Aathur Muktheeswarar Temple, Kanchipuram
Muktheeswarar Temple is dedicated to Hindu God Shiva located in Aathur Village near Chengalpet in Kanchipuram District of Tamilnadu. Aathur village is situated 5 kms off the Chengalpattu Bridge on the west of GST Road. This Temple belongs to Chozha period. Kulothungan Chozhan I first had found the Shiva lingam in midst of mango tree forest on his way from Kancheepuram to Mahabalipuram. Koperuchingan further developed the temple. During the period of Koperuchingan, the Athur Muktheeswarar temple's revenue has been collected and diverted to build the south raja gopuram in Thillai (Chidambaram Natarajar Temple). This inscription is sculpted in the stones (epigraph) both in Chidambaram (Thillai) and Aathur Muktheeswarar temple.
The main deity here is Muktheeswarar and Goddess is Dharmasamvardhini Ambaal, also called Aram Valartha Naayagi. Here Shiva is in the form of Shiva Lingam facing east. The unique feature of this Lingam is, a thin ray of line separates the top portion (Baanam) of Lingam into two equal halves vertically. It is said that such Lingam is very rare to see and it represents the Arthanareeswarar (Shiva & Shakthi in equal halves) form of Lord Shiva.
Vinayagar has a separate shrine in the temple’s outer prakaram and is facing east. There are many stone inscriptions found all along the walls of the temple. According to the inscriptions this Vinayagar was installed by a local villager in this temple during Chozha reign. The inscriptions also reveal that the funds generated from this temple were donated to build one of the Gopurams of Chidambaram Natarajar Temple. It thus shows the prosperity of this temple in those days.
This temple lies on the banks of the river Palar, also called Ksheera Nadhi which serves as the Theertham for this temple. It is also said that as the temple lies on the river banks of Palar, the place was originally known as ‘Aatru Oor’ (Aaru means, river in Thamizh) which later corrupted to become Aathur. This temple has beautiful prakarams. The outer prakaram has Vinayagar, Dhakshinamurthy, Brahma and Durgai around the sanctum.
Just near Dhakshinamurthy shrine, a small underway is seen, which is kept closed using an asbestos sheet. There is a small room under the ground level which is said to be the hiding place during the times of war. Valli Devasena Sammedha Shanmugar has a separate shrine on the prakaram. The idol of Shanmugar is yet to get Astabandhanam done. The idol is wonderfully sculpted with Lord Shanmugar with 6 faces, 12 arms holding weapons and seated majestically on an aesthetic peacock which is holding the snake in its beak. All the details of this idol along with its base is made of single stone and is just kept in the shrine without fixing it (Astabandhanam) to the floor. The idol is made in such a way that it aptly balances itself firmly on the ground.
On the North West side of the prakaram Jyeshta Devi is seen facing east. Jyeshta is elder to Lakshmi as she evolved out prior to Lakshmi during the churning of the mighty ocean, Ksheera Sagaram (Paarkadal). It is said that Jyeshta Devi was one of the main deities for the then Chozha rulers. A beautiful Nandhi is seen facing west towards the Lord. There is a window beautifully sculpted on stone in front of Nandikeswarar, having 9 holes to it. It is called Navadhwaram in Sanskrit. The northern side of the prakaram has the shrine for Ambaal Dharmasamvardhini. Ambaal is so beautiful and charming and is facing south.
At the north eastern side of the prakaram, about 4 Lingams are kept in a separate mandapam which were found during excavation. Out of 4 Lingams, 2 are Baana Lingams, without the Aavudaiyar (base). It is said that, this temple as 8 Shivalingam shrines (Ashta Lingam) around it on all 8 directions, like Thiruvannamalai temple. But the people were able to locate only a few till now. There is a stone marking on one of the walls of the temple, mentioning that the Kumbhabhishekam (Consecration) was held last on 30.08.1917.
The Theertham for this temple is Ksheera Theertham (Palar River) and there are 2 Sthala Viruksham for this temple, Vilvam and Maa Maram (Mango tree). This mango tree has a very unique quality. This tree branches into two from the base and the fruits formed from each half of the tree has different tastes. It is said, as Lord Shiva here is in the form of Arthanareeswarar the tree too naturally gives fruits with 2 different tastes, symbolizing the dual form of Lord Shiva.
Pradosham and Maha Sivarathri are celebrated in a grand manner in this temple. Like Thiruvannamalai temple, this is one of the temples which conduct 6 times Pooja during Sivarathri.