The first temple I visited during my visit to Kanchipuram was Kanchi Kamakshi Temple and the second, was Ekambareswarar Temple. Why not? Even though here is the kingdom of Kamakshi Devi, how can you go without meeting the lord of Kancheepuram? Ekambaresvara Temple or Ekambaranath Temple is one of the largest Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu and is credibly the largest Shiva temple in Kancheepuram. The gopuram of this temple with a huge mandapa of thousands of pillars is one of the tallest gopurams in Kanchipuram.
I had my first darshan of Ekambareswar temple in the morning. The driver of my auto got me off the auto near a pavilion of several pillars. The doors of the pavilion were not yet open. Once upon a time it must have been an open courtyard. But now it is surrounded by an iron fence. Its gates are opened only during the day. I went ahead. At that time I did not know that I was going to see the Hanuman pillar inside it after some time which is worshiped like a temple. This made me wonder whether the images of deities we see engraved on the pillars of ancient temples, did our ancestors worship all those images as well?
Going further from here, my eyes fell on a small pavilion supported by four pillars. This beautiful mandapa was right in front of the Ekambareswar temple. This was proving to be a suitable background of the Gopuram built by the elevated and southern method of the unique Ekambaresvara temple of Kanchipuram. The wonderful golden color of the magnificent Gopuram seen from here was mesmerizing. I stood there and started looking at him wholeheartedly.
The Gopuram of the Ekambaresvara temple is of 11 floors. The lower two strands are of Bhasma Varna. There are 11 metallic urns on top of the gopuram. It is considered a symbol of auspiciousness and prosperity. Within the 57 m high gopuram, right in the middle, is the idol of Parvati clasping the Shivalinga. This image of the idol is the symbolic symbol of this temple. I saw the modern form of this statue again on my left side as I was entering the temple through the gopuram. It seemed as if it was repeating its story once again before entering the temple.
Ekambareswarar Temple in Kancheepuram
The entire map of the temple is estimated only after entering the temple. The best parts of the temple are still hidden behind strong stone walls. There I was attracted by the very attractive carvings, the stones of dark incineration. There was a long corridor over these stones. Horses and other animals were carved on the double pillars, as if they were waiting for the king’s order, standing ready to march on the battle. A rangoli (kolam) of flowers was made on the earth. That wonderful Kolam was welcoming me and inviting me inside the temple.
I entered the temple. There was another corridor between me and the sanctum which was longer than the first corridor. From this distance in the middle, you can easily guess the grandeur and grandeur of the temple.
In the middle of the outer corridor was a high flagpole. It was situated on a beautifully carved stone base. Nearby there was a shop selling Prasad. Nearby was a very beautiful image of Shiva engraved on the wall which was decorated and worshipped. On one side of the corridor was a huge pool, just like you would normally see in other ancient temples of India.
Crossing the end of the corridor, you will see a small mandapa in the direction of the sanctum. This is Nandi Mandap. Inside it is a huge white-colored Nandi who is looking at Shiva.
The summit of the temple is very high like Mount Kailash. There are 7 Kalash above it.
As I entered the temple from the main entrance, I found myself surrounded by long corridors with pillars on both sides. The carved pillars were so huge that they gave the impression of a canopy. In the midst of these huge structures, I could feel my subtlety very well. Perhaps keeping this intention in mind, the temples of the Lord were built very huge. They make you feel that you may be a part of this universe, but that part is very subtle.
A life-size image of Parvati was engraved in the nearby temple, in which she is once again shown embracing the Shivling. Here was the human form of Parvati. A silver cover was given on the trunk of a nearby tree. On this cover also Parvati is engraved in the same form along with Shivling.
Shivling of Ekambareswar Temple
There were hundreds of brass lamps around the main gate leading to the sanctum. You can light a lamp by filling oil in it. In the evening when all these lamps are lit, they give off a kind of divine aura. They give you the impression of those days when it would have been lit only by diyas.
After crossing a few gates I reached near the sanctum sanctorum. Here two queues of devotees appeared to enter the temple. One line was going up to the right side of the Lord and the other to the left. On inquiry, it came to know that one of these queues is special, for which there is a simple fee of 5 rupees to go. I visited the temple twice. Both times I did not see any significant difference in the length of those two queues. Perhaps the situation will be different at the time of festivals and on Mondays.
I entered the sanctum sanctorum of the Ekambareswarar temple. A large cone-shaped linga was established inside. On the reverse side of the linga is an image of Shiva in the form of Somaskanda with Parvati and Kartik. The first time I visited the sanctum sanctorum, I prayed with reverence and came out. After that, the temple was inspected in detail. When I visited the temple for the second time in the evening hours, I had the privilege of seeing the elaborate aarti there. That gorgeous view was one of the best memories of my Kanchipuram trip.
Pillared Corridors of Ekambareswarar Temple
After darshan I came out of the sanctum sanctorum and started looking at the temple from all sides. Started walking through the huge corridors built around the temple. These corridors were made of huge pillars on a high platform. The entire corridor was so huge that I felt it swallowing us devotees. In the middle of some pillars were placed palanquins. In these palanquins, the deity is seated and taken on a tour. Among the huge pillars of ashes, these palanquins were spreading colorful shades. Along with this, the colors of the earth and the roof were adding to this shade. One of these palanquins was also in the shape of Sheshnag.
There were niches on the left surface of the corridor on which 1008 Shivlings were kept. One of these Shivling was made of 1008 small Shivlings. It seemed that these 1008 small Shivlings were pasted on a bigger Shivling. There were also 63 statues of Nayanmars i.e. Tamil Shaivite poets dressed in white robes.
The elaborate carvings on the pillars were so mesmerizing that I was getting lost in them. At some places I saw bamboo ropes hanging between the pillars. It seemed that hanging curtains from these ropes could divide the temple into small parts. I wondered, is this the reason why such a huge pillared room must have been made so that it can be divided into smaller parts as per the requirement.
Other Temples in Ekambareswar Temple Complex
Kali Amma Temple
When you start the circumambulation of the Ekambaresvara temple, the first temple you will see on the right side is the Kali Amma temple. The octagonal figure of Kali Amma had golden walls around it. The specialty of this goddess statue was the Ganges situated on the head of the goddess.
Utsav Murti Mandir
In one corner I saw a small temple, inside which were attractive idols of Uma and Mahesh. There was also a huge aura around Uma and Mahesh, adorned with lavish ornaments and clothes. The priests of the temple were adorning him with love. He told me that these are festival idols. During festivals, when the Lord is taken in a palanquin and taken outside the temple, then not the main idol, but these festival idols are placed in the palanquins.
Mango tree in Ekambareswar temple
Walking through all the corridors, we reach a courtyard. There is a mango tree in this courtyard. It is believed that this tree is at least 3500 years old. The four branches of the tree give four different types of mangoes. People consider it to be the counterpart of 4 Vedas. They call this tree the land tree.
There is a Shiva temple adjacent to this tree. Both the tree and the temple are situated on a platform in the middle of the courtyard. I sat there and contemplated for a few moments. I started wondering if this was actually the place where Parvati worshiped Shiva!
Sri Yantra was engraved on a rock near the mango tree. Seeing the kumkum and flowers offered on them, it was known that it is worshiped regularly. In front of this rock was a temple whose green doors were closed. I could not understand which deity’s temple this is because of the information plaque written in Tamil language.
Situated in one corner, it was a small temple within which 1008 Shivlings were built on a Shivling. I had a strong desire to take a photo of that Shivling but the priest did not allow me.
In the latter part of the parikrama, I was now going towards the entrance of the sanctum. In a room on my left, I saw a beautiful statue of Nataraja. I consider it to be one of the most attractive Nataraja idols I have seen in my life. This Nataraja idol is also worshiped here. I began to think that Nataraja, whose idols are sold as decorations all over the world, was once worshiped in this form as well.
Beautiful festival idols were also kept inside a small temple near the Nataraja temple.
In the final phase of the parikrama, near the sanctum sanctorum, there was a small temple dedicated to Mahavishnu. It was one of the 108 Divya Desams of Vishnu. I also stood in a queue there to see Vishnu and get his blessings. When my turn came, I saw Vishnu. The priest brought the blessings of Vishnu to me by placing a silver blessing vessel on my head.
As I wrote in my edition of Kanchi Kamakshi, not all Shiva temples in Kanchi have their own separate temple for Parvati. She resides in her temple as Kamakshi, the presiding deity of Kanchipuram.
After darshan of the temple, I came out of the sanctum sanctorum to the same corridor from where I had started my darshan of Ekambareswarar temple. Suddenly it came to my attention that how cold was inside the temple. The light was also very dim. That’s why coming out, it was only after my eyes became comfortable in bright light that I started seeing other structures. Saw the water tank of the temple. Apart from the main Gopuram of the Ekambaresvara temple, also see other Gopurams, which may be small in size, but were not less in beauty.
Along with the engraved pillars, there were also some pillars on which frescoes were painted. Seeing these, you can guess how the attractive combination of sculpture and painting was done in ancient temples.
Legends related to Ekambareswar Temple
Ekambareswarar Temple is a Shiva temple. Therefore, it is natural that many stories of Shiva-Parvati must have been associated with this. Two dental stories are prominent among them. In both the stories, there is an explanation of the sadhana performed by Parvati to attain Shiva.
According to the first legend, once Shiva laughed and made Parvati ‘black’. Parvati did not like this. She sat on the banks of the Vegavathi river flowing near Kanchipuram. He created a Shivling from the sand of the river under a mango tree and worshiped it. To test him, Shiva threw fire on the mango tree. Parvati sought help from Vishnu. Vishnu pacified the burn of fire by the moon on the head of Shiva. Shiva then asked Ganga to increase his velocity and frighten Parvati. But Parvati explained to Ganga that they were both sisters and urged her to calm down. Pleased with this, Shiva also came down and the two met here.
According to another legend, Parvati worshiped a linga made of sand on the banks of the river Vegvati, under a mango tree. To test his devotion, Shiva increased the velocity of the Ganges so that the linga of sand would flow. Parvati protected the linga by hugging it. Pleased with this, Shiva also came to earth and both of them got married here. The celebration of their marriage is still celebrated in the temples of Kanchipuram in the month of Phalguna. It falls approximately in the month of March-April. Parvati is also called Kamakshi in this story.
Now you must have understood that what is the story of Parvati embracing the linga made of sand. Mango tree is also very important. The name of this temple is also derived from this tree. Ekamber means a mango tree. Ekambareswar means God of a mango tree.
History of Ekambareswar Temple
According to Hindu beliefs, this temple has been in existence since time immemorial. In historical records it is listed as 7th. It is said of the century when there was an ancient temple in place of this temple. The structure you will see today was built in Kanchipuram during the rule of the Pallavas. After that the later Chola and Vijayanagara Empire also contributed to it. You can clearly see the impact of these contributions in the architecture of this temple.
For example, the pavilion with a thousand pillars was built during the Vijayanagara Empire.
The area of the temple is about 25 acres. Its size is almost similar to that of the largest Vishnu temple in Kanchipuram, the Varadaraja Perumal temple. So you can say that Ekambareswarar temple is very huge.
The four Shaivite saints, Appar, Sambandar, Sundarar and Manikkavasagar have sung the tales of the glory of this temple.
Ekambareswarar Temple – A Panchabhoota Temple
There are 5 major Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu. These five temples represent the five elements of nature, earth, sky, fire, water and air. That’s why they are called Panchbhoot Temples.
This Ekambareswarar temple of Kanchipuram is the form of the earth. The linga here is made of earth’s mattika i.e. clay. Even the Jalabhishek offered to Shivling is done on the yoni or base. Otherwise the linga made of clay may dissolve in water.
The linga of the Ekambaresvara temple is conical in shape, not the usual circular linga.
Other Panchabhut temples are as follows:
The Nataraja temple of Chidambaram represents the sky.
The Jambukeswarar temple of Tiruvanaikaval is a form of water.
The linga of the Annamalai temple in Tiruvannamalai is a form of fire.
The linga of the Kalahasti temple near Tirupati represents Vayu.
The Ekambareswara Temple along with the Kanchi Kamakshi Temple and the nearby Kumar Kottam Temple complete the image of Somaskanda of Kanchipuram. This is the best example of the artistry and aesthetics of ancient times in India.
I have many memories of Ekambareswar temple. But prominent among them are the huge corridors there, which made me feel dwarfed, and the grand aarti there that transports you to a divine world.
Some Travel Tips to Visit Ekambareswarar Temple in Kancheepuram
- Kancheepuram, about 70 km from Chennai. Is at a distance of. Ekambareswarar Temple, 2 KM from Kancheepuram Bus Stop. And about half a kilometer from the railway station. It is situated far away.
- The temple remains open from 6 am to 12:30 pm and from 4:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
- There are 6 aartis every day – Ushathakalam means before sunrise, Kalasanthi means early morning, Uchikalam means before noon, Sayarakshai means early evening, Irandamakalam means before night and Ardha Jamam means at night. My advice to you would be that you must attend at least one aarti. I had attended the 6 pm aarti and had the immense pleasure.
- The most important festival of the Ekambareswar temple is Brahmotsavam. It is a 13-day festival which falls in the month of Falgun i.e. around March-April.
- While there are no strict restrictions on clothing, I suggest that you wear clothes that can cover you. I was wearing a Punjabi salwar kurta and no one objected to me.
- It takes at least an hour to visit the temple. If you want to have a detailed darshan of it, then you should keep 2 to 3 hours with you. This does not include the timing of the aarti.
- Since this temple comes under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India, photography is allowed here. But photography is prohibited in the sanctum.
- Most of the residents here understand and speak the Tamil language. All of them can understand English and Hindi.