OH! And one important and interesting fact about the Kailasanathar temple is that the Chola king Raja Raja Cholan , under whose regime the Chola empire was at its zenith derived the inspiration to construct the great Brihadeeswarar temple in Tanjore (another UNESCO world heritage site) after visiting this jewel in Kanchi.
Our second stop was the Vaikunta Perumal temple. Perumal is Lord Vishnu and Vaikunta is the resting abode of Lord Vishnu. Yet another beauty. Built around the same time as the Kailasanathar temple, has the same skills of the sculptors preserved in every square corner of this huge structure.The entire circumambulatory passage of the main shrine is smothered in carvings. Every carving speaks a story. Of the king who built it, of the Lord that sits inside, the people that thronged these very steps some thousand years ago. But many sculptures now show signs of weariness. They appear smooth, rounded, without any details to suggest what thoughts the sculptor must have had while chipping and chiselling away. While revelling in the splendour surrounding us, imagine our surprise when we met a band of youths, who like us had a piece of paper in their hands listing all the ASI sites in Kanchi. HA! And in thought we were the only ones! Felt good to know that young minds made an effort to go around their city and learn and appreciate the legacy our forefathers have left us.’Cause history is not everyone’s favourite subject. Sadly. An elderly gentleman with the same interests as ours guided us ably towards two ASI sites that we had missed.
There was one another site in the vicinity of the Vaikunta Perumal temple, Mathangeeshwarar temple, another Shiva abode. A smaller one compared to the earlier temples yet nonetheless held its own in this land of temples.The sculptures were unique in every sense. It still baffles me, how the sculptors could ever create such unique yet similar pieces all at the same time. Clicked a few pictures and then our stomachs started to grumble in protest of our ignorance towards it. Saravana Bhavan, is what captured our fancy when we rode through the busy streets(mainly because we were famished and couldn’t wait to get food in our bellies and that was what we spotted first). Had a simple meal and set out to the last two spots on our list.
Iravathanesvara temple and Piravathanesvara temple. Unfortunately both of these are open to the public only in the morning before 7:00. They are closed after the priests perform the morning rituals.So we could just a glimpse of it from the outside.It had the same “other worldly” aura to it. Maybe some other day we could come back for the two. Before bidding a final goodbye we there was one other site that , though was not in the ASI list was definitely worth a visit. The Varadaraja Perumal temple. Right on the outskirts of kanchipuram. Also known as Little Kanchipuram.
Varadaraja Perumal temple is believed to have been built in the 11th century during the reign of the Cholas and expanded continually by the kings that followed. The highlights of this place are its Gopuram and the large pillared hall adjacent to the temple tank. The exquisiteness of the sculptures and carvings here is unmatched. The details just stand at a single glance! You are bound to be mesmerised by the intricacies of the stone mythological beings that come to life here! We could not only see the sculptures but also the feel the passion that the sculptors must have felt while creating these timeless beings. Be it the perfect hourglass figures of the women or the horses with its reins pulled by a man who looks so fierce that one forgets it is just stone that has been chipped and chiselled away so perfectly , to reveal the most ferocious looking eyes and a set of perfectly aligned gnarling teeth! The most heartening thing to see was how well maintained everything was. ‘Cause there was a steady influx of devotees even in the sweltering heat yet everything looked as pristine as ever. The sanctum wasn’t open to the devotees yet and there was a still a good couple of hours to go. But we had to head back home before nightfall hence left there after the celestial tour of the pillared hall! We would definitely go back for more!