Kanchipuram Diaries: The City of A Thousand Temples

“Sapta-puri” is a collective name for Varanasi, Haridwar, Ayodhya, Mathura, Dwaraka, Ujjain and Kanchipuram, seven of India’s holiest cities. It is believed that a person who goes on a pilgrimage to all of these will get closer to salvation. I’ve been to three, so I guess I am almost half way there!
Historically, Kanchipuram was called the city of a thousand temples, and it has more than a hundred even now, with some dating back to as early as the 7th century AD. It is one of India’s oldest continuously inhabited cities and finds mention in Sanskrit grammarian Patanjali’s books written between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. The 4th century Sanskrit poet Kalidasa wrote “pushpeshu jati, purusheshu Vishnu, nadishu Ganga, nagareshu Kanchi”. This means, the jati flower (a variety of jasmine) is the best among flowers, Vishnu the best among men, Ganga the best among rivers and Kanchi, the best among cities.
Kanchipuram was the capital of the Pallavas, who ruled most of present day Tamil Nadu from the 6th to 9th centuries AD. It was under their patronage that the Dravidian style of temple architecture that you see all over Tamil Nadu today, originated and evolved. The earliest Pallava temples were cave shrines. They then graduated to monolithic shrines carved out of huge rocks. And finally, they gave way to structural temples built from scratch – the kind that you see now. All three stages of Pallava architecture can be seen in the World Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram, while in Kanchipuram, you only have structural temples. Over the next couple of posts I’ll show you some of its gorgeous temples.
At a distance of about 70 kms, Kanchipuram is perfect for a day trip from Chennai. You can go by car or bus, and it takes less than 2 hours.

Dedicated to Lord Shiva – the Kailashanathar and Ekambareshwarar temples.
Dedicated to Lord Vishnu – the Vaikunta Perumal and Varadharaja Perumal temples

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1 Comment

  • Reply Gopalan November 7, 2013 at 6:47 PM

    Awesome post & wonderful pictures

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