May 15, 2010

Ekambaranathar Temple, Kanchipuram, India

Site Name: Ekambaranathar  Temple
Site Type: Hindu ancient temple
Location:  Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of the most popular and the biggest temples of Kanchipuram; one of Pancha Bhoota Sthalams; one of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams
Nearest Railway Station: Kanchipuram
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road and train
Hotel: A lot of options across Kanchipuram
Restaurants: A lot of options across Kanchipuram


Kanchipuram is one of the seven holy cities 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, currently although one thousand temples cannot be found, there are about one hundred important and ancient temples found across the town. Let us discuss about one of the most popular temples of the town Ekambaranathar Temple in this article.


Ekambaranathar Temple is one of the popular temples of Kanchipuram town as well as the entire state of Tamil Nadu. Kanchipuram is famous for the temples of Shiva, Shakti and Vishnu. This is the most important Shiva temple of Kanchipuram. It is located at the heart of the city and is located very near to Kamakshi Amman Temple.

Highlights:

  • One of the most popular temples of Tamil Nadu state
  • The most famous Shiva temple of Kanchipuram town
  • This is the first Paadal Petra Sthalam in Thondai region
  • A rare temple which has both Paadal Petra Sthalam and Divya Desam
  • God - Ekambaranathar or Ekambareshwarar
  • Goddess - Kamakshi or Elavar Kuzhali
  • Other names of God - Tiruvegambar, Thaluvak Kuzhainda Nathar
  • Sthala Vruksha (holy tree) - Mango
  • Teerth of Divya Desam - Kamba river, Shiva Ganga, Sarva Teerth
  • Appar, Sambandhar and Sundarar have sung about this temple in their verses
  • It is one of the Pancha Bhoota Sthalams. It represents Earth.
  • Divya Desam Deity - Nila Thingal Thundathan or Chandra Chooda Perumal
  • Divya Desam Goddess - Nila Thinga Thunda Thayaar
  • Divya Desam Teerth - Chandra Pushkarani
  • Divya Desam Vimana - Purushasookta Vimana
  • It is 49th Divya Desam in Thondai region
  • Tirumangai Alwar has sung hymn about this Divya Desam

Legend:

As per the legend, Parvati playfully closed the eyes of Shiva from behind, which resulted in the darkness for the entire universe. To cleanse herself from this sin, Parvati was born as Kamakshi. She came to Kanchipuram, made Shiv Linga out of sand. Hence, Shiv Linga is called as Prithvi Linga. She installed Linga under the mango tree and prayed. Vegavati river overflew and it was about to wash out the sand Linga. To avoid this, Kamakshi hugged Linga tightly. The marks are still seen in Shiv Linga. The mango tree is believed to be there as the Sthala Vruksha in the temple complex. Then, Shiva appeared before her and married her.

There is another legend related to the Divya Desam that is located within the premises of this temple. When Kamakshi was doing penance under the holy mango tree, Shiva wanted to test her devotion and set the tree on fire. She sought the help of Vishnu. Vishnu plucked the moon from the head of Shiva and cooled down the fire. Hence, he obtained the name "Nila Thingal Thundathan".

There is another version for the above mentioned story, which states that during the churning of milky ocean, Vishnu became very warm in order to get nectar. He requested Shiva to alleviate his discomfort by the cool rays of the moon adorning the head of Shiva. Shiva agreed for the same. 


Temple Layout:

Raja Gopura:

The gigantic temple is spread across 23.5 acres. The temple's structures has seen contributions from various dynasties in different periods including Pallavas, Pandyas, Cholas and Vijayanagaras. It is believed that the temple was originally there in this site even before the Pallavas rebuilt it as a stone temple. The south facing 192 feet tall Rajagopura with 9 Talas (tiers) was built by Krishnadeva Raya in the 16th century CE. 

The entrance of the tower has sub shrines enshrining the big idols of Ganesh and Arumugam-Valli-Devasena.


Kamba Teerth:

The mandap that is found immediately after entering into the gopura is called as Sharbheswara Mandap. The holy tank is called as Kamba Teerth, which is located nearby.

Ayirankal Mandap:

The hall with 1008 pillars, which is called as Ayirankal Mandap, that is found inside the temple complex, was built by the Vijayanagar Kings. The architecturally beautiful mandap has 1008 Shiv Lingas. Near this mandap, the sub-shrine of Vikata Shankara Vinayak. The sculptures in the pillars are notably beautiful. Ganesh seated on peacock is a rare sculpture found here.

Shiv Lingas:

Near the flag staff and bali peetha, 16 pillared mandap is located. Another tank named Shiva Ganga Teerth is located. 

A big Nandi mandap as well as another smaller Nandi mandap are located near the flag staff.

The sub-shrines enshrining Shiv Lingas namely Vella Kambar,  Kachi Mayaneeswar and Valeeswarar are located nearby. They were worshiped by  Brahma,  Bhandasura and Vali.

The wall around Kachi Mayaneeswarar shrine has the niche idols of Lingodbhava, Brahma and Durga. 

Towers:

One more south facing tower and another east facing tower are also found in this huge temple.

Entrance of Main Temple:

At the entrance of the main temple area which houses the sanctum, other shrines and the prakaras, has two very big Dwarapala idols. The relief images of Ganesh seated on mouse and Subramanya seated on peacock are found behind the Dwarapalas.

Outer Prakara:

On the way to the outer prakara from the entrance, a part of the mango tree, which is believed to be the original tree of 3500 years old, is found.

A lot of pillared mandaps are located within this prakara area.

Some sub-shrines/sculptures that are found in this prakara:

  • Panel depicting the marriage scene of Shiva and Parvati with the presences of Vishnu and Brahma
  • Pralayakala Amman with eight arms
  • Kalarchinga Nayanar
  • Shiv Linga and Nandi
  • Eight Shiv Lingas and one smaller Shiv Linga
  • Twelve smaller Shiv Lingas
  • Another big Shiv Linga sepearately
  • 108 Shiv Lingas in different sizes
  • Ganesh with five heads and ten arms seated on lion
  • Ganesh
  • Utsav (festival) deities of Ekambareswar and Kamakshi in Gayatri Mandap with Rudraksha ceiling
  • Called as Mavadu Skanda - Shanmukha-Valli-Devasena
  • Ezhavaar Kuzhali utsav deity
  • Big Sahasra Linga - worshiped by Ram
  • Natraj-Shivakami - very big sub-shrine
  • Pralayakala Amman Utsav deity
  • Bhairav
  • Arumuga Nainar with his consorts - Utsav deities
  • Navagraha

Inner Prakara:

At the entrance of the area that includes the inner prakara and the sanctum has two big Dwara palas.

The following idols are found in the inner prakara:

  • 63 Nayanmars
  • Bhikshatana
  • Sowbhagya Ganapati
  • Shakti Ganapati with his consorts
  • Kasi Vishwanatha Linga 
  • Markandeyeswarar Linga
  • Kalla Kambar Shiv Linga (worshiped by Vishnu)
  • Utsav idols of 63 Nayanmars
  • Sundara Vinayak
  • 108 Shiv Lingas without Aavudai bases
  • Arumugam with his consorts
  • Mattala Madhesvara Linga
  • Nalla Kambar Shiv Linga (worshiped by Rudra)



Ekambareswar:

The east facing sanctum enshrines the big and tall Shiv Linga named as Ekambareswar or Ekambaranathar. Behind Shiv Linga, on the wall the Somaskanda panel featuring Shiva, Parvati and Skanda is found. 

The entrance of sanctum has the idols of Dwarapalas. Totally, three pairs of Dwarapalas are found in this temple. 

Holy Mango Tree:

The holy tree that is located in the prakara is believed to be thousands of years old. This is the sthala vruksham. It is said to bear fruits of four different tastes in each season, which is said to be representing four Vedas. A small shrine enshrining Kamakshi and Ekambareswar Shiv Linga is found below this holy tree. 

The idols of Ganesh and Subramanya are also found at the entrance of the site where this vruksham is located.

Divya Desam:

In the inner prakara, there is a west facing shrine enshrining two idols of Vishnu. One is the old idol and the other one is comparatively new. Vishnu is found in the standing posture in this shrine. This is one of the Divya Desams and the deity is called as Nila Thinga Thundathan or Chandra Chooda Perumal. 

Ideally, his consort, vimana and teerth should be present as per the scripts; but only the presiding deity is found currently.













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