Kanchipuram, located about 40 miles southwest of Madras (Chennai), is one of the seven sacred cities of India. It has been an important South Indian religious and cultural center since well before the Pallava dynasty of the sixth to eighth centuries, when it served as the capital city. It also served as one of the Chola capitals in the ninth to 13th centuries and as a secondary Pandyan capital around 1000.
   The city has been influenced by VAISHNAVISM, SHAIVISM, and JAINISM. Between the fourth and sev-enth centuries Kanchipuram was also known as one of the great centers for Buddhism, and there are still vestiges there of the Buddhist presence. SHANKARA (c. seventh century) established one of his five original Mathas or site for monks in Kanchipuram. The city has a sizable Jain popula-tion today concentrated in an area known as Jain Kanchi, where there are many Jain shrines and a few quite remarkable ancient Jain temples.
   The oldest Hindu temples in Kanchipuram, dating from the seventh and eighth centuries, are the Kailasanatha temple devoted to SHIVA, and the VAIKUNTHA Perumal temple devoted to VISHNU, both built by the Pallavas. Additionally, the Kamakshi Temple, dedicated to the goddess Kamakshi, dates from the same period. Notable also are two temples in the later VIJAYANAGARA style (circa 14th through 16th centuries): one of them dedicated to Varadara-raja (Vaishnavite) and also to Shiva in LINGAM form, and the other known as the Ekambaranatha temple, which has an ancient mango tree on its grounds. Kanchipuram is also famous for its beautiful saris.
   Further reading: T. V. Mahalingam, Kanchipuram in Early South Indian History (London: Asia Publishing House, 1969).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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