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Kapaleeswarar Temple

By Alan J Bright
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March 22, 2023

The Kapaleeswarar Temple, located in Mylapore, Chennai, is one of the oldest and most revered temples in the city. The temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a stunning example of Dravidian architecture and is known for its intricate carvings, colorful gopurams, and vibrant festivals. In this article, we will take a closer look at the legends and history associated with the temple, its architecture and design, and the significance of its festivals and rituals.

Legends and History

The Legend of Kapaleeswarar Temple

According to legend, the temple was built to commemorate a fierce battle between Lord Shiva and the demon king Ravana. It is said that Ravana, in his arrogance, lifted Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva, on his shoulders. To humble him, Lord Shiva pressed down on the mountain with his toe, trapping Ravana underneath. Ravana then composed the Shiva Tandava Stotram, a hymn in praise of Lord Shiva, and the lord was pleased with his devotion. He released Ravana and blessed him, and the Kapaleeswarar Temple was built to honor this event.

Historical Significance

The Kapaleeswarar Temple has a rich history dating back to the 7th century. It was built by the Pallava dynasty, and its original name was "Kapaleecharam," which means "Lord of the skull." It is said that the temple was later renovated and expanded by the Chola dynasty in the 16th century. The temple has undergone several renovations over the years and was declared a protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1920.

Architecture and Design

Dravidian Style Architecture

The Kapaleeswarar Temple is a beautiful example of Dravidian style architecture, which is characterized by its towering gopurams, intricate carvings, and bright colors. The temple has a rectangular shape and is divided into two main parts: the sanctum sanctorum and the outer courtyard.

Gopurams

The temple has two towering gopurams or entrance towers, which are covered with colorful stucco figures and carvings of gods and goddesses. The eastern gopuram is the tallest and has eleven stories, while the western gopuram has nine stories.

Inner Sanctum

The inner sanctum of the temple houses the main deity, Lord Kapaleeswarar, and his consort, Goddess Karpagambal. The idol of Lord Shiva is made of black stone and is adorned with precious jewels and flowers. The walls of the sanctum are covered with intricate carvings and paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses.

Festivals and Rituals

Panguni Festival

The Kapaleeswarar Temple is famous for its Panguni festival, which is celebrated in March-April. The festival lasts for ten days and is a time of great joy and celebration. The streets around the temple are decorated with colorful lights and the temple is adorned with flowers and garlands. The highlight of the festival is the chariot procession, where the idol of Lord Kapaleeswarar is taken around the streets in a beautifully decorated chariot.

Arubathimoovar Festival

Another important festival celebrated at the temple is the Arubathimoovar festival, which is held in February-March. The festival is dedicated to the sixty-three Nayanmars, the great devotees of Lord Shiva. During the festival, the idols of the Nayanmars are

During the festival, the idols of the Nayanmars are taken in a grand procession around the temple. The festival also includes music and dance performances, and a special puja is performed for Lord Kapaleeswarar.

Other Festivals and Rituals

Apart from the Panguni and Arubathimoovar festivals, the temple also celebrates other important festivals such as Navaratri, Vinayaka Chaturthi, and Mahashivaratri. Daily rituals such as abhishekam, alankaram, and archana are also performed to the deities.

Conclusion

The Kapaleeswarar Temple is not only a magnificent example of Dravidian architecture but also a significant religious and cultural center in Chennai. Its rich history, fascinating legends, and vibrant festivals make it a must-visit for anyone interested in Hinduism and Indian culture.

FAQs

1. What is the significance of the name Kapaleeswarar?

The name Kapaleeswarar means "Lord of the skull" and is associated with a legend of Lord Shiva and Ravana.

2. When was the temple built?

The temple was built in the 7th century by the Pallava dynasty.

3. What is the Panguni festival?

The Panguni festival is a ten-day festival celebrated in March-April and is known for its colorful chariot procession.

4. What is Dravidian style architecture?

Dravidian style architecture is characterized by its towering gopurams, intricate carvings, and bright colors.

5. Is the temple open to non-Hindus?

Yes, the temple is open to people of all religions and backgrounds. However, visitors are expected to dress modestly and follow the rules and rituals of the temple.

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