We took a day trip from Chennai to Kanchipuram which is about 2 hours away to see the historic temples. The first one we saw, Ekambareshwarar, is the largest and most popular of the three we saw. I have to say that its size, both its height and the area that it covers, makes it a very impressive sight. Next we visited the Kamakshi Amman Temple since it has the same name as my mother-in-law.
It was the last one of the day that had the largest impact on me due to its beauty and age. The Kailasanatha Temple was built in the 8th century during the Pallava dynasty which also built Mamallapuram which is about 35 miles away. It is a small, intimate temple that was constructed of sandstone.
As you enter the temple, as in all Hindu temples, you must remove your shoes. We arrived here just before noon with the hot sun beating down on the stones. Since the air termperature was in the mid 90s, the temperature of the stones was much hotter. Stepping on them was painful. We hopped from the street to the temple. I made a quick stop in the grass just to let the soles of my feet have a break. We must have looked like crazy American tourists!
Inside the temple grounds, the stones were partially shaded by the buildings so we could walk normally as long as we stayed in the shade. I appreciated that our guide pointed this out to us as we entered so we could take our time and enjoy the amazing works inside.
Around the temple and its courtyard is an intricately carved wall. Around the inside of this wall are over 50 small meditation cells in which a person would sit to pray. These nooks were lined with plaster and then painted with beautiful frescoes. Unfortunately most of them didn’t survive the centuries. A man who works with the Archaeological Survey of India pointed out the best ones so I could photograph them. The best preserved fresco had lovely geometric designs painted in many colors of the spectrum.
The walls and pillars that surround the temple and the tower were carefully carved in great detail. The intimate size and the accessibility of the pure beauty at eye level make this one of the most treasured temples of South India. The simple elegance and the history of this temple made much more of an impression on me than any others that we visited.
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