We drove to Kanchipuram to visit the Ekambareswarar Temple dedicated to Shiva and considered one of the five major Shiva Pancha Bootha Stalams ( representing a natural element) temples - in this particular case the element earth.
As we stood outside the Temple and soon after inside its courtyard I tried to remember the legends related to it in an attempt to (maybe) get a better "grasp" the moment we started the visit. According to one legend, Parvati, Shiva's consort was doing penance under the Temple's old mango tree when Shiva sent fire onto her in order to test the degree of her devotion. Shiva is then said to have called for her brother Vishnu's help. Vishnu is then said to have taken the Moon from her head and showing its rays cooled the tree and Parvati down. In order to disrupt Parvati's penance once more Shiva sent the river Ganga, whom parvati convinced not to harm her allegedly saying they were sisters. Subsequently Ganga made a Shiva Linga out of sand so that it got united with Shiva, thus the name for which Shiva has come to be known around the area - Ekambareswarar or "Lord of the mango tree".
Another legend has it that Parvati worshipped Shiva in the form of a lingam improvised out of sand under a mango tree. When neighbouring Vegavati river overflew and threatened to engulf the Shiva Lingam, Parvati is said to have embraced it. Having been touched by the gesture Shiva materialised in person and married her.
The vast Temple, with one of the tallest gopurams in India (59 metres tall) is also said to exist since 600A.D. though remodelled throughout the centuries.
We walked into a hallway with highly decorated pillars, which I couldn't help photographing as in any other Hindu Temple I had visited before. I tried to capture the atmosphere by silently watching the worshippers and the bustling around one of the shrines.
(To be continued)