Northern Coast : Kanchipuram
Kanchipuram, sometimes called Kanjeevaram or Kanchi, is a small town in Tamil Nadu. One of the most important spiritual centres of Hinduism, and a major pilgrim destination; Kanchipuram has several medieval temples with spectacular architecture. It used to be the capital of the Pallava kingdom from the 4th to the 10th century, and was a centre of learning for all the major religions of South India. Hindu temples are still present and in use today, and there are archaeological remains of Jain temples. Unfortunately, although Kanchipuram was reputed to be the centre of Buddhism in South India, and was visited by Chinese Buddhist monks, there are no remains of the Buddhist presence today.
Modern Kanchipuram is a major weaving centre and visitors will be able to buy handwoven silk at wholesale rates.
Kanchipuram has a railway station, and is well served by trains.Passenger trains connect it to the Chennai suburb of Chengalpattu, but not to the city itself. Another Passenger connects Kanchipuram to pilgrimage centre Tirupati. Express trains running from Mumbai to Madurai stop at Kanchipuram twice a week. Be warned that scheduled travel time from Mumbai to Kanchipuram is 26 hours, and the train could easily take longer.EMU trains are running between Chennai Beach and Tirumalpur via Kanchipuram.There are frequent EMUs from here daily.And the government is planning to leave more trains to Kanchipuram. Taking a train to Chennai, and traveling by road from there will probably be faster and more convenient.
The Tamil Nadu state government operated transport corporation runs buses from Kanchipuram to most major towns in Tamil Nadu.
Buses from Chennai leave for Kanchipuram every fifteen minutes from the Koyambedu interstate bus terminal. There is also an air-conditioned bus service numbered Z576 from 5AM to 6PM, which departs from the T-Nagar bus terminal every hour. It reaches Chennai from Kanchipuram in nearly 2 hrs.
Buses from Bangalore leave for Kanchipuram seven times a day.
Buses from Mammalapuram leave approximately once per hour, it seems. There's one as late as 3:30PM, probably later. If you cannot get a direct bus, it's possible to go half-way and then change to a 212B or a more expensive and quicker private bus in order to complete your journey.
Kanchipuram is 69 Km from Chennai and about 280 Km from Bangalore. If you take the Chennai-Bangalore expressway, you can reach it in about an hour and a half from the outskirts of Chennai, or four and a half hours from Bangalore. Traveling from car by Tirupati will take three to four hours.
State Highway 58 connects Kanchipuram to Chengalpattu, which can be reached either from Chennai or from Mamallapuram and Pondicherry. If you're coming from Madurai or Trichy, the temple towns of South Tamil Nadu, you can take the road up to Tindivanam, and take State Highway 116 through Vandavasi from there.
Unfortunately it's hard to find a good map of the town. However, Google Maps is good for orientation and the location of major temples, which is all you really need. Once you know the general direction, you can usually spot temples easily due to their tall stone entry towers (gopuram). Be warned: Kanchipuram's sidewalks are not ideal for walking! Many shops keep their merchandise on their sidewalks for free space, and cars and motorcycles park on the sidewalks as well. You'll often be pushed on to the road itself, where you'll have to negotiate with traffic. As far as weather is concerned, Kanchi isn't as humid as Chennai, so walking isn't as exhausting. But if you're not used to Indian summers, walking can be exhausting. To stay safe, start early in the morning (maybe 7 a.m. or so), come back for a rest by late morning, and head out again in the evening. Mornings and evenings are the best times for photography, anyway.
Three wheeler auto-rickshaws are also available. You need to fix the price before you start - you will find these all around the town.
If you plan to visit the temples, you can bargain a package deal - cost depends on how many and which temples you might want to visit. A thumb rule of price is around ₹20 point to point.
There are a large number of 'ambassador' taxis that hang out just north of the bus station, east of the roundabout. If you are travelling in a group, you might like to negotiate a driver for a day instead of dealing with auto rickshaws.
The Kanchi Mutt holds kutcheris, or South Indian classical music concerts in the evenings. Head there to see if something is on and you can attend.
The Non-Governmental Organization RIDE India is located in Little Kanchipuram (exact address see #Sleep section). RIDE offers a short-/long-term volunteering program for people who would like to get in touch with the NGO's work. Visitors have the chance to take part in RIDE's Eco-Tourism program. This offers e.g. visiting of silk-weaving families, temple tours around Kanchipuram, cooking classes or tailor-made tours. Moreover, RIDE's guesthouse offers the possibility to stay overnight. For detailed information please have a look at Volunteering program and Eco-Tourism program.
Kanchipuram is a famous silk weaving centre, and you can find wonderful bargains if you shop around for sarees, scarves and stoles, or fabric to take home. If you are led by a taxi/auto driver to a shop, the price you pay will include his commission - so do explore shops independantly before you decide to buy. Most silk shops are on Mahatma Gandhi Road.