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Kanchipuram Travel Guide

Think Kanchipuram, and the image evoked is of shimmering silks in iridescent hues! One visit to Kanchipuram and silks lose ground to temples – for this is the temple town of India attracting hoards of pilgrims every year.

The temples of Kanchipuram tell the story of South India’s temple architecture down the ages, taking visitors on a visual journey through its various stages of development. 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!

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