Known as the city of silk and temples, Kanchipuram enjoys the status of being a world famous destination, tucked away in a corner of the country. The city revolves around silk and it’s supporting businesses. The other main aspect of this city is its temples. It is also known as the ‘city of thousand temples’.
My mother, uncle and I left for Kanchipuram early morning at 05:00 hours from Chennai. The travel takes about 2 hours from Chennai and we were comfortably seated in a four wheeler with soothing music. As I dozed my way to Kanchipuram, we crossed several Engineering colleges and toll booths. The road connecting the two cities is eternally busy so make sure you keep enough time in hand to complete all your activities.
On reaching at 07:00 hours, we first visited the ‘Kamakshi temple’. Known for its ancient stone architecture and historical importance, it was probably built by the Pallava’s around 6 C.E. The deity of this shrine is Parvati who is seated in a yogic posture and legend has it that she controls the whole of Kanchipuram.
After consuming breakfast at a relative’s place, we set off to a string of temples. The second in line was the ‘Ulagalandha Perumal’.The phrase literally translates to the ‘God who conquered Earth’. It is one of the 108 shrines dedicated to lord Vishnu and has the lord standing with one foot facing the skies, the other ruling the earth symbolising him conquering the whole universe.
We then moved on to ‘Varadaraja Perumal’ temple. This is also one of the 108 shrines dedicated to Vishnu. The above mentioned three shrines are often referred to as Mummurtivasam (abode of the trio). This shrine is considered highly holy for all Vishnu travellers. Another attraction in this temple is a statue of two lizards; one made of gold and the other made of silver. Legend has it that they were two ‘yakshas’ who were cursed to live in the form of a lizard. People flock to view the lizard statues as touching them apparently washes away all your sins. Expect crowds in this temple if you visit during festivals.
The last one to visit was the ‘Ekambareshwarar temple’ in the northern part of the city. The biggest temple in Kanchipuram, the gopuram (dome) of the temple is 59m tall, the tallest in India. It is also one of the Pancha Bootha Sthala. Pancha Bootha refers to the five elements of nature, namely Fire Water Earth Sky and Wind. There are five shrines of Lord Shiva scattered across Tamilnadu representing each of the 5 elements. The Ekambareshwarar Temple in Kanchipuram represents the element Earth.
This city was world famous for silk weaving and I was beyond excited to view the process and buy a couple of sarees myself. We went to a family friend’s residence who happened to be a silk weaver himself and he demonstrated various methods of weaving complete with the intricate designs and grand borders. I also purchased a saree myself and was prancing about proudly in it.
Do not miss out on the religious importance this place has to offer and if you do not want to indulge in the spirituality of the city, visit for its ancient architecture and historical lineage. Purchase silk sarees and make sure you buy the right kind.