Madambakkam Sri Dhenupureeswarar

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By Saravanan Iyer


This ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, is located in the suburb of Chennai called Madambakkam, near Tambaram. This temple is over 1000 years old (956-973 AD), which is said to have been built during the reign of Parantaka Chola II or Sundara Chola, father of Rajaraja Chola 1 (who constructed Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur). The temple is believed to be rebuilt of stone during the reign of Kulothunga Chola1.

According to the sthala purana, there was a rishi called “Kapila” who was performing penance to Lord Shiva to attain Mukthi. He possessed a Shiva Linga for which he was performing pooja everyday. One day during his pooja, he was holding the Shiva Linga in his left hand and doing Abhishekam with milk in his right hand. He was caught with a Dhosha as he had held the idol in his left hand.This sin, resulted in his not attaining Moksha. Because of the Dhosha, he had to take another birth as a cow and live that life praying to God, in order to attain Moksha. He took birth as a cow in the village of Sitreri and was grazing near a lake in South India. One day, the master of the cow saw the cow emptying its udder of its milk on a small stone buried in the ground. He angrily hit the cow for having wasted its milk. Unable to bear the pain, the cow stamped it’s leg on the ground where it hit the buried stone. When the stone started bleeding, the man got frightened and called all the villagers who dug the ground and excavated a Shiva Linga. The master of the cow prayed to God to forgive him for his folly.

Lord Shiva appeared and said that it was his act for the sake of Kapila Rishi, who was born as the cow. Kapila Rishi also apologized to Lord Shiva for having kicked on the head of the Linga. Lord Shiva forgave him and Kapila attained Moksha.

The people then informed the king who was coming on a visit towards Sitreri. The king arranged to construct a temple for Lord Shiva there and the God was named as Sitrerinadhar and Goddess, Nampirattiyar. The place where people met the king alongside the lake is today’s Rajakizhpakkam. And the village Sitreri (means small lake) is now called as Madambakkam.

The presiding deity is called Lord Dhenupureeswarar (facing the east) and the Goddess, Dhenukambal. Unlike most temples, where the sanctum is either square or rectangle, this is apsidal in shape which is called as Gaja prishta Vimana (Shaped like an elephant’s back) in Sanskrit. This type of feature is found in few other Chola temples in and around Chennai. Even today we can see a scar on the Shiva Lingam, caused by the Cow (Kapila) while it kicked the ground because of the pain when it was beaten up by its master. Lot of contributions have been made to this temple by Vijayanagara rulers. Many sculptures in the walls of this temple, stand testimony to the subsidies given to this temple in the form of lands, livestock, jewels etc.,

There is a large tank adjacent to this temple filled with water. This also serves as a water source for the people living around the temple. Saint Arunagirinathar (15th Century A.D.), has composed a hymn on this temple. This ancient village, now called Madambakkam, was also known as Ulaguyyavanda Chola Chaturvedi mangalam in the past. Festivals like Pradhosham and Panguni Uthiram are celebrated with pomp here. Another rare feature of this temple is, it houses Lord Sarabeswarar on one of the pillars in it. Lord Sarabeswarar is another form of Lord Shiva who took this form to bring down the anger and ferociousness of Lord Narasimha. Lord Sarabeswarar took the form of Yazhi bird with human body and eagle's wings having Godess Durga and Godess Maha Prathyangira Devi in each of his wings.

Poojas are performed here to Sri Sarabeswarar on Sundays during Rahu Kalam (4.30 to 6 PM), which attracts hundreds of devotees here. Both Saiva and Vaishnava sculptures and carvings on the pillars and walls, beautify this temple. The temple now is under the control of Archeological Society of India. The temple is situated between Tambaram and Medawakkam near Rajakizhpakkam. There is also another rare temple nearby, housing 18 Siddhars, Sri Seshadri Swamigal and Maha Meru (Lalitha Parameshwari) which together with Dhenupureeswarar temple gives divinity to the whole village and every visitor entering there.