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Kanchipuram, the city of a thousand temples

Kanchipuram la ville au mille temples
Kanchipuram Vaikuntanathaperumal Temple
Kailasanatha Temple de Kanchipuram

One of the oldest cities in South India, its history dates back to the second century B.C. when it was the first capital of the Chola dynasty. From the third to the ninth century A.D., it was the capital of the Pallava dynasty, before it became, again, the seat of the Cholas' government (10th - 13th). An important city of the Vijayanagar Empire from the 15th to the 17th century, it was conquered by the Muslim and Maratha armies. Sacked twice by the French, it fell into British hands in the 18th century.

Throughout its history, Kanchipuram has remained an important pilgrimage centre. Also a Jain and Buddhist learning centre, the great Hindu philosopher Ramanuja (1017-1137) studied there. Today, it is considered one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism. Nicknamed the 'city of a thousand temples', it has no less than 108 dedicated to Shiva and 18 dedicated to Vishnu. We have chosen to present two of them to you.  

Kanchipuram temple

Kailasanatha Temple

Built between 700 and 720, it is the oldest of the Pallava structures that remain today. At the entrance, 8 small aligned shrines, identical in style, are made of sandstone with a granite surface for the inscriptions.

Past the shrines, a temple stands in front of the main temple built by the Pallava king, Rajasimha (695–722). While the walls around the temple are adorned with exquisite carvings, the paths are dotted with small shrines with faded frescoes upon which appear fine carvings of benign and evil gods.

Numerous inscriptions appear around the temple. They are often to the glory of King Rajasimha to describe his munificence, his bravery and his piety. Amazed by the architectural beauty of the temple, many other rulers would later take up this style and these inscriptions in the construction of other temples.

Vaikuntanathaperumal Temple Kanchipuram

Vaikuntanatha Perumal Temple

Unlike most of his Shiva-worshipping ancestors, King Nandivarma Pallava Malla (732–796) was a great devotee of Vishnu. He built this temple, dedicated to his god, between 755 and 790. The walls of the covered promenade around the vimana of the temple are divided into a series of panels.

They describe the entire history of the Pallava dynasty. The vimana is similar to that of the Kailasanatha temple with a different ground plan. It contains, on three levels, the deities of Vishnu in sitting, reclining and standing postures.

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