SRI KAILASANATHAR TEMPLE, KANCHIPURAM
Let us start with an interesting story!
About 1300 years ago, a king and a saint started building temples for Lord Siva. One was a Pallava King known as Rajaverman and the other, a saint called Pusalar, one of the 63 ‘nayanmars’. The King Rajaverman completed the temple at Kanchipuram with all its glory and the date for consecration was also fixed by him. The next day, the Lord Siva appeared in his dream saying that he is not available on the day of consecration as he had already given his consent to attend to another temple built by a saint at Tirunindravur. Driven by curiosity, the king went to Tirunindravur only to find no such temple existing there to his surprise. He then came to know that the temple the Lord was referring to was the one conceived by the saint, Pusalar in his mind. Realizing that devotion and Bhakthi are bigger than the material things in this world, the enlightened king consecrated the temple in a grand scale later.
The presiding deity at Kailasanathar temple is Lord Siva in Lingam form with sixteen flat faces. This Lingam is said to be the biggest in the town of Kanchipuram. The Nandhi is also big in size and located outside the temple at a distance. This is an incredible temple, quite different from others in construction. The tall and big tower normally found at the entrance is absent here but is located right on the top of the sanctum sanctorum itself. This style was later adopted by the King Rajaraja Cholan at Tanjore for the construction of Sri Brahadeeswarar temple.
The outer passage of the shrine is surrounded by intricately and tastefully carved scenes from the scriptures revealing the glory of Lord Siva. The half-relief sand stone panel figures sculptured in the recesses in the outer passage are well protected against the elements of weather, thanks to the recesses that helped like shelters. The abundant beauty of gods in human form in various poses is a treat to the eyes. The perfect shapes, body lines and curves make them immortal poems on stone. The slender famine figures form a strong contrast to the masculine, heroic postures of lord Siva with weapons in hand, much to the delight of the beholder. The sculptures are in excellent shape, revealing the pristine glory of Pallava culture and heritage to the world.
Another interesting feature of this temple is the inner, narrow, closed passage surrounding the sanctum sanctorum. This passage is accessible through a rectangular, narrow hole on one side called ‘marana dwaram’. Once entered, one walks around the sanctum and exits through another similar opening with a little offset, making it more difficult to come out, which is called ‘janana dwaram’. (a bigger way is also available as a second option to exit) The passage is now well lit by electric lamps, but during the olden days, it would have been dark and lonely, lit only by the oil or burning wooden torches, making it a different experience altogether. It is a belief that anyone going around the sanctum through these constraints gets purified and is reborn free of all sins committed so long. One thing is certain, by doing this parikrama, you are going in the same beaten track, rubbing your body and limbs through the same passage gone through by millions of people, like your father, grand father, great grand father, their forefathers, relatives and all class and sections of people over a period of thousand years! Can there be a better experience than this to link with the past, bridging the element of time? That apart, the beautiful carved stone statues, figures and hundreds of lion based pillars on the outer passage transport you virtually back to the Pallava period itself.
This temple, noted for its rich architectural splendor as well as divine spiritual experience is a ‘must to be visited place’ for all religious minded people at least once in their life time. If you are a lens-man, take your camera with you to capture the beauty as much as you want to cherish and share with your near and dear ones at home and away.