After visiting Mahabalipuram for the first time in my life, I was all the more convinced that I ought to visit the old temple structures in Kanchipuram. Which is what I did.
As one who doesn't care for any religion-based explanations for where everything came from and what happens after we die, my interest in this old town with a gazillion temples is in its history, art, and architecture.
Kaliasanathar Temple, and Vaikuntha Perumal Temple.
The two have been decommissioned, so to say, to borrow from the modern technological vocabulary. Believers no longer go to these because the main and ancillary idols have been uninstalled. Non-patronage, therefore, creates maintenance problems different from those resulting from huge numbers showing up. As the driver who took me there remarked, "only foreigners come here, sir."
Anyway, one of these days, the nerd in me will read up and get a clearer idea of when this was built with respect to the Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram.
Why is this important? Because ...
... Even to the art-challenged me, it was evident that the sculpture styles are so similar at this temple, at Kailasanathar Temple, and Shore Temple. It was, therefore, a wonderful pleasure, when the archeology department employee, who doubled up as a guide for an informal fee, pointed out the following on the wall:
The guide said it shows the Pallava king on the left celebrating, and the Shore Temple on the right.
I asked him which king it was, but he pretended that he didn't hear me. When students pretend they didn't hear me in the classroom, I repeat the question all over again; here, I chose not to :)
The carvings and frescoes will, I am sure, have recorded a lot about the major events during those years. There are quite a few inscriptions in the old Tamil script. I am not sure how much have of those treasures have been appropriately documented and studied.
As I tried to keep up with the guide's show-and-tell, I realized how difficult it was for me to absorb them all. I wished he would slow down. To take his time in sharing with me whatever he knew.
Meanwhile, another foreigner came in. The driver was right on the money!
So, we backtracked a tad for her to catch-up with whatever I had seen by then.
Poor woman; she struggled even more than me because (a) the guide's accent made it very difficult, and (b) she was unfamiliar with the content.
Anyway, after a while, we were now two tourists trying to keep up with this guide. I asked her where she was visiting from. "Perth." And then after a very slight pause, "Australia."
I was reminded that Australian tourists--and from Perth, to boot--marked my own vacation beginnings. And then my brother's visit. I wonder where else, and how many more, Aussies are going to pop up over the rest of the travels here.
The guide then stopped and dramatically pointed at something. We also looked.
"A Chinese man came to the Pallava court" said the guide.
See the Chinese guy on the left side of this panel? How awesome! 1,300-plus years ago, a guy from China comes all the way to this southern part of south India and becomes a part of the history.
It was a small world even back then, and it is rapidly getting smaller and smaller and smaller ...