So, I have been thinking of doing a series of posts on the best things in and around this city where I originally come from. The city as of now is sinking in parts with some good load of rain that has been thrashing it since a few weeks. Although, it never loses its charm and has so much to marvel at. With great support(nuisance as they may call it) from my family, I am kicking off this series with a post on beautiful temples to visit in Chennai. This may seem rather boring if you are not the religious type but besides all that, you may simply want to go to see some beautiful architecture and some good food too!
To roughly quote what my parents first said when I asked them for information….
“It is not so easy to explain about all the temples in Chennai. And even harder to pick only a few from the hundreds and thousands that are pretty much in every nook and corner. We can give you a list of the most famous ones which are worth a visit for any traveller who loves hindu temples.”
So, I jumped right into the idea and delegated the tedious job of collecting all details for this post to my parents. While I only kept nagging them so I can work on the elementary aspects of editing and translating.
Here goes :
- Kundrathur Murugan Temple : Before I start to tell you about the temple, I must tell you that this town of Kundrathur is rather special to our family. This is where my paternal folks originally come from. My father grew up here and we all lived here until my brother and I were born in the mid 80s. Oh my good lord,doesn’t it sound like we were born ages ago? But you may wonder looking at us because we look and feel like we are only 16. And sometimes, we act like we are like 9. Silly ol’ me with silly calculations. My son will help me brush up counting skills just enough to tell my age right to everyone someday.
So, going back to Kundrathur, this rather small village is situated in the outskirts of chennai. And this much beloved temple by our family has been built on a cute little hill. You can drive up the hill or walk up 72 flight of stairs to enter the temple. Lord Muruga is the main deity and festivals like karthigai deepam, new year are all celebrated here elaborately. We have such fond memories to this temple and of course the entire town of Kundrathur. Besides this fact, you may simply want to go to see how beautiful the temple is and to buy some fresh onion pakoda from one special shop on your way back home(Shhh… message me directly for more details on the shop)
2. Kapaleeswarar temple Mylapore : This is one of Chennai’s oldest temples and yet the most picturesque too. The lord is Shiva( Kapaleeswarar) and the Goddess is Karpagambal. It is believed that the goddess worshipped the lord in the form of a peacock, also known as “Mayil” in tamil and hence the name mylapore to the area. It is a very lovely place to wander about on a pleasant december morning and for seriously scrumptious idly vada sambar breakfast.
3. Arupadai Murugan temple, Besant Nagar: A Murugan temple inside the city but quite literally on the Sea shore. Beautifully built and modern looking yet holding the traditional designs, this temple houses six Murugan sanctums. Lord Muruga is known by six different names at six different abodes in Tamil Nadu. The six abodes include Thiruthani, Swamimalai, Palani,Pazhamudircholai, Thirupparankunram and Thiruchendur. It may take you a week or so to visit all of these individually. But, to make it easier for people who are pressed for time, this temple in Besant Nagar, Chennai interestingly houses all the six abodes.
And if you are into yoga or meditation, then this is a wonderful place to go as the sea side is so peaceful. Or just a walk by the beach after you visit the temple will leave you feeling refreshed.
4. Thiruvottiyur Vadivudai Amman : At a time when the world was affected by some kind of a natural disaster, (in this case, it was most likely a flood) Brahma, the creator was praying to the god of gods, Lord Shiva for a new earth to be created. And Shiva was rather appeased by Brahma’s penchant and turned into sand so he could re-create the world. This is why, Shiva is in the form of a mud mound in this temple. Thereby, this temple is basically dedicated to Lord Shiva and the name of goddess is Vadivudaiamman/Tirupurasundari. The twenty seven stars/nakshatrams of the tamil calendar are believed to have worshipped Lord Shiva and therefore this temple is quite special for people of all signs to worship. Every year, On the day of the full moon during the Tamil month of karthigai, the armour is removed and the representation of the god is visible to devotees for 3 days or so. During this time, the lord is anointed with different fragrance oils and these are even brought home by some devotees for good luck and Of course, for some lovely aroma around the house.
Geographically, this temple is situated towards the north of Chennai. And it is about 7km from Parrys corner where the Chennai central Railway central station is located.
5. Vadapalani Murugan temple: One can only think of this temple’s rather majestic gopuram(a sort of tower with beautiful sculptures and intricate designs usually at the entrance of many temples especially in South India) as soon as one hears the name Vadapalani Murugan. It adds such beauty to the entire lane leading to the entrance of the temple. And even while you drive close to Vadapalani, you can spot the gopuram quite easily for its such a pretty looking one more so at night time with the lights on. I cannot help myself from doing the very Indian thing of praying with a namaskaram/namaste from inside the car while we drive past. It sort of comes naturally because most of us have this habit of simply following our elders as long as it is no harm to anyone. And I am not any exception to this. I like doing these little things out of respect. Certain traditions might not make much sense but it makes me feel secure for having followed it so long, it is hard to be otherwise.
This age old temple is dedicated to Lord Muruga,also known as Karthik, son of Lord Shiva. Besides the beautiful Gopuram, the lord himself in standing posture is beautifully decorated each day with different flowers and ornaments.
The temple is conveniently located in the heart of the city and easily accessible by all modes of transport.
6. Parthasarathy Temple : There were Ancient saints called Tamil Azhwars who were hard core devotees of Lord Vishnu(One of the forms Lord Krishna had taken). These Azhwars kind of promoted their religious principles all around known as Vaishnavism. Their works included songs in which they revered 108 temples all around India which are collectively called as “Divya Desams”. One of the 108 Vishnu temples is the Triplicane Parthasarathy Temple in Chennai.
Krishna was the charioteer for the Pandava prince Arjuna during the Kurukshetra War in Mahabaratha. Krishna was neutral during the war, offered himself for the Pandavas. Parthasarathy in the temple is thus depicted with a moustache and having only the conch, without his weapon Chakra. This is attributed to the promise he made to the Kauravas not to take weapons during the war. Following the traditions of a charioteer, he sported the moustache and the same is depicted in the temple. The scars in the face of Parthasarathy’s idol is depicted to show the injuries caused by the arrows of Bhishma in the war.
Every year, during the month of Margazhi(around December/January), Vaikunta Ekadesi(A culture among Vaishnavites who believe that gates to Lord’s Inner Sanctum is opened) is observed. And only during this time, the deity is displayed without the moustache and a lot of people observe fasting. And yet another reason to visit this temple is that Lord Vishnu from five other Divya desams temples such as Srirangam, Tirupati, Kancheepuram, Ahobilam and Ayodhya are also featured here individually.
7. Marundeeswarar temple Thiruvanmiyur : If you are a tamilian, you would probably know what “Marundu” means. “Marundu”means medicines and “easwar” is another name for Lord Shiva. So, this temple is known so as Lord Shiva is believed to have taught a sage called Agastya some medicinal values. Thereby, this temple is worshipped by people for good health and cure for diseases.
Also, another sage called Valmiki who wrote the Epic of Ramayana is believed to have been blessed at this temple by the lord. And this sort of lead to naming the town Thiruvalmiki Nagar and now Thiruvanmiyur. The milk and oils that are anointed on the lord for abhishekam is considered holy and helps with healing of illness.
This temple is located on the east coast road by the sea side. So, well worth a visit if you are on a seaside break.
8. Nanganallur Anjaneyar Temple : The first thing that comes to mind is the word “tall” when I hear about this temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman/Anjaneyar whose idol here is 32ft tall and molded out of a single rock.
Hanuman Jayanthi, Seetha Kalyanam and Ram Navami are a few festivals that are celebrated elaborately here. This temple is located quite close to the airport in Meenambakkam, Chennai.
9. Mangadu Kamakshi Amman: This temple is dedicated to the goddess Kamakshi who is also known as Devi. It is believed that Devi started her penance on one leg on the panchagni(five fire) so Lord Shiva will marry her. And Shiva appeared before the goddess and married Kamakshi Devi in Kancheepuram. Therefore, any girl willing to get married soon is said to pray to goddess Kamakshi at this temple. Kamakshi’s penance on one leg can be seen in the temple. This temple is a little off the city but quite easily accessible.
I love the Ambassador car in the picture as it makes me feel nostalgic. We owned one while I was around 6 year old and we have done so many temple tours around Tamil Nadu in it. Also, ambassador cars are quite the symbol of the 80’s in India.
There comes the end to my list of must visit temples in Chennai…. I hope you found this useful. To the least, a bit of time pass while sleep eludes you. If you’ve managed to read until here, then I have to thank you for your patience.
Disclaimer : While there are thousand other temples that are beautiful and powerful in terms of good vibes, the 9 listed here are my favourite choices.
Temples Image source : Google and edited