21 August 2009
Pancha Bootha Sthalams/Temples - Prithvi sthalam (Earth) - Kanchipuram
Prithvi sthalam (Earth) - Kanchipuram This is one of the most revered temples to Shiva; it is one of the Panchabhoota Stalams signifying the 5 elements of wind (Kalahasti), water (Tiruvanaikka), fire (Tiruvannamalai), earth (Kanchipuram) and space (Chidambaram). It is a vast temple with many an endowment from the Vijayanagar rulers, as seen in the long corridors, towering gopurams and mandapams. This is the 1st of the 32 Tevara Stalams in the Tondai region of South India. There are several Shiva temples scattered all over Kanchipuram, and it is to be noted that there is no separate shrine for Parvati in any of them. The Kamakshiamman temple is the only Ambal shrine in Kanchipuram. In Kanchi, the Ekambreswarar, Kamakottam temples with Kumarakottam in between denote Somaskandar. History: This vast temple with high rising Gopurams dominates the skyline of Kanchipuram the historic capital of the Pallavas. Kanchipuram - a temple town is considered to be the foremost among the seven prime pilgrimage centers in India. Along with Mamallapuram and Tirukkalunkunram, this town attracts the attention of several tourists in Chennai. Also in Kanchipuram is the grand Varadarajar temple along with several other temples revered by the tamil hymns of the Alwars of the 1st millennium. The Pallavas, Cholas and the Vijayanagar Kings especially Krishna Deva Raya have contributed to this temple. Second century AD Tamil poetry speaks of Kamakottam, and the Kumarakottam (currently the Kamakashi Amman temple and the Subramanya temple). Tiruvacakam, Tirukkovaiyaar, Kanchipuranam, Manimekalai etc. speak of the glory of Kanchi the city.The existing structure then, was pulled down and rebuilt by the Pallava Kings. The Cholas who came in later also made several contributions to the temple. Architecture: The temple covers an area of over 40 acres. The Raja Gopuram or the entrance tower to the temple which rises to a height of 172 feet was built by the Vijayanagar Monarch Krishnadevaraya. The pillared hall in front of the sanctum was also built by the Vijayanagar Kings. Deities: The presiding deity here is Ekambareswarar or Shiva, worshipped as the Prithivi Lingam. A Somaskanda panel featuring Shiva, Parvati and Skanda adorns the rear of the main shrine, which has been held in worship for centuries together. It is believed that Parvati, the consort of Shiva worshipped him in the form of a Prithivi Lingam, or a Lingam improvised out of sand, under a mango tree. Legend says that the neighboring Vegavati river overflowed and threatened to engulf the Shiva Lingam and that Parvati or Kamakshi, embraced the Lingam, and Shiva, touched by the gesture materialized in person and married her. In this context he is referred to as 'Tazhuvakkuzhainthaar' in Tamil. As mentioned before, there is no separate shrine for Ambal or the Goddess in the temple as she is worshipped along with Shiva, as in every other Shiva temple in the precincts of the town of Kanchipuram. There is another shrine of Shiva and Kamakshi under the Stala Vruksham or the Temple tree, which is a mango tree said to be 3500 years old. The mango tree is said to be the embodiment of the four Vedas and the tree is said to bear fruits of four different tastes each season here. The Saint poet Sundaramoorthy Nayanar is said to have recovered his eyesight (left eye) after offering worship here. Festivals and Services: Six worship services are offered each day in this temple - namely UshadKalam, Kaalasanthi, Uchi Kaalam, Pradosham and Sayarakshai and Ardhajamam. Colorful festivals such as Ani Tirumanjanam (June-July), Adi Kritikai (July-Aug), Avani Moolam (Aug - Sep), Navaratri (Sep-October), Kartikai Deepam (Nov-Dec), Thai Poosam (Jan-Feb), Panguni Uthiram (Mar-Apr), Chitra Pournami (Apr-May) and Vaikashi Vishakam (May-June) mark the temple's annual calendar. The Panguni festival lasts for 13 days and it is during this festival that the wedding of the presiding deity is celebrated, and the venerated Tamil poems of the Nayanmars (Tirumurais) are sung in great splendor. Nilaathungal Tunda Perumaal - Vishnu is worshipped in a small shrine in one of the corridors.The works of the Alwars refer to the Vishnu shrine here and it is revered as one of the 108 Divya Desams as well. Travel Air : The nearest airport is Chennai, 71km northeast. Rail: From Chennai Beach Station one has to go via Chingleput (Chengalpattu). Bus: There are regular buses to Kanchipuram from Chennai A convenient way to get to Kanchipuram is to get a tourist taxi from Chennai, which should be around Rs 1200 roundtrip plus driving around in Kanchi. Both ITDC and TTDC operate daily conducted tours from Chennai to Tirukkalukundram, Kanchipuram, and Mamallapuram.