May 19, 2018

400+ years old Step well of Kanchipuram - Ayyangarkulam

Unlike North India, it is not easy to find step wells in South India. There is one step well found in a village called Ayyangarkulam near Kanchipuram. It is a beautiful Vijayanagara style structure built by Lakshmi Kumara Thathacharya in the late 16th century CE.

Sri Kumara Thathacharya was a great Vaishnavite Acharya and was also politically powerful. He was the Raja Guru and Chief Minister of the Vijayanagara King Venkatapati Raya I (r. 1585-1614 CE). He built a Hanuman temple, a large pond as well as this step well in this village.

The intricately carved arch with a Gaja Lakshmi on its perch is the doorway to the stepwell. The pillars have many beautiful images. The two ends have the soldiers riding the Vyalas.

The other end of the step well has two tall plain pillars. This well, which is locally called as Nada Vavi, has a flight of 27 stairs that lead to a underground mandap. The mandap has a well and is surrounded by beautifully carved pillars.

The central portion of the well is covered for the entire year. It remains open only for a month every year. During the month of Chaitra (as per the Indian calendar), the Utsava Murti of Varadara Perumal is kept in this mandap. During that ceremony, the water is emptied. In the olden days, a traditional cantilever based water fetching mechanism was in place to empty the mandap.

Happy travelling.

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