Mumurtivasam, Kanchipuram (Abode of the Trio)


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May 28th 2020
Published: May 28th 2020
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Mumurtivasam, Kanchipuram (Abode of the Trio)

The Ekambareshwar (Shiva) temple, Kamakshi Amman (Parvati) temple and the Varadaraja Perumal (Vishnu) temple together are popularly known as the Mumurtivasam (Mu - Three, Murti – Idol/Deity, Vasam - Aroma.

Ekambareshwar temple – Once, Parvati was performing penance on Shiva in the form of a Prithvi Lingam, made out of sand under a mango tree, to expatiate herself from a curse. The Vegavati River (which was years ago created by Shiva to satisfy a sage’s thirst) overflowed and was about to destroy the lingam. Parvati hugged the lingam to protect it. This gesture of Parvati touched Shiva immensely and he materialised in person in front of her and she was liberated from the curse. The mango tree where this happened exists in the temple and is believed to be several thousand years old. The deity worshiped in the temple is the Prithvi lingam.



Kamakshi Amman temple – Goddess Parvati was born on earth as Kamakshi to kill the demon Bhandasura. Kamakshi devi performed a one-leg penance of needlepoint to persuade Shiva to marry her. Moved by her devotion, Shiva agreed to marry her. The Bangaru Kamakshi deity where she is standing on one leg was hence installed in the temple (one of the 5 Kamakshi idols in the temple). But during the Mughal invasion, the Bangaru Kamakshi idol was shifted to Tanjavur and is now worshiped in the Bangaru Kamakshi temple in Tanjavur (or Tanjore). Bangaru meaning gold, refers to the idol made completely of gold. The feet of Bangaru Kamakshi are symbolically installed in the Kanchipuram temple and worshiped.



Varadaraja Perumal temple - This temple is one of the Divya Desams – Divya meaning divine and Desam meaning place, translates to 108 Divine Places as said by the 12 saints Alwars. Once, Goddess Saraswati separated from Brahma over an argument. During this time, Brahma performed the Aswametha Yagna in the Athi (fig) forest - now Kanchipuram, praying to Lord Vishnu. Saraswati was infuriated that the yagna which is normally performed along with one’s spouse was performed by Brahma alone. She hence tried to stop the yagna by sending a ferocious snake. Lord Vishnu took the form of Ashtabhuja Perumal (Ashta- Eight, Bhuja – Weapon) and killed the snake. The snake is found on the Vaayu end of the yaaga sala as Sarabeswaran in the Ashtabhujakaram temple, which is 1km from the Varadaraja Perumal temple. Saraswati then herself came as a river and tried to stop the yagna. Lord Vishnu laid himself flat to divert the flow and the yagna was performed successfully. The divine architect Vishwakarma (who constructed the holy city of Dwarka) carves a Vishnu idol from a fig tree and Lord Vishnu agrees to stay as Athi Varadar in the temple. Athi Varadhar was the original deity of the Varadaraja Perumal temple. During the Mughal invasion, the Athi Varadhar idol was stored and hidden in an underground chamber in the temple tank Anantha Sarovaram. The Devarajaswamy idol replaced the deity in the temple. After several hundred years, the Athi Varadar idol was found in the temple pond in the underground chamber. Grand pujas were performed for the deity for 48 days. After 48 days, the idol was kept back in the chamber in the temple pond.
The tradition continues till date, that every 40 years, the Athi Varadar idol is removed from temple tank, worshiped for 48 days and returned to the pond. On June 29th 2019, the idol was removed after 40 years and kept for devotee darshan from July 1st to August 17th 2019. The 9 feet murti is normally kept in reclining position for 24 days and then in standing posture for the remaining 24 days. Lakhs of devotees offer their prayers to the deity each day in these 48 days and experience the aura of their magnificent God.

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