Kumbakonam Information

Kumbakonam is the busy town which is sandwiched between the Cauvery and Arasalar rivers.  It is about 74km South West of Chidambaram and 38 km North East of Thanjavur.  Kumbakonam is believed by Hindus to be the place, where the water pot of amrita, the ambrosial beverage of immortality was washed up by a great deluge from a top sacred Mount Meru in the Himalayas, Lord Shiva happened to pass the pot in the guise of a wild forest dwelling hunter, for some reason fired an arrow at the pot causing it to break from the shards he made the lingam that is now enshrined in the Kumbaraeshwara Temple.  The gopuras of this temple town is over the town along with those of seventeen major shrines.  It is the former capital of the Cholas.  They have kept a high security treasure here.  Kumbakonam is the chief commercial centre for the Thanjavur region today.  TSR Big Street is the main bazaar which is especially renowned for its quality costume jewellery.

Nageshwara Swami Shiva Temple admires each and every people.  This is the main reason to stop in Kumbakonam.  This temple contains the most refined Chola stone carving still in situ.  The town also lies in the easy reach of the magnificent Darasuram temple.  It is a spectacular ancient monument that sees very few visions.  In addition, the village of Swamimalai has a bike ride away is the state’s principal centre for traditional bronze casting.  As is usually the case, all the temples close soon after noon and reopen around 4 pm.

Kumbakonam Tourism Information

Kumbakonam’s small railway station is in the southeast part of town.  It is about 2km form the main bazzar.  It is well served by trains from both north and south and has a left luggage office and decent retiring rooms.  The hectic Moffussil and Aringannar bus stands are opposite to each other in the southeast of town.  It is about five minutes walk from the railway station.  All the timetables are in Tamil, but there is a 24 hour enquiry office with English speaking staff.  Buses leave for Gangaikondacholapuram, puducherry and Thanjavur every few minutes many Via Darasuram.  Frequent services run to Chennai and Trichy, and several daily buses are available to Bengaluru.  There are few internet places on TSR Big Street and Ayekulam Street ATMS including an ICICI machine is in 100m east of the Siva international.

Kumbakonam Accommodation

Kumbakonam is not a major tourist location.  It has limited accommodation with only one upper range hotel in the whole vicinity nearly 10 km south east of town on the outskirts of Swamimalai village. The good news for budget travelers is that most of the inexpensive places are clean and well maintained. 

Kumbakonam Town

Kumbakonam is surrounded by a multicolored gopura.  The eastern entrance of Kumbakonam’s seventeenth century Kumbareshwara Temple is the home of the famous lingam from which the town has derived its name.  Its way is approached through a covered market by selling a huge assortment of cooking pots as well as the usual glass bangles and trinkets.  As we enter the temple, we will pass the temple elephant; Manganal with painted forehead and necklace of bells.  Beyond the flagstaff a manadapa houses a fine collection of silver vahanas and pancha loham figures of the 63 Nayanmar poet’s saints.

Sarangapani Temple is the principal and largest of the Vishnu temples in Kumbakonam.   It is the 13th century temple.  We can enter through a ten storey pyramid gopura gate more than 45m high.  The central shrine dates from the late Chola period, with many late accretions. The entrance of the innermost court is guarded by huge duarpalas   which is identical to Vishnu whom they protect.  There are carved stone jail screens; each different while in front of them stands the sacred square homam fire place.  During the day time, rays of light from the ceiling windows penetrate the darkness around the sanctum.  It is designed to resemble a chariot with reliefs of horses, elephants and wheels.  A painted cupboard contains a mirror of Vishnu to see himself when he leaves the inner sanctum.

The small Nageshwarara Swami Shiva Temple is in the centre of town. It is the Kumbakonam’s oldest temple, founded in 886 AD and completed a few years into the reign of Parantka I (907 – 940) AD.  First impressions are unpromising as much of the original building has been hemmed in by later Disney colored accretions.  The main courtyard is occupied by a large columned mandapa, a small gopura topped gateway leads to an inner enclosure where the earliest Chola shrine stands.  It is framed in the main niches around its sanctum wall are a series of exquisite stone figures, regarded as the finest surviving pieces of ancient sculpture in South India.  With their languid stance and mesmeric half smiling facing expressions these modest sized masterpieces far outshine the more monumental art of Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram the figures show Dakshinamurti, Durga and a three headed Brahma and Ardanari half man, half woman.  Joining them are near-life-size voluptuous maidens believed to be queens or princess of king Aditya’s court.

The most famous and sacred water tanks in Kumbakonam the Mahamakham in the south east of town is said to have filled with ambrosia collected from the pot broken by Shiva.  Every twelve years, when Jupiter, passes the constellation of Leo, it is believed that water from Ganges and eight other holy rivers flows in to the tank, {thus} according it the status of tirtha  or sacred river crossing.  At this auspicious time, as many as tour million pilgrims come here for an absolving bathe.

Eating

There’s nothing very exciting about eating out in Kumbakonam, and most visitors stick to their hotel restaurant.  For a charge of scene, though a few places stand out.

Kumbakonam Tour

The delta lands around kumbakonam are scattered with evocative restiges of the Chola’s golden age, but the most spectacular has to be the crumbling Airavateshwara temple at Darasuram of 6km southwest.  The bronze casters of swamimalai embody a direct living link with the culture that raised this extra ordinary edifice, using traditional last wax techniques, unchanged since the time when Darasuram was a thriving medieval town, to create graceful Hindu deities.  We can combine the two sights in an early half day trip of Kumbakonam.  The route is flat enough to cycle, although you should keep your with about when we are pedaling the main highway of Thanjavur, Which seems very traffic.  To reach swamimalai from Darasuram, return to the main road from the temple and ask for the directions in the bazaar area people.  It is only 3km north, but travelling between the two involves several turnings, so we have to ask someone to wave you in the right direction at regular intervals from kumbakonam, the route is more straight forward cross the Cauvery at the top of Town Hall street, turn left and follow the main road west through a ribbon of villages