'Ayodhya Madhura Maya Kasi Kanchi Avanthika !
Puri Dwarakavathi Saiva Sapthaithate Mokshadaiyeka!'
The mention of Kanchi (as Kanchipuram is also known as) in the above verse confirms Kanchipuram as a moksha sthala or mukthi sthala - a place of salvation. Famous for its ancient temples, Kanchipuram is regarded as one of the holiest cities of India for the Hindus. The temples in Kanchipuram depict the Dravidian style of temple architecture. Diverse dynasties built the numerous temples of Kanchipuram; each temple depicts an enriched architecture. The Kamakshi Amman temple was built by the Pallava kings during 14th century A.D.
The Kamakshi Amman temple is located over a sprawling area of 5 acres. The temple has 4 entrances. The temple has a golden gopuram over the sanctorum of Goddess Kamakshi. A stunning view of the golden spire can be had from the outer part. The structural layout of the temple is quite elaborate.
In the outer prakaram, there is a tank and numerous mandapams. This includes the 100-pillared hall, the dwajaarohana mandapam. The temple’s plan is quite unique and unlike other temples - the circuit being such that after worshipping the Goddess, the devotee cannot go round the sanctum but has to retrace the way in the same path after darshan.
The renowned Kamakshi Amman temple located in Kanchi is famous among the numerous Shakthi Peetas in India. The Goddess is known as ‘Sri Kamakshi’. Ka denotes Goddess Saraswati (God of Education), Ma denotes Goddess Lakshmi (God of Wealth), and Akshi means Eye. The full name denotes Goddess Kamakshi as the Goddess who lives in Kanchi with Goddess Saraswati and Goddess Lakshmi as both her eyes. Goddess Kamakshi does not hold the usual pose of one hand bestowing Abaya and the other Varada, as the Goddess bestows bliss through her eyes.
Goddess Kamakshi resides in the ‘Gayatri Mandapam’. The twenty four pillars of this hall represent the twenty four alphabets of the Gayathri Mantra. The four walls represent the four Vedas. The Goddess is believed to exist in 3 different forms in the temple. The 3 forms are Sri Kamakshi, Sri Bilahasam and Sri Chakram. The goddess is seen seated in ‘Padmasana’, a yogic posture signifying peace and prosperity.
Goddess Kamakshi is understood to be the representation of Shri Vidya, Shri Lalita Maha Tripurasundari. The image of the goddess has been carved out of a Salagrama shila and the Meru in the temple is also made of Salagrama. Sage Durvasa who is a renowned Shrividya upasaka is believed to have consecrated these structures. Many literary and musical compositions have been made on Kanchi Kamakshi and many devotees have been blessed by her.
Festivals at Kanchi Kamakshi temple
The Brahmotsavam, Pournami pooja and Navrathri festivals are the main festivals celebrated in this temple. During the Tamil month of 'Maasi' (mid-March to mid-April) the annual festival of the temple is held. On the 7th day of this month, processions of the Goddess are taken out in a silver chariot. Fridays are considered highly auspicious, particularly the Fridays falling in the month of 'Adi' (mid-July to mid-August) and 'Thai' (mid-January to mid-February) are celebrated grandly.
Historical significance of Kanchi Kamakshi temple
Legend has it that King Dasaratha praying for children performed the ‘Putra Kameshi Yagam’s in this temple. The King performed the pooja to the ‘Nabisthanam’ of the goddess in the temple. King Dasaratha was blessed with a child within a few months after he performed the pooja.
Adhi Shankaracharya, when he visited Kanchi felt that goddess Kamakshi was ferocious (ugraham/ugra swaroopi). To pacify the Goddess he sang the Soundarya Lahari Shloka in front of her and established the Sri chakra in front of her idol. Adhi Shankaracharya personified her into shantha swaroopi.
It is quite interesting that apart from this temple, there are no traditional Parvati or Shakthi shrines in the city of Kanchipuram. This is pretty unique in a traditional city like Kanchi as this city boasts of hundreds of traditional temples. Legends point out that in Kamkshivilasa that the Goddess had to absorb all the Shakthi forms to give a boon to Manmatha (the Hindu god of fertility and love) and so there are no other Shakthi temples. Another legend spells that the Raja Rajeswari pose of the deity signifies an absolute control over the land thus leaving no other forms of Shakthi in the land.
Kanchi Kamakshi Amman temple is located at Kanchipuram, about 75 kms from Chennai and is well connected by road and rail. Trains for Kanchipuram are available from Chennai, Chengalpattu, Bangalore and Tirupathi.