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Kapaleeswara Temple

Mylapore, one of the earliest settlements of Chennai, abounds in temples. The most famous being the Kapaleeswara Temple and a host of others, such as Kesava Perumal Koil, Madhava Perumal Koil, Luz Anjaneyar, Sai Baba Koil and the Karaneeswarar Koil all situated within a kilo metre of each other. The latest addition to this impressive list is the Jain Temple that has recently come up in Kutchery Road. Its marble façade is so striking that every passerby, pedestrian or automobile rider fixes his gaze in partial admiration and part wonderment as to what this structure, so different from the rest of the streetscape is.

Well, it is the Jain Swetambar Vasu Pujya temple. The first thing that comes to one’s mind at the mention of Jainism is Bhagawan Mahavira. This is because as children we were taught that he was the founder of Jainism just as Gautama Buddha was the founder of Buddhism. The fact is however much different. Bhagwan Mahavira was in fact the 24th Tirthankara and as per Jain Religious Calendar it is his reign that is presently in progress. About 18,500 years are left of the reign of Bhagwan Mahavira says the Jain Muni at the temple. Bhagwan Mahavira was born 2600 years ago in Bihar to Siddhartha and Trishla. He was married to Yeshoda and had a daughter named Priya Darshana. At the age of 30, Mahavira became a Jain Monk. At the age of 42, he attained "Keval Gyan" which roughly translates to "Omniscience".

Jainism revolves around three important tenets. They are known as "Teen tatva" and include "Heya" "Gyeya" and "Upadeya". They mean to "imbibe", "comprehend", and "seek". The Jains are to devote their lives to imbibe good deeds and control sin, to comprehend sin, attachment and the lifeless and finally "seek" salvation or moksha by attaining a state of Nirjara or freedom from sin and attachment. Going back to the marble temple - on a Thursday morning there were over 100 Jains, mainly women, who were singing bhajans, worshipping the Lord with lamps and offering sweets & fruits to Him.

The huge rangoli made of coloured rice depicts a tree with many branches and at the root of the tree are the sliver feet of the Lord. All around the rangoli are placed glasses, having coloured molten wax acting as lamps. The occasion is the Bhaktambar Maha Puja performed once or twice a year to commemorate the great feat of the Jain saint, Man Tung Suri.

Man Tung Suri was once challenged by a king (some say Raja Bhoj) that Jainism did not have a maha mantra which could wreak miracles. The saint told the king to bind him in iron manacles and lock it with 48 locks. The king took up the challenge and the saint was bound. Then the saint started chanting the Jain mantra or sloka and at the end of each mantra, a lock would shatter. Within a few hours, all the 48 locks were accounted for. The Puja is done everyday with great devotion, by the devotees, chanting all the slokas in a song form.

The temple is being given finishing touches and one can see the artisans from Rajasthan patiently polishing the marble tirelessly. A glimpse of what went on at Agra! The temple has the idols of Vasupujya who was the 12th Tirthankara. Mr. Jankar Mull, Kataria, Secretary of the temple says that it is a blessing to the area Mylapore to have a temple for Vasupujya. There are also shrines for Adhinath, Parsvanath, Sumatinath and Swirdhinath.

The temple opens at 5 a.m. and closes at noon. It remains open again between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. The temple was built purely from donations from the Jains, mainly residents of Mylapore area. Though Chennai has as many as 40 Jain temples, the one in Mylapore in bound to draw thousands of devotees for its aesthetic grandeur. "What is more welcome in that quite a few people of other religions also come to pray here," says Mr. Kataria.


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