Pilgrimage Kanchipuram,Tamilnadu,india

Published: 19th January 2011
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Take the early Pallava style- simple and elegant, it relied more on the shape and silhouette than on embellishments, though decorative elements were incorporated into the structures. Temple size and style became grandiose under the Chola, Vijayanagar and Chalukya dynasties. Sculptures, carvings and murals became more elaborate, bordering on the ostentatious. Gopurams rose higher and higher and temple complexes became enormous. Stone idols were replaced with bronze statues and shikharas changed shape and contour depending on the prevailing trend and pillared corridors evolved into gargantuan colonnaded mandapams. One of the most popular pilgrimage sights in India, ancient Kanchipuram boasted 1000 temples. Small wonder it figures in the top seven holiest pilgrimage centres for Hindus. Fortunately for the secular traveller, time has taken its toll and reduced the number of temples to 126, give or take a few! How many would you like to see? How many can you see? Settle for the best and you can see Ekambareswarar Temple, Kailasanatha Temple, Kamakshi Amman Temple, Varadaraja Perumal Temple and the Vardamana Perumal Temple.

Walk around the compound of the Ekambareswarar Temple till you come upon a venerable old mango tree. Not just old but very interesting too, four branches of the tree produce four different varieties of mangoes and this was well before the days of grafting! The four branches represent the four Vedas,

corner stones of Hindu philosophy. On a less erudite level, young women hoping to find good husbands and childless couples pray and make offerings to the tree. Going by the numbers that visit the tree, it must be doing a great job of wish fulfillment!

Historically Speaking
Kanchipuram was the Capital of the Pallavas, the Cholas and the Vijayanagar rulers. The Pallavas ruled the region from 6th to 8th century A.D, during which it was briefly occupied by the Chalukyans of Badami and by the Rastrakutas. It later came under the rule of the Cholas, Vijayanagar kings, the

Muslims and the British. Many of the splendid temples and beautiful architecture here are the work of the Pallavas and later, Cholas. The few Buddhist stupas here are proof of the fact that Buddhism prevailed here for a while. It has been a centre for Tamil learning and Culture for centuries and gives us a clear picture of the glorious Dravidian Heritage of the Vaishnavites and Shaivites. Kanchipuram produces some of the best silks in the world. The tradition of weaving silk goes back hundreds of years and was a major draw for westerners even before the industrial age began.

Shopping
In Kanchipuram you can buy some of the finest silk in the country. Weaving in Kanchipuram goes back almost 400 years. The silk in Kanchipuram is woven from silk worms bred purely on mulberry. Gandhi Raod is a good place to pick up silk sarees. Nadu Street and TN Nambi Street also have some good

shops that sell silk sarees. Other things of interest to shop in Kanchipuram include idols of gods and goddesses, jewellery boxes and other artifacts.

Events
The most popular festivals in Kanchipuram that are really worth experiencing are the Brahmothsavam (January), Garudothsavam (April), and Car (rath) festival held in May. The Silk Tourism Festival is held in the Month of October.

Night Out
There are plenty of places to eat in Kanchipuram. Your best bet would be to stick to local cuisine, you''ll get more variety and the food is tasty, wholesome and reasonable.

Activities
There''s plenty to see in Kanchipuram. One of the most popular pilgrim destinations in the country you can visit the temples and marvel at the breathtaking architecture of the temples here. If you want a break from all the sightseeing shop for some of the finest silk in the country or you can see

the sarees being made at Pillayar Palayam, close to the main bus stand.


Sights
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.

How to get there by Air
The closest airport to Kanchipuram is the Chennai Airport, with domestic connections to all the major cities in India. Chennai is also well connected to the important cities of Tamil Nadu. Some international airlines also fly into Chennai.

How to get there by Rail
Kanchipuram can be reached via Chengalpattu Railway Station on the Chengalpattu - Arakkonam line. Daily passenger train service between Chennai and Kanchipuram - # 173 Chennai Beach Kanchipuram Passenger departs Chennai"��s Tambaram Stn at 17:55hrs arrives at Kanchipuram at 20:10hrs.

How to get there by Bus
Most travellers and tourists prefer the road to Kanchipuram "�" its certainly more practical than the rail ride from Chennai. The distance is negligible (2 hrs) and the road is in good shape. Frequent bus connections also make it convenient to travel by road. Bus services are privately owned or operated

by the government. Guided tours are available at travel/tour operators in Chennai.


Best time to Visit
The best time to visit Kanchipuram is during the winter months from September to February when the weather is pleasant making it easier to get around and go sightseeing.

Hotels in Kanchipuram
Stay over in Kanchipuram only if you plan to spend a lot of time going around the temples. Most people prefer to use Chennai as a base and travel down to visit the temples. Alternately, take off from Chennai, spend the entire day in Kanchipuram, see the temples, do some shopping and leave for Mammalapuram,

where there are infinitely better places to stay. Chennai, Mammalapuram and Kanchipuram form a triangle and can be combined as they are conveniently close to each other.

What to Pack
Carry light cottons, sun screen and your camera. If you''re going to be visiting temples wear slippers as it will be far more convenient to take them off and put them on after you''re done visiting the temples. You cannot wear shoes inside temples and if you don''t like the idea of being bare foot

carry socks to wear inside the temples.

Nearby Places
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is approximately 60 km away from Kanchipuram. It is a 30 hectare park with lake visited by over 1,00,000 migratory birds every year making it one of the largest bird sanctuaries in India. The variety of birds include Herons, Darters, Spoonbills, Pelicans, Sandpipers,

White Ibis, Cormorants,Blue winged teals and Swans. The best time to see a majority of these birds is between November and February. Sriperumpudhur , 29 kms away from Kanchipuram is an important pilgrim destination for Viashnavites. The birth place of Saint Ramanujar, the Father of Visishtadvaida philosophy of Vaishnavism, Sriperumpudhur attracts pilgrims every year. A memorial for former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi also stands here. Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur is the largest zoological garden in India and one of the largest in South Asia. Approximately 35 km from Kanchipuram, the park is spread over 1260 acres and is said to house over 170 species of reptiles, mammals and birds.

For more information for this Destination please check india Travel Guide

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