For Kanchipuram, City of a Thousand Temples.
Flanked by its belt of defensive jungles is that city
Whose doors are never closed to those who seek the prize
Lovely like the pericarp of the many-petalled lotus
The navel of the dark-hued Lord.....
(From the Sangam poem Perumbanatruppadai, translated by N. Raghunathan)
The great seventh century Saivite saint-poet, Thirunavukkarasar or Appar, wrote these beautifully powerful words about Shiva-Ekambareshwara, the lord of the temple pictured above:
He is the God of Dissolution; He is the King who smote Death;
He is earth; He became water of the earth; He is wind;
He is fire; He is rumbling thunder and lightning;
His is the glorious, coral-like ruddy body bedaubed
With white ash; on His crest floats the crescent; on His long
Matted hair He sports the Ganga of abundant water;
He is Yekampan of Kacchi girt with beauteous groves;
Behold Him, the one enshrined in my thought!
Shiva is omnipresent in Kanchipuram, in dozens of temples, big and small, that dot the land.
In Tirunavukkarasar's enchanting words,
Like the faultless lute, the moon at night
The southern breeze, the brilliant spring,
The scented lake covered by humming bees,
Is the cool shade of my Lord Shiva's feet.
One of the loveliest of the Shiva temples is the 8th century Kailasanathar Temple, built by the Pallava emperor Narasimhavarman II.
Vishnu has his magnificent abodes, too, in Kanchipuram. This town, after all, was home to the great philosopher Ramanuja, whose teachings are held dear by the Vaishnavite Iyengars of South India. One of the best-known of the Vishnu temples of Kanchipuram is the Varadaraja Perumal temple that dates back to over a thousand years of living, breathing history. There was a devotee of Ramanuja called Kuresha, who wrote a series of verses that became known as the Sri Varadaraja Stava. It begins with this description of and invocation to Lord Varadaraja:
"May the Lord who has been described as unequalled and peerless by the accents of the Upanishads, Hari, who is atop the Elephant Hill, always grant me the good. I surrender unto him who is a treasure to Lakshmi-Perundevi Thayar, a shoreless treasure unto those who seek his help, one who has vowed to grant the purusharthas desired by devotees, who is ever concerned with the well-being of all living beings, whose treasure is compassion, the king of all, the lord of immortals".
And before I say goodbye, here are some pictures of a few of the modern-day sights of Kanchipuram.