Kānchi Kāmākshi

pics from Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham Sri Kamakshi Ambal by Arun Shanbhag
Kanchi is verily the City of Temples. Poems composed in the 2nd century ce refer to a shrine dedicated to the love goddess (Kamakshi – eyes of love). The current Kamakshi temple (Sri Kanchi Kamakshi Peetham Sri Kamakshi Ambal) was built by the Pallavas in the 8th century.

Replicating the original shrine, Adi Shankaracharya installed the Shri Chakra Yantra in front of a beautiful Lalita Kamakshi seated in padmasana – lotus pose. Puja and archana (offering) are made not to the murti, but to the yantra in front – how cool is that!

(image courtesy Kanchi Kamakoti; see also a beautifully illustrated recounting of the life of Adi Shankaracharya.)

We got to the temple just before it closes for the mid-day break. After dharma darshan from the mahamandapa, we started to perform pradakshina before leaving the temple. At a side entrance, we noticed a (less than fierce looking) guard let an elderly couple into the inner chamber. I grabbed my father and knowing the traditions here, quickly removed my shirt and pressed into the doorway. As the puzzled guard started to protest, I pressed money into his hands, showed him our janvae – sacred thread, and briskly walked into the dark cave like interior. Working our way towards the front, we met a priest who lead us to be seated directly in front of the Shri Yantra.

Imagine sitting on granite floors, where millennia ago great saints like Shankaracharya sat in meditation; a cave like darkness engulfing you; all eyes are directed to the stunningly beautiful Kamakshi. In the gentle light of oil lamps, her eyes and jewels flicker smilingly, flirting with you, beckoning to her grace. Head bowed, I yielded.

Chanting mantras, the priest offered flowers and kumkum to the yantra. He gave my mother and M flowers. Then plucked garlands from atop the yantra and placed it around my father’s and my neck. Oh, what an indescribable feeling! Like I had been patted by the divine!

In such instances when I am in the presence of the divine, my worries melt away, forgotten, ceasing to exist, scrubbed by one darshan, and my heart lightens in relief. At these times, my brain freezes too and I am unable to even mouth a prayer (I who have written a prayer book). In lieu, I have started to simply ask:

You are the All Knowing!
All perceiving!
I don’t have to ask for anything.
Guide me simply to do your bidding!

This moment here in your grace,
This feeling of overwhelming joy,
Keep it etched Firmly in my memory
For all time!

We performed a namaskar and my eyes glued to the devi, reluctantly moved away. We were all overcome by this unexpected darshan and offered dakshina to the priest. As we walked out, the guard held out the money I had given him. I pointed back to him and the junior priests around – indicating the offering was for them all.

On a inner gopura, I noticed this motif below. Can anyone tell me what deity this is?
Based on the readers comments below, it appears to be Bhairava.
pics from Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham Sri Kamakshi Ambal by Arun Shanbhag

A view of the main gopuras
pics from Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham Sri Kamakshi Ambal by Arun Shanbhag

At this stall, I purchased a shri chakra yantra, which now sits on our home shrine.
pics from Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham Sri Kamakshi Ambal by Arun Shanbhag

Other posts from Tamil Nādu Tirth Yatra:

Other tirth yatras I was fortunate to go on:


  1. Anonymous says:

    The motif on the gopura is that of Bhairava…. a ferocious form of Shiva with a dog as his vahana. Brahmacharis are worshipped as a form of Bhairava just as small girls & married women are worshipped as the forms of Devi. The temples where Bhairava is famous are the Kasi Vishwanath temple (where he is known as Kaala Bhairava and Adi Sankara has also wrote a poem called Kaala Bhairavashtakam on Him) and the Chidambaram Nataraja Temple (where he is known as Swarna Bhairava).

    • Thank you Anon for that info. I am sure our readers will be glad for this detail.
      btw, I do have a lot of pics from Chidambaram and will try and check out Bhairava there as well.


  2. beautiful experience. thanks for sharing…

  3. its ok, i’ll try find out

  4. i’d love to watch the complete series, is it possible to fwd it to me?

    • Prakriti: Sorry, I had gotten the VHS tapes from our local library! That was a few years ago. But it is definitely worth finding and seeing. Sorry, I could not help you with this ~ Arun

  5. i mentioned -peter brook’s mahabharat
    try to watch all other episodes

  6. i live in mumbai

  7. you are blessed, i have had several such occasions over the years with Ambal and also with Paramacharya. I only felt like sharing with you since you pen poems in ecstasy. But before Her, the Mother of Knowledge, when, the vedas and upanishads originate from Her toes! and the Devas, symbolised by a parrot , sing into Her ears to regale , we mortals falter to utter a sound!
    good to know your curiosity to observe motifs on the temple walls & gopuram. i’m reminded of Peter Brook and his co director who were ordered to go round and understand ALL the temples in Kanchi and then after they were granted a meeting with him and permitted to direct the play Mahabharat, after oral examination.
    ( i’ve formed a habit to ‘view’ Ambal’s images on google before closing the net, & today i saw your blog)

    • Thank you Prakriti!

      THat trip to Kanchi was such a beautiful trip; You are so fortunate to visit the Devi so regularly.

      And yes, we can learn a lot for simply studying the motifs.

      Sorry for the delay in replying ~ I was traveling in india and just returned.

      Best Wishes and thank you again for your kind words.

  8. Thank you Viji –
    Yes, one of the best darshans in a long time.

    we had an equally good darshan at Madurai Meenakshi – WoW!
    more on that later.

    and when are you starting your own blog?


  1. […] first two lines are from the Annupurna Stuti by Adi Sri Shankaracharya; the next two are from the Bhagavad Gita, […]

  2. […] the Pallava dynasty, and a center of learning and trade. In addition to the spiritually uplifting Kanchi Kamakshi temple, Kanchi has lent its name to two others: these idlis and the exquisitely beautiful silk wedding […]

  3. […] Cave temples of Badami; Tirth Yatra: Temples of Tamil Nadu; Vaikuntha Perumal in Kanchipuram; Kanchi Kamakshi; […]

  4. […] While murti pujas are no longer performed in the sancta above, a throng of Alvars – Vaishnava saints – are frozen in devotion across from the upper sancta. (click image for larger version) In one of the upper chambers is a giant golden lizard. Makeshift ladders permit devotees to touch the lizard. Devotees believe that touching the lizard in this sanctified chamber absolves us of the sin of previously hurting lizards; it also protects us from future harm by lizards. Here’s my father reaching for the lizard. Tirth Yatra continues at the Kanchi Kamakshi […]

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