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Things To Do In Kanchipuram
Kanchipuram is predominantly a temple town. Apart from being a spiritual hub for pilgrims, the town’s temples attract tourists with classic examples of medieval Dravidian architecture and culture. When you have finished exploring the man made wonders, there are still more touristy places waiting for you. Explore the quaint villages around Kanchipuram, some of them steeped in historical battles, visit the sanctuaries or the lakes and the weavers’ looms that create the silken magic of Kanchipuram.
Go shopping for souvenirs, relish the delectable cuisine of the town, especially the temple fare, get immersed in the traditional festivities of the spiritual township. The things that you may do in Kanchipuram, apart from visiting the temples, might not be much, but the little temple town is a hive of activity and you could always explore just for the thrill of it all.
There are some beautiful lakes in Kanchipuram district where you can go on a day’s trip. The Kolavai Lake (37 km) near Chengalpattu is a pristine lake where you can watch the fishermen at work or the sun setting over the waters. There is a temple for Rama close by. The Madurantakam Lake (55 km) said to have been built by Chola King Utthama Chola, is a photographer's delight with several species of water birds. Vedal Lake (86 km) the second largest lake after Madurantakam has an ancient Shiva temple close by.
Kanchi Kamakoti Cultural Exhibition is a showcase of the myths and epics of India, narrated most imaginatively with animated dolls made by craftsmen from the north of India. There are collections of musical instruments from across the country and rare photographs of the pontiffs of the Kanchi Kamakoti peetam. Visit the Kanchi Kamakoti Cultural Centre at Vedal, at about 5 km from Kanchipuram. There is a gigantic statue for Shiva just outside the Centre with statues of deities like Nairuti, Agni, Kubera, Eeshana, Indra and Vayu on the pedestal.
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
If all that you’d love is stillness in the air, broken only by the sounds of the rippling waters and the distant cacophony of birds, get your camera and head off to Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary. Vedanthangal, established in 1858, is one of the oldest bird sanctuaries in the country. The sanctuary has hundreds of bird species flying in from all over the world, for the lakes dotted around the region and the lush vegetation. There is a watch tower to check out the birds from across the waters or you could get a pair of binoculars on rent. The best time to watch the birds is in winter. There is a forest rest house at Vedanthangal, if you need a break. Vedanthangal is in Kanchipuram district, at about 48 km from Kanchipuram town.
Kanchipuram’s silk sari is a brand name, with a GI tag, and the town goes under the label of the Silk City of India. Created out of the best quality yarn of mulberry silk threads, the saris are in soft shades most popularly in mustards, blue and greens, with intricately created zari work in contrast, embellished with patterns of leaves, flowers, birds and animals on the borders. A wedding trousseau of a bride of Tamil Nadu never seems complete without a Kanchipuram sari picked out straight from Kanchipuram. Almost every weaver’s home in Kanchipuram has a loom and you can go on a visit to watch the weaver create magic on the silk as a sari comes alive right before your eyes!
History buffs would love a day’s tour around Kanchipuram. Dotted with tiny nondescript villages, Kanchipuram holds many leaflets of history. Pullalur was the battlefield of three wars - the Battle of Pullalur between Chalukya Ruler Pulakesin II and Pallava ruler Mahendravarma 1(618-19), the Battle of Pollilor as part of the second Anglo-Mysore War, when Tipu Sultan used his War Rockets on the armies of the East India Company led by Colonel Willie Baille. The Battle of Pollilor was fought here as part of Anglo-Mysore war between Haider Ali and General Eyre Coote of the East India Company. Take a walk through the lush paddy fields where the armies had once fought and check out the obelisks erected in memory of Captain James Hislop (1781) and Lt. Colonel George Brown (1759).
Kanchipuram’s silk saris, of course, one would never miss the chance of buying a silk sari or a dozen in Kanchipuram. Other things you could buy are Khadi cotton dress materials and linen, bronze statuettes of Gods, metal lamps and bells. Keepsakes and knick knacks like bags and baskets made of jute are quite popular in Kanchipuram.
Kanchipuram has the traditional South Indian thali meals with piping hot rice served on a fresh banana leaf with sambhar (thick gravy with veggies), rasam (lentil soup), curry (dry spiced veggies), papad, payasam for dessert, pickles and thick curd. Kanchipuram’s favourite delicacy is the Kovil Idli. Spiced with pepper and garnished with cashews, the Kovil idlis were first made in the Varadaraja Perumal Temple, where they are specially steamed on rolled up dried mandarai leaves sheathed in a kodalai or bamboo basket, which gives them an exceptional taste.
Along with silk saris, the Kovil idli is the 'piece de resistance' of Kanchipuram. You could also get non vegetarian food as well as multicuisine Continental and Chinese food in the town.
Kanchipuram has a wide range of stay-in options, right from budget lodges to luxurious accommodations. Most of the hotels and lodges are situated close to the bus stand, railway station or the temples and since there are so many temples, you are sure to find one beside the hotel you’re staying in. There are service apartments and vacation rentals, OYO rooms and airbnb apartments as well. Finding a place to stay in at Kanchipuram will not be an issue with the number of choices that you have.
Kanchipuram is called the city of a thousand temples and is busy and bustling with festivities almost through the year. Some of the most major festivals are the Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal Temple’s Brahmottsavam along with Garuda Sevai and Chariot Festivals in May and the Float Festival in February and November. Kamakshi Amman Festival in Kamakshi temple and Mahashivaratri in Kailashanatha temple are celebrated in February. One of the most exceptional festivals is the celebration for Athi Varadar at the Varadaraja Perumal temple when the idol of Athi Varadar, is brought out once in 40 years for public worship. Created out of the wood of the fig tree, the nine foot idol is kept immersed in a container of water in a vault for the next 40 years! The preceding festival was celebrated in 2019. Silk Tourism Festival that showcases the cultures of silk weaving is held in October.
There are movie theatres, pubs and bars for a late night out with friends. You could go for a drive along the villages round Kanchipuram. There are many locals who would regale you with stories on the myths and legends of the town. Temples look enchanting after sundown. During festivals, celebrations go on till late in the evening and the whole region gets so beautiful and spiritually charged. Walk along the streets of Kanchipuram, camera in tow and if you feel ready for a bite there are always places that are open till late at night for filling in those hunger cravings!