CHENNAI: Ayanavaram, known during the Chola times as Ayanapuram, is home to three temples. One is for Vishnu worshipped as Kariya Manikka Perumal and the other two are for Shiva. One of these Shiva shrines, dedicated to Kasi Vishwanatha is approximately 200 years old. It is said to have been built by two women from the Tawker community, originally from Gujarat.

Consecrated in 1807, the temple faces east and has only a small modern entranceway. On entering, the devotee sees the dwajastambha (flag-post) and a small Nandi. When you go in further, there is a mandapa leading to the main sanctum which enshrines a small Linga. The utsava murti of Nataraja and Shiva as Bhikshatana are exquisite images. The evening of the ninth day of the 10-day annual festival (Brahmotsavam), is for the procession of Bhikshatana, the manifestation of Shiva as a mendicant.

Goddess Parvati, enshrined in this temple as Kashi Vishalakshi, is in a south-facing sanctum. This shrine has a separate dwajastambham, a rarity in a Shiva temple. There is also a separate entrance in front of this shrine for her mount (vehicle), the lion. Numerous other deities are worshipped here, including Bhairava, Navagraha, Surya and Chandra.
Images of the seven goddesses – Brahmi, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Maheshwari, Chamundi, Kaumari and Indrani – also known as the Saptamatrika, are seen in this temple. The large temple-tank, now dilapidated, is located on the opposite side of the road.