My Kanchipuram Travelogue – The Story of Visiting 25 Temples and Kanchi Kudil

Kanchipuram is a city in northern Tamil Nadu, which is known popularly as temple city. It is known for its silk sarees, temples and history. People have attributed a lot of holiness to this place and treat it as the Kashi of the south. It has also been an education and spiritual centre, and considered as a powerful place for spiritual practices. It is considered as one of the saptapuris, the  seven sacred centres in India.

I was wanting to visit this city for a long time and my wish was fulfilled last week. I was there on 9th and 10th of November 2020. I went there on Monday morning (9th) from Kadapakkam (Edaikazhinadu), stayed there for the night after visiting some temples during the day, continued the temple visits the next day and returned in the afternoon. It was an amazing experience; I felt home in the city of Kanchipuram and I want to share that experience with the readers.

From the start of this year, my interest has been in exploring temples and their histories. I have already written two blog posts regarding some temples that sparked my interest in Pappankulam of the present Tenkasi district, Tamil Nadu and Edaikazhinadu of Chengalpattu district. 

Kanchipuram is different; it is a city of temples and has way more than hundred temples. You can find a temple pretty much in every nook and corner of the city. In my limited time I could only explore a few of them. On the day before the journey,  I prepared a list of temples I should visit and marked them in Google maps. It included the important temples which are Kamakshi amman temple, Ekambareswarar temple, Kumarakottam temple, Kailasanatha nathar temple, Vaikunta perumal temple and Varadaraja perumal temple. 

The Morning session on Nov 9, 2020

At about 5: 45 AM in the morning, I took a bus that goes from Pondicherry to Chennai through ECR road and got off at Kalpakkam after more than an hour. Took a bus to Chengalpet from there. Having reached Chengalpet, took a bus to Kanchipuram. I reached Kanchipuram at about 9:30 AM.

I was very excited on reaching there and was pretty eager to visit Kamakshi amman temple first. I have always been devoted to the form of Kamakshi. Kamakshi is the ultimate reality personified as a meditating young woman. Paintings and pictures of Kamakshi amman is something that I have always been emotionally connected to.  So, I had a feeling of a son going home to see his mother.

Sangupani Vinayagar temple

I knew from the maps that Kamakshi amman temple is very close to the bus stand. So, once I got off, I started walking towards the temple but saw Sangupani Vinayagar temple on the way. It is indeed a tradition to worship Vinayagar (Ganesh) before anything. So I went inside and had a darshan. 

Temples of Vinayagar are abundant in Tamil Nadu and there is one almost in every street in Kanchipuram. But I did find out later that this particular temple is actually the most famous and important Vinayagar temple in Kanchipuram. He is called as Sangupani vinayagar because he holds Sangu (conch) in his hand.

Ulagalantha Perumal temple

This temple is also on the way to Kamakshi amman temple from the bus stand. When I was walking, I thought I had found Kamakshi amman temple but it was this temple that I actually saw. As I went closer, it became obvious that I am heading towards a perumal temple (Vishnu temple). Google maps indicated to me that it is the famous Ulagalantha Perumal temple in Kanchipuram.

Perumal temples also have an emotional connection. Whenever I went to my grandmother’s house in Thachanallur, Tirunelveli during childhood, I spent most of my mornings in Varam tharum Perumal temple there. I used to explore the Prakaram (outer part around the sanctum) , spending my time looking at the trees there. So prakarams of Perumal temples always attract me. I also enjoy the Tulsi and Teertham which is not offered these days in most of the temples.  

Anyway, I felt like I was called by my maternal uncle for inquiry while I was on the way to meet my mother. So I went inside, had darshan and spent some time before visiting Kamakshi amman temple. This temple is connected to Vamana avatar of Vishnu. It is one of the 108 divyadesams connected to Vishnu; but it houses four divyadesams on its own. (Divyadesams are the 108 temples which are mentioned in the poems sung by Tamil Alvars.)

Kamakshi amman temple:

My favorite temple is very close to Ulagalantha Perumal temple. After a few seconds of walking, I could see the main gopuram (temple tower) of Kamakshi amman temple. I had my breakfast very close to the temple.

Among all those temples I visited in Kanchipuram, this was the only temple which was very strict in following the guidelines for Corona prevention. Wearing a mask was absolutely compulsory and it was checked at the entrance. People were only allowed after applying hand sanitizers. Circles were drawn on the way to darshan to ensure social distancing and it was also monitored by the staff to ensure that people follow it. But because of Corona restrictions, devotees were not allowed to circumambulate. Photography was also strictly prohibited; so I just took a photo of the gopuram.

Kamakshi Amman temple, Kanchipuram

The temple is a very important temple for Goddess worship in Tamil Nadu, along with Meenakshi amman temple in Madurai. It is one of the shakti peethas. Shakti peethas are 51 sites of Goddess worship situated in various places of Indian subcontinent. As per the legend, 51 body parts of Sati fell on these 51 sites after her self-immolation. This particular Shakti Peetha where Kamakshi resides is associated with Sati’s navel. 

There are shrines for Durvasa and Adhi Shankara in this temple. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see them due to covid restrictions. Anyway, I want to say a few things on these shrines.

A Shrine for Durvasa

There is a shrine for Sage Durvasa here. He is known for his short temper in Indian legends. He was the one who consecrated the Bhu-Prastara Sri chakra (diagrammatic representation of the deity)  in front of the main deity.  He is considered as one among the three chief devotees or upasakas of the deity who form the upasaka traya – the triad of devotees consisting of Manmatha, Lopamudra and Durvasa. As per the legend, Durvasa was born and a dumb and deaf because of the curse of Goddess Sarasvati and was graced by Kamakshi amman. I have already written about Durvasa in my post regarding Pappankulam Thiruvenkadar temple.

The temple is associated with Sri Vidya tradition, a tantric tradition of spiritual practice towards spiritual enlightenment. I found the following interesting anecdote in the website of Kamakoti Mandali, a close-knit group of upasakas (

A certain lady from Trichy once described a wonderful experience. She was initiated into Srividya by her father-in-law at an early age and she visited Sri Kamalambika Devasthanam frequently. Her Guru passed away while she was still young and she knew nothing but the mula mantra given to her by her Guru. She practiced the same sincerely for years and longed for further guidance. A few years ago, while she was reciting Sri Lalita Sahasranama in the Sannidhi of Kamalambika, an old man with surprisingly sharp features appeared before her and instructed her to have darshan of Srividya Parameshwari at Kanchi, where she would get nyasa etc for her mantra. After she reached Kanchi and had darshan of Amba, she was surprised to see the same old man in the Sannidhi of Amba. The old man pointed to another gentleman and the lady rushed to fall at the feet of this gentleman. Surprised, the gentleman asked her who she was and she narrated the entire story and pointed to the old gentleman who still stood in Amba’s Sannidhanam. The gentleman was Sri Yagnanarayana Shastri, a great Srividya Upasaka from Mysore, and as myself and shastrigal watched in awe, the old man lifted his hands in blessing and disappeared. Later, when we were going round the mantapa and bowed in front of Durvasa’s Sannidhi, the very same face appeared in the Vigraha. Sri Yagnanarayana Shastrigal attained Siddhi in Bangalore in 2003 but Smt. Meenakshi Ammal, now his disciple, visits Kanchi every year and is blessed with the darshan of the great Guru without fail.”

A Shrine for Adhi Shankara

My interest to learn Sanskrit was inspired a lot by my wish to read the Bhagavad Gita commentary of Shankara in the original language. One of the 6 schools that I studied in (Jayendra Golden Jubilee School, Sankarnagar, Tirunelveli) is also associated with Shankara, and  particularly with the monastery that Shankara founded in Kanchipuram. 

Adhi Shankara is also believed to have installed Sri Chakra in this temple. He is also believed to have spent the last minutes of his life in Kanchipuram.

Once I came out of the temple, I bought a picture that has three deities together: Samayapuram Mariamman, Madurai Meenakshi and Kamakshi Amman. Then,  I bought two books from a small shop called ‘Dheivigam” which had some rare collection of Tamil books. Most of the books there had only one copy each; the shopkeeper said that they are not sold in bookshops. Only a few copies for interested readers are made and they are ordered directly from the publisher (similar to Tamil translation of Bhutanatha Gita for which I have written a commentary on this blog).

The next day, November 10, was Aippasi Pooram according to Tamil calendar and it is the actual birthday of Kamakshi amman. It is called ‘ambal Aavir bhavitha dhinam’ which means ‘the day ambal (Goddess) appeared’.  But I knew this only after leaving Kanchipuram.

Kumarakottam temple

Then I went to Kumarakottam temple. It is just a short walk from Kamakshi amman temple and is situated in the main road.

Kumarakottam temple, Kanchipuram

Kumarakottam is a temple for Lord Murugan, situated close to Kamakshi temple. It is also  in between Kamakshi temple and Ekambareswarar temple, where the former is for Parvati (Kamakshi), the Goddess and the latter is for Shiva, the mythological husband of Parvati. Spiritually the couple represent Prakriti and Purusha respectively, as I have often discussed in my blogs. Murugan has also been discussed in my blog posts and he is considered as the son of Shiva and Parvati.

Me at Kumarakottam temple, in front of Kandhapurana Arangetra Mantapam

Lord Murugan is in the form of Brahma Shastha, the divine teacher of Brahman or the absolute reality. Kandha Puranam, the Tamil version of the famous Skanda Purana, was composed in this temple by Kachiappa Sivachariyar, a Tamil poet who worked as a priest in this temple.

I read the complete abridged text version of Kandha puranam when I was about nine years old. It is the  legend about Lord Murugan. It was composed in a hall in this temple which still exists as ‘Kandhapurana Arangetra Mantapam’. The priests in the temple now are the actual descendants of the poet. 

Arunagirinathar, a famous saint and a devotee of Murugan has sung hymns on this temple. Pamban swamigal has also visited the temple. After having darshan, I took some photographs and sat on the steps of ‘Kandhapurana Arangetra Mantapam’. 

Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham (monastery)

I left Kumarakottam temple and walked on the same road to visit Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham situated in the corner. It is a monastery established by Adi Shankara. 

Visitors are allowed to visit the brindavan inside the mutt. Just like Kamakshi amman temple, wearing a mask and applying hand sanitizer were compulsory. Samadhis of Chandrashekarendra Saraswati swamigal and Jayendra Saraswati swamigal are inside the Brindavan.  After spending some quiet time inside, I came outside to visit Ekambareswarar temple.

Ekambareswarar temple

Ekambareswarar temple is very close to the monastery. The tower of this temple is very tall and hence the presence of the temple is known from a long distance. 

Ekambareswarar temple, Kanchipuram

Once I entered, I was greeted by the wording ‘anbe sivam’ (Love is God) written on the top of a hall. It is one of my favorite sayings and is a part of Thirumular’s Thirumanthiram.

The gopuram was very beautiful to look at; it is an abode of a lot of parrots too, which were making a huge noise around the temple. The pleasantness of the breeze, the sound of the parrots, the beauty of the temple towers, the shade of the trees outside and everything else about that temple took me to a different world.

It was already about noon and the temple door was soon going to be closed for the afternoon. So, I had to hurry up to make sure that I cover everything in the temple that is worth seeing. 

The temple is one of the 5 panchabhuta sthalas dedicated to Lord Shiva. Each of them represent one of the five prime elements. This temple was for the element of earth (‘Prithvi’ in Sanskrit). It covers about 25 acres and has four temple towers; the southern tower is the tallest and is about 58.5 metres (192 feet tall). 

There is an old mango tree inside the temple; the board says that it is about 3500 years old. It is the sthala vriksha (sacred, monumental tree) of the temple. The place around the tree is an ideal location to sit in silence or take photographs. Once I came out, I bought two books: one was about temples of Kanchipuram and another one was about temples of Tamil Nadu in general.

Near the mango tree, Ekambareswarar temple, Kanchipuram

Finding accomodation

It was lunch time. All the temples will be closed until about 4 or 5 pm in the evening. So I went in search of accommodation for the night. I was looking for something very simple and of low cost, preferably under Rs.800. All I needed was a place to sleep, use the toilet, charge my phone  and take a bath. I thought of finding something very close to the Ekambareswarar temple. One auto-driver took me to a lodge close to the temple but it was full . He then asked me to find something close to the bus stand but he also warned that I wasn’t going to find anything for a low price that I was expecting. 

So I finished lunch and took an auto to the bus stand. When I talked to the auto-driver this time, he also said the same thing that the first one said; but then he stopped at a small hotel and said that the manager may give a discount. I went in and told the manager that I was a single person wanting to visit temples and was looking for some place to stay. He was kind enough to give me a room for a discounted price that I could afford. It was Hari residency, which is very close to the Kumarakottam temple. There are just three or four shops between the temple and the hotel. Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham is also on the same road, just in the corner which is a few steps away.

The room was pretty comfortable. I had a wonderful stay there. That afternoon I took some rest in the room and also went through the booklet about the temples in Kanchipuram. Then I took a bath and planned to go to Varadharaja perumal temple.

In my room, Hari’s residency, Kanchipuram

The temples I visited so far are pretty close to each other. But this one that I was going to visit was in little Kanchipuram, a suburb which is about 3 kilometres south east to the bus stand. The area is also known as ‘Vishnu Kanchi’ because of the presence of a high number of Vishnu temples.

I went and had a coffee in the coffee shop right next to Kumarakottam temple. From the shopkeeper, I came to know that I have to take a share auto (Rs.20) to reach the temple which is the last destination in the south for any trip in share auto within the city. 

The Afternoon Session on Nov 9, 2020

Varadharaja Perumal Temple

Varadharaja Perumal Temple was just another extraordinary beauty. I got that familiar ‘perumal temple feeling’; the temple was indeed the best choice for an evening visit.  

Main gopuram, Varadaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram
Athi Varadar tank, Inside Varadaraja Perumal Temple, Kanchipuram

This temple is also one among the 108 divya desams. The temple is famous for the form of Vishnu known as ‘Atthi Varadar’; the idol is made of the Atthi or the fig tree. It is stored in an underground chamber inside the temple tank and taken out only once in every 40 years. Once it is taken out, it is kept for worship for 48 days. Last time this happened in 2019.

Inside a temple, there is a room upstairs where two lizards are depicted on the roof; a larger one in gold and a little one in silver. As per the legend, two disciples of sage Gautama were cursed to become these lizards. You have to pay Rs.2 to see the lizards; devotees believe that their sins will be washed away after seeing them.

When I came out, it was extremely beautiful to watch the sunset as the sun was coming down behind the temple tower.  The architecture is amazing and sculptures are beautiful, which is common for most of the temples in Kanchipuram. 

I visited two more Perumal (Vishnu) temples on the way back; they are situated opposite to each other: Yathothkari Perumal Temple and Ashtabhuja Perumal temple.

Yathothkari Perumal Temple: 

I asked in a coffee shop near Varadharaja perumal temple, who told me about these two temples. Once I got down I crossed the road and went first to this Yathokthakari Perumal Temple. 

This temple also is one of the 108 divya desams. In Tamil, the form of perumal is called ‘Sonnavannam Seitha Perumal’, roughly translated as the deity of Perumal who did what he said. With the little Sanskrit I know, I could recognize that the compound word is made of three words:  yatha – ukta-kari. Yatha means ‘how or what way”; ukta -means ‘that which is said’; ‘kari’ means ‘the doer”. Poigai Azhwar, one of the Tamil poet saints or alwars, was born in this temple.

Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal Temple, Kanchipuram

There was almost nobody inside except the priest and a couple of others. Once I finished the darshan, the sun had set and it was dark. I crossed the road and went to Ashtabhuja Perumal temple which was on the other side.

Ashtabhuja Perumal temple

This temple is again another one among the 108 divyadesams. Ashtabhuja means ‘with eight arms’. Vishnu here appears with eight arms.

This temple is associated with a legend of Brahma doing a penance towards Vishnu. As per another legend, an elephant called Gajendra used to worship the deity here everyday using the lotus from the temple tank. Once a crocodile in the tank caught its leg. Elephant prayed to Vishnu for help; Vishnu killed the crocodile with his discus. This incident is known as gajendra moksham.

I took another share auto and asked the driver to drop me at Kachabeswarar temple, a Shiva temple very close to the hotel I was staying at. It is in the same street where this temple is in the southern end and the monastery of Adhi Shankara is in the northern end. 

Kachabeswarar temple

‘Kachchapa’ in Sanskrit means ‘Tortoise’. The temple got this name because according to the legend, Vishnu worshipped Shiva by taking the form of a tortoise.

 I could see a lot of students studying with their books in many corners inside, as the campus of the temple was very spacious. Since it was about 7 pm in the evening, there were more people. If you need a spacious place to spend your evening in a peaceful manner, you can go to this temple. If you are a student and need a good place to study for your exams, then this is an awesome place. It was obvious as there was someone sitting with a textbook near every shrine.

Kachabeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

I still had time left for the day. I heard that Kailasanathar temple would have closed by 5 pm in the evening. So I decided to walk to Vaikunta perumal temple, which is near the bus stand.  While I was walking, I saw a small temple named Chitragupta temple on the left side of the road; so I went in. 

Chitragupta temple

Chitragupta is a mythical person who keeps the account of our good and bad deeds; he is the assistant of Yama, the God of death. You don’t usually see a Chitragupta temple in India; that’s very unusual. I didn’t know he was worshipped in temples until I went here. Then I found that there is one more temple for him in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh. 

Chitragupta temple, Kanchipuram

Chitragupta is associated with Ketu, the ninth graha in Indian astrology. So people who have issues in their birth chart related to Ketu visit this temple. 

Vaikunta Perumal temple

I reached this temple when it was about to be closed. This is also one among the 108 divya desams. The temple is also called as ‘Thiru Parameswara Vinnagaram’. It is famous for its architecture and the sculptures.

Vaikunta Perumal temple, Kanchipuram

The temple has three vertically aligned sanctum sanctorums but the public are allowed to visit only the one at the ground floor. It was dark when I went there and that wasn’t really the best time to go there. I didn’t take much pictures as it was dark but you can find a lot of beautiful pictures of this temple on the internet. 

There is an Ayyappan temple opposite to this temple. I went there too and had a darshan. Then I started walking towards my room. I had dinner on the way and had a very good sleep.

The Morning session on Nov 10, 2020

I got up at about 5 am in the morning and took a bath, as I was planning to have darshan in any temple as early as possible. Once I walk out of the room, Shankara mutt is on the right side and Kachabeswarar temple is on the left, both are at the two ends of the same street. Taking left from Kachabeswarar temple goes to the bus stand and Vaikunta perumal temple, whereas taking right goes to Kailasanathar temple. I was planning to take right and explore the area, to see what other temples are there. 

I had a coffee and started walking on the road towards Kailasanathar temple. I went into the streets to see what other temples were there; none of them were open. I reached Kailasanathar temple only to find out that it would open at 9 AM. There was a lot of time until that.

A Shiva temple very close to Kailasanathar temple is Anekadhangavadeswarar Temple. It was on the way, just before I reached Kailasanathar temple. I decided to go there, and visit other temples as well until this one opened.

Anekadhangavadeswarar Temple

Anekadhangavadeswarar Temple is one of the Paadal Petra Thalams (temples that are revered in the verses of Saiva Nayanars in the 6th-9th century CE).  As per the legend, the Linga in the temple was established by Vinayagar or Ganesh, the son of Lord Shiva. The temple was also worshipped by Kubera, the king of wealth.

Anekadhangavadeswarar Temple, Kanchipuram
A Tamil hymn by Sundaramurthy Nayanar on this temple.

When I went there, the gate was open but the main shrine was closed. There was nobody inside. The place was kind of a secluded spot. While I was circumambulating the temple, the priest came and opened the door. I had a chat with him for a few minutes. Then I started walking back to explore the area near Ekambareswarar temple. 

There is a corner where two roads meet, close to Brahmakumaris Rajayoga meditation centre. I had some idlis for breakfast in  a kaiyendhi bhavan (a roadside shop where you usually stand and eat) there. 

Chandaveli (or Santhaveli) amman temple

This is a temple located in a busy street and it is a bit close to another famous perumal temple called Pandava Dhootha temple. This is a family deity for many people and has a lot of village guardian deities inside.

Chandaveli (or Santhaveli) amman temple, Kanchipuram

As per the legend, Kamakshi amman set up guardian deities in eight directions when she was doing the penance, so that no one would disturb her. This deity is one among the eight deities; she was originally called Chandraveli amman. She got this name because the temple is close to Chandra Pushkarini theertham.

There is a cow shed inside with a lot of cows. Then there are various statues including the ones for Madurai Veeran, Nagar, Mariamman etc. People worship this Goddess to get relieved from various diseases.

Draupathi Amman temple

I started walking towards the north after coming out of Chandaveli amman temple. I went in search of nearby temples and ended up in Panjupettai big street, which goes towards the street north to the Ekambareswarar temple. Draupathi Amman temple is a small temple in Panjupettai big street.

Draupathi Amman temple, Kanchipuram

Draupadi or Draupathi is the wife of Pandavas in Mahabharata. She is also believed to be an incarnation of Mariamman. She is a family deity for many communities.There was no one here. Spent a few minutes here.

Gangai amman temple

Gangai Amman temple, Kanchipuram

This temple is in Panjupettai big street, very close to a famous Shiva temple called Ona Kantheeswarar Temple. It is a very small temple where river Ganges is worshipped as the Goddess. I went inside and had a darshan before going to the Shiva temple right next to it.

Ona Kantheeswarar Temple

This is also one of the padal petra sthalams. The temple is located in an elevated structure. So you have to climb a few steps to enter. 

Ona Kantheeswarar Temple, Kanchipuram
A Tamil hymn by Sundaramurthy Nayanar on this temple.

The temple has three different shrines of Shiva with names Oneswarar, Kantheswarar and Jalandareswarar. These three lingas are believed to be self-manifested (swayambhu moorthy). As per the legend, three asuras (demons) worshipped the three lingas. 

Chevandheswarar Temple

Chevandheswarar Temple is the next temple I went to, which is also a Shiva temple. I had to continue walking in the Panjupettai big street and take left at the end to reach this temple. This is behind Ekambareswarar temple.

People visit this temple to eliminate Chevvai Dosham or Mars Dosha . A Dosha is a term used in Indian astrology to mean the unfavourable position of a planet in a person’s birth chart. Since it was Tuesday, there was a huge crowd in the temple. As per the legend, Vayu, the lord of winds, worshipped Shiva here using Chrysanthemum flowers.

Chevandheswarar Temple, Kanchipuran

Once I finished darshan here, I walked back to enter a street that runs along the back side and then the left side (Eastern) of Ekambareshwar temple. The temple compound wall is very tall and the gopuram looks very beautiful from the streets around the temple.

Arasu Katha Amman temple

I found this Arasu Katha Amman temple as I walked in the road which runs right opposite to the gopuram of Ekambareswarar temple. The name of this street is Ekambaranathar sannidhi street. Just like Chandaveli amman, Arasu Katha amman was also one of the deities guarding the penance of Kamakshi amman, as per the legend; in fact, she was the leader of this guardian gang. Usually, the forms of mother Goddess Parvati or Amman is seen with a lion as the vehicle; but this Goddess has elephant as the vehicle, which is very unique.

Arasu Katha Amman temple, Kanchipuram

The Amman is also called as sampathkariswari. Sampath means wealth and kari means elephant. The Amman got this name because she bestows wealth while riding on the elephant. ‘Arasu’ means kingdom and ‘katha’ means the one who saved; she got the name ‘Arasu katha Amman’ because she was the custodian to Chola kingdom.

Meikandeeswarar temple

Once I finished darshan in Arasu Katha Amman temple, I went to the street right next to it to visit Meikandeeswarar temple. This temple is a part of ‘Thondai Mandala Atheenam”, a Shaivite monastery established in the 14th century.

Meikandeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

There was no one inside. I just saw the beautiful linga.  After having darshan, I walked out and found ‘Renugambal temple’ in the corner of the same street.

Renugambal temple

Renuka is a Goddess who is also called Yellamma or Yellai Amman.  It was probably because of the merger of two different traditions. Renuka was the wife of sage Jamadagni and was known for her chastity. I visited the temple and sat inside for a few minutes in silence. Then I went back to the previous street to visit two more temples there.

Renugambal temple, Kanchipuram

Thanthondreeswarar temple

I saw this Thanthondreeswarar temple in  Ekambaranathar sannidhi street. Unfortunately the temple was closed. There is a big statue of Shiva on the top, at the entrance.

Thanthondreeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

At the entrance, it was written that Shiva in this temple was worshipped by sage Upamanyu. I kept walking towards the north, facing Ekambareswarar temple tower, to reach Jurahareswarar temple which was just a few metres away.

Jurahareswarar temple

Jurahareswarar temple is another beautiful Shiva temple with wonderful architecture, in a peaceful location. People worship in this temple to get cure from fever; the name Jurahareswarar literally means the one who takes away the fever or diseases which happen along with a rise in body temperature. As per the legend, Devas worshipped here to get recovery from fever.

Jurahareswarar temple, Kanchipuram

I sat there for a few minutes admiring the beauty of the temples and the trees around. The occasional sounds of birds and the coolness of the shade added an additional flavour to the experience.

Pandava Thoothar temple

Once you leave Jurahareswarar temple, you have to take the next left which is right after the temple and walk another few metres to reach Pandava Dhootha temple (or Pandava Thoothar temple). This is again one of the 108 divya desams dedicated to Vishnu. 

I had been trying to visit this temple since the morning; I went there twice (once at 6:30 AM and then again at 7:30 AM)  but it was closed. My third attempt was successful. 

Pandava Thoothar temple, Kanchipuram

The temple is associated with Krishna of Mahabharata, who is one of the avatars of Vishnu. His statue inside the garbhagriha is about 25 feet tall and he is in sitting form. Krishna Janmashtami or the birthday of Krishna is a very important festival in this temple. 

Swami Arulala Perumal Emperumanar, also called Yagnamurthy came to this temple and had a debate with Sri Ramanuja; he was defeated and became the disciple of Ramanuja. So, the birthday of Swami Arulala Perumal Emperumanar (Bharani of Karthigai month) is also celebrated in this temple.

The time was about 10 AM as I was about to leave from there; my next destination was Kailasanathar temple, the long awaited one, which was supposed to open after 9 AM. The temple is a bit away from all the other temples that I visited that morning; it is in the western limits of Kanchipuram city, on the bank of Vegavathy river.

Kailasanathar temple

Kailasanathar temple is the oldest temple in Kanchipuram. This is also one of the most important temples in Kanchipuram.  It is a beautiful temple with wonderful stone carvings. 

The temple has about 58 small shrines of various forms of Shiva. The place where it is situated is one of the three kanchis (short form for Kanchipuram) called Shiva Kanchi; the other two are Vishnu Kanchi and Jain Kanchi. There is a secret tunnel inside the temple used by kings to escape when their safety was threatened.

The temple was built during Pallava’s period (640-730 AD) along with Vaikunta Perumal temple. You will get a different feel and experience in this temple. There is a grassland before the temple and a couple of stone benches are there to sit. You can sit and enjoy the view. I spent a long time there, admiring the beauty and taking pictures. The photos I took here will speak more than these words; so check them out.

The time has crossed 11 AM. I have to check out the hotel by noon. To walk back to the hotel, I have to walk on the straight road until Kachabeswarar temple and then take left from there. I began to walk slowly, having one last look at both sides of the  road and checking if there was anything else to visit on the way.

Kanchi Kudil

This is not a temple; this is something interesting I saw on the way. Kanchi Kudil is an ancestral property which has been turned into a tourist place. The board caught my eye.

I went inside and met a lady who was sitting in the reception. She said that there is a ticket to enter, which costs Rs.10. I bought the ticket and went inside. The lady gave me an introduction about the place.

How did the house of a joint family in Kanchipuram that survived on agriculture about 100 years before look like? Kanchi Kudil takes you back on time. This house is about 100 years old; they have preserved the furniture, utensils, clothing, equipment and more of those days.  The house reminded me of some ancestral houses I have seen in Tirunelveli district when I was young.

Airavateswarar Temple

Airavateswarar Temple is right opposite to Kachabeswarar temple; there might be a natural tendency to ignore the temple since it looks so small and simple in front of the large Kachabeswarar temple with a high temple tower.  Also, the temple has a small entrance and one has to look twice to recognize the presence of a temple there.

It is one of the oldest temples, built during Pallava’s time. Since this temple is on the way back to the hotel, I went inside and had a darshan.

The Final Hour

The time is up. I went near Kamakshi amman temple, for two reasons. If the temple was open I could go there once more; if the Deivigam book store was open I could browse for more interesting books.

But the bookstore was closed; a single door in the Kamakshi amman temple was closed, indicating that they were just waiting for the devotees who were already inside to come out. Anyway, it was Aippasi Pooram day as I mentioned in this post, which I came to know only after leaving Kanchipuram. 

I went back to the room, put my phone on the charger and took a rest for some time. Then I  packed my things and told the manager that I was checking out; I had already made the payment the first day. 

The owner called me near and asked me how the stay was. I told him it was very good and I thanked him for the discount. I also asked for his card. I left a positive review with 5-star ratings in Google Maps.

I walked to Kanchipuram bus stand and had lunch in a restaurant inside. I got a bus directly to Kalpakkam, from which I could take a bus to Kadapakkam. I reached my residence in Kadapakkam in the evening.


Edaikazhinadu and Alamparai Fort – History, Temples and Tourism

When you travel from Chennai to Pondicherry on the East Coast road, you would certainly pass through Edaikazhinadu, a beautiful coastal town in Chengalpattu district. Edaikazhinadu is a collection of about 27 villages. It is known as ‘Little Kerala’; the beauty and vegetation give you a feeling that you are in one of the coastal villages in the state of Kerala.

Every house in Edaikazhinadu is surrounded by a large farm with lots of trees. Mango, Jackfruit, coconut and palmyrah trees are found in abundance here. 

Kadapakkam is the largest town in this region. I finished my kindergarten in Kadapakkam, in GVR Matriculation Higher Secondary School which still exists.

I recently came here on Saraswati puja day of 2020, the day when people worship Saraswati, the Goddess of wisdom, education and arts. Since my earliest years of school education was done here, I felt like the Goddess of education was welcoming me back to the place where she initiated me first to education.

GVR Matriculation Hr Sec school, Kadapakkam

History of Edaikazhinadu

Mentions in Tamil Sangam Literature

History of Edaikazhinadu goes back to the years of sangam literature in Tamil. The villages and nearby towns like Marakkanam, Tindivanam etc  are mentioned in ancient Tamil literature. The Author of Sirupanatrupadai ( Ciṟupāṇāṟṟuppaṭai) was born in Nallur, one of the villages in this region. His name is  Edaikazhinattu Nallur Naththathanar. 

Sirupanatrupadai is an ancient Tamil poem which is a part of Pathupattu anthology (anthology of ten songs). Nallur, the village where the author was born,  is about 1.5 kms from Kadapakkam. A memorial for Nallur Naththathanar, the author of the poem has been constructed here by Tamil Nadu government.

Sirpanatrupadai deals with the author guiding a band of bards to meet a king called Nalliyakotan for patronage. The king was ruling Oimanadu, which is the present day Tindivanam. 

Connections with Idaikattu Siddhar

Idaikattu Siddhar is considered as one among 18 siddhars in Tamil tradition. Siddhars are considered as people who are self-realized and have expertise in multiple domains including medicine, martial arts and mystical powers such as siddhis.

Idaikattu siddhar was born in the family that tends and looks after goats. He was a siddhar and is said to have predicted a famine 12 years before its occurence. He is said to have rearranged nava grahas to bring rainfall and end the famine. This incident is said to have happened in Kadapakkam and there is a temple called Arunachaleshwarar temple which was believed to have been constructed by Idaikattu siddhar. He also meditated on a small island near the sea, which is called ‘idayan thittu’. It is believed that this siddhar still lives in idayan thittu in the astral form and visits the Arunachelaswarar temple in Kadapakkam every full moon day. 

Ruins of Alamparai fort – a 17th century fort built by Mughals

This is what Edaikazhinadu is very famous for. It is home to the ruins of a historical fort called ‘Alamparai fort’ which was built in the late 17th century by Mughals. This ;port once had a 10-metre long dockyard stretching into the sea. It was a busy port from which salt, ghee and zari cloth were exported.

In 1735, It was under the control of Nawab Doste Ali Khan. In 1750, this fort was given as a gift to French, honoring the services rendered by French commander Dupleix to Subedar Muzaphar Jung. But it was captured and destroyed by the British in 1760. The fort was further damaged by the 2004 earthquake.

The place as a tourist place was neglected by the government until recently. Renovation work has been going on now. It is a famous shooting spot for Tamil movies; the cremation scene from the Tamil movie ‘Pithamagan’ and the song ‘Vizhigalil Vizhigalil’ from ‘Thiruvilayadal Arambam’ were shot here. Due to a lot of antisocial events that happened here, the fort was closed to the public for some years. Visitors are allowed at the moment though. 

There was also a mint in the fort where coins named as ‘Alamparai varagan’ were made. Once this mint was managed by a person called Pottipatthan who had a concern for travellers travelling to North Indian cities like Kashi (Varanasi) through Edaikazhinadu. There is a famous ancient road called Kashi Paattai, still called by that name that runs through Kadapakkam. This road was used by travellers from Tamil Nadu to travel to the north; it was used by Rama and Adi Shankara too. Potti Patthan constructed a chatram, a place to stay at night for travellers in Kasi Paattai road. He also constructed Kashi Vishwanathar temple nearby, which is close to Lakshmi Narasimhar temple.

On the way to the beach, there is a bridge that is over the canal. You can see the Kadapakkam lighthouse from here; the waves in the sea and boats in the canal are visible.

The beach here is very beautiful. Here are some pics from the beach:

Recently when I went there on a Sunday (10th Nov, 2020), I made a Shivalinga in the sand.

Temples in Edaikazhinadu

My hobby has been visiting various small temples nearby, studying their structure and trying to learn their history. In the first couple of days after coming here, I visited Durga temple, Kadumbadi Chinnamman temple and Angala Parameshwari temple in Kadapakkam. There is a huge statue of the Goddess in front of Angala Parameshwari temple.

The temples with historical importance are Arunachaleshwarar temple and Kashi Vishwanathar temple, which I already mentioned. There is a Draupadi amman temple in Kashi Paattai road and a Muthumariamman temple nearby.

Draupati Amman temple, Kadapakkam

Muthumariamman temple is some where inside the woods and it was closed when I went there. Here are the pics of Muthumariamman temple and the places on the way:

About 1.5 km north of Kadapakkam, there is a Hanuman temple called Arumuga Bhakta Anchaneyar temple. It is in Sembulipuram village. There is a sign board in ECR road from which you have to take left. The temple has a huge 13 feet Hanuman statue with six faces. The sixth face is at the back and it is a human face. It is visible through a glass window at the back. Panchamukhi Hanuman with 5 faces is common but the one with six faces is unique to this temple.

Gangai amman temple is another temple for mother Goddess which is very close to the Hanuman temple.

There is also a temple called Pachai Vazhi amman in Sembulipuram. It has huge statues of village deity Muniswaran and of many other village deities. 

Here are some pics from a small temple on the way to Pachai Vazhi Amman temple:

Here are the pictures from Pachaivazhi Amman temple:

Another important temple called Muthalamman temple is situated about 1.5 km south to Kadapakkam. It has shrines of 12 devatas or deities meant for 12 rashis or zodiac signs, which is something unique to this temple. 

A newly constructed temple of Lord Ganesh called Sowbhagya Vinayagar temple is very close to the Kadapakkam bus stand. It has a unique combination of deities with shrines for Bhakta Anchaneya, Dakshinamurthy, Amirthakadeswarar and Abirami, Danvantri, Santana Lakshmi,  Subrahmanya with his two consorts, Brahma and a beautiful  statue of Sarasvati opposite to each other, Vishnu Durga, Ayyappan, Lakshmi Hayagrivar, Swarna Akarshana Bhairavar and navagrahas.. The statues of Saraswati and Ayyapan have extraordinary beauty.

Also read Pappankulam – A Village of Brahmins and Four Vedas.

My Life after Spiritual Enlightenment – The Untold side of Self-Realization

We are living in an age when spiritual wisdom has been demystified enough, though “spiritual enlightenment” or ‘self-realization’ still remains a mystery for people who are seeking it. This is also an age when the general public seem to have no idea about the true authentic spirituality, the science which explores the mechanics of human suffering and the way out of it. This is also an age when many so-called gurus use the weaknesses of the spiritual seekers to their own advantage, become spiritual entrepreneurs and earn millions in their spiritual business. Also, this is the age when seemingly contradicting and confusing theories in spiritual science confuse the clueless seeker and leave him in despair.

My book “The Truth About Spiritual Enlightenment: Bridging Science, Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta” has been helping seekers around the world to reduce the confusion and get more clarity on the path. It has received many positive reviews, mainly highlighting the honesty and clarity they found in the book.  I wrote this book when I was beginning to understand what was happening to me, two years after spiritual enlightenment. About four years has passed since then; if I look back at the last six years, I feel compelled to share a few things which may be helpful for sincere seekers.

My Life as a seeker

I was pushed into spiritual seeking because of my own emotional problems in my life which were the results of a traumatic childhood. I felt like I didn’t belong to this world and its people, and this huge lack of a sense of belonging was very depressing. When my peers were spending their time in understanding people and the world and learning the survival skills that are necessary to survive in this cruel, competitive world, I was spending all my energy to find out how to cope up with my emotional issues and be happy. There were only two choices: 1) Suicide 2) Survive, seek and find the way out. The second option led me into spiritual seeking; I somehow got the trust that I can find the way out by getting the help of the saints of the past and the wisdom that they have left for the world.

Sometime during the end of 2002, I went through an experience which changed my worldview and my life completely. I was in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu for my semester holidays and I saw that there is a part of ‘self’ in me which is just pure conscious witness and it was unchanging. Identifying with this observer self or Sakshi (witness) was a great relief. It made me realize that I am a part of an infinite wholeness and can’t be separated from it. It gave me enormous strength to face the world and its challenges. I felt like a secret door to inner exploration had opened. I can classify this experience as a kind of ‘conversion experience” that psychologist William James discusses in his classic, “The Varieties of Religious Experience”. The joy that this experience gave me never left me for the next six months.  Many people, especially in the West, mistake this transformation for spiritual enlightenment but it is not.

It is only after this I came to know that the spiritual enlightenment which was accessible to Buddha, Mahavira, Shankara, Jesus and Muhammad was not a sole possession of such special people but it is a potential of every human being. But contrary to the path of renunciation and abstinence which was commonly discussed in popular spiritual books of the past, my way was of surrendering control and accepting life. This doesn’t require running away from life, controlling or going against one’s natural desires or torturing oneself. I practised a meditation called Sakshi bhavana (witnessing meditation), which is just being a witness or sakshi to what happens in the mind and the body, instead of identifying with the contents of consciousness. Sakshi bhavana basically creates a gap between an experience and the conscious observer self that witnesses this experience; this gap lessens the severity of pain or suffering that the experience brings.

Spiritual Enlightenment – The reward of the spiritual seeking

12 years of practicing Sakshi Bhavana, reading spiritual literature and hunting spiritual gurus came to an end on July 12, 2014, on the day of Guru Purnima. I felt like I have dissolved myself in the infinity and the wholeness of this existence. My perception of ‘self’ was no longer limited to this finite body and mind. I felt to be everything: I was the sky, the earth, the trees and everything around me. I stopped feeling like I was locked inside a body. I felt like I, as a person, stopped existing, as If I have simply melted in a soup of conscious experience and become everything. In fact, I was surprised to see that I could still function and carry on with my regular tasks without actually feeling that a personal limited self was doing them. There was no doubt that this is the advaita or oneness that all scriptures were talking about and this way of experiencing life still continues after these six years. The reward that this transformation brought was a great freedom and strength which cannot be put in words. 

Challenges after self-realization – The untold downsides of Spiritual enlightenment

This is the part that I haven’t clearly discussed so far because I didn’t want to scare people. But now I have proceeded to throw some light on it, so that people can be prepared. This can also help people who are actually struggling to get some help after self-realization.

Spiritual enlightenment gives a different dimension to your mundane existence. We can call this as spiritual existence, which is totally different from the ‘human existence’ that everyone is familiar with. This spiritual existence makes ordinary experiences of life so rewarding; in fact, simply being alive has its own beauty, freshness and bliss in spiritual existence. Since it is so rewarding, it is very easy to actually neglect, ignore, deny or suppress the human existence which you still possess or still important. In fact, it may be very hard to see the truth that this spiritual existence is not a replacement for human existence, but only an addition to it. 

It is not very uncommon for many self-realized people to neglect their body, health, relationships, careers etc because their importance fades before the majesty of self-realization. But when the situation demands your fullest attention, you may face an extremely challenging situation and no one would understand you. You have to go through some pain in correcting the situation. 

For months after my own realization, I continued my job; but I didn’t think about anything at all. My mindset was similar to a small kid trying to explore the surroundings. I totally forgot about the responsibilities of my job and what I was supposed to do to keep my job. I was working in a call center and making sales was my responsibility. But I was so excited to meet every new person on the phone and I totally forgot that I had to convince the guy for a purchase. My mind was not thinking about an end or a goal. It is only after a few months I realized that I have  to have a goal or end in my mind in order to survive in society. I couldn’t think of anything in the long term but I have to accept ‘making sales’ as a purpose to my existence. 

I also kind of forgot that I was a human being with an independent existence and I was being watched by the world around me for all reasons. In fact, I kind of even forgot to realize that my today’s existence was a continuation of my yesterday’s existence. I didn’t realize that people were behaving with me in a certain way as a result of my own recent past behaviour. Past and future simply didn’t exist for me. I stopped keeping a track of what I did everyday or what happened to me everyday. I didn’t give a damn about what others thought about me to the extent of ignoring the fact that I was behaving like a lunatic at times. For example, I used to scare the hell out of people by keeping prolonged eye contact with them; I used to totally forget to think how weird it could be for another person. It was the idea of being a ‘person’ that carried the continuation from one moment to another moment; but since I lacked the idea of being a person in my conscious experience, I must have appeared as a totally funny guy to people.

This kind of compromised my career and relationships. It is only when they got compromised and when I felt answerable, I paid attention to what was happening to me. There was a time when I had to go for a job interview for a new job; that’s when I realized that I really didn’t have a version of myself in my mind. In fact, I absolutely had no immediate answer to the usual and common interview question, which is, “Could you tell me a bit about yourself?”.  I felt like that was the most difficult question to answer.

There was also another confusion, which requires some explanation to understand. The world around you treats you in a certain way because you are a certain kind of person, projecting a certain image. In fact, the society simply reacts to how you are as a person, the patterns of your reactions, speech, behaviour etc. In turn, you learn your own behaviours and reactions depending on how the world treats you. All of our behaviours are simply learnt unconsciously using the three methods of learning: Classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning.

But after self-realization, many things change in you. Even the simple things like the way you gaze, the way you speak etc undergo changes. Your face reactions are now a lot different. Since you are different, the way the world treats you is also different. This will literally shock your system even though this appears as an ordinary issue. Personally, I noticed that people started to talk to me with respect, strangers very easily started a conversation with me and people would even forgive me so easily when I messed up; people also took me for granted because I was less judgemental, less argumentative, less problematic and less complaining. This was all totally new to me. You may think that it is  cool but it does bring its own challenges. The behaviours you already learnt will be totally out of place and will not fit with your changed persona. Because of this you may misunderstand people and reality. In fact, it is normal to go through a period of mild schizophrenia; it is a disorder which makes you misinterpret reality. 

Also, you won’t sound much complaining and you won’t worry much. This is a good thing right? Not always… Your lack of worry will irritate your partner. You will be seen as irresponsible by your boss. People may start to think that you have become careless. They may bother you with a long monologue of useless advice; if you don’t pay attention to that they may feel extremely hurt because of all the good intentions they had.

Your lack of fear can be easily misinterpreted as lack of humility. Your boss at work may feel like you lack respect. You will keep offending people who have strong egos, which can actually become a threat to you. Some people may even try to hurt you because your simple presence may be offensive to them.

There is more to it. There is a reward center in your brain which controls your behaviour,  by rewarding certain behaviours like eating, sex etc. You repeat behaviours which are rewarding and you refrain from behaviours which cause pain. One of the things which is very rewarding to a normal human mind is the feeling of personal accomplishment. It is this which motivates us humans to do a lot of self-preserving actions. It is this which kind of rules the world. People compete in elections, try hard to win a race or a competition, try to show off and even like to achieve goals because the sense of personal achievement they get out of it is extremely rewarding. After spiritual enlightenment, the reward you get in the feeling of personal achievement fades in comparison with the rewards and gifts your spiritual transformation brings. But this can result in compromising your human existence a lot. People who are close to you can actually start hating you for this. 

Also, the people who were close to you in the past, like an old friend or your school classmate, can mess up your ‘spiritual existence’ by simply coming in touch with you. Meeting a human being from the past means a lot to your brain. All the neurons and pathways associated with this old human gets activated and a lot of old thought patterns can also get activated along with it (look up ‘classical conditioning). Your emotional state after such an acquaintance may surprise you. Please remember, your brain doesn’t know that you are enlightened! In general, people who know you before your spiritual enlightenment are hard to deal with, because the impression that they have about you was from the older ‘self’, while you are no longer the same person. These people can misunderstand you quite easily and the transactions or interactions are not always smooth. 

‘ If you were addicted to any substance or drug like nicotine, alcohol etc, and if you didn’t work on your addiction before spiritual enlightenment, then you can’t quit that easily after enlightenment. First of all, addiction is a serious brain disease, not just a habit. It hacks the reward center of your brain and messes up the system. So getting over it is a huge work. A person quits using a drug because of the incentive he gets out of quitting: a feeling of personal accomplishment, restored health, more social acceptance etc. He has to convince himself that such rewards are greater than simply continuing to use the drugs, which is challenging for normal people. It gets more challenging after spiritual enlightenment because  such rewards are nothing before the new ‘spiritual existence’ which rewards you for simply being you.  In general, bringing any kind of behavioral change is more difficult, especially for the first few years after spiritual enlightenment.

Also, after spiritual enlightenment, all spiritual seeking disappears because the person who was seeking is no longer there. But growth or evolution is still possible. There is much more potential to a human being and spiritual enlightenment is just a beginning of the new dimension. Since seeking anything in the future is completely absent now, it is only the challenges and pain you face help you with any further evolution. So, your psychological wellbeing can still be affected after spiritual enlightenment but you can be assured that the end results are always good. So the ‘end of seeking’ is actually a problem here because you no longer seek a next stage in your evolution; it won’t even make sense to you. It is true that there is no higher stage or a ‘more enlightened’ state; but there is a richness in realizing the full potential, which is possible by facing the challenges of a normal life. There is a beauty in the maturity of spiritual enlightenment when you learn to live an ordinary life with this new ‘spiritual existence’. You accomplish this evolution when you continue to “chop wood and fetch water” after spiritual enlightenment.

To conclude, spiritual enlightenment is pretty much like a rebirth. You have to explore this new dimension and learn how to live with it all by yourself. It takes a few years to kind of stabilize things after spiritual enlightenment. There is much more to the spiritual enlightenment than what you find in spiritual literature and from the gurus. The rest, you have to find out by entering this realm yourself. 

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