January 2, 2011

Kanda Kottam, Chennai, India

Can you name some of the important temples of Kartikeya a.k.a. Murugan in and around Chennai?

Vadapalani Andavan Temple - Good! Then?

Tiruporur Temple - Very good! What next?

Arupadai Veedu Temple in Besant Nagar - Not bad! What else?

If your answer is nothing else, then you are missing out a historical temple located in the original Madras (Chennai). It is Kanda Swamy Temple, which is also called as Kanda Kottam Muthukumara Swamy Temple. Kanchipuram has a Kumara Kottak and our Chennai has a Kanda Kottam. 


Chettiar is a wealthy merchant community of South India. Beri Chttiar is a sub division of this community. In the 17th century CE, a person Vellore Mari Chettiar by name, who hailed from Beri Chettiar community, lived in the current George Town, which was the prominent part of then Madras. He was serving as a merchant under the British East India Company. 

Chettiar was a staunch devotee of Subramanya. He, along with his friend Kandappa Achari (who was from Vishwakarma community), used to visit Murugan temple located at Tirupporur on Kritikai day of every month. One day, when they were resting under a neem tree on their way to that temple, they accidentally discovered an idol of Murugan buried under a snake-hole. 

Both of them felt very happy. They took that idol along with them and installed it in a site where there was a Pillaiyar temple originally (Rasappa Chetty Street in Park Town area). It happened in the year 1673 CE. Chettiar had to pawn the jewels of his wife to construct the temple. Fortunately, he did not have to spend to purchase the land, as it was gifted by Muthiyalu Naicken. 

In 1780 CE, the small temple was renovated by Chettiar community people. In 1860 CE, it was extended and converted into a stone temple. In 1869 CE, a person Vaiyapuri Chettiar by name, donated Rs. 66,000 and a chariot. In 1880 CE, Narayana Chettiar and Akkampettai Govinda Chettiar bought the land near the temple and donated it to the temple, where Vasanta Mandap was built later. In 1901 CE, Kali Ratna Chettiar donated Rs. 50,000 to this temple. This fund was utilized to raise the Raja gopuram.

As there was Pillayar temple originally in the site, I personally believe that the original temple predates the British period.

The famous saint and poet Ramalinga Adigalar, who lived in the 19th century CE, used to visit this temple every day. 

Temple Layout:

The historical temple is located in a congested lane named Rasappa Chetti Street. The layout of the temple is complex. It should be noted that originally it was a small temple and in the last 350 years, it was extended and renovated multiple times. 

I would divide the temple into five sections for the purpose of this article as:
  1. Core section of the temple that encloses the sanctum and other shrines
  2. Prakara around the core section of the temple
  3. Vasanta Mandap
  4. The shrine of Muthukumara Swami mobile (Utsav) deity
  5. Temple tank and the surrounding shrines

Core Section:

The temple is facing the north direction and it is adorned with a small tower.

The sanctum is not standing alone in this temple. There are few equally big shrines found along with the sanctum in an enclosure, which is being referred as the core section in this article.

The core section has two entrances, one facing the east direction and the other facing the north direction.

If any devotee wants to get darshan from the road, he can get the darshan of Ganesh and not the presiding deity of the temple. Because, the shrine of Ganesh is facing towards the main entrance of the temple and not the sanctum.

The east facing sanctum is in the middle of the core section. The small idol of Kanda Swami with Valli and Devasena on his either sides are found in the sanctum. A small elephant vahan is found facing towards the sanctum. Outside the core section of the temple, the flag staff, bali peetha and peacock vahan are found facing towards the direction of the sanctum. 

There are two shrines on either sides of the sanctum, which enshrine Valli and Devasena

In the core section, the sub-shrines of Ganesh, Utsav Muthukumara Swami with his consorts, Meenakshi, Sundareshwara Shiv Linga and the Utsav idols of Shanmukha with his consorts are also found. The idols of Surya and Veera Bahu are also located in this section.

The pillars in the core section of the temple has a lot of interesting sculptures. Some of them include Kartikeya with four arms holding bow and arrow, Five headed and ten armed Ganesh seated on lion, Shanmukha seated on peacock and Skanda stylishly seated on peacock.


The prakara around the core section of the temple enshrines few tiny sized sub-shrines and a lot of idols without enclosure.

Near the gopura, the sub-shrines of Bhairav and Veera Bhadra are found on either sides. The idols of Chidambaram Swamigal, Dandapani Swamigal, Pamban Swamigal and Ramalinga Adigalar are all found near the flag staff. All these small idols are later additions.

The idol of Idumban and a very small sub shrine for Arunagiri Nathar are also found near the east facing entrance. The idol of Kadamban is found at the north facing entrance.

The wall around the core section of the temple unusually has many Koshta idols. They include Ganesh, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma Shasta (Kartikeya in the form of Brahma), Vishnu Durga, another Ganesh, Naga Skanda, Lakshmi and Kukkuta Dhwaja (Chevar Kodiyon, which means Skanda who has rooster in his flag).

It should be noted that some of the forms such as Kukkuta Dhwaja, Naga Skanda and Brahma Shasta are rare forms of Kartikeya.

The idols of Mari Chettiar and Kandappa Achari, the founders of the temple, along with the idols of Ganesh and few important Nayanmars are also found. Chandikeshwara is found near the niche idol of Durga.

The sub-shrines of Nataraja - Shivakami and Somaskanda are also located in the prakara. 

Vasanta Mandap:

The extended area of the temple is called as Vasanta Mandap. There is a big hall called Kandan Kalai Arangam located here. The temple related functions and celebrations are held here.

Muthukumara Swamy Shrine:

This temple called Kanda Swamy temple also has another name, Muthukumara Swamy temple. The temple obtained this name due to the attractive and big metal utsav (mobile) idol of Muthukumara Swamy. This section of the temple is found behind the core section. Muthukumara Swamy has six heads and he has his two consorts on his either sides.

In front of this shrine, there is a mandap full of pillars with interesting sculptures.

Temple Tank:

The holy tank is called as Saravana Poigai. It is located within the temple complex. It is one of the very few temple tanks which has water and is well maintained. Big stucco idols of various deities are found on the banks of the tank. Peacocks and Cocks roam around this area.

Near the temple tank, Navagrahas are found. A small shrine for Ganesh-Siddhi-Buddhi is found nearby. The idols of Surya and Chandikeshwara are located within the premises of this shrine. Next to the shrine of Ganesh, the sub-shrine of Vishwanatha Shiv Linga and Vishalakshi is located.

The shrine of Gnana Dandayudhapani is found on the other side of the tank. Near this shrine, as later additions, the idols of Variyar, Tirukatchi Nambigal and Nataraja are located.

Happy travelling.

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