May 9, 2010

Kamakshi Amman Temple, Kanchipuram, India

Site Name: Kamakshi Amman Temple
Site Type: Hindu ancient temple
Location:  Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: The most popular temple of Kanchipuram; one of the important Shakti Peeths
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 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, 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 the most popular temple of the town Kamakshi Amman Temple in this article.

Kamakshi Amman Temple is one of the popular temples of Kanchipuram town as well as the entire state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of three important Mother Goddess Temples in India, the other two being Madurai Meenakshi and Kasi Vishalakshi. It is a famous Shakti Peeth temple and also a Divya Desam


Highlights:

  • One of the most popular temples of Tamil Nadu state
  • The most famous temple of Kanchipuram town
  • One of 51 Shakti Peeth temples
  • 54th Divya Desam temple
  • A  rare combination of Shakti Peeth and Divya Desam
  • Presiding Deity - Kamakshi
  • Presiding Deity of Divya Desam - Kalvar a.k.a. Adi Varaha
  • Presiding Goddess of Divya Desam - Soundarya Lakshmi a.k.a. Anjilaivalli
  • Viman of Divya Desam - Vamana Viman
  • Teerth of Divya Desam - Nitya Pushkarani
  • Tirumangai Alwar has sung about this Divya Desam in his verses

Legend:

There are so many legends associated with this temple.

Birth and Marriage of Kamakshi:

Once the Goddess Parvati playfully closed the eyes of Lord Shiva from behind. The entire universe went into darkness. Parvati was cursed and she took birth on the earth as Kamakshi. She made Shiv Linga idol out of sand and prayed. Shiva wanted to test her. He took the form of Kamba river and tried to wash away the sand Linga. Kamakshi tightly hugged the Linga and prevented it from getting eroded. 

In addition, Kamakshi stood in single leg and did severe penance. She was surrounded by Panchagni. Her fury was felt beyond the village and affected the people. It is said that the sage Durvasa pacified the Goddess. 

At last, Lord Shiva was pleased by the gesture of Kamakshi and married her.

Sri Chakra:

In the olden days, the animal sacrifice was made in this temple. Adi Shankara installed Sri Chakra in the sanctum and stopped this practice. 

Bhandakasur:

An Asura named Bhandakasur was troubling the Devas. They took the form of parrots and came to Kanchipuram. They lived in Champaka tree in the temple premises and prayed to Kamakshi. She killed the Asura and saved the Devas.

Aroopa Lakshmi:

Once Vishnu had cursed Lakshmi to lose her beauty. She became Aroopa Lakshmi. She came to Kanchi and prayed to Kamakshi. She got back her beauty with the blessing of Kamakshi.

Dasharath:

It is believed that the King Dasharath visited the temple and prayed to Kamakshi. As a result, he begot four sons including Lord Ram.

Avatar of Ganesh:

A king named Akasha Bhoopati visited the temple and prayed to Kamakshi. She blessed him and Lord Ganesha incarnated as his son as Thundir Maharaja.

Shakti Peeth:

As per the legend, Sati sacrificed her life by falling into the yagna fire of her father Daksha. Shiva got extremely furious and started dancing with the dead body his wife Sati. To protect the universe from the fury of Shiva, Vishnu cut down the body of Sati into pieces. The sites where the body parts of Sati fell are called as Shakti Peeths. 

It is believed that the skeleton of Sati fell in Kanchipuram. As per another version, the ornament that covers the stomach (ottiyanam) fell in this site.  


Kalvar:


As per the legend, when Kamakshi and Lakshmi were conversing among themselves, Vishnu listened to them without their knowledge. When Kamakshi discovered this, she fondly called Vishnu as "kalvan", which means thief. The idol of Vishnu in this temple is thus called as Kalvan.

Temple Layout:

There are four entrances with four gopuras for Kamakshi Amman Temple. The east facing gopura is the main - Raja gopura. The temple is situated at a vast area of around 5 acres. 

Sanctum:

The layout of the temple is complicated. The main entrance as well as the sanctum face the east direction. But there is no direct access to the sanctum. One has to enter through the north facing mandap and then move towards the left to reach the sanctum.

The sanctum, which has a gold plated vimana, enshrines the very beautiful and attractive Kamakshi. She is found seated in Padmasana posture. She has four arms and holds pasha (lasso) and ankusha (goad) in her upper arms. In her lower arms, she holds sugarcane and bunch of flowers. A parrot is found near the flower bunch. 

Kamakshi is seated in the center of the mandap within the sanctum. This mandap is called as Gayatri Mandap and it has 24 pillars representing the 24 alphabets of Gayatri Mantra. 

Sri Chakra:

The sanctum also enshrines the holy Sri Chakra, a kind of Yantra. This famous Sri Chakra Yantra was installed by Sri Adi Shankaracharya.

Tapas Kamakshi:

In the Ardha Mandap, to the right side of the presiding deity, Kamakshi is found standing with one leg and performing tapas. 

Aroopa Lakshmi:

To the left side of the presiding deity in the Ardha Mandap, the idol of deformed Lakshmi called as Aroopa Lakshmi is found. She is also called as Anjana Kamakshi. 

Divya Desam:

In the Ardha Mandap, the idol of Vishnu called as Kalvar Perumal is found in a niche. Next to him, the idol of Soundarya Lakshmi is found. It is a Divya Desam. 

The original name of the deity is Adi Varaha and the Goddess is Anjilaivalli. 

It is rare to find a Divya Desan within the sancum of a Shakti Peeth. Although the name of Viman is found in the scriptures, the current idol is just a niche idol and of course it does not have a viman.

Other Deities:

In the main shrine, the idols of Sowbhagya Ganapati, Varahi, Ardhanareeswarar and the Santhana Stambha are also found. 

The entrance of the sanctum has the idols of Ganesh and Singara Velan. 

Adi Shankara:

The shrine of Adi Shankara located in the inner prakara is very popular. It also has gold plated viman. There are few bas-relief carvings that depict the life of Shankaracharya found on the walls of this shrine.

Utsav Kamakshi:

The shrine of Utsav Kamakshi is big and has a prakara. The metal idols of Lakshmi and Saraswati are found on either sides of Kamakshi.

Other Shrines:

There is a mandap found in an elevated platform opposite to the sanctum. The idol of Durvasa is found near this mandap. 

At the entrance of the main temple, the idols of Naga and Varasiddhi Vinayak are found. 

The shrines of Annapoorani, Dharma Shasta along with his consorts Poorna and Pushkala, Saraswati and Gaja Lakshmi are found in the inner prakara. The relief image of Thundir Maharaja is also found in a pillar in the mandap opposite to the sanctum.

100 Pillared Mandap:


The 100 pillared mandap in this temple has a lot of beautiful and unique sculptures.

Bhoota Nigraha Perumal:


There are three shrines one above the other for Lord Vishnu called as Bhoota Nigraha Perumal. He is found in three different postures - standing (Nindran), sitting (Irundhan) and reclining (Kidandhan). These shrines are found near the holy tank.

Outer Prakara:


The outer prakara is vast. The holy tank is located here. The 100 pillared mandap is also located here. 

The sub shrine of Kasi Vishwanath Linga and the idols of Kasi Kala Bhairav, Vishnu Durga and Mahisasura Mardhini are located in the prakara.

The inner entrance of the eastern gopura has the idols of Hayagreeva and the sage Agastya.

Happy travelling.


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