Kumbakonam is one of the oldest and holiest places in South India, held sacred by devotees of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu alike. This ancient town, located between River Kaveri and River Arasalar is home to about 188 temples which are located in and around it.
Though the town dates back to the Sangam period, it came into prominence during the medieval Chola period in the 7th century AD and in the British period as the Cambridge of South India because of its many educational institutions. Kumbakonam is also well known for the Mahamagham festival which takes place once in 12 years.
The town is bounded by two rivers – ” River Cauvery” on the north and “River Arasalar” on the south. Kumbakonam gets its name from the deity Lord Aadhi Kumbeshwarar. A traditional representation of South Indian Culture, the town is known for its temples, intricately carved panchaloha idols, exquisite brass wares especially lamps and silks (kancheepuram and kumbakonam are very well known silk producers). The place, like many other sacred places has a unique festival known as the Mahamaham festival. The festival celebrated once in twelve years coincides with the entry of Sun and Jupiter into constellation of Aquarius and Leo respectively. People from all walks of life take a dip in the Mahamaham tank along with the presiding deities of the town.
Kumbakonam is full of temples. Every street, road, locality has a prominent temple. It is advisable to read some literature on them before you visit them. The Sankara Matam and associated institutions preserve and represent all that is great about the Hindu ancient scholarly tradition.
Some of India’s world renowned scholars and intellectuals hail from Kumbakonam including the genius mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujam. The Town High School and the Kumbakonam Arts College are the grand old centres of education with the latter built on the banks of River Cauvery (kaveri) sometimes referred to as the Cambridge of South India. It has an excellent road link to all the navagraha temples (gods representing nine planets).
The town which was originally a religious town became an industrial center during the last quarter of 19th Century and early period of 20th century. Predominance was gained for silk industries and metal manufacturing. The major supplier of silk sarees to the Indian market is the Kumbakonam silk industry.
All the South Indian Brass Pooja articles and utensils are manufactured in Kumbakonam and these articles are manufactured nowhere in South India other than Kumbakonam. KuthuVilakku and Statues are the famous articles. Stainless Steel utensils are also manufactured here.
Betelnuts and suparis are also manufactured in Kumbakonam.
Brass ornamental lamps (Kuthuvilakku) are also manufactured in Naachiyar Kovil. It is near Kumbakonam, just 8 km towards Tiruvarur.