Sri Ekambareswarar Temple, Kanchepuram
The temple town of Kanchepuram, also known as Kanchevaram is said to be the religious capital of South India. Kanchepuram is about 75 km South West of the metro, Chennai on Chennai Bangalore highway, NH 46. Kancheepuram is famous for its large number of prominent Saivite and Vaishnavite temples including a number of Divyadesams and religious places like Sankara Mutt. It is also noted for its hand crafted silk sarees for marriages and special occasions and a variety of delicious cuisines. Among the eatables, its lip smacking snack, Kancheepurm idly is a specialty by itself. It is therefore no wonder it attracts a large crowd of tourists and business men from all over the country all round the year. It is well connected by Rail and Road and the frequent MTC buses make it easy to reach Kanchepuram form Chennai. The route number 576 from T-Nagar bus depot to Kanchepuram is the best in the public transport one can think of and plies at convenient hours. The single bus fare to Kanchepuram from Chennai in air-conditioned comfort is Rs 75 only (May ‘09).
The unique features of Ekambareswarar temple:
- The image of Lord Ekambaranathar is believed to have been created by the deity Parvathi devi herself, who is said to have performed a penance to attain him.
- The processional image of Ambal Parvathi is Elavar Kuzali Amman.
- A mango tree, the Sthala Virusham is at the back of the Sanctum of the inner precincts of the temple, which is over 3500 years old. It is the belief of the religious people that the Devi Parvathi had worshipped Lord Siva under this tree.
- The branches of this Mango tree is said to bear four different types of mangoes, representing the four Vedas in Hinduism.
- The main temple tower is 192 feet and is the 5th tallest tower in Tamil Nadu, visible even from a distance and was built by the famous Vijanagaram King, Krishnadeva Royar in the year 1509.
- There is another smaller tower inside the temple which is called as the Pallava Tower.
- There is a Sahasra Lingam with one thousand small lingams etched on the body of a big Lingam icon in the praharam.
- One hundred and eight Lingam icons are installed in the first corridor platform of the temple (Praharam)
- The images of Navagrahas are seen with their mounts or vahanas, a posture so rare to see in other temples.
- On the day of the Ratha Sabthami, the rays of Sun fall directly on Lord Siva in Sanctum Sanctorum, which is a marvel in the architecture and speaks loudly on the knowledge of astronomy of the artisans who had constructed this temple.
- All the three Carnatic Music Maestros, Thyagaraja, Shyama Sastri, and Muthuswami Dikshadar had visited this temple and sang kirthanas here.
- The temple has five corridors (praharams) including the outer surrounding streets of the temple.
- The Tirtham of this temple is named, Sivaganga Tirtham
- There is a famous Vaishnavite temple, Tiru nila thingal Thundam, the 49th Divadesam, consecrated by Saint-poet, Tirumangai Alwar situated in the inner precincts of this temple. The arulmigu Perumal’s name is Nila Thingal Thundaththan and that of Thayrar, Ner oruvarilla Valli. This is the most important aspect of this temple and one of the two such Vishnu temples in the same precincts of the Siva’s temple in South India. The other being that of Govindaraja Perumal at Chidambaram. (There is another Divya desam the 54th one, consecrated by the saint poet Tirumangai Alwar, called Tiruk kalva nur within Kamatchi Amman temple in Kanchipuram itself but, this is in Ambal’s temple and not in Siva’s. The presiding deities here are Adivaraha Perumal and Thayar Anjeelai Valli Nachiyar)
There are several saints and Nayanmars who had consecrated this temple with their verses which include: Patinathar (Tiru Ekambudaiyar Tiru anthadi), Sekkizar (Periya Puranam), Arunagirinathar (Tirupugaz 44 verses), Sivagnana Munivar (Kanchi Puranam) , Irati Pulavargal (Ekambaranathar Ula), Padikasu Pulavar, Kachiappa Sivachariar (Kanda puranam) Appar, Sundarar, Manikavasagar and Tirugnanasambandar.
Generally, Hindu temples are classified under three different headings, famous for its place or Sthalam, its Tirtham or water body-such as a river or tank and lastly on its deity or Murthy. Ekambareswar Temple is famous for all the three entities. It is particularly known for its Sthala Virukshm, a lone mango tree within the temple precincts. People throng to the temple to see this Mango tree in particular. Under the mango tree, is a shrine, where Goddess Parvathi Devi is seen embracing Lord Siva. It is said Lord Siva, pleased by the devotion and worship of Parvathi Devi, appeared before her and married her under this mango tree. It is because of this reason, Hindus, even today, during special occasions like marriages and other auspicious events, decorate a string of mango leaves at the main entrance of the house.
There is an interesting story about this temple.
Once, Goddess Parvathy, in a playful mood in her abode, Kailash, closes the eyes of her consort, Siva for a brief moment. But what is a brief moment in heaven is several years in the universe and this results in darkness and the entire activity in the universe comes to a stand still. The lord gets annoyed and orders the Devi to go to the world to do a penance as a measure of redemption from the mistake she had committed. The Devi Parvathi as ordained by her lord, goes to Kancheepuram to worship and perform a penance. She creates a lingam out of sand from the river bed and observes severe penance. Lord Siva, who is known in the scriptures for several playful tricks and deeds, tests his own consort Parvathi devi as well by creating flash floods in the adjacent river. Devi Parvathy in an effort to save the lingam of sand from getting washed, embraces it with her hands, hugging close to her bosom. Because of this embracement, the lord gets two marks of impression on him due to the pressing of her bangles and her breast. Hence the Lord is known as Thazuvi Kuzinda Piran (தழுவிகுழைந்தபிரான்)
On entry in to the temple, one finds Vinayagar and Murugar on either side of the entrance. The Vinayagar is called Vikada chakra Vinayakar. A reference of this Pilliar is found in the first verse of Kachiappa Sivachariyar’s Kanda Puramnam.
The story runs like this:
Once, Lord Vishnu uses his chakra against a demon to kill him, but, the chakra by mistake, gets caught in the mouth of a skull on the deity Veerabdra’s garland. In an effort to retrieve the chakra, Lord Vinayaka performs a Vikata Kuthu (funny dance-drama) before Virabadrar. Not able to contain itself, the skull laughs, dropping the chakra from its mouth. Hence the name, Vikada Chakra Vinayakar came to this Pilliar.
A visit to Arulmigu Ekambareswar temple is complete only if one also visits the Kanchi Kamatchi Amman temple and Kumara Kottam as most of the saints who had sung their verses and hymns had consecrated them to both Siva and Sakthi (Kamatchi) together. These three temples are known as Katchi Ekambam.