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Ekambareswarar Temple | History, Architecture and Facts of Ekambareswarar

Experience the Intriguing Mixtures of History and Cultures at Ekambareswarar Temple

One among the most distinctive Shiva temples, the Ekambareswarar temple carries a lot of significance for being one of the ‘Pancha Bootha Sthalams’, where it represents the element earth or Prithvi. The other four being Thiruvanaikaval Jambukeswara representing water; Chidambaram Natarajar representing ether or cosmos; Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar symbolizing fire and Kalahasti Nathar standing for wind. Situated in the Kanchipuram town in Tamil Nadu, Lord Shiva is called Ekambareswarar and worshipped in the form of Shivalinga, which is called Pritvi Lingam.

One of the ancient temples in India, Ekambareswarar is adored by the Tamil saint poet Nayanars in the 7th century in the canonical work Tevaram, and distinguished as Paadal Petra Sthalam, which means the temple sung in the poem.

Ekambareswarar Temple

Ekambareswarar Temple | Image Resource : i.pinimg.com

History of Ekambareswarar Temple

The Ekambareswarar temple is known to have existed since 600 AD. There are references that the Tamil poets in the second century AD spoke about Kama kottam, which is this temple. The classical Tamil Sangam literature, such as Manimegalai and Perumpanarruppatai, which dates back to 300 BCE has references about the Ekambareswarar temple.

Pallavas first built this temple, which was later rebuilt by the Chola kings. It was Adi Sankaracharya, who expanded the temple when he remodeled the town Kanchipuram with the help of the rulers at that time. The Kamakshi Amman temple and Varadaraja temple were also modified at that time. The temple received lands from Achutarya during the time and there are inscriptions to this effect.

Further development to the Ekambareswarar temple happened in the 15th century during the time of Vijayanagar kings, who were known to have made a lot of contributions. It was Vallal Pachiyappa Mudaliyar who spent abundant money on the renovation of the temple. He used to visit the temple regularly traveling from Chennai. Further renovation activities were carried out by Nattukottai Chettiars, a community of merchants.

The legend says that Shiva got the name Ekambareswarar because Parvati, who was cursed to become dark, performed a penance under the mango tree by the Vegavathi River to get rid of her sin. To test Parvati’s devotion, Shiva sent fire, to which Parvati prayed to Lord Vishnu to help her. Lord Vishnu, with the help of the moon taken from Lord Shiva’s head, cooled the place and Parvati.

When Lord Shiva sent Ganga to break Parvati’s penance, who was trying to build a Shivalinga using the sand, Parvati convinced Ganga that she is her sister and requested her not to disturb her. Parvati could finally make a Shivalinga, worship it and get united with Shiva. Since the Shivalinga was built under the mango tree, Lord Shiva came to be known as Ekambareswarar, which means the ‘Lord of Mango tree’.

Another legend says that Parvati built a Shivalinga under the mango tree. While worshipping it the nearby Vegavathi River started overflowing, thus threatening to submerge the Shivalinga. Realizing this, Parvati embraced the Shivalinga and her touch made Shiva appear before her in person and marry her. This has made Shiva known as Tazhuva Kuzhainthaar in Tamil, which means “He who melted in her embrace”.

Architecture of Ekambareswarar Temple

Built by Vijayanagara kings, the Ekambareswarar temple is situated on a land of 23 acres. The temple has a tower called ‘Rajagopuram’ at the entrance, which is of about 195 feet high and it is considered to be one of the tallest in South India. When you enter the temple through the rajagopuram, you can find two halls named ‘Vahana mandapam’ and ‘Sarabesa mandapam’ which, in other words are called vehicle hall and Navaratri hall.

On the precinct, you can also see the ‘Aayiram kaal mandapam’ or a hall with thousand pillars. There is also a pond and a Ganesh temple in the fourth courtyard. Several shrines, including those of Vinayaga and Murugan can be seen in the courtyard.

Inside the temple, you can find the sanctum sanctorum, where the Shivalinga is positioned, along with the image of Shiva. You can find a range of Shiva Lingas in the innermost area, in which there is a ‘Sahasralinga’, which has 1008 lingas sculpted on it. There are also images of 63 Nayanmars finished in granite in the first precinct. There is no shrine for Parvati, though there is a plaque depicting Shiva Parvati, which showed Shiva and Parvati as Tazhuva Kuzhainthaar and Elavar Kuzhali respectively.

Some Facts about Ekambareswarar Temple

What makes this Shiva temple is its long history. Here are some of the facts about this fascinating structure.

  • The Ekambareswarar temple has the tallest tower and that makes it the biggest temple in Kanchipuram.

  • It has the significance of being one of the ‘Pancha Bootha Sthalams’.

  • The inner precinct of the temple has 10 pillars, which produce different musical sounds when you tap each one.

  • You can find a Kubera idol, which is believed to grant one riches on worshipping it.

  • During the Panguni month, which falls between March and April, you can see the direct sun rays falling on the Shivalinga in the sanctum on days such as 19, 20 and 21.

  • If you observe carefully, you can find all the 12 zodiac signs on the roof of the temple.

Some Famous Festivals of Ekambareswarar Temple

When it comes to festivals, the temple is known for the famous 13-day Panguni Uthiram festival, which generally falls in March and April. It is a grand celebration where you can find processions of Shiva carried on the silver rath and silver mavadi servai. The one with the golden vrushab, which is Nandi, the bull, is the grandest of all processions. Devotees from different parts of the country throng the place during the two-week long festival.

The Ekambareswarar temple also performs special pujas on pradosham days, as well as on the new year day and Diwali.

Get to Know Ekambareswarar Temple Timings

The temple opens at 6 a.m. in the morning and closes after ‘uchi kala pooja’ at 12.30 p.m. It reopens again at 4 p.m. and closes at 8.30 p.m. after the ‘artha jama’ pooja. There are daily poojas, as well as special poojas performed on request.

How to Reach Ekambareswarar Temple?

The Ekambareswarar temple is easily accessible by road, rail and air. Chennai is the nearest city that connects Kanchipuram, with buses run by the state government and private operators frequently. It just takes 2-3 hours to reach the temple from Chennai.

There are also regular trains from Chennai and other cities connecting the Kanchipuram railway station. From the railway station, it is just a walkable distance to the temple. For those who travel by air, the nearest airport is the Chennai International Airport, which is just 61 kilometers via Tambaram and Mudichur to the Ekambareswarar temple.

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