Kanchipuram is a town that is located 70 – 80 KM to the West of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. It is one of the earliest and oldest towns of South India and finds a mention in Tamil literature, as early as 500 BC. Kanchipuram became famous during the Pallava dynasty (6th Century CE) as this town was their capital.
Kanchipuram is also known as the ‘land of thousand temples’ as more than 1000 temples were present in this town at some point of time. Of course, the number is much lesser now but the town still has significant number of temples, which should be more than any other region.
Kanchipuram remained an important town starting from the Pallava dynasty, followed by the Chola dynasty and then the Vijayanagara empire. The importance of this town declined during the Mughal empire and the subsequent British rule. All the Kings belonging to various dynasties have made important contributions to the building of this Temple town.
Kanchipuram is famous for its innumerable Temples and also Silk Saree’s. ‘Kanchi Pattu’ or Kanchipuram Silk Saree’s are a brand in itself. Many of the Temples located here were built initially during the Pallava dynasty and then they were renovated/ rebuilt by various other Kings who came in the centuries that followed.
Kanchipuram has many famous Temples and since I keep visiting this town quite often, I happened to visit four of them – Kamakshiamman Temple (God Parvathi), Ekambaranadhar Temple (God Shiva), Varadaraja Perumal Temple & Ulagalandha Perumal Temple (God Vishnu – Perumal).
The Gopuram Tower of Ekambaranadhar Temple is one of the highest in this town and it extends to a height of 57 meters. Though the Temple had been in existence for a long time, this Gopuram was built in the 16th Century by the Vijayanagara Kings. It seems there is a Mango tree in this Temple that is believed to be 3500 years old and yields four different varieties of mangoes.
The Ekambaranadhar Shiva Temple is one of the Pancha Bootha Sthalams and it signifies the ‘Earth’ element. The Tiruvannamalai Temple written about earlier, is another one which signifies ‘Fire’ element. There are three more temples that signify sky, water and wind in other places. There is a 1000 Pillar hall in Ekambaranadhar Temple and a 100 Pillar Hall in the Varadaraja Perumal Temple.
The Varadaraja Perumal Temple is one of the 108 Divya Desams, sacred temples for Vaishnavites. This temple was initially built in the 11th Century by Chola Kings, and later on developed by other Kings. There are various gold plated lizard inscriptions in this temple. Kamakshiamman Temple is considered to be the main temple in Kanchipuram and Ulagalanda Perumal Temple has a huge statue of God Vishnu depicted lying down on the five headed snake in Kailasam.
Kanchipuram is well connected from Chennai and it is located close to the Chennai – Bangalore highway, around 75 KM from Chennai. There are regular buses that go from the Koyambedu bus terminus and also from T.Nagar (AC Volvo). If people are ready to spend some time and explore, Kanchipuram offers a treasure trove of sculptures through its innumerable temples, which date back over a period of many centuries.