Hey guys, today we are going to look at a temple called Tiru Parameswara Vinnagaram also known as Vaikundha Perumal Temple located in the city of Kanchipuram. This is a very old temple, by archeological accounts this was built about 1300 years ago, around 700 A.D, but many locals claim it was built much earlier in time.
Looking at the temple from the ground, it looks nothing different, but when we examine the temple from the air, we can understand a strange feature in architecture. There are several T shaped structures placed one inside the other, there are at least three such T shaped buildings. They are not only placed horizontally one inside the other, but also vertically placed in that fashion. The outermost T shape is at the ground level, the next one has one level up and in the very center, there is the top level. So, there are three levels in this temple.
Each level has a sanctum, a central chamber and each chamber hosts a statue of Lord Vishnu. So there are three Vishnu statues. At the ground level, he is shown in the seated posture. If you go to the next level, you can see him in a lying position. In this position, he is refered to as Vaikundha Perumal, this is why this temple is also known as Vaikundha Perumal temple. At the top most level he is in standing position. Think about the philosophy behind these three postures – why do we see them in different postures and why do we have three Vishnu statues? Please let me know your valuable thoughts in the comments section.
Now, if you plan on visiting this temple, try to go on the 11th Lunar day known as Ekadashi in Hinduism. Why do I say this? Because on that day, between 8 AM and 12 noon, visitors are allowed to climb up to the next level. On all other days, visitors are allowed only to see the ground level, but if you go on that day, you can go and climb to the next level and also see the Vishnu in resting position. You can also enjoy the various carvings on this level.
When you look at the design from the air, it is quite unique. The surrounding compound wall is elevated many feet high to match the level of next floor on top of it. So you can basically walk around the temple on this level and enjoy the beauty of this level as well. Such a design is almost never seen in other temples in this area.
The temple has a fantastic step-pyramid like structure in the center which is painted white, and there is a large dome like structure, a capstone on top of it. On the very top is a vessel like structure with a pointed tip. This vessel is called Kalash and has some fascinating elements inside it. If you look at the entire temple layout, it reminds us very much of the Kailasanathar temple, which is located about a mile from here. This temple also has a temple tank set up right next to it, just like that temple. The big difference is that, while Kailasanathar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
In fact, this temple is considered one of the divine temples of Vishnu. There are 108 such Vishnu temples known as Divya Desam and this temple is one of them. Some claim that many of these divine temples of Vishnu are connected by underground tunnels. It is believed that this temple has an underground tunnel which connects to the Shore temple at Mahabalipuram. Mind you, the Shore temple is about 50 miles away, which means that the underground tunnel would have to be 50 miles long to connect these 2 temples . This seems like an impossible task but locals firmly believe that such a tunnel exists and they even say that the British tried to uncover this secret tunnel during their rule, and its entrance was sealed by locals.
Walking around the temple, you can find some extraordinary carvings on the walls. Some show Gods, some show humans interacting with Gods. Here is a carving which shows 2 figures. On the left is a human in a Namaste pose, and on the right is a horse faced God, who has humanoid features in the rest of his body. Perhaps this is God Kalki, whose arrival is awaited by Hindus. Vishnu is shown in the form of several avatars, what animal face is this?
Some carvings are very strange and have no explanation. What could this possibly be? Is this due to corrosion or were they carved like this? There are Carvings that show a variety of activities. Some are giants or gods and they are shown alongside human beings. Humans are often shown helping or giving offerings to Gods. There are also war scenes vividly carved on the walls.
Almost all walls are adorned with carvings which have a treasure trove of information. Remember I showed you the carvings of Chinese travelers who visited India during ancient times? Some of those carvings are from this temple. There are many such carvings found here showing ancient connections between India and China.
Here is another carving which shows something interesting. What is going on here? A giant figure on the left is shown tying a piece of cloth on the head of a smaller figure on the right. Who is this giant figure? It is lord Vishnu. You can see the conch, which is one of the instruments of Lords Vishnu. Lord Vishnu is crowning or doing the Coronation ceremony for the King Parameswara Varman. This temple was named after this King. We can also see another intriguing figure in the same carving showing a hand signal. Here, he is telling us to look at the coronation of the King, who was probably the builder of this temple. This hand signal is very characteristic of temples in this area. The hands always point to something important, and if we follow these hand signals we can understand many things.
And these hands signals are not even limited to humans, remember I showed you in a previous video, how the lion statues told us to go sideways and when we followed their hand signals we ended up in secret meditation chambers. There are a lot of brilliant hidden details like this in ancient Indian temples.
In this temple too, we have Yalis, which are lion like animals with horns, carved on walls and on pillars. They are shown with large manes and protruding teeth. The most important feature however, is that they are wearing some type of armor to protect their legs. This is very similar to shin guards, used by modern day soccer players. I am not sure if this detail comes from human imagination or if such a practice, of putting armor on animals existed in ancient times. Many of these pillars have seen a lot of corrosion, and many of the carvings have also been destroyed due to time. Some carvings are completely destroyed by corrosion and the figures are totally unidentifiable. The outer walls of the temple are a classic example of how we have lost hundreds of priceless carvings which could have given us valuable information.
Within the temple premises, in one corner, there is a small shrine dedicated to Nagas, the snake gods of India. The Nagas are shown half human and half reptilian, and are considered divine beings with supernatural powers. For thousands of years, ancient people have worshiped Nagas and this practice is still followed rigorously, especially by women.
We can also see various inscriptions in the temple. These inscriptions reveal how gold was used as currency in ancient times and also tell us about Social, Political and Economic aspects during that time. So if you ever plan on visiting the city of Kanchipuram, please go to this fantastic temple and make sure you visit on Ekadashi day between 8 AM and 12 Noon.