Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Kanchipuram - The temple city

Chennai - Kanchipuram Road
First on my travel list for second day was ‘Kanchipuram’, located 72 km away from Chennai. On Sunday morning, after having a good breakfast from cousin’s home, I started packing for this old capital of Pallavas. Cousin’s husband dropped me at Madhuravoyal bus stop around nine. It didn’t take much time, long metal frame powered by black smoke spitting metal engine slowly approached and stopped in the front (47 INR for a ticket to Kanchipuram).

You can seldom see any residential areas on the sides of this four lane highway, but a lot of medical and engineering and colleges are there – kids of over commercialisation of education. Apart from educational institutions other entities which share the same appetite for land in this road side are manufacturing companies like TVS Auto, L & T, Nokia India, St Gobain, Asian Paints, and L &T ECC Division etc.

After taking a slight diversion from the main road, our bus reached Sriperumbdur stand around 10 am. We joined the main road again, just in front of Rajiv Gandhi memorial. It was here, on the tragic day of 21st May 1991, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by LTTE cadre while campaigning for Loksabha elections.

Kanchipuram Bus Stand
We travelled some more time, took a left turn to the calm and quite road going towards Kanchipuram. Before going further, let’s take a look at Kanchipuram‘s history.

History of Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram’s fame rose along with the rise of Pallavas in 6th century. It was during the reign of famous Pallava king Mahendravarman I, Chalukya's - under the command of Pulakesin II - attacked the city. Even though Chalukyan army reached as deep as Kaveri River, Kanchipuram successfully withstood the attack.

First invasion was followed by second one; this time Pallavas under Narasimhavarman I (son of Mahendravarman I) forced Chalukya's to retreat to their capital at Badami. Later, Badami was besieged, in the battle of Vatapi Pulakesin II was killed on the battle field. It is to be remembered that, it was the same Pulakesin II who defeated Harsha Vardhana of Kanauj (Lord of the North) in the famous battle of Narmada (around 630-34 AD).

Buddhism and Hinduism flourished under the rule of Pallavas. They built famous temples like Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple, Varadharaja Perumal Temple, Iravatanesvara Temple etc.

By the end ninth century, Chola king Aditya I conquered the kingdom. Later city fell into the hands of Pandyas and then to Vijayanagar (1361 AD). Next in line to capture the area was Deccan Sultanates (around 1672).

Varadaraja Perumal Temple - Entrance
In 1687, Mughals under Aurangzeb conquered Kanchipuram by defeating Marathas. Thus Kanchipuram became a part of Carnatic viceroyalty in Mughal Empire.

Later in 1724, Marathas came back to Kanchipuram. This city also witnessed the battles between British and French East India companies, as well as second Anglo-Mysore war. After second Anglo-Mysore war Kanchipuram came under the firm control of English East India Company.

Varadaraja Perumal Temple

A good number of shared autos are going to this temple from bus stand. I didn’t have to wait for long; we started moving through empty city lanes. Later another auto driver told me that, in week days these lanes will be filled with crowds - but Sunday is a holiday.

There were a lot of Ayyappa devotees in the temple premises. Usually, on the way to annual Shabarimala pilgrimage, devotees used to visit all important temples on or near to their way. Temple walls are indeed very high. After taking a couple of steps, I reached the front gate of the temple.

Decorations on the road
This Vishnu temple - considered as home to great Hindu scholar Ramanuja - is believed to be one of 108 temples visited by 12 poet saints (Alwars).

Inside, a small queue was formed for entering to main temple. From left side, sweet sounds of Vishnu sahasra nama stotra were coming from a mandapa built using beautifully carved pillars. There were a number of Brahmins sitting in an elevated area chanting the thousand names of Lord Vishnu. Tens of devotee’s are sitting on the floor participating in this Japa Yagna. After roaming around this mandapa for some more time, I went outside; by this time queue for entering the main temple was almost tripled in size.

Kailasanathar Temple

From Varadaraja Perumal temple, using another shared auto, I went back to bus stand. Next on the list was Kilasanthar temple. Local people told me that, this temple is located on the outskirts and shared autos are not available to this area – In short I have to hire an auto.
Constructed by Pallava king Narasimhavarman II in 8th century, this Shiva temple is considered as the oldest temple in the city (now this is not a working temple). Here you can see numerous beautiful carvings on sandstone walls. After spending some more time here, I went back to bus stand.

Back to Chennai

Kilasanathar Temple - Full view
After coming all this way, it doesn’t sound good to leave the city without having something from here. So, why not some sweets? I went to the first store selling sweets, unfortunately they were not ready to sell 1 or 2 pieces, and I was not in a mood to buy an entire kilo just to taste. Finally, I settled for a Badam milk and boarded a point to point (nonstop) bus to Chennai.

Immediately after the noon, side seat, slight breeze, tired by walking – conditions favouring sleep. However, the person sitting next to me was in a good mood of talking. This person in his thirties, graduated in Tamil literature is working at a retail outlet in Chennai. The moment he realized that I am a traveller, he become more interested in talking about the history of Arcot – his home town. After talking about various subjects, he suddenly jumped to the issues in our current educational system.

Carvings on the walls of Kilasanathar Temple

Nokia staff bus was running some 100 metres in front of us, after overtaking it I slowly closed my eyes.

Other places to visit in Kanchipuram

Varadarajar Perumal Temple, Kailasanathar temple, Ekambareswarar Temple, Kamakshi Amman Temple, Silk weaving, City market area, Kanchi Math etc.


PS: In the morning, before getting in to shared auto, I asked the driver to drop me at Ekambareswarar Temple instead he dropped me at Varadarajar Perumal Temple. At that time, I didn’t realise the mistake. On my way back from Kilasanathar temple, I asked the auto driver to drop me at Varadarajar Perumal Temple. So he again took me to Varadaraja Perumal temple!!! In this way I missed Ekambareswarar Temple.

Kanchipuram Streets

Varadaraja Perumal Temple

Side walls of Kilasanthar Temple - Another view.
Side walls of Kilasanthar Temple

1 comment:

  1. Thank yo very much for the detailed information. Your information was very very very very helpful. Thank you so much.

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