If you’re intrigued by Indian history and take a special interest mythology, then you’d love this little, quaint town in Tamil Nadu. We’re talking about Kumbakonam a.k.a the ‘temple town of India’. The name ‘Kumbakonam’, roughly translated in English as the ‘Pot’s Corner’. It is believed to be an allusion to the mythical pot or Kumbha of Lord Brahma that contained the seed of all living beings on earth.
Legend has it that the Kumbha was displaced by a pralaya (end of the world). And it ultimately settled at the spot where the town of Kumbakonam now stands. At first glance, it may seem like just another chaotic Indian junction town. But there’s a lot more this magnificent place has to offer. Here is everything you need to know about the third-largest city in Tamil Nadu and why it deserves a visit.
Kumbakonam, one of the oldest towns in Tamil Nadu, is also called the ‘temple town of India’
An alluring and pleasing town, it lies sandwiched between two great rivers -Cauvery and Arsala. Kumbakonam was the capital of Chola kings in the 7th century. It is popularly known as the ‘Temple Town’ because of the dozens of Hindu temples you’ll find scattered all over town. 188, to be precise! And not to mention the thousands of temples around town.
The Cambridge of South India, the town is also famous for its prestigious educational institutions
Kumbakonam was a popular centre for European education and Hindu culture during the British Raj. In fact, The Government Arts College, established in Kumbakonam in 1867, is one of the oldest educational institutions in the South!
The town hosts many temples which worship Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.
The Shiva temples are connected with ‘Mahamaham festival’ which you get to experience only once in twelve years! These temples are full of colours and festivities with various celebrations happening around the year. If you are intrigued by ancient architecture and mythology, here are some temples which you should totally visit in the town:
Kasi Viswanathar Temple
It is believed Lord Ram and Lakshman worshipped Lord Shiva here, while on their way to Lanka. It is said it’s here that they acquired Rudramsam which helped kill Ravana.
Adi Kumbeswara Swami Temple
This Shiva temple is believed to be the oldest one in town, built in the 7th century by the Cholas. The huge temple covers marvellous artworks comprising of three Praharas and three Gopurams.
The temple is also known as Surya Kottam as the sunlight enters the temple only during the months of April and May. The temple also has another shrine dedicated to the Sun god. It is believed he worshipped Lord Shiva here.
This is a famous and in fact, the largest Vaishnavaite temple in Kumbakonam. Situated in the middle of a busy market street, this temple used to be the tallest temple tower in Asia. It has mammoth 12-storied Gopura built by the Nayak Kings in the 12th century. The chariot festival held in the spring season attracts a lot of devotees during the Tamil month of Chittirai.C
The Great Living Chola Temples
You must have heard about The Great Living Chola Temples. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for a group of Chola dynasty era Hindu temples in Kumbakonam. Completed between the early 11th and 12th century, the monuments include the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram.
The small town of Kumbakonam is best known for its historic temples. But it is also a leading producer of betel leaves and nuts. Also, if you are a coffee aficionado, the town lends its name to the Kumbakonam Degree Coffee. It is a blend of coffee prepared using undiluted pure milk. Kumbhakonam is an important silk-weaving centre too. The giant water tank at Mahamaham is the physical and cultural nucleus of Kumbakonam. It is surrounded by 21 wells and 16 shrines!
You will also spot the women of this city riding cycles, working at shops and taking up jobs that we mostly see the men taking up in the North of India. With so much to see and so much to do, the best part about this city remains its soothing silence. There’s a sense of serenity in the town’s air. And you’d feel like you are walking amongst the pages of history in flesh and bones! There are no fancy restaurants, cafes or hotels to stay here. And trust us, you’ll love that.
So, your best bet is to pack a few tees, along with lungis, take at least a week or two off from work, and explore this magnificent town on foot!
How to get there: The most convenient way to reach from Delhi to Kumbakonam is to take an almost 3-hour flight from Delhi to Chennai and then take State transport bus from Chennai to Kumbakonam (283 km) which should take you around 6 hours.
Featured image source: goibibo