April 25, 2016

Somamangalam Somnath Ishwar Temple

Site Name: Somnath Ishwar Temple
Site Type: Hindu ancient temple
Location:   Somamangalam, Near Chennai, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of Navagraha Sthalams in Chennai
Nearest Railway Station: Tambaram
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road from Tambaram and Chennai
Hotel: A lot of options across Chennai
Restaurants:  A lot of options across Chennai and Tambaram

Somamangalam is a small locality located near Tambaram, which in turn is located near Chennai in Tamil Nadu state of India. The locality has an ancient Chola period temple called as Somnath Ishwar Temple. Let us explore about this architecturally beautiful temple in this article.


Highlights:

  • God Somnath Ishwar
  • Goddess Kamakshi
  • Sthala Vruksha (Sacred Tree) - Sara Kondrai (yellow laburnum)
  • Sthala Teerth (Holy Tank) - Soma Teerth
  • One of Navagraha Sthalams in Chennai
  • Soma (Chandra) Sthalam
  • Ancient Chola period Gaja prshtha temple
  • Koshta idols such as Dakshinamurti, Vishnu and Brahma are found along with their vahans
  • Nandi is facing its backside to Shiva
  • The stone image as well as the utsav idol of Skanda is in the form of Brahma Shasta
  • The unique Chatura Tandav posture of Nataraj

Legend:

As per the legend, Chandra was cursed by his father in law Daksha to wither and die. Chandra came to this site and took bath in the temple tank. He prayed to Lord Shiva in this site and got rid of his curse. Hence, Lord Shiva is named as Somnath Ishwar in this site. Soma is another name for Chandra, the Moon deity. 

As per another legend, a Chola King was constructing this temple. At that time, the place was invaded by the enemies. As his soldiers were involved in the temple construction, the King did not have anyone to face the enemies. He prayed to Lord Shiva. Shiva asked Nandi, the holy bull vahan of Shiva, to fight the enemies. He turned towards the east direction and blew down all the enemies without moving away from his place. Lord Shiva asked Nandi not to face back so that he can protect the site from the enemies forever. There is slightly a different version of the same legend which states that Nandi got very proud of himself as he was able to win the enemies without even moving from its place. So, Shiva did not allow Nandi to move back and face towards him.


History:


The temple was built by Kulotunga Chola in 1073 CE. 

The historic name of the site is very long. If you cannot read this, move to the next paragrah please. :-) It is Jayankonda Chola Mandalaththu Chenkattuk Kottaththu Maganoor Nattu Chomangalamana Rajasigamani Chaturvedi Mangalam. 

Temple Layout:

The east facing temple has entrance at the south direction. There is no gopura. The temple tank called as Chandeeswara Teerth is found in front of the temple. The other tank called as Soma Teerth is found at the distance of around 500 m from this temple. The temple is maintained by ASI.


It is a beautiful Chola period temple. ASI, in the name of renovation, has painted the temple in bright color, which looks odd.

Sanctum

The east facing sanctum enshrines big Shiv Linga called as Somnath Ishwar. The entrance of the sanctum has a small idol of Ganesha. The vimana is Gaja prshtha style.

Brahma Shasta Utsav idol

The small Maha mandap area houses some of the utsav idols that include the rare Kartikeya in the form of Brahma Shasta. When Brahma failed to perform his duty properly, Kartikeya punished Brahma and took over his duty. Hence, he is called as Brahma Shasta. In this form, he holds Akshara Mala and Kamandalu (sacred pot) and not any weapon. It is rare to find this form of Kartikeya. However, it is the rarest thing to find a metal utsav idol of Kartikeya in this form. The other temples depict Brahma Shasta form only as stone idols.


Chatura Tandav Nataraj

Another interesting utsav idol found here is that of Nataraj. Unlike his typical dance posture found in the other temples, here he is in different style of posture, which is called as Chatura Tandav posture. His two upper arms hold Damaru (drum) and Kaalagni (flame cup) as usual. However, his lower hand is raised in Abhaya mudra and the other lower arm drops loosely. His legs are bent at knees to form a square. This is very unique and rare idol.

Nandi

Flag staff and bali peetha are found facing towards the main shrine as usual. However, Nandi is facing in the direction as Shiva in this temple, which is another unique feature. 

Brahma Shasta


There is a mandap adjacent to the main shrine. In fact, we can enter into the main shrine only through this mandap. This mandap has a very beautiful idol of Ganesha. There are three Chola period stone idols found in this mandap. They are Brahma, Vishnu and Kartikeya. If you notice carefully Kartikeya, he is not in his usual form but in the form of Brahma Shasta. 


There is a sub-shrine in this mandap that is dedicated to a beautiful Kandaswami idol. Again, he is also in the form of Brahma Shasta.

This temple has totally three Brahma Shasta idols, which is something that cannot be found anywhere else.

Kamakshi


The Goddess of the temple is Kamakshi. She is found in a separate south facing shrine which has a front side mandap. At the entrance of this shrine, the idols of Ganesha and Kartikeya are situated.

Koshta idols


The Koshta idols of the temple are extremely beautiful. Ganehsa, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga are found as the Koshta (niche) idols. Chandikeshwara is found in his usual place.

One more uniqueness of this temple is that the Koshta deities are found along with their respective vaahans. Dakshinamurti's sculpture has a miniature image of Nandi; similarly, Vishnu has Garud below him and Brahma has swan below him.


Other Deities


The prakara is vast in area with open space. The sub-shrines of Ganesha and Murugan with his consorts are situated here.

Facing towards the sanctum, the sub-shrines of Chandra and Surya are found. Chandra is big and prominent idol. 

The sub-shrines of Bhairav and Navagraha are also situated in the prakara. 

A Shiv Linga under the sculpted holy tree is found and is called as Vruksha Lingam. 

Happy travelling.



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