Kamakshi Amman Temple – Kanchipuram
Narayan & me plan our yearly trips to temples down south especially our Kula Devam or Ancestral Deity. To be honest, until the year 2013 we never made it a point to visit Kanchipuram but that year was special as we had to fulfill a long pending wish of Narayan’s late mother & hence planned our visit. The experience left us spellbound and every year since then we make it a point to visit & witness the Abhishekam (holy bath & pooja) of the Goddess.
This year we planned a very short trip, nevertheless made the most of it.
After we landed at Chennai earlier last week, we headed to zoom cars facility situated near the airport. Narayan is fond of driving & since its such short distance (much lesser than Mumbai – Pune), we thought self driven cars could be a good option. The vehicles are in good condition, price is reasonable & the experience is wonderful.
You need to book a week in advance by paying online. They insist you check the vehicle completely before starting your journey. Pictures are to be clicked ensuring no damage to the body of the car is done. They provide you with car papers, fill the tank with fuel & in case you wish to refuel, just preserve the bill & get the same reimbursed later.
Once you drop the vehicle back, they check the car for any damage & within 2 working days, your deposit is refunded back to you. (A refundable Deposit is taken at the time of booking to ensure damage to the car, if any, can be recovered).
Distance & How to reach Kanchipuram – (incase you don’t want to opt for zoom cars)
At a distance of 75 kms from Chennai, Kanchipuram can be reached by bus or hiring private cars. Takes around 2.5 hours max by road with some traffic on the way.
Stay at Kanchipuram
If you are looking for staying at Kanchipuram, don’t expect 3 star hotels (with the exception of GRT Residency) which to our experience, also doesn’t quite fit the bill. Opt for smaller hotels that are decent with basic facilities & closer to the temple.
In the initial 2 years of our trip here, we managed a day trip to Kanchipuram. So we stayed in Chennai, took a private cab & post pooja, travelled back. However, last 2 years, we plan our stay at Kanchipuram itself just to ensure we get a good darshan of the Almighty. PS – Quality of roads have improved extensively making the journey less tiresome.
The next morning was the Abhishekam pooja which starts at 5.30 am. Yes, the temple doors open at 5am. Usually an hour and a half of pooja followed by prasad. The abhishekam or holy bath that is given to the Goddess usually starts with water, milk, curd (dahi), coconut water or elaneer, Kumkum or vermillion, sandalwood paste (chandanam), Vibhuti or ash, rose water mixed with water, Panchamitram (5 components – bananas, 2 types of seasonal fruits, dates, kalkand (sugar) or powdered jaggery) which is then smeared on the Goddess & honey is poured over. This is the prasad that is further distributed to all post abhishekam.
After the holy bath, the priest adorns the Goddess with the choicest of silk clothes & jewellery. A neivedhyam or prasad offering is made which is also distributed to everyone who visits the temple to offer their prayers.
PS – one shouldn’t miss the neivedhyam of this temple. Simply delicious. Soul satisfying & power packed healthy breakfast. We were given Ven Pongal (Khara Pongal – a rice & lentil dish with ghee, pepper & jeera tempered & mixed).
Introduction, About the Goddess & the Temple history / Mythology –
Kamakshi Amman (Goddess Kamakshi an Avatar of Parvati, Wife of Lord Shiva) is very close to my heart. A source of immense strength & positive energy, I feel completely rejuvenated, ready to face any/all challenges that life throws at me.
I am sharing some of the details about the temple including a bit of history & how to travel, places to visit etc nearby.
About the Temple – (from the temple website)
Located in the City of Kanchipuram near Chennai, India, Kamakshi is one of the forms of Goddess Parvati (wife of Shiva). The temple was built by the kings of Pallava dynasty. Adi Shakaracharya, the famous 8th century CE Scholar and saint, re-established the Sri Chakra in the temple. The diety sits in a Padmasana pose.
(picture below is the holy pond or theppa kulam that is all lit at night). The temple uses the water that is stored in this pond for its day to day activities.
Along with Madurai Meenakshi, Thiruvanaikaval Akilandeswari, Vishalakshi Varanasi, Kamakshi is an important part of worship of Parvati.
It is interesting to note that there are no traditional Parvati or Shakthi shrines 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 attributed to it. One of them according to Kamkshivilasa is that the Goddess had to absorb all the other shakthi forms to give boon to Manmatha (the Hindu god of fertility and love).
(picture of the same pond in the morning)
Another legend attributes it to the Raja Rajeswari pose of the deity that signifies an absolute control over the land under its control, leaving no other forms of Shakthi.
Legend has it that Kamakshi offered worship to a Shivalingam made out of sand, under a mango tree and gained Shiva’s hand in marriage.
The shrine situated in front of Sri Kamakshi’s Garbha Grham is of Sage Durvasas, also known as Krodha Bhattaraka. There are thirty-two chief upasakas of Devi like manu, chandra, kubera etc. Among these, Kamaraja, Lopamudra and Durvasa are the chief upasakas. Durvasa pranita vidya is called Sadi vidya. Durvasa represents the power of sattvika krodha of Amba, used to protect and correct her devotees, and thus her limitless kriya shakti. It is Sri Durvasa who established the Kamakoti Peetha by consecrating a Bhu-Prastara Srichakra in front of Amba. He composed Lalita Stavaratna, also called Arya dwisahti, describing the Srinagara. He also composed Tripura Mahimna Stotra, a complete mantra shastra in itself and also the Para Shambhu Mahimna Stotra. Due to a curse by Saraswati, he was born as a deaf and dumb brahmana and was graced by Sri Kamakshi with Anugraha Diksha.
The mythology of Daksha yaga and Sati’s self-immolation is the main theme in the origin of Shakti Peethas.
Shakti Peethas are divine temples of Adiparashakti. The cause of the presence of Devi’s presence is due to the falling of body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi. The naval part of Sati Devi’s body is believed to have fallen here. There are 51 Shakti Peeth linking to the 51 alphabets in Sanskrit.
Festivals of Importance at the Temple –
At the temple there are 4 services offered during the day. I would recommend attending the early morning Abhishekam or holy bath given to Goddess followed by pooja. According to Tamil calender, during the maasi month, annual festival of the temple is conducted.
Monthly processions are also done in a silver chariot. Festivals like Navratri, Aadi, Aippasi Pooram, Sankara Jayanthi and Vasanta Utsavam in Vaikasi are also celebrated with full fervor.
Like other temples of Tamil Nadu, the Fridays falling in the month of ‘Adi’ and ‘Thai’ are observed with grand ceremonies.
Shopping in Kanchipuram –
Kanchipuram is famous for its traditional Kanjeevaram sarees that are actually made with silver threads. While many shops are available, do not fall trap to the auto rickshaw drivers who promise to take you to good shops. Duplicates are easily available & it’s always better to keep an eye while buying the real stuff. Please shop with someone who has an idea of what a real kanjivaram pattu (silk) looks & feels like.
PS – Personally I don’t buy sarees from Kanchipuram. It’s usually from Chennai or Tirunelveli.
The sarees are expensive but extremely grand & every South Indian lady proudly boasts of having atleast a dozen or more of them in their closet (including me). A wedding ceremony without these sarees are incomplete. Sarees are available in both 6 yards & 9 yards. Please bargain for a good price.
You can also buy Veshti or Silk dhotis for male members which are also available in the shops. Angavastram or towels are also sold that complete the traditional look for males.
Foodies can expect a good deal of south indian food (mostly vegetarian). Chinese & North Indian dishes also are prepared & served though not completely authentic.
When in any part of south india, try their meals (lunch) that are served on banana leaf.
The breakfast usually starts at 6.30 am to 10am & lunch starts from 11am to 3pm. South Indians usually prefer eating a heavy breakfast & lunch. Usually dinner is “Tiffin” or just plain idlis / dosas.
Famous Hotels of south India like Saravana Bhavan, Adayar Anand Bhavan have their branches at Kanchipuram to ensure good variety of south indian food, snacks & sweets.
Note – Photos of the surrounding areas are only permissible. No picture of the deity or the sanctum sanctorum is allowed to be taken.
The main picture is taken at 5am in the morning when the temple opens for the public. You can see the amount of people who are already waiting to seek darshan of the Almighty.