Kanchipuram, the Four-fold Glory:Buddha Kanchi Dr Prema Nandakumar( May 2007 (349)
Pushpeshu jati, purusheshu vishnu; Narishu rambha, nagareshu kanchi. This jingle is attributed to Kalidasa. He was certainly a connoisseur of places and might have seen enough of Kanchipuram more than a millennium ago to come up with this crisp verse. Certainly, since the time before Christ, Kanchipuram had been laying down layers of the fnest in Indian culture. Even though these earlier days have largely to be surmised, there is plenty of his-torical documentation about the Pallavas and Cho-las, who had a big hand in building the city and its environs. The original name of Kanchipuram was Kachchi Managar. Tere have been diferent nterpretations of the word kanchi. Te Sanskrit term denotes a woman’s waist-girdle. But we may note that the place, Tondaimandalam, was perhaps a forest of kanchi (river portia) trees, celebrated in ancient Sangam literature. Te city itself is referred to as Kachchi in works like Manimekalai. It is located on the Palar River. Te famous Sangam classic Perumbanatruppadai has a wonderful description of Kanchi and its king, Ilamtiraiyan: Flanked by its belt of defensive jungle is that city
Whose doors are never closed to those who seek the prize. Lovely like the pericarp of the many-pet-alled lotus / Te navel of the dark-hued Lord …1
The king’s dominions included the Tirumala Hills, for he is called ‘the rightful ruler of the famed Ven-gada hills’. It is said that Indians do not have the desire to record history, and hence we fnd it hard to reclaim the past. But with Kanchipuram it is the immensity of material—religious, spiritual, artistic, literary, sculptural, architectural—that overwhelms us, and we just do not know where to begin. For, here every stone has a tale to tell, every art a long tradition behind it. Necessarily we have to concentrate on the details in a compartmentalized form lest we get tangled up in the maze of history.
Kanchipuram’s socio-religious presence is marked by a four-fold glory. Even today, we are drawn not to a monolith but a four-in-one city: the Buddha Kanchi, the Jina Kanchi, the Shiva Kanchi, and the Vishnu Kanchi. All of them have histories stretching back at least a couple of millennia. All the same, we may not be far of the mark if we begin our Kanchi peregrinations with Buddha Kanchi, for the Buddhist faith seems to have been the earliest to have laid foundations at Kanchipuram.
Thanks to the Girnar inscription of Emperor Ashoka, we are able to surmise that by the third century BCE Buddhism had registered its presence widely in South India.2 Some of the Tamil Sangam works like Natrinai and Madurai-k-kanji have references to Buddhism. For instance, the latter describes women going to a Buddhist vihara for worship: Young women held fast to themselves Little children ornamented with jewels So they would not be lost; kissing them And holding frmly their hands Tat appeared like pollen-rich lotus buds, Tey stood there, carrying fowers for worship, And scented smoke, singing the glory Of their Lord in that Buddha vihara …3And of course we have the epic poem of the later Sangam age, Manimekalai. A good deal of action in this Buddhist epic takes place in Kanchipuram. Manimekalai is a dancer who becomes a nun. She obtains the Amuda Surabhi (nectar vessel) which produces food without end. This she uses for per-forming charity. In the course of her travels, she is directed by her grandfather Masattuvan to go to Kanchi, as the city had been devastated by a drought. When she goes there, she fnds a temple to Buddha at the very centre of the city: With her heart full of compassion, the maid Went around the fort rightwards, and got down Into the central part of the city. She prayed at the temple built by the king’s brother To Buddha, who had sat under the Bodhi tree Which had golden branches And fresh green leaves rivaling emerald. The king builds a garden in honour of Manimekalai’s coming to help his people. Delighted, Manimekalai makes him build a lotus seat for Buddha. She then places the Amuda Surabhi on the lotus seat and welcomes all living beings to gather to be fed. It is an unforgettable scene in which all the marginalized, the hungry, the defeated, and the maimed come to her for succour: Like life-giving physic for those who ate, Like the result of giving alms to ascetics, Like the yield when the seed is sown with thought To water, earth, season, and work in the felds, Like rains that fall to help the earth’s increase, Was the maid compared and thanked by people Whose hunger-sickness had been cured by her. She then meets her spiritual teacher, Aravana Adikal, who instructs her in the Dharma. Her mind illumined, Manimekalai dedicates herself to the ideal life that leads to salvation. Is this all an epic tale and no more? I realized that the very ancient Buddhist past is very much present in today’s Kanchipuram when I went to Arappanancheri, where the sage Aravana is said to have spent the latter part of his life. Today the place is known as Arapperumchelvi Gramam (the place of the Maid of Great Charity). I went into the local temple, which had a huge pipal tree in front. With-in was the goddess Paranjoti Amman. Te striking thing about this temple is a plaque proclaiming the following statement in Tamil: ‘From time immemorial this village has not allowed sacrifce of any life.’ Tis plaque bears witness to the area having been Buddhist from early times. History records the names of several great Buddhists of Kanchipuram who spread the Dharma all over the world. Buddhaghosha (ffh century CE),along with the monks Sumati and Jotipala, lived in Kanchi. Aniruddha, author of Abhidhammatthasangaha, lived in the Mulasoma Vihara. A Pallava king named Buddhavarman apparently built many viharas. Even today one can walk across a Buddheri street. But one has to peer into unlit corners for vestiges of the Buddhist past. A Buddhist statue on a pillar at the Kachabeshwara temple, a piece of what once was a stupa found in a feld … and the mind races back to the brilliances that had once adorned Kanchi. Acharya Dharmapala, who entered the Sangha on the eve of his wedding, lived in Patatitta Vihara built by Ashoka near Kanchipuram. He wrote Pali commentaries for some of the Tripitaka texts. He taught at Nalanda University but died young at the age of thirty-two. Ashoka’s closeness to Kanchi has been recorded by Hsuan Tsang, who says that a Buddhist stupa built by him was still standing four centuries later. Deepankara Tero, author of the Pali work Bhujja Madhu, lived in Balatissa Vihara in Kanchi. Ananda Tero of Kanchi was taken by Saddhamma Jotipala to Burma to spread Buddhism there. Tere are other revered names associated with Buddha Kanchi: Venudasa, Vajrabodhi, Sariputra … And among the most famous Buddhists of ancient Kanchi are Dignaga and Bodhidharma.Hsuan Tsang, who visited Kanchipuram in the seventh century CE, records that there were one hundred monasteries with ten thousand monks belonging to Teravada Buddhism following Dignaga’s yoga. Dignaga (ffh century CE) was a native of Kanchi and was born in Simhavaktra (Seeyaman-galam). His Hetuchakra (Wheel of Reason) inaugu-rated Buddhist philosophical logic. Bodhidharma (ffh century CE) was a Brahmana prince of Kanchi who became a Buddhist and was trained in thetechniques of meditation by Prajnatara. He went to China during the Sung rule. Emperor Wu was not pleased with the manner in which Bodhidharma couched his answers. It is said the Indian monk shut himself up in a Shaolin temple in Honan Province and emerged after nine years with two books. One of them was the famous I Chin Ching. Bodhidharma is considered the founding father of Zen Buddhism. Inspired by the Vajramushti technique prevalent in India, he taught martial arts to the Chinese (well known as the Shaolin martial arts) and also how to control the breath to strengthen the blood and immune system, energize the brain, and attain enlightenment. He is today revered by various names like Bodhitara, Ta-mo, and Bodhi Daruma. He passed away around 534 CE. One has to mention in the same breath that by the eleventh century Buddhism was very much on the wane in Tamil land. Sectarian disputes and the decadence of Buddhist institutions brought this chapter to a close. As early as the seventh century, the Pallava king Mahendravarman had issued a warning to the monks of Kanchipuram in his farce Matta-vilasa-prahasana (Tale of the Drunken Monks). A religion that had established monasteries all over Tamil Nadu, made an undeniably strong presence in the neighbouring Andhra country, and initiated a way of life that had percolated to the tiniest villages in the countryside was reduced to a distant memory with dizzying speed. So it was not surprising that no one in Kanchipuram could show me around Buddha Kanchi, because there is none present. Other layers have been spread out over what was once a vast complex of Buddhism and Buddhist art and architecture. Wandering in search of artefacts, though, one was not disappointed. Some of the goddess sculptures in the Kamakshi temple have been identifed as that of the Buddhist Tara Devi, and it was in this temple that a Buddhist stupa be- longing to the second century BCE was discovered. T A Gopinatha Rao found a standing Buddha sculpture in the innermost corridor of the Kamakshi temple in 1915. Tis seems to have been shifed to the Madras Archaeological Museum. A Buddha sculpture unearthed near the Ekam- breshwara temple is now kept in the adjacent police station. Flower and incense oferings indicate that the statue is held in veneration. It was also cute to fnd that a devotee had applied an artistic circlet of sandalpaste with kumkum to the Buddha’s forehead. Even today, there are quite a few discoveries at hand to keep one inspired. In the Subbaraya Mu- daliyar School Ground there is a massive Buddha seated in meditation, presiding over a class held in the open by the teacher, Hari Kumar. You could not fnd a nobler scene for your camera! Buddhism has had a revival in these parts thanks to social reformer Ayoddhi Dasar, who sought to give voice to the underprivileged Dalits. I was happy to go to Koneripakkam to visit a newly built shrine. Kannivel showed me around. Te place was neat, and there were kolam decorations in front. At the entrance to Buddha on the School GroundKoneripakkam: Buddhar Alayam
the modest structure is a Buddha fgure on a broken pillar. I was told it had been retrieved from a nearby place that was being dug up to build a Muslim dar-gah. Te sanctum had a Buddha fgure along with a bell, a cup of water, and a plate for ritual worship. Bodhidharma’s portrait, gifed by a devout Korean, looked down benevolently from the wall. A Buddha head in a glass case conveyed an amazing sense of peace. It had been found under an uprooted pipal tree. Kannivel told me that the entire space was once defnitely a Buddhist monastery. ‘Should it always be “once upon a time” for Buddha in Kanchi?’ I sighed. Immediately my guide assured me that there is a shining future for Bud-dhism and asked if I would go over with him to Bodhi Nagar. So we went to Vaiyavur Road and walked across a bit of slushy ground, coming sud-denly upon a very clean and peaceful place. Entering it I bowed at the fagstaf and walked a few steps to the Bodhi tree surrounded by a wall built in the Sanchi style. Founded by Ven. Divyananda, the Mahamuni Society is trying to return to the mo-nastic style popularized by the Buddhists two mil-lennia ago. In the shrine there is a statue of Buddha sculpted in Mahabalipuram. Te tranquil atmosphere took me back to the epic Manimekalai, and I walked out reciting Sutamati’s prayer— Our Lord, self-taught, the essence of faultless things, Incarnating in nature’s several forms, Always living for the good of others, Never for himself: for the good of the world His penance, with the idea of Dharma. Hence his rolling the wheel of Dharma rays. He won victory over desire; Buddha’s feet Shall I praise, my tongue shall naught else do.
(To be continued)
Notes and References 1. Translated by N Raghunathan. 2. ‘…within Beloved-of-the-Gods King Piyadasi’s domain, and among the people beyond the bordersthe Cholas, the Pandyas, the Satiyaputras, the Keralaputras, as far as Tamraparni and where the Greekking Antiochos rules, and among the kings who are neighbors of Antiochos, everywhere has Belovedof-the-Gods King Piyadasi made provision for twotypes of medical treatment: medical treatment forhumans and medical treatment for animals. (English rendering by Ven. S Dhammika.) 3. Te Tamil term ‘Katavut Palli’ has been explained as a temple to Buddha by scholars. All translations from Tamil are by Prema Nandakumar, unless otherwise stated. Bodhi Nagar—‘Never `for himself: for the good of the world’Bodhidharma brought Bud-dha’s teachings to China; here he graces the Koner-ipakkam temple
Kanchipuram, The Four-fold Glory: Jina Kanchi Dr Prema Nandakumar (June 2007 (398)
If the Buddha Kanchi of yore cannot be pinpointed today, Jina Kanchi, fortunately, has to itself a hallowed area where two temples have stood witness to the rise and fall of dynasties for over a millennium. Jainism seems to have come to Tamil Nadu even earlier than Buddhism because it is associated with Chandragupta Maurya’s retirement in Karnataka. It is widely believed that when his kingdom was devastated by a famine, Chandragupta renounced his throne on the advice of his spiritual preceptor Bhadrabahu and travelled to South India. Settling down in Karnataka, he is said to have taken to sallekhana (the Jain ascetic tradition of giving up one’s body by renouncing movement and eating). Te work of master and disciple in furthering the cause of Jainism in South India must have been very deep indeed. Te place where they stayed became the Shravanabelagola of later times with the erection of the magnifcent monolithic statue of Gomateshwara. Jainism spread well and seems to have entered Kanchipuram not long afer Chandragupta’s passing. Though the age of Jainism in Tamil Nadu has not been exactly determined, it does have a very ancient presence stretching back to the Sangam era. Te monks belonging to the religion were known as samanas (from Sanskrit shramana) and the householders as savakas (or shravakas). Because the monks were an obvious visible presence as teachers, the pathway came to be known as the Samana religion. Te monasteries were known as Samana palli (like the Buddhist vihara) and functioned as organized educational institutions. Kanchipuram, being the capital of the Tondaimandalam area (which once included Chennai, Tiruvellore, Vellore, and Tiruvannamalai) was not insulated from this sweep of Jainism all through South India. The Pallava king Simhavishnu, who ruled from Kanchipuram, was a follower of Vaishnavism, but he did not look down upon other religions. His son Mahendravarman (seventh century) was drawn to Jainism early in life. Te wonderful cave temple at Sittannavasal is attributed to his munifcence. Located in the Pudukottai area, the cave has frescoes on Jain spiritual themes like the Samavasarana (divine pavilion) Lake. It is signifcant that Mahendravarman’s drama, Matta-vilasa-prahasana, which is satire on the ways of the Pashupatas, the Kapalikas, and the Buddhists, avoids any criticism of Vaishnavism, popular Shaivism, or Jainism.
Literature has kept alive some of Jainism’s old connections with Tondaimandalam. Te author of the Jain epic Chulamani is associated with Karvetinagar near Tirupati. At a distance of ten miles from Kanchipuram is Tirupanambur, where the Jain acharya Akalanka lived. He is said to have defeated the Bud
dhists in a debate in the court of King Himasitala of Kanchi. Te eminent Jain commentator Suranandi lived in Tiruparuttikunram. Merumandara Puranam is the legend of the two assistants of the thirteenth Tirthankara, Vimalanatha. Tis narrative in thirteen cantos about the princes Meru and Mandara is attributed to Mallisena Vamana (fourteenth century) who lived in Kanchipuram. Te impressions of his feet and those of his disciple Pushpasena are honoured in the Chandraprabha temple at Tiruparuttikunram in Kanchi. Mallisena’s Purana upholds Jain thought with crystalline clarity: If you wish to act, perform dharma. If you wish to renounce, renounce anger. If you wish to see, look at knowledge. If you wish to guard, protect your vows.
Kanchipuram, Te Four-fold Glory: Jina Kanchi Curiously, the work frmly states that women can- not achieve realization: Tose placed in the four states of being due to fate By their inner aspiration are born as humans, And perform charity, worship, and tapasya, And get beyond the states to moksha: not so women. Mallisena has also written a commentary for the epic Nilakesi. Udisi Devar, who authored Tirukkalampakam and Arungalacheppu, was the head of Arpakai village in Tondaimandalam. His Tirukkalampakam is an amazing attempt to take in the whole of the religious symbolism of his time and make them all represent the Arhat. He is Shiva, Brahma, Muruga, the lord who rested in the midst of the milky ocean, and even Shakti. Towards the end, Udisi Devar speaks in a voice which must have gone down well with the devotees, for already the Jain pan- theon had a vast array of gods and goddesses: Praising the beloved of the Lord, Te mother who gave birth to this earth, Eternal Virgin, the goddess who sustained Dharma; from her have blossomed forth Te six religions; the Self-create; Te one lamp illumining creation; One who is an enemy to the disease of our birth; Te divine foster-mother who gives unstintingly Her compassion to all living beings; Te chaste one who speaks in sublime accents; A creeper of ananda; a fame of wisdom; Te medicine that cures the fever of the senses. Tus do the tapasvins praise, when they worship Te auspicious feet of the Arhat. No wonder one who is used to worshipping in Hindu temples does not feel a stranger in jinala- yas. Unlike Buddhism, the Jain religion seems to have given a very important place to temple wor- ship. Jain temples, and the rituals held therein, are described in epics like Jivaka Chintamani and Chulamani. While the former has detailed descriptions of temples to the Arhat and even of a Kama Kottam (temple to Kama), the latter has a ‘Canto on Renunciation’ in which King Bayapati conducts worship in a Jina temple with scent, fowers, and water. He circumambulates the sanctum and recites a ten-verse prayer to the Arhat. While Vedic religion gave importance to yajna, and Buddhism frowned upon image worship, Jainism was for the consecration of holy images from the very beginning. Stone and metal were the favourite media; the paintbrush was also wielded with fnesse. Te frst in the feld, the Jains mastered sculpture and met-al casting over two millennia ago, making the jinalayas treasure troves of devotional art. Such temples were obviously innumerable in the frst millennium. Today one goes in search of them with almost a hopeful hopelessness clutching one’s heart, remembering the poem by Sister Nivedita:We hear them, O Mother! Ty footfalls, Sof, sof, through the ages Touching earth here and there, And the lotuses lef on Ty footprints Are cities historic, Ancient scriptures and poems and temples, Noble strivings, stern struggles for Right. Ah, it is our good luck that we have intact two temples of Jain Tirthankaras built in the ninth cen- tury in Tiruparuttikunram, near Kanchipuram. One is a temple to the eighth Tirthankara Chan- draprabha, and it is believed that Nandivarman Pallavamalla, king of Kanchipuram, built it. Te adjacent Trailokyanatha temple has Mahavira as the main deity in the sanctum. Apparently the land was gifed to the Jain community by King Simhavishnu and his queen as early as the ffh century. Much later, Parakesarivarman Chola and Kulo A samavasaranamthunga Chola granted whole villages to Jina Kanchi. Emperor Krishnadeva Raya, who did much to save Hinduism from Islamic depredations, also contributed handsomely to the temple to help restoration works in the seventeenth century. As I get to see these temples, I fnd it hard to be-ieve that they are under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India. An ancient lady, Padma, seems to be the caretaker; she willingly opened the main entrance afer asking us sternly to deposit our cameras back in our car, while loudly complaining about how difcult it was to keep stray cattle and prowlers from entering the temple and desecrating them. Te main door opens to a vast parikrama circumambulatory corridor) and immediately before me is a dhvajastambha (fagstaf ) and balipitha (sacrifcial altar). Going up a few steps we come to the Sangita Mandapam (musical hall) established by Irusappar, a Jain monk. Te ceiling, held up by four rows of pillars, is full of paintings. Craning my neck upwards, I gaze at an astonishing sight. Tough many of the paintings are faded, there are still plenty of them that create an illusion of movement: so many young women walking, young men carrying pitchers, elephants, horses. Tere is the painting of a Samavasarana lake in which the devout bathe before proceeding to listen to the wise. At the very centre of the huge circular lake, with four stepped pathways converging from the four directions, is the seated fgure of the acharya. Tere are also serial paintings depicting incidents from Mahavira’s life. Some of the paintings seemed to be about the life of Dhivittan depicted in Chulmani. Dhivittan’s life has close resemblance to the saga of Krishna. Wedged between the mandapam and the santum is the strong room where several ancient imag of Arhats made of marble or bronze have been kep in safe custody. Some of the images are of gods anyakshis of Jain theology. Te temple has huge open spaces, and a shrine nearby has the image of Arh Pushpadanta installed in its sanctum. Going around the temple, one may well visualize King Bayapat reverence as he intoned the Chulamani prayer: You have spread as light, this earth; Te earth is enveloped in your light. Your reign brings grace to living beings; Even the world of gods seeks your feet; You have explained the eternal Truth; Truth blossomed forth according to your will. Recognizing the glory of your feet is Truth. Once this is known, all else becomes clear. In this context it would be well to remember Mnaipadiyar’s Aranericharam, which has a verse th sought to clear the confusion in the minds of common people regarding various religions, at a time when temple structures were coming up very fast: Do not worry that He is this person, or that. Meditate upon Shiva. Te god Shiva And the Lord with the triple umbrella Beneath the shade of the Ashoka tree Are both the same. There is then the prayer from Tottira Tiratt (Anthology of Prayers) dedicated to the Arhat the Trailokyanatha temple: As the immortals ruling over the skies, As the sub-humans in charge of the netherworld As humans who enter the prison of the womb, As animals and as ever so many forms Have I taken birth for a long, long time And sufered; I have now reached your temple Auspicious, hoping to be rid of this cycle of birt O Mountain of molten gold At holy Tiruparuttikunram near Kanchi!
Kanchipuram, the Four-fold Glory: Shiva Kanchi Dr Prema Nandakumar (PB July 2007 (444) (Continued from the previous issue) We call the area Shiva Kanchi, of course. But Goddess Kamakshi takes precedence in Kanchipuram! Te temple is spread over an area of about fve acres; the gleaming golden vimana of her temple attracts one’s attention immediately. Historians say that separate shrines for the goddess who was worshipped as the consort of Ekambareshwara were built only from the twelfh century onwards. Te temple of Kamakshi, also known as Kamakottam, obviously began as a Shakta centre (for worship of the Mother Goddess). Archaeological studies however claim a much earlier origin to the temple as one for a Jain Yakshi, when the holy place was known as Vimala Tirupalli. The importance of Kamakshi for Shiva Kanchi may be traced to the Puranic narrative which says that she was originally worshipped as the consort of Ekambareshwara, being part of him in the Ar- dhanarishwara form.1 According to the Kanchi Purana, Parvati once covered the eyes of Shiva in Kailasa, thus plunging creation into darkness, and consequently inviting a curse. She expiated her guilt by taking human birth and undertaking tapas, worshipping a linga made of sand. When the nearby river was in food, she embraced the linga to guard it against the rising waters. Hence she is kama-kodi, the loving creeper that has en-twined herself round the Lord. In the course of evolution of her worship, the goddess began to be worshipped as the Durga of Kamakottam (the old temple), and later the present temple of Kamakshi was raised on what was apparently a Jain temple dedicated to a Yakshi. The glorious city of Kanchi was put to the sword by the Islamic general Malik Kafur in the fourteenth century. Idols were broken down. Te Kamakshi temple was one of the major victims. As in other Kanchi temples, worship was stopped in the Kamakshi temple too for several decades, till Kumara Kampana of Vijayanagar drove out the Muslim invaders and restored religious ritu-al. From then on, the Vijayanagar kings took good care of Kanchi, and emperor Krishnade-va Raya loved visiting this great city. The Kamakshi temple today is at the very centre of the city, with the Ekambaranatha temple to the north-west and the Varadaraja temple to the south-east. It is interesting to note that all the major temples in the city are structured to face the prominent temple of Kamakshi with its four spires. The seat-ed Kamakshi is a noble image, and to her front is the Sri Chakra in which the Mother Goddess is said to reside in her subtle form. Kama-kodi, protecting Ekambareshwara from the food This city is rich in legends. We are told that originally Kamakshi was the fierce form of the supreme Goddess—ugrasvarupini. It was Adi Shankara who installed the Sri Chakra, which contained the ferocity of the goddess and transformed her into the calm and beautiful brahmasvarupini. Kamakshi’s residence in her brahma-shakti form is in a cave below. She is said to have appeared on earth once to destroy demons, including the notorious Bhandasura. Te Tapas Kamakshi (goddess undergoing tapas to expiate the sin of having closed the Lord’s eyes) has also been placed in the sanctum. Coming out of this garbhagriha, we see on the left Kamakshi’s attendant Varahi. To her front is the santana stambha indicating the place where King Dasharatha gained the boon of progeny from God-dess Kamakshi. In the frst prakara (circumambu-latory path) we have the niche of Dharma Sastha (Ayyappan) with his consorts Purna and Pushkala. Tradition avers that Karikala Chola worshipped this Sastha, who gave him the deadly weapon called Chendu which ensured his victory in the Himalayan regions. Tough it is mistakenly indicated in the niche that Sastha gave a bouquet of fowers (poo-chendu) to Karikala Chola, the fact that Sastha is represented with the typical Chendu weapon in his hands provides the right pointer. One can never exhaust Shiva Kanchi. Tere are innumerable temples dedicated to Shiva here, and one can wander into any one of them and remain absorbed in the visuals as well as the devotional fervour evoked by aspirants going there for worship. Since Kamakshi reigns supreme in Kanchi, none of the Shiva temples have a separate shrine for the goddess, though an image is kept for ceremonial (utsava) processions. Many of the temples are thought to be several hundred years old. For instance, if we go out through the western gate of the Kamakshi temple, we can walk to the Makalishwara temple, said to be the special residence of Rahu and Ketu. A snake called Makala attained mukti by worshipping Shiva in this area, and hence prayers are offered at the foot of the twin trees of neem and pipal, where a Naga has been consecrated. Going out of the southern gate of the Kamakshi temple, we come to the celebrated Kacchapeshwara temple. As the presiding deity is mentioned in the seventh century classic Dandi Alankara, the tem- ple is very old. Legend speaks of Mahavishnu in his tortoise form worshipping Shiva at this place. Apart from the sanctity of the temple, what strikes one most is a series of Buddhist fgures on the stone pillars of an inner mandapa. It is obvious that these pillars have been taken from a Buddhist vihara. Perhaps the vihara was the original structure and when it came down to make way for a Shiva temple sev-eral centuries ago, some of the masonry was reused by the builders. There are other Shiva temples like Suragar-esha, Siddhishwara, Manikandeshwara, and Ra-manatheshwara. Te one to Lakulishwara (Dha-valeshwara) is associated with yogis and siddhas. It is quite obvious that from the seventh century onwards, when the Nayanmars went round sing- ing their mellifuous songs on Shiva, there was a tremendous spurt in temple-building activity. Tough the corpus of devotional hymnology pertaining to Shiva Kanchi is vast, only fve temples have been hailed by the Nayanmars in their hymns. Tey are Ekambareshwara, Tirumetrali, Onakan- thanthali, Anekathankavatam, and Kachinerikkarai-kadu. Tus Tirunavukkarasar worshipped Ekam- bareshwara and the goddess Elavarkuzhali with an exquisite decad: He is the God of Dissolution; He is the King who smote Death; He is earth; He became water of the earth; He is wind; He is fre; He is rumbling thunder and lightning; His is the glorious, coral-like ruddy body bedaubed With white ash; on His crest foats the crescent; on His long Matted hair He sports the Ganga of abundant water; He is Yekampan of Kacchi girt with beauteous groves; Behold Him, the one enshrined in my thought! Of the two major Shiva temples, Ekamabaranatha’s raja-gopuram, built by Krishnadeva Raya in the sixteenth century, rises to 192 feet. Originally planned and structured by the Pallava kings of Kanchi on a spread of twenty acres, this temple was further embellished by the Cholas and the kings of Vijayanagar. Te deity here represents the element earth (prithvi). Te consecrated tree is mango, and the guide assures me it is 3,500 years old. Why should I disbelieve him? For time stands still in these precincts, though there is a lot of renovation work going on. Te famous shrine of Vikatachakra Vinayaka is in the Tousand Pillar Hall, and the pillars stand witness to the mastery of sculp-ture by the workmen of earlier centuries. Another important landmark is the temple to Subramania known as Kumarakottam, which has been made famous by Kachiappa Shivachariar—whose epic Kanda Puranam was frst recited in the mandapam of this temple.Te celebrated Kailasanatha temple was built by Rajasimha (Narasimhavarman Pallava II) and his son Mahendra III. If it is exciting to go into the smaller Shiva temples in Kanchi and wander around watching the sculptures and searching for Jain or Buddhist remains of an earlier era, or to keep gazing at the Buddhist fgures in meditation on the higher reaches of an outer wall of a temple, it is an experience of a lifetime to enter the Kaila-sanatha temple at the periphery of the city. Te sanctum has a huge linga, symbolizing the Supreme, while on the rear wall one can watch wide-eyed the sumptuous Somaskanda panel. Shiva and Parvati have Subramania between them (on the lap of his mother), with Brahma and Vishnu watching the group in adoration. Te outer wall of the sanctum is an amazing panorama of gods and goddesses. In between the two walls we have a very narrow pas-sage for parikrama. One has to crawl to enter it and also to come out of it. A few of us who had come to worship were invited by the ofciating priest to go in with the tempting words: ‘Tis is the entry into heaven, the Swarga Vasal, and if you do the pradakshina, it is like having another birth, along with Shiva’s grace.’ Only one person was ready to do it, and he did it with amazing ease, though till he came out of the cave-like opening, we were standing frozen with worry! The temple, built in sandstone with nearly sixty planned niches, seems to be the work of gods. Te intricate carvings of divine beings, a never-ending repeat of the Somaskanada panel, the mythic lions and the imposing Nandis have to be seen and experienced. Here is Vishnu holding up the Mandara mountain as gods and demons churn the ocean, a little away there is the confrontation between Shiva and Arjuna. Soon comes Shiva destroying Yama, and again dancing with a damaru in his hand in gay abandon. Nay, there is much more.‘Te cells of many of these contain traces of old paintings on plain walls or painted stucco over reliefs. Te external reliefs of these parivara [family] shrines of the ma-lika [cloister gallery] contain a variety of sculptures, both Saivite and Vaisnavite, of varied iconography, thus making this temple complex a veritable museum of iconography and plastic art. The sculptures include the dikpalas [the guardian deities of the directions] and Ganesa, who makes his frst appearance in Pallava temples, as also the Saptamatrika group, Chandesa and other parivara deities.’3 Tere is a charming legend connecting the construction of this temple with Pusalar, a Nayanar whose history is recounted by Sekkilar. When the Pallava king Rajasimha had completed the splendid temple to Kailasanatha, an auspicious date for the consecration of the temple was chosen by his chief priest. However, the deity appeared in Rajasimha’s dream and said that the date of consecration would have to be changed as the Lord was to be present in the magnifcent temple being consecrated by Pusalar in Tiruninravur (Tinnanur) at the same time. Te king was mystifed; how could a huge temple be built in his own kingdom without his knowledge? So he hastened to Tiruninravur. No temple was to be seen there. On making enquiries, he learnt that one poor brahmin, Pusalar, had been going around saying he was building a temple to Shiva and would daily announce the progress in the works. Te king went to Pusalar and spoke to him of his dream. Te poor devotee exclaimed: ‘Alas! I have built only in my imagination. Did the Lord re-ally take notice of my desire?’ Te king saluted the devotee with reverence and returned to his capital. Pusalar’s sincerity became legendary, and he is hon-oured as the Nayanar of whom Sekkilar sings in his Periya Purana: Let us recollect Tiruninravur’s Pusalar Who wished to build a temple to Shiva But had not the wherewithal. And how he built a temple in his mind. … 448 Having decided, he tried for money. ‘How shall I build without capital?’ He began collecting every thing needed To build, all in his imagination. He got materials and carpenters, Decided upon a date to lay the foundation, Planned everything according to the Agamas And built without sleeping even at night. … He (the King) came to the place and asked Tose present: ‘Where is Pusalar’s temple?’ ‘Pusalar has built none’, they replied. ‘Let all scholars come’, the king said. … Afer consecrating Shiva in the mind-temple At the auspicious time, and having performed Worship for a long time afer, The devotee reached the feet of Shiva.4 The legend indicates the richness of the temple building activity of the times as well as the wide- spread dissemination of Sanskrit Puranas that led to the inextricable association of temples with the great Indian tradition. For Shiva Kanchi, the Kanchi Kamakoti Math is a major Shaivite presence. Tradition avers that Adi Shankara went to the Himalayas and had the dar-shan of Shiva and Parvati. He brought the sphatika (crystal) linga given to him by Shiva to Kanchi where he established a monastery and installed the linga for regular worship. Among the pontifs who graced the math in recent times, Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, popularly known as the Paramacharya, took the math to great heights by initiating a resurgence of Indian culture. Vedic studies, renovation of temples, and traditional arts like sculpture and architecture have been given a great fllip. The math also provides medical help to the masses . The Jnanaprakasar Math has done priceless service to Shiva Kanchi by propagating the Shaiva Siddhanta, probably the oldest tradition of its kind. Apart from ritualistic worship of the Meykandeshwara Linga, the math arranges lectures on philosophical and theological aspects of Shaivism, as propounded in the fourteen Meykanda Shastras. Well, who can exhaust Shiva Kanchi? One must go there again and again and again. And experience the calm of mind made passionless by the blue-throated Lord: Like the faultless lute, the moon at night, Te southern breeze, the brilliant spring, Te scented lake covered by humming bees, Is the cool shade of my Lord Shiva’s feet.5
(To be concluded)
1. For further information on the subject see R Venk-ataraman, Devi Kamakshi in Kanchi (Srirangam: Vani Vilas, 1973). 2. Translated by T N Ramachandran. 3. K R Srinivasan, Temples of South India (New Delhi: National Book Trust, 1991), 116. 4. Periya Purana, 65.1, 5, 6, 12, 17. 5. Tirunavukkarasar Tevaram, 90.1.Sculptural treasures of Kailasanatha temple: from left, Kirata and Arjuna; Mahishasuramardini; descent of Ganga