Illustrations to: From the City to the Sea. Riverside Temple Networks in South India
The riverside city of Kanchi, South India, was a major commercial center, royal capital, and holy destination during the eighth through thirteenth centuries. Praised as a jewel in early Tamil literature, Kanchi’s Palar River, and its tributary Vegavathi, provided the lifeblood of the city. However, today the Palar is dry and the Vegavathi is a polluted drainage route. Consequently, the settlements in Kanchi’s vast suburban expanse have become remote, disconnected villages—a network of stone temples is all that survives as testament to each place’s former prosperity. This chapter argues that the rivers contributed to Kanchi’s urbanization process in the premodern period, and that the rivers’ deterioration in recent centuries has contributed to the disappearance of places that previously thrived.