Kailashnatha temple, poetry in stone
Kailashnatha temple, Kanchipuram
Kailashnatha temple, a creation out of love to Lord Shiva lies in the scorching heat of Tamil landscape. Built during the reign of the Pallavas, this temple survived the ravages of war torn Tamil Nadu. Inscriptions in this temple suggest that the Chalukyas attacked Kanchipuram and Pulakesin won the battle leaving a mark on this temple with his sword.
Imagine this landscape with armies lined up outside with fluttering flags declaring a Chalukyan victory over the Pallavas. Deep within the cool interiors of this temple, a King worships the black faceted Lingam for this victory.
The Pallava queens patronized the smaller shrines outside, hosting smaller Shiva lingas with the Somaskanda panel in the background. Pulakesin put his signature over these walls, declaring his victory but did not have the temple pulled down to dust and rubble. There was mutual cultural respect in religion though there was hatred on the political front. The worst they could have done is probably replace the idols in this temple with those "Made in Chalukya land".
It is a showcase of evolution in architecture, directly after the Shore temple at Mahabalipuram in chronological order, from the Art History perspective. The inscriptions tells stories of tantrik practices as well as stories of the devotion of the faithful who donated various sculptures to the making of this temple.
Among the most common depictions of Shiva visible here in order of presentation are the Somaskanda panel depicting the Lord sitting with Parvati and Somaskanda their little son. Following it is Bhikshatana, another huge depiction of the naked mendicant, who seduced the wives of the rishis in a Brahmanical village. The only other strong reference made beyond Shiva is that of Durga who is depicted with her leg resting on the Lion.
The Linga embedded within the main shrine chamber as well as the smaller chambers around the temple are made of polished black stone imported into Kanchipuram. The Lingam within the temple is faceted, and a little too large for the chamber it is placed within.
The main vimana or roof of the temple, has been renovated and bears no resemblance to the original structure, thanks to ASI( Archaeological survey of India). This temple is the second in series to be built with a tall vimana and a rather insignificant gopuram(entrance way). Its unique architecture also displays a Lingam being consecrated with the chamber of the gopuram, an element of architecture which was never reproduced later.
Walking through the peace surrounded by these ancient walls, one can breathe in fresh air, potent with stories of ancient Tantrik faith which are not necessarily evil as projected. This temple brings alive a believe in the Mother goddess and Lord Shiva, a mixture that is too intoxicating within these walls, if you are emotional enough to feel its presence.