Kailasanatha Temple (Kanchipuram) , Tamil Nadu

The Pallava kings of ancient Tamil Nadu in Kanchipuram built Kailasanatha temple. These Pallava kings ruled from their capital city Kanchi or Kanchipuram (75 km from Chennai). They were great patrons of art and architecture.

The Kailasanatha temple is one of the earliest structural temples of the Pallavas. This temple was built of blocks of sandstone. The temple was dedicated to Lord Siva. During the reign of Narasimhavarman II, better known as Rajasimha (691-728 A.D.), the Kailasanatha temple was constructed. This temple has its main sanctum facing the east side. The rear wall of the temple has a sculpture of Somaskanda (Lord Siva and Uma with son Muruga in the centre), which was always seen in Siva temples of the Pallava age. There is a large sixteen-sided `Siva linga` in the temple shrine here. This linga was polished of granite, about eight feet in height in front of this sculpture, which was placed here at a later date. There is a rare feature here, which is very narrow, winding circumbulatory (pradakslrina) passage around the sanctum. It is very difficult to enter and walk through as it has very low height.
Unique feature of the Kailasanatha temple is that it was built almost entirely of sandstone with only few parts like the foundation being in solid granite to bear the weight of the big structure. The shrine is situated just in front of the main entranceway to this temple and this is unique feature of it. No other Tamil shrines are situated like this. This shrine of the Kailasanatha temple blocks the view of the main sanctum. This small shrine was built by Mahendravarman III, a son of Rajasimha, and named after him as Mahendravarmeshvara griham.
There is a `Somaskanda` panel in the Kailasanatha temple, which is said to be the original image worshipped here. There is a linga on the rear wall, which belonged to a later age. The row of fifty-eight miniature shrines on all four sides of the courtyard of this temple-complex facing the main temple is very remarkable feature of the temple. All these shrines here are of square shaped and are of sandstone. There are very gorgeous sculptures found inside the inner wall and on some of them the `Somaskanda panel` can be found. There is small gopuram at the entrance of the temple.
The Kailasanatha temple has many attractive sculptures, which portrays the different manifestations of Lord Siva like Dakshinamurti, Lingodhbhavamurti, Gajasamharamurti and many others. These sculptures also depict Siva in various dance poses; speak of the skill and deftness of the Pallava sculptors and master craftsmen. There is a large stone image of Nandi can be seen at a short distance to the east of this temple on a square platform. This massive Nandi sculpture is about six or seven feet in length and faces the main temple. It is ornamented with carvings of bells and jewels and there are four pillars with the Vali motif, one on each corner of the platform. This indicates that probably there was once a roof over it.

The various inscriptions of the Kailasanatha temple provide a lot of information about the history of the Pallavas, especially of the reign of its patron, king Rajasimha. This temple gives a good idea of the history, archaeology, temple architecture and iconography of the South Indian history and culture.

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