From Mahabalipuram we set out by car to Chennai. Along the way we stopped in the very old city of Kanchipuram.
Historically Kanchipuram has been the capital city for some ruling dynasties of India, namely the Pallav's in the 6th century, later followed by the Chola dynasty. The same Pallav's used Mahabalipuram as a port city for their commercial trading purposes and had commissioned much of the stone carvings Mahabalipuram is famous for.
Kanchipuram was also known as a major learning centre for Jains, Bhuddists and Hindus, and is considered a significant religious/spiritual city. It houses many significant temples also built by the Pallav and Chola dynasties dating back to the 6th century onwards.
Kanchipuram is regarded as one of the seven holiest cities of India, where one can obtain salvation. There are many temples scattered around this city of which we had an opportunity to visit a couple; the Kamakshi temple and the Shankaracharya temple.
Kamakshi temple is devoted to goddess Parvati and was likely built around the 6th century. It is one of the few temples dedicated to a goddess in India, very much like the Meenakshi Amman temple we visited in Madurai (that was also goddess Parvati).
The Kanchipuram area is well known for its silk production, very similar to Mysore. However, in Mysore while silk is produced by power looms, in Kanchipuram the very fine and famous silk products are produced using hand looms. Most of Kanchipuram's local population is employed in the weaving industry.
We had a very short time in Kanchipuram, however we did manage to hit a few retail shops in search of a famous silk Kanchi saree. There were too many choices and under pressure with a short time I wasn't able to select anything. Most sarees were quite expensive and weren't of a style commonly worn in the north. I didn't want to risk having buyers remorse by grabbing something I wasn't sure of just for the sake of having a kanchi saree :) .
After our short afternoon in Kanchipuram we headed to the mega city of Chennai.
Chennai, like any other major city of India, was a densely populated place with very heavy traffic in all directions. Similar to Banglaore, Chennai is known as an IT hub of India. Its also a popular destination for post secondary education as many institutions are located in Chennai too.
We had dinner at the famous Sarvanna Bhavan, a south Indian restaurant chain, and were unfortunately disappointed. This location probably served us the worse meal of our trip.
The next morning we headed out for a city tour. We took a stroll along Marina beach, visited another old temple dedicated to the god Muruganu (local incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and managed a little shopping in Chennai as well.
Among the city sights was Fort St. George. This was a fort built by the British back in the 17th century when they first arrived in India and were looking for a location to set up a warehouse and a shipping port for the East India Company ( a merchant trade company owned by the British). Fort St George became that location where the British first settled and planted the roots of what is now the city of Chennai. The British settled here and started their business operations, which drew in the local residents as the working class. From this point on the city started to develop over the centuries and now is a thriving metropolitan of India. The name the British gave Chennai was Madras, and eventually after Indian independence it was changed to its current Indian name (Chennai). Around this area there were other visible buildings which were clearly left behind from the British era. Most of these buildings are now used for various government administration offices.
Later that evening our family caught a flight back to Delhi and Maneesh and I caught a train to our next destination, Cooimbature.