Kailasanatha Temple


Kanchipuram's oldest temple is small, interesting mainly for its stonework. Dedicated to Shiva, it was built in the 8th century by Pallava king Narasimhavarman II (Rajasimha), who also created Mamallapuram's Shore Temple. Quieter than other temples in town, it has – sadly – been heavily restored, as the remaining older, eroded reliefs are much more evocative than the repaired ones.

The low-slung sandstone compound, in oleander-dotted grounds, has some fascinating carvings, including many of the half-animal deities in vogue in early Dravidian architecture. It's framed by walls of subshrines topped by domed roofs and carved elephants and Nandis. Note the rearing lions on the outer walls and the large Nandi facing the compound from outside. The inner sanctum is centred on a large 16-sided lingam, which non-Hindus can view from about 8m away. The tower rising above is a precursor of the great vimanas of later Chola temples.

An autorickshaw from central Kanchipuram costs ₹50, but walking is nice.