Kumbhakonam was an important city to the Cholas and subsequent rulers as evinced by the large number of temples here, many of which have their beginnings in the Chola period but have been substantially altered in the interim centuries. I visited five of the larger temples, and each was an example of the more dynamic atmosphere that exists in a “living” temple. This dynamism is also seen in the different architectural styles and periods that co-exist in these temples, as opposed to the more “pure” styles in the more “archeological” temple sites.
I had never heard of Kumbhakonam before planning this trip, and expected a somewhat sleepy small to medium sized town. Instead, when we reached the town at night, the main drag was lit up like Vegas and the main road through town was packed with pedestrians and vehicles trying to squeeze by. That the lights and crowds were for diwali shopping was obvious, but the reason for stores going for decorative-lighting overkill and the size of the crowds is still a bit of a puzzle to me. My best guess is that Kumbhakonam is the largest town in a region that only has villages and small town surrounding it, so everyone congregates here for their diwali shopping and activities! in any case, it was an almost surreal experience driving into Kumbhakonam at night a few days before diwali.