Saturday, August 9, 2008

Kanchipuram Temples - Varadaraja Perumal-Kailasanathar

The Varadaraja Perumal temple, one of the celebrated amongst the 108 Divya Desams, is situated in Vishnu Kanchi. Paasurams were sung by Tirumangai Alwar, Bhootalwar & Peyalwar. You enter through the large gopuram for a tour of this massive and impressive edifice which is also called the Devaraja Swamy Temple. The Hundred-Pillar-hall (Nooru Kal Mandapam) erected during the Vijayanagar period is noted for its exquisite sculptures. This entire masterpiece has been sculpted out of a single rock. The pillars of this hall depict various Avatars of Lord Vishnu. This hall also features chains that were sculpted from the same rock.
We also see the two tall 4 kal mandapams one near the Gopuram as you enter & the other near the Dwaja Sthambam both carrying exquisite sculptures. You walk past the Deepa Sthambam, the Dwaja Sthamabam, then a pillared portico & enter through a smaller gopuram into the inner prakaram. You first visit to the west facing Yoga Narasimhar Sannithi which is a cave temple at the base of Hastigiri Hill. You circumambulate the inner prakaram which has double storied pillared pavilions on three sides.
When you reach the East side you climb 24 steps up a flight of stairs to reach the top of the Hastigiri Hill (also called Attigiri or elephant mountain) and reach the Sanctum. Lord Varadaraja is in standing posture facing west. The figure is huge in size with four hands holding the insignias of Sankha, Chakra, etc., and richly decorated with costly jewels. The Moolavar in this temple is considered only second in size to the Deity of Sri Venkateswara of Tirupathi. The crowd is sparse and we were able to have a long and satisfying darshan. Significant here are the sculptures of two lizards carved on the ceiling of the NE corner of corridor around the Sanctum. One is covered with Gold and the other with Silver kavacham. Besides this are the sculptures of the Sun and the Moon. People who visit the temple stand in line to touch the two lizards, in a gesture that means both getting the blessings of Sri Varadaraja, and also helping liberate the disciples from the curse.
Perumal is also known as Attiyurar since the original image of Varadaraja Perumal was made from Attimaram (Atti wood) The ancient wood image is kept submerged in water in temple tank (Ananta Teertham) and is worshipped once in 40 years. The next viewing of this image is in 1919.
After this we go to the outer prakaram, circumambulate, see the Ramar Mandapam, the sthala vriksham, the huge pillared pavilions & mandapams & finally reach the Perundevi Thayar Sannithi on the western side and pray there. There are also sannithis for Karimanikka Perumal, Anantalwar as well as an Abhisheka Mandapam. Vijayanagara Kings added the towering Eastern Gopuram, the beautiful Kalyana Mandapam, the Oonjal Mandapam etc. The East Gopuram is 9 tiered rising to a height of 180 ft. while the western gopuram is 160 ft high.
Legend: The Legend is that Lord Brahma worshipped Lord Varadharaja Swamy in Kritha Yuga, Gajendra in Tretha Yuga, Brihasti in Dvapara Yuga and Ananta in Kali Yuga. It is believed that Airavata, the elephant of Indra in the form of a hill bears the image of Lord Varadharaja Swamy. Vishnu lay across the river in spate to prevent a deluge from wiping out Brahma's sacrifice.
Kailasanathar Temple: Perhaps the most beautiful temple in the entire city, the Kailasanathar Temple was built by the Pallava ruler Rajasimha Pallava, and was completed by his son, Mahendra Varma Pallava. Rajasimha Pallava ruled Kanchi during the period from 685 A.D. to 705 A.D. This temple is unique in its architecture. It was constructed mostly of limestone. The walls and vimaanam of this temple are filled with great sculptures, and paintings. It is under the maintenance of the Department of Archeology, Government of India. Tourists are allowed to freely photograph the sculpures in and outside the temple, with the exception of the Sanctum and the main Deity.
The sculptures in limestone are really awesome. One can spend days or rather weeks studying the sculptures and the various legends & stories they tell. It is a mammoth task for the ASI to continue to the maintain and preserve the sculptures. Many of the sculptures have partially weathered & disintegrated while many others have started showing signs of disintegration. This is truly on the most amazing architectural & sculptural marvels I have ever witnessed. It is sublime and transports to any world altogether. The temple is surrounded by a vast well manicured law, enclosed by a steel wire fence. There is a large idol of Nandi on a raised platform facing Kailasanathar. Besides the nandi is the temple tank.
The temple attracts large crowds during the auspicious Mahasivaratri festival.
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