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Kamakshi Amman Temple at Kanchipuram
Temples of Tamilnadu

The town of Kanchi was the capital of the ancient Pallavas. The Kailasanathar temple here is one of the grand Pallava monuments. The Kamakshi Amman temple at Kanchipuram is an ancient one and is associated with Aadi Sankaracharya of the 1st millennium CE. The Tamil saying Kanchi Kamakshi, Madurai Meenakshi and Kaasi Visalakshi illustrates the importance of the Shakthi shrine that it is.

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Ekambreswarar temple, the Kamakshiamman Temple and the Kumara Kottam temple and the Ulagalanda Perumaal Temple are the primary shrines in Periya Kanchipuram. The first three mentioned above are located in a manner as to suggest the Somaskanda manifestation of Shiva, Uma and Skanda in the town of Kanchi. There are no shrines to Ambal, in any of the shrines to Shiva in Kanchi. Kamakshi is considered to be wholly present in Kanchipuram, as the only Ambal shrine.

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Legend has it that Kamakshi offered worship to a Shivalingam made out of sand, under a mango tree and gained Shiva's hand in marriage. (See also Ekambreswarar temple and Nilattingal Tundam).

The temple covers an area of about 5 acres, and the sanctum is crowned with a gold plated vimanam. Kamakshi is enshrined in a seated posture in the sanctum - and is referred to as the Parabhrama Swarupini, seated with Bhrama Vishnu Rudra Eswara and Sadasiva. A Sri Chakram has been installed in front of the image and worship is offered to it.

It is believed that Kamakshi was originally a Ugra Swaroopini, and that Aadi Sankaracharya, upon establishing the Sri Chakra, personified her as the Shanta Swaroopini (see also Akhilandeswari at Tiruvanaikkaval). It is believed that during the days of Adi Sankara, the presence of the Ugra Swaroopini was felt outside the temple precincts, and that Sankaracharya had requested her not to leave the temple complex. Symbolic of this, the festival image of Kamakshi, takes leave from Sankaracharya, at his shrine in the inner prakaram, each time she is taken out in procession.

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The layout of the temple is rather complicated. The outer prakaram houses the temple tank, and several mandapams such as the 100 pillared hall, the dwajaarohana mandapam etc. Imposing views of the golden vimanam can be had from the outer prakaram, which is pierced with four entrances on all four sides. Images to Vishnu (Ninraan, Irundaan, Kidandaan) are seen near the temple tank.

One enters the four pillared hall then the inner prakaram, and climbs a series of steps, and reaches the sanctum. Immediately surrounding the sanctum are small shrines to Ardhanareeswarar, Soundaryalakshmi, Kallar (who has been mentioned in the hymns of Tirumangaialwar) and Varaahi. In this prakaram are shrines to Bangaru Kamakshi, Maha Saraswathi and Aadi Sankaracharya.

Kanchipuram is the seat of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham established by Adi Sankaracharya. It is believed that Sankaracharya attained samadhi at Kanchipuram, although another school of thought holds that Kedarnath in the Himalayas is the site of his samadhi.

Festivals: Four worship services are offered each day. The jewels adorning the image of the deity are of great beauty. The annual festival is celebrated in the month of Maasi. The silver chariot festival falls on the 7th day. Other festivals include Navaratri, Aadi and Aippasi Pooram, Sankara Jayanthi and Vasanta Utsavam in Vaikasi.