August 20, 2014

Madampakkam Dhenupureeswarar Temple

Site Name: Dhenupureeswarar Temple
Site Type: A Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva
Location:  Madambakkam, near Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A Chola period ancient temple with beautiful sculptures 
Nearest Railway Station: Chennai
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road from Chennai
Hotel: Go to Chennai or Tambaram where there are lot of options 
Restaurants: Go to Chennai or Tambaram where there are lot of options

Madambakkam is a locality in East Tambaram near Chennai city in South India. There is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva called as Dhenupureeswarar, which has so many beautiful sculptures. Let us explore about this site in this article.

  • God - Dhenupureeswarar aka Sittrerinathar
  • Goddess Dhenukambal aka Nampirattiyar
  • Sthala Vruksha (holy tree) - Vilva
  • Teerth (holy water) - Kapila Teerth
  • Built in the 10th century CE
  • A Chola period temple which has contributions by Vijayanagaras too
  • A lot of rare sculptures on the pillars all over the temple
  • Arunagirinathar has sung hymn on Lord Subramanya of this temple


As per the legend, the sage Kapila (who was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) was performing pooja to Lord Shiva daily. One day, he held the Shiva Linga idol on his left hand by mistake. As per another interpretation, it is said that he did not want to keep the idol down and hence he held it in his left arm and performed pooja with his right arm. It was considered as a sin and as a result he could not attain moksha. 

Lord Shiva asked him to take birth as a cow and perform pooja so that he would attain Moksha ultimately. The saint took the form of a cow in a village called Sitreri (today's Madambakkam). The cow routinely  used to pour its milk on a small stone buried under the ground. The master of the cow noticed this  hit the cow badly. Unable to bear the pain, the cow tapped its leg and hit the stone. Immediately, the stone started bleeding. The frightened man accompanied by the other villagers started digging the ground and they discovered a Shiva Linga there. After getting the darshan of Shiv Linga, the saint who was in the form of cow attained moksha now. The Chola king who was ruling this region, was informed about this incident. He visited the site and arranged for the construction of the temple for Shiv Linga. 

As per another legend, the sage Agastya cursed Indra once. Later, as per the advice from Agastya, he came to this site and worshiped the deity to get rid of his sin. The day when he got rid of his curse is Chitra Poornima.

It is believed that Sundara Chola rebuilt this temple as a stone temple in the 10th century CE. According to some people, the temple might have been built by Anirudha Brahmadirajan, the minister of Sundara Chola. Kulotunga Chola I seems to have renovated this temple;  the Vijayanagaras have contributed to this temple in the later period. The temple is architecturally beautiful and has a lot of sculptures on the pillars all over the temple. The temple is currently under the control of ASI.

The 13th century Chola period (Kulotunga III and Rajaraja III) inscriptions, the 15th century inscriptions of Vijayanagara Mallikarjuna, the 16th century inscriptions of Vijayanagara King Sadasiva Raya and the 13th century inscriptions of Jatavarma Sundara Pandya are found in this temple. 

In the Chola peirod, the village was called as Ulaguyyavanda Chola Chaturvedi Mangalam. 

Temple Layout:


The Chola period temple has an incomplete tower in its east facing entrance. The walls of the lower portion of the tower has beautiful carvings and sculptures. The entrance wall has the carvings of Ganesh and Kartikeya holding bow and arrow.

Similar to any other typical South Indian temple, this temple also has tall flag staff, bali peeth and Nandi facing towards the main shrine. There is a bas relief image of Ganesha installed on the flag staff.

Main Shrine:

The sanctum sanctorum enshrines a small Shiva Linga idol named as Dhenupureeswarar. In those days, he was called as Sittrerinathar also. As the saint Kapila took the form of cow and poured its milk on the idol, he is called as Dhenupureeswarar. In Sanskrit language, Dhenu means cow. The Shiva Linga has the scar caused due to the cow. The vimana of the sanctum sanctorum is built in Gajaprshtha (similar to the back side of the elephant) style.

The beautiful sculptures of Nardana Vinayaka, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga are found as the niche images on the wall outside the main shrine.

The sanctum sanctorum and ardha mandapa are small in size similar to that of the main deity. There is a small Nandi idol placed in the maha mandapa facing towards Shvia Linga.

Inner Prakara:

The prakara around the shrine of Shiva has the below sub-shrines or idols:

  • Valanchuzhi Ganapati - Ganesha with his trunk moved towards the right direction
  • Maha Ganapati
  • Subramanya-Valli-Devasena - very important shrine; Arunagirinathar has sung hymn on this deity
  • Varadaraja-Sri Devi-Bhoo Devi
  • Nataraja - Sivakami - this shrine is big and enshrines a lot of metal utsava idols such as two pairs of Chandrasekhar-Uma; two pairs of Somaskanda, Subramanya-Valli-Devasena etc. An important and unique idol is that of Sharbeshwara attacking Narasimha
  • Kapilanathar (Shiva Linga) - Annapoorna
  • Chandikeshwarar
  • Surya
  • Bhairava

Goddess Shrine:

The shrine of Goddess Dhenukambal is found in the exterior mandapa. It faces the north direction and is found on a raised platform. She is found with four arms and in the standing posture. There are five niche idols of Goddesses on the external wall of the shrine. The fifth image has deer on her right arm, which is very unique. 

Near this shrine, the idols of Navagraha and Veerabhadra are located.

Outer Prakara:

The outer prakara is a vast open space with so many trees and plants. Except for a Ganesha idol and few serpent idols under a holy tree, no other idols or shrines are located here.


The eighteen pillars that are found in the exterior mandapa near the flag staff as well as in the inner prakara around the main shrine have excellent and unique sculptures. That is the highlight of this temple. The exterior mandapa is believed to be the artwork of Vijayanagaras. 

Some of the unique sculptures found in the temple pillars:

  • Sharbeshwara attacking Narasimha
  • Shiva-Shakti marriage; Brahma performing yagna and Vishnu attending the holy wedding
  • Rama Pattabhishek
  • Narasimha in the standing posture
  • Subramanya with six arms on elephant
  • Subramanya with four arms on elephant
  • Subramanya standing stylish on peacock
  • Dakshinamurti with his consort
  • Nataraja raising his left leg upwards and towards the sky
  • Shiva holding Ganga on his head - Gangadhara Murti
  • Sadashiva with five heads
  • Brahma and Saraswati
  • Gajasamhara Murti
  • Ganesha holding a musical instrument
  • Jwaradeva with three heads and three legs 
  • Dakshinamurti with veena - Veenadhara Dakshinamurti
  • Shiva attacking Koorma (tortoise incarnation of Vishnu) - Koorma Samhara Murti
  • Bhairava with his mount dog
  • Shiva as Annamalai - Brahma as a bird moving upwards and Vishnu as tortoise moving downwards
  • Shakti hugging Shiva Linga
  • Ardhanareeswara
  • The dancing Kali
  • Maha Sada Shiva
  • Shiva attacking Varaha Avatar (Varaha Samhara Murti)
  • Shakti carrying her baby Skanda 
  • Veerabhadra along with the goat headed Daksha
  • Varaha carrying Bhoomi Devi
  • Hanuman with five heads and ten arms (all faces are monkey faced unlike other typical Panchamukha Anjaneya idols)
  • Kartikeya with six heads and 12 arms and with Valli who is seated on his left thigh

The temple tank, which is called as Kapila Teerth, is large and it is located adjacent to the temple outside the compound.

Happy travelling.

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