Friday, May 6, 2016

Bangaru Kamakshi Temple, Thanjavur

Bangaru Kamakshi Temple, Thanjavur
Bangaru Kamakshi Temple is located in the West Main Street, which is called a Mela Masi Veethi in Tamil language, is a well-known locality for the citizens of Thanjavur. The word "Bangaru' in Telugu language means "gold". As the idol of the Goddess Kamakshi in this temple is made of gold, the temple is named as 'Bangaru Kamakshi' temple.

This temple is located in the heart of the city, where the image of the goddess Kamakshi is in pure gold. The idol is said to have been originally brought from Kancheepuram during the Muslim invasion of the city.

Adjacent to the Bangaru Kamakshi Amman temple are three other temples – the Vijaya Rama Temple, the Navaneetha Krishna Temple and the Pratapa Veera Anjaneya temple. All these are fairly big temples, considering that they are in the heart of the commercial part of the city, and are calm and peaceful, certainly worth a visit. Also worth a visit is the Samadhi of Kongana Siddhar, one of the 18 Siddhars, saints who attained salvation. 

This temple is administered by the Shankaracharya Math of Kanchipuram. In the 18th century CE, there were series of military conflicts between many independent rulers of India and also there were struggle for dominance between the British and the French. The historians named these conflicts as the Carnatic Wars. The holy city of Kanchipuram was also affected due to these conflicts. The continuous political instability leads the head of Kanchi math, Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal V, to shift the base of his math from Kanchi to some other place. He was invited by Pratap Singh, the King of Thanjavur. Swamiji shifted his base to Thanjavur.
The presiding deity is a gold idol in standing posture. The Bangaru kamakshi idol in Thanjavur was originally in the kamakshi temple at Kanchi. The idol of Goddess Sri Kamakshi made of solid gold was shifted from Kanchipuram main shrine (Kanchi Sri Kamakshi Amman Temple) in order to protect from the Mughal invasion. Due to the invasion of Kanchi by hostile powers, Shankaracharya Shri Chandrashekarar Saraswathy IV of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam shifted the idol to Udayarpalayam and later to Tanjore.
The idol was wrapped with cloth and the shiny surface was smeared by black punugu (secretion of the civet cat) covered with a cloth and smuggled out in a palanquins as  if it was a child with small pox while shifting from Kanchi to Tanjore and it has been re  installed at Tanjore. Even today the idol is routinely smeared with punugu and appears black. During annual Navarathri abhishekams also it does not wash off!! The herbs (Punugu) applied on the idol gives out a stunning appearance of Goddess Sri Kamakshi black in colour.
This Temple is the site where the current temple of Bangaru Kamakshi is located. However, later the Swamiji shifted his math from Thanjavur to Kumbakonam. Nevertheless, Bangaru Kamakshi remained in Thanjavur. Thus, the Utsava (mobile idol) idol of Kanchipuram became an immovable idol of Thanjavur.
Shyama Sastri was one of the three most important composers of Carnatic music. Shyama Sastri, Thyagaraja and Muthuswami Deekshithar were called as Trinity of Carnatic music. He was born in the family which served as the priests in Bangaru Kamakshi Temple. Even, he was serving as the priest in this temple. 
Temple Architecture
This temple is simple in design and is facing towards the north direction. It has small tower. At the entrance of the temple, there is a big stone idol of Ganesha called as 'Varada Maha Ganapati'.
The sanctum sanctorum enshrines the golden idol of Kamakshi called as 'Bangaru Kamakshi'. She is found in the standing posture and holds parrot in her right arm. Her face alone looks black in color. 

It is said that the idol was wrapped with a cloth and the face was smeared by Punugu and was brought in a palanquin from Kanchipuram to Udayarpalayam. Punugu is a substance extracted from the secretion of a kind of cat called as Punugu Poonai a.k.a. civet cat. The objective was to fool the enemies and thieves. Later, it became a ritual and even today the face of idol is smeared with Punugu. Hence, the face of golden idol is black in color. 

Near the main shrine, there is another shrine facing the east direction. It is dedicated to Kamakoti Amman. The temple has just one prakara (circumbulatory passage).
Temple Opening Time
This temple remains open from 6.00 AM to 12.00 PM in the morning and 4.00 PM to 9.00 PM in the evening.
Panguni Uthiram, Navarathri, Thiru Karthikai, Masi Makam, Vaikasi Visakam and Adi Pooram are the festivals celebrated in this temple with much fanfare.
The temple is located at a distance of 1 km behind the big temple and easily accessed by a straight road. Next door is the Navaneetha Krishna temple with Krishna Rukmini Sathyabama and Kodhai. It is also a peaceful temple. Nearest Railway Station is located at Thanjavur & Nearest Airport is located at Trichy.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the detailed information sir, but a clarity seems to be missing, whether the idol was brought during attacks of mughals or during carnatic wars? Other doubt is why an idol and temple associated with two great centers of Tamil civilisation and culture (Kanchipuram and Thanjavur) has a Telugu term bangaru associated with it and why Telugu priests, the ancestors of syama sastri were assigned as priests instead of local Tamil priests? Can you please clarify these ?

Ramanan Kannan said...

Nayak kings ruled Tamil Nadu and they appointed Telugu brahmins as priests of many temples. The temple priests of Kanchi Kamatchi Amman temple were Telugu brahmins and they brought the bangaru kamakshi idol from there and installed it in Thanjavur.

n. saikrishnan said...

The shifting of the idol and the Kanchi Mutt took place in the latter half of 18th Century during the Carnatic wars.

Ananth J said...

Hi some people worship bangaru kamatchi as their family deity. Could anyone of you share some more details regarding this.