Kanchipuram - " Golden City Of Temples" was believed to be the most attractive city of ancient India .This city is one of India's seven sacred cities and is the second holiest place in India next to Varanasi. This city was the Historical Capital of the Pallavas, the Cholas and the Vijayanagar rulers. It was under the Pallavas from 6th to 8th century A.D. It later became the citadel of the Cholas, Vijayanagar kings, the Muslims and the British. During Pallava times, it was briefly occupied by the Chalukyans of Badami, and by the Rastrakutas when the battle fortunes of the Pallava kings reached a low ebb. Many of these temples are the beautiful work of Pallavas and later Cholas.
The remains of few Buddhist stupas here also bear testimony that Buddhism also prevailed here for a little while. One of the Acharya Peetas of Sri Adi Sankaracharya - "The Kanchi Kamakotti Peetam" is situated here. It has been a centre for Tamil learning and Culture for centuries and gives us a clear picture of the glorious Dravidian Heritage of the Vaishnavites and Shaivites.
The ancient Tamil empire spread out into what are now the states of Tamilnadu, Kerala, and some parts of Andhra Pradesh. There were three major Tamil kingdoms, namely the Chera, Chola, and the Pandiya kingdoms. In addition, there were smaller kingdoms like the Thondai and Kongu mandalams. Kanchipuram is believed to have been the capital city of the Thondai mandalam. There were periods when this region was under the rule of the Chola kingdom. It has also been under the Great Pallava dynasty for the longest period of time. The Pallava rule is said to have been the Golden period for the city of Kanchipuram, as well as Hindu arts and architecture. Each of the dynasties which ruled Kanchipuram has left historical monuments to speak of its glories.
In the early days, this city is said to have been built in the shape of a Peacock. Before the advent of Hinduism, this city had been a center for Buddhism. There have been a few monasteries in the city, from which monks travelled to eastern Asia to spread the religion. One among the prominent Buddhist monks who lived in the city is Bodhi Dharma.
When Buddhism later lost its roots in the country of its origin and continued to be practised in the south-eastern parts of Asia, Hinduism made Kanchipuram an entirely new city in all aspects. Kanchipuram and its neighboring cities became celebrated centers for Hindu architecture and arts. Not many of those monuments exist now. But, the region still has Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram to talk about the glory of the period.
Today, Kanchipuram is a small, rural town about 75 kilometres from Chennai (Formerly, Madras) in the state of Tamilnadu. It also serves as the district head quarters for the Chengalpattu district. Its economy is entirely dependent on Tourism and the well established handloom industry. Kanchipuram has thousands of handlooms and skilled weavers that make its silk sarees one of the best in the entire world. About 75% of the city's population is associated with the handloom industry in some way.
The Silk industry along with the city being the Capital of a Kingdom also brought people from various other parts of India over the years. Today's Kanchipuram is a cosmopolitan city with people speaking several languages.Other than the native Tamil, languages like Telugu, Kannada, and Saurashtra are also prevalent in the city.
With the Sankara Mutt acting as the hub of Hindu activities and the temples, Kanchipuram is still one of the most highly visited pilgrimage spots in India, and can rightfully be called the "Religious Capital of South India".
Moreover, almost all other religious cities in India support one of the two sects in Hinduism - Vaishnavism and Saivism. Kanchipuram has lended itself equally to both the sects, dividing itself into Vishnu Kanchi, surrounding the Varadaraja Perumal Temple, and Siva Kanchi, surrounding the Ekambaranathar Temple, while the Kamakshi Amman Temple stands in between as a place of Shakthi worship.
Surprisingly, the 'Religious capital of South India' is also the 'Atheistic capital of South India'. The strongest ever anti-hinduism movement in India, namely the Dravidian Movement has had very strong roots in the city. Some of the movement's eminent leaders like Arignar Anna were born and bred in Kanchipuram. Kanchipuram was also the birth place of the first political offshoot of the Dravidian movement, the Dravidar Kazhagam.
Kanchipuram ,the "Silken Paradise" is also world renowned for the gorgeous hand-woven silk sarees of myriad rich colours, noted for their shine, finish and matchless beauty.The exquisite silk sarees are woven from pure mulberry silk in contrasting colours and have an enviable reputation for lustre, durability and finish.They reflect a Weaving and dyeing tradition,hundreds of years old and whose riches the West came seeking before the industrial age was born.
- Area -11.6 Sq.Kms.
- Location - 70 Kms from Chennai
- Altitude - Sea level
- Season - Throughout the year
- Clothing - Tropical
- Languages spoken - Tamil, Telugu and English
- Festivals - Brahmothsavam, Car festival, Garudothsavam