Kanchipuram is among the most famous of the ‘temple cities’ of Tamil Nadu. Its temples house different Hindu sects. Though today it is only a destination for pilgrims, and a repository of major architectural monuments, in antiquity it occupied a more preeminent place in the history of South India. The city was the political capital of the Pallava rulers during the 7th – 9th centuries. It remained an important city during the succeeding Chola and Vijayanagara periods.The Kailasanatha temple is the finest structural project of the Pallava ruler Rajasimha. The temple is almost entirely constructed of sandstone and is integrated into a coherent complex. A large variety of Shaiva images adorns the outer walls; the inner walls were once painted. A polished linga (phallus, the symbol of regeneration associated with Shiva) is enshrined within.
The Ekambareshvara temple is the principle Shaiva sanctuary and its soaring gopuras dominate the city’s skyline. This temple was erected in 1509 by the Vijayanagara emperor Krishnadeva Raya. The temple is preceded by a long columned mandapa into which earlier shrines and altars have been incorporated. A corridor surrounds the principle shrine on four sides, presenting a continuous sequence of receding piers.The Vardhamana temple is the most important Vaishanava temple. Local legend has it that the temple commemorates the site where the Lord Brahma performed a yajna (fire sacrifice) to invoke the presence of Vishnu. It has a long history spanning the Chola and the Vijayanagara periods. One of the two high towered gopuras resemble 12th-13th century Chola projects while the other is characteristic of the 16th century Vijayanagara period. The main sanctuary enshrines bronze images of Vishnu flanked by his consorts. Some specimens of Vijayanagara paintings are still preserved on the walls.
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