Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 49
BY: SUN STAFF
Jun 23, 2013 CANADA (SUN) A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.
After Lord Caitanya visited the southern abodes of Lord Nrsimhadeva at Ahovilam and Pana-nrsimha in Andhra Pradesh, He traveled further south to Kancipuram, in Tamil Nadu. In an earlier segment we covered Visnu-kanci, one of the distinct temple districts of Kancipuram. Today we visit Siva-kanci, where the Lord took darshan of Shiva.
Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 9
"A summary of the Ninth Chapter is given by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. After leaving Vidyanagara, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited such places of pilgrimage as Gautami-ganga, Mallikarjuna, Ahovala-nrsimha, Siddhavata, Skanda-ksetra, Trimatha, Vrddhakasi, Bauddha-sthana, Tirupati, Tirumala, Pana-nrsimha, Siva-kanci, Visnu-kanci, Trikala-hasti, Vrddhakola, Siyali-bhairavi, Kaveri-tira and Kumbhakarna-kapala."
Later in Madhya Lila 9 we get further details on Siva-kanci:
siva-kanci asiya kaila siva darasana
prabhave 'vaisnava' kaila saba saiva-gana
"Arriving at Siva-kanci, Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited the deity of Lord Siva. By His influence, He converted all the devotees of Lord Siva into Vaisnavas.
Siva-kanci is also known as Kancipuram, or the Benares of southern India. In Siva-kanci there are hundreds of temples containing symbolic representations of Lord Siva, and one of these temples is said to be very, very old."
In the next sloka, Madhya 9.69, we learn that after visiting Siva-kanci, Lord Caitanya went to Visnu-kanci. The city of Kancipuram is divided into two main sections. Siva-kanchi is in the north, and Vishnu-kanchi is in the east. To the south is a cluster of Jain temples, across the river.
Ekambareswara Temple gopuram
In his book based on Madhya Lila, entitled Chaitanya's Pilgrimages and Teachings, author Jadunath Sarkar M.A. (Calcutta, 1913) wrote the following:
"He came to the Man-Lion of Pana which He saluted and extolled in a transport of love. At Shiva Kanchi he visited Shiva; His power turned the worshippers of Shakti and Shiva into Vaishnavas. At Vishnu Kanchi he beheld Lakshmi and Narayana, to whom He bowed and prayed long, danced and sang in fervour. His stay of two days bowed the hearts of men to Krishna. Thence by way of Tirumal He went to Trikal Hasti, and bowed to the image of Mahadev there."
As Srila Prabhupada states in his purport above, there are hundreds of Siva temples in Siva-kanci, and we find little additional information about Mahaprabhu's pastimes at the specific tirtha mentioned in Madhya 9.68. It is also impossible to know from Madhya Lila which Siva temple is said to be "very, very old", although it's quite possible that Srila Prabhupada is referring to the Ekambareswara temple, an ancient Chola construction.
Ekambareswara is certainly one of the most revered of all Kancipuram's Siva temples. It is one of the Panchabhuta Stalams honoring the five elements, in this case, earth. In a previous segment we discussed Lord Caitanya's visit to Trikala-hasti tirtha, the Panchabhuta Stalam dedicated to wind, which is also mentioned in the Sarkar passage above.
The Ekambreswarar, like the nearby Kamakottam and Kumarakottam temples, is associated with Siva Somaskandar. At Ekambareswarar, Lord Siva is also known as Ekambara Nathar, and his consort (ambal) is Elavar Kuzhali, or Kamakshi.
When Kanchi went under Muslim control, the deity of Ekambaranathji was shifted to Chennai. It was later reinstalled at Kanchi by Clive. Sri Ekambareswarar is in lingam form, and Parvati is in the sanctum with him. Of the many Siva temples scattered throughout Kanchipuram, it is said that none of them has a separate shrine for Parvati. At Ekambreswarar, however, Parvati Devi also resides in the form of a Prithivi Lingam, or a lingam improvised out of sand. This deity is installed under the temple's stala vraksham, a 3,500 year old mango tree.
Lord Shiva and Parvati at Siva-kanci
Caitanya-caritamrta - Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
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