This article primarily covers 3 points:
1)Temple Visit Route covering Key Temples visited and Itirnerary.
2) Tips for Travellers
3) Some information and photos (which you can google out also incase you need more info).
Time of Departure - 6:00 AM from Chennai. Time of Arrival at Kanchipuram - 7:20 AM. Modet of Travel - Car.
Travelled in July 2013 on a Weekday.
Kanchipuram is best explored if you plan in advance what temples you would want to visit and get a history of temples so that you can enjoy what you see. Here below I made a map which I followed to cover the following 15 temples.
On the above Navigation Panel , you can see the temples planned. The temples can be covered in the following order of itirneray (to save time on route and maximise your visit). Its always difficult to exactly map the temple name sometimes. You can use the exact names available on the navigation panel above to plan your own route . Please note Google Maps is a property of Google and this map cannot be used for any Commercial Use. This map is used only to guide travellers.
01 Kamakshi Amman Temple -7:30 - 7:50AM
02 Kachabeshwar Temple (Shiva) - 7:50 - 8:15AM
03 Ulaga Alanda Temple (TriVikrama/Vishnu Avataar ) 8:20 - 8:40AM
Stop for Breakfast. 8:40 - 9:15AM
04 Kailasanathar Temple(Shiva) ASI(Archealogical Survey of India) Protected 9:20 - 9:50AM
05 Pandava Thudar Temple (Krishna/Vishnu avataar) 10:00 - 10:20AM
06 Ekambaranathar Temple (Shiva) 10:20 - 11:15AM
07 Vaigunda Perumal Temple (Vishnu) 11:30 - 12:30AM
08 Sonnavannam Seitha Perumal(Vishnu) -Was closed and renovation was going on.
Almost all temples are closed from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Stop for Lunch1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Travel to Thennangur on Kanchipuram Vandavasi Road - 36 KM - 45 Minutes. Plan your travel so that you can be there at the temple around 3:45 PM to 4:00 PM. You can either take the Military Road to connect to route 116 Kanchipuram Vandavasi Highway if coming from Varadaraja Perumal Temple OR directly get onto Rt 116 Kanchipuram Vandavasi Highway if coming from someother temple.
09 Thennangur Panduranga Temple (Vishnu) @ Thennagur 4:00 -4:45AM
10 Thennangur Dugra Temple(Adjacent complex to Panduranga Temple) 4:45 - 5:15AM
After spending over an hour , Travel back from Thennagur to reach Kanchipuram around 6:00 PM (45 Minutes Journey)
11 Ashtabuja Perumal(Vishnu) 6:00 - 6:30PM
12 Vilakoli Perumal (Vishnu) 6:30 - 7:00PM
13 Desikar Temple (Adjacent to Vilakoli Perumal) 6:30 - 7:00PM
14 Vaigunda Perumal (Vishnu) - ASI Protected 7:00 - 7:45PM
15 Kumarakottam SubramanyaSwamy Temple(Muruga/Karthikeya). 8:00 -8:30PM
Stop for Dinner and then travelled back to Chennai.
a) Typically Kanchipuram Temples can be divided into 2 halves .. Towards the North predominantly Shiva Temples also called Shiva Kanchi Circuit and in the South - Vishnu Temples called Vishnu Kanchi Circuit. The temples within these areas(ie Shiva Kanchi or Vishnu Kanchi) are only maximum of 5- 10 minutes. away from each other. Temples from one half to the other half might take 15 minutes. While temples are only 5-10 minutes away.. the routes can be a bit confusing so it would be better to map out your temples using a good Mapping app before embarking so that one doesn't end up re-traversing the same road.
b)If you want to avoid long waiting times - go on a weekday. Festival days, Auspicious days, Amavasya(New Moon),Weekends, Holiday days will have lots of crowd. In such a case please plan at least 2 days to visit Kanchipuram as its very holy and sacred place and you will not be able to visit all the temples in this itirnerary in 1 day.
c) Its a belief to always start your temple visit with Kamakshi Amman Temple as the first temple. Plan to be at Kanchipuram atleast by 7:00 AM. All temples open very early in the morning and the earlier you go, the easier will you be your darshan without long wait times. Temples open as early as 6:30 AM and some even earlier.
d) Photography is not allowed inside the Sanctum Sanctorum in any temple. Some temples allow Photography outside the Sanctum Sanctorum.
e) Note to Non Indian Nationals - While Temple Complex entry might not be restricted, most of the temples might not allow Non Indian Nationals(sometimes Non Hindu too) inside the Sanctum Sanctorum. Its better to check - there would be boards proclaiming "Only Hindus Permitted beyond this point" etc in temples to follow.
f) Almost all temples are closed between 12:00 PM and 4:00PM. Plan so that one exit the last temple towards 12:30 pm so that one can have lunch. Alternatively one can also spend time at Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt in the afternoon.
f)To maximise ones visit, Read through thehistory of temples from the net before visiting. A lot of interesting facts can be collated as these temples are extremely rich in History and Culture. TA itself has sections separately under the attractions section.
g)Choice of Restaurants - There are 2 Hotel Saravana Bhavans (one on Indira Gandhi Rd near MM hotel) and the other on the way to Vardaraja Perumal temple). You can have breakfast at one and lunch at the other. You have a variety of choice, and you may prefer this as they are pure veg. There is also a Sangeetha Hotel further down on the same road from Saravana Bhavan.
h) Restroom breaks - A whole day without restroom breaks is not possible. There are Paid Public Toliets outside the bigger temples like Kamakshi Amman temple, Ekabaranathar Temple, Vardaraja Temple, Thennangur Templ - though not very clean - will serve the purpose.
i) Thennangur temple - You can easily miss the temple as there are no proper signs on the highway. Watch out for the Temple from the main highway(as in the photo - check thennangur temple section in this article). Once you see the temple(around 6 to 8 km before Vandavasi), take the first available right towards the temple .
i) Travel time to Chennai in the evening can be somtimes be upwards of 1.5 hours due to evening traffic.
a) Kanchi Kamakshi Amman Temple - Here the Goddess is in seated form in penance. Enquire about the Sri Chakra placed in front of the Goddess. This is the one of the most divine shrines for Goddess Amman in the whole of India. A massive Temple Complex.
b)Ulaga Alanda Temple- This literally means One Who Measured the entire word . Lord Vishnu is in the form of Trivikrama(5th Incarnation of Lord Vishnu). The history of the temple is that King Mahabali penanced here to get a full darshan of Lord Vishnu . Even on grant of his wish he could not see the lord's full form. Hence he requested Lord to give him the form of Aadiseshar Snake so that he could see the lord from the top . Here Lord Vishnu is close to 35 feet tall more than 20 feet wide with his left leg lifted onto the sky.The temple is believed to house 4 divya desam Thiru Neeragam, Thiru Kaaragam, Thiru Karavanam, Thiru Ooragam.. In the sanctum sanctorum, to the right of Perumal(to your left when you approach the lord) you can see Adiseshan .
c) Kailasanathar Temple -This is an ASI protected site. Stunning beauty. It's a must see. Inside the sanctum sanctorum there is a small passage(you have to only crawl) and the belief is that if you enter through One entrance(Janana) and exit through the other(Marana) all your sins are cleansed and rebirth can be avoided. Plan sufficient time here as photography is allowed. It's believed to be more than 1400 years old. Each of the acloves below has a different sculpure.
e) Ekambaranathar Temple Here Goddess Paravati made a Shiva linga of mud and She embraced the linga to prevent it from dissolving. Since its made of hand from mud, the lingam also looks a bit conical/Tapered at the top. The temple is supposed to house a 3500 years old Stala Vriksham(a bark of wood is kept) and symbolically a Mango Tree is also there. This temple complex is massive in size. While there is a special queue on cash payment, the free darshan queue may move faster. Observe the queues beforehand, so you can hopefully get into the one that moves most quickly.The Utsav Moorhy is kept in a mirrored enclosure giving you a feeling of seeing multiple Dieties. The belief is that you can see all the 108 dieties if you see through these mirrors(as per the Priest there).
f) Sri Varadaraja Temple - The most famous perumal/Vishnu temple. Massive Complex. There is a Yoga Narasimhar Sannidhi(diety) also and the much famed Bangara Palli(Golden Lizard Motif), Silver palli(Silver Lizard Motif), Sun and the moon motifs which if touched will relieve you of all the sins. There is a beautiful architectural 100 pillar hall near the temple tank. Dont miss this, The sanctum sanctorum is 40 feet high and you need to climb 40 odd steps. The original figure of Varadharajar is in the form of Fig (Atthi) and is kept in the bed of temple tank. It is taken out once in 40 years. Next time it will be taken out in 2019. Since this is the most popular and divine shrine for Vishnu in Kanchipuram, there would bea good waiting time/queue even on a normal weekday.
g) Thennagur Pandurangar Temple - This is around 38 km on Kanchipuram Vandavasi road(Rt 116). Its AMAZING. Inside the sanctum sanctorum male members need to be bare bodied. You will be seated in front and the sanctom sanctorum will be closed while the head priest explains about the temple. Post explaination to the chanting and ringing of bells, when the sanctum sanctorum opens, you will be SPELLBOUND in the beauty of the ALANKAR. Every day there is a new Alankar for the lord. If you are lucky, you could see a PANDURANGAR alankar which is supposed to be only once a year. An imposing Standing Lord Panduranga who is easily more than 20 feet tall with his arms on his hips supporting 3 musicians(Pandurangan inclusive) and 2 at his feet and Lakshmi also standing imposingly next to him. Bedecked with jewels and colorful attire - this is a beautiful sight. There is also a Durgai temple in the next complex(Again male members need to be bare bodied) . This is also nice. All forms of Shakti are kept in this small temple. Tip: You can easily miss the temple as there are no proper signs on the highway . Watch out for the Temple from the main highway(as in the photo below). Once you see the temple(around 6 to 8 km before Vandavasi), take the first available right towards the temple .
h)Ashatabuja Perumal Temple - Vishnu Kanchi
In this temple Lord Vishnu is seen with 8(Ashta) hands (Bujam) with Chakra, Knife, Lotus, Arrow, Conch , Bow, Kedayam(war Shield), Gadhai in each hand. There is a shrine for Goddess Pushpakavalli. This is a relatively small quiet less crowded temple.
i)Vilakoli Perumal - Vishnu Temple There is also a Desikar Temple right next to this temple. The Belief in this temple is that The demons disturbed a yagna by Brahma and made it completely dark. Brahman then prayed to Lord Vishnu who came in as light(Vilakoli), destroyed the demons . This place is also called Deepa Prakasar. There is a separate small temple for Vedanta Desikar right adjacent to this temple. This is also a relatively small quiet less crowded temple.
j) Vaikunda Perumal Temple - This is more than 1400 years old and is similar to Kailasanathar temple. This is also ASI protected site.Stunningly beautiful. This should be seen in daylight to admire the sculptures better .This is also an ASI protected site. There are 3 shrines of Vishnu - one in sitting posture, one in Sleeping posture, one in standing posture. Only ths lord in sitting posture can currently be viewed . The Lord in sleeping posture is allowed for viewing only on auspicioud Ekdasi/Vaikunt Ekadasi day and apparently there is no possibility/way in the temple to view the shrine of land in standing posture. Dont Miss this temple. Photography is allowed outside sanctum sanctorum.
k)Kumarakottam SubramaniaSwamy Temple- This tempe is ituated on West Raja St almost behind Kamakshi Amman temple, this is a nice temple with Lord Muruga/Karthikeya as the main deity. It is said that Murugar is peronified as creator Brahma Subramanyar here. It is believed that Kantha Purana was published here, Nice serene big temple.