This is the last of the most important places to visit in Kanchipuram. I talk about one of the most beautiful temples here, the Varadaraja Perumal Temple. The Ekambareshwar Temple is mentioned as Siva Kanchi and this temple as Vishnu Kanchi in our Vedas. If you want to see an amalgamation of cultures, it is this temple that sets as an example. This is initially built by the Pallava, then Chola and later expanded and beautified by the Vijayanagara rulers, who are great patrons of art. According to one local legend, this temple commemorates the site where Brahma performed a yajna to invoke the presence of Vishnu. This ritual was carried out on an altar raised upon a high square platform.
It was almost 4 PM when i visited this place. I had a couple of hours with me so i spent leisurely exploring every part of the temple. The gopura of the temple was under renovation and there was a covering of thatch on it. There are inscriptions in the Tamil language on either side inside the gopura. A small mantapa leads to the main sanctuary. Forms of the Dasavatara and various other sculptures like creepers are carved on the pillars that support this mantapa. There is a second gopura through which we enter the main temple complex.
There is an extremely beautiful Rangamantapa in the outer complex on the left which we will talk about soon. There is a small long mantapa just after the first gopura. You find a chain at all the ends of the ceiling. On closer look we will be amazed to notice that the chains are also carved out of stone. Remarkable was the art which enabled a stone carved in to a proper chain where each ring move freely within the other.
As i enter the main shrine, the thing that attracted me is the centuries old oil painting and the long inscriptions below it on the left wall after passing through the inner gopura. The painting tells various stories of Lord Krishna and his consorts. The lower part of the painting faded over these centuries. However, the inscriptions are still very clear. I then entered the main shrine and had to turn off my camera. The main shrine is more beautiful as the exterior. I had a nice darshan of the Lord and moved to the golden lizard. This is interesting. There a place in this temple where you will find lizards made of gold, silver and bronze and placed on the ceiling. It is believed that whoever touches these lizards will be free of the bad outcomes when a lizard falls on a person. In India, it is considered a bad omen when lizard falls on a human body.
I then had a leisure tour of the inner part of the temple. You will find small mantapas inside the main shrine. The pillars of these mantapas are either carved with nice designs like creepers or with figures of deities like Rama and Vishnu. There is one such mantapa which is made of black stone and looks great. You will find images of the Dasavatara carved on the pillars of this mantapa. As this temple is dedicated to Vishnu, you will find the forms of Lord Vishnu or goddess Lakshmi at most of the places.
At one end of the shrine is the temple tank. This tank falls between the temple and the Ranga Mantapa outside and is a nice view. There is a small mantapa in between this temple tank where special rituals are performed. I had a nice tour inside and came outside. There is a mantapa near the inner gopura and its pillars are extremely beautiful in their carvings. One of the most beautiful is the image of Lord Krishna and his lady consorts are around him.
There are other images like Vishnu in the form of a boar (Varaha) carrying the lady earth on his shoulder. Then there is an image of Hanuman carrying Vishnu. The most beautiful of them are the horses carved on these pillars and warriors on these horses. The warriors carry swords. Each minute detail is taken care of when carved. If you find soldiers on horses being carved extensively, you can assume that the temple was constructed by either the Vijayanagara kings or the Cholas. One typical example of the Chola architecture is the Brihadishwara Temple in Tanjore, which is still a wonder in its architecture.
We still have to talk about the very beautiful Ranga Mantapa (next post) and briefly about some other temples in Kanchipuram.