Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Kamakshi Amman Temple, Kanchipuram – Temple Architecture

Kamakshi Amman Temple, Kanchipuram – Temple Architecture
The Kamakshi Temple is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Kamakshi, one of the forms of the goddess Parvati. It is located in the historic city of Kanchipuram, near Chennai, Tamilnadu, India and is popularly associated with Shankaracharya, one of the greatest Hindu gurus. The Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, the Akilandeswari temple in Thiruvanaikaval near Tiruchirappalli and this Kamakshi are the important centers of worship of Parvati as the mother goddess, in the state of Tamil Nadu. The temple was most probably built by the Pallava kings, whose capital was Kanchipuram, around 6 C.E.

In Shakti Kanchi, there are two Kamakshi temples. One is old and another one is new. The old temple, Adi peeta Parameswari temple present near Kanchi Kamakoti Peeth. Some people consider that this is the original temple of Kamakshi Mata. 

Adi Kamakshi Amman Temple:
For brief details, please refer below link;
Modern Kamakshi Amman Temple:
For brief details, please refer below link;
The new temple, which is famous temple of Kanchi kamakshi Mata, is also present near old temple. This is a big temple complex. Kamakshi Mata present here in the form of Lalita Devi. Previously Kamakshi Mata present in hard form, but Jagadguru Adisankaracharya established Srichakra and cooled her, and started Goddess Lalita worship. A Kamakoti Bila (cave) present in the sanctum sanctorum. The entrance is present behind the goddess idol. A pushkarani (holy lake) is located backside to sanctum sanctorum.

The Kanchipuram Kamakshi temple covers an area of about 5 acres of land and has four entrances. The Temple was built in the 14th Century by the great Chola artisans. Kanchi Kamakshi temple is situated at about 5 acres of land and has four entrances. The sanctum is crowned with a gold plated vimanam. Kamakshi is enshrined in a seated posture in the sanctum - and is referred to as the Parabhrama Swarupini, seated with Bhrama Vishnu Rudra Eswara and Sadasiva. A Sri Chakram has been installed in front of the image and worship is offered to it. 

The layout of the temple is rather complicated. The outer prakaram houses the temple tank, and several mandapams such as the 100 pillared hall, the Dwajarohana mandapam etc. Imposing views of the golden vimanam can be had from the outer prakaram, which is pierced with four entrances on all four sides. Images to Vishnu (Ninraan, Irundaan, and Kidandaan) are seen near the temple tank.

The main entrance of the temple has a Kalabhairavar deity on its left and the Mahishasura Mardhini deity on the right. On the centre of the entrance you can see a huge Dwajasthampa. Further on, as you move towards the sanctum of Kamakshi Amman, Vinayagar (Ganesha, her elephant-headed son) shrine welcomes deities to break coconuts to remove obstacles. Moving on a straight line further, Goddess Kamakshi is visible. Goddess Kamakshi is surrounded by deities of Ayyapan, Saraswati, Annapoorani, Bangaru Kamakshi, and Adisankaracharya on its outer prakaram. The Goddess also has Varahi, Arupa Lakshmi Kalvar Perumal (one of the 108 Divya Desam of Vaishnavites), Roopalakshmi and Arthanariswarar deities surrounding the sanctorum of Goddess on its Gayathri Mandapam.

There is Santhanasthampam inside the prakaram of Goddess which is called Nabisthanam of the Goddess. There is a Srichakra Yantra (Sri Kamakoti Peetam) established by Jagadguru Sri Adisankaracharya in front of the Goddess deity. There is also a temple tank inside the premises. Kamakshi temple has a close relation with the Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam and its successive Sankaracharya’s. The temple has a gallery of Adisankarcharya's Life history inside the temple premises itself. Goddess Kamakshi is the main deity and the temple is one of the fifty one Shakti Peetas. The temple is spelled as Nabisthanam - Ottiyana Peetam. The temple also has a golden Gopuram on the sanctorum of the Goddess Kamakshi deity which is visible to all devotees.

Kanchipuram is the seat of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham established by Adi Shankaracharya. It is believed that Shankaracharya attained Samadhi at Kanchipuram, although another school of thought holds that Kedarnath in the Himalayas is the site of his Samadhi.

The shrines of Sage Agasthya and Hayagrivar, the horse-faced teacher (incarnation of Vishnu) can be found expressing Guru Shishya Bhava (master-disciple bond) on the eastern inner wall of the Rajagopuram leading to the third prakaram. These shrines are ten feet higher than the floor of the temple complex. Hayagrivar preached and taught the tenets of Devi worship to his disciples. Sage Agasthya also learnt the inner meaning of the ‘Lalitha Thrisithi’ and attained Bliss. 

In the Kamakoti temple, Adha Lakshmi, Visha Lakshmi, Santana Lakshmi, Sowbhagya Lakshmi, Dhana Lakshmi, Veerya Lakshmi, Vijay Lakshmi, Dhanya Lakshmi is worshipped. At the doors of temple, there are 4 temples of Maha Vishnu and a temple of Rup Lakshmi. There is a temple of Adhi Devta Sri Mahashasta which is about 100 in numbers. There is a mythological belief that skull of Goddess Sati had fallen here. Shakti is called Devagarbha and Bhairava is called Ruru.

In Pradakshina Marga from Dwajasthambam you can see Kalabhairava Swamy, Kasi Viswanatha Swamy, Pancha Theertham along with statues of devils who are guards for that Theertham, Bootha Janartha Temple (back side of Theertham, beside Kamakshi Devi Temple) , Durga Devi and Kanchi Viruksham (tree).

The Pilakasam is a secret, sacred space, a cavity in the sanctum in front of the figure of Thapas (penance) Kamatchi who is shown as doing penance to the right of the main deity in the sanctum.

Thapas Kamakshi Shrine:
Parvathi, the consort of Lord Shiva had to come down to the earth as the Rishis had cursed her. She had to undertake a severe penance to rejoin Shiva. The first place she did penance was in Kasi where she fed the poor and hungry people and was named Annapoorani. Saint Kathyana then advised Parvathi to go to Kanchi and worship Kamakshi. So Parvathi has her place here in the shrine to the right of Kamakshi as Thapas Kamakshi. Later Thapas Kamakshi worshipped Lord Shiva under the sacred mango tree in the Ekambareswarar Temple and was united with her Lord.

Aroopa Lakshmi Shrine:
The north-facing shrine of Aroopa Lakshmi or Anjana Kamakshi is to the left of the sanctum in the Gayathri Mandapa. Lakshmi had to perform penance to regain her beauty which she had lost due to a curse of Lord Vishnu. She became Aroopa Lakshmi, came to the Gayathri Mandapam and worshipped Kamakshi Amman who granted her a special favor. When devotees would place Kamakshi’s red kumkum (auspicious red herbal powder) Prasadam on Aroopa Lakshmi and prayed to her, she would regain her original beauty.

Sowbhagya Ganapathi Shrine:
In front of the shrine of Arupa Lakshmi is Sowbhagya Ganapathi (Ganesha).

Varahi Shrine:
The north-facing shrine of Varahi, an attendant deity of Kamakshi Devi, is to the left of the sanctum and by the side of Aroopa Lakshmi. Varahi is the commander in chief of Kamakshi Amman’s army and household.

Santhana Sthambam:
The Santhana Sthambam (the pillar of progeny) is to the left of the sanctum of the main deity and in front of Varahi. Dasaratha, the king of Ayodhya, did not have any children. He came to Kanchi when he was on a pilgrimage to holy places, praying to be blessed with a child. Dasaratha prayed to Kamakshi who granted the boon of four sons. So, devotees go around the Santhana Sthambam to be blessed with children.

Ardhanareeswara Shrine:
The south facing shrine of Ardhanareeswara, the combined form of Shiva and Parvathi in one figure, is to the right of Kamakshi’s shrine in the Gayathri Mandapam.

Aadhi Varaha Perumal Temple (Thirukkalavanur):
The shrine of Kalvar (surreptitious one - an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) is to the right of Kamakshi’s shrine. It faces southeast while the shrine of his consort, Soundarya Lakshmi (pretty-faced one) faces south. Lord Vishnu came here in the guise of a burglar to find out whether his consort Lakshmi, whom he had cursed to lose her luster and beauty, had regained her original form.
After confirming that she had regained all her original glory he rejoined her and took his abode in Rudra Kotti. This temple is among the 108 Divya Desam (sacred destinations) of Vaishnavites.
For brief details, please refer below link;
Annapoorani’s Shrine:
Annapoorani’s shrine is at the threshold of the first prakaram. She faces southeast. Kamakshi Devi wanted to absolve herself from the sins of slaughter when she killed the Asuras (demons) like Bhandakasuran and Pandasuran. She became Annapoorani, with a bowl of rice in one hand and the serving ladle in the other. She performed 32 forms of charity and benevolence.

Two narrow passages lead into the shrine of Annapoorani. One is called the Dharmadwaram (charity door) and the other Bikshadwaram (alms door). Devotees worship Goddess Annapoorani through the charity passage and beg for her blessing through the alms passage saying ‘Bhavathi bikshaam Dehi’ –please bless us.

Dharma Sastha Shrine:
To the west of the first prakaram is the shrine of Dharma Sastha and his two consorts Poorna and Pushkala who watch over the Kamakoti Peeta.

Uthsava Kamakshi:
The upright Uthsava Kamakshi (processional image) can be seen in the second prakaram with Lakshmi and Saraswathi.

Thundir Maharaja Shrine:
There is place in the temple for Thundir Maharaja as well, and he is placed opposite Uthsava Kamakshi. He is shown in a respectful pose, bowing to the deity. The story behind this Maharaja tells about King Akasha Bhoopathi who had no sons. He came to Kancheepuram and worshiped Kamakoti Peeta Kamakshi who presented her son Ganapathi to him as his son and heir. The elephant-headed Ganesha was born as Thundir Maharaja who ruled the area with Kancheepuram as the capital. So, this area is called Thondaimandalam.

Bangaru (golden) Kamakshi’s Shrine:
Swarna or Bangaru (golden) Kamakshi’s shrine is at the very end of the second prakaram. The original pure gold icon of Kamakshi Devi is now in Thanjavur. The origin of this form of the goddess is said to have emanated from her third eye and she became the consort of Lord Ekambareswarar in Kanchipuram as Ekambigai.

During the Muslim invasion, there were riots and disturbances in Kanchi. So Swarna Kamakshi was taken to Thanjavur by Kamakshidasar, a descendent of the famous saint-poet-singer, Shyama Shastrigal for safe custody. Since then, the goddess has remained there.

His Holiness Kanchi Kamakoti Peeta Jagadguru Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal (May 20, 1894 – January 8, 1994) was known as the Sage of Kanchi and was the 68th Jagadguru in the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. He is usually referred to as Paramacharya, Mahaswami or Maha Periyaval. His devotees made a pair of golden padukas (sandals) to commemorate the 1941 Kumbabishekam of the temple after renovations and refurbishment were initiated by him. These sandals are placed in the Swarna/Bangaru Kamakshi’s shrine.

Raja Shyamala – Saraswathi Shrine:
The shrine of Raja Shyamala - Saraswathi with eight hands is at the very end of the second prakaram just by the side of the shrine of Swarna Kamakshi. Raja Shyamala is the Prime Minister and Chief Advisor to Kamakshi Devi.

The Jayasthambam (pillar of victory) is in front of the main entrance. It was established to mark the spot where the slaughtered remains of Bhandakasuran were buried.

Bhairavar Shrine:
The shrine of Kasikala Bhairavar is on the left in the eastern Rajagopuram (tower) facing Kamakshi Devi in the third prakaram. Bhairavar is one of the two Dwarapalakas (gate keeper). Daily, during the last Arthajama pooja (midnight ritual), the final offering is given to Kasikala Bhairavar.

Mahishasuramardhini Shrine:
The shrine of Mahishasuramardhini, standing with her feet over the slain buffalo-headed Mahishasura, the demon, acts as the other Dwarapalaka and is on the left of the eastern Rajagopuram.

Kasi Viswanatha Shrine:
Kasi Viswanatha can be propitiated in his shrine in the third prakaram. This shrine was established to enable the devotees to find direct east and other directions. The peculiar construction of Kanchi Kamakshi Temple, Kanchipuram can confuse devotees.

Adi Shankara Shrine:
For brief details, please refer below link;
Durvasa Maharishi Shrine:
For brief details, please refer below link;
Sacred Tank:
The sacred tank, Pancha Ganga (five Gangas) is on the northern side of the third prakaram. The tank is supposed to have been formed by five streams that flowed from the five tresses of Lord Shiva himself. Just as a great pit was being dug to bury the demon Bhandasura after he was killed by Kamakshi Devi, another demon came out of this pit and began to fight with Brahma and the Devas. Every drop of blood that the demon shed created hundreds of new demons.

Rudra sent two Sivaganas (soldiers of Shiva) to drink up the blood and to stop the rebirth of many more. The Sivaganas lost their divine quality because of drinking all the demon blood and became brutal and began to fight with Lord Vishnu, who battled with them in his three positions as a standing, sitting and reclining deity. He calmed down the Sivaganas and helped them to regain their divine nature.

In order to purify the ganas and to get rid of the sin of fighting with Lord Vishnu himself, Rudra sent forth five jets of Ganga water from his five tresses. The Sivaganas bathed in the sacred Panchaganga waters and washed away their sins. These two Sivaganas act as sentries to the sacred waters of the tank.
On the eastern bank of the Panchaganga tank is the shrine of Lord Vishnu called Bhootha Nigraha Perumal in the standing, sitting and reclining positions.

Presiding Deity:
The presiding deity of the Kamakshi Amman Temple is Goddess Kamakshi. The principal deity of Goddess Kamakshi is seen in the Padmasana posture, signifying peace and prosperity. The deity of Goddess Kamakshi is placed inside the Gayathri Mandapam.

It is interesting to note that the main deity is seated in a majestic Padmasana posture, a yogic posture signifying peace and prosperity, instead of the traditional standing pose in most other temples of Parvati. The goddess holds a sugarcane bow and lotus and parrot in the lower two of her arms (Many of the Hindu god forms generally have four arms) and has the two divine instruments Pasa and Angusa in her upper two arms.

It is interesting to note that there are no traditional Parvati or Shakthi shrines in the city of Kanchipuram, apart from this temple, which is unusual in a traditional city that has hundreds of traditional temples. There are various legends attributed to it. One of them according to Kamkshivilasa is that the Goddess had to absorb all the other Shakthi forms to give boon to Manmatha (the Hindu god of fertility and love).

Another legend attributes it to the Raja Rajeswari pose of the deity that signifies an absolute control over the land under its control, leaving no other forms of Shakthi. Legend has it that Kamakshi offered worship to a Shivalingam made out of sand, under a mango tree and gained Shiva’s hand in marriage.

The Goddess also has a Chandraperai (a shape of moon like structure) in her forehead and has three akshis (eyes). She is shown as a destroyer of all Kamas (passions) and so is known as Kama-akshi. The Ashta Shaktis (eight forms of powerful Durga) are represented on the rim of the pedestal on which she sits.

The Goddess Kamakshi is situated in the middle of temple premises. It is believed that the temple was established by Shankaracharya. Eyes of Goddess Kamakshi had fallen at this place and they are significant for black magic. The alphabet ‘K’ of Kamakshi stand for Brahma, ‘A’ for Vishnu and ‘M’ for Mahesh. Hence, the three eyes of Kamakshi symbolize the Hindu Trinity.

It is believed that Kamakshi was originally a Ugra Swarupini, and that Aadi Shankaracharya, upon establishing the Sri Chakra, personified her as the Shanta Swarupini. It is believed that during the days of Adi Sankara, the presence of the Ugra Swarupini was felt outside the temple precincts, and that Shankaracharya had requested her not to leave the temple complex. Symbolic of this, the festival image of Kamakshi, takes leave from Shankaracharya, at his shrine in the inner prakaram, each time she is taken out in procession.

There are five forms of Goddess Kamakshi in the temple. For brief details, please refer below link;


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