Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Varadaraja Perumal temple- Kanchipuram

Varadaraja Perumal temple is situated 3 Kms from the Kanchipuram bus stand and the presiding deity is Vishnu. This is also called as Hastgiri ( Hast means elephant, Giri means hill) and the sanctum is atop a small hill. It is also one of the 108 divyadeshams of Vishnu where Alwars have sung in praise of the Lord. To reach the Varadaraja Perumal's and Perundevi Thayar sannidhi one has to climb a fleet of steps. The sanctum houses the imposing idol of Varadarajar and outside the inner prakaram of this temple there are two sacred lizards sculpted on the ceiling , covered with silver and gold sheets. Sculptures of sun and moon are also visible near this. Pilgrims are allowed to touch these lizards and it is believed that it would wash away their sins and would bring prosperity. This hill is encircled with double storeyed, enclosed verandhas with a terrace and the whole thing forming a beautiful courtyard around the Varadaraja temple. This temple is also more than one thousand years old.

This temple was earlier known as Attiiyurar. The original image of perumal was made of Attimaram (fig tree) and that image is worshipped for 10 days, once in 40 years.

There are sannidhi's for Rama,Yoga Narasimhar, Kannan, the Alwars, and the Acharyas, Kariamanikka Perumaal, Andal and Varaaha Perumaal.

The front side tower is about 180 feet high and was built in 11th century and was renovated by the Vijaya Nagara kings. The 100 pillared mandpam carved out of a single rock is a real master piece and we can see many pillars embellished with minute carvings.The temple tank is the near the 100 pillared mandapam.

Temple timings: 7 am-12 noon, 3.30 pm - 8 pm.

How to reach: Kanchipuram is well connected from Chennai by road . Regular buses at good frequency ply from various areas in Chennai.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sri Kamakshi Amman Temple- Kanchipuram

Kamakshi Amman temple is very near to the Ekambareshwar temple . This is one of the sacred Shakti peetams and the only Amman temple in Kanchipuram . The deity here is enshrined in a sitting posture with sugar cane in one hand, parrot, lotus and chakra in other. The deity here is the Parabrahama Swaroopini. A Sree Chakra has been installed in front of the deity by Adi Shankaracharya. In the inner prakarm there are many shrines dedicated to Varahi, Ayyapan, Anna poorni, and Adi Shankaracharya.

Near the main entrance , on either side are deities of Kalabhairavar and Mahishasura Mardhini. The dwajasthambham is also near to this and there is a lion, the vehicle of Amman in front of this.The sanctum sanctorum of Amman is plated with gold and the temple tank is very attractive. There is also a shrine dedicated to Vishnu inside the temple. This temple is under the control of the Kanchi Shankara Mutt.

Temple timings: 5.30 a.m-12.30 p.m , 4 p.m-8.30 p.m

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ekambareshwarar temple-Kanchipuram,Tamil Nadu

Kanchipuram is about 76 Kms. from Chennai and is considered as one of the seven holy cities in India. There are about thousands of temples in this holy ancient city and I think one can easily spend about a year just going around the temples which were built by Pallavas, Cholas and kings of Vijayanagara. This place is famous for the world famous Kanchipuram silks and one would find each and every street lined with Kanchi cotton and silk shops. There used to be an old Tamil saying, "Kanchipuram sendral kalatti pizhaikalam " meaning if one wants he can go to Kanchipuraam and get his livelihood by weaving as this place is famous for handloom silk and cotton sarees.

Ekambareshwarar is the most famous Siva temple in Kanchipuram, another Padal petra sthalam where Sambandar, sundarar and Tirunavukarasar had sung hymns in praise of God. This is one of the Panchabhutha Lingas, and is considered to be the first among them as it represents the Earth. The others are Kalahasthi (Vayu), Chidambaram (Akash), Tiruvanaikal (Jal) near Trichy and Arunachaleshwar Tiruvannamalai (Agni).

The Lingam in Kanchipuram is made out of river sand and it appears like a cone at the top. It is believed that Goddess Kamakshi herself moulded the Lingam here out of river sand. Behind the Lingam are the idols of Ekambareshwar and his consort Kamakshi. This temple covers an area of 20 acres. The Rajagopuram here is 192 feet high with 11 tiers. The temple was originally built by Pallava kings but was later reconstructed by Chola and Vijayanagar kings. This temple dates back to 600 AD

The temple has many shrines around . Behind the main temple is the Mavadi sannidhi, the sacred mango tree where the Lord Siva appeared before Kamakshi, where she was performing a penance to reunite with him. Pilgrims offer their worship here and it is believed that if a childless woman takes the mango of this tree she would be blessed with a progeny.

There are also other shrines around this temple dedicated to Bhadrakali Amman, Sahasra Lingam( this Lingam looks beautiful with one thousand small Lingams carved on it). Then there is a sannidhi for El vaar kuzhali, the Utsavar of the main deity and Kamakshi. There is a Vishnu's shrine known here as Nilattingal Tundattan in the outer prakaram and is one of the 108 Divya deshams of Vishnu. It is believed that Vishnu helped Kamakshi during the penance when ever she faced obstacles.

The Nandimandapam outside has the dwajasthambam and behind this mandapam is the Maha Nandi. Each and every pillar has exquisite carvings and one can easily spend a day in this temple enjoying the temple architecture.
Temple timings: 6 a.m-12.30 p.m, 4.30 p.m- 8.30p.m

This temple is situated just 2 kms from the Kanchipuram main bus stand.

How to reach:
Kanchipuram is well connected by road from all the towns in Tamil Nadu and regular buses ply from Chennai with good frequency.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kapaleeshwarar temple- Mylapore, Chennai

This temple is situated in the heart of Chennai and the presiding deity here is Siva , known as Kapaleeshwarar and the Amman here is known as Karpagambal. This is also an important Sivasthalam or Padal petra sthalam. This temple has two towers, one on the East and the other on the West with excellent sculptures depicted on it. This temple also houses many sub shrines and each has its own beautifully carved towers.

Amman shrine is facing South and is near to the Kapaleeshwarar sannidhi. This shrine has the palliyarai (bed chamber) of the divine couple. There is a separate Utsavar for the Amman. Hymns praising the Goddess are engraved all along the walls of the inner prakaram.

Kapaleeshwarar sannidhi is facing the West side. In the inner prakaram as we circumambulate, there are idols of 63 Nayanmars, separate niche for the Godesses Lakshmi , Saraswathi and Parvati , Vinayagar, Bairavar, Veerabhadrar, Durgai Amman, Lingodbhavar, Dakshinamooorthy and Chanbdikeshwarar. There is also a separate shrine for Nataraja and Sivakami inside the Kapaleeshwarar inner prakaram.

Outermost prakaram has the Nandi mandapam and behind that is the dwajasthambha. There are beautiful carvings on the pillars of this mandapam. As we go around the temple in the outer most prakaram there is a shrine for Punnaivananathar. Inside this shrine there is a Sivalingam with a peacock near by. It is believed that the God appeared to the Amman here under the Punnai tree when she worshipped him in the form of a mayil (peacock) and this place is known as Mylapore. The Punnai tree is adjacent to this shrine and considered as a sacred tree and the aspiring and child less couples tie cradles with the belief that such an act would bless them with a child.

Then there are separate shrines for Saneeshwarar, Navagrahas, Sundareshwarar, Jagadeeshwarar, Narthana Ganapathi and Annamalaiyar. Each shrine has its own beautifully carved tower.

The shrine of Singara Velan (Muruga) on the South side has a separate dwajasthambha. Parallel to this shrine is a long mandapam where pilgrims can rest and listen to discourses in the temple. Attached to this hall is the shrine of Dandayudhapani and Vayilla Nadhar. Vayilla Nadhar, a great saint worshipped God by maintaining silence through out his life . The bell tower is also on the West side.

This temple is about 350 years old. But historical manuscripts point out that it existed on the shores of Chennai much before that. The temple might have been shifted to its present place due to sea erosion.

How to reach:

Chennai is well connected by air, rail and road. As its a metropolis transport facilities are excellent. Many budget as well as luxury hotels are available.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Parthasarathy Temple - Chennai

Parthasarathy temple is at Triplicane, in Chennai and one of the 108 divya deshams of Vishnu.This temple is about 1000 years old and the main deity here, Partha Sarathy is none other than Krishna, a reincarnation of Vishnu who had become the charioteer for Arjuna during the Mahabharata war. The main deity in sanctum sanctorum is very tall , around 9 feet in height and along with him is his consort Rukmini on his right and Sathyaki, a powerful warrior belonging to Yadava dynasty on the left who also played an important role in the Mahabaratha war. There are many Panchaloha idols in the front side. This is the only Vishnu temple I have seen the idol sporting a moustache.

There are two grand festivals, brahmotsvams here one for Parthasarathy and the other for the Azhagiya Singha Perumal which falls in the month of May and July.

Legend is that a king wished to see worship Lord Venkatahalapathy as Krishna. The Lord fulfilling the wishes of his devotee appeared here as Parthasarathy and is also known here as Venkatakrishnan.

Just outside the main sanctum sanctorum are the shrines of Rama, Lakshmana and Seeta, then a shrine for Ranganatha, and Azhwars. On the Pradakshina* path there are shrines for Varadaraja Perumal.The main deity in this shrine is sitting atop a Garuda, the mount of Vishnu. There are separate sannidhi's for Vedavalli thayar and Andal. On the western side is the Yoga Narasimhar shrine with a separate dwajasthambha. The Panchaloha idol of Azhagiya singha Perumal inside the Yoga Narasimhar shrine looks beautiful . Outside the main prakaram is the dwajasthambam of the main temple and the history of the temple is displayed on a board on the left side of the office.

Foreign tourists are also allowed inside the temple to enjoy the temple architechture. But photography inside is banned.

Opposite to the temple is the large temple tank which was once filled with lillies - (Tiru meaning -sacred, alli means lilly, Keni-pond) hence this place is known as Tiruvellikeni, which later changed to Triplicane.

Pradakshina*- Circumambulation

This temple is very close to the famous Marina beach.