Monday, 28 December 2009

Pallava Architecture : Kailasanatha Temple - Kanchipuram

Kailasanatha Temple - The Sandstone Wonder

Beautiful Mini Rathas at Kailasantha Temple in Kanchi
Kanchipuram known as the city of 1000 Temples. Praised as a Model City by Kalidasa i.e. "Nagareshu Kanchi", holds great treasures in terms of art and architecture.

Shiva in an Unique Form of Bikshu 
(Notice the Hair Style and  Detailed Attention given to the Sandals)

A Close Up

Situated in the secluded western corner of the city, this great work of art is given a miss by many mainly due to lack of information. But still one will be amazed to see the crowd of foreigners overwhelming the locals at many occasions.

Shiva Killing Demon Form Ignorance
(Realistic Expression of Anger and Fear)

Built in late 7th Century by Pallava King Narsimhavarman II commonly known as Rajasimha who being an ardent Shiva Devotee was also a great lover of art, Rajasimha named the Main deity , a Shiva linga as Rajasimhesvara. The temple is simply a poetry in stone and a grandeur outwitted only by Structures at Mahabalipuram, built by the same king. The temple was his way of quenching his Spiritual and Artistic thirst at the same time The temple Structure holds around 300 titles of Rajasimha and that too in different scripts.. a grand feat for any king.

Monkey-King Bali Praying and Ravana trying to Ambush(In Vain)
(Notice how Ravana is portrayed in the depiction)

A Close-up of Bali praying to the Shiva
(In South we have temples where Shiva is termed as Valeeswara. 
Believed to be places where Bali have prayed to lord Shiva)

Supposed to be built on the lines of Mount Kailasha , the abode of Shiva. The temple hosts an outer wall in form of "Rathas" which results in creation of a passage for the devotees also known as "Sandharaprasada". There is ample proof that many parts of the temple structure were once covered in Natural vegetable Colours. At present only fragment of the same exists if one pays close attention to the structures.


The temple sports a courtyard with Nandi in a Mandap supported by four pillars. While entering it to the temple we are faced with a smaller Shiva shrine built by successor of Rajasimha, Mahendravarman II.

The Majestic Goddess riding her Lion...

BoldNote the Expressions ...A Grin on Face

Built of sandstone with Stone base, the temple stands testimonial to the prowess of Pallava Architects and Sculptors. The first thing that will hit you while entering this temple is the "Cell" like Structures (58 in all) forming the outer wall with perfect symmetry and spacing providing a mesmerizing viewing.

Ravana Bearing Mt Kailash on his Head
(Notice How Ravana is shown to be buried in ground due to weight of Mountain
his chest belt is in motion as if he is trying hard.
At the same you can notice a grin on the face of Shiva and Parvati above)

Looking Closely we see another Somaskanda (Family) Figure
(Notice the Smile)

Remember our old Drawing classes where we were told to have margin around the pictures, now implement the same on stone and we get Cells as a Margin to work inside. Another aspect which is quite prevalent is the numerous Bulbous pillars with Lions in a alert position at the base and Nandi the Bull being placed at various locations, this shows Pallava's great interest with the Lion figures and Nandi the Bull as it was their Royal Emblem. Rajasimha calls himself as Rishabhalanchana (Having Bull as Emblem)

One of Many Somaskanda Panels

The Concept of Somaskanda (i.e. Sa Uma Skanda - Shiva With Uma and Skanda in Middle), was prevalent among Pallavas and the love for the same can be seen all around in the form of Panels inside the Niches. This can be also taken as a proof that concept of Ganesha was not widespread during Early years of Pallava era which is mirrored in their Architecture also.

Lord Shiva the Cosmic Dancer
(This Pose is also called Swastika Mudra as it forms a Swastik...
What an imagination)

The evolution of Dravidian Architecture can be gauged by this fine work of art.The Gopuram (Entrance) is smaller than Vimana (Main tower of the Shrine) which was reversed during and after Chola era. Pallava sculptors were inclined in helping viewers understand their work rather than overwhelming the viewers which is signature of Chola Architecture.

A Unique Depiction of Ardhanareeshwara
Half Shiva Half Parvati at Kailsanatha temple
 (Lots of discussion/Arguments on this. Pls See the Comments)
(Notice the change in Earings and Hand Bands. The Shiva side is having Snake around it )

The Giving Factor is Different rings on an each ear

Large Spaces around the Stone work stands as a strong differentiators with respect to later style of architecture like Cholas and Hoysalas who believed in even filling the smallest of spaces.

Beautiful Gaja Lakshmi

That is why Late Mr. Alexander Rea (Officer of Erstwhile Southern ASI)
has rightly pointed out in his landmark book Pallava Architecture that as far as disciplined way of working goes there is no competition to Pallavas in Dravidian Architecture.

One of the Oldest Ganesha/Vinayaka Idol in South
(Pallavas Actually introduced the Concept of Ganesha to South)

Lot of similarities can be noted between the Murals and Idols of the shrine with that of Ajanta and Ellora. A shrine called Kailasantha also exists in Ajanta and Ellora. The detailed study done by Alexander Rea during British era stands as the single-most authority on this temple till date is regarded as the main reference. It is amazing to know that not a single publication by an Indian writer exists even after so many years of independence.

A Rare Depiction of Trimurti (Hindu Trinity) at Kailasanatha Temple
This temple had seen many wars and even at those times the victorious opposing camp were full of praise about the temple and spared the destruction. That is how future generations like us were fortunate enough to see this marvel.

Lord Dakshinamurthy in an unique and never before Looks
Even after the decline of the Pallavas , the structure continued to inspire many noteworthy among them was the great ruler of Chola Empire, Raja Raja Chola who visited this temple and named it as "kachipettu periya thirukatrali" (Big Stone Temple of Kachipettu). The temple acted as his inspiration for building the Great Big Temple at Thanjavur and also named the Shiva Linga as Rajarajeswaram on the lines of Rajasimha.The grandeur and size of Big Temple at Thanjavur was to compete with all the aspects of Kailasanatha temple.

The Chola Era Inscriptions

The Inscriptions left by Chalukyan King Vikramaditya II on the temple Pillar stands as testimony for the same. This particular inscription describe how the invading Chalukyan king was overwhelmed by the Grandeur of the Structure and returned all the "booty" . With this he avenged his earlier humiliation by the Pallavas and engraved one of the oldest existing Kannada inscription.

Shiva Taking a head of Brahma in Anger

Also he took famous sculptors from Kanchi and built a similar structure in his capital Pattadakal.
It is amazing to note that the Chalukyan king saw the real value or wealth in art rather than the booty which speaks volumes about the skills of Pallavan Craftsmen.

Lion Rider with a Smile on Face

A Close Up of the Calmness
Moving inside to the main shrine, we are welcomed with the view of huge Shiva linga with a narrow passage around it, which makes this shrine peculiar is the Circumambulation (Pradikshana) . It is in shape of a tunnel believed to mirror a path taken by a child on the way to his birth from mothers Womb. While going through the Circumambulation, one gets nostalgic just on the thought that many kings and super personalities would have gone through the same ... Simply Magical isn't it. The 10 feet high linga itself is made up of different Cubical Granite Sticks which reflects in the outer edges being flat instead of being cylindrical.

The place was home to many beautiful Frescoes, some of which were lost due to tide of time but many were lost in the name of restoration. Many years ago, the structure was blindly covered in white plaster coating to avoid weathering which in turn destroyed lot of beautiful paintings.

Lost Murals

Zoomed In

At present Proper "Scientific" Restoration of Structure is in progress with help of Archaeological deptt and this has enabled partial restoration of few Murals but still many have been lost for good.

(Above) Lord Shiva Flanked by Lord Vishnu to his Left

One of the many names of King Rajasimha as 
Shri Unatharama in Beautiful Pallava Grantha Lipi 
One of the Lion Pillars
(Lion was the favourties of Pallava Dynasty)

It was my wish to share few of the droplets of info from the ocean that this shrine has to offer for the lover of arts. I hope that I have generated a little bit of curiosity for you all to visit this work of art in person. This temple is under the supervision of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), who are doing a good job of preserving this priceless gem. I personally recommend that you hire a Guide from ASI when you visit this place, it is really worth it.

The Legendary Duel between Shiva and Arjuna

Note the Calmness on Arjuna's Face
(Long Crown Signifies Royalty)

Note:Also try to visit the Vaikunta Perumal Temple in the City which depicts a completely different facets of Pallava Architecture and their advancements.

Harihara (Half Shiva and Half Vishnu)
(Axe in Right Hand and Conch in Left Hand)

The Multi Tiered Temple is a treat to watch with huge panels depicting the life of Royals and their Subjects in Huge Panels which is very much similar to the Panels found in Angkor Vat (Cambodia) thus showing the relation between Pallavas and Khmer Dynasty who share similar kind of ancestry.

Vishnu In Human form (Not Tortoise) holding Mountain in a scene from Samudramanthan

I Will Try to shed some light on the same in my future posts.

How to Reach:
Kanchipuram is about 75 Km from Chennai and is the nearest airport from Kanchipuram. Local Trains for Kanchipuram is also available from Chennai,.It is also well connected from Chengalpattu, Thirupathi, and Bangalore. Once in Kancheepuram, You can make use of Local transportation like autos and taxis.

Legend Associated:
There is a fascinating legend associated with this temple, It is said that when the date consecration of the Temple was just a day away, the joyous and pompous King Rajasimha had a dream where Lord Shiva appeared and expressed his inability to be present during consecration of the temple as he will be attending an another consecration on the same day of another ardent devotee, Poosalar. Rajasimha was asked to have the consecration on another day.

Narasimha Taking hold of Hiranyakashapu

Ganesha in Playful Mood with his Ganas
(Ganesh Means Lord of Shiv Ganas)

After he came out of the dream, He immediately ordered for culmination of the proceedings and started his search for the person named Poosalar. He was informed that Poosalar lived in a place called Thirunindravoor.

Vishnu's Trivikrama Pose

When King personally arrived at Thirunindravoor and went about enquiring about Poosalar, he was mystified to know that Poosalar lived in Poverty and didnt even had a proper place to live.
On the question of a new temple , Villages were totally unaware on any sort of new temple coming up in the vicinity.

Shiva in Peaceful Mood

Even though Puzzled , Rajasimha having complete faith in Lord Shiva's words sought meeting Poosalar in person and was taken to him who was meditating under a tree. After King informed Poosalar of reason behind his presence, Poosalar face was brimming with happiness.

What Poosalar told next surprised everybody in vicinity particular King. He informed that the he was indeed building a temple for the Lord but that temple was in his heart and that he had planned to consecrate the lord in the temple on the day when King Rajasimha had planned. Infact Poosalar was building step by step a grand temple in his heart and Mind.

Listening to Poosalar , the king realized his mistake of being egoistic. Lord had enlightened him on the power of pure devotion which is devoid of any grandeur or riches. Rajasimha took the task of building exact replica of temple that Poosalar had in his mind and gave the name 'Hrudhayaleeswarar' ( One Who lives in Heart) to deity.

This act of pure devotion had placed Poosalar and Rajasimha among the Sixty four Nayanmars (Ardent Shiva Devotes in the Periyapuranam)

Then what are you waiting for ? Go On ..Take a dive in the Ocean of Art and Enjoy the Poetry in Stone !!

As always request you to share your views !!!

A Special Note of Thanks :
I would like to thank my Good Friend Vijay ( for his Continous Support and Motivation.


Thursday, 23 July 2009

Vishnu Temples in Tamil Nadu (Courtesy:The Hindu)


Divine home of the Saint-Poetess (20031017) 

Another abode of Lord Venkateswara (Lord Venkata Varadaraja temple in Aaymur, near Thirukkuvalai, in Nagapattinam district) (20021004)

Sri Anjel Perumal temple (20050729) New

As holy as Tirumala (Ambujavalli Nayikaa Samedha Lakshmi Narayana temple, 20 km from Kachipuram) (20020510)

Unsung but not forgotten (Lord Lakshminarayana in Ananthakrishnapuram village near Tirunelveli) (20021227)

Five Lords of a hill temple (Located near Wandavasi in North Arcot district) (20040430)

Temple for the Great Trinity (Bikshandarkoil and Thirukandiyur are two places where Siva, Vishnu and Brahma are seen near each other.) (20030321)

Sri Lakshmi Balaji temple, Pallikaranai (20050701)
Sri Parthasarathy temple, Tiruvallikeni (20050211)
Sri Lakshmi Nrisimha Temple, Maraimalai Nagar (20050211)
The benign radiance of Gitacharyan (Sri Parthasarathy Swamy temple, Tiruvallikeni) (20040521)
Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, Keelkattalai (20040521)
Where sage Brighu did penance (Sri Madhava Perumal Temple, Mylapore) (20040507)
Eighty years of majestic presence (Srinivasa Perumal temple, Mylaore) (20040423)
Srinivasa Perumal Temple, Mylapore (20030603)
Srinivasa Perumal temple, Purasawalkam (20030424)
Golden Satari for Udaiyavar (20030418)
Twin temples of Koyambedu (20030403)
Sowmya Damodara Perumal temple, Villivakkam (20030306)
Yoga Narasimha Temple, Velacherry (20030206)
Lord Varadaraja temple, Virugambakkam (20020520)

Captivating deities at Chettipunnyam (Devanathaswami temple) (20020913)

Sri Varada Anjaneya temple (20040730)

Sri Ranganatha temple in Devadanam village, Ponneri taluk, Tiruvallur (20040604)

In need of attention (Elanagar Perumal Koil -- 25 km from Kanchipuram in Uthiramerur taluk) (20041015)

Akin to Tirupati (Sri Prasanna Venkatachalapathy temple -- 15 km southeast of Musiri in Tiruchi dist.) (20040402)
For those in search of solace (Sri Prasanna Venkateswara temple) (20010706)

Sri Srinivasa Perumal temple (20050610)

Kanchi temple in need of renovation (Devarajaswami Temple) (20040514)
The great Light of Thiruthannka (The Deepaprakasar temple, Thooppul) (20030815)
Reviving the glory of Pelapur temple (Lord Keerthinarayana) (20030627)
Triad of sacred spots (20030110)

Birthplace of Vaishnavite saints (Karappankadu temple can be reached by travelling via the Mannargudi-Pattukkottai bus route) (20030530)

An interesting temple tale (Sri Jayaveera Abhayahastha Anjaneya temple near Kadayanallur) (20030103)

Sri Ramaswamy temple (20050128)

Sri Thiru-Uraga perumal temple (20050325)

Picture of neglect (Adi Narayana Temple at Kurumbur in Tuticorin district) (20021227)

Festive time at the city of temples (Kallazhagar temple) (20000421)

Maduranthakam — unique and significant (Aeri Katha Ramar temple) (20020809)

Ancient shrines near Sriperumbudur (Sri Rajagopala swamy) (20030509)

Sad state of a glorious shrine (A Vishnu temple near Ambasamudram) (20030418)

SRI Vedhanarayanar Rajagopalaswami Kulasekara Azhwar temple (2 km from Ambasamudram in Tirunelveli dist.) (20050311)

Sri Venkatachalapathy temple in Tiruvarur district (20040514)

Sri Navaneethakrishnan temple (16 km from Tirunelveli to Ambasamudram road) (20050218)
Nachiyar Kovil

Where the Lord came seeking His bride (20050408)

In all His enchanting grace (Soundaryaraja Perumal Temple) (20030912)

The Saviour as an endearing child (Sri Anjaneya temple near Tiruttani) (20021011)

Rock-cut shrines of Namakkal (20021101)

Srinivasa temple renovated (Lord Srinivasa situated five km east of Tirunelveli) (20030613)

Narasimha temple in ruins (Lakshmi Narasimha Perumal shrine near Arakkonam on the Chennai-Tandalam-Perambakkam Road) (20030509)

Stands for Rama's noble qualities (situated 24 km from Arani in North Arcot district) (20040402)

Many a tale behind the Lord's posture (Veetrirunda Perumal Temple) (20030926)

Eternal Bliss in a minute (Lord Santhana Venugopala near Sholinghur) (20031010)

Dancing on serpent hood (about 7 km from Thirukarugavoor -- in Papanasam taluk) (20040903)

Sri Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal: Destroyer of sorrows (near Ulundurpet) (20031003)

Hanuman's special avatar as Annihilator (Lord Panchamukha Anjaneya near Pondicherry) (20030307)

Fearsome and loveable (Lord Narasimha near Villupuram) (20030808)
Pazhaiya Seevaram

Holy sangamam in the South (Lord Narasimha atop a small hillock, about 15 km east of Kanchipuram) (20020712)

Sri Adi Narayana Perumal temple (20041231)

Temple on land with unique distinction (Sri Venkata Varadaraja Perumal temple, near Villupuram) (20040409)
Pudunilai Vayal

Sri Rajagopalaswami Temple (About 2 km. from Kizhnilaikottai in Pudukottai District) (20040423)

Glorifying the chivalry of Jatayu (Lord Valvii Rama temple near Kumbakonam) (20031017)

Enchanting images of Sri Rama (Sri Pattabirama near Thanjavur) (20030418)

Sri Venugopalaswamy temple (20050729) New

Great preceptor of Sholingur (Lord Lakshmi Narasimha) (20020927)
Twin temples that draw devotees (20001208)

Brahmotsavam at Singaperumalkoil (20030606)
For the sake of a child-devotee (Padaladri Narasimha Perumal temple) (20020510)

Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swami Temple (about 25 kilometres from Vellore) (20041105)

Sri Ranganathaswamy temple, Srirangam (20030825)

Sri Kalyana Anjaneya temple (20050107)

Linked to the Ramayana (Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple near Nannilam) (20030905)

King with a flying chariot (Sri Amaruviappan with His Consort -- 21 km from Mayiladuthurai) (20041022)

Gorgeous outfit for deity (Sri Devanatha Swamy -- situated 3 km west of Cuddalore) (20040924)

Sri Karikrishna Perumal temple (three km from Ponneri) (20040903)

Praised by Azhwar and Nayanmar (Lord Saranathan temple, 15 km from Kumbakonam) (20030829)

Saranagatha Rakshaka Perumal temple (Situated 16 km south of Mayiladuthurai) (20041126)

Hailed by the Azhwars (20040827)

Crowning glory for the Tiruvallur deity (Lord Veeraraghava) (20020405)

Thiruvellarai — land of the white boar (20050325)

Temples that reverberate with history (Pallikonda Perumal) (20021004)

Sri Venkatesa Perumal temple (in Kanchipuram dist.) (20050204)

Democracy of a high standard — ancient example (Sri Sundaravaradaraja Perumal temple) (20031010)

The Lord lays stress on Supreme Devotion (Lord Vijayasanar two km east of Srivaikuntam in Tuticorin district) (20031010)

Vatarangam, seat of Hari and Haran (Lord Ranganatha and Goddess Ranganayaki shrine near Sirkazhi) (20030418)

The cave temple at Yanaimalai (Yoga Narasimha Perumal temple, eight km from Madurai, on the road to Melur) (20030822)

Indian Heritage Links from "The Hindu" (Courtesy:

Heritage Links from The Hindu