As the name suggests, the Kamakshi Amman Temple, one of the 51 Shakthi Peethas, is dedicated to Goddess Kamakshi, a celestial expression of Goddess Parvati or the universal mother goddess. It is located in Kanchipuram district in Tamil Nadu. The meaning of the word Kamakshi is ‘one with loving eyes’. Goddess Kamakshi is also worshipped as the supreme power.
A symbol of peace and prosperity
Goddess Kamakshi is seen in the Lotus position or Padmasana posture, indicative of harmony and affluence. It is inside the Gayatri Mandapam that the deity of Goddess Kamakshi is placed. Sri Chakram, Sri Kamakshi, and Sri Bilahasam are the three forms of Goddess Kamakshi in the temple.
Pacifying the Goddess
Regular human and animal sacrifices were offered to Goddess Shakthi, known as the angry Goddess. To pacify the Goddess Adi Shankaracharya composed Soundarya Lahiri and then right in front of the main deity of Goddess Kamakshi he established the Shri Chakra (also known as Kamakotti Peeta). It is believed that Adi Shankaracharya attained enlightenment after the establishment of the Shri Chakra.
The Kamakshi Amman Temple is spread over five acres of land and has four entrance points. From outside, the spire of the temple covered in gold is visible. At the main entrance of the temple you will find Mahishasura Mardini on the right side, Kalabhairava on the left side, and a massive Dwajasthambham at the very centre. The idol of Lord Vinayaka comes before the darshan of Kamakshi. On the outer prakaram of the temple the main deity of Goddess Kamakshi is surrounded by the deities of Saraswathi, Annapoorna, Ayyapa, and Adi Shankaracharya. The hundred pillared hall of the temple or the dwajaarohana mandapam is situated on the outer prakaram of the temple. The shrines of Soundaryalakshmi and Ardhanareeswar are also situated within the Kamakshi Amman Temple. Panch Ganga is the main tank of the temple. Another deity that is worshipped in the temple is Arupa Lakshmi. Kumkum Archana is, in fact, devoted to Arupa Lakshmi though it is offered to Goddess Kamakshi.
Sankara Jayanthi festival celebrated in the month of Chithrai is the most significant festival of the Kamakshi Amman Temple. On all the 10 days of the festival Soundarya Lahari is chanted. Navaratri, Aadi, Aippasi Pooram, and Vasanta Utsavam are the other major festivals of the Kamakshi Amman Temple. In the months of Thai and Adi the Fridays are celebrated with great fervour.
Kanchipuram was a centre of Mesolithic, Neolithic and Palaeolithic settlements as per archaeological evidence. Kanchipuram is also popularly known as the City of Thousand Temples as many temples have been excavated from the area. The first temple mentioned in literary references is the Yathokthakari Temple or the Vaishnavite Tiruvekka. The glorious history of this region is associated with the temples of Kanchipuram.
Glimpse into History
The Pallava Kings built the Kamakshi Amman Temple in the 7th century AD to glorify the Hindu religion. During the 14th century the temple was renovated by the Cholas.
The Old Kamakshi Devi Temple
The Old Kamakshi Devi Temple is located adjacent to Kumarakottam, and is presently known as the Adi Peeta Parameswari. The Shri Chakra at this temple was established by Adi Shankaracharya. Sundaramurthi Nayanar, the 12th century Saiva saint, in one of his books has mentioned the existence of Kamarakottam.
The modern Kamakshi Devi Temple
Kamakshi Devi Temple was earlier known as Bhoga Peetam, as per references by Sekkilar Peruman in Siruthondar Puranam. Nrusimhadvari of the famous Dathamanji family established the Shri Chakra in the present temple.
Goddess Kamakshi, according to scriptures, is basically a re-embodiment of Goddess Parvati. It is believed that Goddess Kamakshi meditated after building a Shivalingam out of sand and Lord Shiva appeared before her. Parvati proposed marriage to him, to which Lord Shiva agreed. In Kanchipuram, the Kamakshi Amman Temple is the only Goddess Shakthi or Goddess Parvati temple.
The legend goes that, for protecting them from the rampage of Bandasura, all the Devathas sought the help of Lord Shiva. To overcome the demon, Lord Shiva asked the Devathas to offer their prayers to Bala Tripurasundari Devi. The Devathas masked as parrots came to Kanchipuram and offered their prayers to Bala Tripurasundari Devi. The Goddess heeded their call and killed Bandasura and brought him from Kailasam to Kanchipuram. Bandasura was buried there as per the Goddess’ wish and the Gayathri Mandapam was built. The Goddess said that she would bless all the devotees with her vision, hence the name Kamakshi.