By Swami Harshananda
Kāñcīpuram, the city of temples, is also spelt as Kañci, Kāñcī or Conjeevaram. It is one of the seven very ancient cities and pilgrim centers.
It is situated on the bank of Pālār river, at a distance of 75 km. or 46 miles to the south-west of Chennai or Madras city and near Chengleput, the district head-quarters.
It is divided into sections:
- Śivakāñcī - Temples of Ekāmranātha (also called Ekāmbareśvara), Kailāsanātha and Kāmākṣi adorn this section
- Viṣṇukāñcī - This section is famous for it's Varadarājasvāmi temple
Temples at Kāñcīpuram
- Ekāmbaranātha Temple : The tower of the Ekāmbaranātha temple of lord Śiva is majestic. It is 56 meters (188 ft.) high. Its high compound wall encloses an area of 10 hectares (25 acres). It contains the idols of 63 Nāyanmārs, Śaiva saints of Tamil Nadu. The temple has been renovated during the recent years.
- Kāmākṣī Temple : Kāmākṣī temple of Śivakāñcī is very popular. It is one of the most well-known Śaktipīṭhas, abode of Divine Mother. A Śrīcakra in the form of a disc is worshiped in front of the idol. There is also a shrine of Śaṅkarācārya (A. D.788-820) in the temple complex which is 1.6 hectares (4 acres) in area. The sacred tank in the complex is called Pañcagaṅgā. The annual temple festival takes place in the Tamil month of Māśi<ref.Months of Māśi are February-March.</ref> which includes a silver-car festival also.
- Varadarāja Temple : The most famous temple of Viṣṇukāñcī is that of Varadarāja. It is situated on a small hillock called Hastigiri. It is 360 meters by 240 meters (1200 ft. by 800 ft.). The idol of Varadarāja is quite big in size. It is in the standing posture. There are idols of the Ālvārs and Rāmānuja (CE 1017-1137) which also receive worship.
- Vaikuṇṭha Perumāl Temple : Vaikuṇṭha Perumāl temple was built in the 8th century CE. The vimāna (tower) of this temple is three storey. It contains three idols in the standing, sitting and recumbent postures.
- Citragupta Temple : A rare temple of Citragupta with his idol holding a book of palmyrah leaves is also located in Kāñcīpuram. It is visited by both the Śaivas and the Vaiṣṇavas.
Remarkable associations of Kāñcīpuram
Kāñcīpuram has been associated with the following:
- The birth of Cāṇakya, (300 B. C.) the author of Arthaśāstra
- The origination of Śyāmāśāstri (CE 1762-1827) a famous musician-saint of South India
- Buddha (563-483 B. C.), Śaṅkara and Vedānta Deśika (CE 1268- 1369) had visited this place
- The Pallavas and the Colas had ruled here
- Buddhism and Jainism had their heydays at some time here
- Famous for Sanskrit learning and silk saris
- Varadarāja is an aspect of Viṣṇu.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore