The interesting secret journey of golden idol of Kamatchi Amman to Thanjavur

Among the temples at Thanjavur, the Kamatchi Amman temple on the West main Street end near the corner of north main street   is a popular one. The temple dedicated to Kamatchi Amman, a form of goddess Parvati, is made of pure gold and hence she is referred to as Bangaru Kamatchi Amman.  The temple, where she is adorned, was built in 1771 by the then Maratha ruler  Pratap Singh Bhonsle (reign:1739 to 1763) of Thanjavur Maratha dynasty that has  marital link with the Maratha rulers of Satara, Maharashtra. 

Thanjavur Maratha ruler Pratap Singh Bhonsle.

The sanctity of this temple is further enhanced by the fact that this idol of goddess Kamatchi was worshipped by a long line of great Acharyas of Sankara Mutt. This temple is undergoing renovation and the Kumbabishekam of this temple is due to take place on 23 March 2017 in the presence of Archaryas of Kanchi Sankarachariyar Mutt - Sri Jayendrar and junior swamiji  Sri Vijayendrar. The Yagasala work had begun with Ganapathi Homam a few days ago,

Kamatchi Amman golden idol,

Kamatchi Amman golden idol, Thanjavur. TripAdvisor

The idol, originally from Kasi (Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh) was in Kanchipuram in the 1700s. The clandestine journey of this 
valuable and historical idol from Kanchipuram near Madras to Thanjavur is an interesting one, and it may baffle our imagination as it  was beset with many dangers. This temple is presently 
being managed by the Kanchi Sankarachariar Mutt. The 
presiding deity is in a standing posture  and it was originally in 
the Kamakshi Amman  temple at Kanchi. The Acharya of
Kanchi  Shankaracharya  Shri Chandrashekara Saraswathi IV felt it was  not safe any longer  to keep a big idol made of pure gold at Kanchipuram and decided to move it further down south where it could be guarded safely. The political atmosphere was then vitiated by competition  and confrontation between the British on one hand and the French on the other hand. The threats of Carnatic Nawobs and Tipu sultan and their frequent skirmishes with the foreign powers  added new dimension to the political instability in the regions around Madras (Chennai). The Acharya was mainly worried about the Muslim invasion  and the safety of the idol as the Muslim rulers were unpredictable.

Kamatchi Amman golden idol,

In those days the religious head had to depend on palanquin for travel  to cover long distances and  they were not allowed to ride horses. The Kanchi seer had to shift the idol all the  way from Kanchi to Thanjavur - more than 320 km, a tough and dangerous journey covering vast distance.  On the way, the  additional danger the mutt employees had to tackle was the menace of bandits.  In order to protect the golden idol of Kamatchi against thieves or other dangers and to take the precious idol safely to Thanjavur, the Acharya and others decided to use a stratagem. 

The idol was  completely wrapped  around with a few pieces of cloth and the shiny surface was smeared with black punugu (secretion of musk  from Civet, a nocturnal animal). The  covered idol was kept in a palanquin as  if it was a child affected by  small pox. This would have any onlookers believe that a small child afflicted with small pox was taken in a palanquin to some place for further treatment, etc. Thus the Acharya and his paraphernalia shifted the valuable idol to Udayarpalayam near Thanjavur initially and later moved it over to Konkaneswarar temple. This was done during the reign of Martha ruler Maharajah Pratap Singh.  The idol was finally installed as per Agama sastras in 1771 at the present temple. Smearing the idol with Punugu is part of the ritual here and idol appears black and the coloration does not change  during  annual Navaratri  abhishekams. 

Thanjavur kamatch amman temple. Tamilnadu Tourism

Though Kanchi Acharya shifted the mutt to Kumbakonam for his eagerness to be near the river Cauvery, as requested by the Maratha ruler, the idol of Kamatchi remained in Thanjavur. Thus Thanjavur became the permanent abode of Bangaru  Kamatchi. Thanks to the efforts of King  Paratap Singh. 

Yet another fact that  needs to be mentioned is the temple's link with one of the trinity of  Carnatic music Shyama Sastry. who was a great composer of Carnatic compositions in Telugu. His contemporaries were   Sri Thyagaraja  Swami and Sri. Muthuswami Deekshithar. Shyma Sastry came from a family  that served as the priests in Bangaru Kamakshi Temple. It is believed that he himself served as a priest in this temple and some people say, it is debatable.

Thanjavur location map.

The Kamatchi Amman in this temple has five forms: Moola Kamatchi in the garbagraha, Sri Chakra Kamatchi on the opposite side on the right part of Moola Kamatchi, Tapas Kamatchi doing penance standing on one leg, Pilasa Kamatch on the east side. Hema Kamatchi possessing all the four forms on the chest of Brahma. Brahma created the idol of Kamatchi out of gold. Hence she is Hema Kamatchi. Kamatchi Amman here has special mystic powers: Light from Moola kamatchi; Sakthi from Chakra Kamatchi;  Benevolence from Tapas Kamatchi; Blessings from Pilasa Kamatchi. Hema Kamatchi.  People who pray here with trust and intense devotion  will be blessed with  combined powers of these forms 
The goddess is so compassionate, she blesses her devotees with all her mystic powers. Trust and belief are the driving forces. If you have them, goddess Kamatchi will never leave you in grief and pain.