Religious facets of Thirumayilai, Thiruvallikeni

Mylapore stands apart in a city which has undergone a sea of change. The charm is the manner in which tradition blends with modernity makes it a different place. It has retained all its landmarks, yet has seen so many developments. It seems like a reminder that certain things will never change and the traditions and lifestyles will always stay with us forever.

Mylapore is akin to a two-thousand-year-old village in the heart of Chennai. The town was initially called Meliapor by the Portuguese and when translated, Mylapore literally means ‘A town of peacocks'.

The town which has grown around the 400-year-old Kapaleeswarar temple has always been and will continue to be the cultural and religious epicentre of the Tamils. This, along with Thiruvallikeni, are among the oldest settlements in the city. Both of them can be referred as temple towns.

Centrally located here is the Kapeeleshwar temple. There has been a belief that the temple was earlier located along the coastline, somewhere near the place where Santhome Church stands now, when the Portuguese settled. The Kapaleeswarar Temple dates back to the 7{+t}{+h} Century but not in the present location, but closer to the shores.


Tirugananasambandar, the Nayanmar of the 7th Century who visited the Kapaleeswarar temple said, “The Lord of Kapalisvaram sat watching the people of Mylapore - a place of flowering coconut palms - taking ceremonial baths in the sea on the full moon day of the month of Masi.” Saint Arunagirinathar of the 15th century A.D., sang, “O Lord of Mylapore temple, situated on the shores of the sea with raging waves…” (Both the translations are from the book ‘Kapaleeswara Temple' by Lakshmi Vishwanathan).

Thirugnanasambandar has made a mention about the grandeur of the temple and festivals associated with it. The East gopuram follows the Vijayanagara style of architecture. It also houses highly damaged inscriptions belonging to the 12th and 14th Century. The speciality of this temple is that, apart from a dwajasthambam in front of the main deity, there is one more in front of the Singaravelan sannadhi. The main festival associated with it is the Brahmotsavam, in which the Arupathumoovar takes the predominant place. A lot of stone sculptures, depicting Siva in various forms are found in the pillars of the Vasantha Mandapam.

Karaneeswarar temple is in the middle stretch of Bazaar Road. It is about half a kilometer from the Kapali temple. This temple, which is the abode of Sri Karaneeswarar and Mother Porkodi Amman, dates back to the 12th Century and is an old Chola temple which still has faintly visible inscriptions which talk about the Chola times.

Virupaksheeswarar temple is the abode of Lord Siva and his consort Visalakshi. Also belonging to the Chola period and situated opposite to the Karaneeswarar temple, it still has a dilapidated temple tank and a sculpture of Sivanesan Chettiar, a wealthy merchant who invited Thirugnanasambandar to Mylapore during the 7 Century.

The Velleswarar temple on South Mada Street is right next to the Kapali temple. Some of the special sculptures found here are the Heyramba Ganapathi. The multiheaded lord has multiple arms and is seated on a lion. The Eka Padha Trimurthy has a single leg, body but three heads _ Siva's head is found between Brahma and Vishnu.

Theerthapaleeswarar temple is the abode of Theerthapaleeswarar and mother Tripurasundari. Located on Natesan Street in Triplicane, it was believed to have had 64 sacred theertha ponds and these led to the sea nearby.

Valiswarar and Mother Periya Nayaki, presiding deities of Valishwarar Temple, located in the area opposite to Sri Karaneeswarar Temple; Sri Malleeswarar and Mother Maragathambal located in a temple in the area behind Sri Karaneeswarar Temple are the other Saivaite temples of the area. The other famous temples in Mylapore are Mundakakanni Amman, Madhavaperumal, Srinivasa Perumal and seven ancient Saivite along with the newly built Ramkrishna Mission Universal temple and Shirdi Baba temple on Venkatesa Agraharam.

A popular Vaishnavite temple of Mylapore is the Madhava Perumal temple which has a temple tank and exquisite sculptures on the pillars of the mandapam outside. The Kesava Perumal and Madhava Perumal temples have been mentioned in Vaishnava religious works like the ‘Divyasuricharitam' and ‘Guruparamparai.' The Mundakakanni Amman temple is one of the oldest temples of Mylapore. The Veerabhadara Swami temple is also a famous one and the deity was worshipped widely during the Vijayanagara period. The idol of Anjaneya in the temple near the Thannithurai market is typical of the same period. It is seen in profile with its right hand raised and tail curving above its head and carrying a lotus bud in the other hand. Such type of idols was typically worshipped during the 15th and 16th Centuries.


The most important temple in Triplicane is Sri Parthasarathy Temple. It is one among the 108 Divyadesams. The temple has inscriptions pointing to Nandi Varma of the 8th Century. It is a rare twin temple of the Pallava period. While Lord Parthasarathy faces East, just behind him is the yoga Narasimhar facing West. Both the sannadhis have equal importance and have a dwajasthambam in front of them. Another feature of this temple is that while the utsavar is Parthasarathy the moolavar is Lord Venkatakrishnan. Called the Panchaveera concept, the moolavar stands along his wife Rukmani, Balarama, Aniruddha, Satyaki and Pradyumna.

The temple was extensively built during the Chola period and a lot of inscriptions dating back to the same period are found here. The outer most mandapam is replete with sculptures of various forms of Vishnu, especially the avatars. One can also see inscriptions of Dantivarma Pallava of 8th Century, Chola, Pandiya and Vijayanagara in the temple.

In both areas, there are many other temples which have not been touched upon as it is impossible to compress everything in a single article!

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 7:26:54 PM |

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