Kailashnatha Temple

The Kailashnatha temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is the oldest temple of Kanchi. It reflects the freshness and simplicity of the early Dravidian style of temple architecture and was built by the Pallava king Rayasimha. It can also be described as the worthy successor of the rock temples at Mahabalipuram, which were also built by the Pallava rulers. The bases of the pillars in the temples at Mahabalipuram have seated lions while at Kanchipuram; the confident grimacing lions stand on their hind legs, as if ready to pounce on anyone trying to harm the temple. This temple was constructed in the late seventh century AD and Rayasimha's son added the front portion later. The eighth century remains of murals within the temple are an indication of 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 Temple

The Sri Ekambaranathar temple is also dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is one of the largest temples in the city of Kanchipuram, and sprawls in an area of 12 hectares. The origin of this temple goes back to the time of the Pallavas and the Chola rulers extended it later. The great ruler of the Vijaynagar empire, Krishnadevaraya, built its 59 meter high Gopuram or gateway and massive outer walls in the early 16th century. The highlight of this temple is its thousand-pillared mandapam (hall).

Kamakshi Amman Temple

The impressive Kamakshi Amman Temple is dedicated to Goddess Parvati 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 ornate pillars.

Devarajaswami Temple

The huge Devarajaswami temple, built by the rulers of the Vijaynagar kingdom is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, one of the principle Hindu Gods. The temple has an exquisitely sculpted pillared hall. It also has a similar marriage hall, commemorating the celestial wedding of Lord Vishnu with Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. One of the interesting features of this temple is that it has a huge chain carved out from a single piece of stone. The large tank of water within the precincts of the temple also contains a 10-meter high, immersed statue of Lord Vishnu. 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 is also dedicated to Lord Vishnu and was built shortly after the construction of the Kailashnatha temple. The covered passages inside the outer walls of this temple are supported by lion pillars, which are representative of the first phase in the architectural evolution of the grand thousand pillared mandaps built later within numerous south Indian temples. The sculptures within the temple depict the history of the temple, with explanatory details in an eighth century script. The main shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu is on three different levels and contains the images of Lord Vishnu in standing, sitting and reclining postures.

HOW TO REACH KANCHIPURAM

Kanchipuram does not have an airport of its own and the nearest one is in Chennai, which is 71 km from the city. Kanchipuram is well connected by road to the important places in south India. The bus service between Kanchipuram and the important centers within Tamil Nadu is good and the travel time between Chennai and Kanchipuram is about 2 hours. Kanchipuram is connected by rail to Chennai via Chingelpet. Travelers interested in visiting the temples of Kanchipuram can either rent bicycles or use cycle-rickshaws and auto-rickshaws within the city.