Where Divinity and Dravidian Magnificence Converge

Kapaleeshwarar Mandir

Quintessential masterpiece of Dravidian architecture

Introduction :

The Kapaleeshwarar Temple, nestled in the heart of Mylapore, Chennai, stands as an awe-inspiring testament to the grandeur of Hindu architecture and the essence of spirituality. This ancient temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, weaves together a rich tapestry of history, legend, and vibrant rituals, capturing the essence of Tamil culture.

The Dravidian Architectural Gem :

The Kapaleeshwarar Temple is a quintessential masterpiece of Dravidian architecture. Believed to have been constructed in the 7th century CE, it represents a unique blend of artistic expression and spiritual sanctity. The towering gopuram (temple tower) that dominates the streetscape showcases the architectural prowess of the Vishwakarma sthapathis, the legendary temple architects.

This sacred shrine, housing the presiding deity, Lord Kapaleeshwarar, and his consort, Goddess Karpagambal, entices visitors with its awe-inspiring design. The temple is adorned with intricate stucco figures and monumental entrances that beckon the faithful and the curious alike.

Mylapore – The Land of the Peacock :

The very name Mylapore resonates with legend and mythology. According to the Puranas, Parvati fervently worshipped Lord Shiva in the form of a peacock, lending the name Mylapore (“Mayilai” in Tamil, meaning “peacock”) to the area that developed around the temple. This sacred site holds a special place in the hearts of devotees who gather to seek the blessings of Lord Kapaleeshwarar and Goddess Karpagambal.

Legends that Enrich the Temple’s Tapestry :

The name Kapaleeshwarar is derived from “kapāla,” meaning “head,” and “Īśvara,” an epithet of Lord Shiva. A legendary tale, rooted in Hindu mythology, narrates how this temple came into being. It is believed that during a divine encounter on Mount Kailash, Brahma, the creator of the universe, neglected to accord due respect to Shiva. In an act of reparation, Shiva, the supreme lord of destruction, removed one of Brahma’s heads. In penance and remorse, Brahma came to the land of Mylapore and installed a sacred lingam, representing Shiva. This location became known by various names, including Sukra Puri and Veda Puri, emphasizing its sacred significance. Lord Shiva’s consort, Karpagambal, is also revered here, symbolizing the power of devotion and redemption.

The temple’s history is a testimony to countless legends and divine narratives. It is believed that Rama worshipped here, seeking the divine blessings to rescue Sita from the clutches of Ravana. It is also said that Karpagambal, in the form of a peahen, performed penance here to regain her original form. Shiva’s son Murugan, the lord of war and victory, received his divine spear (vel) here. The temple is a hallowed ground where gods, goddesses, and sages have sought solace and blessings for centuries.

Architectural Grandeur :

The temple’s architecture embodies the essence of Dravidian temple construction. Two grand entrances, marked by the majestic gopurams, stand as symbols of devotion and artistic splendor. The eastern gopuram, towering nearly 40 meters high, is a sight to behold, while the western gopuram faces the sacred tank.

Inside, the temple is adorned with intricate sculptures and stucco figures that narrate stories of gods and goddesses. The walls and halls breathe life into the grand narrative of Hindu mythology.

Rituals and Devotion :

The heart of Kapaleeshwarar Temple beats with daily rituals performed six times a day. Priests, belonging to the Shaivaite community, offer abhisheka (sacred bath), alangaram (decoration), neivethanam (food offerings), and deepa aradanai (lamp waving) to both Kapaleeshwarar and Karpagambal. As the temple resounds with the melody of nadasvaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument), worshippers bask in the sanctity of the Vedas and offer their prostrations in devotion.

The temple also observes weekly, fortnightly, and monthly rituals, each adding to the spiritual ambiance and bonding the community in devotion.

Festival Extravaganza :

Mylapore comes alive during the annual Panguni Peruvila, a nine-day spring festival, celebrated in the Tamil month of Panguni (mid-March to mid-April). This grand celebration includes flag hoisting, the revered therotsavam (chariot festival), Arupathimoovar festival, and the Tirukkalyanam, the celestial marriage of Kapaleeshwarar and Karpagambal. The Arupathimoovar festival stands out as a procession commemorating the sixty-three Nayanars, who found salvation through their unwavering devotion to Shiva. The idols of Kapaleeshwarar and Karpagambal are magnificently decorated and paraded through the streets, and devotees throng to participate and witness the grandeur.

The majestic ther, a chariot about 13 meters in height, plays a central role in the festivities, as it is pulled by devotees amidst jubilant celebrations. The grandeur of the chariot festival is documented in the film “Phantom India” by Louis Malle, which offers a glimpse into the vibrant religious fervor of the festival.

Reflecting on Mylapore’s Spiritual Legacy :

The Kapaleeshwarar Temple is not just a religious landmark; it’s an embodiment of history, art, and unwavering devotion. With roots that span centuries, this temple continues to draw the faithful and the inquisitive, immersing them in the ethereal world of Dravidian architecture and Hindu spirituality. The temple’s cultural significance resonates not just through its architectural grandeur but also through its contribution to the collective consciousness of Mylapore, which is eternally engraved with the spiritual stories and legends that breathe life into its walls.

A Reservoir of Tranquility :

The temple compound boasts a sacred tank, known as Kapaleeshwarar Tank or the Mylapore Tank, a testament to the devotion that flows through the heart of this historic neighborhood. Measuring about 190 meters in length and 143 meters in breadth, this well-maintained theppakulam is one of the oldest in the city. Its waters never run dry, with a storage capacity of 119,000 cubic meters, providing a soothing contrast to the bustling streets of Mylapore.

A striking feature in the tank is the 16-pillared granite-roofed mandapam at its center. This structure takes on a special significance during the annual float festival. During this three-day spectacle, idols of Kapaleeshwarar and other deities are taken around the tank. The air resonates with Vedic hymns and the joyous cheers of the gathered devotees. In 2014, funds were allocated for a 2,150-meter-long pavement around the tank, enhancing its accessibility and appeal.

Legends and Saints – A Melodious Confluence :

The Kapaleeshwarar Temple is steeped in history and holds a revered place in Tamil literature. The Sangam literature, dating from the 1st to the 5th centuries, provides glimpses of its antiquity. The temple found poetic praise in the works of Tevaram, composed by saint poets known as the Nayanars, who wrote during the 7th century. Among them, Thirugnana Sambanthar’s 6th song in Poompavaipathikam and Arunagirinathar’s 697th song in Thirumylai Thirupugazh vividly narrate the temple’s grandeur.

Other poets have left their literary imprints on this temple, including Gunaveera Pandithar in the 12th century, who sang about Neminathan under the title “Theerthangar Neminathar Pugazh.” The Tirumayilai Prabanthangal is a compilation of four works that extol both the temple and the deity, marking the vibrant legacy of devotion associated with this sacred site.

Conclusion :

The Kapaleeshwarar Temple is a treasure trove of history, spirituality, and architectural splendor. It stands as a living testament to the unwavering devotion of generations and the unbreakable bond between a community and its gods. The allure of this temple extends beyond religious boundaries, inviting all to experience the serenity and magnificence of Mylapore’s cultural and spiritual epicenter. The legend of Kapaleeshwarar lives on, forever etched in the annals of time, a symbol of divinity, culture, and the soul of Mylapore.

Editor – Kaalchakra Team

[ Note – Before Concluding anything as a Finale, Please Go through Original Scriptures of Vaidik Literature Written in Sanskrit and Also with Meaning of That time of Language. Because English is a Limited language to Explaining the Deeper Knowledge of Vaidik Kaal. ]