Kumbakonam is one of the many Temple Towns in South India. Numerous temples dot the Cityscape. The 150-year old Government Arts College in this city is called Cambridge of South. The city lies between two rivers Cauvery and Arsala.
This ancient city is located in the Thanjavur District, Tamil nadu. It is 273 miles from the State Capital Chennai and 40 kilometeres from Thanjavur. During this festival people come from nook and corner of India and the world to take a dip in the holy Mahamaham tank. Here are details of few temples in case you visit this city.
- Airavateswara temple
This 12th century temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Built by Raja Raja Chola, it is now a World UNESCO site. The temple is built in the form of a Chariot. The Deities of all the three traditions of Hindu religion – Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism are present here.
A unique feature of this temple is Singing steps in the Agra Mandapam. Exquisite sculptures and reliefs are present throught the temple.
- Uppliappan temple
This temple is one of the 108 Divya Desam temples of the Vaishnava tradition. The main deity is Uppliappan and is consort is Bhooma devi. The unique feature of this temple is that the offerings of food made to the lord should not have salt at all! The name Uppli means without salt and it also means none-equal.
- Adi Kumbeshwarar
Photo by Arian Zwegers
This temple lends its name to the whole city. Kumbh means pot and the city was created when Siva broke a holy pot into many pieces for the sake of the populace.
- Sarangapani temple
It is one of the 108 Divya Desam temples dedicated to lord Vishnu. Built by Cholas, Vijayanaarm kings and Madurai Nayaks. According to the legend the sage Hema prayed to lord Vishnu to have goddess Lakshmi as is daughter. A child was born and was called Komalavalli, one who emerged from Lotuses. This temple has the tallest Rajaopuram in Whole of Asia.
- Swaminatha Swamy temple
Dedicated to lord Karthikeyan or Murugan. 3 gopurams or Shikar. three Praharms meaning enclosing walls are found in this temple. One at the bottom of the hill, next halfway though your ascent and final at the peak were the Lord’s idol is placed. At the base there are idols of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Legend as it that Lord Murugan became a teacher to is own father for explaining the meaning of OM the Pranava mantra at this very place.
- Kasi Viswanata temple
This Kumbakonam temple is so ancient that it is said to have been worshiped by Ram on his way to Lanka. The idol is said to be growing bigger over the years.
- Suryanar koil
This temple is considered as one of the Navagraha or planetary temples of South India. It is dedicated to the Sun God, Surya. The Lord blesses his devotees along with his two consorts Usha and Pratyusha.
Legend has it that Sage Kalava approached the planetary gods for redemption from Leprosy and other diseases that ailed him. While the Planets gave solace to the Rishi, Lord Brahma was angered and he cursed all the Planetary Gods. It was left to Lord Shiva to save the Planetary Gods. He later allowed these planets, places where devotees could worship them and seek relief from different problems in life. Suryanar is one of them.
- Chakrapani temple
This temple is situated very close to the Railway Station of Kumbakonam. Lord Vishnu is in form Sudarshana Chakra here. According to the Legend, Lord Vishnu sent his weapon Sudarsana Chakra to kill the demon Jalandarasura. Lord Brahma installed it as an idol in this temple after it came through the Cauvery river accomplish what it was released for. Pillars and corridors of this temple tell stories of by one era.
- Nageshwaram temple
This temple is characterized by exquisite Chola architecture. This temple has another name Surya Kotam because Sunlit enters the temple only during March-April. This temple is also built like a chariot.
There are many more Shiva and Vishnu temples in Kumabakonam. They include Someshwara, Gautameshwarar , Kalahasteeswarar, Ekambreshwarar, Rajagoplaswmy and Varahaperumal temple.
A note on Mahamaham
Kumbakonam is also famous for te Mahamaam festival. This festival is similar to Kumbhh mela in the north and is held every 12 years. Devotees throng to Kumbakonam to take a dip in the Mahamaham tank. According to the legend Shiva broke the holy pot of water to cleanse human sins and these pieces fell across many temples viz- Kumbeswar, Someswara, Varadaraja, Laksminarayana, Varahar, Banupuriswarar, Saranapani, Cakrapani and Kasi Viswnata.
Photo by ruffin_ready
People first throng temples Of Siva and offer their prayers Ten they purify themselves with the water from these 20 wells. Next a dip in the oly tank in Kumbeswara temple follows. Finally every p;person heads to the river Cauvery for another oly dip. Tis completes Mahamaham piligrimae. There is a saying in Sanskrit people who sin anywhere can get salvation in Kashi. And the people who sin in Kashi itself can get salvation in Mahamagam in Kumbakonam.