Chennai’s best known and beloved Kapaleeshwarar Temple is the chief identity of Mylapore, the cultural hub of the metropolis. Sri Parthasarathy Temple in Triplicane is credited to be the oldest in Chennai and you can behold Vishnu in a unique avatar as Partha’s (Arjuna’s) ‘sarathy’(charioteer).
- Address: East Mada Veedhi, Mylapore
- Timings: 5am–noon & 4–9.30pm; open on all days
- Prasadam: Vibhuti and kumkum
- Special Occasion: Arupathimoovar Festival (March)
- Special Offering: Coconuts and flowers
The name of the locality, Mylapore, means ‘the abode of the peacocks’ and derives from the legend associated with the temple. A visit to the Kapaleeshwarar Temple brings history, legends and myths together, giving an extraordinary religious experience.
The present temple is said to be only 300 years old and its architecture reflects the Vijayanagar style. Shrines to Narthana Vinayagar or dancing Ganesha, Singaravelar or Murugan are also located in the temple premises.
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• Kapali tank is a stepped temple tank with a quaint mandapam in the middle. A boat festival is held in the second half of January, when deities from the temple are taken by boat to the small mandapam in the middle of the temple tank and worshipped there.
• Punnai tree- Here Parvati is depicted as a peacock worshipping a Shiva lingam in a shrine under the tree. This tableau relates to the main legend behind the temple. The sthala vriksha is also known as the Karpaga tree or the wish-fulfilling tree and the deity is thus known as goddess Karpagambal of Mylapore.
• The annual Brahmotsavam takes place in the Tamil month of Panguni (Mar–Apr). It’s a dazzling 12-day celebration when most of Mylapore is closed to vehicular traffic and the mada streets throng with devotees, makeshift shops and eateries. The highlight is the Arubathimoovar or procession of the 63 Saivite saints on the eighth day of the festival.
For dates and timings check www.mylaikapaleeswarar.tnhrce.in.
If You Like: Mylapore Festivals
The streets around Kapali temple square are the venue for many festivals and
social events (www.mylaporetimes.com & www.mylaporefestival.com).
• The kolam competitions organised by various agencies draw a huge crowd of female competitors for drawing kolam (Dec –Jan).
• Chennai Sangamam, a cultural event, sets up stalls displaying local handicrafts,
especially those of the gypsies, food generic to Tamil Nadu and textiles (Dec–Jan).
• The annual Mylapore Festival involving cultural activities is held in the perimeter
around the temple (Dec–Jan).
• Bhajan groups take to the mada streets at dawn during the month of Marghazi
(Dec), chanting and singing hymns from Tiruppavai, Thiruvembavai and other
Vaishnavite and Saivite devotional poetry.
• Address: Singarachari Street, Triplicane
• Timings: 6am–noon, 4–9pm
• Prasadam: Chakkarai Pongal
• Special Occasion: Laksharchana (Feb); Brahmotsavam (Apr); Vaikunta
• Ekadasi (Dec–Jan)
• Special Offering: Cash, jewellery, pepper and rock salt to be sprinkled on a platform behind the Narasimha shrine to cure ailments.
Hardly a kilometre from Marina Beach and plumb in the middle of crowded Triplicane, this 8th-century temple is special for housing shrines dedicated to five avatars of Vishnu: Venkatakrishnan (the Lord of Tirupati who manifested himself as Parthasarathy here), Narasimha, Ranganatha, Varadaraja and Rama. Legendary visitors include the saint Ramanuja (his parents are said to have prayed at this temple and were blessed with a son), Carnatic music composers such as Saint Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and latter day icons such as Swami Vivekananda, the poet Subramania Bharati and maths genius Ramanujan hail from here.
Triplicane is the anglicized version of the area’s Tamil name, Tiruallikeni. ‘Alli’ means lily and ‘keni’ means tank or pond – sacred lily pond.
The 9ft-tall black granite idol of Parthasarathy represents Vishnu in his warrior form. Built by Pallava king Narasimhavarman in the 8th century, the temple was later expanded by the Cholas and Vijayanagar kings.
• The temple tank is called Kairavini (‘kairavam’ or red lily).
• Vaikuntha Ekadashi: The temple is famous for its celebration of Vaikuntha Ekadashi (ekadashi is the 11th day after moonless and full moon days). The ekadashi in the month of Margazhi (Dec–Jan) is of special significance and the occasion is celebrated with great devotion in Parthasarathy Temple.
• Margazhi bhajanai: The month of Margazhi is special in Triplicane, as groups of bhajan singers take to streets around the temple, singing verses from the Tiruppavai, saint poet Andal’s composition. At the temple where, devotees wind up after the bhajans hot ven pongal, puliyodharai, kesari and sundal await.
• Teppotsavam: The float festival is held during the month of Masi (Feb–Mar).
If You Like: Heritage Walks
Triplicane is as heavily populated by Muslims as it is by Hindus (the Nawab of
Arcot’s mansion is nearby). Triplicane High Road is flanked by eateries specialising
in biryani. A walk through the crowded bazaar streets can bring you up close to local flavour and offer many photo ops.