Quiet a long read & time consuming, read at your leisure 😛 . It may also contain some spelling and grammar mistake, if you spot one please comment so that i could correct, So reader’s discretion is advised and read at your own risk 😉 :p
Me and Sriram anna share some common interests like reading tamizh books, discussing about culture, sculptures and temples etc. I have always wanted to visit temples with good sculptures and archaeological values (like thanjavoor temple) and asked Sriram anna to help me with it. We were initially planing to visit GangaiGondaCholaPuram, Darasuram etc. as we had a long week end but all of a sudden on Thursday (28.03.2013) night Sriram anna suggested Kanchipuram which is near to ride by bike and has many interesting places to visit.
Before talking about the trip let me talk a little about the great city of Kanchipuram/Kanchi/Conjevaram, It was once a city famous for its finest culture and an centre of relegious education for Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It was the capital of the Pallavas and was described as “the best among cities” (Sanskrit: Nagareshu Kanchi) by the 4th century Sanskrit poet, Kalidasa. Its is also famous for its temples, its is also called as city of 1000 temples. Most of you know it for its very famous for its Kanchipuram Silk Saries which every tamil women would like to own atleast one. Let me stop here and you can read more about kanchipuram from the following links.
Kanchipuram – A Temple City – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg3MmJgt24A
As planned we both met at Thambaram on Friday (29.03.2013) 7.00 AM and we took the following route to Kanchipuram.
The route was good except very few patches, really liked the road connecting Walajabad and Kanchipuram. Sriram anna was guiding me throughout the ride and i happily enjoyed the ride following him. After 1Hr of continuous ride we reached Kanchipuram around 8.00 AM and halted near a tea stall to have coffee and discuss the plan. As per the plan we first headed to have our breakfast in a hotel near to Kamakshi Amman temple and after the breakfast we headed straight in to the temple.
Kamakshi Amman Temple :
The first thing hit my mind when i entered this temple is my neighbor’s baby girl who used to say with joy “Kamachi Pathuten” which simply means “I saw Kamachi” when ever she sees the picture of Kamakshi in a calendar in my home. This temple is one of the very famous Amman or Shathi temple in india, To know more about the temple you can visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamakshi_Amman_Temple . The temple was too crowded with devotees as it is Friday an auspicious day and also a Govt holiday (Good Friday) so we thought we could skip seeing the deity and look around the temple. We spent some time clicking pics of the temple pond which is beautiful and also the beautiful sculptures on the pillars of the temple mandapam. One of such sculpture is very interesting, a women standing over an elephant, with a bow and arrow ready to shot, This shows how brave where tamizh women those days.
Brave Women, From pillar of Kamakshi Amman Temple Mandapam
While we decided to leave, we saw a group of devotes (they were from Ramakrishna Madh) entering through a special entrance for the dharshan and followed them. The gate keeper at the entrance stopped us to question whether we belong to that group, as we don’t want to lie we replied no, but he was kind enough to allow us also with out expecting anything so a sincere thanks to him :). After receiving the dharshan of Kamakshi amman who sat calm in padmasana posture we came out of the temple. Before leaving to the next destination i called my mom and said “Kamachi Pathuten” and she laughed and replied “You are not a kid”. Next we visited Kanchi Sankaracharya Math which is very near to the temple. We spent a very short time there, It doesn’t look like a math it just gave me an image of a building or an commercial place. Walls were filled with advertisement of schools and colleges instead of pictures of deities. Where we headed next is quiet interesting.
The Iyengar Wedding :
Next part of our plan is to attend Sriram Anna’s Friend’s Sister’s marriage at kanchipuram, After 5 mins ride from the math we reached the marriage hall, i silently went and sat at the last row and saw the interesting iyengar wedding proceedings. Once the marriage was over me and sriram anna left the hall silently before anyone could notice and headed to our next awesome destination.
As i was following Sriram Anna, his bike slowed down, my excitement grew higher and higher cos if what i am seeing through my eyes, once parking down my bike i ran out of excitement into the temple. Yes we were at Kailasanathar temple one of the oldest temple (dates back to 8th Century AD) in Kanchipuram, it is also said that its the temple which inspired RajaRajaCholan to built Thanjavoor Periya Kovil, This temple is one of the best example of dravidian architecture marvel you can see lot of similarities to the shore temple of Mamallapuram which is said to be constructed by the same pallava king Rajasimha Pallavan (#Respect). Similar to thanjavoor temple what welcomes you inside the temple is “Nandhi” surrounded by 4 lion pillars, we could also see 8 small well sculptured structures (similar to arjuna radha in mamalla puram) in the entrance of the temple each supposed to contain shiva lingam and many were missing. Once we entered the temple we could see lots and lots of sculptures around us couldn express my happiness and excitement with words, i was keep on wondering how do they did it. one could see very unique feature of the temple the 58 “devakulikas” (sub-shrines) around the temple with two lion pillars each side and each devakulika contains sculpure on lord shiva.
Devakulikas and the lion pillars on both sides
Another very unique feature of this temple is it contains all 64 aspects of lord shiva through portrayed scenes form shivaleela as sculptures. You can see lot of details in this sculpture ever after degraded by time and i was wondering how awesome they would have been when they are freshly sculptured #Sigh. There are couple of interesting sculptures which i would like to share here. The first one is a sculpture strip which looks like babies playing and has lots of details into it, if you think its a large one no you are wrong, its a small one just with height of your mobile phone #Wow. The next one is a sculpture which just look like Casper character 😀 .
Even many blog posts is not enough to describe about this temple and its sculpture so i am stopping here. If you are some one who is interested in sculptures, art, tamizh culture etc. this temple is must visit for you. and below are the links to know more about this temple sculptures. Where we headed next is the largest.
Ekambareswarar Temple is the largest temple in Kanchipuram and it is also one of the pancha bootha (5 elements Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Sky) shrine of lord shiva representing Earth. Not only a pancha bootha shrine (important shrines for shaivites) it is also one of the 108 Divya Desams(important shrines of vaishnavites), Its quiet rare to see both shiva and vishnu established as main deity in a shrine say like rajini and kamalahasan acting together in a movie. Luckily we were at the last day of Pnaguni Uthiram festival at the temple and we could see lots of stalls before the main temple tower (Rajagopuram). Its temple tower is one of the biggest temple tower in india which was said to be built by Krishnadeva Royar, lots of other cholla and pallava kings contributed a lot to this temple.
Ekambareswarar Main Temple Tower (Rajagoopuram)
When we went into the temple so see the deity its too crowded so we decided to look go around the temple and leave, two things amazed me is a mango tree which is the sthala viruksham (a monumental tree that is indigenous to every historical Hindu temple) and said to be there for more than 3000 years, and also the Ayiram Kaal Mandapam which means corridor or structure with 1000 pillars supporting #sigh.
3000 yr old mango tree
Ayiram kaal mandapam
When we are out of temple we saw series of drawings by some artists which depicts different decorations for the urchava moorthy(processional deity) every day at the time of the festival and they were simply awesome.
One more interesting thing happened when we came out of temple, near to the place where we parked our bike we saw a man with a horse cart, so i asked Sriram anna to take pic of it, the man in the cart also gave pose for the pic, once we took the pic and about to leave that man demanded money for taking pic. but we silently moved to our next awesome destination. To know more about this temple look at the following links.
Man and his horse cart
The man who demanded money for taking his pic
Vaikundha Perumal Koil:
After some mins of riding from Ekambareswarar temple we reached vaikundha perumal koil which is one of the 108 Dhivya Desams (Important temple for vainavites), Just outside the temple we saw an empty temple pond with not even a drop of water in it. Unlike other temples we visited on that day its main temple tower is small and looks unfinished. When we entered inside the temple one could see an information board which says how old is the temple (it dates back to 6th century AD).The outer corridor or the prahara of the temple contains lots of lion pillars and many beautiful sculptures inscribed on its wall. Unfortunately most of the sculptures were destroyed at the time of mogul invasion and ASI (Archaeological Society of India) is trying to restore some of the sculptures. One very unique thing about this temple is it has three vertically aligned sanctum-sanctorum (garbhagrihas) situated one on top of the other each contains lord vishnu in 3 different postures, Seated in ground floor (accessible to devotees), Lying in first floor (accessible to devotees only on ekadhasi days) and standing in second floor (inaccessible to devotees). It was around 12 when temple was about to be closed and we left to our next destination after taking some photographs. For more information http://www.indianetzone.com/24/vaikuntha_perumal_temple_kanchipuram.htm
Main temple tower
Varadharaja Perumal Temple :
Again it took us only some time to reach Varadharaja Perumal Temple from Vaikundha Perumal koil. This temple is one of the most sacred place for Vaishnavites and one of the 108 Divya Desams. It is also one of the biggest temple in Kanchipuram and date backs to 10th century AD built by Cholla kings. The main temple tower (rajagopuram) stands majestic painted white in color. When we entered the temple what attracted me is huge temple pond well filled with water. Near to it there is a 100 lion pillared hall which contains one of the most famous architectural pieces in the temple is the huge stone chain sculpted in a single stone. When we entered the main temple to see the deity we were very disappointed to hear that the temple is closed and will be open after 3hrs. We also saw some of the artistic sculptures on the pillars of another hall. To know more about this temple visit the following link.
Main temple tower (raja gopuram)
Huge chain made of stones
pillars of 100 pillars hall
Sculpture on pillar
We saw temple prasadham stall and decide to finish our lunch with temple puliotharai which were indeed tasty and filling. Done with our lunch we also had lemon soda in a shop outside the temple which is quiet refreshing and decided to start riding home.
We took the same route back home. We stopped only once to have some sugarcane juice to quench our thirst and clicked some pics.
Returning back from the temple town of Kanchipuram
Its a great trip for me. Sincere thanks to Sriram anna for taking me along with me and i could learn a lot. All the pics in this post were taken by Sriram anna. You can see the whole trip album from the following link https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/104091456052799314834/albums/5860804758628885169
And if you are interested in temple sculptures in Tamil Nadu have a look at http://poetryinstone.in/ which is available in both Tamizh and english and http://varalaaru.com/ for more info on tamizh history.
If you are reading this from the beginning thanks for your patience. Comments are always welcome 🙂