Kanchipuram Experience: Kanchipuram is a major pilgrimage destination and also a pleasant day trip from Chennai for those wanting a glimpse of Dravidian heritage without travelling too far. Another good reason to visit Kanchipuram is for its famous woven 'pattu podavai' i.e. silk sarees and equally well known fine Kanchi cotton textiles.
Food, sight-seeing and shopping: Temples, temples and more temples. For pilgrims, the Sri Kamakshi Amman Temple is a foremost Shakthi Peetham where worship is offered to the Sri Chakra. The Ekambaranathar Temple of Lord Siva is one of the 5 Pancha Bootha Sthalams, having an Earth Lingam made uniquely of sand. The Varadaraja Perumal Temple of Lord Vishnu is a Divya Desam, one of the foremost Vaishnavite shrines.
Excellent typical South Indian vegetarian fare can be had at many hotels and restaurants on Gandhi Road, such as the famous Saravana Bhavan and Adyar Ananda Bhavan and many others. Most of the saree shops are also located on Gandhi Road.
Activities & things to do: For the casual non pilgrim tourist, the Ekambaranathar temple also has a 'Thousand Pillared Hall' with 1008 Sivalingams on the sides. A sacred mango tree on the premises is reputed to be 3500 years old bearing 4 different varieties of fruits.. The Varadaraja Perumal Temple has a beautiful '100 Pillared Hall' with exquisitely carved stone pillars, similar to the equestrian pillars seen at Srirangams Ranganathaswamy temple. The Kailasanathar temple complex is a must visit for its unique style and beautiful architecture. This temple is made of sandstone and is similar to the temples of Mahabalipuram, being constructed by the same Pallava emperors. Time permitting, a visit can also be made to the Vaikuntha Perumal temple for its sculptures and frescoes. There are many more smaller but equally ancient temples to see which are under the control of the ASI.
Travel tips, How to reach, travel warnings etc: By road it takes less than two hours to get there. Frequent trains and buses ply this route. Kanchipuram can also be combined with a quick visit to Mahabalipuram, if time is a constraint. For the casual visitor, it is better to go on non festival days when the temples will be less crowded. For worshippers, the sanctum sanctorum in all South Indian temples is closed between 12 noon and 4 pm. An early start to the day will be more pleasant given the generally warm climate of the region.
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