Kanchipuram, the old capital city of the Pallava Dynasty in Tamil Nadu, is one of seven holy pilgrimage sites for Hindus. The Pallava, Chola and Pandyan Dynasties all occupied the area, each trying to outdo the others with bigger and better shrines, and the result is a fascinating study in Dravidian architectural development from the eighth century onward.

The nickname ‘Golden City of 1,000 Temples’ is well earned, and travelers who make the 45-mile (72-kilometer) trek from Chennai will be rewarded with a veritable treasure trove of Shaivite and Vaishnavite temples. The most notable, the Devarajaswami Temple dedicated to Vishnu, includes a 96-pillar marriage hall and a huge chain carved from stone.

Most of the temples open in the morning and again during the late afternoon and evening hours, but the cooler morning hours are typically a much more pleasant time to visit. For a memorable photo opportunity, give a rupee or two to one of the temple elephants. After passing your donation to the handler, the elephant will offer you a blessing by touching your head with its trunk.
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