A view of the beautiful interior complete with intricately carved columns and designs
A history that is strewn with much faith and ancient legends, age old statues and structures of undefined ages, all encircling a kovil that is being reconstructed to emit the glory that it once possessed long ago... Maviddapuram Kandaswamy Kovil inspires the wonder of many and is an inherent destination for countless devotees who revel in the Kovil's age old yet wondrous beliefs.
Words Krishani Peiris Photography Menaka Aravinda and Damith Wickramasinghe
A sign that leaned askew by the roadside read Maviddapuram Kandaswamy Kovil and the Gopuram - a towering structure at the entrance of a kovil - decorated with elaborate carvings and statues rose high into the sky conveying its magnificent existence. Cautiously we peered through the small opened gateway and upon seeing no one around we forged ahead through the cluttered surroundings of the Kovil grounds. The distant sound of a hammer and the murmur of some voices guided us to the main door of the Garbhagriha or the Srikovil - the part where the main deity is enshrined - where we beheld the grand yet intricate interior of the temple.
A Fascinating History...
As the name of the Kovil suggests, it is a shrine that is dedicated to Lord Skanda, god of war and the second son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi. Therefore there are many legends and a fascinating history that is closely linked with the faith and power of Lord Skanda and his devotees that not only surround the Kovil, but also the area where it is situated.
The Maviddapuram Kandaswamy Kovil is nestled close to Kankesanthurai, which was formerly known by the name of Gayathurai. However, since the image of Lord Skanda, also known as Kankesan, first arrived in Gayathurai, it is believed that the name changed to reflect this significance and became renowned as Kankesanthurai. Furthermore, Maviddapuram the place where the temple is situated translates to 'the holy city where the horse face was removed' (Ma-horse, vidda-removed and pura-holy city). Thus all these names and events are intricately entwined to present an enchanting tale of how the temple and the surrounding area have evolved.
The legend that surrounds the Kovil is woven around an 8th Century Chola Princess by the name of Mathurapiravikavalli. According to legend not only was she cursed with a name that was deemed hard to pronounce, she was also unfortunate enough to be born with a face akin to a horse. In her plight to be rid of this affliction she travelled to many places and was finally directed by a noble Swami named Shanthalinga to the Keerimalai hot water springs, situated close to a small temple of Lord Skanda. Here she bathed and prayed and soon she was freed from her sufferings. To show her faith and gratitude it is said that she undertook the extensive task of transforming the small temple of Lord Skanda to a fully fledged temple complex, resulting in the Maviddapuram Kandaswamy Kovil and it is believed that the temple is about 5,000 years old.
Inside The Kovil...
As we traversed through the Kovil, treading and looking into every nook and corner we were mesmerised by the beauty of the designs and colours that bedecked every column and wall. They possessed an intriguing charm as each seemed to hide a narrative locked deep within the complex folds of the carvings or the brush strokes of the paintings.
The main shrine was situated in the middle of the building while several small shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesh, Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Sarasvathi and many other gods encircled it. We went around to each of these small shrines, paying our respects and finally retraced our steps to the main shrine where Lord Skanda resided. It consisted of two rooms and we stepped into the outer room as the poosari commenced chanting some mantras that felt somewhat familiar yet foreign to our ears. Inside the inner room we beheld three statues - Lord Skanda stood in the middle while Goddess Valliamman and Goddess Deivayanai, two wives of Lord Skanda, flanked each side and they are said to represent the power of aspiration and the power of action respectively. It is believed that these statues were brought from South India amongst others as a request of the Princess to her father, who was the King of Madurai. Next to the statue of Lord Skanda, a Vel - the divine spear of Lord Skanda - stood to the side and the poosari affirmed that the age of this Vel was yet to be determined. It is believed to have been at the temple grounds long before the Princess' arrival. Furthermore, the main shrine is made out of granite and is believed to be the oldest part that has suffered minimal damage, withstanding the test of time.
we stepped out of the room, feeling a new sense of vitality and an appreciation for the Kovil and its fascinating history
The poosari asked our names and our star signs and we listened as he chanted some intricate mantras before handing each of us some flowers. He instructed us to touch the flowers to our eyes before laying them on the doorstep of the inner room of the gods. Calmed and deeply moved by the reverent pooja and the serene environs that enclosed us, we stepped out of the room, feeling a new sense of vitality and an appreciation for the Kovil and its fascinating history.