Kanchipuram Meenakshi Temple




The Kamakshi Temple is an ancient Hindu Temple dedicated to Kamakshi, one of the forms of Goddess Parvati. It is located in the historic city of Kanchipuram, near Chennai, India. The Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, the Akilandeswari temple in Thiruvanaikaval near Tiruchirappalli and this Kamakshi temple are the important centers of worship of Goddess, in the state of Tamil Nadu. The Temple was most probably built by the Pallava kings, whose capital was Kanchipuram.

The Image of the main Deity, Kamakshi, is seated in a majestic Padmasana, a yogic posture signifying peace and prosperity, instead of the traditional standing pose. Goddess holds a sugarcane bow and bunch of five flowers in the lower two of her arms and has a pasha (lasso), an ankusha (goad) in her upper two arms. There is also a parrot perched near the flower bunch. There are no other Goddesss temples 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 that account for this fact.

Adi Shankaracharya, the famous 8th century CE scholar and saint, re-established the Sri Chakra in this Kamakshi Devi temple in the trough-like structure in that shrine.
The Devi in Adi Kamakshi temple which is close by the present Kamakshi temple, is called by various names like Kirtimati, Devagarbha in extant Tantric works like Tantrachudamani. She has four hands containing in each of them respectively, Ankusa, PAsa, Abhaya and a Kapala. This description corresponds to those extant old tantric works.

Shri Lalita Parabhattarika presides over the Kamakoshtha in five forms:

  1. Shri Kamakshi Para Bhattarika – Sri Kamakshi is the mula devata of the Kamakoti pitha seated in the centre of the inner sanctorum of the shrine in Kanchipuram known as the GayatrI mantapam. According to kamakshI rahasya, this mandapa was built by the celestials with the four walls representing the four Vedas and the twenty-four pillars representing the twenty-four syllables of the sacred formula of gayatri. Shrividya ParameshvarI, who forms the inner core of the prakata gayatri and thus called rahasya gayatrI, is enshrined at the centre of the gayatrI mandapam as ShrI Kamakshi. She is seated on pancha brahmasana and sports in her four hands pasha, ankusha, iskhu kodanda and pushpa bana. Paramba is seated in yonyasana and faces southeast. When tormented by asuras led by Bhandasura, devas are said to have performed a penance to appease the Supreme Shakti in the form of parrots, residing on champaka vrkshas at KanchI. Pleased with their penance, Paramba is said to have appeared from her residence in Mahameru or Bilakasha through the bila dvara and destroyed the demons. The shrI vigraha of Paramba has been described as representing her three forms: sthula (Dhyana yogya, Savayava), Sukshma (mantra and yantratmaka) and Karana or Vasanatmaka. It is also said that Lord Mahadeva himself worshipped paramba in the four yugas assuming the forms of sages krodha bhattaraka, parashurama, dhaumya and Adi shankara bhagavatpada (and muka shankara, believed to be an incarnation of krodha bhattaraka). The bila dvara leading to bilakasha can be seen today in front of the tapomagna kamakshI sannidhi inside the garbhagrha. It is also said that bhagavan rudra assumed the form of durvasas on her emergence from the bilakasha and first worshipped her through the modalities of shrIvidya tantra by consecrating a shrichakra here. He is thus the sampradaya guru of shrIvidya and the credit for crystallizing paramba at Kanchipuram as Gurumurtisvarupini (Charyanandanatha-para bhattarika mithunatmika) goes to this great seer. The forms of vashinyadi Vagdevatas can be seen around the Shrichakra in their same positions as in Shripura. A shrine dedicated to hayagrIva and agastya can be seen in the third prakara of the temple, at the location where the teaching of lalita trishati was imparted.
  2. Tapah Kamakshi – This form of paramba can be seen to the right of the mula devata and close to the bila dvara. Separated from mahadeva, uma appeared first as annapurna in Kashi and then following the advice of sage Katyayana, appeared in Kanchi to worship Ekamranatha under the mango tree in rudrakoshtha and married him.
  3. Anjana Kamakshi – Also known as Arupa lakshmi, her shrine is situated to the left of the mula devata, facing the north and in front of saubhagya ganapati. Rama is said to have performed a penance to regain her lost beauty in this place and due to the grace of paramba, kumkuma offerings of mula devata is offered to her here before being accepted by the devotees. While she represents Rama in her form as rama-bija, she represents Kamakshi in the form of Kamakalakshara that is inherent in the rama bIja.
  4. Svarna Kamakshi – The shrine of this deity, also known as Bangaru Kamakshi is situated in the second prakara. It is said that this form was created by Shrividya parameshvari from her third eye to serve as the shakti of ekamranatha named ekambika. The original idol that appeared from the third-eye of paramba is seen today in Tanjore, which was transported to Tanjore to protect the idol from Muslim attacks by Kamakshidasa, an ancestor of Shri Shyama Shastrigal.
  5. Utsava Kamakshi – The shrine of Utasava Kamakshi, the idol which is brought out during processions, is located in the second prakara. The idol is accompanied on either side by idols of Sharada and Rama. While the devatas generally are accompanied by their male/female consorts in most cases, on account of Kamakshi being Shiva-shaktyatmika, there is no shrine devoted to Shiva here. Sri Lalitambika, who appeared from Chidagni for the destruction of Bhandasura, was presented to the world by Brahma with the special name – Sri Kamakshi. Thus, ‘Kamakshi’ is the special epithet of the primordial Parashakti Sri Lalita. As she brings joy to the mind of Sri Kameshwara, she is referred to as ‘Sri Lalita’.

Festivals :

Four worship services are offered each day. The annual festival falls in Spring, in the Tamil month of Masi, which runs from mid-March to mid-April. During this time the chariot festival (Ther) and float festival, (Theppam) are held. Other festivals include Navaratri, Aadi and Aippasi Pooram, Sankara Jayanthi and Vasanta Utsavam in the Tamil month of Vaikasi. All Fridays are considered sacred, though the Fridays in the Tamil months of Adi (mid-July to mid-August) and Thai (mid-January to mid-February) are celebrated.

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