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Tourist Places To Visit In Kanchipuram
Set on the banks of the Palar river and its tributary Vegavathi that meanders through the district, Kanchipuram or the anglicized Conjeevaram has a very ancient tradition going back to the regal kingdoms of the Cholas in the 2nd century and through to the Pallavas, the Cheras, Pandyas, the Vijayanagara Empire, the Carnatic Empire and the British.
Kanchipuram was also an ancient Jain and Buddhist centre of learning. There are references to Kanchipuram or Kanchipuraka in the 2nd century BC’s Mahabashya of Sage Patanjali, while Sanskrit poet Kalidasa calls Kanchipuram as Nagareshu Kanchi or one of the best among cities. Every Dynasty that ruled over Kanchipuram had contributed to building grand temples and well planned roads that now stand as symbols of Tamil Nadu’s temple heritage. Kanchipuram has innumerable temples and places of interest and we will give a list of some of the most significant places you can visit.
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
The Vaikunta Perumal or Parameshwara Vinnagaram temple was built by Pallava king Nandivarman 11 in the 8th century BC, with later additions by the Cholas and the Vijayanagara rulers. Said to have been an inspiration for the later temples of the state, the Vaikunta Perumal Temple built in Dravidian style, showcases the splendid craftsmanship of the olden ages. The classic styles of the Pallavas are highlighted in the lion pillars enclosing the cloisters where you see tall tapering columns with a seated lion at the base and the bas reliefs on the walls. The Alvar saints in their treatise called Divya Prabandha refer to this temple as one among the 108 Divya Deshas of Mahavishnu and what’s more, 14 of these 108 temples are in Kanchipuram.
Vaikunta Perumal temple is located near the Kanchi Kamakshi temple. The temple is open from 7.30am-12.00pm and from 4.30pm-7.30pm.
The Ekambareshwara temple to Shiva is one among the most ancient temples of Kanchipuram. Later day reconstructions and modifications were made by the Pallavas and Vijayanagara rulers to this early temple. The Raja Gopuram, with its most exquisite architecture and the 1000 pillared mandap were built by Raja Krishna Deva Raya of the Vijayanagara Empire. Of the five primordial elements of Nature associated with Shiva, the Ekambareshwara Temple is earth based.
According to legends, Parvathi made a Shiva Linga out of Prithvi (mud) from below a mango tree, for worship. But when the Vegavathi river overflowed its banks, Parvathi hugged the Linga to her bosom to prevent it from being washed away. Pleased with Parvathi, Shiva appeared before her and sought her hand in marriage. There is a mango tree in the temple that is said to bear fruits of four different tastes and is revered to be the very tree under which Parvathi made the Linga. There is a small shrine for Shiva and a demure looking Parvathi under the tree.
Kanchi Kudil Museum
The museum is basically a 90 year old house that belonged to one of the local Vellala family of agrarians. The house has been converted into a museum that would give you a feel of living in a typical house of the rurality. Complete with a storehouse for grains in the attic, a grand collection of antique telephones and wall clocks, kitchenware, furniture, traditional wooden swings and cradles and rooms set up just as they would have been in history are delightful to explore. Craft exhibitions and demonstrations by craftsmen are held in holiday seasons to woo tourists. On regular days, you could buy handicrafts from this place.
The Museum is at SVN Pillai Street and is open from 9.00am-5.00pm.
Chitragupta Temple is a distinctive shrine to a God who has a very rare number of temples built for him and so attracts quite a lot of pilgrims. According to legends, Shiva drew the picture of a divine being on a gold plate and the picture came alive. He was entrusted with the job of assisting Yama, the God of Death and recording the good and evil deeds of humans. The being came to be called Chitra (picture) and Gupta (accountant) and is envisioned holding a writing tool in his right hand and a palm leaf in his left.
The temple was built by the Medieval Cholas in the 9th century. Chitragupta is believed to be the guardian for Kethu graha, one of the Navagrahas or nine planets and prayers at this temple are said to bestow one with prosperity and happiness.
Trilokyanatha and Trikooda Jain Temples
Trilokyanatha and Trikooda Jain temples are the finest examples of the spread of Jainism in Kanchipuram. Built in 6th century AD the twin temples in Jina Kanchi have shrines for Vardhamana and Pushpantar and for Padmaprabha and Vasupujya. The temples have exquisite sculptures and paintings on the ceilings that date back to the 17th century. The region had been under the patronage of Jains who had these temples as well as a mathh, but the mathh was later shifted to Gingee. The temples are said to have been built by Jain sages Mallisena and Vamana, with later contributions and additions by rulers of many dynasties that came later.
The Trilokyanatha and Trikooda temples are at Thiruparuthikundram, about 3 km from Kanchipuram.
Ulagalanda Perumal Temple
Yet another Divya Desha in Kanchipuram, this temple has four small shrines within the complex called Thirukaarvaanam, Thirukaarakam, Thiruooragam and Thiruneerakam, that are quite exclusive from the other Divya Deshas. Ulagalanda Perumal temple which was built by the Pallava King Nandivarma III, with conttributions by the Cholas, Vijayanagara rulers and Madurai Nayaks, has Vishnu as the Vamana avatar or the 35 ft high Ulagalanda Perumal (the One that measured the world) with his left leg held aloft, parallel to the ground and his right foot on the head of King Mahabali who bows down in reverence.
Kanchi Kamakshi Temple
Kanchi Kamakshi temple is said to be the Nabhi Stanam or the navel of the Universe, one among the 51 Shakthi Peeths of Parvathi. It was probably built by the Pallava Kings in the 6th century C.E, when they ruled from the capital of Kanchipuram. The Goddess who is seated in Padmasana is worshipped as Kamakshi and Sri Bilahasam.
According to legends, Parvathi incarnated as an angry young girl to annihilate Bandasura; and to placate her once the war was over, Adi Shankaracharya installed the Sri Chakra in this temple, and sang the Soundarya lahari in praise of Kamakshi. He went on to establish the Kamakoti Peetam in Kanchipuram. Kanchi Kamakoti Kamakshi Temple, Madurai Meenakshi Temple and Akilandeshwari Temple at Thiruavanaikaval are the most important Shakthi temples in Tamil Nadu. Visit the Aadi Kamakshi temple set right behind the Kanchi Kamakshi temple, said to have been built at an earlier date.
Shakunthala Jagganathan Museum of Folk Art
The Museum is a veritable treasure house of collections, what with ancient musical instruments, bronze idols, kitchenware and granite statues, indoor games played by the women of the house of the bygone eras, all arranged with a flair, in a traditional Tamil home setting. There is a craft and souvenir shop on the patio where you could buy some keepsakes. The museum has blossomed out of the 400 year old Brahma Mandiram, the home of Coojeevaram Venkatasubba Aiyer.
The Kailasanathar Temple for Shiva is believed to be the oldest and most aesthetically constructed temples in all of Kanchipuram. Built by King Narasimha Varma Pallava II from 685-705AD in Dravidian architectural style, the Kailasanatha temple is one of the most exquisite sandstone temples of Kanchipuram. The niches on the outer walls and the vimana have intricate sculptures of lions and elephants and carvings of the 64 mudras of Shiva. Check out the colourful frescoes on the inner walls, the tiny shrines that run around the main shrine and the narrow entry and exit of the circumambulatory passage that signifies the cycle of life and death.
The temple is about 3 km from the Kanchipuram bus stand and is open from 6.00am-6.30pm.
Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam
The Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam was founded by Adi Shankaracharya in the year 482BC in Kanchipuram. Lineages of Acharyas who live in the Peetam follow the unbroken traditions of the mathh, which is visited by hundreds of pilgrims and tourists to seek blessings from Kanchi Kamakshi and the Acharya and participate in the Chandramouleeshwara pooja. Free meals are provided to the pilgrims at the Nitya Annadaana Hall.
Accommodation is available at the Yatri Niwas, for pilgrims who wish to stay at the Srimatam.