Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Great Engineers – A Thousand Years of Glory

Since I couldn’t reserve train ticket to go to Thanjavur, I decided to visit my uncle.  Since there is only one train that goes to Thanjavur (up to Kumbakonam) all the seats are booked so early and with some politics in reservation, it is very hard to book a ticket in Indian Railways.  You have to go after the agents and pay extra.  But that didn’t disappoint me.  I had another plan.

My uncle is residing in Trichy.  You may ask why I’m going to Trichy instead of Thanjavur?  Thanjavur is no far away from Trichy.  All it will take an hour or so from Trichy to Thanjavur.  Apart from buses there are trains available frequently.  And it is easy to get tickets reserved for Trichy.

I got to get up so early in the morning to catch the train from Trichy Junction to Thanjavur.  I was accompanied by my cousin and we bought the tickets to Thanjavur at Srirangam Railway Station itself.  Trichy Junction is just about ten minutes journey from Srirangam by train.  At 6.10 am, the passenger train arrived at Srirangam and we reached Trichy Junction at 6.30 am.

The Thanjavur passenger train was waiting for us at the 4th platform and we could make sure our seats.  The train departed at 7.15 am instead of 7.10 am usually.  There was not much crowd though many of the passengers were office goers.  It took about 1 ½ hour to reach Thanjavur Railway Station at 8.45 am.

Brahadeeswar Temple

We took a town bus to reach the Big Temple which is just about 2 kilometers from Railway Station.  Some people even walk to the temple.  But we could afford bus tickets at least. Though it was Saturday there were only a few people visited the temple but it could have been different if we’d come on Friday, because it was Prodosham and I saw the crowd in the photo published in a newspaper only in the next day.  I knew it that’s why I planned to visit on Saturday.

As we got down the bus, we were welcomed by the Thanjavur Thalaiyati Bomai (A doll), waving its head.  It is so famous and one of the identity of Thanjavur.  Here it is. The Great Big Temple is glowing in gold colour, flawless, standing firm for more than 1000 years.  The Temple is listed in World Heritage Sites.  Thanjavur was the ancient capital of Chola Kings.  Rajaraja Chola is the king in whose period the temple was built. He wanted to build it as a great temple and not to be competitive by other temples.

The campus is very spacious and it is easily visited by anyone without any restrictions unlike other temples.  There are 250 lingams in different formats placed in the campus.  There are two attractions, one is the Main Gopuram and other is the statue of bull called Nandhi.

The Gopuram itself describes why it is called as the big temple.  The top part of Gopura Kalasam which weighs in tones is the main attraction.  It is still a mystery how come they carried up the Kalasam to the top with no help of any cranes in their periods.  The Lingam inside the temple is about 4 meter height and when you see it you’ll feel the real experience of devotion.

Bell tower

The Bell Tower is one of the different experience, situated about 2 kilometers from the big temple along with Thanjavur Palace.  Try your best to climb the narrow steps to reach the top of the bell tower and have a good view.  But be watchful, you may be lost sight of the steps in that dark place.

Thanjavur Palace has many ancient stones and sculptures which is regularly visited by many tourists including foreigners.  

Note: For more photos click the flickr your left side.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Fenced to Amuse

After discussing many plans regarding where to go for the holiday, I’m left with no plan to choose from except one to go on my own plan without any companion.  Even I have been in Chennai for years, I haven’t visited ‘Guindy Children’s Park’ once.  I’ve asked many people to accompany me but they refused saying that the place weren’t so exciting.  But I wanted to experience it at least once.  So, I decided to go alone.  I wanted to become a child once again.

When I entered the park, I was welcomed by a Dinosaur with a smiling face.  Don’t panic.  It didn’t make any move while I passed it by. The corridor got me to the entrance ticket counter.  I had to buy a ticket which meant for adult to enter into the Children’s Park! There were only a few people with their children wandering around the park.  The first animal I saw was Deer.  And the way got me to one by one, there are Foxes, Hyena, Peacocks in white also, different kinds of Deer, Parrots, Tortoises, Cranes, and other kind of birds which I don’t know the names.  Apart from a few species, all were seem to be so tired.  There were either sleeping or looking at us with a neglected look. 

 After watching all the species the way took me to the entrance again, to exit.  Then there was Snake Park just nearby.  Here, the ticket counter was crowded with lots of people especially school and college children.  Any way I tried my best to buy the ticket and entered. There were snakes in different kinds kept inside the glass-walled cabins.  Also the snakes were portrayed as sculpture which is traditional way of worshipping the snake god in Hinduism.  The most exciting thing which surprised me was Crocodiles.  They occupied the most of the park in the waterless artificial lakes!  They all seemed except one or two, to be so lazy, sleeping one on another. They were all fenced in and I felt so bad for them.  They were losing their identity and nature.  Are they Prisoners of Nature?!

Then, I went to nearby (just a walk away) ‘Rajaji Mandabam’, ‘Gandhi Mandabam’ and ‘Kamarajar Mandabam’. They could give only a desert look.  There were only a very few people sitting with their children.  They seemed to be taking rest in the shadow of the trees.  But this is place so quiet and you feel very peaceful.  Though the place has nothing more than what you can expect.  I returned to the bus stop to go my way home after enjoying the whole thing.


Travel Information

Guindy Children’s Park is situated in Guindy, Chennai.  There are many local buses which head towards this route. And the Snake Park is situated in the same compound.

Entrance fee: Children – Free, Adult – Rs. 5, Camera – Rs. 10

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Once in a Full Moon

We made sure to reach the bus terminus before the Sun sets. It is a Full Moon Day and the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus, one of the largest bus terminus in Asia, was busy as usual. The buses were queuing for their turn to take the people to their respective destinations. Since more people were heading to Tiruvanamaali, we had to follow a queue to ensure our seats on the bus. Before boarding the bus we had to buy tokens each before buying the bus ticket, Rs. 62/-.

I was accompanied by my uncle and we had to sit apart because of the seating arrangements as it was in the token. I got the window seat with the seating capacity for two more persons. Then, a family of four came, a mother, her two children and her sister. Four persons had to sit in two seats! They seemed to be village people. They adjusted themselves in their seats ensuring my own space without any uncomfortable. They were friendly as they did not disturb me or give any uneasiness at all.

The bus started to move at 2.30 pm. It is about 180 kilometers of journey to Tiruvanamaali, which seemed a long journey in a bus. I had to adjust myself many times that I hardly travel by bus for long distances. The bus went through Tambaram, Melmaruvathur, Tindivanam and Gingee. The five hours of journey got us to Tiruvanamaali at 7.30 pm. The buses were lined up one by one at the bus stand and thousands of people were getting down. The bus stand was again 2 kilometers away from the temple from where we have to start our Girivalam.


It is the custom for the people to walk around the hill which is called Girivalam. ‘Giri’ means mountain and ‘valam’ means walk. Every month on a full moon day (rather night), millions of people head towards Tiruvanamaali to walk around the hill, which is said to have gone through different forms in different ‘Yugam’, like Volcano, Gold and now it is Stone form.

Since the walking requires more stamina to keep going and it would be late after finishing the walk, we decided to have our supper before in hand. There were many stalls especially food stalls along the road either side doing their business briskly. We ordered ‘idli’ in one of the small huts (hotel) and ate about 6 idlis! which was more than what I really eat usually; each for Rs. 2.50 cost of Rs. 15/- each worth the taste and the quality. After idli, we had milk and tea respectively. The milk was also so tasteful with the aroma of cardamom.

There are many Footwear Centers (called themselves so) to keep your footwear safe while you go for Girivalam. Everyone should walk only with their barefoot. Some, not so devoted, wore footwear especially foreigners to walk. Some of them were riding hired bicycles. To my surprise, I could see so much devoted foreigners were walking on their barefoot so committed to the divine and the belief.


Our way of Girivalm started at 8.00 pm with a sign board indicating the 14 kilometers of walk and ‘Indra Lingam’ is one of the first of 8 Lingams situated at different directions on the way. Other Lingums are Agni Lingam, Yema Lingam, Niruthi Lingam, Varuna Lingam, Vayu Lingam, Kubera Lingam and Esanya Lingam and many small temples, Ashrams were seen along the way. There were lots of small temporary petty shops selling everything that people may buy. At some places, people were provided ‘Annathanam’ by some Ashrams and common people. There are a lot of people sitting along the way and asking for things for their livelihood. Many of them were in their sage dress with long beard, looked like Sadhus.

The Great Mountain

We walked around the mountain which spread over all the way. The holy mountain is to be greatly admired. Viewing the hill all along the way and worshiping the greatness of the creation is a great experience. One of the attractions for me was Eduku Pillayar (pronounce ‘E’ as e, ‘du’ as do and ‘ku’ as koo), it was a small gap through which people go one by one in a long queue. People were moving on the road with no entry for vehicles; uttering ‘Namashivaya’. A sign board at every half a kilometer indicating the remaining kilometers to walk. Though my legs were paining while nearing the completion of the Girivalam, I enjoyed it and felt great.

Life-time Luck

We finished the walk just before it became New Year 2010. The crackers were burst everywhere to welcome the New Year. It is a life-time opportunity for everyone and only those can get a chance to come here, who are lucky and have done enough good things in their life. It is said that going around the hill destroys the ‘karma’ of ten million births. Girivalam not only gives us good health but also peace of mind with the medicinal plants over the mountain. It is for everyone to treat our fatigued souls.

There are so many buses go to Tiruvanamaali from Chennai. Board at Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT). It takes about 5 hours to reach. If your aim for only Girivalam, you can return at once and get buses even after 12.00 midnight Bus fare costs Rs. 62/-. You can go for Girivalam even in the early morning. Choosing any time apart from early morning, evening and night is not advisable as it it very hot to walk on bare foot and you'll get tired in the heat.

If you want to stay, there are Ashrams available apart from budgeted hotels to luxury.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Name of the BookThe Smile of Murugan – A South Indian Journey

Author:  Michael Wood

About Author: Michael Wood is a journalist, broadcaster and film-maker and so popular for his popular BBC television series and the accompanying books, ‘In the footsteps of Alexander’ and ‘Conquistadors’.

Nature of the Book:  Travel

About the Book: The book was written and published in 1995 and it’s all about Michael’s journey to South India, Tamil Nadu.  The Author has written his experiences of visiting various temples in Tamil Nadu.  The book contains the journey from Madras to Chidambaram and other surrounding districts of the state such as Rameshwaram and Tiruchendur.  He describes Tamil Nadu was in its Nineties and its transformation from traditional to modern culture in the later years.  The books is more of a guide in its nature and suitable for those who wants to travel and visit the temples in Tamil Nadu.   Though the Author talks about the situations in the period of ‘90s I feel the book still has relevance as the temples don’t make big differences over period of time.  Everyone should visit these temples irrespective of their religions as any culture boasts its traditions and art talents.  Have a blessed journey! 
Posted By: udaya chandran
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