Kumbakonam was once the beating heart of medieval South India, home to World Heritage-listed temples and sacred sites. The laid-back town is a fantastic place to dive into India's rich history, culture and Hindu heritage.
Things to do in Kumbakonam
Kumbakonam is home to 18 magnificent temples, each with its own unique charms. Built by the Cholas in 886, Nageshwara is Kumbakonam's oldest temple. It's dedicated to Nagaraja, the Hindu king of serpents. At the heart of the temple is an elevated Nataraja shrine encircled by colourful elephant statues.
Surrounded by soaring pavilions, the Mahamaham Tank is one of Kumbakonam's holiest sites. Hindus believe that every 12 years water from the Ganges, India's most sacred river, flows into the pools. Kashi Vishwanath Temple is perched on the northern side of the tanks and houses a trio of sculptures celebrating Indian river goddesses.
A colourful bazaar marks the entrance to Kumbeshwara, the town's biggest Shiva temple. It dates back to the 17th century and houses a sacred "lingam" symbol supposedly fashioned by Shiva. The bazaar is a great place to pick up trinkets, spices and colourful Indian keepsakes.
Anchored by a 45-metre-high "gopuram" tower, Sarangapani is Kumbakonam's signature Vishnu temple. The entrance is flanked by beautifully carved stone panels, which lead up to the inner sanctuary. It was designed by Cholas in the 12th century and is adorned with carved elephants and horses.
Getting around Kumbakonam
Kumbakonam is easy to get around on foot, while bicycles are a popular way to explore the temples. The town is serviced by taxis and auto rickshaws. Kumbakonam Railway Station offers regular services to Thanjavur, Trichy and Chennai.