The Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple was the first temple that we set foot in when we entered Kanchipuram. In fact among all the Kanchipuram temples, we had selected this particular one because it is also the oldest structure in Kanchipuram. It was built in the Pallava Dynasty which means that it dates back to the somewhere between 686 – 705 A.D.
Our first glance at the Kailasanthar temple took our breath away. In fact, Shawn remarked that walking into the temple was almost like walking through a mini Angkor Wat. Well… Maybe one of the many temples in Angkor Wat. You get what I mean right? Before entering the Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple, we walked along the lawn in front of the temple. A statue of a cow stood on one side and a few trees boarded the perimeter offering respite from the sun. It also provided the perfect setting to click photographs of the temple in the distance
THE KAILASANATHAR TEMPLE
The view from the outside of the Kailasanathar Temple
The Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple is located in a small city called Kanchipuram. Kanchipuram is a small but well known city in Tamil Nadu a state in India. The Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple is a Hindu temple that is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is popular not just because of its age but also because of the intricate carvings.
We got in through the arch way and walked around the temple while simultaneously admiring the skill of the artisans. A path way circles the main temple. The walls are as ornately designed as the temple itself. Bear in mind that you need to keep your shoes outside the entrance. It is considered a sign of respect. That’s why it is best to visit before the sun heats up the stones too much.
The Pandit who told us all about the temple.
With our walk almost completed we were about to leave when we happened to meet the religious leader (also known as the ‘Pandit’) of the temple. He told us that his family had been caring for the Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple for generations.
The Pandit gave us a deeper insight into the temple as he explained that no one knew exactly what stone was used to construct the temple. That meant that the conservation of the Kanchi Kailasanathar temple was difficult. During the British era, the British attempted to conserve the temple by plastering the walls. In the process they covered up beautiful paintings. The temple is working on a way to restore them but the process is difficult. We walked around the temple once more to see what he had described. It’s amazing how information changes your perspective of how you view things.
INSIDE KANCHI KAILASANATHAR TEMPLE
Intricate carvings on the temple walls.
The Pandit invited us inside where he explained that every morning people would gather both inside and outside the temple to meditate. Photography is not allowed in the inner sanctum of the Kanchi Kailasanathar temple. The inner sanctum holds a ‘Shivlinga’ or ‘Shivling’. A lot of people do not know what the Shivling is. The Shivling consists of a cylindrical structure that symbolizes Shiva and it rests on the middle of a disc like structure that symbolizes the Shakti. There is a tendency to deduce that the structure of the Shivling represents the male and female genitalia but it is one of the many reflections around the topic. If you would like to read more about it you can consult Wikipedia and their detailed explanation about the Shivling.
A colorful glimpse behind the plaster.
The Pandit went on to show us that there was a small tunnel that went round the Shivling. Now the Hindus believe in the concept of rebirth. According to the Pandit, it is believed that if one would walk round the Shivling through the tiny tunnel one would give up their right to rebirth. The tunnel is supposed to be very tiny that even the thinnest person will find it difficult to navigate through it. At the end of the tunnel, the person will emerge crouched and bent over… It is a lot like a child exiting a mother’s womb and hence symbolic of rebirth.
The Pandit explained all this in English so if you pass by don’t hesitate to stop and talk to him. He is an interesting man with numerous stories to tell. The man brought the temple alive with his passion. He pointed out which parts of the temple would show us the most details of the past.
Have you visited the Kanchi Kailasanathar temple? What was your experience there? Let us know in the comments below.