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Kumbakonam
About Kumbakonam

Kumbakonam is a town and a special grade municipality in the Thanjavur district in the southeast Tamil Nadu, India.Kumbakonam dates back to the Sangam period and was ruled by the Early Cholas, Pallavas, Medieval Cholas, Later Cholas, Pandyas, the Vijayanagar Empire, Madurai Nayaks, Thanjavur Nayaks and the Thanjavur Marathas. It rose to be a famous city between the 7th and 9th centuries AD, when it served as a capital of the Medieval Cholas. The town reached the peak of its prosperity during the British Raj when it was a important centre of European education and Hindu culture; and it attains the cultural name, the "Cambridge of South India". In 1866, Kumbakonam was officially constituted as a municipality, which today comprises 45 wards which makes it the second largest municipality in Thanjavur district.

Kumbakonam is known as the "temple town" due to the prevalence of a number oftemples here and is noted for its Mahamaham festival which attracts people from all over the globe. The main products produced are brass, bronze, copper and lead vessels, silk and cotton cloths, pottery, sugar, indigo and rice.

 
Etymology

The name "Kumbakonam", roughly translated in English as the "Jug's Corner", is believed to be a reference to the fabulous pot (kumbha) of the Hindu god Brahma that contained the seed of all living beings on earth. The kumbha is considered to have been displaced by a pralaya and finally came to rest at the spot where the town of Kumbakonam now stands. This event is now honored in the Mahamaham festival held every 12 years. Kumbakonam is also known as Kumbam and Baskarashetram from time immemorial and as Kudanthai in ancient times. Kumbakonam is also spelt as Coombaconum in the records of British India. Previously Kumbakonam was known by the Tamil name of Kudamukku. Kumbakonam is also recognized with the Sangam age settlement of Kudavayil.

 
Climate of Kumbakonam

The climate of Kumbakonam and other surrounding towns is usually moderate and healthy. Kumbakonam receives an annual rainfall of 114.78 cm every year. Kumbakonam is cooler than Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu. The maximum temperature in summer is about 40 C (104 F) while the minimum temperature is about 20 C (68 F). The region is covered with mainly alluvial or black soil which is conducive for rice cultivation. Other crops grown in Kumbakonam include mulberry, cereals and sugarcane.

Location of Kumbakonam

Kumbakonam is located 40 km from Thanjavur and 273 km from Chennai and is the headquarters of the Kumbakonam taluk of Thanjavur district. The town is enclosed by two rivers, the Kaveri River to the north and Arasalar River to the south. According to the 2011 census, Kumbakonam has a population of 140,113 and has a strong Hindu majority; but it also has sizeable Muslim and Christianpopulations.

History of Kumbakonam

The region around Kumbakonam was inhabited as early as the Sangam Age (3rd century BC to 3rd century AD). The present-day Kumbakonam is considered to be the place of the ancient town of Kudavayil where the Early Chola king Karikala held his court. Some scholars recognize Kumbakonam as the site of the fabulous prison of Kudavayir-kottam where the Chera king Kanaikkal Irumporai was imprisoned by the Early Chola king Kocengannan. Kumbakonam is famous with the town of Malaikūrram which had served as the Chola capital as early as the 7th century and with the town of Solamaligai which had also served as a Chola capital.According to the Sinnamanur plates, Kumbakonam was the site of a battle between the Pallava king Sri Vallabha and the then Pandya king in 859 and between the Pandya king Srimara Pandya and a confederacy of the Cholas and Gangas.

Kumbakonam came into attention during the rule of the Medieval Cholas who ruled from the 9th century to the 12th century. The town of Pazhaiyaarai, 8 km from Kumbakonam was the capital of the Chola Empire in the 9th century.Kumbakonam was occupied by the Pandyas in 1290 following the decline of the Chola kingdom. Following the fall of the Pandya kingdom in the 14th century, Kumbakonam was occupied by the Vijayanagar Empire. Kumbakonam was ruled by the Madurai Nayaks and the Thanjavur Nayaks from 1535 to 1673 when it fell to the Marathas. Each of these foreign dynasties had a considerable impact on the demographics and culture of the region. There was a mass invasion of poets, musicians and cultural artists from the kingdom when the Vijayanagar Empire fell in 1565.

According to the records of the Hindu monastic institution, the Kanchi matha, the matha was temporarily transferred to Kumbakonam in the 1780s following an invasion of Kanchipuram by Hyder Ali of Mysore. When Tipu Sultan invaded the east coast of South India in 1784, Kumbakonam bore the impact of his invasion. The produce fell sharply and the economy collapsed. Kumbakonam did not recover from the calamity till the beginning of the 19th century.

Kumbakonam was eventually ceded to the British East India Company in 1799 by the Thanjavur Maratha ruler Serfoji II (1777 -1832) and reached the peak of its prosperity in the late 19th and early 20th century when it emerged as an important center of Brahminism, Hindu religion and European education in the Madras Presidency.The Tanjore district court was established in Kumbakonam in 1806 and functioned from 1806 to 1863.

Kumbakonam continued to grow even after India's independence though it fell behind the nearby town of Thanjavur in terms of population and administrative importance. The population growth rate began to fall sharply after 1981.This decline has been attributed to limited land area and lack of industrial potential. During the Mahamaham festival of 1992, there was a major stampede in which 48 people were killed and 74 were injured. On July 16, 2004, an overwhelming fire in the Sri Krishna school killed 94 children.

Geography of Kumbakonam

Kumbakonam is located at 10.97N 79.42E. It lies in the region called the "Old delta" which encompasses the north-western taluks of Thanjavur district that have been naturally irrigated by the waters of the Cauvery and its tributaries for centuries in contrast to the "New Delta" comprising the southern taluks that were brought under irrigation by the construction of the Grand Anicut canal and the Vadavar canal in 1934.It has an average altitude of 26 metres (85 ft).The town is enclosed by two rivers, the Cauvery River on the north and Arasalar River on the south.

Tourist Attractions in Kumbakonam

Kumbakonam is famous for its temples and monasteries. There are about188 Hindu temples within the municipal limits of Kumbakonam.In addition to these, there several thousand temples around the town thus giving the town the sobriquets "Temple Town" and "City of temples".

Ramaswamy temple
Ramaswamy temple has scenes from the Hindu epic Ramayana depicted on its walls, it was founded by Govinda Dikshitar, the minister of successive Nayak rulers, Achuthappa Nayak (15601614) and Raghunatha Nayak (160034). He added a commercial corridor between the temple and the older Chakrapani temple, which in modern times is called Chinna Kadai Veethi, a commercial street in the town.

Sarangapani temple
Sarangapani temple is the largest Vaishnava (the sect of the god Vishnu) temple in Kumbakonam. The present structure of the temple having a twelve storey high tower was built by Nayak kings in the 15th century. It is one of the "Divya Desams", the 108 temples of Vishnu honored by the 12 Alvar saint-poets.

Nageswaraswamy Temple
Nageswaraswamy Temple has a separate temple for the Sun god Surya who is believed to have worshipped Shiva at this place. Adi Kumbeswarar temple, Nageswaraswamy temple and Kasi Viswanathar temple are Shiva temples in the town honored in the Tevaram, a Tamil Shaiva canonical work of the 7th8th century. Kumbakonam has one of the few temples dedicated to the god Brahma.

Adi Kumbeswarar Temple
Adi Kumbeswarar Temple is considered to be the oldest Shaiva (the sect of the god Shiva) temple in the town. It is believed to be constructed by the Cholas in the 7th century.

Airavatesvara Temple
Airavatesvara Temple was founded by Rajaraja Chola II (114673) during 12th century is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur, the Gangaikondacholisvaram Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram that are referred as the Great Living Chola Temples.

Thenupuriswarar Temple
Thenupuriswarar Temple at Patteeswaram, the Oppiliappan Kovil, the Swamimalai Murugan temple and the Airavateswarar temple at Darasuram are located in the environs of Kumbakonam.

Pilgrims from all parts of India take a holy dip once every 12 years during the Mahamaham festival in the Mahamaham tank.An estimated 2 million pilgrims participated in the festival during the 2004 event. Govinda Dikshitar constructed the sixteenmandapams (shrines) and stone steps around this tank.

Sri Sankara matha
Sri Sankara matha of Kanchipuram was moved to Kumbakonam during the control of Pratap Singh (173963) and remained in Kumbakonam until the 1960s. There are also two Vellalar mathas in the close by towns of Dharmapuram and Thiruppanandal and a Raghavendra matha in Kumbakonam.There is also a branch of the Vaishnava Ahobila mutt in Kumbakonam.

How to reach Kumbakonam

By Rail
Kumbakonam railhead is linked by trains from Chennai, Quilon, Tirupathi and Rameshwaram. Tourists can use trains to reach this place comfortably from Chennai and other places.

By Road
Tamil Nadu state transport corporation buses connect Kumabkonam with almost all cities in Tamil Nadu. Regular buses are available from Trichi, Chidambaram and Chennai to Kumbakonam.

By Air
The nearest airport to Kumbakonam is Trichy which is at distance of 96 km away from Kumbakonam. Domestic flights operate from this aerodrome. Regular flights are available to Chennai International airport.. The major international airport is at Chennai at distance of 273 km.

 

 


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