Visitors' Online Guide to Kanchipuram
Kanchipuram is famous as a city of temples. Srimatam is surrounded by several important and famous temples and one can just walk to these temples which are at a very short distance:
Other Temples inside Kanchipuram Town
A note on temple timings: Most temples open quite early in the morning and remain closed from 12 noon to 4 pm. The temples reopen at 4 pm and close at around 8 pm. Places to visit from 12 noon to 4 pm:
Other pilgrimage centres near Kanchipuram
Tiruttani -Tiruttani is a town in Thiruvallur district. It is at a distance of about 40 kms from Kanchipuram, on the Kanchi - Tirupati route. It is one of the main tourist centre in Thiruvallur district about 85km from Chennai. Tiruttani hill temple is one of the six abodes of Lord Muruga. The hill has 365 steps indicating 365 days of the year. The beautiful temple of Lord Muruga at Tiruttani crowns a single rock 700 feet above sea level.
Tirupati - Tirupati needs no introduction. A trip to the South by devout Hindus often includes both Kanchipuram and Tirupati. Therefore, it is no surprise that these two cities have a direct road link of length 120 kms. The route is through Puttur, Nagari (Andhra Side, about 60 kms), Tiruttani, Arakkonam (Tamilnadu side, about 60 kms). A direct train too travels between the two towns everyday. However, the buses are much faster.
Description: This is oe of the most revered temples to Shiva; it is one of the Panchabhoota Stalams signifying the 5 elements of wind (Kalahasti), water (Tiruvanaikka), fire (Tiruvannamalai), earth (Kanchipuram) and space (Chidambaram). It is a vast temple with many an endowment from the Vijayanagar rulers, as seen in the long corridors, towering gopurams and mandapams. This is the 1st of the 32 Tevara Stalams in the Tondai region of South India.
There are several Shiva temples scattered all over Kanchipuram, and it is to be noted that there is no separate shrine for Parvati in any of them. The Kamakshiamman temple is the only Ambal shrine in Kanchipuram.In Kanchi, the Ekambreswarar, Kamakottamtemples with Kumarakottam in between denote Somaskandar.
History: This vast temple with high rising Gopurams dominates the skyline of Kanchipuram the historic capital of the Pallavas. Kanchipuram - a temple town is considered to be the foremost among the seven prime pilgrimage centers in India. Along withMamallapuram and Tirukkalunkunram, this town attracts the attention of several tourists in Chennai. Also in Kanchipuram is the grand Varadarajar temple along with several other temples revered by the tamil hymns of the Alwars of the 1st millennium.
The Pallavas, Cholas and the Vijayanagar Kings especially Krishna Deva Raya have contributed to this temple. Second century AD Tamil poetry speaks of Kamakottam, and the Kumarakottam (currently the Kamakashi Amman temple and the Subramanya temple). Tiruvacakam, Tirukkovaiyaar, Kanchipuranam, Manimekalai etc. speak of the glory of Kanchi the city.The existing structure then, was pulled down and rebuilt by the Pallava Kings. The Cholas who came in later also made several contributions to the temple.
Architecture: The temple covers an area of over 40 acres. The Raja Gopuram or the entrance tower to the temple which rises to a height of 172 feet was built by the Vijayanagar Monarch Krishnadevaraya. The pillared hall in front of the sanctum was also built by the Vijayanagar Kings.
Deities: The presiding deity here is Ekambareswarar or Shiva, worshipped as the Prithivi Lingam. A Somaskanda panel featuring Shiva, Parvati and Skanda adorns the rear of the main shrine, which has been held in worship for centuries together. It is believed that Parvati, the consort of Shiva worshipped him in the form of a Prithivi Lingam, or a Lingam improvised out of sand, under a mango tree. Legend has it that the neighboring Vegavati river overflowed and threatened to engulf the Shiva Lingam and that Parvati or Kamakshi, embraced the Lingam, and Shiva, touched by the gesture materialized in person and married her. In this context he is referred to as 'Tazhuvakkuzhainthaar' in Tamil.
As mentioned before, there is no separate shrine for Ambal or the Goddess in the temple as she is worshipped along with Shiva, as in every other Shiva temple in the precincts of the town of Kanchipuram.
There is another shrine of Shiva and Kamakshi under the Stala Vruksham or the Temple tree, which is a mango tree said to be 3500 years old. The mango tree is said to be the embodiment of the four Vedas and the tree is said to bear fruits of four different tastes each season here.
The Saint poet Sundaramoorthy Nayanar is said to have recovered his eyesight (left eye) after offering worship here.
Festivals and Services: (See also below): Six worship services are offered each day in this temple - namely UshadKalam, Kaalasanthi, Uchi Kaalam, Pradosham and Sayarakshai and Ardhajamam. Colorful festivals such as Ani Tirumanjanam (June-July), Adi Kritikai (July-Aug), Avani Moolam (Aug - Sep), Navaratri (Sep-October), Kartikai Deepam (Nov-Dec), Thai Poosam (Jan-Feb), Panguni Uthiram (Mar-Apr), Chitra Pournami (Apr-May) and Vaikashi Vishakam (May-June) mark the temple's annual calendar. The Panguni festival lasts for 13 days and it is during this festival that the wedding of the presiding deity is celebrated, and the venerated Tamil poems of the Nayanmars (Tirumurais) are sung in great splendor.
The eighth century remains of murals within the temple are an indication of the magnificence of the original temple. There are a number of small shrines within this temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati (Lord Shiva's consort) and their sons Ganesh and Murugan.
The impressive Kamakshi Amman Temple is dedicated to Goddess Parvati in the form of Kamakshi or the goddess of Love. The sanctum sanctorum of this temple can be reached by passing through a large mandapam (hall) with ornate pillars.
Varadaraja Perumal temple is known as Hastigiri; it was originally known as Attiyuran. Bhutattaalwar, one of the earliest of the Alwars, has sung of this temple. The name Hastigiri is applied in the connotation of Gajendra moksham and from the legend that Indras elephant Airavatam - in the form of a hill bears the image of Vishnu. The name Attiyurar emerges from the tradition, that the original image of Varadaraja Perumaal here was made from Attimaram. This ancient wooden image is worshipped for 10 days, once in 40 years.
Legend has it that Bhrama worshipped Vishnu in Krita yugam, Gajendran in Treta Yugam, Bhrihaspati in Dwapara Yugam and Adiseshan in Kaliyugam. The legend of Vishnu lying across the river in spate, to prevent a deluge from wiping out Bhrama's sacrifice also holds in this temple as in another Divyadesam Tiruveka in Kanchi.
Deities: The Moolavar here is Varadaraja Perumal in a standing posture facing west. Perundevi Taayaar is housed in a separate temple within the complex. Other shrines here include those to Kannan, the Alwars, and the Acharyas, Ramar, Kariamanikka Perumaal, ,Andal, Varaaha Perumaal.
The temple: The first prakaram is on the Hastigiri hill. It houses the sanctum, and the two co-axial walled mandapams. The sanctum houses the imposing image of Varadaraja Perumaal. The vimanam here is known as the Punyakoti vimanam. The sanctum is the womb of the fire, that is believed to hold the manifest universe whithin which the standing Vishnu appeared.
History: In 1053, the Cholas rebuilt the base of the hill, on the east west axis, to signifiy a cave in the hill, within which the icon of Narasimha sits as a yogi facing west. Several inscriptions are seen in this shrine.They circled the hill with a double storeyed cloistered veranda with colonnades of uniform pillars creating an opern courtyrard with a chola style gateway on the east.
This temple was expanded vastly during the reign of Kulottunga Chola I, and his son Vikrama Chola (1075 - 1135). It was during the same period that expansion work at the temples at Chidambaram, Tiruvanaikka, Sirkazhi, Tiruvarur and Srirangam were carried out. Other shrines built during the Chola period were those of Karimanikkapperumaal, Anantalwar, Abhisheka Mandapam, and the Perundevi Taayar shrine. A separate shrine for Perundevi was built on the south west, facing the sanctum, (rebuilt in 15th ent). By 14th century,the Cholas built another encircling wall including a tank etc with a gateway and a 7 tiered tower.
There are now 5 courtyards. After the long period of Chola patronage, and the political confusion following their decline, the Varadaraja Perumaal temple, came under the patronage of the devout Vijayanagar rulers, who added the towering Eastern Gopuram, and the beautiful Kalyana Mandapam, the Oonjal mandapam etc. Vijayanagar rulers embellished this shrine in the 16th century with minute carvings, pillared verandahs for circumambulation, a shrine for Andal, large hall for Navaratri, Unjal Mandapam, Kalyana Mandapam, (575 sq meters in 2 meter high plinth with 96 monolithic pillars, geometric designs, yalis, rampant horsemen, european soldiers). The east gopuram is 9 tiered rising to a height of 180 feet while the western gopuram is 160 feet high. The temple occupies an area of 20 acres. Stone chains adorn the hundred pillared halls.
Festivals: The annual Bhramotsavam is celebrated in the month of Vaikasi, while the Adhyayanotsavam is celebrated in the month of Margazhi. The Garuda Sevai and the Chariot festival during the Bhramotsavam draw thousands of pilgrims. During Chitra Pournami and Pongal, the deity is taken out to neighboring areas.
Deities: The Moolavar here is Adikesava Perumal also known as Gajendravaradan or Chakradharar, in a standing posture facing west. Taayaar here is Alarmelmangai or Padmasini. The image of Adikesava Perumal has 8 arms, with 8 weapons (the discus, sword, a flower, an arrow, the conch, a bow, a shield and a mace). The Utsavar has 4 arms bearing a mace and a spear.
The temple: This temple with a single prakaram covering an area of about an acre has a 3 tiered rajagopuram in its northern entrance and the temple tank Gajendra Pushkarini across from it. There are shrines to Bhuvaraahar, Aandaal, Peyalwar and Hanuman.
Legends: This temple is associated with the legend of Gajendra Moksham (as in the Varadaraja Perumaal Koyil and Kapistalam), where it is believed that a devout elephant Gajendran, who was in the habit of making an offering of lotus flowers from the Ashtabhuja temple tank, to Vishnu was caught by the grip of a crocodile. The pleas of the elephant were answered by Vishnu who vanquished the elephant with his disc. Legend has it that Peyalwar was blessed with a vision of Gajendramoksham at this shrine.
Legend also has it that a vast army of titans sought to upset a ritual being conducted by Bhrahma and upon his request, Vishnu armed with eight different weapons warded off the intruders. Ashtabhuja Perumaal is Vishnu conceived and worshipped thus.
Festivals: Bhramotsavam is celebrated in the month of Chittirai, and Gajendramoksham in Aadi.
The Vaikuntha Perumal temple is also dedicated to Lord Vishnu and was built shortly after the construction of the Kailashnatha temple. The covered passages inside the outer walls of this temple are supported by lion pillars, which are representative of the first phase in the architectural evolution of the grand thousand pillared mandaps built later within numerous south Indian temples. The sculptures within the temple depict the history of the temple, with explanatory details in an eighth century script. The main shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu is on three different levels and contains the images of Lord Vishnu in standing, sitting and reclining postures.
Description: This Divya Desam is the well known Ulagalanda Perumaal temple in Periya Kanchipuram, and is also home to three other Divya Desam shrines Tiruneerakam, Tirukkaarakam and Kaarvaanam. It enshrines Vishnu in a mammoth form of Trivikrama dominating the three worlds, in the process of subduing Mahabali the demon king. The stone image here is about 35 feet high and 24 feet wide. The Divya Desams enshrining Trivikrama are Tiru Oorakam (Kanchipuram) , Tirukkovilur,Kaazhicheeraamavinnagaram and Tiruneermalai.
Deities: The Moolavar here here is Trivikraman (Ulagalanda Perumaal) facing west while Taayaar is known by the name Amritavalli. The Utsavar here is Perakattaan.
Legend has it that Mahabali upon whom Vishnu placed his foot, during his Trivikrama Avataram, dominating the three worlds - desired to worship Vishnu in the form of Trivikrama (as he had not been able to see this form as Vishnu's foot had been placed on his head). Vishnu is said to have answered his prayers by appearing in front of him as Trivikrama at Kanchipuram (Satyavrata Kshetram). As Mahabali was not able to comprehend the immensity of this manifestation, Vishnu is said to have manifested himself as Aadi Seshan, in a smalll shrine next to the imposing shrine of Ulagalanda Perumaal, at Oorakam. Legend has it that Vishnu gave Anjaneyar a vision of Trivikrama and Vamana here.
The temple: This temple occupies an area of about 60000 sq feet. It has two prakarams and a three tiered rajagopuram. The Nagatheertham tank is located across from the temple. Inscriptions from the Chola period are seen here. Parimelazhakar, who wrote a commentary on Tirukkural was a priest here, and an image of him riding a horse is seen in the temple. There are also shrines to Aandaal, Manavaalamaamuni.
Festivals: Two worship services are carried out each day here. The annual Bhramotsavam is celebrated in the month of Thai.Kamakshiamman temple celebrates its Bhramotsavam in the month of Maasi while the Ekambreswarar temple celebrates its annual festival in the tamil month of Pankuni. Thus Periya Kanchi wears a festive look for three festival seasons (months) in a row. Other festivals here are Purattasi Sravana Dwadasi, Vamana Avatara Utsavam, Vaikuntha Ekadasi and Avani Shukla Panchami.
The ancient temple enshrining Subramanyar at Kanchipuram has been revered by the hymns of Arunagirinathar. It is located in between the Kamakshi and Ekambreswarar temples in the Somaskanda formation in the town of Kanchipuram. The Kumbabhishekam(re-consecration) of the temple was performed recently (2008 Feb).
It is to be noted that there is no separate shrine to Ambal in any of the Shiva temples at Kanchipuram, and that the Somaskandashrine at the Ekambreswarar temple is of great significance. Shown above, is the Rajagopuram of the Ekambreswarar temple at Kanchipuram (Kachi Ekambam).
uring his incarnation as shri Krishna , the lord saved the virtuous Pandavas from the cluthes of the evil minded kauravas , strove to make clear the distinction between Dharma and Adharma and proved the ultimate triumph of Dharama over Adharam when he visited Vidura's residence Vidhura immersed in Joy and forgetting himself, offered him the peel of a plantain thinking that he was offering only the fruit. To avoid his disappointment, Lord Krishna took it heartly. The Omnipresent Lord allowed himself to be bound by Sahadeva's affection. He did many more queer things to show his Sowlabhya, the most remarkable amongst them being his acceptance to take up the role of an emissary of Pandavas and to go to the court of the Kauravas.
An efficient emissary should possess two characteristics. First he should convey the message so skillfully as to render it acceptable. Secondly he should complete the mission to the satisfaction of the persons whom he represents. Sri Krisha went to the Kauravas as an emissary of peace but returned to the Pandavas camp agreeing for a battle.
A doubt naturally arises as to whether he fulfilled his mission successfully. We get the answer to this question in the chapter dealing with Yudhistra's gambling in the game of dice wherein, except him, the other four brothers as well as Draupadi swear to take revenge on Duryodhana and his gang. Thus looking retrospectively, there is no room for doubt about Krishna's efficient handling of his mission. He agreed for war just to keep their promises alive and that is why he even accepted to become Parthasarathy, the charioteer of Arjuna.
During this mission, the foolish Duryodhana even attempted to kill Him devising a plan to make Him occupy a seat with a carpet spred over a void underneath so that it would tumble down, the moment it was occupied, into an underground room where mighty wrestlers would be ready to crush Him. Duryodhana, not only dragged the emissary into a heated discussion, little realising that his duty was just to deliver the message but also plotted to kill Him against all canons of statemanship.
Contrary to their expectations, the Omniscient and the Omnipotent Krishna, assumed Vishwaroopa, in comparison with which the deep pit constructed by them looked in dimension just like a pin-hole, and could not be trapped. The pious in that assembly worshiped Him chanting Ashtakshara mantra and the wicked trembled in fear to face His wrath.
Even the blind king, Dhrutharashtra, was fourtunate enough, to get eye sight by His grace to have darshan of His glittering form. When Lord Krishna offered him a boon, he desired to become blind as before since he did not want to see the temporal things after perceiving the eternal form of the Lord. This is one of the most important episodes in Krishnavatara.
When Janamejaya, the great grand-son of Arjuna and sage Hareetha performed severe penance to have a glimpse of that form of Sri Krishna, the Lord gave darshan to them in that mangnificent form and that sacred place is the shrine of 'Padagam' in Kancheepuram.
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