Silk, Stone and Spirituality in the Temple Town of Kanchipuram, India


Temple town of Kanchipuram

The man must have been in his late forties or early fifties. However, the silvery gray hair that adorned his head and most part of his face, made him look older than his years. He sat hunched over a beam, which extended into a handloom. The fan on the roof of the rickety room whirred noisily generating a rush of hot air, but the room was still cool compared to the blazing heat outside. We were in the temple town of Kanchipuram near Chennai in Southern India and it was a hot summer afternoon.

Kanchipuram is a temple town in Tamil Nadu, India which is known for Kanchipuram silk sarees. This historical town is at a distance of around 72 kilometers from Chennai. It was the capital city of erstwhile Pallava dynasty.

After a sumptuous breakfast in the cool environs of the Regency by GRT Hotels, Kanchipuram where we had our temporary digs, it was time to venture out into the town and explore the secrets of the famous Kanjeevaram silk sarees as well as the historic and heritage temples.

For the Lure of Silk


So there we were looking in awe at the makings of what would ultimately be an exquisite silk saree that would probably be worn by a blushing bride on her wedding day. The surroundings contrasted with the grandeur that the finished saree would assume. The man with the gray hair continued to focus on his work as he laboriously and slowly weaved magic from his hands. The intricate and stunning design that could be visible in the “work in progress”, saree was a silent testimony the single-minded concentration and skill of the weaver. Twenty to Twenty-five days of hard work would culminate with a finished product in the form of a saree. For us, that was definitely back breaking work, which would definitely take a toll of the weavers.


As we looked at the myriad colored silk yarn wound over the loom, waiting for the magic of the weaver to transform them into stunning works of textile art, our minds took off on a tangent to how the silk yarn found its way to the weaving facility.

The silk is actually the fibre that insect larvae produce to generate cocoons in which they are ensconced for some time. Silk is produced by separating the worms from the cocoons in which process the worms die. The silk required for a single saree is generated by about a 1000 silk worms. There has been some awareness and concern for the silk worms whose lives are sacrificed at the altar of fashion and style. This has led to an alternate and non-violent method of silk production which is aptly known as Ahimsa(Non-Violence) or Peace Silk. This method which derives from the principle of Ahimsa of Mahatma Gandhi ensures that the silk is recovered after the worm has broken the cocoon and flown. The method does involve more time than the traditional method of boiling the cocoons in hot water before they break. Also, the amount of silk which is recovered in the Ahimsa method is lesser than the traditional method. Needless to say, the environment-friendly Ahimsa Silk is more expensive than traditional silk. It is heartening to note that this silk too is gaining popularity and in fact, James Cameron’s wife Suzy wore a blue gown made of Ahimsa Silk to the Oscars in 2010!

The whirring of the fan and the staccato sounds of the loom brought us back to the present from our reveries and we looked at the man with the silky gray hair who gave us a toothy smile and bid us farewell. Still, with silk on our minds and thinking about the National Award winning Tamil movie Kanchivaram, we made our way out onto the small alley that housed many weaving units like the one we had just emerged from, in the temple town of Kanchipuram.



Spirituality Etched in Stone in the temples of Kanchipuram

The historic temples of Kanchipuram seem to whisper fascinating stories of a glorious chapter in history, a time when Kanchipuram was the spiritual center of the south and also known as  Ghatikasthanam or center of learning. The temples are not only steeped in history and legend, acting as powerful spiritual magnets drawing thousands to its fold, but they are also silent odes to the architectural mastery of its builders.



The rays of the afternoon sun reflected from the golden Gopuram or tower almost blinding us with its radiance. We were in the precincts of the Kamakshi Amman temple which is one of the ancient temples that adorn Kanchipuram.


The other famous temples in Kanchipuram are Vardharaja Perumal temple which is dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu and is a very important spiritual destination. Ekambareshwarar temple is a temple that is dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. Ekambareshwarar temple sprawls over an area of 25 acres and ranks among the largest temple complexes in India. The temple is adorned with pillars and hallways. The largest hall is made up of 1000 pillars. The temple is also home to a very old mango tree which is said to be more than 3500 years old and is said to yield four different varieties of Mangoes.


The temple town of Kanchipuram is dotted with exquisite and ancient temples which ensconce numerous historic and architectural treasures waiting to be discovered. It is no wonder that Kanchipuram is often referred to as, “The City of a Thousand Temples”.


It would take a few days to visit and explore each of the temples and soak in their history. As time was a constraint we visited just a few of the important ones and vowed to ourselves that we would be back for more.


After our tryst with silk, stone, and spirituality we headed back to the welcoming and comforting environs of The Regency by GRT Hotels, Kanchipuram, where a sumptuous lunch awaited us. The lunch was an interesting mix of traditional and local dishes and flavors blended lovingly with contemporary offerings.


After relishing our lunch we headed to our rooms to relax for some time before we hit the road again.


We bid farewell to the hospitable staff at Regency by GRT Hotels, Kanchipuram who had ensured that our short stay was extra sweet. As we drove towards Chennai, the heavy and delicious lunch ensured that we dozed off and dreamt of silk, stone, and spirituality that serenaded the temple town of Kanchipuram!

Related posts:

6 Reasons why a stay at the Radisson Blu Hotel GRT, Chennai is an unforgettable experience
An Affair to Remember with GRT- A Photo Blog






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Voyager - Sandy & Vyjay

We are a travel and lifestyle blogging couple, founder of Voyager site. We love to experience and enjoy this world and share these experiences with others to inspire them. We are self-confessed social media addicts.

96 thoughts on “Silk, Stone and Spirituality in the Temple Town of Kanchipuram, India

  1. Wow, what a great Blog Post. With your beautiful descriptions and pictures, I felt like I was there.

    We love the Temples in Thailand and Cambodia but these temples are wonderful!

    Thanks for the post

  2. I loved reading about your trip and especially seeing these amazing travel photos. I have always wanted to visit India, so this was of particular interest to me. The food at The Regency also looks so delicious!

  3. India is a country with several heritage which are ancient. Kanchipuram is a place where a person should go once in a life if he belongs to India. Its natural attraction and ancient beauty catch the mind of any person. It gives relief from all your tension after visiting this ancient place.

  4. Looks like a beautiful place to visit 🙂 lots of history to be told! Those beds look like they’ve got the typical Indian mattresses – nice and firm. I sleep best on a mattress from India!

  5. I would have loved to watch that man weave silk sarees. That is so amazing! India has such a rich history and so many beautiful things to see. I would love to go back some day.

  6. I can totally see why you say that history is etched into the temples of Kanchipuram. Certainly, when they are so ornate as this, it’s difficult not to think of the individuals who created these beautiful works, all with tools that are comparatively primitive. Nevertheless, always nice to get back to the comfort and luxury of a Regency Hotel though!

  7. The temples of Kanchipuram are so unique. Must plan to visit here once. And for the silk sarees, it seems they are world famous. I have friends from Karnataka, who go all the way to Kanchipuram during special occasions to buy silk sarees in bulk from trusted stores 🙂

  8. Temples have always fascinated me and this is a trip we’d love to take. Just like you we like to see how things are done so I would’ve gone straight there to see how they work on sarees. What a beautiful experience!

  9. Yet to visit Kanchipuram and get stunned by the city of a thousand temples. The architecture is stunning and I would like to see how many of the 1000 pillars I can count 🙂

  10. I have never been to India so of course have never seen this temple. Very interesting to know some history and it covers 25 miles of ground. Beautiful look with the way it was built. Wonderful trip.

  11. I think it would be amazing to watch the weaver. I can’t imagine how happy his work must make him feel.

  12. So many incredible temples 🙂 And wow on the silk – I knew that silk came from silk worms, though I had no idea that the worms were actually sacrificed in the process. So you’ve really opened my eyes to that today! Really heartening to know though that environment-friendly Ahimsa Silk is starting to gain popularity, it may sound minuscule to some people but I believe that every life should be treated with the same respect, whether that’s a human being, an animal, or a silk worm. How incredible to watch how they weave silk into textiles.

  13. Wow! I would love to explore and get lost in this place! It’s stunning! I’m sure it was quite an experience.

  14. I loved visiting Kanchipuram. I went to one of the silk weavers’ villages and came home with a table runner and cushion covers which are still stunning. I didn’t see all the temples you mentioned so maybe I need an excuse to go back.

  15. Wow, your blog makes me feel like I’ve been missing so much by not visiting India yet! I know my husband wants to go back really bad we have to go! Kanchipuram seems like another beautiful and interesting place too! That trailer was very interesting as well!

  16. I would love to own a saree myself. They are so exquisite and beautiful. I had no idea it was such tremendous dedication of time and work to create just one. It makes it all the more special!

  17. I love all the colors on the silks…it’s something I’d absolutely love to wear. If I was in India, I’d definitely need to make time to look through all the beautiful options.

  18. This city looks so old. I mean that in a good way. It looks to contain some fabulous history. If the walls could talk, the stories they could tell. What a lovely place to visit.

  19. The name Kanchipuram always resonated to me with silk sarees and temples. And I love those gorgeous colors!

    Haven’t visited, so you showed me that part of the region. What made me happy that environment-friendly Ahimsa Silk is starting to gain popularity. It may be a small start but a conscience one. May we treat every life with some dignity & respect.

  20. I would really enjoy this trip. So many great places to visit. I would really appreciate becoming familiar with the silking process. That is so cool. I love your pic by the way. Great vacation.

  21. This post was so good, I would love to do soething like this, unfortunately, India is a bit far for me at the moment.

  22. Silk is so nice to the touch but it saddens me that the silk worm larvae have to be sacrificed. I hope they would adapt the other method of harvesting the silk, or else we may be looking at their extinction soon.

  23. I went to India years ago for work but I have always wanted to go back. This place looks great, I love the Kamakshi Amman temple. I definitely going to add this to my bucketlist.

  24. I never knew that silk worms died when silk was harvested. I don’t actually own a lot of silk…or maybe not any. But now I’m aware.

  25. The temples of Kanchipuram are so unique, and historically rich. Seems like something I would love exploring. Thanks for the info on the silk. I didnt know silk worms are sacrificed in the process. I guess If I buy silk, I would search for ones that are process through the Ahsima method.

  26. This place looks amazing. I know very little about Kanchipuram, so I found it a very interesting read. Hopefully one day I’ll get to meet the silver haired man and watch him work.

  27. I haven’t heard of Temple town of Kanchipuram but it looks like an amazing place to visit! Really like all the photos you have added. The colors of those sarees look really beautiful!

  28. The Temple town of Kanchipuram has a spiritual aurora that I would love to experience. There are endless opportunities to explore India’s temples and sacred grounds. Thanks for sharing.

  29. This is another India’s best. Truly, India has never run out of beautiful spot to offer to every visitor that would traipse their feet in its innate beauty. I haven’t heard about this one yet and it really amazed me, since I’m a huge fan of temples and great and unique building structure. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Another reason to visit India!

  30. Thanks a lot for introducing the Kanchipuram, a city quite close to Chennai but I don’t think I would know about the temple and cultural there hadn’t I read about it from the blog! It’s always one of these posts reminded me india is a big country after all. 🙂 @ knycx.journeying

  31. Loved reading this post! I didn’t know there are now alternative forms of silk being made! Environmentally-friendly items are definitely more expensive at first, but eventually (I hope they gain more popularity – I will definitely start purchasing this kind of silk) if enough people buy it, hopefully the Ahimsa price will reduce 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  32. Your post on Kanchipuram took me back in time to my trip also done in hot summers in May. I just loved how the most sought after silk sarees come into life after so much of hardwork by the weavers involved! The mango tree giving four typed of mangoes still suprises me everytime I think of it. The pillared corridor at this temple is one of the best in South India.

  33. It would be amazing to travel through India and see all the temples etc. one day. Kanchipuram would be an amazing place to visit the temples. The Kamakshi Amman temple would indeed be something to see. We love history and these places would be a dream to see. Thanks for sharing your amazing experiences.

  34. What a brilliant introduction.
    It really transported me into the scene right alongside you, and whilst the tale grew from there, even now I’m drawn back to that man working over his loom…

  35. Kanchipuram is a beautiful place. The temple is amazing. I plan to visit India in the near future. Thanks for sharing! Great post!

  36. This is what I have always wanted to see in person, how weavers work on threads to create beautiful fabrics. And nice to know they found a way to generate silk without hurting the silkworms. I can understand why silk is expensive, what’s with all the process that it has to go through. I hope to visit Kanchipuram are Vardharaja Perumal temple someday.

  37. These are such gorgeous photos. I love temples, looking at them and learning about them. They are seriously breath taking!

  38. WOW! What an incredible travel destination! Now I want to go to Kanchipuram. I love what you were saying about it being a spiritual place and the “center of learning.” Thank you for sharing such rich culture and history!

  39. Very interesting learning about the silk process. I’m glad there is more awareness about the silk worms and that there are organisations trying to make silk in a kinder manner than boiling the cocoons. I didn’t know that was how silk was made. Lovely post. The temple looks incredible too.

  40. The temples are so stunning! It is amazing how they were created so long ago! I also love the fabric swatches you found along the way.

  41. Beautiful post and stunning pictures! Kanchipuram temple really does look amazing, we love temple hunting when we are travelling and this place is now on our list for when we finally get to India!

  42. I really enjoyed the journey you just took me on while I read that post. The architecture is incredible for those temples. The story of silk is very interesting and I am glad they have started to pay more attention to the lives of the silk worms.

  43. I am reminded of my trip to Kanchipuram. I had visited a weaver’s home too. Nice to know about your wonderful tour. 🙂 The pictures have come out so well.

  44. The colors of the fabric of the silk look just amazing. Nice to read about the manufacturing. This goes definitely on our to do list when we go to India next year. Great post!

  45. There is something special about the Kanchipuram sarees and silk. They make a bride blush as well as make her more beautiful. The Indian temples and their architecture are so fascinating. Will surely love to visit this place in future.

  46. I am Indian and I am always amazed how wonderful this country is. I have lived outside India all of my life so when i visit it’s often as a tourist – this was an intriguing travelogue and I hope to follow your steps here one day!

  47. I love the grand temples of South India. Recently I was in Thanjavur and was spell bound by temple’s sheer size I must visit Kanchipuram. Tempted by the food pictures. I am a South Indian food fan!

  48. I remember these handloom homes and shops from my first visit years ago. I was quite fascinated by it then . I remember how those typical designs were woven into colors and what went into that process. Your post got me back to that. Time to refresh those memories with an actual trip there.

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