Kanchipuram, Kancheepuram, Kanchi is the administrative headquarters of Kanchipuram District in Tamil Nadu. Located on the banks of river Vegavathy, it served as the capital city of the Pallava Kingdom during the 4th to 9th century CE. Kanchipuram is located 72 km (45 mi) from Chennai, the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Kanchipuram is the headquarters of the Kanchi matha, a Hindu monastic institution believed to have been founded by the Hindu saint and commentator, Adi Sankaracharya. Distance between Vellore and Kanchipuram is 61 KM. Distance from Bengaluru, Karnataka to Kanchipuram is 280.1 km and takes around 4 h 39 min via NH48.
Kanchipuram is believed to be of significant antiquity and has been ruled, at different times, by the Pallavas, Medieval Cholas, Later Cholas, Later Pandyas, Vijayanagar Empire, Carnatic kingdom, and the British. The city has a number of historical monuments, the Kailasanathar Temple and Vaikunta Perumal Temple being the most prominent among them. Kanchipuram was an ancient education centre like Banaras and was also known as the ghatikasthanam or place of learning. Kanchipuram acted as a religious centre of advanced learning for Jainism and Buddhism during the 1st to 5th century CE.
As per Hindu theology, Kanchipuram is one of the seven cities in India to reach final attainment. Being home to major Hindu temples like the Varadharaja Perumal Temple, Ekambareswarar Temple, Kamakshi Amman Temple and Kumara Kottam, the city is considered a holy pilgrimage site for both Saivites and Vaishnavites. Out of the 108 holy temples of Hindu god Vishnu, called the divyadesam, 14 are located in the city. Kanchipuram is well known for its hand woven silk sarees and a majority of workforce in the city is involved in weaving industry.
Kanchipuram is administered by a Special grade municipality constituted in 1947. The city covers an area of 11.605 km2 (4.481 sq mi) and had a population of 153,140 in 2001. Kanchipuram is well-connected by road and rail. Chennai International Airport is the nearest domestic and international airport to the city.
History of Kanchipuram
While it is widely accepted that Kanchipuram had served as an Early Chola capital, the claim has been contested by Indian historian P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar who, in his History of the Tamils from the earliest times to 600 A. D., says that the Kanchipuram district was never pervaded by the Tamil culture of the Sangam period and cites the Sanskritic origins of its name in support of his claim. The earliest references to Kanchipuram are found in the books of the Sanskrit grammarian Patanjali, who lived in the 3rd - 2nd century BCE. The city is believed to have been part of the mythical Dravida Kingdom of the Mahabharatha. Kanchipuram was described as "the best among cities" (Sanskrit: Nagareshu Kanchi) by the 4th century Sanskrit poet, Kalidasa.
Kanchipuram grew in importance when, in the 6th century CE, the Pallavas based in southern Andhra Pradesh, wary of constant invasions from the north, moved their capital further south to Kanchipuram. The Pallavas fortified the city with ramparts, wide moats, well-laid-out roads and artistic temples. During the reign of the Pallava king Mahendravarman I, the Chalukya king Pulakesin II (610-642 CE) invaded the kingdom proceeding as far as the Kaveri River. The capital Kanchipuram was successfully defended by the Pallavas, who foiled repeated attempts to capture the city. A second invasion of Kanchipuram ended disastrously for Pulakesin II, who was forced to retreat to his capital Vatapi and then besieged and killed in Vatapi by Narasimhavarman I (630-668 CE), son of Mahendravarman I (600-630 CE), at the Battle of Vatapi. Under the Pallavas, Kanchipuram flourished as a centre of Hindu and Buddhist learning. The important Hindu temples in the city like Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple, Varadharaja Perumal Temple and Iravatanesvara Temple were constructed by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman II. Xuanzang, a Chinese traveler, who visited Kanchipuram in 640 CE, recorded that the city was 6 miles in circumference and that its people were renowned for bravery, piety, love of justice and veneration for learning.
The Medieval Chola king Aditya I conquered Kanchipuram along with the rest of the Pallava kingdom after defeating the Pallava ruler Aparajitavarman (880-897 CE) in about 890 CE. Under the Cholas, the city was the headquarters of the northern viceroyalty. The province was renamed "Jayamkonda Cholamandalam" during the reign of the Medieval Chola king Raja Raja Chola I (985-1014 CE). Raja Raja Chola I constructed the Karchapeswarar Temple and renovated the Kamakshi Amman Temple. His son Rajendra Chola I (1012-44 CE) constructed the Yathothkari Perumal Temple. According to the Siddhantasaravali of Trilocana Sivacharya, Rajendra Chola I brought a band of Saivas along with him on his return from the victorious expedition to the Ganges and settled them in Kanchipuram. In about 1218 CE, the Pandya king Maravarman Sundara Pandyan (1216-38 CE) invaded the Chola country making deep inroads into the kingdom which was saved only by the intervention of the Hoysala king Vira Narasimha II (1220-35 CE) who fought on the side of the Chola king Kulothunga Chola III. Inscriptions indicate the presence of a powerful Hoysala garrison in Kanchipuram which remained in the city at least until the year 1230 CE. Shortly afterwards, Kanchipuram was conquered by the Telugu Cholas from whom Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan I took the city in 1258 CE. The city remained with the Pandyas till 1311 CE when the Sambuvarayars declared independence, taking advantage of the anarchy caused by Malik Kafur's invasion After short spells of occupation by Ravivarman Kulasekhara of Venad (in 1313-14 CE) and the Kakatiya ruler Prataparudra, Kanchipuram was conquered by the Vijayanagar general Kumara Kampana after defeating the Sambuvarayars in 1361 CE.
The Vijayanagar Empire's rule over Kanchipuram lasted from 1361 to 1645 CE. The earliest inscriptions attesting Vijayanagar's rule are those of Kumara Kampanna from the years 1364 and 1367 CE found within the precincts of the Kailasanathar Temple and Varadaraja Perumal Temple respectively. His inscriptions record the reinstation of Hindu rituals in the Kailasanathar Temple that had been abandoned during the Muslim invasions. Inscriptions of the Vijayanagar kings Harihara II, Deva Raya II, Krishna Deva Raya, Achyuta Deva Raya, Sriranga I and Venkata II are found within the municipal limits of Kanchipuram. Harihara II endowed grants in favour of the Varadaraja Perumal Temple. In the 15th century, Kanchipuram faced four major invasions, all of which were unsuccessful - those of the Velama Nayaks in 1437 CE, the Gajapati kingdom in 1463-65 CE and 1474-75 CE and the Bahmani Sultanate in about 1480 CE. A 1467 CE inscription of Virupaksha Raya II mentions the existence of a cantonment in the vicinity of Kanchipuram. In 1486 CE, Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya, the then governor of the Kanchipuram region overthrew the Sangama Dynasty of Vijayanagar and founded the Saluva Dynasty. Like most of his predecessors, Narasimha donated generously to the Varadaraja Perumal Temple. Kanchipuram was visited twice by the Vijayanagar king Krishna Deva Raya, considered to be the greatest of the Vijayanagar rulers and 16 inscriptions of his time are found in the Varadaraja Perumal Temple. The inscriptions, made in four languages - Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit, record the genealogy of the Tuluva kings and their contributions along with those of their nobles towards the upkeep of the shrine. His successor, Achyuta Deva Raya, reportedly, had himself weighed against pearls in Kanchipuram and subsequently distributed the same amongst the poor. Throughout the second half of the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries, the Aravidu Dynasty tried to maintained a semblance of authority in the southern parts after the northern territories have been lost in the Battle of Talikota. Venkata II (1586-1614 CE) even tried to revive the Vijayanagar Empire but the kingdom relapsed into confusion after his death and rapidly fell apart after the Vijayanagar king Sriranga III's defeat by the Golconda and Bijapur sultanates in 1646 CE.
The end of the Vijayanagar Empire was accompanied by over two decades of confusion and turmoil. The Golconda Sultanate established its hold over Kanchipuram in 1672 CE only to lose it to Bijapur three years later. In 1676 CE, Shivaji arrived in Kanchipuram at the invitation of the Golconda Sultanate in order to drive out and dislodge the Bijapur forces. His campaign successful, Kanchipuram was held by the Golconda Sultanate until its conquest by the forces of the Mughal Empire led by Aurangazeb in October 1687. In the course of their southern campaign, the Mughals defeated the Marathas under Sambhaji, the elder son of Shivaji, in a battle fought near Kanchipuram in 1688 CE. While causing considerable damage to the city, the battle cemented Mughal rule over Kanchipuram. Soon after the Mughal conquest, the priests at the Varadaraja Perumal, Ekambareshwarar and Kamakshi Amman temples, mindful of Aurangazeb's reputation for iconoclasm, transported the idols to the southern part of Tamil Nadu and did not restore them until after Aurangazeb's death in 1707 CE. Under the Mughals, Kanchipuram was a part of the viceroyalty of the Carnatic which, in the early 1700s, began to function independently retaining only a nominal acknowledgement of Mughal overlordship. The Marathas invaded Kanchipuram twice during the Carnatic period (in 1724 and 1740 CE) and the Nizam of Hyderabad, once (in 1742). Kanchipuram served as a battlefront for the British East India Company in the Carnatic Wars against the French East India Company and in the Anglo-Mysore Wars with the Sultanate of Mysore.The popular 1780 Battle of Pollilur of the Second Anglo-Mysore War, known for the usage of rockets by Hyder Ali of Mysore, was fought in the village of Pullalur near Kanchipuram.
The British East India Company assumed indirect control over the erstwhile Chingleput District (comprising the present-day Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur districts), then known as the "Jaghir" or "Jaghire", from the Nawab of the Carnatic in 1763 in order to defray the expenses of the Carnatic wars. The Company brought the territory under their direct control during the Second Anglo-Mysore War and the Collectorate of Chingleput was created in 1794 CE. The district was split into two in 1997 and Kanchipuram made the headquarters of the newly-created Kanchipuram district.
The Devarajaswami Temple was built by the Vijaynagar kings. It is dedicated to the Hindu god Lord Vishnu. There are elaborately carved pillars that can be seen throughout the temple. This particular temple has a marriage hall that was built in remembrance of the marriage between Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi. There is a water tank that contains a large statue of Lord Vishnu inside the water. The tank is drained every 40 years. At that time, the 10 meter high statue can be seen, and is then established for darshan for 48 days before it is immersed in water once again. There is also an enormous chain that was engraved out of one single stone.
The Hindu religion is prominent throughout all of India. Many of the temples that can be seen there are in fact Hindu temples. The ancient culture as well as the cultural heritage of Hinduism is shown at Kanchi Kudhil. This is a small house that shows exactly how the Hindu religion is intertwined into India's history and modern day way of life. This fascinating place of discovery is open to visitors. There is no better way for a person of another faith to understand and appreciate the fascinating religion of Hinduism than to visit the Kanchi Kudhil.
The Ekambaranatha Temple is the largest temple in Kanchipuram. It covers an impressive 20 acres. This particular temple has been dedicated to Lord Shiva, and was built by the Pallavas and then in turn was altered by both the Cholas and the Rayas. One remarkable feature of this temple is the fact that the 1000 lingas are all carved out of one solitary stone. Also, there are one thousand pillared halls found within the temple. Outside of the Ekambaranatha Temple there is a mango tree that is over 3500 years old. There are four separate limbs found on the tree that represent the Four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana). Tradition has it that the fruit from each limb tastes different even though they all are on the same tree.
It is at the Kachapeshwarar Temple that the Lord Shiva can be seen being worshipped by Lord Vishnu in the form of Tortoise (Kachap). This image can be seen on sculptures and engravings that adorn this beautiful temple. It is unusual for a temple to be dedicated to one Hindu god, in this case Lord Shiva, and then show another god worshipping that entity. This occurrence is one of the items that make this particular temple unique. The beautiful interior of the temple is just as impressive as the exterior.
The Kailasanathar Temple is one of the earliest and most remarkable temples that are found in the Kanchipuram area. It was built in the 7th century by the Pallava king Rajasimha. This particular temple is an excellent example of early Dravidian architecture. One notable feature that is unique to this temple is that there is a 16-sided Shiva lingam that is made out of black granite at the main shrine. Both the elegant decorations that are carved on this temple as well as the architectural style of the building closely resemble the impressive sculptures that are found at Mahabalipuram.
Kamakshi Amman Temple
The Kamakshi Amman Temple is dedicated to the goddess Parvathi. It is believed to have been originally built by the Pallava kings before the 7th century, but was then later rebuilt by the Cholas during the 14th Century. This particular temple is located directly in the heart of Kanchipuram. It is known as one of the three holy places of Sakthi worship. At this temple there is a Sankaracharya shrine. Sankaracharya was the man who found the Kamakoti Monastery and is known as one of the greatest Hindu saints. He is also known for building a golden tower.
Kanchi Kamakshi Temple
The Kamakshi Temple is an ancient Hindu Temple dedicated to Kamakshi, one of the forms of Goddess. It is located in the historic city of Kanchipuram, near Chennai, India The Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, the Akilandeswari temple in Thiruvanaikaval near Tiruchirappalli and this Kamakshi are the important centers of worship of Goddess, in the state of Tamil Nadu. The Temple was most probably built by the Pallava kings, whose capital was Kanchipuram.
The Image of the main Deity, Kamakshi, is seated in a majestic Padmasana, an yogic posture signifying peace and prosperity, instead of the traditional standing pose. Goddess holds a sugarcane bow and bunch of flowers in the lower two of her arms and has a pasha (lasso), an ankusha (goad) in her upper two arms. There is also a parrot perched near the flower bunch. There are no other Parvati temples in the city of Kanchipuram, apart from this temple, which is unusual in a traditional city that has hundreds of traditional temples. There are various legends that account for this fact. One of them according to Kamakshivilasa is that Goddess had to absorb all the other shakthi forms to give a boon to Kama, the Vedic angel of desire. Another legend attributes it to the Raja Rajeswari pose of the deity that signifies an absolute control over the land under Her control. Legend has it that Kamakshi offered worship to a Shivalingam made out of sand, under a mango tree and gained Shiva's hand in marriage.
Adi Shankaracharya, the famous 8th century CE scholar and saint, re-established the Sri Chakra in this Kamakshi Devi temple in the trough-like structure in that shrine.
Vaikunda Perumal Temple
The Vaikunda Perumal Temple was built by the Pallava king Nadivarman II during the 7th century. This is particular temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. In fact, Lord Vishnu's image can be seen in standing, sitting and reclining forms on towering vimanas that can be seen throughout the temple. There are also many beautiful lion pillared cloisters as well as several bas reliefs in the main shrine of the temple. Inscriptions that tell of the history of the temple as well as the history of the city itself can be seen on the walls. India's Department of Archeology cares for this temple.
The beautiful Varadaraja Temple was built during the 10th century by the Vijayanagar kings. There is a big outer wall that surrounds this fine temple. It also has an impressive one thousand pillared halls inside that are called the Kalyanamandapam. Each one of these pillars has a description of Lord Vishnu on it. This is because Lord Vishnu is for whom the temple is dedicated. Another notable feature is the huge chain that is there. This amazing chain is carved out of one single piece of granite. Interesting enough, the inside of this temple even has fire corridors built into it.