Kamakshi Amman Temple, Kanchipuram – History
The Kamakshi Amman Temple was built by the Pallava Kings to glorify the Hindu religion. After being built in the 7th century A.D., the temple was again renovated during the 14th by the Cholas. As per archaeological evidence, Kanchipuram has been a hub of Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic settlements. Numerous temples have been excavated from the area and Kanchipuram is also popularly known as the City of Thousand Temples. The Vaishnavite Tiruvekka or the Yathokthakari Temple was the first temple mentioned in literary references. The temples of Kanchipuram are widely believed to uphold the glorious history of this region.
Kanchipuram has been the capital city of Pallava kings. The main deity, Kamakshi Ambal is seated in a majestic Padmasana posture signifying peace, tranquility and prosperity. The goddess holds a sugarcane bow and bunch of flowers in the lower two of her arms and has a pasha (rope), an ankusha (goading weapon) in her upper two arms. There is also a parrot perched near the flower bunch. Surprisingly this is the only temple for Goddess Parvathi in the city of Kanchipuram. The original Kamakshi Devi Temple is what is presently known as Adi Peeteswari or the Adi Peeta Parameswari. This temple is adjacent to the Kumarakottam and is near to the presently famous Kamakshi Devi temple.
Kanchi Kamatchi Temple, or Kamakshi Amman Temple, Kanchipuram (Kancheepuram) is the abode of Parvathi, Lord Shiva’s wife. Fearing the wicked Asuras (demons) the Devas (gods) came here and lived as parrots in the Champaka tree and prayed to Devi to free them from the terror of the asuras. She appeared, through the secret passage called Pilakasam, in Kanchi to slay Bhandakasuran and the other demons who were troubling the Devas.
Since then, Kamakshi Amman resides is in this great shrine in the center of the Gayathri Mandapam, that is said to have been built by the Devas for her. She is a swayambu (self-manifested) deity in this temple. The city is linked to her name as Kanchi Kamakshi. Adi Shankaracharya is closely associated with the rich history of Kanchi Kamatchi Temple. The original form of Kamakshi was less benign than how she is represented today.
Animal and human sacrifices were part of rituals in ancient Shakthi temples. Adi Shankaracharya led a movement to banish this aspect of Hindu worship, brought back vegetarianism and in this temple, introduced the benign and peaceful representation of the goddess by placing a divine Chakra (sacred instrument) in front of the deity.
Symbolic of this connection with Adi Shankaracharya, during festivals when the processional deity is taken out around the temple streets, she first takes leave of Shankaracharya in his shrine in the inner corridor. It is also believed that Shankaracharya defeated Buddhist and other philosophers in this place, sparking a revival of Hinduism. Local folklore relates this incident and also says that other forms of Shakthi outside Kanchipuram continue to reveal the fierce forms of Shakthi.