June 19, 2011

Gangadeeswarar Temple - Chennai

Gangadeeswarar temple is one of the ancient temples of Chennai city, the city which is considered as the gateway to South India. Gangadeeswarar is the name of Lord Shiva in this temple. As Lord Shiva held the river Ganga on his head when it was falling from heaven to the earth, the Lord got the name 'Gangadeeswarar'. It is believed that the king Bhageerath who was trying to bring the river Ganga to the earth prayed to Lord Shiva and only then Shiva let the Ganges to flow down from his head. It is also believed that the site where the temple is located today is where the king Bhageerath prayed to Lord Shiva.

As per another legend, the king Bhagirath got a curse. As per the advice from the saint Narad, he installed 1008 Shiv Lings in various places. The site where he installed 1008th Shiv Linga is the current day's Gangadeeswarar temple. It is also believed that the place where he spilled Ganga water was formed as the temple tank. It is said that there are seven tanks in this temple complex, however only one is seen nowadays.

Big Shiva idol located inside Gangadeeswarar Temple
Gangadeeswarar temple is a big temple built in the typical South Indian architectural style. It has a beautiful rajagopuram (tower), flag staff (dhwajastambha) and bali peeth. Before you enter into the sanctum sanctorum, you can find the shrines of Siddhi Vinayak, Bala Subramanya and Vaideeswarar (Shiv Linga) along with Ganesha. You can also find the idol of Nandi (the divine bull) facing the santum sanctorum similar to any other old South Indian Shiva temple.

The sanctum sanctorum, which is facing the eastern direction has Gangadeeswarar in the form of small Shiv Linga. Near the main shrine, a separate shrine for the Goddess Pankajambal is found which is facing the south direction. Adjacent to the sanctum sanctorum, there is another shrine facing the east direction having Somaskanda idols.

The smaller prakara (corridor) surrounding the shrines of Gangadeeswarar, Somaskanda and Pankajambal have various idols and small shrines. The idols of Surya and Chandra are found facing the shrine of Gangadeeswara. The idols of Nalvar, Nagaraj, Bhageerat, Kasi Viswanath, Veerabhadra, Sekkizhar, Kulachirai Nayanar, Surya, Shanmukha, Durga, Bhairav, Dakshinamurti, Chandikeshwara and another Bhariav are located in the small prakara. The small shrines of Maha Ganapati, Subramanya with his consorts Valli and Devasena, Natraj utsav (bronze) idol with Sivakami, Uchishta Ganapati with Siddhi and Shiv Linga with Manonmani. The wall surrounding the main shrine has the images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga.

The temple also has another entrance, bali peeth and flag staff opposite to the shrine of Pankajambal. The big prakara has the shrine where the bronze idols of 63 Nayanmars are placed. The walls have paintings depicting the stories of Lord Shiva. These are not old paintings. They are very recent time additions. There is a tree under which a Shiv Linga named Kurunda Malleswarar and Nandi are found. It is believed that the great devotee Manikavasagar preached under this tree. A new attraction is the giant idol of Lord Shiva along with Shiv Linga and Bhagirath. Another surprise for the devotees is a rare shrine of Satyanarayana in this temple. Bana Linga shrine, Navagraha shrine and Ramalinga Adiglar idol are also found in the big prakara.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:
Site Name: Gangadeeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Purasawakkam, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India 
Highlights: A famous temple for Shiva in Chennai; Believed to be installed by the mythological king Bhageerath; related to the origin of Ganga river

Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India

Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable by road from any part of the city; 
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

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