Sunday, July 31, 2016

Shenbakeswarar Temple, Natham Parameswara Mangalam, Kanchipuram

Shenbakeswarar Temple, Natham Parameswara Mangalam, Kanchipuram
Shenbakeswarar Temple is dedicated to Hindu God Shiva located at Natham Parameswara Mangalam in Kanchipuram District of Tamilnadu. Natham village is located at a distance of 10 Kms from Kalpakkam in Latoor Taluk. The temple is thoroughly built with stones.

Goddess Lakshmi chose a "Shenbaga Vana” (a forest of Champak trees) to install a Shivalingam and pray to it. She meditated for several years before the Lord. Pleased with her devotion, Lord Shiva appeared before her. Nandi Deva followed Goddess Lakshmi into the Shenbaga Vana and stood guard to see no harm presented itself to the Goddess or the Lord. Because of this, he is seen till even today, with his back to the Lord.

He blessed her saying the place she chose to worship him would always be special and even Goddess Soundaranayaki would assume the adornments of Goddess Lakshmi by giving up the Paasam and Angusam and holding the Lotus and Nilothpalam in her hands. Moreover, the first honors would always be offered to the Goddess in this Kshetram. Having said this, he left the Shenbaga Vana and moved up a small hillock on the Palar River and manifested himself in the midst of the wilderness.

Goddess Soundaranayaki was distraught that her husband had left her all alone at Natham and went looking for him. He had by then hidden himself in the midst of the wilderness, in the company of a snake that shielded him from the elements and a cow that showered its milk on him. The Goddess in an attempt to convince her Lord to come back to his abode in the Shenbaga Vana is said to have moved up the hillock on her knees, the imprint of which is still found in the circumambulatory path around the Kailasanatha Temple.

The temple is said to have been originally built by Nripatungavarman Pallava about 1200 years ago and then subsequently strengthened by Kulothunga Chola I , and then by Maravarman Sundarapandiyan.

The Temple
Sri Shenbakeswarar with his consort Sri Sowntharyanayagi is unique in many aspects. The 1200 year old temple presents a different look in as much the Nandhi, usually facing the Lord, is here like the Lord faces the village in the eastern side. Puranic literature depicts a story that states, the Lord Sri Shenbakeswarar ordered Nandhi to guard the village and hence Nandhi here is looking at the village. Like Madurai Meenakshi, here Sowntharyanayagi gets the pride of first worship.

Usually we find Shiva temples have five Goshtams featuring Ganesha, Dakshinamurthy, Lingodbhavar or Vishnu, Brahma and Durga. However, this temple has seven Goshtas, each one of them more beautiful than the other - comprising of Bhikshadana, Ganesha, Dhakshinamurthy, Lingodhbhava, Brahma, Durga and Harihara. Instead of the usual five niches (koshtams) here Bhikshandeswarar and Sankaranarayanar have separate shrines taking the total niches to seven.

During the time of Kulothunga Chola III, a 16 pillared mandapa was built outside the temple. It is sad to see that this mandapa has been brought down by the natural elements and passage of time, and portions of it have been used to create a mandapa over Nandi. Apart from this there are seven Shivalingams found along the Goshtas around the temple. These are known as Kailasanatha, Shenbageswara, Arunachaleswara, Jagadeeshwara, Ekambaranatha, Valmikinatha and Vyagrapatheeswara.

The pillars inside looked like the Greek Doric Pillars. Apart from the majestic Shenbageswara who sits in the modest sanctum sanctorum which leaks throughout the rainy season, sometimes even putting out the few lamps lit inside, and the magnificient Soundaryanayaki who as her name denotes is a beauty unparalleled, even the other idols in the temple are unique.

The Subramanya in this temple needs special mention too. With the peacock turned in the opposite side (Asura Mayil) and weapons in all his arms, he is said to have been installed during Rajendra Chola I's time and is a beauty to behold. Apart from this Subramanya there is yet another at the entrance of the Sanctum Sanctorum. He is found with Gendi and Akshara Mala in his hand, in the form of Brahma Sastha. The circumambulatory path around the temple is full of creepers and overgrowth, strewn thorns and broken pieces of stone from the temple.

Sri Chakram is installed under the pedestal of Ambal. Sowntharyanayagi holds lotus and blue flower in her hands instead of pasham and angusam. Lord Saneeswarar has four hands. Besides Lord Rama, Seetha, Lakshmana and Anjaneyar have their own shrines. The sanctum is full of inscriptions with particulars such as the donations made to the temples, the then local administrative system reclamation of barren lands etc. For epigraphists it is a bonanza indeed. Daily one time puja is being performed here. The temple tank is called as Shenbaga Theertham.

There are inscriptions all along the walls of the temple. These inscriptions bear testimony to the patronage by the glorious kings of yore. King Raja Raja Chola I's queen Sakthi Thanthi Vidangi (Lokamahadevi) has been instrumental in converting the barren lands near the temple into fertile agricultural lands and then donating them to the temple for its upkeep and maintenance. During the rule of Rajendra Chola I in 1015, he has appointed a Sathvanjara Committee to discuss and explore Town planning. During the time of Kulothunga Chola III, a 16 pillared mandapa was built outside the temple.

Temple Timings
As there is absolutely no traffic to this temple, it is only open for poojas in the morning and evening. However, the Gurukkal stays a few houses away from the temple and is happy to open it for anyone who comes along. It is better to call him the previous day to confirm his availability.
Shenbakeswarar Temple,
Natham Parameswara Mangalam,
Kanchipuram District
Mobile: +91 – 99945 87182 / 94430 67193 / 97900 70473
Mobile: +91 – 9443620460 / 9994587182 / 8883776521
The temple is about 80 kms from Chennai. On the ECR if one proceeds five kilometres from Kalpakkam, you can reach the Vayalur Bridge. About a km from the Vayalur bridge is a junction called Kaathan Kadai. Turn right at this junction and proceed towards Anaicuttu Salai. In Anaicuttu Salai you will see a board which directs you towards Natham Parameswaramangalam.
This Temple is located a few kilometres away from the village of Natham. Natham could be reached by buses that ply between Chennai and Anaicut route 188D. The bus stop is Natham Junction, ECR Kaathan Kadai. 

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