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Temples of Kanchipuram

Date of Submission: 13/04/2021
Criteria: (iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Tamil Nadu, Kanchipuram District
Ref.: 6528

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Latitude and Longitude, or UTM coordinates




Components of the Nominated proposal

Rajasimhesvaram (Kailasanatha temple) 



Parameswara Vinnagaram (Vaikuntaperumal temple) 



Piravathaneswara temple 



Iravathaneswara temple 



Muketeswara temple 


79°43'32" E

Ekambarnatha temple 



Jvarahareswara temple 



Arulala (Varadharajaperumal temple) 



PandavaDootha Perumal Temple



Yathothkari Perumal Temple



Ulagalanda Perumal Temple



Bharavi, a versatile poet who composed the Sanskrit work Kirātārjunīya aptly called Kanchipuram, (hereafter Kanchi) as nagareshu Kanchi, the best among the best cities. Undoubtedly, Kanchi was one of many sacred cities of ancient India. Today, its temples are revered by pilgrims. In sacredness and education, it is comparable with and equal to Kasi. Over centuries, it attained glory in all fields like education, culture, literature, monumental temples, and religious thoughts, equalling in eminence such ancient cities.

Kanchi finds a mention in ancient Sanskrit and Tamil literature. To cite a few; Patanjali in his work on Sanskrit grammar, Mahabhashya (c. 2nd Century BCE) indirectly refers to Kanchi as Kanchipuraka. The Tamil Sangam works (c. early centuries of CE) Ahananuru and Perumpanatruppadai describe the city of Kanchi as an important centre of Tondaimandalam. The Tamil epic Manimekalai (c. 2nd -3rd century CE) mentions Kacci (Kanchi) as a place where Buddhism was nurtured in the viharas by monks and by students in aghatika, a seat of higher learning. Xuanzang (also spelt Hiuen-Tsang) described Kanchi as “…a fertile, rich and hot country with hundreds of monasteries and 10,000 bhikkhus, competing with 80 deva temples and numerous Jains.”

Kanchi was imbued with religious fervour right from the beginning which continues even today. All known Indian religious sects Saivism, Vaishnavism, Buddhism and Jainism flowered here at one point of time or another. Great religious teachers, acharyas, made Kanchipuram as their home to produce outstanding religious works. An illustrious list of Buddhist scholars were associated with this place. Arya Deva (2nd-3rd century CE), the successor of Acharya Nagarjuna, Buddhadatta and Buddhagosha (5th century CE), the legendary Bodhidharma, who was a prince of Kanchi and reached southern China on a voyage and converted the southern Chinese Emperor Wu-Ti of Lyang Dynasty to Buddhism, Dinnaga (6th century CE), an eminent Buddhist logician, Dharmapala, mentioned in the Chinese and Burmese sources were all associated with this city. Obviously, the influence of Buddhism dwindled with the rise of Bhakti movement propelled by Sankara, Saivaite Nayanmars and Vaishnavite Alwars.

Saivism and Vaishnavism were the cornerstones of Kanchi's religious traditions. The spark that was lit by the Sankara, Saivaite Nayanmars and Vaishnavite Alwars around 7-8th century CE ignited religious fervour at Kanchi for the centuries to come and persists even today with the same involvement of all citizens of the city. It is said that the celebrated Kamakoti Pitha was established by Sankara himself. A succession of illustrious seers of the pitha, served as the beacon of philosophy as propounded by Sankara. Tirumular (c. 6th century CE), an early authority of Saivism and author of Tirumandiram in Tamil, a celebrated Saivite work on six sects of Saivism, was associated with Kanchi. He was followed by the three great Nayanmars (saints) Appar, Sambandar and Sundarar, who have all sung about the abodes of Siva at Kanchi.

Similarly, Vaishnavism was also flowered at Kanchi. Several of the Vishnu temples were sung by the Alwars, the celebrated Vaishnvite saints. The association of Ramanuja, greatest of all Vaishnavite acharyas with Kanchi during eleventh century, is substantial. He migrated to Kanchi in his early days to study the tenets of Vaishnavism under Yadava Prakasa. Later he shifted his base to Srirangam, another celebrated Vaishanvite centre. His early contemporary Tirukachchi Nambi was another illustrious Vaishnavite scholar of Kanchi.

The establishment of Kamakoti pitha, also known as Kanchi Matha by Sankaracharya and the Kamakshi amman temple made Kanchi as important centre of Saktism.  This spark provided by all these saints and scholars resulted in the construction of numerous temples dedicated to Siva and Vishnu in the city by kings and patrons. These temples, were endowed with munificent grants and gifts, became the fulcrum for all religious activities. The temples of Kanchi also served as ghatika, i.e. centres of education. The Pallava rulers were great patrons of learning and established educational institutions. Known as ghatika, these centres of learning were attached to almost all the temples offering higher education in Vedas and vedic scriptures.

Another aspect of Kanchi is its rich political legacy. Kanchi was an important city mentioned in the Sangam literature under the rule of the Cholas. However, with the rise of the Pallavas under Simhavishnu about sixth century CE, who made Kanchi as his capital, it gained more political clout and importance. It remained the capital city of the Pallavas for next two centuries. It continued to be a secondary capital under the Cholas as always, they took pride in possessing it and embellishing it with many temples.  After the end of Chola rule in thirteenth century and till toady it never lost its pre-eminence as a centre of culture, religion and sacredness. The ensemble of religious, cultural, social and political efflorescence for several centuries made Kanchipuram a vibrant centre of built heritage, particularly temples dedicated to Siva and Vishnu, in all more than one hundred and fifty temples. The 11 temples are identified under this nomination, are as follows:

  1. The Rajasimhesvaram or Kailasanatha Temple
  2. Piravatnesvara temple
  3. Iravathanesvara temple
  4. Paramesvara Vinnagaram or Vaikuntaperumal temple
  5. Muketswara temple
  6. Arulala or Varadharaja Perumal temple
  7. Ekambaresvara temple (Thirukachiekambam)
  8. Jvaraharesvara temple
  9. Pandava Dootha Perumal Temple
  10. Yathothkari Perumal Temple
  11. Ulagalanda Perumal Temple
1. The Rajasimhesvaram or Kailasanatha Temple:

The Pallava king Rajasimha I (700-728 CE) built this magnificent temple as a royal edifice to befittingly adorn his capital Kanchi, He aptly named it Rajasimhesvaram after himself. This was attested to in a lithic record.

This temple was designed by the Pallava architects in a different plan and scale, unlike its forerunner the Shore Temple, Mamallapuram. It may be recalled here that the Shore temple, also built by Rajasimha, is the first significant 'structural temple' of the Pallavas. It changed the paradigm as the time and resource consuming practice of excavating rock-cut temples and carving of monolithic temples were discarded or given up in lieu of easy to build structural temples. However, the architect opted for a softer, highly friable sandstone instead of the harder granite. Considering the weak load-bearing capacity of the chosen sandstone, he introduced a layer of hard granite at the floor level, indeed a genius idea.

The temple consists of the sanctum (vimana), and a detached mandapa of the Pallava period, now joined by a later period pillared hall.   Another independent shrine, contributed by his son Mahendravarman, was built axially in front, but in a smaller scale. Both the sanctums enshrine the signature Somaskanda panel on the rear wall with faceted linga (dharalinga) in the centre of the shrine. Another important aspect that was introduced was the passage for circumambulation (pradakshinapatha) around the sanctum.

The entire plan of the main unit with the subsidiary shrines and the miniature shrines along the prakara-wall indeed was intentional to create maximum surface area on its elevation.  This resulted in a veritable display of iconographically varied imagery of Brahmanical pantheon

The flanks of the central niches show Harihara, Ganesa, Praying gods, etc. (south), Natesa, Ganesa, Vinadhara-Siva, Durga, etc. (north); dancing forms of Siva, etc. (west). Also, on the west wall are playful ganas and exquisite female chamara-bearers. Outside on the Mahendravarmesvara Shrine vimana walls are splendid depictions of Bhiksatana (south), Somaskanda (west), and Siva in Samhra-tandava form (north). The outer face of each miniature shrine and prakara wall between them, carry a wide variety of sculptures. To the south, the cells carry Durga, Skanda, Bhagavati, Tripurantaka, Garudarudha-Visnu, Asura-samhara, Nrsimha, Vishnu, Trivikrama, Samudramanthana, Siva-tandava, Siva cutting off the fifth head of Brahma, Kiratarjuna-yuddha, Yogesa, Jalandharavadha, destruction of Daksa’s yajna, Brahma with consort, Tripurantaka, Kalari, Gajantaka, Gangadhara and Urdhvatandava.  On the north are Candesanugraha, Gauri-Sankara, Samhara-tandava, Visnu with Sridevi and Bhudevi, Bhramanugraha, Indranugraha, Ravananugraha, Kalyanasundara, Umasahita, Visapaharana, Kamanugraha, Vinadhara, Lingodbhava, Gangadhara, Somaskanda, Bhairava

The inner surfaces of the miniature shrines were once painted, but only few shrines still retain the original paintings in patches. In fact, several layers of paintings were noticed indicating that the temple was plastered in lime over the fragile sandstone surface and embellished with frescos/murals depicting themes of imagery of Siva in various forms.

There are number of other epigraphs of later period in this temple engraved on the pillars of the detached mandapa, where the plain surface was available. Important among them is recorded by the Chalukyan king Vikramaditya II (CE 733 - 744). The brutal rivalry between the Pallavas and the Chalukyas of Vatapi continued for over a century. The victorious among them claimed the total destruction of each other’s capital. However, Vikaramaditya, having overwhelmed by the beauty of the city and the lavish beauty of this temple, left them untouched.  He recorded his munificence, having overawed, that he left the ‘riches of the temple to God himself’. This is a unique record and its kind was not to be seen often in the Indian history.

2. Piravatneswara temple: 

Following his grand royal edifice, Rajashima (700-728 CE) constructed two smaller temples of sandstone in his capital city. One among them is the Piravataneswara, dedicated to Siva and faces west. It has a square two storied vimana and the sikhara is octagonal. It has a sanctum and a rectangular mukhamandapa. In the sanctum is a Linga with circular pitha which are later additions. On the back wall, Somaskanda is depicted flanked by Brahma, Vishnu, and other deities. The deva-koshtha (niches) to the south contains images of Dakshinamurthy, east with Vishnu and north with Brahma. The other figures on the exterior wall are Durga, Nrityamurthi, Gaja-Lakshmi etc.  This is the smallest of Rajasimha’s temples.

3. Iravathanesvara Temple: 

Stylistically dated to the closing years of Pallava king Rajasimha’s reign (700-728 C.E), the temple faces east. The two-storied vimana carries a nagara sikhara. The vimana is called brahmachanda vimana. The vimana is supported by padabanda adhishthana and low plain upapitha.  The wall of the main niche has elegant type toranas on a broad central face.  Above the prasatra is hara formed by karnakutas and Bhadrasalas, antarala recess in between. The superstructure is square. The griva-devatas are Siva (east), Dakshinamurthi (south), Vishnu (west) and Brahma (north). The wall of ardhamandapa has Durga (north) and Ganapati (south) as they are positioned in later temples. The garbhagriha has a central linga and a Somaskanda panel on the back wall.

4. Parameswara Vinnagaram Vaikuntaperumal temple:

This temple is known as Parameswara Vinnagaram in the inscription is yet another royal edifice next only to Rajasimhesvaram (Kailasanatha). It was built by the Pallava king Nandivarman II Pallavamalla (731-796 CE). This temple is an outstanding creation of the Pallavas not only as it has all the characteristic features of the other royal edifice but also for series of sculptured panels narrating the history of the dynasty.  Tirumangaimannan, one of the Alwars has celebrated this shrine in his hymns. 

The temple is unique in its concept as it has three functional storeys in its elevation (vimana) with sanctum in each storey in order to accommodate the three forms of main deity Vishnu as asanamurthi (Tamil=Irundan, the seated form) in ground floor, sayanamurthi (kidandan, the reclining form) in first floor and sthanamurthi (ninran, the standing form) in the second floor. This scheme of depiction and worship of Vishnu is propounded as the sacred recommended method. The vimana of this temple is known as ashtanga vimana.

An outstanding feature of the temple is the series of narrative sculptural panels that occur in the inner face of the cloister mandapa. The panels narrate the history of the Pallava dynasty from their legendry ancestors down to the rule of Nandivarman-II Pallavamalla. The identification of the panels was made possible by the label inscriptions inscribed at an appropriate panel. The narration of the genealogy in the copper plates of the Pallavas are faithfully translated into panels like a comic strip. Accordingly, all the panels have been satisfactorily identified with the events happened in their history upto the coronation of Nandivarman -II Pallavamalla.

In addition to the historical content of the panels, a plethora of information on royal coronations wherein minute details of the ornaments of the king is discernible, the conduct of Asvamedha sacrifices, warfare and constituents of the marching army, types of simhasanas (lion thrones), coiffeur, jewellery, costumes of the royals and individuals, temples and  gods could be gleaned.  

The earliest inscription in this temple was noticed on the south wall of Cloister prakara describing the sculptural panels. This label inscription is dated to the period of Pallava kind Nandivarman-II (751CE). Few more Pallava inscriptions of 8th century CE were also noticed. Apart from these two more inscriptions belongs to the reign of Chola king Kulottunga I (1116 – 1118 CE) were noticed recording gift of land to the temple for feeding Sri Vaishnavas.

5. Muktesvara temple:

This temple is known as “Dhanamadevi Manikkaisvaram” in the ancient times. It is a structural temple, of medium dimensions when compared to the royal edifices and built during the latter Pallava period (c. 8th century CE). It is built of sandstone and faces east. It has a three storied square vimana with a circular sikhara. The temple has sanctum and mukhamandapa. The garbhagriham consists of a later period linga and the Somaskanda panel on the back wall with Brahma and Vishnu. The interior of the mukhamandapa has some beautiful sculptures in panels like the scene of Ravanalifting Kailasa and Gajasamharamurthy on the north wall, Ravananugrahamurthy and Natesa on the south wall and panels of Gangadhara and Natesa on the wall either side of garbhagriha facing west.

The exterior wall of garbhagriha and mukhamandapa has various sculptural representations like, Bhikshatana, Urdhavatandava, Durga, Chandesanugrhamurthy, Surya, Chandra, Subramanya, Harihara, Lingothbhava, Ganapati, Yama, Sivayogini, Dakshinamurthy, Natesha, Ganas and Dvalapalas.

The adhishtana of the temple has the inscription in Pallava-Grantha script belonging to Pallava king Nandivarman II dated 759 CE records the gift of a piece of land. Another inscription of Chola king Rajendra I (1030 CE) is noticed on the northern wall which records the eulogy of the king followed by the execution of the deed by the Sabha of a village at Kanchi for Dhanamadevi Manikkaisvaram.

6. Arulala or Varadharaja Perumal temple: 

One of the early Alwars, Budham (c. 7th century CE) sung in praise about the Lord Vishnu as Attiyuran Pullar Vardhan. The ancient name of the place is Attiyur and original deity was possibly made of Atti wood (Ficus glomerata). In the lithic records name of the deity was mentioned as Arulala Perumal. The other names of this places from inscriptions are Punyakottam, Hasitigiri, Attigiri, thyagamandapam, Satyavratashetram.

There are no evidences of the original 7th century construction. This temple was comprehensively reconstructed during the Chola period (c. 10 - 11th century). The sanctum of the temple is rectangular in plan and has sala sikhara. It is known as punya-koti-vimana. Due to emergence of many seers and their focussed devotion to the Lord Arulala, the temple received the attention of the patrons who contributed its expansion by adding more shrines, circuit walls, pillared halls, surface decoration like execution of murals etc. One such shrine is the shrine for Kariamanikka Perumal (Vikrama-Sola –Vinnagar), probably built in 1129 CE by Vikrama Chola. The thousand pillared mandapa built in two storeys, was constructed by the Kakatiya king Pratapa Rudra Deva. The outermost prakara has two entrance with tall gopuras, the one on the west datable to 13th century CE rulers and the other on the east built by Alagia Manavala Jiyar.

There are many more mandapas which came up during the 16th - 17th Centuries like the Vahana mandapa. The largest and most impressive structure is the hundred pillared Kalayana mandapa built in the 16th Century CE. Numerous inscriptions of Chola and Vijayanagara period were noticed in this temple. The earliest inscription was noticed on Narashima shrine dated 1050 CE belongs to the period of Rajadhiraja I recording the gift of an ear-ornament and perpetual lamp to the deity.

Another important aspect of the temple is that it was the unparalleled loci of many intangible traditions. The transmission of Vaishnavite philosophy and religious thoughts from one generation to another is being happening in this temple for several centuries. The gamut of its annual calendar of festivals is very impressive and an aspect of intangible heritage sustained for a long time. The retrieval of the image of Vishnu made on Atti wood (Ficus glomerata) from the temple tank once in forty years is a great occasion for rejoice and religious congregation of devotees.

7. Ekambaresvara temple (Thirukachiekambam):

The Ekambaresvara temple was celebrated by the Nayanmars in their hymns; for example, saint Appar mentioned the Lord as “Ekamba” i.e. Sthanu or pillar of fire. It is one of the Pancha-bhutakshetras, an intricate cosmic concept associated with Saivism, representing the Prithvi (the earth). The Pallava king Mahendravaraman I (600 – 630 CE) mentions the god in his work Mattavilasaprahasana Saiva. A shrine known as Valisvara is located inside the Ekambaresvara temple near the tank. Built of sandstone and the cell enshrines a panel of Siva and Uma (Umasahita), not the usual somaskanda. This is a characteristic of Pandya cave temples. It was known as Kachimayanam in Tevaram.

The original shrine must had been smaller during Pallava period and present temple complex has been constructed laterLike all other Pallava temple, there is an image of Somaskanda panel in the sanctum besides the Linga. The temple has undergone vast structural expansions in the post-Pallava times because of the vast patronage lavished on it in the Chola and Vijayanagar periods. The most outstanding addition was the gopura at the entrance, a gigantic structure of considerable grandeur and good sculptural and ornamental work constructed during Vijayanagar king Krishnadeva Raya in 1509 CE.  It is the tallest gopura in Kanchi having nine storeys and is one of the most magnificent Rayagopuras of South India.

An inscription from the pillars of thousand pillar mandapa belongs to the period of Pallava king Mahendravarman I (610 CE). The inscription is in Pallava–Grantha. Apart from this, numerous inscriptions of Chola and Vijayanagar period were recorded in this temple. Like the Varadaraja, this temple acted as the foci for a complex of intangible heritage and had a calendar full of festivities. 

8. Jvaraharesvara temple: 

Although it is one of the smaller buildings of its time, it is quite ornate, and is a significant example of a temple of the time of Kulottunga III (1178–1218 CE). It is also an interesting structure because of its ovular plan. The lower stone part of the gopura appears late Chola.

9. Pandava Dootha Perumal Temple:

One of the oldest temples in Kanchipuram is also known as Thirupadagam or Padagam in ancient texts. Pada means big and Agam means residence, signifying Thirupadagam as the place where Vishnu resides with his giant form. The temple is located very near to Ekambranatha Temple and as name suggest is dedicated to Krishna (Pandav’s dootha/duta - ambassador). Temple has a few major inscriptions. An inscription from the times of Kulottunga Chola I, speaks about a merchant living in Kanchipuram gifting garden to the temple. Another one from the time of Rajaradhiraja Chola (1163 - 1167 CE) speaks about the gift of 32 cows for maintaining a perpetual lamp for the deity.

Temple adorns by presiding deity, i.e. Pandava Thoothar, has a height of 25 feet, manifesting Krishna’s Vishwaroopa believed to have been graced to the blind king Dhritarashtra.  The main entrance of the temple faces east and the temple has a rectangular sanctum (Bhadra vimana). The temple has a four-tiered rajagopuram and a single precinct enclosed in the walls. The original shrine was built in bricks during Pallava period. The Mahamandapa is believed to have been built by the Cholas, c. 11th - 12th century CE, while the front mandapa and the entrance gopuram during Vijayanagara Empire.

10. Yathothkari Perumal Temple:

Another example of oldest temple in Kanchipuram, this temple is also known as Tiruvekha (Tiruvekkaa), located in Vishnu Kanchi. The central shrine of the temple has the image of presiding deity, Sonnavannam Seitha Perumal (Vishnu) sported in Bhuganja Sayanam (reclining) posture. The stucco image of the presiding deity is a rare one of Ranganatha, recumbent on his left hand unlike other temples where he is recumbent on his right. The Pallavas originally built the temple; however, a few architectural additions, such as, two prakaras and a massive entrance gopura were built by Vijayanagara rulers.

The temple has been mentioned in ancient literature, prominent references belong to, Sangam works (Perumpanatruppadai), Mahabhashya, etc. The temple has a set of inscriptions associated with Chola kings namely, Parantaka I (907 – 950 CE), Rajendra Chola I (1012 – 44 CE), Kulothunga Chola I (1070 – 1120 CE) of temple grants.

11. Ulagalanda Perumal Temple:

The temple is dedicated to Vishnu’s Vamana avatar (one who measured the Universe in three steps - Trivikrama). The roof of the sanctum, the vimana has an elevated roof to accommodate the huge image of the presiding deity, i.e. Ulagalantha Perumal, which is over 35 ft (11 m). Within this temple complex, there are four small but very sacred shrines, namely, Ooragam, Neeragathan, kaaragam, Kaarvanam. The temple has an area of about 60,000 square feet (5,600 m2) and has a three-tiered rajagopuram (main towers) with seven kalasas.

The temple has 15 inscriptions from dynasties like Pallavas and Cholas. The important epigraphical records belongs to rulers, such as Rajendra Chola I (1012 – 44 CE), Kulothunga Chola I (1070 – 1120 CE),Rajadhiraja Chola II (1166 – 1178 CE) and Rajaraja Chola III (1216 - 1256 CE). There are two major festivals celebrated in the temple - Brahmotsavam during the Tamil month of Thai (January–February) and Vamana Jayanthi during the Tamil month of Avani (August–September).

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Kanchipuram or Kanchi is a well-known and celebrated ancient Indian city. All known religious sects of ancient India found a foothold here. It was a significant centre of learning, mostly specialising in the religious and associated philosophical thoughts. With the advent of the Pallavas, it became politically important too. Every ruling power of Southern India took pride in annexing it under their rule. Due to sustained patronage by several dynasties, over one hundred and fifty temples were built over the centuries all over the city of Kanchi. Through the emergence of Bhakti movement under eminent saints of Saivisim and Vaishnavism, the temples became not only a structural edifice but also a vibrant institution of intangible heritage which has sustained for centuries.  Among the temples of Kanchipuram town, the following representative examples are included in this tentative list, under criteria (iv) and (vi):

  1. The Rajasimhesvaram or Kailasanatha Temple
  2. Piravatneswara temple
  3. Iravathanesvara temple
  4. Parameswara Vinnagaram Vaikunta Perumal temple
  5. Muktesvara temple
  6. Arulala or Varadharaja Perumal temple
  7. Ekambaresvara temple (Thirukachiekambam)
  8. Jvaraharesvara temple
  9. Pandava Dootha Perumal Temple
  10. Yathothkari Perumal Temple
  11. Ulagalanda Perumal Temple

Criterion (iv): Kanchipuram was the capital of the Pallava dynasty which ruled present day state of Tamil Nadu from 6th to 9th century CE. A large extent of the Dravidian style of temple architecture also flourished under the Pallava patronage.

Prior to the Pallav rule, Kanchipuram witnessed strong rock-cut tradition of architecture which was influenced by the Buddhist rock-cut architecture found extensively in western India. Graduating from the rock-cut phase, Pallava sculptors brought a significant shift in temple architecture of south India by building free-standing structural shrines which later inspired temple construction of subsequent dynasties, particularly the Chalukya and Chola. This architectural innovation is best reflected in the Rajasimhesvaram (Kailasanatha temple) which is the earliest and largest structural temple complex of southern India.

 The temples of Kanchipuram exhibit the creative genius of the Pallava architects in design and scale of construction. The sculptors outscored everyone when provided with a large surface area, by way of conceptualizing  and carving many new forms of divine imagery for the first time in the history of south India.  The fact that the sculptors did not have any model to follow to create this array of divine imagery makes the temples of Kanchipuram an outstanding example of a first-of-its-kind experimentation in temple architecture. This combination of architectural knowledge and the sculptural sensitivity resulted in the creation of some of the grandest edifices  in India, which still occupy an exalted position in the development of temple architecture.   

Criterion (vi): Apart from housing a glorious architectural heritage, Kanchipuram is also one of the seven most significant pilgrim centres of Hinduism. As per Hinduism, Kanchipuram is part of ‘sapta puri’, i.e. seven holiest cities of India. It is an important pilgrimage site for both Shaivites and Vaishnavites and is also considered as a sacred ground to attain moksha, i.e., liberation from the cycle of death and birth. The temples of Kanchipuram also embody the Hindu concept of ‘panch bhoot sthalam’ which represents manifestation of the five prime elements of nature: Prithvi (earth), Jal (water), Agni (fire), Vayu (air) and Antariksha (space). This manifestation is especially reflected in the Ekambareshwar temple. The temples of Kanchipuram are living centres of worship, attracting thousands of pilgrims everyday throughout the year.

The patronage and continuous process of evolution of temple architecture under the Pallava rule in Kanchipuram also gave impetus to associated temple art forms, such as music, painting, dance, and food.  Some of the art forms, rituals and festival related to temples are still being followed and celebrated.

Kanchipuram is also world famous for its silk weaving. The ceremonial importance of silk in Kanchipuram can also be seen in some of the temple rituals where the priests use the Kanchipuram silk to adorn the deities. Most of the weaving designs of Kanchipuram silk showcase their close proximity and direct inspiration from temple architecture. Many temple motifs such as gopuram, peacocks, nightingales, rudraksham beads and other floral designs are an intrinsic part of the intricate weaving found on Kanchipuram sarees.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The temples of Kanchipuram have retained its physical integrity. The structural integrity of the core units, like the sanctum and its axial units has been maintained till date. Most of the Pallava edifices still retain the original characters. Minor interventions in the form of lime plastering have been done in the past. The lime plastering and painting over it was done to provide a protective layer to the friable sandstone. In the other temples, the intervention never obliterated the original features.

The property is in good state of conservation. There are no major threats affecting the property. The core zone is further protected in the legal framework provided by the AMASR Act 1958 and the maintenance activities are s being carried out by Archaeological Survey of India as per the National Conservation Policy. Those properties, which are not protected under the act by ASI, are under the control and the administration of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HRCE Department), Chennai, Tamil Nadu. This department has a High-Level Committee formed under the order of the Hon'ble High Court of Madras to approve the interventions. 

Sr. No.

Name of Temple



The Rajasimhesvaram  orKailasanatha Temple

Archaeological Survey of India 


Piravatnesvara temple

Archaeological Survey of India 


Iravathanesvara temple

Archaeological Survey of India 


ParamesvaraVinnagaram orVaikuntaperumal temple

Archaeological Survey of India 


Muketswara temple

Archaeological Survey of India 


Arulala or Varadharaja Perumal temple

Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, Chennai, Tamil Nadu


Ekambaresvara temple (Thirukachiekambam)

Archaeological Survey of India 


Jvaraharesvara temple

Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, Chennai, Tamil Nadu


PandavaDootha Perumal Temple

Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, Chennai, Tamil Nadu


Yathothkari Perumal Temple

Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, Chennai, Tamil Nadu


Ulagalanda Perumal Temple

Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Many of the monuments within the property are protected by law either by the Central Government or by the State Government and the focus of these agencies is preservation of sites, it can be safely stated that the site maintains a good measure of Integrity.

The authenticity of the property focuses on the creation and experimentation in different monumental art and sculptural panels which culminated in the development of Dravidian temple architecture in the different period. These ancient temples retain its exception quality, and originality. These ancient temples show the evolution of Hindu temple architecture and utilisation of landscape for enlargement of temples in different period. The property remains in its authentic state and well preserved in terms of locations, forms, materials and designs. 

Comparison with other similar properties

On one hand, Kailasanatha temple, Kanchipuram can be compared with Shore temple, Mahabalipuram as both belongs to Pallava king Rajashima and are of earliest structural temples. On the other, it can be compared with the Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal. Both are already in World Heritage List. The construction of Shore temple probably gave the confidence to attempt a much larger and ornate construction in Kailasanatha. It is quite certain that the architects of Virupaksha were influenced and inspired by Kailsasnatha. However, the similar embellishment of the surface was not attempted therein. 

Vaikunta Perumal temple by Pallava king Nandivarman Pallavamalla II is unique in nature and he also tried to bring out new conceptualisation of representing the Pallava history and genealogy through sculptural panels in the inner face of prakara. Such sculptural representation of dynasty history cannot be seen anywhere in India, before, during or after his period.

Ekambaranatha temple and Varadaraja temples were sung by Nayanmars and Alvars respectively, which proves the existence of the temple from very early period. In the architectural expanse and organising and sustaining the intangible traditions, they are comparable with other such temple complexes of Tamil Nadu, viz. the Nataraja temple, Chidambaram and Ranganatha temple, Srirangam.

The group of temples, Hampi had served as capital city of the Vijayanagara rulers established during their brief rule from 14th Century CE – 16th Century CE.  Dravidian architecture flourished under the Vijayanagara Empire and its ultimate form is characterised by this spectacular group of temples.  The functional similarities in temples of Kanchi and Hampi from being sacred historical landscape to their role in philosophical, religious and cultural aspects in contemporary society are striking.