Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Twin temples of Chennai


After what seems to be a long time, I went back to Chennai for a one-week-break for the naming ceremony of my new nephew which fell close on the heels of Deepavali celebrations. Being a bachelor in a family gathering has little advantages. With no wife to look after, I became the most reliable person to handle all the emergency needs. That's to eulogize things. To paint a more realistic picture, I was footballed around for almost any and every need of the hour. Chennai weather, in november was no less hostile. But hey, for once I was actually useful. And not everything worked against me. In one instance of the shopping spree, I went to Parry's Corner with my dad where I bumped into the twin-temples of Chenna Malleeswarar and Chenna kesava temples!

So, the story so far turns out to be "I left the twin-cities for a twin-occasion and got to visit a twin-temple." Hmm, how often do you get that combo??

Built in the early 1640's, this temple is said the first temple built after the settlement of the English East India Company in India. The current Pagoda (the gopuram) is actually a replacement (built around a century later) of an earlier one which was brought down in order to expand Fort St. George.

This a much younger temple vis-a-vis the other temples within the city limits of the present day Chennai (Parthasarathy temple, Triplicane, Kapaleeswarar temple, Mylapore and Marundeeswarar temple, Tiruvanmiyur) which are built around 10th century AD). Neverthless, this temple seems to be no less coveted than other temples in its unique features.

- This temple is a coeval of the Chennai city itself!
- The only twin-temple in Chennai that is dedicated to Lord Shiva as well as Lord Vishnu!
- The name of the city owes is a copyright of this temple!
- Probably the only temple in chennai (if not TN) to have a carving of the person was instrumental in its construction

I entered the temple right about the time it was to be closed in the afternoon. So, I could get only a quick look at around the temple. Here is what I could quickly note and gather.

Moolavar: Channa keshava perumal with Sridevi and Bhoodevi Thayar. (no points for guessing)
Utsavar: Shanta Nrusimhar, a representative of the temple with the same incarnation as moolavar in Tiruneermalai, a locality at the outskirts of Chennai. (I wonder what is the Utsavar @ Tiruneermalai! :) )

- A good painting of Lord Vishnu marrying SriDevi under the auspices of Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma, on the ceiling of the temple's gopuram (I guarantee you, about 1% of the visitors would have really thought about looking straihgt up, let alone admire the painting!).

- The usual sannidhis for SriDevi, Bhoodevi, Chakkaratazhvar, Kothandaramar, and all the Alwars who conjured up the Bhakti Movement.

- Pillar sculptures represented the ten reincarnations of Lord Vishnu and various flagship scenes of Krishna avatar (reincarnation) like Kalinga Nardanam (Krishna's dance on the head of a 10-headed Cobra).

The surprise element of the temple - Two pillars of the temple premises had the sculpture of Andal Nachiyar - The only female alwar and believed to be the reincarnation of Goddess SriDevi.

What is so surprising about it? Well, the sculptures depicted her *naked*!

I had to step a bit closer to double check (It was really embarrassing. Trust me!). But it was unmistakable, the trademark parrot on her right hand and the trademark standing posture!

I am not surprised at the naked depiction in general. I have seen sculptures explicitly depicting various postures of sexual intercourse on the main Gopuram of Sri Govindaraja Perumal temple in Tirupati. But those were anonymous and didn't represent any revered God or Godess. I have also seen topless sculptures of Goddess Lakshmi that are quite common. But this is the first time I am seeing a revered Goddess (Sridevi) depicted totally nude!

References:
The Hindu : Metro Plus Chennai / Columns : An end and a beginning
Chennai - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Corporation of Chennai
Templenet - The Comprehensive Indian Temple website

1 comment:

Priya said...

nalla post