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Ekambareswarar Temple, Kanchipuram

Ekambareswarar Temple, also known as Ekambaranathar temple is one of the most popular temples of Kanchipuram, the ‘City of Temples’. Also one of the Panch Bootha Sthalangal of God Shiva, this city is also one of the seven great holy centers of ancient India.

Significance

Ekambareswarar temple is a huge temple, covering an area of around 40 acres. It is believed to be one of India’s most ancient temples that has been here from the year 600 AD. The rulers of Chola, Vijayanagar and Pallava dynasties have given their contribution during different times in the construction of the temple. The presiding deity is Lord Shiva who is revered here in the form of Prithvi Lingam/Lingam of Earth. All the Shiva temple in the city has a separate shrine for the female deity but it is not the case in Ekambareswarar. Appar, Sambandar, Manickavasgar and Sundarar, the four popular Saivite Saints of the region have praised the temple in their songs.

The temple also has an old revered mango tree, known to be the Sthala Vruksham, which is believed to be over 3000 year old. The tree has four branches depicting the 4 Vedas. Each branch of the tree bears 4 varied types of mango in 4 different seasons. If mythology is to be believed it once happened that Goddess Parvathi got separated from the Lord and came to Kancheepuram. Using sand, she made a Sivalingam, which is installed under the mango tree. She worshipped that Lingarm religiously and got together back with Lord Shiva.

This is one of the most sacred temples to the Lord as it is also one of the Panchabhoota Stalams representing the 5 elements- water (Tiruvanaikkaval), wind (Kalahasti), space (Chidambaram), fire (Tiruvannamalai) and earth (Kanchipuram). This huge temple received many grants from the Vijayanagar rulers, that can be noted in its long corridors, towering gopuram as well as mandapams. This temple is also the first of the 32 Tevara Stalams in the Tondai region of Southern India.

The colossal gopurams of the temple look amazing against the skyline of the temple.The Pallavas, Cholas and the Vijayanagar rulers mainly Krishna Deva Raya made important contributions to this temple. The original structure was demolished and then reconstructed by the Pallava rulers. The Cholas entered the scene later on and made a number of contributions to Ekambareswarar temple.

The Ekambareswarar temple complex spreads in an area of over 40 acres. The entrance tower or the Raja Gopuram, with a height of 172 feet, was erected by Krishnadevaraya, a Vijayanagar ruler. The pillared hall in front of the main sanctum was also constructed by the Vijayanagar Kings.

Lord Shiva here is worshipped as the Prithvi Lingam and is known as Ekambareswarar. A Somaskanda panel including Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati and Skanda Mata feston the back of the main temple area, usedin worship for centuries. As told earlier that Parbati worshipped the Lord as Prithivi Lingam, made from sand, placed under a mango tree. The legend inform that once the bordering River Vegavati flooded, threating to immerse the Lingam. Goddess Parvati or Kamakshi, clutched the Shiva Lingam, who was touched by her gesture in person and married her. Because of the same the Lord is also referred to as 'Tazhuvakkuzhainthaar' in Tamil.

Festivals and Services

Six worship services namely UshadKalam, Kaalasanthi, Uchi Kaalam, Pradosham and Sayarakshai and Ardhajamam are offered to the Lord, every day. The temple also becomes the venue of splendid festivals like Ani Tirumanjanam (June-July), Adi Kritikai (July-August), Avani Moolam (August - September), Navaratri (September-October), Kartikai Deepam (November-December), Thai Poosam (January-February), Panguni Uthiram (March-April), Chitra Pournami (April-May) and Vaikashi Vishakam (May-June), every year. One of the most important of these annual festival is the 13-day Panguni festival when the wedding of the Lord is celebrated. The acclaimed Tamil poems of the Nayanmars (Tirumurais) tell the tales of the same.

Legend of Ekambareswarar temple

According to the Sthala Purana, at the time when the Lord was extremely absorbed in the creation, protection and destruction of the Universe, his consort Goddess Parvati, closed his eyes in a jovial manner. As a result there was a halt in this important process, making the Lord angry. In anger, he cursed Parvati to leave his side, to the Earth and amend her fault. After this, she came to the banks of Kampa River under a single mango tree in Kanchipuram. She made a Shivalinga from sand and started worshipping it. Lord thought of testing her by creating obstacles in her way of penance. However, with Lord Vishnu’s help, she cleared all her troubles. At last, Lord Shiva opened his matted hair and asked River Ganga to wash away the Linga that Parvati was worshipping. She hugged the Lingam tightly. The Lord was pleased and remarried her.

Architecture of Ekambareswarar Temple

The tall gopurams of Ekambareswarar temple look daunting with the Kanchipuram’s skyline in the backdrop. The temple complex spreads in an area of 40 acres. The tower on the entry gate or Raja Gopuram, erected by Krishnadevaraya, is 172 feet high. Another structure he built was pillared hall in the sanctum’s front. The main shrine is surrounded by a corridor, representing an arrangement of receding piers. One can spot statues of 63 Nayanmars. The temple complex also has 2 tanks, Kampa Nadi and Shivaganga. There is also a shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu who here is worshipped as Nilatingal Tundattan. The temple also has valuable silver and gold-plated vahanams.

Time to Visit

The temple complex bustles with activity because of the various festivals that are celebrated all through the year. The 13-day festival, the Phalguni Festival is the most important temple festival of Lord Shiva or Lord Ekambareswar. During this festival that the wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati is performed.

How to Reach the Temple

By Air

The nearest international airport is in Chennai that is located at a distance of 75 km from Kanchipuram. From the airport, both private and public transport facility is available.

By Rail

Kanchipuram Railway Station is very well- connected to the southern part of the railway network.

By Road

A good network of roads connects Kanchipuram city with the other part of the state and the neighboring states. Frequent bus service is available from Chennai. Going for private vehicle or rented cab is another option.

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