Our city’s historic significance and cultural evolution through the centuries have been documented in our many temples. Some like the Kapaleeshwarar temple in Mylapore is massive and attract plenty of visitors. While they’re known primarily for their religious significance, their architecture, scale, and detail hold secrets. As with all temples, we love that they’re all kept spick and span, 24/7. So without further ado, here are five temples you need to check out.
Become Indiana Jones For The Day As You Go On A Temple Run Around Chennai
This Shiva temple was a site of worship for goddess Parvati and was said to be built during the 7th century. That’s more than 1,300 years ago! Located in the centre of Mylapore, it is known for its large water storing tank called a theppam that fills up during the monsoon season. The centrepiece of the temple is, however, its gigantic gopuram that lights up like a beacon in the evening. Like most temples in South India, it too is part of the Dravidian style of architecture as evidenced by its large gopuram. The temple also hosts a yearly, week-long festival during the Tamil month of Panguni between March and April.
Built in the 8th century by the Pallavas, this temple is located in the heart of Triplicane and was built to honour Lord Krishna and his five forms. Like the Kapaleeshwarar temple, it too has a water tank with a structure in the middle called a neerazhimandapam. During the Tamil month of Masi (February -March), they hold a yearly festival where they build a massive float that goes around the tank! The temple has age-old inscriptions in Tamil and Telugu as well as five shrines for the five forms of Krishna. The gopuaram isn’t as tall as its Mylapore counterpart but is just as intricately decorated.
This temple was initially built inside Fort St. George in 1640AD, but was later moved to Georgetown where it currently resides. The temple is a place of worship for the god Kalikambal, also known as Kamakshi and is one of the most crowded temples in the city. While it may not be as big as the Mylapore Kapaleeshwarar temple, it is said to be fairly important historically as it is said to attract devotees and patrons from all strata of society. The temple has a main shrine where Kalikambal sits and smaller shrines around it, and was once said to be visited by Chatrapathi Shivaji in 1677.
Situated in Besant Nagar near Elliot’s Beach, this temple is adjacent to the famous Velankanni church and together form a secular community. It was constructed as a site of worship for the goddess Lakshmi and the eight forms of wealth she can endow. The temple was renovated in 2012 and is one of the few temples in the city with multiple floors! Each sanctorum is on a different floor and can be accessed by a staircase in the central complex. This architecture is far more modern and keen eyes can tell that the temple was built in the past century.
Vadapalani Murugan Temple
Like the Ashtalakshmi Temple, this temple was constructed recently in historic terms, in the year 1890. Situated in Vadapalani, the temple was built to honour Lord Muruga, and is frequented by newlyweds to bless their marriage. The entrance to the temple is through a large gopuram and like the first two entries in the list, this temple has a massive water tank that fills up during the rainy season. The highest of its gopurams reaches 40 feet and nearly every inch of it is sculpted and decorated.
Parrys Jain Temple
Although Chennai does not have a long-standing history with Jainism, it does host several beautiful temples spread across the city. One of them is the Sri Chandraprabhu Jain Naya Mandir in Sowcarpet. Carved fully out of marble, this temple has a white facade, commendable intricate designing on the exteriors and an architectural style that resembles Rajasthan's Dilwara temple. Dedicated to the 8th Tirthankara, Sri Chandraprabhu Bhagwan, this temple attracts devotees from across the city.
Located in Shollinganallur, the ISKCON Temple is a Vaishnava temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. Built solely with donations received from the city residents, this temple was built as part of ISKCON's founder, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's goal to spread the message of Lord Chaitanya and have a strong establishment in India. Spread across 1.5 acres of land, this temple displays several vastu shastra features along with a mix of Pallava and Kalinga architecture. The main attraction is the chandelier that has 500 Himalayan quartz crystals that's supposedly meant to intensify the spiritual energy in the temple. You can also find three teakwood altars in the temple hall.
An ancient Chola temple, Gangadeeswarar Temple in Purusawakkam is dedicated to the form of Lord Siva that held the Ganga river as it was falling from heaven to earth. Considered to be among the oldest temples in the city, this temple has a tall, five-tiered gopuram which is visible from the main road. The Chola inscriptions are something you must check out when you're here along with the religiously valued Purusai tree that is within the precincts of the temple. The mandapa opposite the main sanctum is also very modern and the whole temple overall, very well maintained and clean.
This temple is believed to have been built in the 11th century and dedicated to Lord Shiva in Thiruvanmiyur. One can see exactly 108 lingams here. As for the architecture of the temple, it exudes an authentic, Dravidian style with a lot of colours on the gopuram. It is also believed that those who are ill and suffering from different diseases can be treated here with the blessings of the Lord.
Shirdi Sai Baba Temple
This temple was built in 1952 in the memory of Sai Baba of Shirdi. Located in Mylapore, this temple is considered to be one of the most trusted temples in all of India, having been constructed by very prominent devotees of Sai Baba. Also called Shirdi of South, this temple attracts devotees from across the country and till date has the light lit by Sai Baba himself. Definitely a must visit place.
Kasi Viswanatha Temple
West Mambalam only comes second to Mylapore, in terms of temples and religious spots in Chennai. And Kasi Viswanatha Temple is the most-known and one of the oldest in the area. Built in the 17th century, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva at the Vishwanatha Temple at Varanasi. This temple also hosts regular musical and cultural events, alongside numerous poojas every month.
This ancient gem located very close to the Saidapet Railway Station, is one of the most beautiful temples in Chennai. The Karneeswarar temple has a large, seven-storied gopuram, a large temple tank and is full of mythological stories and history. It is believed by the locals, that Lord Indra installed an idol and prayed to Shiva, who granted him the status of Gopathi (Lord of cows). Head to this serene temple to witness a fine example of Dravidian architecture.
We've always noticed this temple before zooming on to Rajiv Gandhi Salai (OMR), near IIT Madras. Madhya Kailash Temple houses the unique idol called, Adyantha Prabhu , which is half Ganapathy and half Anjaneya. This temple has sanctums for both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu in the same premises. On the day of Vinayaka Chaturti, the sun rays fall directly on the main Ganesh deity, which is truly a sight to see!
Anantha Padmanabha Swamy Temple
This temple at Adyar was constructed by the last Maharajah of Travancore in 1962. The sanctum houses a large idol of lord Vishnu on which regular sermons are performed. Almost all of the deities in this temple is located indoors and are air-conditioned! During Margazhi festival, devotees pilgrim their way into this quiet neighborhood to witness elegant decorations and special poojas.
R A Puram Ayyapan Temple
If you want to experience how Sabarimala in Chennai, then the Rajah Annamalaipuram Ayyapan Temple is the place to visit. After going on a pilgrimage in 1973, noted Tamil Nadu industrialist M.A.M. Ramasawmy of the Chettinad Royal Family built an exact replica of the Kerala temple atop the Sabarimala Hill, in Chennai. The architect maintained the traditional Kerala-style and installed the 18-steps to the main sanctum. The temple is constructed three floors above the ground, to give the feeling of being on top of a hill like Sabarimala.