The capital city of Tamil Nadu, Chennai is situated in the northeastern corner of the state, by the Bay of Bengal, and is dotted with a number of temples. The city, popularly known as Madras, is one of the oldest cities in south India. This metropolitan city has a rich heritage with an alluring historical background. You can witness this rich culture through the beautiful temples of the city, some of which were built thousands of years ago. Let’s take a look at the most famous temples of Chennai.
A Glimpse Into Tamilian Culture Through These Famous Temples Of Chennai
1. One Of The Most Popular Hindu Temples in Chennai: Sri Vadapalani Andavar Temple
Located in the neighbourhood of Vadapalani, Sri Vadapalani Andavar Temple is dedicated to Muruga or Kartikeya, the god of war, and son of Shiva and Parvati. The temple is considered as an auspicious place to get married in, and witnesses approximately 7,000 marriages annually. Inside the temple, you’ll find an idol of Muruga in a standing posture, along with many deities like Shiva, Kali, and Bhairava among others. It is a known spot for devotees of Murugan in the city and is one of the most frequented temples in Chennai. The temple was founded by Annaswami Nayakar, a devout follower of Muruga and was later renovated in the 1920s. Vadapalani Andavar Temple gained popularity because of Sthanikar Shri V.A. Sundaraa Gurukkal who took care of the temple from his early teens till his retirement in 1984. You’ll find the gates of the temple and towers covered in stucco art that depicts several legends from the ‘Skanda Purana’ that details Kartikeya’s life and 108 gestures from the classical dance form of Bharatnatyam. Visit the temple during Navratri, Brahmothsavam, Theppam Festival, Kalasanthi, Uchikalam, Sayaratcha and Arthajama.
2. One Of The Largest Temples In Chennai: Marundeeswarar Temple
Situated in the Thiruvanmiyur neighbourhood of Chennai, Marundeeswarar Temple is believed to have been built in the 11th century. It is spread over a sprawling one-acre piece of land and is one of the 275 paadal petra sthalams (the temples that were sung in the verses praising Shiva, by three Tamil poets known as Saiva Kuruvars). The temple’s name Marundeeswarar translates to the ‘god of medicines’’ and is meant to describe Shiva, who is worshipped as a healer of disease. According to legend, Marundeeswarar taught the sage Agastya about medicinal herbs and plants after whom the temple was named. Therefore, the temple has been a place of curative worship for people with disease. Also, it is believed that the sage Valmiki (author of ‘Ramayana’) visited this temple to worship Shiva. The temple also has shrines dedicated to Ganesha, Shiva’s consort the goddess Thirupurasundari or Parvati, and Shiva’s various avatars. The inscriptions found here can be traced back to the Cholas of the 11th century. The Marundeeswarar Temple is one of the trinity of sea shore temples of Tamil Nadu, and one of the famous temples of Chennai. Don’t forget to see the intricate carvings, immaculate paintings, ornate pillars, the five-tier gopurams with impeccable effigies. If you can, visit this ancient temple on the days of Brahmotsvam, Siva Rathiri, Pradhosham to see the festivals celebrated with much pomp and joy, or on any Monday for grand pujas.
3. The Very First Ayyappan Construction In The City: Ayyappan Temple
Built in 1974, the Mahalingapuram Ayyappan Temple was the first Ayyappan temple in Chennai. Located in Nungambakkam, this scenic temple was built under the guidance of Sri.N.Subramanian Stapathy and has become the ideal place of worship for several devotees. The temple is dedicated to Ayyappan and also has separate shrines for Muruga and Vinayaka. There was a need for the temple, thanks to the devotees who visited Sabarimala during the mandalam-makaravilakku seasons (begins on the first day of the Malayalam month of Vrischikam) to conduct the ritual of ayyappan vilakku. Today, devotees flock to the Ayyappan Temple to worship Ayyappan, especially those on a pilgrimage to Sabarimala in Kerala. The temple is built in the blend of Tamil and Kerala style, and also hosts daily annadanam (annam means food and danam means the act of giving or donating) for the poor and needy. The puja and rituals are done as per the Kerala tradition. Visit the temple during the annual ceremony of Bhagavatha Sapthaham, when the whole ‘Bhagavata’, one of Hinduism’s 18 great ‘Puranas’ is recited for seven days. It is believed that these seven days are a good occasion for listening to and understanding the ‘Bhagavata’. This auspicious occasion attracts many devotees to the temple.
4. A Temple That Houses All The Eight Forms Of Lakshmi: Ashtalakshmi Temple
Located around the shores of Elliot’s Beach in Besant Nagar, the Ashtalakshmi Temple is the only temple dedicated to Mahalakshmi, the consort of Narayanan (Mahavishnu), on the east coast in Tamil Nadu. As the name suggests, the temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity Lakshmi and her eight forms. Laksmi is the deity who grants eightfold wealth (ashta iswaryam) namely offspring, success, prosperity, wealth, courage, bravery, food and knowledge. The origins of the Ashtalakshmi Temple can be traced back to the 1970s, which is why the temple consolidates both Dravidian architecture and contemporary architecture. It has four floors where each of the Lakshmis are represented differently in their respective abodes. Considered one of the most beautiful temples in Chennai, it also houses a colossal effigy of Vishnu inside the main sanctum which is a great sight to behold. Visit during the festivals of Navratri, the annual Pavitra Ursavam, Pongal, Gokulastami, and the festival of Deepavali which are celebrated in all their glory in the temple premises.
5. The Chief Landmark Of Mylapore: Kapaleeswarar Temple
Situated in the southern part of Chennai in Mylapore, Kapaleeshwarar Temple is believed to have been built by the Pallavas in the 7th century. The temple is dedicated to Shiva who is worshipped here as Arulmigu Kapleeshwar along with the goddess Karpagambal, a form of Shiva’s wife Parvati. Standing as an emblem of Dravidian architecture, this temple has a gopuram standing tall in the Mylapore streets, with a tank right behind it that hosts the annual theppam or float festival. Originally, the temple was located very close to the seashore, where it is believed to have been destroyed by the Portuguese in the 1500s or by sea erosion. The present temple was built by Vijayanagara kings during the 16th century. One of Chennai’s most famous temples, the Kapaleeswarar temple also hosts the Arubathimooval festival, during which 63 saints of Shiva are honoured and a colourful procession passes through the streets of Mylapore. In the processions 63 idols are carried around town and offerings of flowers and fruits are made to the idols. It is celebrated during the Tamil month of Panguni (between March and April) and the temple premises are crowded with visitors for the ten days.
6. One Of The Oldest Temples In Chennai: Parthasarathy Temple
This temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Krishna, and was built during the 8th century by Narasimhavarman I of the Pallava dynasty. Located in Triplicane, on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, the Parthasarathy Temple also houses the different avatars of Vishnu—Krishna, Narasimha, Rama and Varaha. The temple is known to be among the oldest temples in Chennai and it has been mentioned in the ancient Tamil scripts of ‘Alvars’. Along with the dappled sunlight making patterns inside and a colourful gopuram, the temple retains most of its ancient aura. You’ll also find a number of inscriptions, sculptures, and murals dedicated to the mythological Kurukshetra war. Parathaswamy in Sanskrit translates to ‘the charioteer’ which refers to the role of Krishna as a charioteer and guide to Arjuna in the ‘Mahabharata’. The walls of this ancient temple in Chennai also have inscriptions about the Pallavas and Cholas, and sculptures and murals have been made in accordance with the Vaishnavite Hindu temples.
7. One Of The Two Shrines Dedicated To The Shirdi Sai Baba: Sai Baba Temple
Built in 1952 in memory of Sai Baba of Shirdi, this temple comes under the Shirdi Charitable Trust Organisation. It is located in the Mylapore area of Chennai, and was constructed in 1952 by Narasimha Swami, a devotee of Sai Baba and the founder of the All India Samaj. The temple houses the headquarters of an organisation founded decades ago, All India Sai. The temple is devoted to spreading the teachings of Sai Baba. Considered to be one of the most famous temples of Chennai, Sai Baba Temple in Chennai is one of the two shrines dedicated to the Shirdi Sai Baba. The temple has a pristine white idol of Sai Baba along with other deities and a tomb of Narasimha Swami. The temple was constructed using white marble and also has a burning flame which is worshipped by the devotees on Sundays during Agni Puja. The flame is believed to be a part of the original flame lit by Sai Baba in Shirdi. The temple is overly crowded on the festivals of Navratri, Guru Purnima, Ram Navami, on the birth anniversary of the founder Narasimha, and on Thursdays.
8. One Of Chennai’s Most Famous Temples: Kalikambal Temple
Dedicated to Kalikambal (Kamakshi) and Kamadeswarar, the Kalikambal Temple was originally located near the sea, but later relocated to its current site in 1640 in Thambu Chetty Street. One of the oldest temples in Tamil Nadu, Kalikambal Temple is said to have been built by the Viswakarma clan and is closely associated with them even today. This ancient temple was also where the Maratha king Chatrapathi Shivaji worshipped Kalikambal when he visited Chennai on October 3, 1677. Today, it is one of the most famous temples of Chennai and remains very crowded during the month of Vaikasi (April) as per the Tamil calendar and the festivals of Navratri and Vasant Navratri.
Visit These Stunning Temples At Chennai
Don’t miss these beautiful ancient spiritual destinations in Chennai to see a side of the city’s cultural influences. These temples are not just places of worship but also a gateway to understanding the tradition and culture of the people of Chennai. Formerly known as Madras, Chennai also houses the UNESCO Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram. Take a trip to these famous temples in Chennai to understand the unique south Indian architectural styles they were built in. If you’ve already been to any one of these famous temples of Chennai, let us know which one was your favourite in the comments below.