra, Bhairav, Saraswathi, Lakshmi, Varadaraja (Vishnu), and Dattatreya.

The bigger prakara (corridor) of the temple has shrines of Ganesha, Karthikeya with his consorts, Subramanya, Adi Shankara, Hanuman, Ayyappa, and Shasta along with his consorts.

When you find time, don’t miss to visit this historical ancient temple.

Happy travelling.

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