Kanchipuram Temple Tour - Part I (Kanchipuram - Tamil Nadu)

You saw my post on Dhusi Mamandur and I was telling you that the main agenda that day was temple tour. So what were the temples we went?
First off was Ulakalantha Perumal Temple. Ulakalantha Perumal is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. According to the legends, Lord Vishnu took the form of a dwarf (Vamanan) and went to King Mahabali Chakravarthy and asked for 3 steps of land. As soon as he granted, he became huge (Thiruvikraman) and asked kept on foot on sky, one on earth and asked the king where should he take his 3rd step. Being a gentleman that Mahabali is, offered his own head for the 3rd step!
The relief here is huuuuuge at the sanctum sanctorum, more than 30 feet tall and was sculpted in about 9th-10th C CE. The relief sculpture is not just huge, it was amazingly intricate as well, with every bead of His jewelry and every fold of His garment precisely shown! He has his right leg on ground or rather on Mahabali's head! His left leg was almost perpendicular to his right leg on sky. Both his hands are outstretched with one of its showing 2 fingers denoting the 2 steps taken and another hand showing 1 finger on query of where to place his 3rd step. 
This temple is one of the 108 holy places of Vaishnavism, or rather 4 of the 108 Divya Desams. The Ooragathan (the south facing, Snake lord in the right shrine in Ardha Mandapam) being 1, Kaaragathan (Lord Vishnu on snake, facing North) being 2, Neeragathan (Lord Vishnu standing facing south) being 3, Kaarvaanathan (Lord Vishnu with Sridevi, Bhoodevi facing north) being 4. Kanchipuram town has 16 of the 108, on the whole.
The inner circum-ambulation passage was filled completely with inscriptions. I did try to read and at places it was easy to decipher.
From there, our second stop was Vaikunta Perumal Temple. This was built by Nandivarma Pallava. As soon as I enter, in the inner side of the entrance to the right atop was this mini relief panel! 
Guess what's it??? Its an elephant giving birth, supported and pressed around the abdomen by another elephant!!! 
Just before the sanctum sanctorum was this gorgeous velvette, applique worked shamiyana! Gorgeous, isn't it???
The lion pillars like Mahabs! The specialty of this temple is the inner circum-ambulation passage that's completely filled with relief sculptures that depicts the complete story of Pallava history
However thanks to the mindless-ness in the name of renovation some time back, this sculptures have lost the Pallava beauty!!! 
But some places, this external damage has withered, giving away the Pallava's beauty!
This particular panel intrigued me a lot, but I don't know what is it? One person at the extreme left straight through a pole and next to him another person upside down through a pole! Was it the mass killing of Jains during the religious unrest during 12th C??? May be.

Also the rock used to build the temple itself looked like a very soft rock that has given cracks like wood!!!!!
And guess what was just next door to the temple? A Mosque!!!
My animal luck here - a Juvenile Red Vented bulbul!
With that let me stop for now. More temples coming up soon.....

To reach Kanchipuram:
From Chennai: 
52 km from Tambaram via Manimangalam, Sriperumbudur.
54 km from Tambaram via Padappai, Varanavasi, Walajabad.
63 km from Koyambedu via Poonamalle, Sriperumbudur
Regular bus services available in 2nd & 3rd routes.

From Vellore: 70 km via Arcot

To the temples within Kanchipuram:
Ulakalantha Perumal Temple: http://goo.gl/maps/AXSHT
Vaikunda Perumal Temple: http://goo.gl/maps/C5PmV

P.S: Click here to know what I wore to the trip. I didn't have to ride my bike long that day, so I could wear something other than a jean or trouser! That's more suitable with a temple trip too!!! Btw, I was indeed bemused riding my bike (that short ride of 5km to the parking lot from my place) wearing a salwar!!!

Dedicated to Gopu, Shiva, and Jayram


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands


  1. Wow!! the carvings do look similar to the ones in Mahabalipuram. Would love to visit the temples of Kanchipuram. Lovely post Bhusha.


    1. Oh, they should! Its the same Pallava awesomeness in both the places!!!
      Try visiting Kanchi for 2 days together with overnight stay. That gives you lot more time as temples open early morning and make sure you visit Mamandur too...

  2. Replies
    1. Indeed it is, isn't it?? Pallava Awesomeness!!!!

  3. The sculpture of the elephant in labor was stunning! I was born in Kancheepuram but never got a chance to visit all the wonderful temples in leisure. A must in my list after seeing your lovely pics!

    1. I haven't seen such a sculpture so far. It was stunning for me too, to see that...
      You should visit the temples there dear. Its all pieces of extreme skill!!!

  4. the place looks amazing, India has such hidden jewels. I've never visited south, except B'lore and Hyderabad briefly for work.

    great sculptures and workmanship, need to plan a good holiday soon.


    1. Oh you must visit down south... Each state is awesome in its own style and Tamil Nadu is huge to be covered in one trip.. Do plan a holiday soon! :)

  5. Very interesting post. The Vishnu temple visited by you seems to belong to around 8th century and therefore may not depict persecution of Jains.

    1. Correct point... Have to find out what it depicts or if certain portions like those were sculpted later on...

  6. Could this be killing of Hindus while Jain uprisings, who knows, has to check on the Govt Gazzatte


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