Ancient Twin Temples with a Fascinating History Near Chennai

Have you zoomed past the picturesque East Coast Road (ECR) towards Pondicherry? Well, next time, I urge you to slow down just after Kalpakkam, right after crossing the Palar bridge, and turn right into Veppanchery. A few kilometers ahead lies a magnificent temple, nestled on an island in the middle of the Palar River. To reach it, you’ll cross a bridge that (our escort Shri Srinivasan Gurukkal from Kalkulam  informed us) gets submerged during very heavy rains, requiring devotees to wade through chest-high water!

As we crossed the bridge, Shri Srinivasan Gurukkal shared fascinating tales with us. Our eyes were immediately drawn to a newly installed towering Dakshinamurthy statue, accessible through an exterior staircase. Alongside Dakshinamurthy stood Kaala Bairavar. Upon entering the temple, we were welcomed by Lord Ganesha. Just outside the sanctum sanctorum, we discovered a distinctive Narasimha idol, symbolizing the Pallava architecture. We then offered our prayers to the resplendent Shiva Lingam, Kailasanathar. Adjacent to the sanctum, we were captivated by a massive stone Ganesha on one side, and on the other, a Shiva Lingam guarded by a cow with a snake protecting it. It was a powerful depiction symbolizing the interdependency of life on Earth. After paying our respects to Kanakambigai, adorned in a beautiful orange sari, we strolled around the temple’s prahaaram. Raised iron pathways guided our footsteps, offering enchanting views. The temple also housed a Murugan Sannidhi, showcasing Lord Murugan and his consorts, as well as a Navagraha Sannidhi. We then proceeded to worship Dakshinamurthy and Kalabairavar through a pathway inside the temple before making our way back to the bridge for our visit to the nearby Natham Parameswara Mangalam temple.

The legends of these twin temples are intertwined, and I’ll share the details with you shortly. But first, let’s embark on a tour of the other temple. The journey itself is a visual delight, traversing lush green fields with snow-white cranes, lazy goats who refuse to budge, and cheerful young girls waving at passersby.
Natham Parameswara Mangalam, a verdant hamlet close to our ancestral village of Kalkulam, boasts a stunning Pallava-period temple, believed to have been constructed 1200 years ago by Pallava King Nriptungavarman in the 8th century. We had informed the priest of our visit, and he graciously opened the temple for us. A colossal Nandi greeted us, but what intrigued us was its unusual orientation—facing away from the Garba Griham, the Sanctum Sanctorum. Curious, we inquired about it, and the priest suggested we first pay our respects to Lord Champakeswarar, promising to share the intriguing details later.

As we entered the main Sannidhi, the newly laid granite flooring cooled our feet, leading us to the resplendent Lord Champakeswara adorned with intricate decorations. To the right of the main shrine, beautifully carved idols of Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita stood, alongside an uncommon portrayal of Kala Bairavar without his Vahanam, the dog. Additionally, a significant Saneeshwara idol was present, captivating us with its grandeur. We then proceeded to the Ambal Sannidhi, where we encountered the enchanting Goddess Soundarya Nayagi. Clad in a stunning green sari, she held lotuses in her hands while standing on the Sree Chakram. What made this Goddess unique was that, unlike other temples where Lord Shiva is given precedence, at this temple, she is given the first right during festivals. The pujas and Abhishekams commence with the worship of the Goddess.

Within the temple, we also discovered a Dwara Ganapathy and two representations of Lord Kartikeya. The first one was unlike any Murugan statue we had ever seen, holding a pitcher (Kindi) in one hand and a Rudraksha Mala in the other. This portrayal depicted the legend where Lord Murugan temporarily assumed the task of creation from Brahma. Historians believe that this idol was installed by Rajendra Chola I. The second idol of Lord Muruga followed a more conventional depiction, although the peacock was positioned on the left, known as Asura Mayil.

The priest graciously guided us around the temple, where we observed ongoing renovations and the construction of new enclosures within the praharams to house various unearthed idols. The premises were ‘strewn’ with numerous Shiva Lingams and sculptures dating back to different periods, ranging from the Pallavas to the Cholas, the Pandyas, and the Nayaks. They were all awaiting to be housed in their own Sannidis. The temple walls featured goshtas, or enclosures, which typically house five deities in Shiva temples. However, this temple boasted seven goshtas, including Ganapathy, Dakshinamurthy, Bikshadanar, Lingothbavar, Brahma, Durga, and Shankaranarayanan.


Now, let’s delve into the captivating legend that intertwines the stories of both these temples. We are all familiar with the mythological tale of the Churning of the Ocean. When the deadly poison Halahala emerged during the churning, Lord Vishnu, in his Kurma avatar, turned blue. Seeking a solution, Goddess Lakshmi embarked on a penance beside the Palar River, precisely at the spot where the Natham temple stands today. Respectful of her penance, Lord Shiva moved to a nearby hillock, and Goddess Parvathi followed him there. This is how the Kailasanathar and Kanakambigai temple came into existence on the hillock beside the Palar River. Goddess Lakshmi received the darshan of Lord Shiva and Parvathi, and her wish was granted. At the Natham temple, Goddess Lakshmi is revered as Goddess Soundarya Nayagi. While Goddess Lakshmi performed her penance, the Nandi guarded her, explaining its unusual orientation, facing away to ward off evil forces.

Once adorned with Sampangi trees, the place came to be known as Champakeswarar due to its abundant flora. Inscriptions on the temple walls reveal that the temple’s construction commenced with Nirupadungavarma Pallava, followed by additions by Raja Raja Chola I, Kulotunga I, Raja Raja II, and Maravarman Sundara Pandyan. During Raja Raja I’s reign, the place was called Nigarili Chozha Chathurvedimangalam.

After visiting the nearby serene Damodara Perumal temple, meticulously maintained and pristine, we embarked on our journey back home. The perumal temple had gracious idols of Perumal and Thayaar, and Anjaneya, Andal, Ramanujar and Thumbikkai Azhwar. The Chakkarathaazhwar was housed in the open on the lawn. The sun had set, but our hearts were filled with the determination to explore this area further, seeking more hidden treasures.

To plan your visit to the Natham Parameswara Mangalam temple, you can contact the Priest at the following numbers.

Natham: 9790070473

Parameswara Mangalam Kailasanatha temple:


Kalkulam: 9655225535

It is advisable to call in advance to ensure the temple is open during your visit.

These twin temples near Chennai offer not only a fascinating glimpse into ancient history but also a serene and spiritually enriching experience. From the picturesque journey along the ECR to the captivating legends, intricate sculptures, and ongoing restoration efforts, these temples are truly hidden gems waiting to be discovered. So, the next time you find yourself passing through the area, I encourage you to slow down, cross the Palar bridge, and embark on a memorable journey to these magnificent temples.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *