Kanchipuram Chronicles

A seven-year stint in Chennai is meaningless without a trip to Kanchipuram. Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to undertake this pilgrimage in the autumn of 2017.

An extended weekend beckoned, and off we drove to the holy town.

Our first stopover was the Varadaraja Perumal temple, which is spread over a huge area. We spent two hours there, starting with the deity’s darshan, and exploring the spectacular architecture. The premises also house a unique temple. On the roof of its sanctum rests a golden lizard. It is said that devotees get cured of chronic diseases if they touch the reptile. Despite my inherent fear of anything that crawls or scurries, I stood in the queue and paid my homage to the weird ‘deity’. After all, I had nothing to lose.

After checking into a hotel and freshening up, we proceeded to Kumaran Kottam and Kamakshi Amman temples. Thanks to effective crowd management, we had a hassle-free experience. Our simian friends had a free run in the compound, feeding on the divine food offered to the Gods.

We then walked down to Ulaganathar Perumal temple. A huge stone carving of the Perumal greeted us, taking our breath away.

Next in line was the Kachabeshwar temple. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu had assumed the form of a tortoise to worship Lord Shiva and His Consort. Legends like these never cease to amaze me. A cool breeze hit us as we sat near the temple pond. Darkness had set in, and it was our last visit for the day. We sat on the ledge, trying to immerse ourselves in the divine atmosphere.

The next morning we visited the Kanchi Kamakothi Mutt. Words cannot describe the emotions we underwent as we witnessed the divine HH Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal not once, but twice. We prostrated ourselves before the Shankaracharya and were blessed by the Divine One. We had goosebumps and the Kanchipuram visit felt worthwhile.

Our last leg of the trip was reserved for the Kailasanatha temple. Beautiful ruins on a rain-kissed day only added to the awesomeness. How we wished that we could preserve our cultural remnants in a better manner! If only we had better explanations of the various sculptures. As far as the temple is concerned, there is a belief that you will attain Moksha (salvation) and your Atma (soul) will unite with the Parmatma (Supreme Being), if you climb down a pair of steps, crawl through a crevice, and come out of a narrow passageway, thereby circumambulating the deity. This also signifies the birth of a child as it enters the world after darkness. Many of us did not even dare to attempt that, for the passage was indeed narrow.

This was the last leg of our trip, and we bid adieu to the city of temples with mixed feelings.

Narayani V Manapadam

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