Go on a sightseeing tour of the famous temples of Kanchipuram!
The most significant temple in Kanchipuram is the Ekambareswarar Temple , dedicated to none other than Lord Shiva! One look at its soaring gopurams and its sprawling grounds and there can be no doubts as to which is the temple of Kancheepuram. Shiva is worshipped here as Ekambareswarar, Prithvi Lingam symbolizing earth - one of the five primordial elements (wind, water, earth, fire and space).
The shrine’s antiquity precedes 600AD, long before the temple complex was built. In fact, it was first mentioned in the lyrics of Tamil poets of the 2nd century. Kanchipuram’s Pallava rulers (6th-8th centuries) pulled down the original structure and built a new temple in its place. Later dynasties like the Cholas added more structural elements; consequently it is one of the most impressive temples in South India. The temple as we see it today was built in 1509 by Krishnadeva Raya, the greatest king of the Vijayanagara Empire. The Raja Gopuram, all of 172 ft leads into the pillared mandapam, which assimilates within it previously built shrines. The sanctum housing the presiding deity, the Prithvi Lingam is surrounded by a covered walkway or corridor.
The grand old man of Kanchipuram’s innumerable temples is the Kailashnatha temple , dedicated to Shiva. A fine example of early Dravidian architecture, its simplicity and lack of ornamentation is refreshingly elegant. Construction work on the temple began towards the last quarter of the 7th century, under the Pallava king Rayasimha. The original four storey tower and octagonal shikhara complex was enriched with the addition of elaborately sculpted gopurams under Pallava kings who followed Rayasimha I and II.Highlights of the temple include the exquisitely detailed murals depicting scenes from the lives of Shiva and Parvati, including a dance competition between the two. A number of smaller shrines within the temple complex are dedicated to Shiva, Parvati and their sons Ganesha and Murugan.
Parvati does have her own exclusive temple! In the Kamakshi Amman Temple , the goddess is enshrined as Kamakshi, the seductive goddess of love. The two other temples worthy of attention are dedicated to Vishnu. Vardhamana Perumal is a major Vaishnava shrine in a region over run by Shiva temples. Legend tells us that the shrine to Vishnu commemorates the spot where Brahma performed a yajna to invoke the presence of Vishnu. Bronze idols of Vishnu and his consorts preside over the temple whose architecture features elements from 12th century Chola and 16th century Vijayanagar styles. The other temple dedicated to Vishnu is the Vaikuntha Perumal Temple , nearly as old as the Kailashnatha Temple. Three different idols of Vishnu in standing, sitting and reclining positions are the premier idols of this temple. The temple’s covered walkway just inside the outer perimeter is the precursor of the more famous 1000 pillar mandapams at Madurai and Rameswaram.