Topping my list of favourite destinations, a trip to Kanchipuram has always been on my bucket list. And when I was finally able to plan and visit Kanchipuram for sightseeing, the first thing that I did was book a Kanchipuram tour package. In hindsight, it was a great decision.
Known for its grand temples and for silk of the highest quality, Kanchipuram is a sheer delight as a tourist destination. The town, located in the northern part of Tamil Nadu, is a 2-hour drive away from the capital of the state, Chennai. Being easily accessible, it was pretty clear that Kanchipuram as a tourist spot is quite popular in the southern part of India.
The architecture of Kanchipuram that has survived the ravages of time was mostly built during the economic and cultural peak of the Pallava Kingdom and the Chola Dynasty. Although the city rose to glory during this period, Kanchipuram has long been part of the history of the subcontinent. It finds mention in the Mahabharata, as a part of the Dravida Kingdom, making it an important part of the rich history of the region.
1. Delve into my Kanchipuram experience
Kanchipuram was presided over by the Pallava Dynasty from the 2nd to the 6th century BC, which was also the period in which the ancient town gained the most of its renown. During the Pallava Dynasty, a majority of the temples of Kanchipuram, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, were built. Even today, 14 of the 108 Divya Desams are located in Kanchipuram among a total of 25 ancient structures, most of which I was able to visit during my Kanchipuram sightseeing.
These temples are prime examples of traditional Dravidian architecture and showcase the evolution of arts in ancient India, and also are some of the best places to visit in Kanchipuram. If you have even a little interest in architecture and history as I do, it would be a great idea for you to add these destinations to your itinerary for Kanchi sightseeing.
Apart from the temples, you can also explore some sightseeing places near Kanchipuram if you have the time. Nathapettai Lake and the banks of the river Palar would be among my favourite sightseeing places near Kanchipuram and I would definitely recommend that you visit them.
Apart from the sightseeing places in Kanchipuram, the destination is also well-known all over the country for its Kanchipuram Silk, which is incidentally considered as a fabric of the highest order. Pure Mulberry Silk with Zari work is a signature design found in Kanchipuram and is of the finest quality. It is only in Kanchipuram where you can find authentic varieties of this wonderfully spun material. It makes for a great gift to take back home!
I’ve already mentioned how the grand temples of Kanchipuram, be it from the Pallava period, the Chola, or even the Vijayanagar era, are a marvellous experience and make up a majority of the sightseeing places in Kanchipuram. However, if you too wish to visit the city on your next vacation, here are some of the best sightseeing places in Kanchipuram that you can add to your itinerary for a complete experience:
2. Kamakshi Amman Temple
The Kamakshi Amman Temple is an important destination to visit when you head out on your Kanchipuram sightseeing tour. Built in honour of Goddess Kamakshi, who is believed to be a form of Goddess Parvati, the temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas, which makes it an important religious destination. The temple celebrates strength, fertility, and love.
The temple is full of fine statues and sculptures that depict the gods and goddesses. Built in the 12th century, the temple is an example of architecture that stays true to the Dravidian style, but also has hints of Pallava and Chola influences in the construction.
The temple comprises of several interesting features, such as the detailed sculptures of gods, hundred pillar halls that extend for several meters, and finally, a sanctuary for elephants.
The sheer antiquity of the sculptures and the details that have gone into their construction offer an enticing experience that you won’t forget easily, making the Kamakshi Amman Temple an important religious and historical location among other Kanchipuram tourist spots.
3. Varadharaja Perumal Temple
Another one of the popular places to visit in Kanchipuram that I was able to witness is the Varadharaja Temple complex. Spread across a 23-acre area and boasting of a 400 pillared wall that was built in the honour of Lord Vishnu during the reign of the Chola Kingdom, the temple was constructed around the year 1053. Over the years, as the rulers of the land changed, modifications were made to the temple by other kings of the Chola Empire and even by rulers from the Vijayanagar Empire. Each empire left a mark of their art and culture in the design of the temple complex, which overall comprises of 32 shrines and a sanctum that houses a 40 feet tall wooden idol of Lord Vishnu. The 100 pillars of the mandap in the Varadharaja Temple are all decorated and sculpted with murals and depictions from legends and epics of ancient India, including the Ramayana. The art and architecture that you will be able to explore at the temple make it one of the important places to visit in Kanchipuram.
4. Devarajaswami Temple
The Devarajaswami Temple follows a traditional architectural structure from the era of the Vijayanagar Empire and displays characteristics of typically styled Dravidian temples that are devoted to Lord Vishnu. The temple is famous for its wedding hall and mandap, which has carvings that depict the wedding of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi. The pillars of the hall are works of fine craftsmanship and reflect the evolution of art in the temples of Kanchipuram through the reign of several empires. The temple is also a famous Kanchipuram tourist spot because of the water tank located on the premises. The tank houses an Idol of Lord Vishnu that you can view every 40 years, which is when the tank is drained. I wasn’t able to catch much of a glimpse of the idol, but maybe you would be able to!
The brilliant architecture and art along with the calming atmosphere of the temple are what make it a must-visit destination when sightseeing in Kanchipuram.
5. Ekambaranatha Temple
Another place I headed to for some Kanchipuram sightseeing is the Ekambaranatha Temple. This is the largest temple in Kanchipuram. Built by the Pallava kings in honour of Lord Shiva, the temple was renovated by the Cholas as well as the Rayas. The complex is spread across 20 acres of land and has several interesting features that make it one of the most unique places to visit in Kanchipuram.
The 1000 shivalingas that have been carved from a single rock, the thousand pillared halls, and a 3500-year-old mango tree are some of the features here that are an important part of the Kanchipuram sightseeing experience. The 3500-year-old mango tree has 4 separate extensions, which depict the 4 Vedas. And legend has it that the fruits from all the 4 sections taste different even though they are from the same tree.
6. Vaikunda Perumal Temple
Out on Kanchi sightseeing, it is not difficult to see that Kanchipuram basically has two divisions, namely, Siva Kanchi and Vishnu Kanchi, based on the temples located in the regions. Vaikunda Perumal is a temple belonging to the Vishnu Kanchi part of the town. Built in the 8th century by King Nadivarman II, the temple is a fine example of craftsmanship and serves as a window into the history of South India. Vibrant and antique, the temple is not something you can miss and definitely should add to your list of places to visit in Kanchipuram.
The walls of the temple are covered with inscriptions about the history of the temple and about the history of the town of Kanchipuram. The Archaeology Department of India maintains the temples, while also studying these inscriptions, which makes it one of the important places to visit on a Kanchipuram sightseeing tour.
7. Nathapettai Lake
Surrounding the tourist places of Kanchipuram, Nathapettai Lake is a great destination. The lake is full of fish and fishermen going about their business. The pristine lake spreads across an area of 250 hectares and is supplied by the river Palar. Located in the outskirts of the town of Kanchipuram, is the lake is famous as a seasonal bird-watching destination as well. The lake also offers a calm ambience as compared to Kanchipuram and other surrounding tourist places. It was the early mornings of summer when I visited, which is a great time for one to spot the birds of the region, some of which even swoop down into the water to catch their morning prey.
Kanchipuram is a site of heritage, culture, and history. It is a destination that will let you look in and introspect as you gaze around at the several monuments that stand testament to the very history the city displays. It is a town that has stood witness to different empires across centuries. A trip to this antique town to explore the best sightseeing places in Kanchipuram is your chance to relive the grandeur and grace of a time long gone past.