Sri Muttuswami Dikshitar was a scholar par excellence, a great musician and composer, a divine Jnani, a humble Bhakta, a knower of Mantra Shastra and a Siddha. One of the Trinity of Carnatic music (along with Sri Shyama Shastry and Sri Tyagaraja), Dikshitar traveled far and wide, singing on various deities. He saw no difference in Shiva, Shakti or Vishnu. Sri Dikshitar, whose chief upAsya devata was Sri Lalita, has composed several Krtis unparalleled in their beauty on Sri Kamakshi, the only sthula or gross manifestation of Sri Lalita. Kanjadalayatakshi (Kamalamanohari – there is a beautiful rendering of this Kriti by MS), Neerajakshi Kamakshi (Hindola – Musiri Subrahmanya Iyer renders this Krti in a brisk tempo), Saraswati Manohari (Saraswatimanohari, Balamurali's rendition seems better than most others), Ekamreshanayike (Karnataka Shuddha Saveri – D K Jayaraman renders this best), EkamreshanAyakIm – chAmara), Kamakshi Sri Varalakshmi (Bilahari – D K Pattammal Paati is the only one who renders this Krti in the right spirit), Kamakshi Sri Kamakoti Peethavasini (Simhendramadhyamam, Maharajapuram sang this frequently in his concerts), Kamakoti Pithavasini (Saugandhini), Kamakshim Kalyanim Bhajeham (Shantakalyani), Srngararasamanjarim Sri Kamakshim (Rasikapriya), Kamakshi mAm pAhi (Shuddha Deshi) etc. are some of the popular Krtis on Sri Kamakshi.
Much has been said about the greatness of Sri Kamakshi of Kanchi. Kanchipuram is the only Mokshapuri in Southern India and is said to have hosted 1008 temples at some point in history. One sees more than 108 temples dedicated to various gods and goddesses in Kanchi even today. Kanchi is located 71 Kms from Chennai city and is divided into Shiva and Vishnu Kanchis.
Once upon a time, an asura called Bhandasura secured several by performing severe penances. Puffed up with pride, he tormented the devas and sages who sought refuge under Lord Siva. Realizing that only Goddess Parashakti could save them by destroying the Rakshasa, Lord Siva advised them to enter a chasm in the shrine Gomukha, situated to the north of Kailas and to come out through another chasm, called Kamakoti Peetam, in Kanchipuram and worship Parasakthi who dwells there in the form of Bilakasa. He further told them that for the earth, usually visualized as cow, Sripura is its head, Himalayas its neck, Kedara its belly, Benaras its back, and the chasm, Kamakoti Peetham, its navel.
Learning this from Lord Siva, the Devas came to Kanchi and remained there taking the form of parrots and prayed to Goddess Kamakshi for the redemption of their sufferings at the Hands of Bhanda. Showing mercy on them, She took the frightful form of Maha Kala Bhairavi, like the fire of Deluge, with 18 arms and 18 celestial weapons, came out of the chasm, reached Kailasa, kept one foot on the asura's neck and the other on his breast, killed him and returned to Kanchi through Bilakasa with his head, holding his flocks of hair, as a young girl. Seeing her ferocious form, the Devas swooned. To remove their fear, she then assumed a lovely form wearing silk garments and adorned with all ornaments. Recovering their consciousness and seeing her dazzling form, the Devas remained spellbound unable to comprehend her amazing powers. She then directed them to bury the body of Bhanda there and erect a victory-staff, called Jayasthambam, as a mark of victory.
While the Devas were digging the ground to bury his head, they found another Asura called Mallaka, performing penance beneath the earth. Sensing that he was invincible, they prayed to Lord Vishnu to kill him. Lord Vishnu attacked Mallaka but every drop of blood shed from his body was transformed into a demon in the same form and soon there was an army of demons to fight with Lord Vishnu. Each demon in the huge army so produced was killed by Vishnu in that battle, only to see more and more demons emerge from the spilt blood-drops. Unable to vanquish them, Lord Vishnu prayed to Lord Siva to come to his rescue. At once, Lord Siva unlocked his long matted hair and struck it on the ground to produce two ghosts which drank all the drops of blood preventing the multiplication of demons. Then Lord Vishnu was able to annihilate all the demons with their aid.
The ghosts intoxicated by excessive drinking of blood began to attack Lord Vishnu Himself for whose assistance they were created. Lord Vishnu pushed them down and stood upon them. Showing resistance, they rose up. Again he pushed them down and sat upon them. Seeing them still resisting, He lay down upon their bodies and suppressed their arrogance. Hence his name "Bhootha Bandhana".
Coming back to their senses, the ghosts prayed Lord Vishnu, to pardon them. In turn Lord Vishnu also felt sorry for having been forced to inflict pain on the Bhoothas which were sent by Lord Siva to assist him in battle with Mallaka. At this juncture, Lord Siva appeared on the scene, released Ganges from his matted hair, created a sacred tank called Pancha Theertham and asked Lord Vishnu and the ghosts to have their ablutions in it as atonement for their actions.
Lord Vishnu consecrated the male and female ghosts as guards for the Pancha Theertham and he himself began to dwell in their midst at a higher plane in standing, sitting, and reposing postures in commemoration of his fight with them, and proclaimed that those who are desirous of having progeny, would cherish their desire by taking a holy dip in the Pancha Theertham. The Pancha Theertha tank is so constructed that the Abhishekha Theertham of Goddess Sri Kamakshi falls into this tank adding sanctity to the holy waters of this sacred tank.
In deference to the command of the Goddess Sri Kamakshi, the Devas then buried Bhandakasura, installed a Jayasthamba and constructed a passage from there leading to Bilakasa. This is the sacred Biladwara to which abhishekam is performed on aippasi puram. They also constructed a mandapam with 24 pillars symbolizing the 24 letters of the sacred hymn "Gayatri" and named it Gayatri Mandapam. They consecrated the Swayambhu Salagrama idol of the Goddess, on a gembedecked throne symbolizing the Pranava Mantra and worshipped her with great devotion. Sri Durvasa established a great Srichakra in front of Amba and named the place Kamakoti Peetha. Pleased with their devotion, Amba appeared to them seated on the throne, with her anga devatas and blessed the world with auspicious boons. It was on an auspicious Friday in the asterism Pooram in Krishna Pakhsa Prathama tithi in the month of Panguni in Srimukha Varsha in Krithyuga in Savitri Swayambu Manavanthara that Rajarajeswarai Sri Lalitha Tripurasundari manifested herself as Goddess Sri Kamakshi in Kamakoshtam of Kanchipuram.
To celebrate the coronation of Goddess Sri Kamakshi, in the Gayatri Mantapam in the Kamakoshtham of Kanchi, Viswakarma, the Chief architect of the Devas presented a palanquin, while Lord Brahma offered a hair clip made of Pearls, Lord Vishnu a crown studded with the nine gems, and Lord Siva a necklace of Sri Chakra. They decorated the idol of Sri Kamakshi with all ornaments, worshipped her and prayed to her to sanctify this shrine in Kanchi and continue to shower her Grace on the devotees for all times to come.
For annihilating Tarakasura, the Devas felt the pressing need for Lord Subrahmanya's incarnation as the son of Lord Siva. To distract Parameswara from his penance and divert his attention towards Goddess Gowri, the Devas deployed Cupid for the job. When Lord Siva was sturck by his flower arrows, his penance was disturbed. Getting angry, he burnt Cupid to ashes by the fire of the third eye on his forehead. Having lost his physical frame, Cupid not only wanted to regain it but also register a victory over Lord Siva. With these objectives, he prayed to Goddess Kamakshi and regained his lovely form. He expressed to her, his desire to score a victory over Lord Siva. Assuring him of her support, Sri Kamakshi directed Cupid to go to Kailasa again and shower his flower arrows on Lord Siva. He did so; but this time, the fire of Lord Siva's third eye, could do no harm to Cupid. Not only was it unable to reduce him to ashes, but it began to shine like a gem on his head as an ornament.
Then Lord Siva, infatuated with love, went into the harem to meet Goddess Gowri but she was not found there. This was because Goddess Kamakshi had imbibed the powers of all manifestations of Sakthi in all the holy places throughout and remained as a single store-house of power in Kanchi to save Cupid. Greatly disappointed, Lord Siva visited all places and sacred shrines for his consort Gowri but to no purpose. Finally he came to Kanchi where he saw Goddess Kamakshi, the very personification of grace and expressed his love for her mistaking her to be the Gowri. But Goddess Kamakshi told him that she was not his consort, Gowri to appease his love and asked him to seek the assistance of cupid for the extinction of the fire of love from him.
Lord Siva took it as a prestige issue, rejected her suggestion and was about to seize her hand forcibly. But Goddess Kamakshi foiled his attempt by generating, just by her looks a crore of cupids for attacking him. Lord Siva in turn generated a crore of Rudras to fight with the cupids, but they were all defeated. Cupid, who emerged as a victor with the grace of the Goddess, made Lord Siva surrender unto her. Goddess Kamakshi then transformed these cupids into stars just above the Kamakoti Peetam and then, to facilitate the various manifestations of parasakthi so as to allow them to get back to their respective shrines as the consorts of Lord Siva in those forms. Goddess Kamakshi in Kanchi is seen bearing a sugarcane-bow and five flower-arrows of red-lotus, Asoska Mango, Jasmine and Blue-lotus in her arms. Jagadguru, His Holiness Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Swami of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham once pointed out that Goddess Kamakshi seized these weapons of the cupid so that he might not exercise his influence over Her devotees and the gnanis.
Bhandasura and Cupid, endowed with Tamoguna and Rajoguna respectively, are personifications of anger and lust. Unfulfilled lust leads to anger and Desire is the root cause of misery. One should strive to overcome these two qualities. Though both anger and desire cannot be completely effaced by all, they can be kept under proper check with out causing any hindrance to the practice of Dharma with the grace of Goddess Sri Kamakshi.
As Sri Lalita Tripurasundari, the Parashakti herself has sanctified the Kamakoshtam in Kanchi the presiding Deity of Kanchipuram, and hence there is no separate sannidhi for Gowri the manifestation of Parashakti in the temples of Siva in Kanchi. This is because the powers of the various manifestations of Parashakti, who ought to find a place in these temples, are merged in Goddess Sri Kamakshi alone. Once Lord Brahma desired to perform the Tirukalayananotsavam of the Goddess Gowri with Sri Ekamreswara. To fulfill his desire, Sri Kamakshi generated from the eye of her forehead a manifestation of Shakti and directed Brahma to perform the Kalyanotsavam of Sri Ekamreswara with that golden idol as his consort and Brahma acted accordingly. This idol is called Bangaru Kamakshi which was later shifted to Tanjavur.
In Kanchi, Amba shines along with Sri Kalvar, Mahavarahi, Rajamatangi, Ishtasiddhi Vinayaka, Santana Ganapati, Sowbhagya Ganapati, Sage Durvasa, Bhairava, Shasta with Purna and Pushkala, Naga Subrahmanya, Annapurna, Durga, Bhairava, Adi Pitheshwari Kala Samkarshini Kali, Varasiddhi Vinayaka, Vishwanatha, Bhuta Bandhana Mahavishnu etc. In the Krti Kanjadalayatakshi, Dikshitar reiterates that Sri Kamakshi is indeed Sri Mahatripurasundari and describes her beautiful swarupa (form) for easy contemplation in the minds of the devoted. In the Krti Nirajakshi Kamakshi, he explains the meaning of the word kAmAkshi – ka is Lakshmi and ma is Saraswati and the one who has Lakshmi and Sharada as her two eyes is kAmAkShI. He also explains the essence of Kamakoti Peetha established by Durvasa as associated with the Navavathas of Srividya Sampradaya who worshipped Amba in Kanchi. In the Krti Saraswati Manohari, Dikshitar praises the Vagbhava aspect of Sri Kamakoti Lalita, capable of granting speech and knowledge to the devoted. Muka Kavi, also known as Muka Shankara, a deaf and dumb devotee was blessed by Kamakshi who granted him Drishti Diksha and nectarine poetry flowed from his lips in praise of the Supreme Goddess, worshipped even by Sharada, the goddess of learning (shAradArAdhyA). This set of five hundred shlokas is called Muka Panchashati and reciting these daily earns blessing of Amba. Arya Shataka, the first 100 in this set is very special and embeds in itself the secret mantra of Sri Rajarajeshwari. Also, Dikshitar refers to Amba as mukhya kaumAri – referring to her aspect as Yoga Bala Parameshwari, who is present in Sringeri as Sri Sharada Parameshwari. In the Krti Ekamreshanayakim, he explains that Sri Kamakshi is worshipped as Sri Kameshwari and her mantra is of fifteen letters. In Kamakshi Sri Varalashmi, Amba is praised both as Arupa and Sarupa Lakshmi (with an without forms) present outside the sanctum of Sri Kamakshi in Kanchipuram. There is a sanctum of Lord Vishnu called as 'Kalvar' within the inner prakara of the shrine of Sri Kamakshi in the Gayatri Mandapam. During the churning of the milky-ocean, Lord Vishnu with Svetavarna, bearing mountain the mandara on his back in the form of tortoise was oppressed by the scorching radiation of Halahala which darkened his body. The Devas offered the hand of Goddess Lakshmi in marriage to Lord Vishnu. Goddess Lakshmi, renowned for her shining golden complexion, scoffed once at Vishnu saying for fun that he was no match for her because of his dark complexion. Lord Vishnu cursed her to lose her beauty forthwith. Lakshmi was very much distressed at this and prayed to Goddess Sri Kamakshi to grace her with the lost beauty. Sri Kamakshi consoled her and asked her to remain to the left of her sannidhi situated in Gayathri Mandapam of Kamakoshtam in Kancheepuram so that her devotees would receive her kumkuma prasadam and offer it to her and by its efficacy she would regain her lovely form. She asked Lakshmi that in return, she would bestow all prosperity on them. Goddess Lakshmi submitted to her will and regained her lovely form. Thus the Aroopa Lakshmi became Soundarya Lakshmi.
Lord Vishnu, also realized his mistake in cursing His consort Sri Lakshmi in haste and came to Kanchi to appease her. He was delighted to see her in Gayatri Mandapam in her original beauty. But he wanted to look at Lakshmi without being noticed by her. Though he approached her stealthily, she took notice of him. Bold of being under the shelter of Goddess Kamakshi she even ventured to call Vishnu who was stealing a look at her as "Kalva" meaning 'a thief. Hence Lord Vishnu, dwelling adjacent to Soundarya Lakshmi in Gayatri Mandapam, came to be called "Kalvar". Kalvar's sannidhi is one of the 108 Sri Vaishnavite shrines and Tirumangai Azhwar has sung in praise of this deity. In the Krti Srngararasamanjarim, Dikshitar recommends worship of Sri Kamakshi as the sure most remedy for all Graha Doshas. As Kamakshi grants speech or oration in her aspect as Sri Rajashyamala, she is praised as vishuddhichakrasthite in the Krti Kamakshi mAm pAhi. In the Krti Kamakoti Pithavasini, Amba is praised as ShyAmala, Komala and Bala – signifying her aspects as Varahi, Matangi and Bala Tripurasundari. Dikshitar hints at all of them in his krtis. Let's examine Lalitopakhyana Krtis in the near future and see how they relate to Kamakshi and Kanchi.
There indeed exists a manidwipa – it is called kamakoshtham
Lalita has manifested – as Kamakotipithavasini
Mother is present physically to protect her children with her loving gaze – as Kamakshi
Samasta Gurumandala Swarupini grants the liberating knowledge of the Self to the devoted – As Icchajnanakriyaswatantrini parama Gurumurtiswarupini Sri Mahabhattarika
Words fail to express her glory, eyes fail to capture her beauty and heart fails to hold her limitless grace .....
All one can do is to pray - Amba, grace me by making me fit to receive your grace...