Kapaleeswarar Temple – Chennai

Kapaleeswarar temple is one of the prominent Shiva temples in India situated in Mylapore, Chennai. Here Lord Shiva is worshipped as Kapaleeswar [self-manifested] and Goddess Shakthi [Uma] as Karpagambal. There is a story behind how the place got the name Mylapore and the same story is the root of this magnificent pilgrim center. According to the legend, Goddess Karpagambal [Uma] wished to know the meaning of the five lettered divine mantra “Na Ma Shi Va Ya”. She pleaded to Lord Shiva to teach her the true meaning of the mantra along with the significance of sacred ash. He agreed and once while he was teaching the same to Uma Devi, her eyes fall upon a beautiful peahen dancing and lost her concentration. Lord Shiva displeased by her, cursed her to become a peahen. In order to free herself from the curse she was asked to go to Earth and do penance on him. Therefore Goddess Karpagambal worshipped the Shivalinga under the Punnai tree here where the temple stands. Pleased by her devotion, Lord Shiva freed the Goddess from the curse and she regained her original form. This is how the place came to be known as Mylapore [Mail – Peahen] where Goddess Karpagambal in her peahen form worshipped the Shivalinga and freed herself from the curse.
There are many tales that proves the significance of this Kapaleeswarar Temple. Lord Muruga, son of Lord Shiva visited this temple and worshipped him and his mother Goddess Uma [Karpagambal] before heading to a war with an Asura [demon] named Surapadman. He received the Shaktivel here at this temple, a divine powerful weapon his mother gave to fight the Asura.
Now there is another fascinating legend of why Lord Shiva is known as Kapaleeshwarar. Once Lord Brahma, the creator as per Hindu mythology, considered him greater than Lord Shiva as he too had five heads and then Lord Shiva inorder to teach Brahmma a lesson of humility, nipped one of the five heads of Brahma and held his skull in his hand, earning himself the name Kapaleeswarar for Kapalam in Sanskrit means Skull.
Now moving on the architecture of the temple, it is another great piece of Dravidian art, but it is not the original structure of the temple which is long gone or washed ashore. Even the great historians are not able to date the construction of the original temple building. The temple authorities claim that the original temple was destroyed by the Portuguese. The current structure is more than 300 years old. There are two entrances to the temple, one on the east and other on the west side of the temple with colourful Gopurams [temple tower] which enhance the beauty of the whole temple. The east Gopuram is 40m in height and is higher than the western Gopuram. There is a huge water tank in front of the western entrance which is another major landmark of the temple.
The Shiva Lingam worshipped here is a Swayambhu Lingam, which means it is a self-manifested lingam. It is one among the 64 Swayambhu Lingams in the world. Other than the main deities Kapaleeswarar and Karpagambal, there are various other shrines of Natana Vinayakar, Palani Andavar, Vaayilar Nayanar, Singara Velar, Dakshinamurthy, Somaskandar and Durgai. There is another small shrine outside, at the courtyard of the temple and under the old Punnai tree depicting Goddess Uma in the form of a peahen worshipping Lord Shiva, which remind us the legend of how this place got its name “Mylapore”.
Major Festivals
The annual festival Brahmotsavam is celebrated during the Panguni month [mid-March to mid-April], when thousands of devotees visit Kapaleeswarar Temple to get a glimpse of their Lord and Goddess Karpagambal. It is a 9 day festival, which starts with flag hoisting. Arubathimoovar festival conducted on the 7th day is considered as the most auspicious day of the Brahmotsavam. “Arubathimoovar” signifies 63 Nayanmars [saints] who with their dedication and devotion attained liberation from the omnipresent Lord Shiva. The idols of these 63 Nayanmars come in procession after the Kapaleeswarar and Karpagambal idols during this glorious day. The festival concludes with Tirukalyanam [Holy marriage] of the Lord Kapaleeswarar and Goddess Karpagambal.
Another great spiritual gathering is during the Maha Shiv Ratri, the day when Lord Shiva was married to Goddess Parvathy. Also a huge crowd visits the temple on the New Moon days, Full Moon days and during the Pradosha Days.
Temple Timings
The temple is open every day except on Mondays, during morning 5am – 12pm, and evening 5pm – 9pm.
Below are the pooja timings:
Pooja Timings
Ko Pooja 05.00 A.M
Vaikarai Pooja 06.00 A.M
Kala Sandhi Pooja 08.00 A.M
Uchi Kala Pooja 12.00 P.M
Ardhajama Pooja 09.00 P.M
How to Reach?
By Air:
The Chennai International Airport is one of the finest and well-connected airports in India. It is connected to all the major cities inside the country as well as all over the globe. After landing on the airport you can find a lot of taxi’s and Tamil Nadu government buses. Either grab a taxi, or board in a bus to Mylapore, which is just 16 kms from the airport.
By Rail:
Chennai Central Railway Station is nearly 8 kms from the Mylapore where Kapaleeswarar Temple is located. There are frequent trains from all the major cities in India to Chennai, or moves via Chennai. Therefore it is easy to connect through rail. From the station grab a taxi or bus to Mylapore.
By Road:
The Kapaleeswarar temple is 8 kms away from the Chennai City and Chennai City is well connected to almost all parts of the country by National Highway and all parts of the Tamil Nadu State by the state highway. Therefore if you are travelling by car, it is easy to reach the temple. Also if you are considering bus, then Government buses as well as private buses are available from all the cities in South India.
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