Kanchipuram / Kanchi / Kāñci-pura / Conjevaram
Sri Kanchi Kamakshi Amman Temple
Sri Kamakoti Peeta Vasini
“Ayodhya Madhura Maya Kasi Kanchi Avantika!
Puri Dwarakavathi Saiva Sapthaithate Mokshadaiyeka!”
Kanchipuram a otherwise known as Kanchi (previously romanized as Kāñci-pura, Conjevaram) is a city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, 72 km (45 mi) from Chennai – the capital of Tamil Nadu. The city covers an area of 11.605 km2 (4.481 sq mi) and had a population of 164,265 in 2001. It is the administrative headquarters of Kanchipuram District. Kanchipuram is well-connected by road and rail. Chennai International Airport is the nearest domestic and international airport to the city, which is located at Tirusulam in Kanchipuram district.
The Goddess Kamakshi is in a sitting posture in the temple. This posture is called the Padmasana posture. The Padmasana posture is said to resemble a lotus. In the Yogic practice this resembles the form of meditation. The Goddess holds a Sugarcane bow on her left upper arm and Lotus, Parrot in her right upper arm. The Goddess also has divine chakras called Pasa and Angusa in her arms.
The Goddess also has a Chandraperai (a shape of moon like structure) in her forehead. The Goddess Kamakshi is situated in the middle of temple premises.
History reveals that Goddess Kamakshi was praying under a mango tree with a Shiva lingam made of sand to marry the great Lord Shiva. After a long duration of dedicated and devoted meditation to Lord Shiva, Lord Shiva appeared before her and married the Goddess Kamakshi, a divine form of Parvati. There are no traditional Parvati or Shakti shrines in the city of Kanchipuram, apart from this temple, which adds even more legend to this temple.
Located on the banks of the Vegavathy River, Kanchipuram has been ruled by the Pallavas, the Medieval Cholas, the Later Cholas, the Later Pandyas, the Vijayanagar Empire, the Carnatic kingdom, and the British. The city’s historical monuments include the Kailasanathar Temple and the Vaikunta Perumal Temple. Historically, Kanchipuram was a centre of education  and was known as the ghatikasthanam, or “place of learning”. The city was also a religious centre of advanced education for Jainism and Buddhism between the 1st and 5th centuries.
In Hindu theology, Kanchipuram is one of the seven Indian cities to reach final attainment. The city houses Varadharaja Perumal Temple, Ekambareswarar Temple, Kamakshi Amman Temple, and Kumarakottam Temple, which are some of major Hindu temples in the state. The city is a holy pilgrimage site for both Saivites and Vaishnavites. Of the 108 holy temples of the Hindu god Vishnu, 14 are located in Kanchipuram. The city is well known for its hand woven silk sarees and most of the city’s workforce is involved in the weaving industry.
Kanchipuram is located at 12.98°N 79.71°E, 72 km (45 mi) south-west of Chennai on the banks of the Vegavathi River, a tributary of the Palar River. The city covers an area of 11.6 km2 (4.5 sq mi) and has an elevation of 83.2 m (273 ft) above sea level.The land around Kanchipuram is flat and slopes towards the south and east. The soil in the region is mostly clay, with some loam, clay, and sand, which are suitable for use in construction. The Chingleput District Manual (1879) describes the region’s soils as “highly inferior” and “highly stony or mixed with lime, gravel, soda and laterite”. It has been postulated that the granite required for the Varadaraja Perumal Temple might have been obtained from the Sivaram Hills located 10 miles east of Kanchipuram. The area is classified as a Seismic Zone II region, and earthquakes of up to magnitude 6 on the Richter Scale may be expected. Kanchipuram is subdivided into two divisions – Big Kanchi, also called Shiva Kanchi occupies the western portion of the city and is the larger of the two divisions. Little Kanchi, also called Vishnu Kanchi, is located on the eastern fringes of the city. Most of the Shiva temples lie in Big Kanchi while most of the Vishnu temples lie in Little Kanchi.
Ground water is the major source of water supplies used for irrigation – the block of Kanchipuram has 24 canals, 2809 tanks, 1878 tube wells and 3206 ordinary wells. The area is rich in medicinal plants, and historic inscriptions mention the medicinal value. Dimeria acutipes and cyondon barberi are plants found only in Kanchipuram and Chennai.
Kanchipuram is administered by a Special grade municipality constituted in 1947. It is the headquarters of the Kanchi matha, a Hindu monastic institution believed to have been founded by the Hindu saint and commentator Adi Sankaracharya, and was the capital city of the Pallava Kingdom between the 4th and 9th centuries.
Kanchipuram has been chosen as one of the heritage cities for HRIDAY – Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana scheme of Government of India.
Kanchipuram was known in early Tamil literature as Kachi or Kachipedu but was later Sanskritized to Kanchi or Kanchipuram. According to legend, the name Kanchi is derived from Ka referring to the Hindu god Brahma and anchi, referring to his worship of Hindu god Vishnu at this place. The earliest inscription from the Maurya period (325–185 BCE) denote the city as Kanchipuram, where King Visnugopa was defeated by Samudragupta Maurya (320–298 BCE). Patanjali (150 BCE or 2nd century BCE) refers to the city in his Mahabhasya as Kanchipuraka. The city was referred to by various Tamil names like Kanchi, Kanchipedu and Sanskrit names like Kanchipuram. The Pallava inscriptions from (250–355) and the inscriptions of the Chalukya dynasty refers the city as Kanchipura. Jaina Kanchi refers to the area around Tiruparutti Kundram. During the British rule, the city was known as Conjeevaram and later as Kanchipuram. The municipal administration was renamed Kancheepuram, while the district retains the name Kanchipuram
Abhishekam (3 times a day)
Morning – Starts at 5:30 a.m.
Afternoon – Starts at 10:30 a.m.
Evening – Starts at 4:30 a.m.
Santhana Kappu (Sandal Darshan)
Every Wednesday and Saturday evenings
Pournami Pooja / Navavarna Pooja (Full Moon day)
Night 9:30 p.m. onwards every month
Saharsranamam Archana (Daily)
Morning – 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Evening – 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Morning – 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Evening – 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Thanga Ratham (Golden Chariot)
Only on specific days
While it is widely accepted that Kanchipuram had served as an Early Chola capital, the claim has been contested by Indian historian P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar who wrote that the Tamil culture of the Sangam period did not spread through the Kanchipuram district, and cites the Sanskritic origins of its name in support of his claim. The earliest references to Kanchipuram are found in the books of the Sanskrit grammarian Patanjali, who lived between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE. The city is believed to have been part of the mythical Dravida Kingdom of the Mahabharatha, and was described as “the best among cities” (Sanskrit: Nagareshu Kanchi) by the 4th-century Sanskrit poet, Kalidasa. The city was regarded as the “Banaras of the South”.
Kanchipuram grew in importance when the Pallavas of southern Andhra Pradesh, wary of constant invasions from the north, moved their capital south to the city in the 6th century. The Pallavas fortified the city with ramparts, wide moats, well-laid-out roads, and artistic temples. During the reign of the Pallava King Mahendravarman I, the Chalukya King Pulakesin II (610–642) invaded the Pallava kingdom as far as the Kaveri River. The Pallavas successfully defended Kanchipuram and foiled repeated attempts to capture the city. A second invasion ended disastrously for Pulakesin II, who was forced to retreat to his capital Vatapi which was besieged and Pulakesin II was killed by Narasimhavarman I (630–668), son of Mahendravarman I (600–630), at the Battle of Vatapi. Under the Pallavas, Kanchipuram flourished as a centre of Hindu and Buddhist learning. King Narasimhavarman II built the city’s important Hindu temples, the Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple, the Varadharaja Perumal Temple and the Iravatanesvara Temple. Xuanzang, a Chinese traveller who visited Kanchipuram in 640, recorded that the city was 6 miles (9.7 km) in circumference and that its people were renowned for their bravery, piety, love of justice, and veneration for learning.
The Medieval Chola king Aditya I conquered the Pallava kingdom, including Kanchipuram, after defeating the Pallava ruler Aparajitavarman (880–897) in about 890. Under the Cholas, the city was the headquarters of the northern viceroyalty. The province was renamed “Jayamkonda Cholamandalam” during the reign of King Raja Raja Chola I (985–1014), who constructed the Karchapeswarar Temple and renovated the Kamakshi Amman Temple. His son, Rajendra Chola I (1012–44) constructed the Yathothkari Perumal Temple. According to the Siddhantasaravali of Trilocana Sivacharya, Rajendra Chola I brought a band of Saivas with him on his return from the Chola expedition to North India and settled them in Kanchipuram. In about 1218, the Pandya king Maravarman Sundara Pandyan (1216–1238) invaded the Chola country, making deep inroads into the kingdom which was saved by the intervention of the Hoysala king Vira Narasimha II (1220–1235), who fought on the side of the Chola king Kulothunga Chola III. Inscriptions indicate the presence of a powerful Hoysala garrison in Kanchipuram, which remained in the city until about 1230. Shortly afterwards, Kanchipuram was conquered by the Telugu Cholas, from whom Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan I took the city in 1258. The city remained with the Pandyas until 1311 when the Sambuvarayars declared independence, taking advantage of the anarchy caused by Malik Kafur’s invasion. After short spells of occupation by Ravivarman Kulasekhara of Venad (Quilon, Kerala) in 1313–1314 and the Kakatiya ruler Prataparudra II, Kanchipuram was conquered by the Vijayanagar general Kumara Kampana, who defeated the Madurai Sultanate in 1361.
The Battle of Pollilur, fought near Kanchipuram in 1780
The Vijayanagar Empire ruled Kanchipuram from 1361 to 1645. The earliest inscriptions attesting to Vijayanagar rule are those of Kumara Kampanna from 1364 and 1367, which were found in the precincts of the Kailasanathar Temple and Varadaraja Perumal Temple respectively. His inscriptions record the re-institution of Hindu rituals in the Kailasanathar Temple that had been abandoned during the Muslim invasions. Inscriptions of the Vijayanagar kings Harihara II, Deva Raya II, Krishna Deva Raya, Achyuta Deva Raya, Sriranga I, and Venkata II are found within the city. Harihara II endowed grants in favour of the Varadaraja Perumal Temple.In the 15th century, Kanchipuram was invaded by the Velama Nayaks in 1437, the Gajapati kingdom in 1463–1465 and 1474–75 and the Bahmani Sultanate in about 1480. A 1467 inscription of Virupaksha Raya II mentions a cantonment in the vicinity of Kanchipuram. In 1486, Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya, the governor of the Kanchipuram region, overthrew the Sangama Dynasty of Vijayanagar and founded the Saluva Dynasty. Like most of his predecessors, Narasimha donated generously to the Varadaraja Perumal Temple. Kanchipuram was visited twice by the Vijayanagar king Krishna Deva Raya, considered to be the greatest of the Vijayanagar rulers, and 16 inscriptions of his time are found in the Varadaraja Perumal Temple. The inscriptions in four languages – Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Sanskrit – record the genealogy of the Tuluva kings and their contributions, along with those of their nobles, towards the upkeep of the shrine. His successor, Achyuta Deva Raya, reportedly had himself weighed against pearls in Kanchipuram and distributed the pearls amongst the poor. Throughout the second half of the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries, the Aravidu Dynasty tried to maintain a semblance of authority in the southern parts after losing their northern territories in the Battle of Talikota. Venkata II (1586–1614) tried to revive the Vijayanagar Empire, but the kingdom relapsed into confusion after his death and rapidly fell apart after the Vijayanagar king Sriranga III’s defeat by the Golconda and Bijapur sultanates in 1646.
After the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire, Kanchipuram endured over two decades of political turmoil. The Golconda Sultanate gained control of the city in 1672, but lost it to Bijapur three years later. In 1676, Shivaji arrived in Kanchipuram at the invitation of the Golconda Sultanate in order to drive out the Bijapur forces. His campaign was successful and Kanchipuram was held by the Golconda Sultanate until its conquest by the Mughal Empire led by Aurangazeb in October 1687.In the course of their southern campaign, the Mughals defeated the Marathas under Sambhaji, the elder son of Shivaji, in a battle near Kanchipuram in 1688 which caused considerable damage to the city but cemented Mughal rule. Soon after, the priests at the Varadaraja Perumal, Ekambareshwarar and Kamakshi Amman temples, mindful of Aurangazeb’s reputation for iconoclasm, transported the idols to southern Tamil Nadu and did not restore them until after Aurangazeb’s death in 1707. Under the Mughals, Kanchipuram was part of the viceroyalty of the Carnatic which, in the early 1700s, began to function independently, retaining only a nominal acknowledgement of Mughal rule. The Marathas invaded Kanchipuram during the Carnatic period in 1724 and 1740, and the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1742.
Kanchipuram was a battlefront for the British East India Company in the Carnatic Wars against the French East India Company and in the Anglo-Mysore Wars with the Sultanate of Mysore.The popular 1780 Battle of Pollilur of the Second Anglo-Mysore War, known for the use of rockets by Hyder Ali of Mysore, was fought in the village of Pullalur near Kanchipuram. In 1763, the British East India Company assumed indirect control from the Nawab of the Carnatic over the erstwhile Chingleput District, comprising the present-day Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur districts, in order to defray the expenses of the Carnatic wars. The Company brought the territory under their direct control during the Second Anglo-Mysore War, and the Collectorate of Chingleput was created in 1794. The district was split into two in 1997 and Kanchipuram made the capital of the newly created Kanchipuram district.
Hindus regard Kanchipuram to be one of the seven holiest cities in India, the Sapta Puri. According to Hinduism, a kṣetra is a sacred ground, a field of active power, and a place where final attainment, or moksha, can be obtained. The Garuda Purana says that seven cities, including Kanchipuram are providers of moksha. The city is a pilgrimage site for both Saivites and Vaishnavites. It has close to 108 shiva temples.
Ekambareswarar Temple in northern Kanchipuram, dedicated to Shiva, is the largest temple in the city. Its gateway tower, or gopuram, is 59 metres (194 ft) tall, making it one the tallest temple towers in India. The temple is one of five called Pancha Bhoota Stalams, which represent the manifestation of the five prime elements of nature; land, water, air, sky, and fire. Ekambareswarar temple temple represents earth.
Kailasanathar Temple, dedicated to Shiva and built by the Pallavas, is the oldest Hindu temple in existence and is declared an archaeological monument by the Archaeological Survey of India. It has a series of cells with sculptures inside. In the Kamakshi Amman Temple, goddess Parvati is depicted in the form of a yantra, Chakra or peetam (basement). In this temple, the yantra is placed in front of the deity. Adi Sankara is closely associated with this temple and is believed to have established the Kanchi matha after this temple.
Muktheeswarar Temple, built by Nandivarman Pallava II (720–796) and Iravatanesvara Temple built by Narasimhavarman Pallava II (720–728) are the other Shiva temples from the Pallava period. Kachi Metrali – Karchapeswarar Temple, Onakanthan Tali, Kachi Anekatangapadam, Kuranganilmuttam, and Karaithirunathar Temple in Tirukalimedu are the Shiva temples in the city reverred in Tevaram, the Tamil Saiva canonical work of the 7th–8th centuries.
Two pillars with hanging stone chain, Sculpted pillars and stone chain in Varadarajar temple
Kumarakottam Temple, dedicated to Muruga, is located between the Ekambareswarar temple and Kamakshi Amman temple, leading to the cult of Somaskanda (Skanda, the child between Shiva and Parvati). Kandapuranam, the Tamil religious work on Muruga, translated from Sanskrit Skandapurana, was composed in 1625 by Kachiappa Shivacharya in the temple.
Varadharaja Perumal Temple, dedicated to Vishnu and covering 23 acres (93,000 m2), is the largest Vishnu temple in Kanchipuram. It was built by the Cholas in 1053 and was expanded during the reigns of Kulottunga Chola I (1079–1120) and Vikrama Chola (1118–1135). It is one of the divyadesams, the 108 holy abodes of Vishnu. The temple features carved lizards, one platted with gold and another with silver, over the sanctum.Clive of India is said to have presented an emerald necklace to the temple. It is called the Clive Makarakandi and is still used to decorate the deity on ceremonial occasions.
Tiru Parameswara Vinnagaram is the birthplace of the azhwar saint, Poigai Alvar. The central shrine has a three-tier shrine, one over the other, with Vishnu depicted in each of them. The corridor around the sanctum has a series of sculptures depicting the Pallava rule and conquest. It is the oldest Vishnu temple in the city and was built by the Pallava king Paramesvaravarman II (728–731).
Ashtabujakaram, Tiruvekkaa, Tiruththanka, Tiruvelukkai, Ulagalantha Perumal Temple, Tiru pavla vannam, Pandava Thoothar Perumal Temple are among the divyadesam, the 108 famous temples of Vishnu in the city. There are a five other divyadesams, three inside the Ulagalantha Perumal temple, one each in Kamakshi Amman Temple and Ekambareswarar Temple.
The Kanchi Matha is a Hindu monastic institution, whose official history states that it was founded by Adi Sankara of Kaladi, tracing its history back to the 5th century BCE. A related claim is that Adi Sankara came to Kanchipuram, and that he established the Kanchi mutt named “Dakshina Moolamnaya Sarvagnya Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam” in a position of supremacy, namely Sarvagnya Peetha, over the other mathas (religious institutions) of the subcontinent, before his death there. Other historical accounts state that the mutt was established probably in the 18th century in Kumbakonam, as a branch of the Sringeri Matha, and that it declared itself independent.
Another mutt which was famous in ancient times was the Upanishad Bramham Mutt, located near Kailasanathar temple, Kanchipuram. It has the Mahasamadhi of Upanishad Brahmayogin, a saint who wrote commentaries on all the major upanishads in Hinduism. It is said that the great Sage, Sadasiva Brahmendra took to sanyasa at this mutt.