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Notes on the Geography of Peninsular India: Kanchipuram: Ekambareshvara Temple

Kanchipuram (during the British period Conjeeveram) is etymologically the "golden city." It lies a couple of hour's west of Chennai and is a good-sized town, although from the main street you'd never guess the city has a couple of hundred thousand people. Modest as the town looks, it ranks as the Varanasi of South India and abounds with temples. Ekambareshvara Temple, shown here, is the biggest though not the oldest. It's a 16th to 17th century undertaking, far newer than the 8th Century Kailasanatha and Vaikuntha Perumal temples. Ironically, in view of its late date, Ekambareshvara is largely in ruin, which makes it especially interesting.

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Peninsular India: Kanchipuram: Ekambareshvara Temple picture 1

The none-too-polished main entrance, at the base of the 188-foot-tall Raja Gopura or Royal Tower, built in 1509 by one of the Vijayanagar kings.

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Once inside, looking back.

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A bit farther in, a tank.

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The Raja Gopura from the far side of the tank. On the right, a bit of the "hall of a thousand columns," which fronts the inner sanctum.

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That's the high-traffic area; out to the west there are overgrown courtyards with not a soul in sight. This is Indiana Jones stuff, but you have to enter barefoot, so be careful.

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Walk on the ground or up top.

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Another gopura, this one closed tight except to roots, gradually penetrating deeper and deeper.

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Front view.

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Two hundred millimeter view.

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Ornament.


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