|Tamilnadu is famous, among many other things, for its rich heritage of ancient Hindu temples. The temples speak volumes of the artistic and engineering brilliance of Tamil Nadu many centuries in the past, pre-dating many other cultures. Each temple is unique in terms of the deities found and has its own Sthala Puranam, or traditional history, including many interesting anecdotes.
The Chakrapani Kovil is a Hindu temple dedicated to the deity Lord Vishnu. It is the second Vaishnavite temple in the town of Kumbakonam. This temple is considered to be one of the most important Vishnu temples in South India, along with Srirangam and Tirupati. Seven of the Alwars have sung the glories of the Chakrapani Kovil.
The Chakrapani Kovil is located on the southern bank of the River Cauvery near the Kumbakonam Railway district in the Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu.
The legend goes that the sacred Sri Chakra was aimed by Lord Vishnu at Jalandarasura (a demon king), and after killing him it settled in the Earth on the banks of River Cauvery. The Sri Chakra shone with a brightness that was ten thousand times that of the Sun. The Sun God became jealous of the Sri Chakra and shone with even more brightness. In order to suppress the Sun God’s pride, the Sri Chakra drew all the brightness from the Sun. The Sun realized his folly and surrendered at Lord Vishnu’s feet.
Having been blessed by Lord Vishnu, the Sun God built a temple for him, idolizing him as Sri Chakrapani Swami. The Sun God requested Lord Vishnu to grant him a boon that the holy town of Kumbakonam (where the Chakrapani Kovil is located) should be named after him as “Bhaskara Kshethra,” and the request was granted.
The Chakrapani Kovil is noted for its exquisite pillars. The presiding deity, Chakrapani, has eight arms and is a blissful embodiment of Lord Vishnu. A bronze image of King Sarabhoji II of the Chola dynasty is also seen worshipping Lord Chakrapani, as he is said to have been cured of an illness by the blessings of this god. Lord Brahma, Lord Surya, and Agni are also depicted to be worshipping Lord Chakrapani.
A panchamuka (five-faced) Hanuman statue stands in the Prakaram (outer precincts of the temple). The Eastern and Western entrances of this temple are known as Dhatchinaya Vayil (Vayil – entrance) and Utharavana Vayil, respectively. The outer Prakara or entrance is made in the form of a balcony. Agampara Vinayagar (Lord Ganesh) and Vijayavalli (Sree Chakrapani’s consort) are two other important idols in this temple.
Chakra Padithurai is a crematorium in Kumbakonam that lies parallel to the shrine of the temple situated across the river Cauvery. Nivethanam (sacred offering) is performed every day for the deity for the sake of the souls departed from the dead bodies. It implies the ideology that Lord Vishnu controls the Chakra of life and death.
Lord Chakrapani possesses the third eye like Lord Shiva and is offered vilva abhishekam (pooja with vilva flowers), an offering that is normally done only in temples of Lord Shiva.
The temple is very popular for the benefits of worship received. The Sun God is considered the head of all planets (Nava Grahas – nine planets). As this god himself worshiped Lord Chakrapani, it is believed that any devotee who worships this lord will be free of all Dosha (problems) on the 9 planets in their astral chart.
Devotees throng this temple especially to gain protection from the Sani (Saturn) Dosha that is supposed to affect a person for a continuous seven and one-half year period. Flowers and leaves such as thulasi, kumkum, vilvam, vanni, chemparuthi and arali are offered to this lord.
The Chakrapani Kovil is located 2 kilometers northwest of the Kumbakonam Railway Station, on the bus route to Swamimalai from the Town Bus Stand. The temple is open from 7:00 PM IST to 12 noon and then from 4:30 PM IST to 9:00 PM IST. The contact number of the temple site is 0435 – 2403284.