Ekambareshvara Temple, Kanchipuram

This modern relief tells the story of the sacred site on which the temple was built. In the picture, Kamakshi clings to the "earth linga" as the river Ganges threatens but fails to wash it away during a flood. Kamakshi, meaning "Wanton-eyed," is one of the names of Parvati, the consort of Shiva. The linga is of course Shiva's emblem, and Ganges is the Milky Way, the starry river that flows through Shiva's hair on her way to water the Earth.

Shiva overlooks the scene from his home in the Himalayas. To the right is the mango tree under which Shiva and Kamakshi were married. It houses various animals: a salamander climbing the trunk, a snake above, a peacock perching on the lower left branch, a squirrel above the peacock, a monkey above the snake. The temple is pictured in elevation to the right of the tree, while Ganges flows from the mountains down the left side of the photo and around underneath Kamakshi's feet.

The earth linga and mango tree pictured here are actual physical objects, around which the legend has grown. The linga is installed in the temple's main shrine, while a courtyard inside the temple encloses the mango.