Patanjali, the highest intellectual of his time, naturally could only think of a rare
intellectual centre like Kanchi, We know from one of the famous historical sculptures in the Vaikunthaperumal temple, narrating the sequence of Pallava history in
a series of panels, that, when the main line broke and a prince of the collateral line
was to be elected king, Hiranyavarman was requested to permit his son, Nandivarman, to be made the king. This request was made by the most prominent leaders of
'the people themselves headed by the elders of the University of Kanchi, the Ghatika.
Hiuen-Tsang, the Chinese traveller that came to Kanchi early in the 7th century
A.D., has praised the city for its intellectual eminence and its love for learning. It
is no wonder, since the rulers like Mahendravarman were versatile, prolific in writing
and great patrons of art and literature. Buddhism and Jainism also flourished and
Jaina Kanchi is yet an important adjunct of Kanchi.
Dharmapala, the great Buddhist scholar at Nalanda, was from Kanchi.
There are two great temples that adorn Kanchi today as the most conspicuous,
the Ekamresvara and Varadaraja. There have been many innovations and additions
to these temples during the different periods of history. The smaller temples, but
aesthetically the most valuable for the study of Pallava art and culture, the Kailasanatha, Matangesvara, Airavatesvara, Vaikunthaperumal, have suffered no change or
tampering by additions. The Kamakshi temple, a great seat of Dev worship,
with extraordinary reputation as the seat of the grace of Devi extended to
the dumb poet Muka who composed the unforgettable honey-sweet verses in a
bunch of five hundred with a rare lilt and resonance, Muka-Panchasati, is another
of the famous shrines here. The only portrait of the greatest intellectual of India
for all time, Sankara, is the sculpture of his in a Pallava temple, Eravanesvara, as a
juvenile ascetic, seated reverentially beside Vyasa, who along with Jaimini, flanks
Dakshinamurti, the Lord of Learning.
Varadaraja, the form of the Lord who showed compassion to the elephant in
distress, Karivarada, is the most reputed Vishnu temple in Kanchipuram. Varada
was a favorite of successive kings and philosophers. Ranganatha at Srjrangam,
Varadaraja at Kanchi and Srinivasa at Tirupati are the three great deities ever
sought for succor by one and all in general and by the Sri Vaishnavas in particular.
Venkatanatha, Vedanta Desika as be is better known, clearly says that his ancestral
property is the Lord in the 'Elephant Hill', Hastisailausna me hastisailingra pitripaitamaham dhanam. Appayya Dikshita, the polymath philosopher of the 16th century
who wrote the' Sivarkamanidipika', was so attached to Varada, that he would never
miss an opportunity to visit Kanchipuram to have his darsana. Infirmity, which
made it difficult for him to travel too often, made him build a temple for Varada,
along with that for Siva, Kalakantha, in his village Adayapalam, utilizing the gold
with which he was bathed in a Kanakabhishek a by king Chinnabomma in appreciation of the Parimala, the commentary he wrote on Amalananda's Kalpataru.
The beautiful mandapa of the Varadaraja temple with its spirited row of horses
prancing on the pillars and the monkey and the cat running after the pigeons on the
roofline are unforgettable gems of art.
This temple has long remained without a proper exposition of its treasures
both artistic and religious. I am glad that Dr. K.V. Raman has written an excellent
account of this famous temple discussing its history, epigraphy, ritual, religion,
philosophy and thought. He has chosen suitable illustrations to visually present its
importance. I have great pleasure in requesting the discerning scholarly world to
appreciate this very interesting monograph on a great temple.
I must acknowledge my gratitude to Dr. K.K. Pillay, formerly Professor of
Social Science, University of Madras, and now Director, Institute of Traditional
Cultures, Madras, for his valuable suggestions and guidance in the preparation of
that thesis. I thank the Chief Epigraphist, Archaeological Survey of India, Mysore,
for giving me access to the originals and transcripts of the inscriptions; the Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India, Southern Circle, Madras
for lending me some of the photographs illustrated in the book; the Commissioner,
H.R.&C.E. (Adm.) Department for permitting me to prepare plans and drawings of
the buildings, besides giving. me other facilities.
I am extremely grateful to Padmashri Shri C. Sivaramamurti, Director, National
Museum, New Delhi, for kindly going through the book and contributing his
My hearty thanks to Shri Shakti Malik of Abhinav Publications, New Delhi,
for the interest and enthusiasm with which he has brought out this book; to my
father Shri K.V. Parthasarathi Iyengar for his constant encouragement and Shri
Murahari Rao for lending me the color transparency of the cover page; to Sarvashri
R. Ramani, T. Elumajai, A.J. Nambiraju and K.P. Balakrishnan for all the help
they did during the preparation of the work.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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