Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mylapore temple of Kapaleeshwarar

Last Saturday I finally had the chance to go and visit the great temple in Mylapore known as Kapaleeshwarar. Riding on the back of my guide’s motorscooter, we weaved through the narrow busy roads to the temple. Even in the late afternoon, this area was still abuzz, filled with vendors, bazaars, and temple visitors. The tall gopuram (temple tower) was quite impressive, full of colorful figures. To get the entire 40 foot (12 m) structure in my camera, I had to step back a bit. Then it was fun zooming in at all the details, each frame just as interesting. Dropping off our sandals, with the shoe guy, we entered the large door, stepping up and over the large steps at each end of the entrance.

The area’s original name, Mayilapura, or the “Town of Peacocks” recalls a legend between Shiva’s wife Parvati who assumed the form of a peahen. In some places I read, Shiva turned Parvati into the peahen because she was admiring a peacock dancing instead of listening to him, while others seem to say that Parvati did it to worship Shiva. The story is depicted throughout the temple including the gopuram.

The age of the current Kapaleeshwarar temple is in dispute. Some say it was built after the original (located near where San Thom├ęs Basilica now is) was destroyed by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Others believe that the structure dates back to the 7th century, while still others believe that this is the original temple once located on the beach, but that the sea has receded that much.

Once inside the courtyard, , we saw several shrines dedicated to Ganesha, Muruga, and several other gods. One shrine had an image of a peahen, recalling the legend behind the place. Knowing that we didn’t have a lot of time and the likelihood that non-Hindus would be allowed in the main shrine areas anyway, I took a few more photos and walked out the smaller gopuram towards the temple tank. Looking over the tank, I spotted a small temple in the middle of the water, now silhouetted by the setting sun. I’ll have to come back and retake some photos from the opposite end of the tank, with the warm rays glowing on the tank and temple. Just outside the gate were some flowers, coconuts candles, and other items to give to the gods, bathed in the warm afternoon sun.


Dave said...

What a gorgeous place. I hope you'll post your other pictures as well!

Melissa Enderle said...

It was a beautiful place - I hope to revisit soon.Here's my flickr album page of the temple.