Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kailasanathar Temple, Kanchipuram

The first glimpse of Kailasanathar temple

Heading to the Kailasanathar temple, one has to leave the crowded roads of the main town emerging into village like areas of the district, bringing with it a distinct feel of calm. The first glimpse of Kailasanathar temple with its huge green lawn - the stamp of the ASI - although repetitive, has a similar effect. Since the temple is under ASI, full fledged worship (vazhipaadu) and pooja's are not allowed. A priest comes and performs minimal rites twice a day.

The courtyard around the temple lined with pillars

The temple is all done in a sort of sand stone or lime stone. If you have been to the Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram, the resemblance between the two - both in terms of material of construction as well as architectural style is unmistakable (yes, even to the untrained eye!). The inner walls of this temple are covered with sculptures depicting different stories. Even this had a distinctiveness as each sculpture seems to be encased in a mandap of its own and bordered by thin pillars.

One sculpture that caught our eye was this one, primarily for the hair style resembling that on buddha. Buddhism was just about getting prominence around this time, and maybe this was an evidence of its influence on the Pallava rulers!

A sculpture on the wall

The British, during their time, apparently attempted some sort of a restoration effort, however ended up ruining the homogeneity of the temple. While it is not clear who really was the cause for the destruction, you cannot miss the evidence of failed restoration efforts.

Remains of paintings on the walls

The priest who was there kindly gave us a brief on the temple. Legend goes that Lord Vishnu worshipped Lord Shiva here. Vishnu had just destroyed a demon, who also happened to be a devout worshipper of Shiva. Therefore his penance here was for cleansing himself of the sin of destroying a Shiva worshipper.

Another interesting belief is that of the cycle of life. The passageway around the inner sanctum in this temple is blocked at the entrance and in the exit - with only a one feet tunnel like opening to enter the passageway. You have to crawl through these small tunnels in order to go around the sanctum. The belief is that, once you have crawled through these two tunnels, you have left your sins behind and have been reborn.

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