April 16, 2011

Mylapore Kapaaleeswarar Temple

Site Name: Kapaaleeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Mylapore, Chennai, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of the two most important temples of Chennai; one of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams
Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India; Mylapore has a local MRTS station called as Thiru Mylai
Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Chennai city is reachable by road, train, and flight; Mylapore can be easily reached by road from the other parts of Chennai
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city

Mylapore is a well known locality of Chennai city in Tamil Nadu state of India. The ancient village called Mylapore is referred in the ancient texts and historical records. The 2000+ years old Mylapore has a magnificent temple for Lord Shiva called as Kapaaleeswarar Temple. This is the most popular Shiva temple in Chennai and is considered as one of the two most important temples of Chennai (the other being Parthasarathy temple of Triplicane). It is considered as the 24th among the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams (274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in the Tondai region. Let me explore about this temple in this article. 


  • Sambandhar has revered the temple in his verses in Devaram
  • Appar has refered this site as Mayilappu in his verses
  • God Kapaaleeswarar
  • Goddess Karpagambal
  • Teerth (Holy water) - Kapali Teerth
  • Sthala Vruksha (Holy tree) - Punnai tree
  • 24th Devara Paadal Petra Sthalam located in the Tondai region
  • Uma worshiped Shiva in the form of peahen
  • Ram is believed to have worshiped Lord Shiva of this temple.
  • One of seven Sapta Sthana Temples of Chennai
  • One of the most popular temples of Chennai
  • Arunagirinathar has sung hymns on Singara Velar of this temple in his Tiruppugazh.
  • The temple tank (called as Mylapore Theppakkulam) and the festivals of this temple are some of the important heritage symbols of Chennai.


The word 'kapaalam' means head. Once, Brahma did not give due respect to Lord Shiva. The furious Shiva plucked the head of Brahma. Brahma came down to this site and installed Shiv Linga to please Shiva. Thus, Shiv Linga in this site obtained the name 'Kapaaleeswara'.

Due to some curse, Shiva's consort Uma had to come down to the earth. She took the form of a peahen and worshiped Lord Shiva in this site. The word 'mayil' means peahen in Tamil. Hence, the site got the name 'Mylappu' which later became 'Mylapore'.

As per another legend, Kartikeya got his divine weapon Vel from his mother in this site. 

It is also believed that Brahma worshiped Shiva in this site and got back his power of creation. Shukracharya got back his vision after worshiping Lord Shiva here. Ram worshiped Shiva in this site and performed Brahma Utsav. 

Shivanesa Chettiar was a resident of Mylapore. His daughter Poompavai got back her life due to the power of the verses sung by Tirugnana Sambandhar. 


It is believed that the original temple of Kapaleeswarar was there on the seashore. It is also believed that the Pallavas might have built that temple in the 7th century CE. It is also believed that the Portuguese who had captured Mylapore in the beginning of the 16th century CE had constructed Santhome Church in the place of the original temple. Then, the temple of Shiva was shifted to the current site. It appears that the materials from the original temple were used to construct this temple. 

It is also believed that in the current site belonged to Singara Velan temple which got extended to give space to Kapaaleeswarar and Karpagambal. There is a possibility that the Vijayanagara Kings might have constructed the current temple in the 16th century CE.

Temple Layout:


The temple has two entrances. The main entrance is facing the east direction. It has a gigantic seven tiered Raja gopuram which has hundreds of colorful and beautiful stucco images. The west side gopura faces the Theppa Kulam. The sub-shrines of Karpaga Vinayaka and Murugan.

In front of the east facing tower, there is a mandap outside the temple. The mandap is full of pillars with sculptures.


The sanctum faces the west direction and enshrines the medium sized Linga called as Kapaaleeswarar. It should be noted that only few temples have Shiv Linga facing the west direction.

The exterior wall of the sanctum has the niche idols of Selva Ganapati, Dakshinamurti, Lingodbhava, Brahma and Durga.

The small prakara around the sanctum has the idols or sub-shrines of various deities such as Polla Pillayar, 63 Nayanmars, the utsav idols of 63 Nayanmars, Nataraj-Shivakami, Somaskanda, various Utsav deities including SingaraVelan with his two consorts, small Natraj-Shivakami, Chandrasekhar-Uma, etc., Veerabhadra, Saraswati-Lakshmi-Durga, Nagas, three small Shiv Lingas, Shiv Linga with Uma,  Bhairav, Sekkizhar, Meikanda Sivam, Umapati Sivam, Maraignana Sivam, Arunantha Sivam, Surya, Nalvar and Chandikeshwara.

The flagstaff, bali peetha and Nandi Mandap are found facing towards the sanctum.


The Goddess of the temple is Karpagambal. She is found in a separate south facing shrine. Her shrine is equally big to that of Kapaaleeswarar. There is a prakara around this shrine which has just one sub-shrine of the utsav deity of Karpagambal.

Singara Velar:

The shrine of Singara Velar is big and has its own front side mandap and flag staff. Singara Velar is Kartikeya with six heads. He is found along with his two consorts Valli and Devasena on his either sides. 

There is a belief that the current site belonged to Singara Velar and it got extended to accommodate Kapaaleeswarar and Karpagambal.


Near Singara Velar shrine, a big mandap for conducting the religious recourse and other temple functions is found. Near that mandap, the sub-shrine of Palani Andavan and Vaayilar Nayanar are located. Vaayilar is one of 63 Nayanmars. It is believed that he was born in Mylapore and also attained salvation in this site.


As per the legend, Shivanesan Chettiar, the resident of Mylapore, had a daughter named Poompaavai. She died due to snake bite. Shivanesan had preserved the ashes of her dead daughter in a pot. Later, Tirugnana Sambandhar sang hymns praising Kapaaleeswarar and brought her alive from the ashes. 

A sub-shrine depicting the above legend with the idols of Poompavai and Sambandhar is found near the flagstaff.

Sthala Vruksha:

The holy tree of Punnai along with a shrine depicting Karpagambal in the form of peahen worshiping Shiv Linga is found in the outer prakara.

Outer Prakara:

The huge and spacious outer prakara has many sub-shrines. Apart from the deities mentioned above, the following idols are also found in this area.

  • Nardana Vinayaka in the east facing shrine; this is the first shrine found as one enters through the east facing tower.
  • Annamalai - a big sized Shiv Linga along with his consort Unnamulai in a separate shrine
  • Navagraha
  • Arunagirinathar
  • Jagadeeswara (Shiv Linga)
  • Sundaresha (Shiv Linga)
  • Shaneeswara

Happy travelling.

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