October 12, 2015

Bangaru Kamakshi Temple - Thanjavur

Site Name: Bangaru Kamakshi Amman Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple 
Location:  Mela Masi Veethi (West Main Street), Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: The idol of deity is completely made of gold
Nearest Railway Station: Tanjore
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road and rail
Hotel: A lot of options across the entire Tanjore city
Restaurants: A lot of options across the entire Tanjore city

Those who know about Thanjavur (Tanjore) city in South India know mainly about the great Brahadeeswarar Temple built by Raja Raja Chola around 1000 years back. However, there are many rare and interesting sites found across the entire city. Let us explore about an interesting temple named Bangaru Kamakshi temple in this article.

The West Main Street, which is called a Mela Masi Veethi in Tamil language, is a well known locality for the citizens of Thanjavur. If someone wants to explore Thanjavur beyond the Big temple, he/she can start with this street. Bangaru Kamakshi temple is located in this street.

The word "Bangaru' in Telugu language means "gold". As the idol of the Goddess Kamakshi in this temple is made of gold, the temple is named as 'Bangaru Kamakshi' temple.


This temple is administered by the Shankaracharya Math of Kanchipuram. To know the association of this temple in Thanjavur with the Math of faraway city, we need to know the history. 

In the 18th century CE, there were series of military conflicts between many independent rulers of India and also there were struggle for dominance between the British and the French. The historians named these conflicts as the Carnatic Wars. The holy city of Kanchipuram was also affected due to these conflicts. 

The continuous political instability lead the head of Kanchi math, Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal V, to shift the base of his math from Kanchi to some other place. He was invited by Pratap Singh, the King of Thanjavur. Swamiji shifted his base to Thanjavur. By then, the authorities of Kanchi Kamakshi Amman temple moved the golden idol of Goddess Kamakshi, which was enshrined in Kanchi temple to Udayarpalayam, a village near Thanjavur. As the Kanchi math got shifted to Thanjavur, they took the idol to Thanjavur and permanently installed the same. It is the site where the current temple of Bangaur Kamakshi is located. However, later the Swamiji shifted his math from Thanjavur to Kumbakonar. Neverthless, Bangaru Kamakshi remained in Thanjavur. Thus, the utsava (mobile idol) idol of Kanchipuram became an immovable idol of Thanjavur.

Shyama Sastri was one of the three most important composers of Carnatic music. Shyama Sastri, Tyagaraja and Muthuswami Deekshitar were called as Trinity of Carnatic music. He was born in the family which served as the priests in Bangaru Kamakshi Temple. Even, he was serving as the priest in this temple. 

Temple Layout:

This temple is simple in design and is facing towards the north direction. It has small tower. At the entrance of the temple, there is a big stone idol of Ganesha called as 'Varada Maha Ganapati'.

The sanctum sanctorum enshrines the golden idol of Kamakshi called as 'Bangaru Kamakshi'. She is found in the standing posture and holds parrot in her right arm. Her face alone looks black in color. 

It is said that the idol was wrapped with a cloth and the face was smeared by Punugu and was brought in a palanquin from Kanchipuram to Udayarpalayam. Punagu is a substance extracted from the secretion of a kind of cat called as Punagu Poonai a.k.a. civet cat. The objective was to fool the enemies and thieves. Later, it became a ritual and even today the face of idol is smeared with Punagu. Hence, the face of golden idol is black in color. 

Near the main shrine, there is another shrine facing the east direction. It is dedicated to Kamakoti Amman. 

The temple has just one prakara (circumabulatory passage).

Happy travelling.

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