A place of immense reverence in the hearts of India, Kanchipuram also known as ‘the Golden City of a Thousand Temples’, is also one of the best tourist destinations of India. Also renowned as the religious capital of South India, it is one of the seven sacred cities of Hindus which are believed to give final attainment or moksha to their visitors. Thousands of pilgrims throng to Kanchipuram every year to offer their prayers to the almighty.
However, even if you are not a follower of religion in that way, Kanchipuram temples still have a lot to offer to you. Their grand and glorious architecture would be sufficient to amuse you. The elaborate and traditional carvings and architectural details are absolutely unmatched example of excellence of Dravidian heritage.
Another thing popular about Kanchipuram is the hand woven silk sarees. In fact it is the major source of bread and butter for the people of Kanchipuram since majority of population in this city is engaged in this industry.
Under the scheme HRIDAY- Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana, Government of India has also chosen Kanchipuram as one of the heritage cities.
Major Tourist Attractions
Kanchipuram, being the city of thousand temples is most renowned for its temples; however, there are quite a few other places as well which may be of interest to tourists. Some of the spots which shall not be missed while on a trip to Kanchipuram are as follows:
- Kailasanathar Temple – The temple built by Rajasimha Pallava, a distinguished ruler of Pallava Dynasty in the 7th century and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Built up of limestone, although mostly left over in ruins, the structure of the temple still reveals how magnificent it originally would have been. Set away from the hubbub of a big city, the temple witnesses thousands of devotees throng to offer prayers to their deity.
- Ekambareswarar Temple – Believed to have been existing since year 600A.D., Ekambareswarar temple is one of the oldest temples of India. Several modifications and renovations have been carried out by rulers of Chola, Vijayanagar and Pallava dynasties to this temple in history. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is also an architectural masterpiece besides being a revered shrine.
- Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary – A feeling of sheer delectation and joy to the souls of nature and bird lovers, a visit to Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is nothing less than experience of a heaven. One of the oldest bird sanctuaries of India, it is located at about 48km from the main city. The place has a huge variety of resident and migratory birds especially between the months of October and March.
- Kamakshi Amman Temple – Enshrined here as Devi Kamakshi, Goddess Parvati is worshipped by thousands of devotees in the Kamakshi Amman Temple of Kanchipuram. A Sri Chakra has been consecrated in front of the idol of Goddess Kamakshi which was established by Sri Adi Shankaracharya to transform Kamakshi from Ugra Swaroopini to Shanta Swaroopini. Spread across an area of 5 acres, the temple has a hall with a hundred pillars.
- Chitragupta Temple – Dedicated to Lord Chitragupta, who is believed to be the most important minister and younger brother of Lord Yama- the God of Death, the Chitragupta Temple of Kanchipuram is the only temple of this kind existing in the whole world. Believed to be dating back to 9th century, the temple is visited by a large number of devotees on every full moon night.
Other prominent places including the famous temples that could be visited by travellers in Kanchipuram are
- Devrajaswami Temple
- Ulahalanda Perumal Temple
- Vardhamana Perumal Temple
- Vaikuntha Perumal Temple
- Kanchi Kudil
- Cembarambakkam Lake
- Varadharaj Perumal Temple
- Ashtabuja Perumal Temple
- Anna Memorial
Festival and Fairs
Kanchipuram, is famous for some of the exciting festivals and events which are celebrated by the local people with full pomp and show. It includes Brahmothsavam, Garudothsavam, Chariot (Rath or car) festival, Masi Mahotsavam and Mahashivratri.
Masi Mahaotsavam which lasts for 21 days is celebrated at the Kamakshi Temple in the month of February/March every year.
Brahmothsavam is held for 10 days with full grandeur and excitement in the month of May at Varadaraja Temple to worship Lord Varadaraja along with his two wives, Goddess Sridevi and Goddess Bhoodevi. The ninth day of the festival is very prominent where after a ceremonial bath of the idol of Lord Varadaraja there is a celebration of Temple car festival. During this, the idol of Lord Varadaraja is kept in a wooden chariot and a huge procession is carried out followed with the big sounds of drums and music all over.
Also known as the ‘Varadaraja Perumal Rath Yatra’, this 10 day festival also accompanies the Garudothsavam festival where all the deities kept in neighbouring temples are brought in the premises of Lord Varadaraja temple as a welcome ceremony of the guests to attend this big event.
Mahashivratri is celebrated every year in the month of February/March at Kailasanathar Temple. During this festival, married women keep fast to bring happiness in their married life and seek divine blessings from Lord Shiva. Unmarried girls fast during this day to seek blessings in the form of good future husband.
Talking about the major fair which is held in Kanchipuram, that too is celebrated in the form of festival includes The Silk Tourism Festival. It is held in the month of October and one can witness the rich culture and heritage of the art and craft which has existed for more than 400 years.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Kanchipuram is between October and March when the climate is pleasant and cool. One can explore the rich heritage and enjoy the sightseeing. During the months of summer, temperature ranges from 21 0C to 37 0C. Monsoon with heavy rain fall starts between the months of June and September.
How to Reach
By Air – Chennai International Airport is the nearest airport from Kanchipuram located at a distance of 75 Km. It is very well connected with all major states and cities across India
By Rail – Kanchipuram railway station has very limited and selected trains crossing it. One can easily reach Kanchipuram via Chennai Central or Arakonnam railway station.
By Road – It is the preferred mode of transport over rail journey by majority of the tourist. Kanchipuram is at a distance of 75 Km from Chennai with approx. 2 hour drive on a well developed road network. Transport buses, both govt. and private along with private cabs regularly ply on this route.