Preceptors of Advaita
KAMAKOTI AND NAYANMARS
The saktis of Ambika or the consort of Siva, present in each and every one of the Siva temples have emanated from Sri Kanchi Kamakoshtha. There are about fifty Siva temples at Kanchi and none of them contains a sanctum sanctorum for the goddess. But the Siva temples outside the limits of Kanchi have a separate sanctum sanctorum for the goddess. The reason for this is to be found in Lalita-sahasranama, Lalita-trisati and Lalita-ashtottara, texts on silpa and Agama, Puranas, inscriptions and some of the devotional hymns traditionally known as Saiva-tirumurai comprising Tevaram and Tiruttandakam. We shall now deal with this in detail.
The Lalita-sahasranama refers to the goddess as kamakotikayainamah, the Lalita-trisati as kamakotinilayayai namah and the Lalita-ashtottara as kamakoti-mahapithapadmasthayai namo namah. Thus in the three namavalis, the name kamakoti as the seat of the goddess occurs.
The Bhagavata-purana printed in the Grantha and the Telugu script referring to the tirtha-yatra of Balarama in the tenth skandha describes Kanchi as the Kamakoti-puri: kamakotipurim kanchim.
This reading is found in the Subodhini, a commentary on the Bhagavata by Vallabhacharya. And this reading slightly differs from the one found in the Bhagavata texts printed in North India which reads as follows: kamakoshnipurim kanchim.
The reason for the absence of any separate sanctum sanctorum for the goddess in the Siva temples in Kanchi and the presence of it in the temples outside the skirts of Kanchi is stated in this work. The god of love, who was reduced to ashes by Lord Siva, out of desire to have a body performed penance at Kanchi to propitiate Sri Kamakshi. Pleased by his penance, Sri Kamakshi by a mere glance from her eyes blessed him with a handsome body. He further requested her to bless him with the power to vanquish Lord Siva. She acceded to his request; and, she withdrew into the bilakasa in the Sri Kamakshi temple at Kanchi the saktis that are present in all the Siva temples. Sometime later Brahma went to Kailasa to have darsan of Siva. After worshipping Siva, he went to worship Devi, but could not see her there. He went to all the Siva temples on earth and in none of the temples could he find the presence of Devi. He reflected on the circumstances that led to the absence of Devi in all the Siva temples and intuitively felt that it was due to the will of Sri Kamakshi herself. Desirous of having the presence of the goddess in all the temples as before, Brahma went to Kanchi and performed penance for twelve years. Pleased by his penance Kamakshi said: ‘Let there be the manifestation of my saktis in all the Siva temples outside Kanchi; but in Kanchi, which is known as Sivajit-kshetra there need be no separate sanctum sanctorum for me’.
pura panchasaro’nangah pratyakshangabhilashaya
kamakoshtam samasadya kamakshim samprapujya cha
hridi dhyatva tu tam kamastapastepe’tidushkaram
tatastat kamadevasya tapasa tushtamanasa
kadachit tatra kamakshi mahatripurasundari
prasannatha mahasaktih svakatakshanirikshanat
dadau kamaya divyangam nrinamanandadayakam, (9-12)
tada sarveshu saiveshu kailasadyalayeshu cha
yatra yatra sthitah sarva gaurih svamsataya sthitah
samakrishyaikyato devi tushnimasicchubhanana. (31-32)
kadachidatha lokesah kailasadyalayeshu cha
sevartham paramesasya samagatyalayam tada
devahinalayam drishtva sivasthaneshu sarvasah
kimarthamambika nasti sarvasaivalayeshu cha
iti chintya tato brahma kamakshyaschitramityapi
vijnaya jnanadrishtya tu kamakoshtha mahitale
kamakshyassannidhim prapya dhyatvaradhya chesvarim
sarvalayeshu saiveshu sarvalokasthiteshu cha
yatha sambhustatha gauri sada sannidhyakankshaya
hridi dhyatva tu kamakshim dvadasabdam tapo’karot
tatah prasanna sa devi kamakshi bhaktikamada
tatra brahmanamalokya vachanam chedam abravit. (68-73)
sivajitkshetramityuktam idam kshetram vina bhuvi
sarvalayeshu saiveshu sannidhattam sada’mbika. (75)
As the goddess has withdrawn all her powers into the bilakasa which pervades the whole of Kanchi-kshetra, there is no need for a separate sanctum sanctorum for the goddess in any of the Siva temples at Kanchi1.
Each of the five primary elements has a siva-kshetra; and, Chidambaram is considered to be the akasa-sivakshetra. In the same way, each of the five primary elements has a sakti-pitha; and, Kanchi is the akasa-sakti-pitha. Chidambaram and Kanchi are thus the akasa-sthanas. In Chidambaram, the akasa is present only in the kanaka-sabha. But as regards Kanchi, the whole of Kanchi is considered to be the akasa-sthana. The goddess, Kamakshi, is in the form of bilakasa in the cave under the Gayatri-mandapa at the Kamakshi temple. And this akasa pervades the entire kshetra. This is the reason why there is no separate sanctum sanctorum for the goddess in the Siva temples at Kanchi kshetra. As in Kasi, there is no sparsa-dosha in the Kanchi-kshetra.
yatra purvam tvaya kanchyam smaratarthamimam hrdi
pujaniyo mahalinge namna mardalamadhave
tatraiva cha mahanrittam sarvarakshakarabhidham
karomi satatam hrishtah parakase bilantare
atra dabhrasabhamatram parakasa iti smritam
tarta sarvapibhuh kanchyam parakasah smrito budhah
satyam jnanamanantamadyam yo vedasya guhantare
paravyomni cha vai kanchyam so’snuteyamathepsitan
sarvajnenanunano’rva mahato mahatantaram
ye tu pasyantyatmakritagunadhikkritasugjanah
tatra ye paramakase pravisanti janah hare
te sarve manmayah syurvai muktatmanastu te smritah
agnimadhyagatam vastu tanmayam syadyatha kshanat
evam kanchi pravishta ye manmayah syur na samsayah
tasmadatra nrinam sanghe svapachananna sutakam
chandalanamapi hare sprishtva kanchyam na sutakam. (44,4 to 11)
Ottiyanam, as we know from its usage in the Tamil country, is an ornament worn around the waist. It is called kanchi in Sanskrit. This will be over the navel position. The work, Meru-tantra, states that Kanchikshetra is the navel position of the earth.
vide Merutantra, 10, 848.
This work which was composed by the great sage Durvasa and is still followed in the Kamakshi temple at Kanchi refers to the seven moksha-puris in the words––
ayodhyadishu pitheshu prithivyadishvanukramat.
Of the seven moksha-puris,
ayodhya mathura maya kasi kanchi avantika
puri dvaravati chaiva saptaite mokshadayikah,
the first five, beginning with Ayodhya and ending with Kanchi, are five sakti-pithas beginning with prithvi. And, Kanchi, thus becomes the akasapitha. This is in conformity with the view expressed in the Kanchi-mahatmya.
TEXTS ON SCULPTURE AND AGAMAS
The silpa texts also speak of the goddess in temples only as Kamakoshtham. For instance, the silpa text, Manasara, states:
kamakoshthavidhim vakshye. (65, 1)
The Saiva-agamas, the Sukshmagama and the Karunagama, refer to the seat of the goddess as Kamakoshtha.
(i) kamakoshthavidhim vakshye srinu tvam tat pramanjana
(i) bhogangamarchanam kuryat sarvasampat samriddhidham
ratrau pujavasane tu ardhayamena karayet
mandirasyottare bhage kamakoshthasya madhyame
That the seat of the goddess in the Siva temples is referred to as Kamakoshtha could be seen from the inscriptions found in the many Siva temples. The book entitled South Indian Temple Insciptions, published by the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras, contains several such inscriptions which are as follows:
koilukkum tirukkamakottamudaya peria nachchiyarukkum sattiyarula2
koilil tirukkamakkottattu nachchiyar perunkarunai3
tirunagisvaramudaiyar tirukkamakkottattalu (kai) tada (ya) na
tiruvorriyurudaiya nayanar koirtirukkamakkottamudaiya
nachchiyarukku vendum nibandangalukku5
tiruppalavanamudaya nayanar tirukkamakkottam iyadilum papadi
tirukkamakkottamudaiya nachchiyar alagamar mangaiyarkku7
tirukkamakkottamudaiya periyanachchiar alagamar mangaiyarukku
ikkoil si kamakottamudaiya nachchiyarukkum vendum nimittattirku9
ikkoil pujai nilaihalum tirukkamakottamudaiya nachchiarkoil bhattacharya
nan elundaruluvitta tirukkamakottamudaiyar tiruppalanattudaiyarkku11
innayanar tirukkamakottamudaiya periya nachchiyar12
ikkoilil nan elundaruluvitta tirukkamakottamudai akhilanayakiyarkku
sri puravaradisubara kamakotti (ti)mbikalapraptavaraprasada14
devyastasyah sikhariduhituh kamakoshthasthitayah
kinchestyah svapati natanasyanayogyaprakaram
satyam bhaktya sukaramakarot bhushanam mauktipurvam15
pitambaram kanchanamesha devyah
Devotional hymns traditionally known as Saiva Tirumurai in Tamil literature refer to the seat of the goddess as Kamakottam or Kamakotti. Appar of the seventh century in his Tiruvadikai Tiruttandakam uses the word Kamakotti; and this conforms to the version in the inscriptions referred to above.
elundirai natittuvalai nanainda tingal
kongaiyinai yamarporudu kolangonda
talumpulave varai marbil vennulunde
santamodu santanttinalaru tangi
alundiya sentiruvuruvil vennirrane
avanakhila tihai virattattane
Sundaramurti Nayanar in the Tevaram relating to Onakantantali situated on the northern bank of Sarvatirtha in Kanchi speaks of Kamakotta thus:
varirum kulanmai vanedungan
malaimahan madhuvimmu konrait-
kamakottamundaha nir poy
[7th Tirumurai: Onakantantali 6]
It is to be specially noted that the Tevaram of Tirujnanasambandar relating to Alangudi–-the Dakshinamurtikshetra in the Tanjore district in the south–-refer to the sanctum sanctorum of the goddess as kacchi kamakoti
nacchittoluvir kanamakkadu solvir
kacchippoli kamakkodiyudan kudi
icchittirum pulaiyidam konda visan
It may be added here that prior to the introduction of the printing press the same symbol was used to denote both the long and short sound of ‘O’. Hence kodi in kamakkodi in the above Tevaram must be read as kodi. Here kacchi means Kanchipuram and Tirujnanasambandar explicitly states that the sanctum sanctorum of the goddess is Kanchi Kamakoti.
The sthala-purana, Kamakshi vilasa, already referred to, states the reason why there is no separate sanctum sanctorum for the goddess in any one of the Siva temples in Kanchi and the presence of a separate sanctum sanctorum for the goddess in all the Siva temples outside the skirts of Kanchi. Goddess Kamakshi after blessing the god of love with a body retracted all her powers in the bilakasa at the Kamakshi temple in order to help the god of love in his victory over Siva. Later, on Brahma’s request she spread all her powers in the Siva temples outside Kanchi. The goddess in the form of bilakasa pervades the entire kanchikshetra. Hence there is no need for any special sanctum sanctorum for the goddess in the Siva temples at Kanchi. It is only from here that she again spread all her powers to be manifested in the temples outside kanchi-kshetra. Herein lies a matter of profound importance, namely that the term Kamakoti which is applied to the sanctum sanctorum of the goddess in the Siva temples is derived from the Kamakoshtha of Kanchi. This point is further substantiated in the Alangudi Tevaram of Tirujnanasambandar wherein he refers to the sanctum sanctorum of the goddess at Alangudi as Kacchi Kamakodi. This Tevaram in unmistakable terms refers to the identity of Kanchi Kamakoti with the ambika of the local shrine. And within the city boundary of Kanchi there is no garbha-griha with Ambika installed in it. No key to this curious phenomenon in the millenium-old temple construction scheme within the Kanchi city limits and to the countrywide practice of referring to Ambika shrines in the Siva temples as Kamakoti would have been available but for the two texts––the Kamakshi-vilasa and the Alangudi Tevaram of Saint Sambandar. A few lines in the simple sthala-purana of Kamakshi has regulated the millenium-old temple worship of Ambika all over the country.
May Kamakshi whose divine rays are manifested in the sanctum sanctorum of the goddess in all the Siva temples and who is the para-sakti of the Kamakoti-pitha, which has been doubly sanctified by being presided over by Adi Sankara himself and now by our Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati, protect us all !
kamadugha bhava kamale
kamakale kamakoti kamakshi.
1. Vide Kanchimahatmya, 44, 4 to 11.
2. South Indian Temple Insciptions. (Madras: Government Oriental Manuscripts Library) Part I, No. 14, p. 22.
3. Ibid., No. 197, p. 190.
4. Ibid., No. 267, p. 248.
5. Ibid., No. 530, p. 517.
6. Ibid., No. 539, p. 528.
7. Ibid., Part II, No. 597, p. 586.
8. Ibid., No. 598, p. 586.
9. Ibid., No. 635, p. 613.
10. Ibid., No. 1042, p. 975.
11. Ibid., No. 1048, p. 980.
12. Ibid., No. 1049, p. 981.
13. Ibid., Part III, Section I, No. 1175, p. 1152.
14. Ibid., No. 1209, p. 1220.
15. Ibid., Part III, Section II, Nos. 1271-73, p. 1321-23.
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