Monday, November 23, 2009

Places to see in Kanchipuram

Kailashnath is the oldest temple in South India. With a Pyramid-style dome the temple is octogonal at the top. It was built in700 AD by Pallava King Raja Sinha, 1 km to the west of the city to fulfill the wish of the queen. The front of the temple was added by Ring Mahendra Barman III. Lord Shiva at his own Mount Kailash is surrounded here by Goddess Durga on her lion and Vishnu. Nandi, 58 other Gods and Goddesses adorn the front space. A dance competition between Hara and Parvati with Brahma and Vishnu being the Judges is depicted on the temple walls in beautiful sculptural forms. Purana episodes and war ballads of the Pallava kings have been engraved in Pali language in Bas-relief form on the granite altar of the Kailashnath Temple made of sandstone.

On the NorthWest side of the city, 1 km from the bus stand, Ekambarareswar Temple is built by the Pallava kings. Lord Shiva is worshipped here as Kshiti or the Earth. The temple was renovated later by the Chola and Vijayanagar kings. Built on a 22 acre plot of land this temple's south-facing 8 storey Raja Gopuram is 57 meter high. Raja Krishnadev Roy of Vijayanagar built it with a stonewall around the temple in 1509. One can have all round view from the top of Gopuram. After crossing five open spaces, one finds Kalyan Mandap with 968 pillars. Here seated the Kameswar Shiva, in the form of an immovable Linga who favourably responds to one's desires. To the south the holy pond there is Sarbatirtham Puskarini. The mango tree of the legend is also there—the 3500 year old Antra Nathar. The God and the temple is called Sree Ekambaranathar. The yields of four branches mango of the tree give four different tastes. Legend says four kinds of mangoes represent four Vedas. It is also said, Ekambaranathar is the symbol of the marriage place of Shiva and Kamaskhi. In every April their marriage anniversary is observed here.

When Kanchi went under Muslim control, the image of Ekambaranathji was shifted to Chennai. Later, Clive reinstalled Shiva at Kanchi. There are entry fees and even one is charged for carrying cameras.

Shakuntala Jagannath Museum of Folk Art nearby at the house of C P Ramaswami Iyar is also worth visiting.

To the North West of the bus stand Sree Kamakshi Amman Temple, built by Chola kings in the 14th century, is another temple you should visit.. The original image of the Goddess is at Tanjore. Later, a new image was built. Trio is the source of power (Madurai, Kanchi and Varanasi). Sree Kamakshi Amman is one of them. There is an aircraft and gopuram made of gold. Ammai or the Mandap is also full of sculptures. Bas relief pictures on the panels are simply extraordinary. An art gallery at Sree Kamakshi Amman is also there. In February-March on the 9th Lunar Day, car festival is observed.

Tamil New Year is another great festival of Kanchi. The place where Sankaracharya was cremated is located here.

The very old Sree Baikuntha Perumal Temple adjacent to Sree Kamakshi Temple is next to Kailashnath is another important spot. It is situated on the South Western side, 1 km from the railway station. Pallava King Nandi Barman II built it in the 8th century. Lord Vishnu is worshipped in the core of the temple which is delinked from the Mandapam. The Dravidian arts, sculptures, frescos inside the temple have an overwhelming effect on the visitors. The mural paintings tell the stories of Pallava Kings, their coronations, battles between the Ganga dynasty and the Chalukyas and the like. The 100-pillar Hall built by the Vijayanagar kings is also a noble feature.

Three km South-East of Kanchipuram, the Pallava kings built Sree Varadraja Perumal or Devarajaswami Temple. Here the deity is Perumal or Vishnu, shaped in the form of an elephant built on granite stone. This is the stone image of Hastagiri. Believers say another God is found there in the form of 30 ft image down deep in the pond. The God reveals himself out of water at intervals of 48 years. Next appearance is due in the year 2027. A pair of golden & silver lizards is stationed at the exit point from the core of the temple. The unholy spirit is removed by touching the lizards. At the western gate, kings of Vijayanagar, who were worshippers of power and strength, built the hundred-pillar hall (actually 96 pillars) in the 16th century. Though Hyder Ali destroyed the hall and its carvings and sculptures, some remnants of the granite chains on the four corners of it still charm the visitors. One has to pay entry fee and camera is allowed inside against a charge.

Sankaramandapam is yet another visiting spot at Kanchipuram.

Sree Chandrasekharendra, 64th Acharya, died at the age of 100 years in 1994. At the cemetery, a monastery has been set up with a room for meditation.

Anna Memorial has been newly built near Varadraj in the honour of Anna or Elder Brother Dr C N Annadurai, who was a popular Chief Minister.

Besides temples, Kanchi was the Pallava capital between 6th and 8th centuries. Kanchi was very much advanced in commerce and industry even at that period. Kanjivaram silk woven with golden thread and fibers (Kanchi's mulberry or Kanchivaram) was originally made as a dress material for theDevdasis (damsels dedicated to presiding deities of temples). Today the women throughout the country keenly seek Kanjivaram sarees and other dresses. As a result, over 20,000 persons are engaged by the silk industry. Interested persons can visit the silk units and can even make purchases there.

Contact—Weavers' Service Centre, 20 Station Road Ph: 222530.
But Chennai is a better place for shopping Kanjivaram pieces, both for quality and price.

Apart from trade and industry Kanchi was quite advanced as a centre for learning. Kanchi is associated with erudite celebrities like Sankaracharya, Appar, Siruthonder, Bodhidharma, Kautilya. Kanchi is proud of them and their great deeds.
Only 5 km away in Enathoor village, the monastery established by Sankaracharya of Kanchi is bestowed with all the qualities of a university. The wealthy collection of old books is simply fascinating. There is a 60 ft statue of the earliest Sankara.

See also:

Kanchipuram - The Varanasi of South India
Places to see in Kanchipuram banner
This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

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