Sunday, January 30, 2011

Any tourist that comes to Kanchipuram are referred to three temples and this is one of them. We had already seen the Kailasanathar Temple earlier. It is mentioned in oldDSC00185en records that this town had 1000 temples once upon a time and was and is still today a prominent centre of worship. And with the Kanchi Mutt established here, it is always famous.

On the way to the Ekambareshwara Temple, we come across an other temple of prominence. I do not remember the name of the temple and unfortunately, i lost my iternary of this trip. One thing is for sure that this is a Siva shrine considering the Nandi statue that we see in front of the temple. The temple is relatively smaller compared to the others. However, a lot of locals visited this place when i was there.

As you see in this picture, the temple is small but is built with amazing architecture entirely. The ceiling is a hemisphere and topped with three kalasas. Surprisingly, we find Vishnu idols carved on top of this temple. We may recognize them only on a closer look. We can also identify this on the sculptures that are carved on the gopura. Photography was not actually allowed insidDSC00193e this temple complex and i remembered switching off my camera after the priest shouted at me. I had a good darshan and moved on to the Ekambaranathar temple.

This is the principal Saiva sanctuary at Kanchipuram & also the largest religious edifice in the vicinity, easily recognized by the soaring gopuras that dominate the city's skyline. A lofty pavilion is built in the middle of the street that leads up to the south gateway of the complex. Images of Ravana lifting Kailasa, Karthikeya with six heads, and Bhairava are carved on the pillars of this pavilion. This temple spreads over an area of 12.14 hectares and is surrounded by a huge stonewall built in the early 16th century during the days of the Vijayanagara Empire.

Ekambareshwar temple is of hoary antiquity, beginning as a small fane, it has grown over the centuries into a large one with innumerable shrines, Mandapams, Gopurams and Tanks. It is considered to be one of the most ancient temples in India and has been in existence even prior to 600 AD. The gopura that provides the focus for this street rises no less than 58.5 m (192 feet) high. This impressive structure was erected in 1509 by the Vijayanagara emperor Krishnadeva Raya. The pyramidal tower has eight diminishing storeys in plaster-covered brickwork. The vaulted roof has arched ends surmounted by monster masks with bulging eyes, pot finials adorn the ridge. The lower part of the gopura is of stone and carved with beautiful images of dwarapDSC00198alas and other deities.

The entrance to the inner complex is magnificent and the ceiling is a typical example of Vijayanagara architecture. The wooden door stands tall and decorated with kalasa kind of spokes. The sides of the doors is carved beautifully with creepers from the top to bottom. As we enter through the door, we see a painting on the left which tells about the legend that is associated with this temple.

According to the legend, Parvati, once in Kailasa, playfully closed the eyes of Lord Shiva, plunging the entire world in darkness. An angry Shiva cursed the Devi to turn dark like Kali. The Goddess descended on this place and did penance under a mango tree, making a Lingam out of earth. Hence, much significance is attached to this shrine and the mango tDSC00202ree, situated within the temple.

There is a Mantapa on the right side just after we enter through the main entrance. The Mantapas inside were constructed over generations of kings and dynasties. A clear distinction can be noticed in the architecture of each of the dynasties. Temples in Kanchipuram are always a amalgamation of art. Once we move further we see the main temple. It seems a narrow long one with not much place to move inside. Also, the outer side is recently renovated with colourful paintings. We cannot appreciate its true beauty and magnificence unless we move inside the shrine.

The viDSC00208ew that we see in the picture above is only a small part of the temple. However, we also see the sanctum here. The temple tank is surrounded by four corridors like the one we see in this picture. The temple is supposed to have 1000 pillars in all the four courtyards. Once we enter the temple from the side, what we see further which looks like a small courtyard and a first view of the art.

Turn your head to the right and you see pillars with Pallava style of architecture. A ferocious lion is carved at the top of each of the pillar. There is one amazing thing in this pillars that i have not noticed in anDSC00209y of the places that i had visited before. There is one more thin pillar supporting the main pillar. However, both pillars are not different. The thin one is carved out of the main pillar. The main pillar is carved with various forms of deities. And there is a small gaps between the supporting and the main pillar. One may not feel the greatness of this just be seeing one pillar. But if there are a series of these that one sees, they would definitely appreciate the greatness.

Even though this is primarily a Siva shrine, we see many forms of Lord Vishnu like Lord Rama, Narasimha and Krishna on the temples. From this, we can understand that even though there were huge differences and conflicts between Saivaites and Vaishnavaites in the early history, they gradually reduced leading to harmony among the people and within the religion.

There is one small shrine of Goddess Kali that you find here. It is a black statue with eight hands. Each of the hands hold a different weapon and one in the abhaya mudra. What a temple of Siva is without a Nandi? We can find a beautiful idol of Nandi DSC00214outside the main temple in a smaller mantapa. The mantapa is old, however the ceiling seems to be a recent construction. Even the Nandi statue is painted. If this is just for the beautification of the statue, it is sad to having demolished the actual beauty of it.

The above is the view if we turn our head to the right after entering the main temple. What do you see when you turn you head left is better experienced than said. We see a long series of pillars leading to the main sanctum. In between these statues, we find the dhwajasthamba standing magnificently in front. The pillars on each side have figures of horses ridden by warriors. They either are saluting the supreme deity or we can say that they depict the glory of the kingdom and the king who is a patron of the temples. These pillars are in typical Pallava architecture. Each of the pillars are carved from top to bottom with many deities, the prominent of which is the Devi aspect of Parvati.

I will talk more about this temple in the coming post too…


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