Kapaleeshwar Temple, Chennai

The Blog-o-sphere Think Tank topic for July: ‘Where I went this summer’

The top view of the gopuram

The top view of the gopuram

Kapaleeshwar Temple
Mylapore
Chennai
India

I recently travelled to Chennai, to attend the opening of the Contemporary Jewellery show I was participating in. There, I also attended a talk by art historian Chithra Madhavan on ‘The Navrasas in art and sculpture from South India’, organized by Apparao Galleries.

The rasa (mental state) of Karunyam (compassion) was illustrated through the story of rishi Bhringi, carved on the gopuram (a gateway-usually a monumental ornate tower at the entrance of the temple complex) of the Kapaleeshwar temple in Mylapore, Chennai. The top of the gateway traces many other stories of Lord shiva and his consort Goddess Parvati through innumerable sculptures.

A trip to the temple inevitably became my next stop.

Gopuram door with bells

Gopuram door with bells

Detail of a building housing a shrine

Detail of a building housing a shrine

There are numerous halls and shrines inside the complex, though the two prominent ones of Shiva and Parvati have impressive flagstaffs outside the buildings housing the sanctum sanctorum.

Agamis playing instruments on a pillar in the hall

Agamis playing instruments on a pillar in the hall

Agamis playing instruments on a pillar in the hall

Agamis playing instruments on a pillar in the hall

The flagmast outside the main shrine

The flagmast outside the main shrine

Bottom detail of the flagmast outside the main shrine

Bottom detail of the flagmast outside the main shrine

Lord Krishna carved on one of the pillars of the main shrine

Lord Krishna carved on one of the pillars of the main shrine

Can you see sage Bhringi, the 3-legged devotee of Lord Shiva?

The 3-legged Bhringi with Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati on their bull Nandi

The 3-legged Bhringi with Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati on their bull Nandi

According to mythology, Bhringi only wanted to worship Shiva. Shiva’s consort, Parvati, however, took offence at not being worshipped too and sat on her husband’s lap. Bhringi became a snake and slithered between the two.
Shiva, then merged his body with Parvati, taking on the famous ardhanarishwar form. But Bhringi adamantly turned himself into a bee and tried to gnaw his way between the two.
Annoyed, Parvati cursed the sage to loose all parts of his body that came from his mother (In Hindu mythology, bones come from the father and flesh and blood from the mother)
Weakened, Bhringi collapsed on the floor and sure enough, learnt his lesson.
Lord Shiva, then gave Bhringi a third leg to help him stand upright.

Garlands of flowers and lotuses for sale outside the temple

Garlands of flowers and lotuses for sale outside the temple

 

Hungry for more? You can read posts of my friends on the same topic here:

andes cruz: http://wp.me/pe2OM-Ml

tosca teran: http://wp.me/pigO-zi
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