The city of Kanchipuram is one amongst the seven sacred cities or Mukthi Sthala of India from time immemorial. The city is on the banks of river Vegavathi.
It is a temple city with more than hundred temples, dotting every nooks and corners of the city. This is an ancient center for learning and scholarship too. Many scholars across the country visited this city. Ramanujacharya, Sri ChaithanyaPrabhu and many of the Alwar saints to name a few.
But three temples deserve special mention amongst these. The Ekambaranath Temple of Lord Shiva, the Varadaraja Perumal temple of Lord Vishnu and KamakshiAmmal temple dedicated to Goddess Parvati. All the three temples were great centers of worship from the distant past itself.
Among the three, the Ekambarnath Temple of Lord Shiva has a special significance as it is regarded as one of the Panchabhootha temples of South India. Here the Lingam of Lord Shiva represents the element Earth or Bhoomi. This is one of the oldest surviving temples of India.
A mango tree behind the sanctum sanctorum is worshipped with much respect. The tree, which is said to be more than 3500 years old, has four branches. It is said to produce mangoes of four different tastes in the season.
There is a legend behind this mango tree and the temple. One day, while Lord Shiva was in meditation, Parvati-out of fun covered the eyes of him for a while. This caused the earth being covered with darkness for years. This irritated Lord Shiva; he cursed Parvati to go to the Earth and do the penance.
Parvati came to Kanchipuram. Made a Shiva Linga out of Sand (soil or the earth) and started worshipping Lord Shiva beneath this mango tree. The Lord tested the sincerity of Parvati in many ways, she passed in all. Pleased by her devotion Lord Shiva called back Parvati to Kailas- his abode.
The earliest historical reference to this temple goes back to the second century BC (in Mahabhashya of Pathanjali). But the current history starts with the Pallavas (6 to 8th Century AD) who made Kanchipuram their capital.
Apart from Pallavas, the famous Hindu temple also received patronage from the Cholas and VijayaNagara rulers. The VijayaNagara ruler Krishna Deva rayar contributed much to this temple.
The raja gopuram or the entrance tower was re-built by him. The tower rises to 172 feets or about 57 meters. He also contributed the present day ‘thousand pillar’ hall, which is worth a visit.
Kanchipuram is 70 kilometers from Chennai, well connected with other parts of Tamil Nadu by rail and road.