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The Ancient Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Chennai

Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is one of the most iconic cities in India. Built close to 200 years ago, the city has been the unofficial keeper of the arts and traditions of the region. An emerging IT Hub of India, the Chennai is deeply rooted in its customs and beliefs.

The trip to this metropolis is never complete without setting your foot on the unending Marina Beach, marveling at the bronze statues of Bronze Gallery in Government Museum, or exploring the ancient Mylapore and the stunning Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Chennai.

This write-up is dedicated to highlighting the beauty of this iconic Kapaleeshwar Temple. Located in the heart of Chennai, the temple is probably the oldest ones in the city. The sanctuary is home to several legends and stories, which are deeply connected to the lives of the people living nearby.

Here is a brief introduction to the Arulmigu Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Chennai.    

A Brief Glimpse into the Temple

Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Chennai
Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Chennai
One of the oldest corners of Chennai, Mylapore is the treasure trove of old stories and ancient fragrances. As you walk through the streets of Mylapore early morning, you will find women decorating the front lawn with colorful Kolam (geometrical patterns consisting of curved loops) – an age-old tradition still practiced in a typical South Indian household. According to historical records, this portion of Chennai is a centuries-old traditional neighborhood (its existence predates colonization of the city).

Among the old landmarks of Mylapore, Arulmigu Kapaleeshwar Temple is probably the oldest. According to some ancient texts, the original structure of the temple was built during the reign of the Pallava dynasty. The current structure was built in 1566 by the Vijayanagara rulers from the Tuluva Dynasty after the Portuguese army destroyed the original temple complex. The holy place shares some of the elementary features of South Indian temples, like an elaborate gopuram (a pyramidal tower) with stucco figurine attached to it and a large tank.
The Arulmigu Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Chennai is dedicated to Shiva – an important god in the Hindu pantheon.   

Legends Associated with This Sacred Sanctuary

In Hinduism, the presiding deity conferred with a new name. Here Shiva is known as Arulmigu Kapaleeswarar and his consort Paravati is Arulmigu Karpagambal. There is an interesting story associated with the temple, which makes this place very important to Shaivite devotees.

As per the legends, Parvati – the divine consort of Shiva – was cursed to become a peahen. To lift the curse, she performed severe penance and was able to return to her form. A small shine dedicated to the peahen form of the deity is built close to the courtyard of the temple.  

The Architecture of Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Chennai

Built-in typical Dravidian style, the temple’s architecture is adorned with two tall towers with stucco figurine or gopuram, an elaborate tank and a Broadway surrounding it, and several small shines that are spread across the temple complex. The temple has two entrances – one on the east and others on the west.

The prime deity – Shiva – is placed inside the elaborately decorated sanctum sanctorum or garbha griha. Apart from that, the temple has a wide courtyard where devotees gather before paying their respect to the lord.        

Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Chennai
Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Chennai

Some Important Festival

Since the temple is dedicated to Shiva, festivals associated with the god are celebrated in a very elaborate manner. Apart from that, the Brahmotsavam (annual festival) celebrated during the Tamil month of Panguni is celebrated in a gala style.

The entire Mylapore comes alive during the celebrations with a carnival-like vibe. Also, during the mid-March and April, a nine-day long festival called Panguni Peruvizha (the spring festival) is organized. During the celebrations, the deity is brought out of the temple compound on a chariot and taken for the ride. The festival ends with Tirukkalyanam or the symbolic marriage of Shiva and Paravati.

During the festival, the temple is decorated with flowers and the smell of incense covers the entire surrounding. Devotees from far and near come to the temple to pay their homage to the lord.   

Important Things to Remember While Entering the Temple

If you are planning on visiting the Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Chennai, then here are some of the important things to remember:

1.  Before entering the temple, remember to open your shoes

2.  Although covering the head is not mandatory, it is always appreciated

3.  It is recommended to wear dresses that cover the shoulders, knees, and back of the body

4.  Smoking and drinking inside the temple premise is a strict no-no

5.  Photography inside the temple premises is prohibited

6.  Do not dip your feet or wash your hands in the tank water

After the Temple Tour, What Is Next?

Chennai is a potpourri of experiences. After an enlightening trip to the Kapaleeshwarar Temple, you can spend the rest of the day exploring the stunning venues of the city. You can head to the given places for an offbeat experience:

1.  Eat traditional Tamil breakfast with hot filter Kapi (coffee)

2.  Watching over sunrise from the unending Marina Beach  

3.  Eating Chicken 65 at Buhari Hotel

4.  Exploring Mamallapuram and its stone relics

5.  Shopping at T. Nagar for exclusive silk dress materials

6.  Soaking in the colonial air at Higginbothams – India’s oldest book store

7.  Watching a Tamil blockbuster with locals

Highlights of Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Chennai

Address: Kapaleesvarar, Kesava Perumal Sannathi St, Vinayaka Nagar Colony, Mylapore, Chennai, Tamil Nadu – 600004
Phone: 044 2464 1670
Opening time: 5.30 am – 9.30 pm
Prasad or sacred offering is available on important religious festival  
(Different puja or religious services are held throughout the day)

Other Temples in Nearby City - Kanchipuram:

Sri Kailasanathar Temple

Sri Kamakshi Amman Temple

Ekambareswarar Temple