Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu)
Popularly known as the Golden City, it is considered the second holiest city in India next only to Varanasi. "Nagareshu Kanchi" is the old saying. It means that among the cities, Kanchi is the greatest. There are seven Mokshpuris (sacred cities that guarantee salvation) in India and Kanchipuam is one of them and is the lone Mokshpuri in South India. Reputed to possess more than one thousand temples once upon a time, it was famous as "city of temples". At present only a few of them have survived the ravages of time and invasions. Each temple has a story and each lane, bylane and street has atleast one temple. It was the historic capital of the Pallavas from the 6th to 8th centuries and later became the citadel of the Cholas, Vijaynagar kings, the Muslims and the British. Kanchipuram was the meeting place of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It was a centre for learning Tamil culture and religious scriptures for centuries. Adi Shankaracharya, Appar, Siruthundar and the great Bhikku Bodhidharma lived and worked here. The Kamakshi Peetham was established here by Adi Shankaracharya. Kanchipuram is said to have inspired the builders of rock temples at Badami and Ellora.
The city of Kanchipuram is considered under three divisions- Shaiva Kanchi (Big Kanchipuram), Vishnu Kanchi (Little Kanchipuram) and Jain Kanchi based on the dominant faith of each sect. At present, there are about a hundred temples built during the time of various periods which provide ample opportunity for the study of temple architecture in South India.
Today, Kanchipuram possesses all modern amenities. For generations, it has been famous for weaving silk. It has gained reputation for Kanchi silk sarees for lusture, durability, contrasting colours and superb finish. The British introduced the sericulture to Kanchipuram.
EKAMBARESHWAR TEMPLE: An ancient Shiva temple which had been renovated by the Pallavas, Cholas and the Vijaynagar kings. The main tower at the entrance is 57 metres high rising in eight storeys, being one of the most massive of its kind. The shrine has a big Shiva Linga called Prithvi Linga, one of the Panch Lingas representing the aspect of earth. The linga is made out of sand and as such there is no Abhishekam done with water; instead it is worshipped only with the sacred "bilva Leaves". It has a magnificent thousand pillared hall with a superb sculpture and architecture. The temple has five spacious corridors where a number of idols of Shaiva saints are installed. The 2500 years old mango tree inside the temple has four branches, each is said to yield different varieties of mangoes.
KAILASANATHAR TEMPLE: A thousand years old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, was built by Rajasimha and his son Mahendra in the 8th century. It is noted for its architecture and sculptures. It is an improvement to the style of the Shore Temple at Mamallapuram.
KAMAKSHI AMMAN TEMPLE: This is one of the three holy places of Shakti worship in India, the others being Madurai and Varanasi. Dedicated to goddess Kamakshi or Parvati, it has an imposing structure. The temple was built by the Cholas in 14th century. It is said that Shankaracharya has installed the "Sri Chakra" at the feet of the deity. An ancient Mutt belonging to the order of Shankaracharya popularly known as Kamkoti Mutt is a famous institution in this place venerated by devotees. A pontiff guides the affairs of this institution.
VARADARAJA SWAMY TEMPLE: Located in Vishnu Kanchi, this temple is a massive and impressive edifice. Also known as the "Devarajaswamy Temple", it is dedicated to Lord Vishnu as Varadaraja. The shrine is on an elephant shaped huge rock called "Hastgiri". There are two lofty towers facing east and west. The hundred pillared hall constructed here during the Vijaynagar period is noted for its exquisite sculptures. The ornamental rings carved out of a single block of stone in the form of a chain adorn the corners of the hall. It is a dexterous feature of sculptural art. This temple is noted for its costly jewellery of diamonds and precious stones presented by the kings of various dynasties including one from the British.