Chennai Temples

Sri Parthasarathy Swami temple

Sri Parthasarathy Swami temple is in Triplicane.  It is one of the 108 Divyadesams, and has been a focal point of Vaishnava pilgrimage for centuries.  Many are the saints and savants, who have prayed at the shrine and sung about it.

Located near the seashore, this temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna, in his role as the Sarathy (charioteer) of partha (Arjuna), in the 18-day Kurukshetra war.  Triplicane, is the Anglicised version of the original, Thiru alli keni, meaning the Lord's lily pond.  Kairavini, the pond, attached to the temple, it was said, yielded such a bountiful crop of the aforesaid alli flower, a kind of tulip, that it gave the ancient village both its name and fame.

According to the Brahmanda purana, King Sumathy, it is said, had prayed to Sri Venkateswara of Tirumala-Tirupathi), wishing to see the Lord in the form of a charioteer, the role He donned in the Mahabharata war.  The Lord granted the king's wishes and bade him to come to this place then known as Brindaranya where he would find an idol of Him as a charioteer.  Meanwhile, sage Athreya was told by his guru, Veda Vyasa, to perform penance at Brindaranya, on the banks of the Kairavini.  Vyasa also gave him an idol of Sri Krishna.  Sage Athreya came here, met king Sumathy at his ashram and told him about the purpose of his visit.  The mightly thrilled king then installed the idol according to the Agama shastras.

The moolovar here is known as Sri Venkata Krishna, as king Sumathy had a vision of Him as Lord Venkateswara.  The Lord is flanked by Sri Rukmini elder brother, Balarama, cousin, Satyaki, son, Pradyumana, and grandson, Anirudha.  This is perhaps the only temple in India where Sri Krishna is represented here with his entire family, Maanusha Vasudeva (Krishna as human).  He is without His Chakra, but has the conch, as he had promised not to wield weapons in the Kurukshetra war.  Like a charioteer, he sports a big twirling moustache.

The utsavar is Sri Parthasarathy Swamy.  He is known as Parthasarathy, as he was Partha's sarathy (charioteer).  Partha, incidentally,is another name for Arjuna.  While the face of the imposing (2.72m 9 feet tall) stone image of the main idol is black and clear, that of the utsava is pockmarked and distorted. The craters were caused by the arrows that Bhisma had unleashed on Arjuna.  The arrows had instead pierced Sri Krishna, the Sarathy, who took them on to protect Partha, His devotee.

The oldest shrine here is said to be that of Sri Ranganatha, known as Sri Mannadha Swamy.  It is located adjoining the main shrine.  His divine consort here is Sri Vedavalli Thayaar, in a separate shrine.  His divine consort here is Sri Vedavalli Thayaar, in a separate shrine.  Among the many su-shrines here are three dedicated to Vishnu's avatars as Varaha, Azhagiya Singar (Narasimha Swamy) and Sri Rama.  Sri Yoga Narasimha Swamy is the moolavar and Sri Azhagiya Singar or Thellia Singa Perumal is the utsavar.  Lord Narasimha had apparently given darshan to sage Athreya.  Lord Rama, along with Sita and His three brothers, is said to have given darshan to sage Maduman, who did penance in Brindaranya.  The other notable shrines are for Sri Gajendra Varadaraja Perumal and Sri Andal.

Among the Alwars, the earliest mention of the shrine is by Periyalwar, who is sai to have lived about 4,000 years ago, and the last by the last among them, Sri Thirumangai Alwar, who was born in 476CE.  The five-tiered Rajagopuram and the temple proper is said to have been built by Emperor Thondaman, who ruled from Srikalahasti.  The earliest inscription, which is at the entrance to the sanctum, dates backto Danti Varma Pallava (775-825).  The other inscriptions range from Raja Raja Chola and Kullothunga III to the Vijayanagar rulers, after the fall of Hampi.

Various are the sages and saints who have visited this temple.  Suffice it to say that the great Vaishnava Acharya, Sri Ramanuja, was born after his parents prayed here for an issue.  Saint Thyagaraja and Sri Muthuswamy Diksitar, to mention just two, have sung about Sri Parthasarathy.

The high stone walls of the shrine resemble a medieval fortress, coated in red and white stripes.  It was a fortress, indeed, for during the 16th and 17th centuries, the forces of Golconda, the Dutch and the French occupied it, at various times.  The French, especially, between 1672 and 1674 fortified it as their northern outpost.

Sri Kapaleeswarar temple

Sri Kapaleeswarar temple, in Mylapore, is possibly the most important shrine for Lord Shiva in Chennai, located to the south of the Sri Parthasarathy Swamy temple, not far from the beach.  In fact, according to the official website of Sri Kapaleeswarar temple, "the original temple was in the seashore, in the place which is now called Santhome Cathedral.  The temple suffered demolition in the 16th Century when Mylapore was captured by the Portuguese in 1566 A.D.  The fragmentary inscription from old temple are still found in St. Thomas Cathedral in the present temple and in surrounding places.  The present temple (was) rebuilt in Vijayanagar tradition by making use of the ruins of old temple retains the glory of the past and continues to attract thousands of devotees and pilgrims from far and near.  The monuments erected by the kings and philanthropic persons in the old temple have been utilized in the present temple."

Inscriptions in the temple date back to the 13th century, but the present structure owes its existence to the Vijayanagar kings and their successors.  The profusely-carved eastern gopuram (tower) is the star attraction in this temple, which is reputed to be the largest in the city.  Another attraction is the punnai tree in the courtyard, said to be one of the  oldest of such trees locally.  Under it is a small shrine for Goddess Parvati in the form of a mayil (peacock), which gives Mylapore (literally the abode of the peacock) its name. She is worshipped as Sri Karpagambal here.

According to the sthala purana, Goddess Parvati did penance here in the form of a pea-hen, myil, giving this ancient village the name, Mylapore.  The Brahmananada Purana calls this place Mayurapuri.  Mayura is peacock/hen in Sanskrit.  Lord Shiva appeared before Goddess Parvati holding a begging bowl shaped like a kapalam, thus giving Him the name Kapali/Kapaleeswarar.  Kapalam, in Sanskrit, is skull/forehead.  Apparently, Shiva, with the kapalam, alone exists at the beginning and the end of a Yuga (epoch).

Opposite the main eastern entrance are various shrines devoted to Sri Vinayaka, Sri Subramanya, the Navagrahas, etc.  To the south is a vast covered mandapam, where religious discourses and music performances are held.  Facing west is the sanctum of Sri Kapaleeswarar.  Shiva is represented here by the Lingam, which is a symbol of both the form and formless aspect of the Divine.  He is decorated with His favorite vilva leaves.  On festive occasions, the base, peetam, is covered b a silver shroud, kavacham, and the Lingam with a silver hood.  The Dwajasthambham and the nandi are in between the sanctum and the small gopuram at the western entrance.  Across the lane is the huge tank, now fenced and well maintained.  It is possibly one of the biggest temple tank in the city.  Sri Karpagambal is in a separate shrine, to the north, next to the main sanctum.  The Goddess derives Her name, Karpaga, from that of a holy tree in Swarga Loka, which apparently gives one whatever he/she wants.  Sri Parvati here plays the role of the holy tree, fulfilling the desires of Here sincere devotees.

In the inner periphery of the sanctum are images of Sri Vishnu, Brahma and Sri Durga, and, in the outer periphery, the idols of the 63 festival to commemorate the memory of these saints is one of the biggest events of the city.  It is held on the eighth day of the Brahmotsavam, in Panguni (March/April)), when the deities are taken out in a processions.  In the circumambulatory path of Sri Karpagambal's shrine are the idols of the feminine Trinity, Sri Saraswati, Sri Durga and Sri Lakshmi.  The famous punnai tree and the mayil shrine are located on the northern side.

Sri Rama visited the temple and performed the Brahmotsavam, it is said.  Mylapore was also the home of saint Tiruvalluvar and the Vaishnava icon, Peyalwar.  Like in the case of the Sri Parthasarathy Swamy temple, fortifications were allowed to be raised in this temple as well, by the French against the Dutch in 1672, a reflection of the post-Vijayanagar era.

Sri Dhandayudhapani temple

Vadapalain means North of Palani, which it virtually is.  It derives its name from Sri Dhandayudhapani temple here.  It may not be on a par with its original (Palani) counterpart, but it is one of the most popular temples in the city.

The temple was built in the last quarter of the 19th century, progressing from a thatched shed to what it is now, overshadowing, in terms of revenue, some of the older and better known temples in Chennai.  It is also a popular place to get married.  Every year about 7,000 couples tie the knot, the thali (as it is known in south India), here.  It all started when Annaswamy Thambiran, a fervent devotee of Sri Subramanya or Muruga, as He is popularly known, prayed to his favorite deity, using a picture.  He would go into a trance during these prayer sessions, and counsel/help people overcome their problems.  He went to Palain by foot had some strange experiences there, returned and continued to worship in the thatched hut here.  When he felt death was near, he entrusted the upkeep of the makeshift shrine to his friend, Ratnaswami.  Ratanaswami continued the practice of counselling/helping people in need.  Money kept coming for a temple to be built at the spot, but Ratnaswami died before the project could reach fruition.  Vadapalani saw a boom in its fortunes during the 20th century, when the entire south Indian film Industry took shape here.  Many were the studios here, from where churned thousands of films in the four southern languages, besides Hindi.  The temple prospered as a result, and under the leadership of the late Sri Kripananda Variar, famous for his eloquent, witty puranic discourses, it grew from strength to strength.

Today apart from the sanctum, the domain of Sri Dhandayudhapani, the Vadapalani Andavar (the God of Vadapalani), there are many sannidhis, devoted to Vinayaka, Siva, Parvati, Shanmuga with Valli and Devayanai, etc.  Sri Dhandayudhapani, as the name of the place indicates, is an exact replica of His original in Palani.  The eastern tower rises to a height of 40.8m, and is embellished with stucco images from the Skanda puranam, as well as the 108 dance poses of the classical Bharatanatyam.  There is another tower, facing south.  This is the more popular entrance as it open to the main Arcot Road.  To the right of this entrance is the old picture worshipped by Sri Annaswamy, Sri Ratnaswami, etc., in a small room, reminiscent of the way the original temple was.  The nearby bus terminal connects Vadapalani with most parts of the city.

Sri Kaligambal Kamateswarar temple

Sri Kaligambal Kamateswarar temple is in Parry's the busy business hub of Chennai.  The presiding deity of this shrine was reportedly consecrated by Adi Shankara, more than a thousand years ago.  He is also said to have placed the Artha Meru at the Goddess feet.  But the present structure is only a few hundred years old.  The great Maratha King, Shiviji, visited the temple on Third October 1677, during his conquests down-south.
The original temple was in Mudharasikuppam, later Madraspatnam, in the spot where Fort St.  George now stands. Around 1640, as the British wanted to build a fort there, they helped the locals to transplant the deity in its present location, then known as Chennakuppam.  The present temple was built and developed by the local artisan community, who will maintain it.  The deity, in its previous location, was worshipped by fishermen as Chennaiamman, a fierce aspect of the Mother Goddess.  Now she is worshipped in Her benign form as Kaligambal, one of the twelve manifestation of Goddess Kamatchi of Kanchipuram.

According to the sthala purana, Indra, Kubera, the sages, Vyasa, Agastya, and the celestial architect, Viswakarma, worshipped the goddess.  Shiva is worshipped here as Kamateswarar, and the shrine is regarded as a Siva-Shakti sthala.  While most sanctums face east, Sri Kaligambal's sannidhi faces west.  Again, in most shrines, the utsavar is in the same sanctum as the moolavar.  Here, the utsavar has a separate shrine, opposite the entrance.  There are two utsavars here.  Periya Nayaki, who is taken out on the street during festivals, and Siriya Nayaki, who moves within the precincts of the temple.
Sri Kaligambal Sits in the half-lotus (Padmasana) pose, with the right leg over a lotus and the left leg folded at the knee.  She is regarded as the embodiment of the female trinity, Lakshmi, Parvati and Saraswati.  Outside the sanctum is a portrait of Chatrapati Shivaji worshipping at the shrine.  There are several sub-shrines in the temple, including ones for Sri Nagaraja, Gayathri Devi, Durga, and, surprisigly, for Sri Potaluri Veerabhadra Swamy on Pournami (Full Moon) day with a garland of betel leaves to wards off the evil effects of the planets (Navagrahas).

The shrines is a favorite of women, who through the temple, especially on Tuesdays and Fridays.

How to get there

The city is well served by a part, an airport, two major railway terminals and a well-connected bus route.  The airport is only 17km from the city centre.  Chennai Central, one of the oldest In India, is located in the heart of the city.  Only 3km away is Egmore, another very old station.  While Central connects Chennai Predominantly with the north, Egmore serves as the link to the South. The sprawling CMBT terminal, in Koyambedu, serves the needs of bus passengers to destinations, in and out of Tamil Nadu.
Accommodation:  Plenty, to suit all pockets, and in every nook and corner of the city.

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