CULTURAL TRADITION OF KACHABESWARAR TEMPLE

M.Amirthalingam

It is one of the largest and most important temples of Kanchipuram town, the town of a thousand temples.  Kachabeswarar temple is located in the southern corner of Western Raja street at a distance of about one kilometre from the famous Ekambareshwara temple.  The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Shiva, also called Kachabeswarar.  His consort is Soundarambigai.  The temple contains a big Rajagopuram and is built in the Gajaprushta style.  The temple occupies quite a large area.  The temple also houses other idols such as Saraswati, Ganesha, Chaturmukeswarar, Sastha and Bhairava.   There are also four shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva situated around the temple tank (called Ishta Siddhi Tirtha).  These are Dharma Siddheswarar, Kama Siddheswarar, Artha Siddheeswarar and Moksha Siddheswarar.   Located near the main deity is an idol of Lord Ganesha called Satyamozhi Vinayaka which is reputed to have been worshipped by Lord Vishnu himself.

There is a legend connected with this temple.  It is said that during the churning of the ocean of milky, the Mandara hill, used as the stick, (mathu) began to sink.  To retrieve it, Lord Vishnu incarnated as Kashyapa (tortoise) in order to help the Devas.  He came to this place and created a spring, bathed and prayed to Lord Shiva to help him in his endeavour.  Lord Shiva responded to his prayer, hence the name Kachapeshwara.  Kachapa means tortoise and Ishwara is Lord Shiva.

culture1culture 2Vishnu in the form of Koorma worshipped Lord Shiva

 

It is said that mother Anjanakshi blesses the devotees from a separate shrine.  Anjanam means eyes.  The origin of the word Anjanam is derived from the fact that she is blessing devotees as her own eyes.  The Sri Chakra is also installed in the mandapa before this shrine. Women light ghee lamps here for family welfare and prosperity.

Traditionally, the sacred tree in this temple is the banyan tree; hence, the temple is also known as Aala Koil – or the banyan tree temple.

There is an interesting legend connected with this temple.  Once upon a time, Lord Vishnu sat under the purasa maram (flame of the forest / Butea monosperma) and worshipped Lord Shiva.  In response to his prayer, Lord Shiva appeared in front of him as a Jyotir Linga. Lord Vishnu worshipped him and received his blessings from him.  This temple is situated under the purasa tree which is on the bank of the temple tank.

In Tamil culture, pipal is also known as arasa maram (the king of trees). Some of the places named after the pipal or arasa tree are Arisili, Arasadi, and Arasur in Tamil Nadu. The deity named after this tree is Arisilinathar.   The pipal is a source of knowledge and the serpents which surround the tree are the keepers of divine knowledge. It is the most sacred tree, because it is the dwelling place of the Hindu trinity: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The tree has been described as the ’tree of Knowledge’ ’tree of life’, ’tree of eternal life’, and ’tree of creation’. It is closely connected with fertility: the tree is worshipped by women for fertility and longevity. A platform is built around it and an idol of a snake is placed under the trees and worshipped. Several inter-twined or coiled snake stones, symbols of fertility, are installed beneath the tree by childless couples and worshipped in the hope of begetting a child and for good health of the husband. In villages, women bathe early in the morning and circumambulate the trees.

In this temple, Amavasya, which falls on Monday is said to be Somvati Amavasya. According to Hindu mythology, women observe a fast on this day for the long life of their husbands. Married women perform parikrma (rounds) around the pipal tree 108 times. The pipal tree holds a special significance in Indian culture. A sacred thread is tied around the pipal tree by women as a part of a ritual on Somvati Amavasya.

There is a legend associated with Somvati Amavasya.  According to the epic Mahabharata, Bhishma Pitamah narrated the legend of Somvati Amavasya to Yudhisthira. Another legend is about a money lender who was very happy with his family of seven sons and one daughter. All the sons of the money lender were married, but his daughter was still in search of a perfect match.

The money lender had a friend who was a pandit. Whenever he used to come to his place, his blessings were always for the daughters-in-laws, but not for his own daughter. The daughter of the money lender was very upset with this behaviour of the pandit. Once, the wife of the money lender asked the pandit about his unusual behaviour. As a solution, the pandit mentioned a washerwoman living on Singhal island. He said that if the washer woman put sindoor (vermilion) on the forehead of her daughter, she would become fortunate. Hearing this, the girl went to Singhal island and met the washerwoman. The washerwoman fulfilled her wish by putting the sindoor on her forehead. Since then, women follow this ritual on the day of Somvati Amavasya for the long life of their husbands.  This may be the reason why people come to this temple and worship Lord Kachabeswara and circumambulate the pipal tree during the early morning on the new moon which falls on Monday (Soma amavasiya).

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Scientifically, it has been proven that the pipal tree exudes the maximum amount of ozone during the period of sunshine.   The absorption of ozone helps female fertility.  By circumambulating the tree, the lungs are made to work more and thus take in more fresh air and ozone.  The ozone thus strengthens the uterus and fallopian tubes.  A new moon day helps absorb ozone more than other days due to gravitational forces[1].

I wish to acknowledge the help rendered by Mr. R.Selvapandian who provided the photographs for this article.

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-significance-of-the-Peepal-tree-in-Indian-Culture

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