Once ruled by the Pallavas, the Cholas, and then the British, Kanchi or Kanchipuram is a great historical city in the state of Tamil Nadu. Kanchi has many historical monuments and temples considered to be the seat of education in ancient India. For this, it was also known as the ghatikasthanam, or “place of learning”. Between the first and fifth centuries, Kanchi was the place for advanced education in Buddhism and Jainism. Kanchi has also been mentioned in Patanjali’s Mahabhashya, written in the second century B.C. Mahendravarman-I, king of Kanchi, was a great scholar and musician. Apart from historical importance, Kanchi is also famous for its hand-woven silk sarees.
Kalidas: Kalidas had compared Kanchi to the Jasmine flower, as it is the sweetest of all flowers, just like this the city is the best among all cities (Nagareshu Kanchi).
Yuan Chwang: He was a great Chinese traveler who visited Kanchi in the seventh century. Describing the city, he said that Kanchi was six miles in circumference. Inhabitants of the city were brave, and they loved justice. He further said that Buddha had visited this place and it was a great learning center.
Kanchi was the capital of Pallavas from the third to ninth century AD. Pallavas fortified the city with moats, ramparts, etc. They built many temples and laid out roads. From the 10th to 13th century, Kanchi was ruled by the Cholas, and from the 14th to 17 century, by the kings of Vijayanagara dynasty.
Temples in Kanchipuram
The ancient Kanchipuram is one of the seven sacred pilgrim centers in India. The other six are Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya, Kasi, Avanthi and Duvaragai. Kanchi is also known as the city of thousand temples, where 108 temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva, 18 to Lord Vishnu, and in addition to this there are many mosques, temples and churches.
The Pallava dynasty built the Kailasanathar Temple in the first quarter of the eight century. The temple displays the purest form of the Pallava art through numerous carvings. The Urdhva Thandava dance of Shiva, and the laughing face of Parvathi are some of the best carvings in the temple.
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
Nandivarman, one of the Pallava rulers, built this temple in the seventh century AD. The temple has a very appealing architecture. The deity in the temple is known as Sri Vaikunthavalli Tayar. Lion-shaped pillars adorn the inner walls of the temple.
The Ekambareswarar Temple is the most popular Shiva temple. Here Shiva is worshipped in the form of Earth Linga. It is one of the tallest temples in South India, and is famous for its 11-storey structure. The ancient mango tree in the courtyard is still worshiped with great reverence. The Pallavas built this temple that was later on reconstructed by the Chola and Vijaynagara kings.
Kamakshi Amman Temple
Kamakshi is one of the three Sakti-peethas in India, and is located in Kanchi. Kamakshi is the super-goddess and has Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati as her eyes.
Varadarajar Perumal Temple
This temple is the center of attraction in Kanchi and is located at the top of Hastigiri or Elephant Hill. It was constructed by the Vijayanagar kings. The pillars of the temples have amazingly beautiful sculptures. The entire temple is spread in an area of about 23 acres.
Shri Ulagalandar Temple
This temple was constructed in the Chola period and has a huge deity in the Trivikrama form, with one foot on the Earth and other on the sky. The statue is 35-feet-high and 24-feet-wide.
Sri Kacchapaewarar Temple
The Pallava dynasty built this temple, where Shiva is worshipped by Vishnu.
Let’s look at some other places of interest in Kanchi.
Vedantangal Bird Sanctuary
This is one of the main water bird sanctuaries in India and located at a distance of 48 km from Kanchipuram. October to March is the best time to visit the bird sanctuary because of the presence of many migratory.
Muttukkadu is a huge lake formed form backwaters and is used for boating and wind surfing.
This was once the thriving port town of the Pallavas, and is now the major tourist place in Kancipuram. Monuments at Mammalappuram display the architectural wonders of the Dravidian style and the Pallava art.
Kanchi Kamakodi Peetham
The Kamakodi Peetham and Kammakshiamman Temple are strongly connected with the life of Sankaracharya.
This beach is located at a distance of 16 km from Mamallapuram and has a famous beach resort.
Dr. C.N. Annadurai, the scholar statesman, was born here. He with love is known as Anna — the elder brother. His home has now been converted into a memorial.
The Crocodile Bank
This major crocodile breeding center is located just 14 km from Mamallapuram. About 5,000 crocodiles of six different species are kept in marshy land and allowed to breed.
The Silk Centre
Kanchi also has many thriving handloom industries. The Kancheepuram town is also known as Silk City because of many professional silk weavers living and working near or in Kanchi. India’s best silk sarees are weaved at Kanchi. The weaving industry here is about 400 years old. Very fine gold threads of superior quality are used for weaving.
Fairs and Festivals
Fairs and festivals are an integral part of life at Kanchi and keep happening throughout the year. The most popular ones are the Brahmothsavam held in January, Garudothsavam held in April and Car (rath) held in May.
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