Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple - History
The Kailasanathar Temple (meaning:“Lord of the Cosmic Mountain”), is built in the tradition of Smartha worship of Shiva, Vishnu, Devi, Surya (Sun), Ganapathi and Kartikeya, in Hinduism, a practice which replaced the Buddhism. Built on the banks of the Vegavathi River at the western limits of Kanchipuram, the Kailasanathar temple stands tall with pride and heritage. Kanchipuram has rich history and it's one of the oldest cities in India. The temples of Kanchipuram are known for their grandeur and great architecture. The architecture of Kanchi monuments were trend setting with great sculpture work and unique style and became a benchmark for South Indian architecture.
The city served as the capital of Pallava Dynasty, and most of the known temples were built during their reign. From the 3rd to the 9th century CE, Kanchi was the capital of the Pallavas who ruled over the territory extending from the river Krishna in Andhra Pradesh to the river Kaveri in the south. The Pallavas fortified the city with ramparts, moats, etc., with wide and well laid out roads and fine temples. They were a great maritime power with contacts with far-off China, Siam, Fiji, etc., through their chief Port Mamallapuram, the modern Mahabalipuram.
Temple construction is credited to the Pallava dynasty, who had established their kingdom with Kanchipuram (also known as "Kanchi" or "Shiva Vishnu Kanchi") as the capital city, considered one of the seven sacred cities under Hinduism. There was an interregnum when the Chalukya rulers defeated the Pallavas and occupied Kanchipuram. However, the Pallavas regained their territory and started expanding their capital city of Kanchipuram and built many temples of great magnificence. The only temple of this period which is extant is the Kailasanathar Temple.
The temple was built during 685-705AD. It is the first structural temple built in South India by Narasimhavarman II (Rajasimha), and who is also known as Rajasimha Pallaveswaran. His son, Mahendravarman III, completed the front façade and the gopuram (tower). Prior temples were either built of wood or hewn into rock faces in caves or on boulders, as seen in Mahabalipuram. The Kailasanathar temple became the trend setter for other similar temples in South India. According to local belief, the temple was a safe sanctuary for the rulers of the kingdom during wars. A secret tunnel, built by the kings, was used as an escape route and is still visible.
The Cholas ruled this town from 10th century to 13th century after the fall of Pallavas. The temple has gone by other names such as Kachipettu Periya Thirukatrali (meaning: Stone Temple of Kachipettu, the old name for the present day Kanchipuram) when Rajaraja Chola I of the Chola Dynasty paid a visit to this temple. Inspired by the architecture of this temple, he built the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur. Kanchi came under the control of Vijayanagara kingdom from 14th century to 17th century and controlled by British from the end of 18th century. This temple had seen many wars and even at those times the victorious opposing camps were full of praise about the temple and spared the destruction. Currently, Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple is maintained by Archaeological Survey of India.
Kanchipuram is located on the Palar River and known for its temples and silk Sarees which are woven manually. There are several big temples, like Kamakshi Amman Temple, Varadharaja Perumal Temple, Kailasanathar Temple, Karchapeshwarar Temple, Ekambaranatha Temple which is one of the five forms of abodes of Lord Siva, (it is the earth abode here, other abodes include Chidambaram (Sky), Sri Kalahasti (air), Thiruvanaikaval (water) and Thiruvannamalai (fire)).