May 15, 2010

Chokkeesar Temple - Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram is one of the seven holy sites for Hindus. The ancient town is located at a distance of around 75 kms from Chennai city in Tamil Nadu state of India. The town is said to have more than one thousand temples. However,  although one thousand temples cannot be found currently, there are about one hundred important and ancient temples found across the town. Let us discuss about Chokkeesar Temple in this article. 

This small beautiful Chola period  temple is located in the North Mada Street, diagonally opposite to the popular Kamakshi Amman temple, .

This is one of the oldest temples of Kanchipuram, which survives in its original form. As per the inscription, the deity was called as Therkirunda Nakkar in those days. It is believed that the temple was built by the Cholas in the 11th century CE. (There is difference of opinion among the historians on the exact period of the temple. There are few who date this temple to 9th/10th century CE.) 

As per a not so popular legend, Kausiki's (Durga) skin turned dark after she killed two Asuras Sumbha and Nisumbha. She worshiped Shiva in this site and got her original complexion back. 

The sanctum enshrines Shiv Linga called as Chokkeesar or Kausikeswarar. The complex does not have any other shrine. The entire structure of the temple along with the vimana which is completely made in granite, (instead of brick and mortar) looks very attractive. 

The ceiling of the sanctum has the images of fish and snake capturing Sun and Moon that depicts the eclipse.

The vimana is single tiered  Vesara Vimana. Generally, in Eka Tala Vimana, karna kootam cannot be found. Hence, this vimana is unusual as it has karna kootam as well as the images of Nandis. 

There is a small Ardha Mandap. However, the other portions of temple such as Mukha Mandap are missing.  

In the sanctum, long with Shiv Linga, the Goddess Kamakshi is also found. Usually in Kanchipuram, Shiv Linga is not found along with the Goddess. Although the image of Kamakshi is recently installed, it is unusual to find the Goddess in a Shiva temple of Kanchi.

Ganesh, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Vishnu Durga are found as the Koshta idols. However except the icon of Ganesh which is slightly older, all other icons are installed only in 2009 CE.  

The greeva koshta murtis are original and look very attractive. Dakshinamurti, Narasimha and Brahma are found as the greeva koshta murtis. 

Nandi is found facing the sanctum. A small Ganesh idol is found near the entrance of the sanctum. 

The major highlight of the temple is the presence of beautiful miniature images inside the Kapota Nasikas. The images depict snake worshiping Shiv Linga, monkey worshiping Linga, the Goddess worshiping Linga, Shiv-Shakti, Shiv Linga, and so on.

Happy travelling.

Note: I have visited this temple multiple times and this article was posted originally in 2010 CE. In 2018 CE, I got an opportunity to visit the site again with Dr. Sankara Narayanan as the guide. He is a scholar in multiple subjects including history, temple art and architecture. In this visit, I gathered few technical details which helped me to update this article. Thanks to Tamil Heritage Trust for organizing this tour.

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