Tag Archives: Temples

The Beautiful Temples of Kanchipuram, South India

Temples are located throughout India, and Asia for that matter, but the ones in South India are gigantic and architecturally brilliant. I was born and brought up in India and our favorite family activity during the holidays was to visit one temple after the other, right from a young age. Religious tourism is the popular with most families in India, including mine. When I was young, visiting temples was like a picnic, a family outing. With age, the temple visits have lessened but I have always had a special place for temples in my heart.

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One of the beautiful Hindu temples in Kanchipuram, India

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This specific temple, Ekambareswarar Temple, is particularly beautiful; it is located in a temple town called Kanchipuram, near Chennai, in South India. Ekambareswarar temple was initially constructed in the 7th Century AD and since then it has undergone many modifications and additions and the temple now stands at an impressive 59 meters high.

Kanchipuram, one of the more popular temple towns in India, is called the “Land of 1000 Temples,” and for good reason—the town has been in existence for a very, very long time. In fact, written history of this temple town goes back to at least the 5th Century BC. South Indian temples, unlike their North Indian counterparts, have been relatively lucky because their location down in the south shielded them from the destruction caused by wars and foreign conquests. Hence, there are many ancient temples in this region that have survived—almost completely intact—until today.

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One of the things I love best about the temples in the south are the intricately carved stone sculptures. These beautiful carvings and sculptures can be found on the temple’s towers, the walls, on the pillars, practically everywhere. Even smaller temples in the region have beautiful stone-art inscribed right into the temple structures. One neat thing, if you look closely at the temple towers, many resemble pyramids because pyramids concentrate energy at their base-point (that’s why corpses are kept there in many cultures). Similarly, here in India, the pyramid temple towers concentrate energy at the base and that’s one reason people walking through and around the temple often feel refreshed.

Personally, though I don’t often visit the temples for praying, I do visit them to capture the beautiful sculptures and stone-carvings in my camera. It is unfortunate that many temples in India (including this one) do not allow photography inside, but even with that rule in place, I always end up with some beautiful photos of the outside—if these are the type of sculptures you can see on the outside of these temples you can imagine how many more beautiful ones decorate the inside!

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It takes many years to build a tower like these, and the sculptures inside the Temple were carved over centuries and by many hands. The Ekambareswarar Temple (also called as Ekambaranathar Temple) is one of the most popular temples in Kanchipuram, and I think for good reason. Inside the temple you’ll discover a thousand-pillared hall, a huge temple pond surrounded by long steps, a 2000 year old mango tree bearing four types of mango fruits, and many other beautiful offerings and additions to make the temple a holy and welcoming place.  Also, located right next to the temple (in a 300-year old heritage house) is the Shakuntala Jagannathan Museum of Fine Arts, which is worth visiting while you’re on the temple grounds. And since photography is prohibited inside, you’ll just have to go yourself to see the inside of the gorgeous Ekambareswarar Temple.

As for visiting, foreigners and visitors are very much allowed inside the temple (except a small hall where the main deity is kept). If you visit you should buy and eat the prasadam, food offerings, called Puliodharai, Vadai and Chakkarai pongal. These foods are made from rice and are very tasty— my favorite, so don’t miss!  :)

Photos by Destination8Infinity.

Rajesh

I live in South India, I travel around South India, I blog about South India at Destination Infinity. Forget Taj Mahal, Forget Jaipur Palaces, Forget Delhi/Mumbai. The real gems of India are in the South. Welcome.

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White Temple - The Main Temple

Chiang Rai’s White Temple: This is a Must-See in Thailand!

The White Temple of Chiang Rai

There is a general ‘tourist trail’ that most people follow when heading to Thailand for the first time. This usually includes a trip to the beaches in the south, pit-stops in Bangkok, and a trip up to one of the northern provinces of Chiang Mai. It is a fair bit less common for people to venture much beyond that, as the city of Chiang Mai holds so many relics and activities already. This being said, for those adventurous enough, a short 3 hour bus ride to the northern most province of Chiang Rai can be well worth the time. Amongst the mountains, rice patties and natural beauty, amidst the ancient history and old cities, there lies another incredible – and bizarre – attraction: The White Temple.

White Temple - The Main Temple

The White Temple

Locally known as Wat Rong Khun, the unconventional temple is a tourist attraction for locals, foreigners, and even monks alike. Though completely different from the usual temples you may see in the north, it is still considered a place of spiritual worship for practicing Buddhists and should be treated as such.

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Buddha’s everywhere

Before  arriving to the gates, you can already tell that there’s something truly spectacular about this place! The immense complex of the White Temple is, as the name states, almost entirely white, with small reflective mirrors ornately decorating it.  It’s is a beacon of light to all those within even the slightest bit of an eye-shot away from it, luring them in with it’s beaming glow.

White Temple - Guardians of the bridge

Guardians of the bridge

This modern temple began it’s construction in 1997. You may say it’s a work in progress, as you can see new structures going up even to this day. With that said, however, there are already a myriad of temples and stupas found on the holy grounds which already completed.

The reason the White Temple is a little ‘different’ from your traditional temples is because it has completely modern elements, which lack in the older temples you may visit. It brings in an unusual contrast of good vs evil. Evil being represented largely in part by sins, modern warfare, and funny enough – Hollywood movies.

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Crossing Over the bridge of Purgatory

With a mixed bag of appearance such as Neo (from the Matrix), Superman, Osama Bin Laden, and even Sponge Bob Squarepants, there is no shortage of recognizable characters in the stories being illustrated. Completely decorated with murals, statues, and even bridges crossing over purgatory, you find yourself becoming part of the journey to enlightenment.

White Temple - Still a place of worship

A place of worship

To anyone thinking of visiting outside the regular tourist trail, this is a highly recommended, and unique, destination to consider. You should give yourself about 3 hours to walk around, and another 30 mins in each direction getting to and from the temple from the city of Chiang Rai’s centre.

Please note: You should dress appropriately while visiting the White Temple. Although it’s bizarre, it is still a place of worship, and should be treated as such.

Ian Ord

An explorer since birth, Ian has now spent the better half of his life travelling. Spanning all 7 continents, and leaving no stone unturned, he continues to pursue discover new cultures, festivals, foods and all the other riches the world has to offer.

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Chiang Mai - Buddhist Ceremony

Chiang Mai – A welcoming Oasis filled with wonder and intrigue

Chiang Mai, Thailand – At a first glance

There’s only a few places on Earth which can create such an immediate feeling of coming home again on your first visit, as Chiang Mai can. A large, yet peaceful city of just over 1 million inhabitants, Chiang Mai is situated in the hills of Northern Thailand. It’s picturesque backdrop of rolling mountains and lush green jungle, is complimented by it’s ancient history, which is still visible around nearly every turn! With an endless supply of activities  delicious food, and smiling locals, it’s no wonder so many expats choose to live here – some short term, others, indefinitely.

I remember when I first arrived to Chiang Mai, I was first taken by it’s awesome location. High in the hills, it sits very close to the Burmese border. This has given it a rich history of both cultural mixing, and invasions. A notable feature is the incredibly large moat and old city walls which still protect the old city’s centre. You are immediately inundated with historical features, which bring light to the magic of a city of such long standings.

In addition to Chiang Mai’s rich history, it is also one of the most spiritual cities, with ornate Thai Buddhist temples hiding at almost every turn! I spent countless days wandering the winding old streets, and exploring the shoeless temples at almost every chance I got. Not only can you explore these beautiful temples, you are often welcomed into the ceremonies and services being conducted within them, as long as you keep a respectful air about you while there.

The food is really one of the biggest highlights for me, being a long time foodie! Not only do they have one of the best, (and CHEAPEST) selections of street food I’ve seen in all of Thailand, there’s a seemingly endless variety of choice for foreign foods as well! From Mexican, to French, to Italian cuisine, they seem to have a knack for doing an exceptional job no matter what food is being prepared. You will also find Thai dishes which are more exclusive to the North. My favourites being Massaman – a peanut-beef curry, and Kow Soy – a crunchy noodle curry.

For anyone looking for somewhere to have a quick visit, or even to settle down and try a new, longer-term adventure, I would recommend putting Chiang Mai high on your bucket-wish-list. It truly has a welcoming charm, giving anyone who visits a sense of finding a home and comfort.

Ian Ord

An explorer since birth, Ian has now spent the better half of his life travelling. Spanning all 7 continents, and leaving no stone unturned, he continues to pursue discover new cultures, festivals, foods and all the other riches the world has to offer.

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Follow Me:
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