Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Kailasanathar (also spelt as
Kailashnatha) is one of the earliest temples built by the Pallava ruler
Rajasimha Pallava and was completed by his son, Mahendra Varma Pallava in
the 8th century AD. It is the oldest structure in Kanchipuram and the
finest example of Pallava architecture in South India. The temple is
situated among several low-roofed houses just over 1-km west of the town
This temple is viewed more as an architectural wonder than as a holy place. Hence, it is never crowded with locals. At any time, you will find only a couple of tourists in addition to the priest. Of course, this scenario changes occasionally, when busloads of tourists arrive, only to stay around for less than half an hour. But, once in a year during Shivaratri festival large crowds visit the temple and there could be hours of waiting in long queues.
About The Temple
This temple is unique in its architecture. The walls and the Vimanam of this temple are filled with great sculptures and paintings. Walls in the dim interior bear traces of frescoes, and the ceilings are etched with religious verses written in Pali. The early Pallavas scooped rocks to from a temple, while Rajasimha placed granites to form a freestanding temple with Prakarams, Ghostas, Mandapams and Vimanam.
A huge kneeling Nandi stands in the front facing the temple and a look at it clearly indicates it must have been painted in gorgeous colours once. At the entrance are eight sub-shrines, of which, Rangapatakai, queen of Rajasimha, built the third from the right.
The shrine next in the entrance and opposite to the main shrine is called "Mahendresvaram" and was built by the king's son Mahendran. This structure is almost like a small shrine with Divitala Tara Vimanam sheltering a Tara Linga and a Somaskanda relief in the sanctum.
At the back of this shrine on the outside and facing west is the Pallava king Rajasimha with his queen Rangapatakai canopied by a parasol. In ancient times, it was the custom to equate kings with the queen raised to a divine status in more than 3 places in niches in the outer Prakaram. Their 2 hands recognize them, while Gods are endowed with four.
Paintings of Fresco-style adorn the inner walls of the shrines. Sandstone was used in the construction of this temple. It is the only temple at Kanchipuram, which is not cluttered with the more recent additions of the Chola and Vijayanagar rulers. Fragments of the 8th century murals, which once graced the alcoves, are a visible remainder of how magnificent the temple must have looked, when it was first built.
The sanctum (inaccessible to non-Hindus) shelters a sturdy sixteen-sided black Linga (also spelt as lingam), guarded by elephant-headed Ganesh and Lord Shiva's other son, Skanda, the God of war, with whom the King Rajasimha was closely associated. Double walls were built round the sanctuary to support the weighty tower above; the passage between them is used as a circumambulatory path as part of the ritual worship of Lord Shiva.
The Innumerable Forms Of Lord Shiva
Of all the temples in India, no other edifice has been so elaborately filled with all the 64 aspects of Lord Shiva and something else. Two circuits, one outer and another around the sanctum adorn this temple. It is not mere walls that fringe the corridor. Small shrine-like cells have been constructed along the entire length of both sides and filled with the various exploits of Lord Shiva, not found anywhere else.
Shiva Lilarnavam, Sambu Nadaname and such other literatures have exquisitely described the dances of Lord Shiva. Come straight to this temple and walk around the corridor. The cells on the periphery are small, while on the inner wall they are big with big images.
Lord Shiva's leg outstretched and piercing the high heavens; Gajantaka who attired himself with the torn skin of the elephant Asura, with Uma standing coyly nearby; Bhikasadana who with his comely figure disturbed the hearts of the wives of the sages, and as a charming Mohini lured the sages from their rituals; "Ardanari", a half blended with Uma; "Sandya Thandava Shiva who danced at dusk wielding a Trisula (also spelt as Trishula); Gangadara who stemmed the force of Ganga in his locks; Brahma-Chiracheda murthi who clipped off the fifth head of Brahma by his nail; "Vishapaharana" who arrested the poison Alahala in his throat; Gowriprasada who changed the colour from black to a golden hue; "Chanda Thandavan" with "Rowdram" (anger), "Karunai" (mercy), "Sringar" (amour), "Bayam" (fear), "Nagai" (Smile) and "Veeryam" (Valour) exhibited in his face.
Thiripurantakan who without a single weapon destroyed the Asuras (demons) with his mere smile, Kritarjunamurti in the guise of a hunter, Chandesvara Anugraha, LinGodbavar, Bairava, Harihara are some the innumerable forms of Lord Shiva that can be witnessed here.
Chennai is the
nearest airport to Kanchipuram.
One can take flights for most of the important Indian cities and cities
abroad from Chennai.
Rail:Trains for Kanchipuram are available from Chennai, Chengalpattu, Tirupati, and Bangalore.
Road: Kanchipuram is 75-km away from Chennai and is well connected by a network of roads. There are frequent buses from the city to Chennai, Bangalore and other places. For local transportation, bicycles can be hired from the shops near the bus stand. Cycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws are also available on hire to move in and around the city.
Accommodation is available at the moderate class and small budgeted hotels, lodges, and choultries in Kanchipuram.