Location and Area of Kanchi
The pilgrimage city of Kanchi is located 72 kilometres from Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state. Covering an area of 11.6 square kilometres, the city is on the banks of Palar River and the administrative headquarters of the Kanchipuram district.
Pilgrimage Sites in Kanchi
Kanchi boasts of a range of striking and majestic temples, offering pilgrims and devotees many shrines for devotion and offering prayers, especially the Hindus. Most of these temples are dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Of the 108 holy temples of the Hindu god Vishnu, 14 are located in Kanchi. The prominent and most popular shrines of Kanchi include:
Sri Ekambareswarar Temple
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Sri Ekambareswarar Temple is the largest shrine in Kanchi. A standing epitome of architectural splendour of the bygone era, this temple’s history can be traced to as early as the 2nd century. The present structure is the work of the Vijayanagar Kings, who ruled Kanchi during the 14th to 17th century period. The gigantic temple’s doors are nearly 40 feel tall. Legend has it that the picture of Lord Ekambaranathar is painted by Goddess Parvati who had done severe penance to achieve him. The temple also houses a 3500 year old mango tree in its 20 acre spread.
Sri Kailasanathar Temple
A renowned shrine of Kanchi, Sri Kailasanathar Temple was constructed in the 8th century by the Pallava kings. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is thronged by devotees on the festival of Shivaratri. The temple is a picturesque beauty and its mere visual makes it a suffice evidence of the aesthete perspective and sensitivity to art and architecture of the Pallava rulers. It is adorned with intricate stone carvings that make the temple look delightful beyond expression.
Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple
Devoted to Lord Vishnu is Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple, the centre of attraction in Vishnu Kanchi or "the little Kanchi" atop the Hastigiri or Elephant Hill. Covering an area of about 23 acres, it was constructed by the Vijayanagar Kings. Ornamental rings carved out of single stone at the four corners of the ‘mandapam’ (temple porch) in the form of a chain are a delightful spectacle. It remains packed by pilgrims during the Garudothsavam festival in the months of May and June.
Sri Kamakshi Amman Temple
Kamakshi is said to be the Supergoddess having Goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati as her eyes. Goddess Shakti is worshipped here in Kanchi, in addition to two other cities. The gold plated main tower and the golden chariot are the striking features of this temple, constructed in the 7th century over 5 acres of land. A gallery in the temple depicts the life history of supreme Hindu saint Adi Shankaracharya.
Kumarakottam Temple is located between the Ekambareswarar temple and the Kamakshi Amman temple, leading to the cult of Somaskanda. It is dedicated to Muruga (or Kartikeya, the son of Shiva and Parvati). ‘Kandapuranam’, the Tamil religious work on Muruga, translated from the Sanskrit ‘Skanda Purana’, was composed in 1625 by Kachiappa Shivacharya in the temple.
Other Pilgrimages of Kanchi
Other significant monumental temples of the holy city of Kanchi include the Sri Vaikunda Perumal Temple, Sri Vijayaraghava Perumal Temple, Sri Ulagalandar Temple, Sri Karchapeswarar Temple and many such. Kanchi is the headquarters of the Kanchi Matha, a Hindu monastic institution said to have been founded by Adi Shankaracharya.
Kanchipuram also has some of the famous mosques as it was once upon a time ruled by the Nawab of Arcot. The Nawab Sathathullah Khan Mosque and the Vaikunda Perumal Temple are located very close to each other, sharing the same tank. Muslims take part in the festivals of the Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple. Christ Church is the oldest Christian church in the city. It was built by a British man named Mclean in 1921. The church is built in Scottish style brick structure with arches and pillars. The city of Kanchipuram apart from the pilgrimage facet is also famous for its flourishing handloom industry and its hand-woven silk fabrics, particularly the Kanchipuram silk sarees, for which it is popularly called the silk city.
Visiting Information to Kanchi
The pilgrimage destination Kanchi can be accessed conveniently.
By Road: Kanchipuram has a comfortable connectivity to road networks which make many travelers prefer to access it by road. Regular buses ply from Chennai at 72 kilometres distance, Bangalore and many other cities in and nearby Tamil Nadu.
By Rail: The nearest railway station to Kanchipuram is the Arakkonam Junction and the city is also well connected by rail to Madurai, Puducherry, Chennai, Trichy, Bangalore, Chengalpattu, Tirupati and many major rail networks.
By Air: The Chennai International Airport is the nearest one to Kanchi. Taxi services can be availed at the airport to Kanchipuram.
Best Time to visit Kanchi
The ideal season for taking a pilgrimage tour to Kanchipuram is between October and March during the cool and breezy winters, as the summers are relatively hot and humid here and monsoons bring heavy rainfall.