Kumbakonam, the famous temple city of South India, is one of the oldest towns situated in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. Picturesquely located and bound by two rivers, Kaveri and Arasalar, Kumbakonam is famous for the Mahamaham Festival that is celebrated once in 12 years. This festival attracts lakhs of devotees to the town. The destination is also well known for its prestigious educational institutions, betel leaf farming and brass vessels.
History of Kumbakonam
The name ‘Kumbakonam’ in English means the ‘Jug’s Corner’. Kumbakonam is also spelt as Coombaconum in the British Indian accounts. It was formerly known by the name of Kudamukku in Tamil. The main things made here are brass, bronze, copper and lead vessels, silk and cotton cloths, pottery, sugar, indigo and rice.
Things to do in Kumbakonam
Kumbakonam is home to many temples and mathas. There are about 188 Hindu temples located here. The most important temples in Kumbakonam are the Sarangapani Temple, the Kumbeswara Temple and the Ramaswamy Temple. The city has two Vellalar mutts located in nearby towns and a Raghavendra mutt in Kumbakonam. There is also a branch of the Vaishnavite Ahobila Mutt in Kumbakonam.
The 12 storey-high Sarangapani Temple was constructed by the Nayak kings in the 15th century. In the Ramaswamy Temple, the main idol of Lord Rama was made from a single piece of saligrama. The Kumbeswara Temple is considered to be the oldest shrine in the town. At the centre of this temple, is the Mahamaham tank where pilgrims from all over the country bathe during the Mahamaham Festival.
The temple of Nagesvara has a separate shrine for the Sun god Surya, who is believed to have worshipped Lord Shiva here. Kumbakonam has one of the few temples dedicated to the Hindu god Brahma. Five km south-east of the town, at Pateeswaram, is Sri Thirupureeswarar Temple and around 8 km west of Kumbakonam is Swamimalai, one of the six abodes of Lord Murugan.
The Govt. Arts College at Kumbakonam is among the oldest colleges in Tamil Nadu, which had received the title of ‘The Cambridge of South India’. The famous mathematician Ramanujam studied in this town. A popular Sanskrit saying depicts ‘Kumbakonam’ as even more sacred than Varanasi or Kashi.
Food and Shopping in Kumbakonam
Kumbakonam has a lot of affordable restaurants that offer delicious food. Some of the popular ones include Raayas Hotel, Aachi Restaurant and Shanmuga. Having the local coffee is a must for all tourists as it is considered to be one of the best in South India. Kumbakonam is famous for carved Panchaloha idols, silk products, brass and metal wares.
Travelling to Kumbakonam
The nearest airport to Kumbakonam is in Tirchy. Tourists can book a bus from the airport to get to the city. A six-hour bus ride from Chennai can also take tourists to Kumbakonam. The railway station in the temple city is connected to Chennai, Coimbatore, Bangalore and Thirunelveli.
Travelling within Kumbakonam
Getting around Kumbakonam is not difficult. Hiring an autorickshaw is the easiest option. However, haggling is a must or tourists can agree on a fare beforehand. The city has two taxis stands – one near the bus station and the other near Town Hall. Local buses can also be used to travel around the town.