Kanchipuram, one of the holiest cities of India is famous for its
acient temples. The grand architecture of these ancient temples
clearly indicates towards the south Indian style of temple
architecture (Dravidian style). The temples of Kanchipuram were built
by different dynasties, each enriching and refining the architecture
The Pallava kings were great lovers of art, architecture and
learning. Therefore, it was their reign, under which the first south
Indian ancient stone temples were built at Mahabalipuram. The
evolution of the south Indian style is clearly visible in the temples
at Mahabalipuram. Later, the Cholas, Chalukyas and Vijaynagar rulers
ruled Kanchi. They also built many temples and thus taking forward the
building activities started by the Pallava dynasty. The later kings
built new temples, and renovated the old ones.
¤ The Architecture Style
The ancient temples in Kanchipuram belong to the south Indian style
of temple architecture. The ancient city of Kanchipuram greets
visitors with a cluster of temple shikharas (prominent roofs that
surmount the sanctum sanctorum of the temples) and gopurams (tall).
There are many elaborately carved temple gateways also, belonging to
the typical south Indian style of building temples.
¤ Major Temples of Kanchipuram Considered one of the
seven sacred cities of India, Kanchipuram has only 200 temples
remaining out of the thousand ancient temples. There are 650 stone
inscriptions in Kanchipuram belonging to different dynasties and
different periods. The Kanchipuram temples represents the Pallava art,
also reflect the creative maturity of Chola, Vijayanagara and
Chalukyan kings, who decorated these temples with great dexterity.
The oldest temple at Kanchipuram is the Kailashnatha temple
dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is a perfect example of the early
Dravidian style of temple architecture and was built by the Pallava
king Rayasimha. It can also be described as descendent of the rock
temples at Mahabalipuram, which were also built by the Pallava rulers.
This ancient temple was constructed in the late seventh century AD and
Rayasimha's son added the front portion later. There are 8th century
remains of murals within the temple, indicating the magnificence of
the original temple. There are a number of small shrines within this
temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati (Lord Shiva's consort)
and their sons Ganesh and Murugan.
Sri Ekambaranathar Ancient Temple
The Sri Ekambaranathar temple is also dedicated to Lord Shiva and is
one of the largest temples in the city of Kanchipuram. It is spread
over an area of 12 hectares. This temple stands here right from the
time of the Pallavas and the Chola rulers, who extended it later.
Krishnadevaraya, the great ruler of the Vijaynagar Empire, built its
59 meter high Gopuram or gateway and massive outer walls in the early
16th century. One of the unique features of this temple is its
thousand-pillared mandapam (hall).
Kamakshi Amman Temple
There is a ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Parvati in
Kanchipuram. The majestic temple is known as the Kamakshi Amman
Temple. Goddess Parvati is worshipped here in the form of Kamakshi or
the goddess of Love. The sanctum sanctorum of this temple can be
reached by passing through a large mandapam (hall) with decorated
The mighty Devarajaswami temple was built by the rulers of the
Vijaynagar kingdom. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, one of
the principle Hindu Gods. The temple has an intricately sculpted
pillared hall. It also has a similar marriage hall, marking the
celestial wedding of Lord Vishnu with Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of
wealth and prosperity. A huge chain carved out from a single piece of
stone is the highlight of the temple. There is also a submerged statue
of Lord Vishnu in a large tank of water within the temple premises.
The water of this tank is drained out every 40 years, so that the
statue may be viewed.
Vaikuntha Perumal Temple
The Vaikuntha Perumal temple at Kanchoipuram is also an ancient
temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It was built shortly after the
construction of the Kailashnatha temple. There are covered passages
inside the outer walls of this temple, which are supported by lion
pillars. Representing the first phase, of the architectural evolution
the grand thousand pillared mandaps were built within numerous south
Indian temples. There are many sculptures carved out of stones within
the temple premises telling us about the rich culture and heritage of
The detailed information is available in an eighth century script
that tells us about the three different levels of the main shrine
constructed, mainly dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It contains the images
of Lord Vishnu in standing, sitting and reclining postures.