Tam: காஞ்சிபுரம் kāñcipuram

‘Kanchi City’  City/District, Tamil Nadu.

From Tam: kāñc(h)i/kanji, ‘(river) Portia tree’ [Thespesia populnea]; or Skt: kāñcana, ‘gold’; ‘money’; and Skt: puram, ‘town’, ‘fort’, ‘city’.

The sacred tree had many names: kalpa vriksha (tree of life which grants wishes), chaitya vriksha (tree shrine), and sthala vriksha (tree of the sacred site). There are many places that are named after sacred plants like Vrindavan, forest of the vrinda (tulsi or basil plant), near Mathura in the north, or Kanchipuram, town of the Kanchi (river portia tree), near Chennai in the south. Clans like Kaushika, Pallava, and Kadamba were named for grass, leaf, and flower respectively [Krishna (2014)].

Kanchipuram is mentioned in ancient texts as the ‘place with Kanji trees’. The kanji tree’ [Thespesia populnea] is also known as the (river) portia or Indian tulip tree. The tree has been used since ancient times for making musical instruments and is still used to make the thavil, a drum used in Carnatic music and often see in temple.

Kanchipuram has also been called the ‘Golden City’, a great epithet but the etymology is a little less reliable.

Kanchipuram has a long history as a spiritual centre: it is nicknamed ‘City of Thousand Temples’ and is one of the seven holiest pilgrimage sites in India, offering the devotee the promise of moksa,.

It has some of the most important Shiva and Vishnu temples in Tamil Nadu including: the 10-hectare Saivite Ekambareswarar temple; the Varadaraja Perumal temple with its hundred-pillared hall; and the ancient Kailasanathar temple.

Kanchipuram has a $18m silk saree industry, employing 5,000 families. The Kanchipuram sari has geographical indication (GI) status and features wide contrast borders separately woven from the body and the tightly interlocked for extra strength.

For related place names see Indian Place names and Tamil Nadu place names.


7thC Kailasanathar Temple.(Kanchipuram)            Sai Subramanian