Monday, 8 October 2012

Kailasanatha Temple, Kanchipuram

Kailasanatha Temple, Kanchipuram

Period & Builder
The Kailasanatha Temple in Kanchipuram, is one of the great Pallava monuments. The Temple was built by Narasimha Varma II alias Rajasimha (700-728 CE). Emperor Raja Raja Chola is said to have worshipped at this Temple. He is said to have drawn inspiration from this splendid vimanam for building his magnum opus Sri Brhadiswara Temple in Tanjavur.

Temple architecture/style/specialty

The soldiers riding on the lion on the outer wall show ravages of time. They are not made of stone; rather appear to be made of some mixture of sand and bricks. They may have been repaired at later time.

The Temple contains numerous panels depicting Siva as Nataraja, Ardhanariswara, Dakshinamurti, Bhikshatanam, Svastika posture. 

The Temple is surrounded on three sides by around 54 cave-like structures designed for meditation.

In most of these caves, Siva is seated with Parvati by his left side.

The shrine is replete with intricate and minutely sculpted figures, big and small, animal, human, celestials that have withstood the ravages of time. There are many panels depicting 11-Adityas, 12-Rudras etc. In general, the sculptures however appeared repetitive (at least the seated Siva Parvati as shown above).

There is a huge niche, in which and eight-armed Durga stands with her paraphernalia, one foot daringly placed over her Lion. She is flanked to her right by a huge Yali and on her left in a smaller niche, by her own benign form, performing penance on a pedestal while the lion crouches beneath.


The entrance is through a modest Rajagopuram. This is to be explained, since building huge gopurams, taller than the vimanam is a subsequent feature of post-Pallava period (seen in only four temples – Sri Rangam, Arunachalam, Madurai). There are a number of shrines around the Temple, which are maintained by the ASI.

The Lingam in the sanctum is more than ten-feet tall and has sixteen facets. There is a passage around the shrine, through which devotes are encouraged to go round. One has to crawl into the entrance, walk around the sanctum and crawl out of the exit. The entrance symbolizes death and exit rebirth. It was indeed a challenge for me to enter and come out alive. I would not advise anyone to try it unless one has an agile body or steel mind or both.

A medium-sized Nandi sits far away from the Temple who is flanked by four huge fierce Yalis standing. This is heavily photographed including me.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Trikayaforallorbust19 February 2016 at 19:54

    I would enter with faith that understanding would be increased, because I imagine one must! Or else be overwhelmed by fear. I am not fearful. I'm not sure I'd find a satisfying explanation for the apparent suffering in this world though. I'd need a better more direct sign. Something glaringly obvious, and anyway, I don't believe in an overmind. Nobody has a greater understanding than me. Buddhism and the acknowledgment that our individual reality is subject to our interaction, and the eventually esoteric truth: there's nothing to do but try and improve the existence of others. Self liberation is selfish. XO