If you cast your eyes beyond these indecorous spats, the temple is a repository of some of the most intricate carvings one can cast eyes upon.
Ahalya and myself spent several hours at just one section of this vast temple complex, the hundred pillar hall, otherwise known as the Kalyana Mandapam. These structures along with the Raya Gopuram are signature components of the Vijayanagar style of architecture.
When we stepped into the mandapam which was guarded by an imposing and incongruous steel gate, an elderly gentleman informed us that there was an entrance fee which turned out to be all of One Rupee!
Each pillar was exquisitely carved with sculptures on all four sides bottom up, with not a single inch left empty. The pillars are embellished with sculptures of horse-riders, mythical animals, dancers, musicians, Manmadha riding a Hamsa bird, Rathi with a parakeet, Krishna, Hanuman and so on. An interesting sculpture shows a horse-rider with one side of his face sporting a moustache and a beard wearing pleated trousers while the other side of his face is clean-shaven and here he is wearing a dhoti!
These standalone pillars held us spellbound. Every single block of pillar had a tale to tell from the epics or the history of the place. They are resplendent with sculptures that portray characters from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, various forms of Vishnu, various kings and queens of the Vijayanagara empire and several depictions of Lord Krishna.
One particular sculpture caught our eyes. It was an unusual representation of Vishnu carrying a bow, conch, wheel and playing a flute, probably symbolizing three aspects Vishnu, Rama and Krishna. There is also a replica of the prime deity of the temple, Varadaraja Perumal.
Even if one were to pass by this structure oblivious to what it holds within, the free hanging chain of stone rings suspended from the intricate cornice would draw attention. The most amazing part of this chain is that the rings can move freely within even though the entire chain is made of a single stone. A fine example of the finesse and skill of the sthapathis of the time.
We must have spent over four hours examining each segment of every pillar. Each and every part of it deserves an extended description by itself. They served as a canvas for artisans of yore to display their boundless prowess and ingenuity.
By the time we finished savoring the richness and beauty of these pillars, it was too late to pay obeisance to the main deity. It was a hot and humid day and we were quite hungry. When stepped out of the mandapam, we were greeted with wafts of the famous Kancheepuram idli which was being sold right in front of the mandapam. They were as delightful as the pillars we just saw!
Amble along the pillars at: photos.app.goo.gl/1c5Frtt8rjSM8v2L8
And do take some time to pen a few lines here….and not at google photos!!