Kanchipuram; the city of thousand temples and the conurbation greatly revered by the Hindus as the ‘Moksha Dayika Nagari’ is one of the leading pilgrim destinations of Indian peninsula greatly frequented by the devotees all round the year. Apart from its immense religious, historical, architectural and archaeological eminence what has brought Kanchipuram in the glare of publicity on the world front is its beautiful and high priced Kanchipuram or ‘Kanjivaram’ silk sari easily distinguishable by its wide contrast borders. The traditional occupations of the residents of Kanchipuram have been agriculture and weaving of the Kanjivaram Silk Saris. Approximately 5000 families of Kanchipuram are still involved in the business of weaving silk saris and the Kanchipuram Municipality owns about 25 silk & cotton yarn industries, 60 dyeing units, 50 rice mills and 42 other industries.
As the legend goes, the weavers of Kanchi are believed to be the descendants of the heavenly weaver of Gods; Sage Markanda. Kanjivaram Sari is naturally woven from the best quality silk yarns and they are considered to be of the highest quality amongst all the silk saris. A single Kanchipuram Sari can cost anywhere between 2500 rupees to 100000 rupees or more based upon the elaborateness of the design work, colors, patterns, the material that is used in decorating the saris such as gold thread, zari etc. and so on. Generally the Kanjivaram Saris bear the motifs of sun, moon, peacocks, swans, parrots, lions, chariots, coins, leaves, mangoes, etc.
The most noteworthy and traditional motif repeatedly spotted in a Kanjivaram Sari comprises of the jasmine bud woven within a round or a square frame. This pattern is locally known as ‘Mallinaggu’. ‘Thandavalam’ is yet another worth mentioning motif wherein parallel lines can be seen running across the sari. The Kanchipuram Sari woven with heavy silk and gold threads are deemed extremely special and they are worn only on religious and social occasions or festivals. From 2005 Kanchipuram Sari is protected by the GI Tag (Geographical Indication Tag) and it is also the first product of India that has successfully implemented the security protocol.
Kanchipuram is bustling with the deluge of devotees all twelve months of the year and the ambience is always that of the festivity. However, some of the major festivals celebrated at Kanchipuram include Brahmotsavam, Garudotsavam, Temple Car Festivals, Athyayana Uthsavam Silk Tourism Festival, Naynar Uryavan, Devadhiraj Mahotsavam, Sankara Jayanti, Shivratri, Thailiakappu, Pavithrothsavam, Sokkapanai, Float Festival, Vaikunth Ekadashi, Pongal, Hanuman Jayanthi, etc.
Brahmotsavam is celebrated at the Varadaraja Temple of Kanchipuram in the month of May (Tamil month Chitarai) on the auspicious occasion of Vaishakh Poornima. Commemorated in the honor of Lord Varadaraja along with His two consorts; Sridevi and Bhoodevi, this ten days long festival involves the ceremonial bath that is offered to the idol of the presiding deity on the banks of the Palar River. This ritualistic shower is followed by a grand procession that is carried out in really an ostentatious manner.
Garudotsavam also known as the ‘Garuda Sevai Festival’ is celebrated at the Varadaraja Temple of Kanchipuram in the month of Chitarai as a part of the 10 days long Brahmotsavam Festival. On this occasion other deities from the neighboring temples including Sri Srinivasa Perumal, Sri Lakshmi Narasima Perumal, Sri Kariayamanika Perumal and Sri Rajagopala Perumal arrive at the Varadaraja Temple on their Garudavahanam.
Temple Car Festival, also called ‘the Varadaraja Perumal Rath Yatra’ is organized on the 9th day of the 10 days long Brahmotsavam Festival when the icon of the Lord Varadaraja Perumal is carried in a pompous and pretentious procession. This procession is taken out on mammoth wooden chariots accompanied by the beat of drums and the chanting of the Vishnu Mantra.
The Naynar Uryavan Festival is celebrated in the revered memory of the 63 Naynar Saints when the idol of the Lord Ekamranath is taken around the city in a marvelous procession.
Devadhiraj Mahotsavam is celebrated once in every 40 years atop the Athigiri Mountain when the idol of Lord Vishnu reclining upon his celestial serpent Shash Nag is brought out only for 48 hours. The next Devadhiraj Mahotsavam will be celebrated in the year 2019.
The Float Festival is held at the ‘Varadaraja Temple’ during the months of February and November. The Sankara Jayanti is celebrated at the Kamakshi Amman Temple for 10 days. At the time of the Navaratri Festival, the temple is wonderfully decorated and the Goddess is bejeweled with dazzling gemstones, valuable ornaments and fine clothes. The Poojas performed at Kanchipuram follow the traditional ritualistic pattern and they involve decoration, devotion and merry making. The Mahashivaratri Festival is celebrated at the Kailasanathar Temple in the honor of Lord Shiva when the temple receives swarms of devotees alighting from all over the place. Kamakshi Ammam Festival is celebrated in the month of February while Panguni Uthiram is organized in the month of March of April.
Kanchipuram in Modern Culture: A Tamil film named ‘Kanchivaram’ was produced by a celebrated director ‘Priyadarshan’ and the story was based on the silk weavers of Kanchipuram and their social and economical condition during the pre-independence era. ‘Kanchivaram’ won the award of the ‘Best Film’ at the annual National Film Award.