Kanchipuram has always been one of the most important religious cities of the world. Housing over a hundred temples, all at least a 1000 years old, it has been a confluence of Shiva, Vishnu and Shakta tracts of Hinduism. The capital of the Pallava dynasties for centuries, the city is sacred to many as one of the most potent centers for spirituality. It is one of the Sapta Puris or Seven Cities (Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Kashi, Kanchipuram, Ujjain and Dwarka). These cities are the select places of high spiritual elevation and spiritual masters have time and again been born in these places. On one warm summer afternoon, I visited the matha (an institute of asceticism usually started by a spiritual master) of one such exalted masters, Upanishad Brahmendra.
Jungles and India have had their stories intertwined for ages now. Mythical stories of demons in dense forests of India from tales over 5000 years old to valorous hunters tracking man-eaters in thickets of the these wild forests, tales in this land abound. Once what was the private hunting ground of the Maharajahs of Mysore, today the protected tiger reserve of Bandipur offers a lot of opportunities to see animals in the wild. On a weekend, we spent driving onward to the national park nestled in southern India flanked by picturesque rustic beauty of the un-urbanized India in the form of quaint villages are bustling hill stations.
After my recent trip to heritage rich Kathmandu, I was reminded of a fascinating destination just 50 kms from where I stay, no less a UNESCO world heritage site, in the city of Kanchipuram – Mahabalipuram. Kanchipuram itself is by far one of the most culturally richest districts in the world and holds high religious significance to the Hindus. In this part of India, temples adorn every town and district and Kanchipuram houses over a hundred ancient temples, many of which still active today.