Browsing Tag

Kanchipuram

In Photos, Travel

Matangeeshwarar Temple, Kanchipuram

On a recent visit to the historical town of Kanchipuram (read my earlier posts here), I went to a small but very beautiful shrine called the Matangeeshwarar Temple. It is an early Pallava temple, maintained now by the ASI. The temple is hidden away behind a tiny gate on a busy road, and I’d never have been able to find it, if not for google maps. Once you enter the gate, it feels like you’re in a different world – a silent and ancient one.

 

The temple seems to have been built in the 8th century. The lion pillars typical of Pallava architecture are present here, along with beautiful depictions of forms of Lord Shiva. Sadly, the carvings in the temple seem to have been eroded by the ravages of time. I haven’t been able to gather much else about the temple – if I come across any more information, I’ll come back to this post and add to it. Until then, here are some photos 🙂
Mathangeshwara Temple, Kanchipuram

Matangeeshwarar Temple, Kanchipuram

Mathangeshwara Temple Wall Carvings

Wall carvings on either side of the sanctum.

On the left of the above diptych: Shiva performing his cosmic dance or tandav. I don’t recognize the depiction on the right.

Carvings on either side of the sanctum

Carvings on either side of the sanctum

Carvings on the exterior of the temple

Carvings on the exterior of the temple

Carvings on the exterior of the temple

Carvings on the exterior of the temple

A typical Pallava lion on the outer wall of the temple

A typical Pallava lion on the outer wall of the temple

Vaikunta Perumal Temple, Kanchipuram
Travel

Kanchipuram Diaries III

After visiting a couple of Shiva temples in Kanchipuram, we moved on to the Vaikunta Perumal and Varadharaja Perumal temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. As you’ve probably guessed, Perumal means Vishnu 🙂 The Vaikunta Perumal Temple was built in the 8th century by the Pallava king Nandivarman II.  Lion pillars like the ones in the Kailashnathar temple make an appearance in this corridor as well.
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
An Iyengar priest at the temple
The Varadharaja Perumal Temple was built in the 11th century, when the Chola kings ruled over the region. Additions were made by later Chola and Vijayanagara rulers. The structure to the left of the above photo is a 100 pillared hall, an exquisite example of Vijayanagara architecture. The pillars are carved with scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
As with most temples, photography isn’t allowed in the innermost part of the shrine, where the idol of the main deity is. The walls and ceilings there are covered with gorgeous murals from the Vijayanagara period.
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
A small shrine on the way to the main one of Varadharaja Perumal. The temple was shutting down for lunch.
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
A small shrine under a peepal tree in the huge open corridor around the temple.
Kailashanathar Temple, Kanchipuram
Travel

Kanchipuram Diaries II

The Kailashanathar Temple is the most beautiful temple in Kanchipuram (read about the city here), and probably the most beautiful of all Pallava temples. It was built between 685 and 705 AD – its construction was started by Pallava ruler Narasimhavarman II and completed by his son Mahendravarman III. It was during the reign of Narasimhavarman II that the practice of building structural temples began. By structural temples, we mean the kind of temples we see today – built from scratch, as opposed to carved out of rocks. The Shore Temple of Mahabalipuram was built during his rule as well, and you can see the similarity in the shikharas of the two temples.
Kailashanathar Temple, Kanchipuram
The entrance wall is lined with 8 small shrines and a doorway to enter the temple
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
A chamber with a blue door flanked by huge dwarapalas or guardian deities supports the main gopuram
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
The entrance to the inner compound that houses the main shrine
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
The main temple with a pyramidal shikhara that resembles Mahabalipuram’s Shore Temple
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
All along the wall enclosing the shrine, are 58 small shrines decorated with carvings and frescoes.
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
Small shrines supported by lion pillars all around
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
Erect lions in different directions all around the base of the shikhara
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
Intricate carvings and paintings fill all the small shrines and niches between them
Our next stop was the Ekambareshwarar Temple (also called the Ekambaranathar Temple), Kanchipuram’s largest temple, also dedicated to Lord Shiva. There are 5 Shiva temples in South India that represent the 5 natural elements. Of these, the Ekambareshwara Temple represents the Earth. The temple was built in the early 7th century, when the Pallavas were in power. But the 57 meter high main ‘gopuram’ and a thousand pillar square corridor around the central shrine were built later in the 16th century under the rule of the Vijayanagara ruler Krishnadevaraya.
Ekambareshwara Temple, Kanchipuram
An idol of ‘nandi’, the bull, facing the inner shrine
Ekambareshwara Temple, Kanchipuram
One side of the thousand pillar square corridor
Ekambareshwara Temple, Kanchipuram
1008 Shivalingas line the outer edges of the corridor
Ekambareshwara Temple, Kanchipuram
The imposing entrance tower or gopuram
Kanchipuram
Travel

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