June 19, 2011

Somnath temple of Chennai

You would have known about the great Somnath temple of Gujarat. Do you know about the Somnath Temple of Chennai? This lesser known temple of Somanatha Swami is located near Ganga theatre in Sannadhi street in Kolathur locality.

This temple has an interesting legend that is connected to Nawab of Arcot. Muthukumarappa Mudaliar was serving as a Diwan under the Nawab. In 1745 CE, he discovered the Shiv Linga idol in Kolathur village. Being a devotee of Shiva, he could not resist himself and misused the Nawab's funds and built a temple. When the Nawab came to know this, he ordered the Diwan to be imprisoned. Before he could be arrested, Lord Shiva appeared in the human form and gave a bowl to Mudaliar. As per his advice, Mudaliar begged and collected money. He managed to collect the sum more than what was spent for the temple. He handed over the collection to the Nawab. The Nawab was pleased and gifted three villages Kolathur, Putharai and Pallavarai to Mudaliar.

The above mentioned legend is mentioned in an old Tamil book. I could not find any further information about this legend or associated historical record, if any, so far.

Nevertheless, the temple has few other legends too. It is believed that Chandra took bath in this temple tank to get rid of his curse, and hence the deity is called as Somanath. As per another legend, there were two Asuras, Vilvan and Vatapi who used to trouble the saints. When they were trying to trouble Agastya, he killed them. The place where he burnt Vatapi, one of the two Asuras, is called as Kolathur.

The east facing temple has a big Ganesh idol at its entrance. There is no tower.

The east facing sanctum enshrines Somnath in the form of small Shiv Ling. The entrance of the sanctum has the small idols of Ganesha and Murugan on either sides. The bali peeth, flag staff and Nandi are found facing the main shrine.

The Goddess of the temple Amritambikai, who is found in a separate south facing shrine.

Opposite to the sanctum, the idols of Surya and Chandra are located. Navagrahas are found at a corner. The wall around the sanctum has the niche images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga. Chandikeswarar is found in his usual location.

Bhairav idol, Natraj-Sivakami shrine, the shrine with the bronze images, Ganesh with Siddhi-Buddhi in a shrine, Murugan with Valli and Devasena in a separate shrine, Ling shrine and Nalvar (the four important devotees of Shiva) shrine are also located in the inner prakara.

The temple also has a big spacious outer corridor (prakara). The shrine of Amrita Raja Perumal with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi is located here.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:
Site Name: Somanatheeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Kolathur, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India 
Highlights: An unknown old temple of Shiva in Chennai; Chandra (Moon God) got rid of his curse in this temple

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: Public transport is difficult; hire auto rickshaw from Villivakkam area to reach this place
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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