Monday, November 23, 2009

Navagraha temples of Kumbakonam

According to hindu beliefs planets impact each and every individual right from the moment of one's birth unto his death. If one takes the re-birth theory into consideration, the previous birth also influences life on earth in the current birth.

Location : How to cover Navagraha temples which is spread over distance of 200 kms in round trip. If one is travelling by train one has get down at Mylatdurai and cover the eastern portion of the trip including chidambaram and Velankani. Then move to Kumbakkonam and cover the rest of the Navagraha temples. Otherwise if one wants to cover only Navagraha temples it can be covered from the base of Kumbakkonam. It is best to hire a cab to quickly cover all the temples, otherwise one may require as many as 4 days by bus.

According to traditional belief, Saint Galava was a famous astrologer who derieved his knowledge after performing penance at the foothills of Vindyas. He found on examination of his own horoscope that the evil influence of planets was affecting his health. He decided to get rid of the Navagraha Dosa caused by the Planets. Thus he requested the royalty to commission construction of the Navagraha temples. Thus he and his descendents got rid of the evil influence of the planets.

While on journey we met a Rajasthani family who were advised by their guru to undertake 3 trips to get rid of the Guru dosha. The intricacy of the trip was divided between the sisters and brother. The belief was strong which would help the sisters marry and brother to get rid of his problem in his business.

SURYA TEMPLE : This temple is dedicated to the Sun (star) around which all other planets revolve. The influence of weaker Sun would lead to diseases such as Typhoid, Lack of strength in bones, Eye problem etc. The prescribed remedy according to the priests are in form of fasting on Sundays, donating a cow and worship of Surya.

This temple is located 12km away from the base town of Kumbakkonam and the nearest Railhead is Aduthurai.

This temple even though not very impressive in construction has all the nine Grahas surrounding the temple. All the navagrahas are small mantaps, which are miniature and built in a jagged manner. One circumabulation around these temples will help a devotee to mitigate his doshas.

This temple is built courtsey Chola King Koluthunga during the 12th century, which has been renovated many a times due to crumbling edifice.

This Shiva temple is dedicted to planet Venus. Planet Venus dosha leads to lack of harmony in married life, diseases arising out of cold etc. The remedy for warding the evil effects of Venus suggested is by wearing diamond jewellery and giving bengal grams, white dress and silver article as gift.

This temple is located 18 km away from Kumbakonam. After visiting this temple one can proceed to Suryan temple.

RAHU TEMPLE ( Thirunageshwar ) : This huge temple is built by Gandaraditya Chola son of Parnataka chola I. It is spread over 15 acres, towering Gopurams and several mantaps. There are as many 12 theertams in this place.

Rahu Kalam is generally an inauspicious time, wherein no constructive activity should begin or inaugrated. It is better to avoid the influences of the planetary dichotomy. Generally Rahu influences stock trading and speculative activity. Remedy for Rahu dosa is in the form of wearing gemstone which honey coloured hessonite. One can get rid of their evil effects by feeding the ants too.

The location of this temple is approximately 6 kms away from Kumbakkonam.

CHEVVAI or Vaidheeswaran Temple : This temple is associated with the zodiac planet of Mars. This planet influences Aries and Scorpian zodiac, which is normally for 7 years. The general troubles associated with this planet are rift with siblings, repayment of loans associated with house and land, rheumatism and arthritis, late marriage, healing of wounds, tumours, fractures etc. Gnerally the mitigation is ensured by praying to Lord Ganesh, wearing red dress and gemstone.

LOCATION : This temple is located approximately 13 km from Mylatdurai. The route is enroute to Chidambaram via Srikali. Chidambaram is 23 kms from this place.

This temple is quite huge with fortified walls. The temple is guarded by Bhairava on the East, Veerabhadra on west , Ganesh on the south and goddess kali on the North.

The principle diety is Lord Vaidyanathar. The temple is dedicated to Mars planet. Lord Shiva is worshipped only after midnight.

The temple is of ancient origin and it has been renovated from time to time by Vikrama Cholea, Vira Rajendra Pandya, Achyta Nayak and Maratha prince Thulaja. The temple stands right in the middle of the town, with a beatiful gopuram, and the rays of the sun falls on the linga on a particular day of the year for a few days. The sacred tree associated with this place is neem tree ( margosa ) which has special medicinal properties. The original shrine is located under the neem tree. It is believed by throwing jaggery chunk into the pond ensures immunity for all the maladies.

There is another temple at Sirukudi where the ruling diety is Mangalanayaki, which is known to cure disease, even the Muslims visit this temple.

temple is another famous temple located approx 3 kms away from Vaidheeswaran temple. It is famous for the birth place of saint Thirugnana Sambhandar, first among Shiv Sama Acharyas.

Budhan Temple ( Mercury ) :
This temple ( Tiruvenkadu ) was closed on account of death of a family member related to temple trust. We could not visit the temple which was closed for mourning. Mercury is considered lord of knowledge.

Budha dosha is generally for 17 years, and is the lord of Virgo. Generally mercury influences an individuals education stature. Fasting on Wednesday, giving gold as gift, chanting of Vishnu mantras, ensures placating the budha dosha.

The temple is located under a banyan tree. The mother is worshipped by childless couple for blessing them with an issue. Sukravara Amma is also worshipped in this temple.

Those wishing to be blessed with a child should take bath in all the three tanks for fulfillment of their longing. He who takes bath in the waters of all three tanks of Thiruvenkadu shall bear children and their wishes shall bear fruit.

Location : This temple is located 10 kms from Srikali temple and approximately 32 kms from Chidambaram. Better to visit Chidambaram and on return one can visit this temple since Chidambaram Nataraja temple closes at 12.

KETHU TEMPLE ( Keezhaperumpallam Temple ) : This temple can be covered depending on the timing if one is on the round trip after having lunch. One can visit Poompuhar museum and beach and spend their time accordingly. The Dansborg fort is located nearby too, which is known as Tarangalpadi, which too has a beautiful beach.

Kethu determines whether one will attain Moksha or not. Generally kethu affects one for 7 years. Kethu blesses one with wisdom, graces with good children, and bless one to live in a foreign country. Ketu cures leprosy, TB, skin disease and fever.

There are mythical tales of a snake whose life was not fully ebbed. Lord Shiva seemed to have sucked the poison from the snake. The snake begged for forgiveness to retrieve its venom.

SHANI TEMPLE ( Saturn ) : This temple is also known as Tirunellur temple. This temple is dedicated to SATURN. This planet influences one for 19 years. He is the lord of constellations of Capricon and Aquarius. It also determines the longevity of human being. Those who are perturbed should worship Lord Hanuman and Lord Vishnu to get rid of their fear. They should worship with Til oil, donate yel, wear blue stone ( amentyst for acquarians ) and a dark dress. Once they worship at Tirnallur most of their problems will diminish.

The temple is located in Kariakal, which is under the jurisdiction of Pondicherry. Booze is available in plenty which is sold cheap due to lower duties. It is around 8 km away from kariakal town. Now one can decide whether one would like to proceed towards Velankani or towards Rahu temple depending on the belief.

We were unable to cover GURU AND CHANDRAN during our visit maybe next trip we will be able to make up the rest of the Navagraha ciruit. We were able to cover thiruvavur and saraswathi temple enroute back to our base town at Mayilatdurai.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Marina beach is the widest beach in the World

On 19th April we were fortunate to revisit the world famous Marina Beach in Chennai. Even I had a misconception that Marina was the longest beach in the world, but nevertheless it is credited for being the widest beach in the world with 437 meters

The beach stretches from Fort St. George in the north upto Besant Nagar, Adyar South a distance of nearly 12 kms. The entire stretch of nearly four kms is well maintained with pedestrian footpath and two way traffic. There are two memorials for DMK founder C.N. Annadurai and AIDMK founder and legendary actor M.G.Ramachandran. Apart from these monumental structures, there are number of statues installed on the pavement such as M.K Gandhi,

Delete Photo Thiruvalluvar, Actor Shivaji, and Symbolic statue of Labour. The promenade along the beach area is known as Kamarajar Salai.
Marina beach precincts have been used by political parties to conduct meetings to address vast assemblage of crowd in the past. The beach can easily accommodate more than a lakh comfortably. Generally the meetings were held during the night in floodlights. . There was a permanent stage known as Seerani Arangam which was demolished by govt. Ms Jayalalitha, ex CM of T.N. inorder to maintain the beach environs. The crowd would assemble to enjoy their outings more so because of the eateries dished out by foodstalls on the beach. My favourite dish was sundal ( made out of boiled kabuli channa with mango slices ) in olden days. Tenga Manga Patani Sundal...screamed the vendors.

Nowerdays one can relish very economical fried fish and prawns with local masala added to taste. The oil content may not be healthy in lieu of re-used oil. But nevertheless a small quantity is quite tasty because of the freshness of the fish. There is a vendor who sells fresh water dug out of the beach sand. The water surprisingly is potable and not very salty. He charges Rs 5 a bottle, once again, one may feel slightly perturbed drinking the water but it is perfectly safe. None of us fell sick after drinking this water proves the fact that water is consumable.
One finds plenty of youngsters use Marina surroundings to play tennis ball cricket in the mornings. If one wants to have a drinks break, the vendors are ready to serve tea, coffee, cold drinks, mineral water, lime soda etc to quench the thirst. There are plenty of food stalls who carry out brisk business from evening till 8 pm in the night.

Jogging and morning walkers hit the beach pavement regularly. The idyllic setting with plenty of parking facility lures young and old to Marina beach. In terms of privacy Marina beach offers plenty of space, newly married couple and lovers throng Marina beach. Very few people venture into the water for swimming since the currents are strong and it can be risky, and unfortunately there are no bay watchers too for rescue act. However our bravehearts Mazhar and Azam literally splashed themselves in the waters for sake of photography session. They even requested Santosh and myself not to post some of their bare chested photos. Lol

There are merry- go- around and other make shift play themes for children on Marina. In fact these fabricated play themes can be a good shoot ops. We clicked plenty of photos with their background. One greedy guy wanted to fleece us and he shouted at us. Luckily I intervened and checked with him, he wanted Rs 5/- for using his equipment for taking photos, I obliged and he was happy.
Artificial Waterfall : In Sept 2005 a 34 feet tall artificial waterfall was inaugurated as a part of the Chennai forever initiative. The project was commissioned with a budgeted expense of 15 lakhs
Aquarium : A small aquarium is located near the memorial which displays different species of fishes. An entry ticket is charged for tourist.

On DEC 26, 2004 Tsunami battered the Marina beach leaving 206 people dead, but spared majority of the tourist since it stuck early morning at 8.30 am. But we found that the traces of fear had almost vanished among the visitors. Marina is really a symbol of the Chennaites spirit of survival amidst adversity. If one is lucky, one can have a view of sand castles and artistic structures and figurine of religious gods neatly etched on marina sand.

Epilouge :
Many a love stories have been witnessed by MARINA BEACH and the sands of time will witness many more to come. Maybe the seeds are sown for many more reviews on this lovely destination.

Touring in and around Kanyakumari

Bhagavathi ammal Temple

According to a legend, Banasura, the king of Demons, sought a boon from Lord Shiva that he could be vanquished only by a virgin. The Devas invoked Goddess Parashakti too redeem them, Unable to bear the harassment of the Asura king. Shakti came to kanyakumari as a virgin girl and did penance on the shores.

Lord Shiva of Suchindrum wished to marry the Goddess, and the wedding was fixed for an auspicious hour before dawn. Narada, realising that the marriage will spoil the end of Banasura, falsely heralded the break of dawn by assuming the form of a cock, even as the wedding party was on its way to kanyakumari. The Divine wedding did not take place, since the auspicious moment had bypassed. Lord Shiva returned to Suchindrum disappointed. The Devi also resumed her penance on the rock, now known as Sripadaparai, a few hundred metres offshore.

Meanwhile, Banasura heard about the beauty of the girl and came to request Her hand in marriage. When Devi rejected the idea, the demon king decided to win her by force. This led to a fierce battle, in which the Goddess killed the demon. The relieved Devas returned blessed the Devi and turned her into goddess Bhagavathi Ammal. The temple seems to have been erected during the Pandyan times.

The Sripadaparai is now known as Swami Vivekananda Rock, where the holy feet of the Goddess is enshrined.The tradition here is to take a holy dip at the bathing ghat at the confluence of the three seas. There are about 25 Theerthams on the shores.


In honour of our dear father of the nation a memorial was set up at Kanyakumari in 1956. Mahatma Gandhi’s ash was immersed in the sea @ Kanyakumari in 1948. An urn containing the ashes of the Mahatma is kept in this memorial for the public to pay homage. The monument is exactly designed to receive the sunshine through the roof on 2nd OCT miday on the memorial urn.

Enterance to this monument is free and it is open from 7 am to 7 pm daily.


The philosopher wrote Thirukkural which is published in three portions, the first book is known as aram ( the way or dharma ) the second one on porul ( which meant materialistic world or artha ) and last is inbam ( love or kama ). Thiruvalluvar has been recognized as the greatest poet and philosopher of TN.
The Mahatma commented on Thirukkural “ I wanted to learn Tamil, only to enable me to study Valluvars Thirukkural through his mother tongue itself…….only a few of us know the name of Thiruvalluvar. There is no one who has given such treasure of wisdom like him. It is a text-book of indispensable authority on moral life. The maxims of Valluvar has touched my soul."

A memorial statue has been constructed adjescent to the Vivekanada memorial. Thirvalluvar stands 95 feet tall and the pedestal is around 38 feet an overall height of 133 feet above the sea level, stands taller than the Vivekananda Memorial for obvious reason being son of the soil. The entire Thirukkural has been etched on the walls of the memorial leading to the Thiruvalluvars statue on the roof. There are 140 easy paced steps to climb to reach the footsteps of the great poet.

The chief sculptor of this edifice is Dr Ganapathi V Sthapathi, the vital statistics of this memorial can be brief summarized as follows :

Height of the statue : 95 feet

Weight of the statue : 2000 tonnes

Total gross weight : 7000 tonnes

Total steps one way : 70 steps

Chief Sculptor : Dr Ganapathi V Sthapathi.

Year of Inaugration : First January 2000

Kamaraj memorial & exhibition :

This memorial is dedicated to the great freedom fighter from TN. He was former chief minister of TN and President of the un-divided congress. He was popular as the Black Gandhi among the mass, and considered to be a king maker in the congress hierarchy. There are numerous black and white pictures of Kamaraj in this memorial. One of them is with his protégé MGR and another shows him wielding a cricket bat. He is shown along with Gandhi family moving to various constituency. His ashes are kept in the urn after immersion, which the public pay their homage even today from TN.

OPEN : 7 am to 7 pm Enterance Free

Wandering Monk Memorial

This memorial is dedicated to Swami Vivekananda. The life history of Swamis various achievement and his life style has been exposed in this exhibition. It is situated close the main town circle, wherein the free bus shuttles from the ashram to city at half an hour interval. Enterance fee is nominal, no photography is allowed inside.

Baywatch and Wax Museum :

It is a wholesome powerpacked entertainment park for an entire family. There are many fun loaded rides such as Sky cab, Bumping car, Columbus,Milky way, Giant wheel, Crazy chairs and kids pool are worth mentioning. India’s first wax museum on the lines of Madam Tussauds London has been established here.

Government Museum :

The government Museum is situated on the Beach road. There is a number of collection of artifacts from South Indian temples. This is one of the must see place in Kanyakumari. There is a lighthouse situated on the opposite side.

Holiday : Friday and Second Saturday : Fee : adult Rs 5 children Rs 3 and foreigner Rs 100.

Gunghanathaswamy Temple :

This temple is built by the king Raja Raja chola almost 900 years ago. The inscriptions point out to different periods in 1038, 1045 and 1048 AD. This temple is located close to the railway station.

Vattakottai FORT

This magnificient circular Fort is situated 7 km away from Kanyakumari. The Fort was built by Marthanda varma and strengthened by Dutch General De Lannoy during the reign of Marthandavarma ( 1729-58). The Fort has been landscaped beautifully by the ASI. A tunnel connecting to the palace of Padmanabhapuram was supposed to have been built for the royal to move around with maximum safety. However this has been closed due to vandalism. There is an emblem of the fish which obviously points to Pandyan Kings suzerenity over this Fort. One can have a beautiful view of the beach and a lighthouse in a distance. Cannons were place on the slots of the wall surrounding the Fort, which have been removed. Overall the Fort is so well maintained that it serves as a picnic spot for visitors. One more Fort nearby seems to have been destroyed by the British colonel Lee in 1806.

Udaygiri Fort :

The Fort has been re-built during the reign of Marthandavarman of the Venad dynasty during 1741-44. Once again the Dutch general De Lannoy was commissioned to build the Fort. There is a memorial of De Lannoy situated in this Fort. Being a bio-diversity area, there are some deers, birds and animals in the zoological park developed. It has a neat Tank right in the centre. If one walks across one comes to a rocky hill, which can be used for trekking there is supposed to be a temple on the top. But we aborted the attempt for paucity of time.


An elegant palace built with brick and mortar, along with liberal use of teak wood and brick tiles for roofing has been constructed by Marthanda Varma in 1744 AD after demolishing the mud Kaikulam Palace. The Kaikulam Fort and Palace was renamed Padmanabapuram palace as a dedication to Lord Padmanabha.

The Travancore Royal family followed matrilineal system of succession. The kings were succeeded by their sisters son. The old Princely state of Travancore was developed from the ancient kingdom of Venad which occupied western portion of Indian Peninsula. This kingdom formed as descendants of the ancient Chera Kings, whose celeberated capital is now known as Kodungalloor.

ANCIENT CLOCK The entrance to the main edifice is controlled by another ornamental gateway with retainers for watch and ward. The gabled entrance has wooden ceiling profusely ornamented with lotus medallions. The most striking feature of the entrance is the clock-tower which is one of the oldest in India erected in 1832 A.D. and still continues to be in working order. The clocks chiming is heard around the surroundings as far 3 km in the night time.

The first floor the Poomuham has a council chamber or Mantrasala which is meant for holding discussions with ministers and prominent citizens. The floor off this hall, which is polished with the admixture of coconut shell ashes, eggs fermented in molasses and lime reflects the figure like a mirror. Next to the Mantrasala is the Dancing Hall which was used exclusively for the members of the royal family.

Adjacent to the Council Chamber and to the south of dancing hall is the dinning hall called “Uttupura”, with two floors (the ground and the first) each measuring roughly 78 by 6 metres and it would accommodate about 2000 people at a time. Feeding of about 2000 poor persons, it is said, was done here every day and so the king was called ”Dharmaraja”.

The most attractive building in the whole palace is the ‘Uppirika Malika’ which consists of three storied. ‘Uppirika’ is the abbreviated term of ‘Muppirika’ which means the residence of the eldest member of the family. A wooden cot is erected on the top most floor in the belief that “Lord Vishnu” the chief deity. The first floor contains a wooden cot made of 64 medicinal plants, on which Maharaja used to sleep. The medicinal cot was presented to Maharaja “Marthanda Varma” by the Dutch East India Company in 1750, as a mark of friendship. Entry to the second and third floor is not allowed due to structural weakness. Certain artifacts are alleged to have been stored here. All the staircases are wooden.

To the west of the Zuppirika Mandapa is the Navarathri Mandapa which is a spacious hall of exquisitely beautiful granite pillars with drooping pendants reminiscent of the Nayakar style of architecture. In the Navarathri Mandapa, performances of Bharatha Natya and musical recitals took place in the royal presence.

Currently the Palace is maintained and managed jointly by the Government of Kerala and TN under the administrative control of Govt of Kerala, being located in TN. Padmanabapuram palace is both beautiful and function designed to suit the humid weather conditions prevailing with high roofs. The building is always cool and quiet from inside. Most of the material used were domestic such as Laterite stones, Teak wood, burnt bricks, granite and Lime. The shiny black polish on the floor was created from a combo of charcoal produced from coconut shell, lime, white from egg and various other vegetable extracts. In order to preserve the polish visitors are not allowed to wear shoe or slippers inside the palace.

The rooms on the ground level was mainly used for storage. On the first floor the main dwelling for the kings were prevalent. The bathrooms had sewage connection passing through concealed channels. Lighting of the palace during the night was provided by Lamps.

There are temples in the court yard of the palace, they are Ramaswamy temple, Subramanya and Sarasvathy temple. Ancient painting, Wooden cots and chars, along with visitors durbar, etc are beautifully erected. The ventilation is of high class.

A museum is also constructed by the ASI in keeping with the splendour architecture of the palace housing various artifacts.


Entry Fee Rs 25 for Adult & Rs.10 for Children.

Fees for Foreigners : Adult Rs 200 & Children Rs 50

Video and Camera Fee are Rs 1500 & Rs 25 Respectively

Separate fee for Car parking

Closed : Mondays

Mathoor Hanging Bridge :

This hanging bridge is the largest and tallest trough bridge in Asia. It is spread over 1 km in length with a width of 7 feet. It was constructed in 1966 under the instruction of Kamaraj, for bring succour to the people of the district. The bridge is constructed across the river bed of periyar. The water is transported in the canal over the bridge from one side of the hillock to the other side. A small childrens park and bathing platform is put up below the bridge. It is one of the tourist places.

Tirparappu Water falls :

This water falls is located 13 km away from Pechiparai dam. The water falls from a height of 50 feet, and the force of the fall can be tremendous. There are separate enclosures for men, women and children for bathing. There is a old Shiva temple with strong fortifications, but may be closed between 1 and 5 due to absence of the priest. This temple seems to built during the period of Cheras.

The lord after destroying the demon of dhaksin took the form of Veerabhadra and resided here. Veerabhadra is one of the fierce form of Lord Shiva. This temple is one of the shivalaya temples. There are many old inscriptions in this temple including the one of the pandiya king dated ninth century.


The celebrated St.Xavier visited the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu from Goa, he never missed the opportunity of visiting Kottar in Kanniyakumari district which was a celebrated commercial centre at that time. During his stay at Kottar, he used to worship St. Mary in the small temple. He was popularly known as “Valiya Pandaram” among the people of Kottar. While he was at Kottar, he averted the invasion of Padagas on the people of Venad which was appreciated by the king, who became closer to the Priest. In recognition of Xavier’s services, the king allotted a land to him for the purpose of constructing a catholic church at Kottar. There was already a church in 1544 in the same place, where the St. Xavier’s church stands now.

The church records show that the church was built in the year 1600 A.D. In the year 1865, the Church was enlarged and the shrine of our lady was also renovated and vaulted over. In 1930, the church was raised to the status of a Cathedral.

In 1942, in commemoration of the fourth centenary of the arrival of St.Xavier in India, a beautiful tower to the saint, a grotto to Out Blessed Mother and a small shrine to St. Ignatius who sent him to India were constructed in the Cathedral premises. In 1955, the church was further extended and the chapel of Our Lady was incorporated into the enlarged church.

The Church of St. Xavier enjoys a great fame as a place of miracles from early times. The annual festival is celebrated during the month of November – December lasting for 10 days.


There is a durgha named ‘Peer Mohamed Oliyullah Durgha’ at Thuckalay named after the great philosopher Mohamed Appa, who was born in Tenkasi of Tirunelveli District. After spending sometime in spiritual pursuits in Peermedu of Kerala State he came and stayed at Thuckalay. Being a Tamil poet of great eminence, he wrote many books on philosophy. He had intimate relationship with the Kings of Chera dynasty. It is said that he laid foundation stone for the Padmanabhapuram Granite Fort.

The Anniversary of the great philosopher poet is celebrated every year on a grand scale on the full moon day in the month of Rajap. Both the people of Kerala and Tamil Nadu attend the celebrations on large numbers irrespective of their caste, creed and religion.


Chitharal is a small village situated at a distance of 7 Kms., from Marthandam and 45 Kms, from Kanyakumari. The village is accessible by road from Kuzhithurai on NH47 via Arumanai, a distance of about 12 kms. From Chitaral junction there is a cartable road (2 km) running upto the foot of the hill. A trekking path 2 to 3 m wide, winding up to a distance of half a kilometer lands the visitor at the cave temple entry point.

It is famous for the Rock-cut temple. Hillock at Chitharal has a cave containing Rock-cut sculptures of Thirthankaras and attendent deities carved inside and outside dating back to 9th Century A.D. It was converted into Bhagavathy Temple in the 13th Century A.D. Cars and Vans can go upto the foot of the hill. One has to walk for about 10 minutes to reach the temple. The Jain images have been preserved Central Archeological Survey of India


The famous beach at Muttom is located about 16 kms from Nagercoil and 32 kms from Kanyakumari. Muttom is famous for its beautiful landscaping and high rocks dipping into the sea at the beach-side. The sun set view point at Muttom is one of the most Panoramic view points in the district. Another attraction of Muttom is the century old light-house built by the British. However so far this beautiful beach has always been unsafe for the tourists since the rocks on which tourists go to see the sea view are slippery and a number of fatal accidents have occurred over the past few years. The district administration, decided to put protective stainless steel fencing across the entire dangerous areas and also to put up small open huts at the rock tops for the tourists to sit and watch the massive sea waves leisurely with protection from sun and rain. The fencing work and the small huts have already been completed to the delight of the tourists who mob the beach in hundreds during week ends. Sitting benches have also been constructed in a circle for the elders to chit-chat, relax and enjoy the sun set. Seeing the response of the tourists, the district administration has sanctioned for the construction of a toilet complex, a small shopping complex and a children's park at a cost of Rs.11.60 lakhs and there are plans to undertake sculpture - works across the rocks to add to the ambience of the area.

Kanyakumari, Lands End

The lands end, where both Sunset,sunshine and moonrise is visible from the sea. Virtually making it an ideal place for meditation saints to meditate on the rocks. This rock island invited Swami Vivekanada to meditate, and to obtain gyaan beyond human imagination. Kanyakumari was known as Cape Commorin during the British times. Kanyakumari signifies virginity of mind, body and soul for the locale populace.

Inorder to understand the history of construction of Vivekanada Rock memorial one has to dwell into the literature published by the Vivekanada Ashram. A unique national monument was conceived by Swargiya Eknath Ranade. Immediately a controversy seems to have arisen with Christian missionaries claiming it was place of Saint Xavier.

Prolouge :

Swami Vivekananda reached the lands end in December 1892. Swamiji had traveled the entire length and breadth of the country. He had suffered from hunger, from thirst, form murderous nature and insulting mankind. When he arrived at Kanyakumari, he was utterly exhausted and penniless to pay for a boat ride to take him across the sea on the island, he flung himself into the sea, and swam across the shark-infested strait and reached atop mid-sea rock on 25 December, 1892 ( Christmas day ) He spent three days there meditating, and returned to the shoreline on 28th December 1892. At last his task was at an end, and then, looking back as from a mountain he embraced the whole of the India he had just traversed, and the world of thought that had beset him during his wanderings. For more than two years hitherto he had lived in a seething cauldron, consumed with a fever, he had carried a soul on fire, he was a bundle of storm and hurricane.

Now on this mid-sea rock, There he meditated not on God but on Mother India who for Swami Vivekananda was Divine Durga incarnate. What a strange meditation ! It was as if all the pages of India's history opened up before him. The vast panorama of his experiences during his travels past before his mind's eye. He meditated on the past, the present and the future of India, the cause of her downfall and the means of her resurrection.

He felt in his heart of hearts that India would rise only through a renewal and restoration of that highest spiritual consciousness which had made her, throughout her history, the cradle of religions and cultures. He then, sitting at the last bit of rock in the Indian ocean, took the momentous decision to go to the West to give shape to his life's mission of spreading India's religion and culture throughout the whole world.

Protests :

Let us get back to the main story relating to the establishment of Vivekananda Memorial to celeberate century of his preachings ( 1963 ) When the proposal for a memorial for Swami Vivekananda spread to Kanyakumari residents in the latter half of 1962, suddenly the entire atmosphere in Kanyakumari got surcharged with conflicting interest between the Hindus and the Christians in the area. The very idea of a memorial to Swami Vivekananda was not taken sportingly by sizable population of the local Catholic fishermen. The fishermen managed to put up a big Cross on the Rock which was visible from the shore stealthily . This led to strong protests by the Hindu populace who said the Rock was a place of worship for Hindus due Swamijis meditation.

A judicial probe was ordered by the then Madras Government and the finding of this Commission was stated in unequivocal terms that the rock was indeed known as Vivekananda Rock, and that the Cross put up by the Catholic fishermen was a clear case of trespassing. Amid all this controversy and acrimony, the Cross was one day removed secretly in the night. The law and order situation turned volatile and consequently the Rock was declared a prohibited area with armed guards patrolling it.

The Government of Madras realized that the Rock was turning into an area of communal conflict with Hindus claiming it to be the Vivekananda Rock and Christians claiming it as St Xavier's Rock. The Government made it clear that although the rock was Vivekananda Rock, there would be no memorial constructed on it. The then CM of Tamilnadu, Shri M. Bhaktavatsalam, said that only a tablet declaring that the rock was associated with Swami Vivekananda could be put up, and nothing else.

Accordingly, with government permission granted, a tablet was installed on the Rock on 17 January 1963 to mark the birth centenary of Swami Vivekananda. But the voices clamoring for a full-fledged Memorial on the Rock did not die. In May1963, some Christian elements who were seeking vengeance for the earlier removal of the Cross from the rock, demolished the Vivekananda commemorative tablet and threw it into the sea.


The first obstacle that Eknath Ranade had to cross was from Shri Bhaktavatsalam who was then Chief Minister of Madras State. He took a stand that he would not allow the memorial to come up on the mid-sea rock on the flimsy ground that it would pose a hazard to the environment by spoiling the natural beauty of the Rock. He was also concerned about hurting the religious sentiments of the Catholic fishermen in the area. Bhaktavatsalam's view was also endorsed by Shri Humayun Kabir, the then Union Minister for Cultural Affairs, who too had to give his clearance for this project.

To that end, on Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri's advice, Shri Eknath Ranade camped in Delhi. In three days, he collected the signatures of 323 Members of Parliament in a show of all-round support for the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, which was presented to the Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who in turn directed both Humayun Kabir and Shri.Bhaktavatsalam to give their immediate clearance for the construction of the Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari.

Shri Bhaktavatsalam had given permission only for a small 15" x 15" shrine. Knowing his reverence for the Paramacharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Shri Eknath Ranade approached the latter for suggesting the design of the Rock Memorial. Shri Bhaktavatsalam unhesitatingly agreed to the larger design (130"-1½? x 56") approved and suggested by the Paramacharya of Kanchi! Which was inspired by Ajanta cave arches. Thus all political hurdles for the construction of the Memorial were removed in one masterstroke by the shrewd move of Shri. Eknath Ranade

People’s Movement :

Ranade fervently believed that the Vivekananda Rock Memorial was a national monument of timeless significance and that every Indian should be invited to contribute to its construction. Shri Eknath Ranade launched the campaign of sale of one-rupee folders throughout the nation, which were used to mobilize the donations of the common man, starting from as tiny an amount as one rupee. By launching such a national campaign for collecting just an amount of Rupee one from every willing citizen, Eknath Ranade succeeded in raising an amount of Rupees one crore. Thus by his grand vision he ensured that so many common people visiting the Rock Memorial could have a legitimate pride that they too had contributed to that splendid national monument.

He also approached and succeeded in persuading almost every State government to make a decent contribution towards the construction of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. What is amazing is that he succeeded in making even the States of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh participate in the work of construction of the memorial . All the State Governments put together made only a paltry a contribution of Rs.35 lakhs. It was solely on account of the outstanding leadership qualities of Eknath Ranade that the Vivekananda Rock Memorial mission never got entangled in any unseemly political controversy or agitation at any stage during the course of construction of the Rock Memorial from 1964 to 1970. All the petty politicians finally surrendered to his unconquerable spirit.

Eknath Ranade has recorded in telling words about his experiences in dealing with the Chief Ministers and politicians of India : "Leaders of every political party, whether in power or in the opposition became willing partners of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari. The only Chief Minister who sent me back empty handed without contributing any amount to the Rock Memorial fund was the then Kerala Chief Minister Comrade E M S Namboodiripad. I can say this much about my abortive interview with him. It was like conversing with a sphinx. It was monologue all the way on my part. Only an empty stare from the other side!".

In the beginning, the estimated cost of construction of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial was Rs 30 lakh. Then it increased to Rs 60 lakhs, then later to 75 lakh. Finally the total cost after completion worked out to Rs one crore and thirty five lakh. Just think what a great achievement it was to mobilize such a huge sum of money forty years ago and complete the work in six years!


The Vivekananda Rock Memorial was inaugurated on 2 September, 1970, and dedicated to the nation by V V Giri, the President of India. Kalaigner Karunanidhi presided over the dedication ceremony. There can be no doubt whatsoever that without the catalytic and stellar role of Shri Eknath Ranade, this grand national monument could never have been completed in such a record time. Emerson, the great American thinker of the 19th century said, "A great and timeless institution is the lengthened shadow of one man". If that be so, I have no doubt that the final verdict of history will be that the magnificent Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari is the lengthened shadow of Eknath Ranade.


There are two mid-sea rocks off the shore of Kanyakumari. One of the rocks is the Vivekananda Rock, on which a memorial has been constructed. There is another smaller rock, not very far from the Vivekananda rock, and many of the Christian missionaries laid their claim for constructing a small church or a statue of Jesus Christ on this rock in 1979. Eknath Ranade showed his clairvoyant vision by persuading Dr MGR, the then Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, agree to the installation of Thiruvalluvar statue on this rock. The foundation stone for the Thiruvalluvar statue was laid by Morarji Desai, then Prime Minister of India on 15 April, 1979. Eknath Ranade was a great statesman and he used the good offices of Prabhudas Patwari, the then Governor of Tamilnadu to make Dr MGR agree to this proposal. Like Mahakavi Bharathi, Eknath Ranade was a true nationalist and a true Tamilian rolled into one


Hundred acres of land was allotted to Vivekananda trust to construct the ashram and museum to propagate the teachings of Swamiji. This ashram is located approximately 3 kms from the Railway station and 5 kms from the local bus stand. The room tariffs are reasonably levied for the piligrims. The ashram contains a K V school, Ayurvedic farm, Prayer Halls, Museum, Sunrise beach, Ranade Memorial, Garden, Canteen, Shops and other basic amenities which include a browsing centre too.

“We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one's own feet.”

So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trichy and Srirangam Temple

Prolouge :

I land from Rameswaram by train in the midnight @ Trichy and quickly check in for a slumber. I get up early morning and quickly shower and start proceeding to Srirangam by Bus. Well my co-passengers enquires where am I from I tell him I am from Bangalore. He exclaims “ Super city “. I wonder whether the concrete and glazed buildings is a term for a Super city. However I find Trichy railway station has a look of neat city. Now imagine if they just have a mono rail along the banks of the river cauvery and connecting the airport and tourist spots, Trichy too will become a fabulous city.


A checkered history of Srirangam is dished out by various historians. Who is to be credited to have constructed this massive temple which can be equated almost to Angkor Wat which was built in the 12th century by Suryavarman II in Cambodia.

The temple has 7 massive enclosures, wherein the main shirne is of Lord Vishnu in his majestic avatar. The first enclosure is credited to have been built by Raja Mahendra Chola ( 1060-1063 AD ) but the contradiction here is that in 924 AD Parantaka I ( 907-953 AD ) had gifted a silver lamp for the diety.

My surmise is that the original temple seems to have been built by feudatories of Pulekesi II ( 608-642 AD) from the Chalukyan Empire. Then the temple seems to have expanded and renovated by the Chola King Mahendra Chola ( 1060-1063) adding the local elements of architecture. The Pallavas too seem to have contributed to construction of the temple, based on Mahaballipuram style. The Cholas had been for several years under the Pallavas and their domination began once Raja Raja Chola ( 985-1014 AD ) emerged on the scene with construction of the great temple at Brideswar Tanjore.

There have been many intrigues and conspiracy dominating the rulers of the time. The city of Trichy had been under constant sieze from times immemorial. There are interesting stories that Raja Raja chola had to shed blood to succeed the throne and in repentance he built the great temple. The idea of creating his own identity seems to have inspired Mahendra Chola to renovate and build some portions of the temple. Pandyas took over from Cholas along with the help of Hoysala Kings. Since Hoysala were great builders they seem to have contributed by sending their artisans to lend expertise. However due to lack of availability of soapstone in the area they seem to have compromised on the artform. The influence of Hoysala style is seen in the form of Sala slaying a tiger on some of the pillars.

There has been influence of Vijaynagar Empire in the main gopuram. This portion was left incomplete by the builders. The completion of the massive arched enterance was obviously aborted in 1565 when Vijaynagar empire fell to the invasion of Bahamani sultans. Thereafter Nayaks who were feudatories of Vijaynagar empire seems to have contributed to construction of some portions of the remaining enclosures. The biggest proof for the influence of Vijaynagar empire architecture is the installation of Ugranarashima in all the gopurams of the temple. Ultimately the biggest gopuram in the world which stands tall @ 236 feet tall which was completed on 25/3/1987. It is known as Rajagopuram.


Ramanujam who is one of the greatest exponent of Vedanta philosophy settled at Srirangam and propounded his theology. He was actively engaged in temple activities and teaching in the school, after taking a vow of bramchari. As soon as the Moghuls from Malik Kafur ( 1311 ) Muhammad Bin Thuglak ( 1323 ) invaded he vacated the temple and traveled across India. When he returned he was again subject to humiliation by last Chola King Kulottunga I ( 1070-1120 AD) This forced Ramunja to take refuge in Mysore state in Melkote and Sringeri area. The temple seems to have mired with controversy of Saiva and Vaishnav traditions, which shows inconsistency and architectural changes.

During the invasion of the Muslims most of the statues, jewels and treasures were taken away and hidden in Tirupati where they remained till 1371 AD. There seems to other hideouts too wherein huge treasures were hidden and probably never returned to Srirangam temple. The muslims luckily did not destroy the temple and used it as a military garrison where they stored the food grains and parked their horses and elephants in the huge complex. The Vijaynagar rulers regrouped and vacated the temple from the infidels from unauthorized occupation of the temple.


The temple is located on an isle formed by the tributaries of Cauvery. The northern arm of the Cauvery is known as Kolroon, which is artificially created to protect the temple from annual river water flooding. The temple is built in seven rectangular enclosures. On each enclosure there is an enterance and exit gopuram. The main enterance of the temple is facing South, which may explain the misfortune visiting the temple. This is against the hindu tradition of Vaastu. The temple covers a vast area which is bigger than any religious place in the world. The actual area might have been larger than Angkor Wat ( currently largest non functioning temple) which is encroached upon by commercial and residential area.

The temple encompasses an area with a perimeter of 8 km and covers an area of 6,31,000 sq meters. ( 156 acres ) The seven enclosures have 21 gopurams with enterance and exit archways on all sides. One of the enclosures contains 1000 pillared hall ( actual count is 953 ). Foreigners and other religious visitors can visit upto the 6th enclosure and are prohibited in the main sanctum sanctorum which is adorned with Gold Gopuram. Photography is prohibited in this area.

The three outer enclosures are filled with shops, commercial establishments and houses inside the temple complex. Generally the outer enclosures used to be occupied by priests, artisans, servants for cleaning the temple and shop keepers who sold flowers and coconuts essential for pooja. There were more than 10,000 people housed in these enclosures.


This contains the Rajgopuram which raises upto a height of 236 feet, the highest temple gopuram in the world. It was completed in 1987 with concerted effort of the local administration and temple management. The unfinished edifice was interrupted by French invaders in 1751-58 according to some historians, but it seems to slightly older dating back to Vijaynagar empire who were great temple builders. The original plan was to build the gopuram to around 60 meters, but with modern technology the height was enhanced to 72 meters.


This enclosure is known as Chittiral or Kaliyuraman. The construction of this enclosure is credited to Hoysala artisans and Pandayan rulers. The eastern gopuram is most impressive of all the four gopurams. It bears inscriptions of Twelfth & Thirteen century characters. The construction seems to have been undertaken during the Veera Bhallal II ( 1173-1220 AD) The processional chariots are housed in this enclosure.


The fifth enclosure is inhabited and is known as Uttara. It contains the shrine of manavala mamuni in the traditional Chola style.


Non Hindus are allowed free to move around in this portion of the temple. There is Venugopala temple, which has pillars beautifully decorated. The period of construction is approximately between 1240 to 1330 which is obviously close to the reign of Veera Bhallal II or his successor Vir Narasimha II ( 1220-1235 AD ). One can witness the magnificience of the entire temple complex by visiting the terrace which manned or regulated through the information booth. One can buy various books associated with the temple.

This enclosures contains a museum with interesting artifacts, such copper plates, ivory sculptures and number of bronze cast statutes and ancient coins. A courtyard contains eight pillars with rearing horses and soldiers battling the tigers in typical Hoysala style.

Opposite this mantap is the thousand pillars hall which leads to the northern portion of the temple. A huge pandal is erected whenever there is festivity in the temple. There are other enclosure which are barricaded to the visitors. A group of enclosures contain inscriptions dating back to Vijaynagar empire.

On the western wing there are kitchens and five storehouses ( kottaram ) which are in the form of large cylindrical towers. They acted as grain storehouses for storing rice and lentils used for preparation of food. Inscriptions state these were destroyed by Infidel invaders and later restored.


On the eastern wing once again there are some abandoned mantaps which dates back to Vijaynagar era. There are shrines which date back to chola period in this enclosure. There is a sacred tank which is barricaded for visitors. There is shed which houses the materials used for procession and palanquins for statues.


One has to reach the second enclosure ( Kulasheran) through the Aryabhattal Gopuram which was re- built during the first half of the fifteen century, which was burnt down by infidels invasion of the temple. The whole of the second enclosure is narrow when compared to other enclosures.

The flagstaff is said to have been installed by Sundara Pandya ( 1251-1268 ) It was destroyed once again by invaders and replaced in 1461, by Mallikarjuna Raya of the Vijaynagar dynasty.


This is the main place where Lord Vishnu is in reclining position. He is known as the Lord Ranganathaswamy. The Lord is well ornamented with Golden crown, pendants, necklaces, and bracelets. The statue of the LORD is 21 feet in length which and blackened like carbon black, which anointed specially every year to preserve its structure. At the feet of the Lord there is a Pink Lotus.

The roof of the temple is golden Vimana, which non Hindus can witness from the terrace. There are four golden Kalasas rising from the corolla of a lotus. There are engravings of Lord Vishnu South, Achyuta to North, Ananta to the East and Venugopala or Krishna to the west.

All these jewels are renovated from time to time. One needs to pay special enterance fee of Rs 50 to have dharshan or Rs 20 and Rs 5, which goes to upkeep of the temple and helps in tracking the number of visitors to the temple.

There is an ivory painting of the donor Vijayranga Chokkanatha Nayaka ( 1706-1732) his wife, son and daughter-in-law which hangs on the wall of the temple. Golden vessels were donated by future King Edward VII in 1875 and also necklaces which were inlaid with gold, precious stones which were used to deck the Lord.


During the invasion of Malik Kafur ( 1310-1311) raided the Srirangam temple to loot the treasures in the Ghazni style, but majority of the idols and jewels were secretly pirated to safe haden. No ruler worth his salt was able to protect the temple and hundreds of priests laid down their lives. The temple corridors and river was flooded with blood stains much more gory than Jallianwala Massacre.

The infidels took away the main statue Namaperumal to his capital as a booty and sign of victory over weak resistance. In a daring move the remaining priests regrouped and took a procession to plead with Muslim invader to return deity to its original place. They narrated miracles and curse to scare the invaders to compel him to return to its rightful abode. Moved by the dramatic revelation of the powers of the deity Kafur decided to gift back the Lord to the priests. One of the daughters of Kafur fell in love with iconic statue and she decided to travel to Sri rangam along with the deity. Surathani, the princess seems to have prostrated in front of the Lord and collapsed in front of the Lord. However this seems to highly unlikely masking of history, some localities would have sought revenge and poisoned the princess and a concoted story was dished out once again to Kafur. This enraged him no end, and he invaded the temple once again in 1323.

The priest realizing that this time the destruction will be unleashed with much more intensity, they hid most of the statues of the deities. The anticipated reprisal took toll of more than 13,000 brahmins were slaughtered with blood flowing into the river cauvery. After the man slaughter Kafur’s men occupied the temple and used it as a fortress. The devadasis decided to showcase their talent to save the temple from destruction. Hundreds of devadasis engaged the infidels in orgy and sexual pleasures day and night for more than 6 months. Kafur was forced to recall all his men looking into their meek pleasure seeking routine, which would make them unfit for future battle. He recalled his entire troop with a decree. Thus the tribute for saving the temple from total annihilation should go to the 100 odd devadasis who entertained the soldiers with their dance and sexual favours.


OPENS @ 6.15 am for one hour and again there is a break and it reopens for dharsan @ 9.00 am and closes 1 pm. Again re-opens at 4 pm. So one has to be careful not to land in between. Most of the temples follow a similar pattern. Vaikunta Ekadasi is celeberated in a grand manner.

ROCK FORT TEMPLE : ( Malai Kotai )

The original temple is attributed to have built during the reign of the Pallavan king Mahendravarma in the 6th century ad inspired by the cave temples of Badami and Aihole. There are several inscriptions on the façade of the temple and rock cut caves. This temple is a small replica of the grandeur of Badami Cave temple. One can see the posture of Lord along with his consorts and numerous animals surrounding his dancing posture. There are as many as 5 other temples in this massive rocky edifice.

One has to climb into 3 different phases. The temple which is located on the ground floor or the presiding diety is known as Arulmigu Thayumanswamy temple. At the enterance one finds Manika Vinayagar.

Legend of Chetti Girl :

In epic times Lord Shiva gave solace to one devotee. Ratnavathi was married to Dhana Guptan in Trisirapuram. She prayed to the lord to bless her and she became pregnant. As the normal tradition she kept praying for normal delivery of the child daily. But when on the appointed day when she was about to deliver there was flood in the river cauvery, her mother could not return with oil and medicines. Lord came in the form of her mother gave solace and ensured normal delivery. From that onwards Chevvanthinathar is known Thayumanavar. Devotees come to the temple for normal delivery and offer banana and milk to the Lord after delivery.

Vasantha Mantapam :

From this location one can have a good view of the town below. The French and the British used it as watch tower to track enemy movements. There was a telescope too installed to view the town below. It was built by Trinelveli Dalavai Mudaliar in 1630.

Manimandapam :

It was built in 1918 enroute to the hilltop. There is big copper bronze bell weighing 2.5 tonnes with 4.8 feet and 4.6 breadth. It was manufactured by Railway industries in Nagapatinam. Everyday it rings at 4 am 6 am 10 am and 12 pm. 6 PM AND 10 M.

Ucchi Vinaygar :

After the incarnation of Sri RAMA, Vibhisana took leave. Lord present him with an idol of Sri Ranganatha which was worshipped by ancestors. It was given to Vibhisana with a instruction wherever he desired to settle he can place it on the earth. Enroute to Sri Lanka he wanted to take bath in Cauvery river, he handed over the statue to a small boy. The boy unable to bear the weight and ran out of patience and he shouted for vibhisana, who did not return. He therefore placed the statue on the ground, which Vibhisana was unable to uproot. He gave a strong stroke on the head of the boy who turned into Vinayaka, till today one can notice a deep gash on the head of the Lord. One can see the foot prints on the rock of Vibhisana.


Morning : 5.30 am – 12.00 pm
Evening : 4.00 pm 8.30 pm.

Enterance Fee : Rs 2
Camera Fee : Rs 25
Video Camera : Rs100


The Ranganathaswamy temple follows the Vaishnava tradition and is handicapped by inhabitants who have encroached the temple premises. The grandeur of the temple can only be resurrected with co-ordinated endeavour, which needs clearance of encroachments in front of the temple. The entire temple complex needs a circular ropeway transporting the visitors on the banks of cauvery river and maybe even a monorail traveling at safe distance so that piligrims and visitors are reminded of the grandeur. It is said that more stones and bricks were moved than Pyramids to construct this magnificient temple. The temple complex is so huge that it can house more than 50 Taj Mahals. Now it is for the government & people to undertake a co-ordinated effort to resurrect the past glory. Just imagine each and every day people paying respect to Lord Ranganatha in a semi circular motion from on a mono rail East to West reversing the bad effects of South enterance.

Madurai Meenakshi Temple

Madurai is popularly known as the Athens of the East, because of its antiquity and historical importance.
It stands tall as the premier temple of Tamil Nadu in the opinion poll conducted by NDTV for seven wonders of the state. The temple complex is filled 12 gopurams or towers. The most famous of the gopuram on the southern part of the complex stands tall @ 52 meters ( 170 feet )


The original Meenakshi temple seems to have built during the reign of Kulashekaran Pandyan ( 1268 – 1308 ). A rich merchant by name Dhanajaya was a great devotee of Lord Shiva, discovered a forest temple where he spent a night. He found sings of regular worship during the night times and inferred it must be work of gods. He narrated his experience to the Pandya king Kulashekara, who ruling Manavur, near present Madurai city. Lord Shiva as Sundareshwar appeared in his dream. He dreamt that drops of nectar was falling on Lord Shiva’s matted hair. A serpant coiled around the boundary of the town. Based on this legend a temple was dedicated to the Lord. On account of Madhu ( nectar ) which fell on the Shiv Linga, the place was known as Madhupura or city of nectar, which was later abridged to Madurai.

According to the Myth, the Pandyan king and his queen Kanchana mala performed Putra Kameshi Yagna for begetting a child.

The temple town was subject to invasion by Malik Kafur in 1309, who literally razed the temple to ground. All the wealth was plundered by the armies as booties by the infidels.

The initiative to rebuild the temple was undertaken by Arya Natha Mudaliar, who was the PM of the Nayaks ( 1559 -1600 AD ), the feudatory of Vijayanagar Empire. The building of the temple complex was completed by contribution of Thirumala Nayak ( 1623 – 1659 ) He is credited to have completed the vasantha complex inside the temple.


According to legend Lord Shiva descended on earth to marry the princess Meenakshi. During the wedding ceremony grand arrangements were made from the bride side to display the pomp and glory of their wealth and status. Lord Sundareswar ( bridegroom ) had a small retinue, along with dwarf “ Gundodhara” Meenakshi after seeing a small group of members remarked that a grand arrangement with all the food preparations would go waste. The groom was confident his small retinue would ensure that all the preparations would be consumed. When the dwarf started polishing of all the preparations, he single handedly exhausted all the food preparation, when there was nothing left, he asked for water. All the water in the well too was exhausted by his unquenching thirst. This left the bride’s family members bewildered and invoked the blessing of Annapurneswari to fulfill the hunger and thirst. He thus invoked the blessing of mother earth and placed his thumb to spring the Vaigai river banks on which Madurai is located even today.

The epic also narrates that during the procession towards the wedding venue Lord Vishnu, brother of Meenakshi was tricked and delayed by Lord Indra . He was supposed to preside over the biggest marriage on earth . This angered Lord Vishnu and he swore never to enter the city. Lord Vishnu settled on the outskirts which is known as Alagar Koil. He was appeased by the devotees and other gods to bless the couple. This occasion is celeberated as Chithrai Tiruvila or Alagar tiruvila.

The above wonderful theme of marriage was taken as an inspiration by the sculptures and painters. The walls of the Meenakshi temple are adorned with various scenes from the fabled marriage between Shiva and Parvathi.


The temple is located in area of 45 acres. A massive structure measuring 254x237 meters. The temple is surrounded by 12 towers, the tallest of which is the southern tower which is raised to the height of 170 feet.

The centre shrine is dedicated to the Lord Shiva, it contains the unusual statue of Lord Nataraja, who is on the left foot. The famous posture of Lord Nataraja is to have the left foot raised standing on the right foot. But here the posture is reversed according to the request of the Pandyan king who is deemed expert on dancing.

The Meenakshi shrine is on the left of the Shiva shrine, and sculpturally less valuable than the Shiva shrine. There is also a Ganesh Shrine adjescent. The hall contains 995 pillars instead of 1000 pillars.

In the midst of the temple there is a small rectangular pond with lotus around the water. There is bronze pillar and bronze lotus in the an enclosure right in the centre of the pond. There is no marine life in this pond. The pond measure 165x120 feet in size. It is considered auspicious to enter the lake and wash one’s feet before entering the temple, which is given a go by many piligrims. The legend has it that a literary work is judged for its purity by placing it on the pond. If it is blessed than it floats otherwise it sinks down under.


It is generally accepted according to Hindu custom of Vaastu that one enters from the east and exits from the West, but in this temple it is considered to be a taboo. A temple employee seems to have plunged himself to death during the reign of Chokkanath Nayak as a mark of protest against the unjust levy. This is one point to keep in mind when one visits the temple. On hindsight I myself was not aware of this custom. However I think I entered from Western enterance If my memory serves right. Vistors are advised to enter by Ashta Lakshmi Mandapam.


The beautiful artifacts of the era are preserved in the form of paintings, coins, statues, weaponary, ivory, bronze statues, etc. An enterance fee is collected and camera fee of Rs 50 is common for visiting the museum and the temple. It is one of the important must see places in the temple to get the feel of the era.

Months of Thai ( Jan 15-Feb 15 ) and Aadi ( Jul 15 – Aug 15 ) are popularly celeberated. Along with Shivaratri and Navarathri.

Temple Timing :

Morning 6.15 am to 8 am
9.00 am to12pm
4.00 pm to 8pm
The main temple is closed at 7.15 am, it is better to complete the dharsan before that or better to have dharshan at 9 am.


The palace is built mostly like a darbar hall for meeting the public. It can be safely assumed that the King never stayed in this place except on occasion of official function. This palace is supposed to have been constructed during 1626 by Thirumal Nayak. ASI sign board states that the remains of the palace is only 1/3 and 2/3 was moved to Trichy, which seems to be highly unlikely. The pillars of the palace are so massive that no earthquake or vandalism can easily destroy this palace. It is constructed with robust architectural knowledge to last 1000 s of years. The roofs of the palace are beautifully painted with bright colours signifying the royalty. The ventilation for the place is given prime importance. The palace is currently under renovation and is likely to be completed by 2009 year end. The adjescent portion has a garden in which the various statues are to be housed from the museum. Further on the back of the palace lot of shrubs needs to cleared. In front of the palace there is landscaped garden which is generally locked. A ticket of Rs 7 has to be obtained for entry with a camera fee of Rs 30/-


This premise was a place built during the time of Rani Mangammal as evidenced in a communication in 1700 AD. Then it was occupied by the East India company. Finding the house in the Madurai Fort unhealthy, Samuel Johnston requested the Nawab of Arcot to occupy Tamukkam Bunglow as his residence in 1782.

Mr Johnston spent 6000 pagodas in clearing the jungle surrounding the palace and he turned it into habitable residence. He lived in this palace till he shifted to Trichy in 1787 AD. After that Johnston requested the premises be converted into educational place. Subsequently the premise was used as court house in 1838 it was shifted to Thirumala nayak palace.

In 1877 AD this place was occupied by district collector C.S. Crole. Since then it became a permanent place for District collectors. It continued till 1956 AD. In 1956 the government of India renovated this place and handed over to Gandhi Memorial for honouring the father of the nation. This memorial contains the original cloth of Gandhi, when he was shot dead.


This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, and it seems to be of earlier origin than Meenakshi temple. The temple seems to have been constructed during the reign of Hoysalas along with Pandya Kings. It is credited to the reign of Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan ( 1251-1268 ) which coincides with the reign of Narasimha III ( 1254-1291 ) of the Hoysala empire.

It seems to be originally a beautiful fortress with a massive arched gateway enterance which now lies in ruins needing urgent repairs. The entire complex is so huge and so magnificient but hardly maintained either by temple authorities or department of archaeology. The temple is surrounded by Alagar Hill. The entire complex is more than 50 acres.

The TN forest department is maintaining a herbal forest on the hills. The enterance to the garden is restricted to the students and researchers. There is temple dedicated to Lord Kartik on the hills which 3 km away from this temple. It is closed before sunset in view of the forest area.

Majority of the architectural grandeur of this temple complex was completed during the reign of Vijaynagar emperor Krishna devaraya ( 1309 to 1329 ). The gopuram to the temple is similar to the Dravidian architecture. There is a kalyana matap and inside the beautiful shrine of Lord Vishnu in all its grandeur. The temple is opened according to the whims and fancies of the priest.

The inscriptions found in the temple premise and also in the caves of the hillock throw light on the antiquity of this place. Some of them date back to reign of King Ashoka. It is believed that the renowned Jaina teacher Ajjanandi and his disciples were staying in the caves on the hillock.



The cyclone Nisha struck the coastal T.N. in Nov 2008, particularly Rameswaram and its surrounding wrecking untold misery on the livelihood of the fishermen and localities. The scene on the seashore huts reminded me of the Tsunami, with water flooding into their homes. The incessant rainfall for over a period of fortnight has stalled the fishermen venturing out to sea. I land into the town at the godforsaken hour ( 3 am ) into the town, to find myself an unwanted guest by many a hotels. Never in my dream could I imagine, that a single individual, will be refused a room for the fear of committing suicide or being suspected as a terrorist who has come to blow up the temple. The only option in front to me seemed to visit the temple and pray to the Lord to bless me with Shelter from the brewing storm. At 4.00 am I enter the Ramnathswami temple and find the Ayyappa devotees swarming the premise to have the holy darshan. I opt for a special darshan shelling out Rs 50/- and quickly frisked into the queue with a group of fairer sex swarming, for which I had to exhibit etiquette by offering them to bypass, and I enter last, which was my undoing. As soon as this batch finish, I was offered darshan once again and this time to my hearts content. After darshan it was hardly 4.45 and I decide to stay put at the temple complex till 5.45, when the dawn breaks out. I approach a tout, who says he will get me a slot in the open hall @ black, which I found repulsive. I decided to approach a Gujarati boarding, initially he refused to offer me a room, I requested him to allot me a common hall, which he willingly obliged looking at my plight. I was glad to have a place which was so neat and I decide not to lie down and waste the precious hours. I quickly rushed to have a cold water bath in a stormy weather, which was refreshing and energizing. My tired shoulder was literally caressed by soft water and lather of clinic shampoo. After my bathing, I ventured out to explore the ravaged town.


Historically, Ramnathswamy temple is one the 12 Jyothilingas in India. Epically the isle was visited by Lord Rama in his expedition to rescue his kidnapped wife from Sri Lanka. The name is therefore derived from Lord Sri RAMA who installed one of 12 linga ( phallic symbol ). A pilgrimage to Kashi is incomplete without a visit to Rameshwaram.

Lord Rama inorder to repent for his slaying of thousands of demons in the war, he wanted to make amends. He sent his messenger Hanuman to fetch a Linga from Mount Kailash, but he took his own time in returning. Rama is said to have commissioned the installation of Linga made out of sand by Sita. The Shiv Ling was henceforth named as Rameshwar and is worshipped as the presiding deity of this town.

When Hanuman returned with two Atma Lingas, and he wanted to replace the sandy Shiv Ling, he forcibly tried to uproot the linga, but it would not budge an inch. Inorder to please Lord Hanuman, Rama installed one of the Lingas on the northern side of the temple known as Kashi Viswanath. He also gave priority of worship over other rituals. This tradition is continued till today in the temple.

Strangely, the history of this temple apart from the epic is shrouded by mystery. According to historians, an ancient insignificant temple was expanded by Lankan King Parakrambahu during the 12th Century. Further extensions and pillared structure were added by the Nayaks who were feudatory to the Vijayanagar Empire. Further additions to the temple are credited to Sethupathi who were kings of Ramnad region.

The main temple edifice is credited to have been built by Udyan Sethupathi with the help of Sinhalese Prince Para Rajasekhara in 1414 AD. The western gopuram is credited to Udyan, the southern to Tirumalai and eastern one to Dalvoi.

The corridor of the temple is impressive standing tall with more than 30 feet in height, and 15 feet in width. There are nearly 30 pillars in 340 meters length, with paintings on the roof. A breath taking spectacle of the grandeur in unleashed with carved pillars of lion, apsaras and and dwarpalikas. However there are large portions of the boundary wall which are under collapse, which needs urgent repair to restore its splendour and grandeur.

There are 22 theertams inside the temple or ponds wherein piligrims bathe in reverence to their forefathers and departed ones. The mineral quality of the water refreshes ones body and mind, one after another piligrims undergo the ritual, some may be exploited in the bargain. I avoided this ritual due to wet conditions, and I preferred to be drenched by intermittent rainfall.

Mahashivarathri is celeberated for 10 days in this temple. The temple opens at 4 am with Palliyarai Deepa ardhana and later Spatika Linga Abishek. Many devotees bring the ganges water from hardwar, rishikesh and badrinath for Abhisheka.


A beach located 18 kms away from the temple town, it is pencil shaped peninsula with three sides covered by water. Enroute one can find plenty of sand dunes and back waters flowing. On reaching the beach one front one finds a small fishing settlement, which surprisingly is not so fishy may be because of strong winds. The beach is filled with silversand, one can walk till one’s heart is contented, but swimming in this turbulent water is avoided at best, even the best of swimmers have drowned due to strong currents. The Indian navy has a post.

The fisher folks claim that after the boxer Tsunami in 2004, the fish catch has dwindled beyond economic recovery. They risk their life and cross into the Lankan boundaries to salvage. Sometimes they are shot at by the Lankan Navy or even captured, punished before being released. The main grouse of the Lankan army is that fishermen are LTTE sympathizers. I was given a first hand account of the same by a fisherman in one of the eating joints. I went to eat fish but was dished out a fishy incident, which robbed me of interest of having a fish. It was mainly due to the Sabrimala season most of the joints have stopped serving fresh fish.

On clear days on can see the lighthouse of the Lankan waters, which is located 40 kms away from the tip of the Dhanskodi Beach, the Adams bridge is located just away from this point. It is otherwise known as the controversial Sethusamudram point. Instead of building a bridge across to Sri Lanka, the govt. would do good to develop tourism to bring relief to the fisherfolks, by constructing a good concrete road and developing backwater tourism. The point where Rama is said to have built a floating bridge is known as Sethu Karai which is located 22 kms from the Isle.

PAMBAM BRIDGE : The lengthiest bridge spanning over 2.3 km connecting Rameswarama isle with the main land was first constructed in 1914 for railway commuting, which is used to allow passage of 10 ships in a day. A road bridge is constructed parallel to the railway bridge. The adventure of traveling in rough with waves lashing out from the bridge has to be experienced in all its glory. Check out the video.

AGNITEETHAM : A dip in the shallow water spread of the sea which hardly 100 meters in front of the temple is considered to be sacred. A dip in the sea helps to get rid of the sins. A Kanchi Mutt is located right opposite this point wherein the piligrims can visit after a dip.

RAM THEERTH : A hillock located 3 kms north of the temple is supposed to be highest point on the isle. A huge TV micro tower is located to receive the radio and TV signals. One can witness the footprint of Rama installed in the temple located in the temple.

A small temple dedicated to Hanuman is located enroute to Seetha and Lakshman Teerth. Another Hanuman temple is located just away from this spot, which houses the floating stone, which is actually coral stone. Sometimes one is tempted by the priests to purchase, which should be avoided by the pilgrims, since it is punishable under bio-diversity prevention act.

A small temple in honour of Lakshman is built just close by to Hanuman teerth. This temple is dedicated to Rama’s brother who served him without any axe to grind.

: Just opposite Rameswaram bus stand one can visit “ sea world acquarium” This acquarium houses exotic species such as Octopus, snake fish, parrot fish, sea lizard, squid, crabs, lobsters, prawns, Star fish, Sharks etc. This is one of the unique acquariums in India.


The dream of the fishermen to have alternative livelihood in the form of adventure speed boat ride on the backwaters ferrying tourists would an ideal awaiting realization. The ride on the sand dunes of the beach front, like a desert ride in the middle east. A camp fire and stay in the tent enjoying the night skyline and listening to the waves pounding the shoreline. A massage and sun tan, on the beach would a world beyond imagination. Travelling distances on a concrete road and returning reluctantly to work station would a dream of forced lonely traveler yearning to be fulfilled may be a decade later.

Brihdeswar Temple, Thanjavur - Legacy of Raja Raja Chola

Brihdeshwar Temple has been declared as world heritage site in 1987 AD. The temple is located in the rice bowl district of Tamil Nadu, Thanjavur. It is close to the railway station and old bus stand. The nearest city is Trichy which has an airport and railway junction.


Raja Raja chola ( 985 – 1014 AD ) was one of the greatest emperors of the Chola dynasty. By birth he was known as Arulmozhi Verman, the third son of Parantaka
Sundar Chola. He was trained to be a warrior to lead the cholan army in conquest against the Pandya and Sinhalese kingdoms. Aditya Chola II, the eldest son was murdered under suspicious circumstances. The theory is that he was murdered by the concubines with snake venom while engaging in an orgy session. This was a conspiracy hatched by the vanquished Pandyan King ( Vira Pandya )supporters, whose beheaded skull he paraded on the streets as a victory sign. He was succeeded out of turn by Uttama Chola ahead of Arulmozhi. This was under a explicit understanding that the paternal uncle will be succeeded not by his son but by Arulmozhi ( Raja Raja Chola ) But eventually blood turned out to be thicker than water, as years went by the promise was conveniently brushed aside. When he came to know regarding the conspiracy, he adopted the same trick with the help of his guru Bradbahu. The uncle and nephew were got rid of by the concubines dishing out drinks laced with poison.


Raja Raja Chola was constantly engaged in battle with Chalukyas in the north, Pandyas in the South and Sinhalese across the shore. One day while he was engaging in the battle in Sri Lanka, he saw huge statues of Buddha. He was inspired by this beautiful statue to dedicate the Brihdeshwar Temple to his family deity Shiva @ Thanjavur. He commissioned the construction of the huge temple in 1004 AD. Since the scale of construction was unparalleled in the history of temple construction of the times, it took almost 3 decades and it was completed by his Son Rajendra Chola in the year 1034 AD. Rajendra chola I ( 1014 – 1044 AD ) credited the construction of the temple to his dads name even though majority of the construction was undertaken by his patronage. He in turn looked to leave his imprint on the sands of time elsewhere in Gangakonda Cholapuram.

According to some historians the chola King was suffering from leprosy and he requested his Guru Haridatta to find a solution. The cure recommended to atone the sins included building of Brihadeswar temple,with a tall gopuram. Accordingly a search was launched to locate the linga. The search team managed to find a phallus shaped stone on narmada river bed which has shipped back to Thanjavur. This very statue started gaining height and therefore it came to called as Brihadeswar.

The temple seems to in all probability built in phases, in his final year of reign, an incomplete temple seems to have been commissioned since Raja Raja chola was on his death bed. There are some historians who claim that the temple was completed during his time, but historical evidence points out the complete structure had taken more time. In fact some additions were even made during the time of the Nayaks.

The unique feature of the gopuram is that its shadow does not fall on the the ground at any part of the day. There is also enough space on the khalasa area that a Maruti can can go around it in circular fashion. A painting of Raja Raja chola has been discovered recently with a Jamician rustafero type of hairdo along with his Guru, which is probably the only available picture of the great King.


The temple complex was built on the banks of the river cauvery, with its water diverted to the moat. The walls around the temple was constructed in the form of fortress, to protect the temple from invaders. Even today the temple has one of the highest gopuram ( 66 meters – 216 feet ) in India. The Kalash ( shikara ) which is installed on top of the Vimana weighs a massive 81.5 tonnes. A ramp was constructed from 6 kms away from the temple complex to roll over the huge shikara on to the gopuram. The entire temple is built with granite which was not available in the area. Probably it was transported from Trichy Rockfort area which is located 40 kms away. The inspiration to create the magnificient edifice seems to have been inspired by the Chalukyan architecture with local aritisans. The gurus advice to atone for the sins in the form of bloodshed of his rivals to the throne, by building an edifice to Lord Shiva.

The temple complex consists of pillarared complex surrounding the massive temple, with small enclosures, where the mural paintings are sketched. Incidents from the Nayanars family are depicted in the paintings, pertaining to their ceremonies and daily lifestyle. There are also paintings displaying 108 postures of Bharathanatyam dances.

There is a pillared matap containing a Bull or Nandi before the main temple. This Nandi seems to bless the women with fertility and the rumour has it was cordoned off by instruction of highly influential leader, so as not to promote population explosion.

There are two subsidiary temples built behind the main temple which is now closed for public visit. One more temple which is under renovation contains mural paintings on the ceilings of the wall. By ths side of the main temple there are serveral smaller shrines are located. One of them is dedicated to Lord Subramanya or Kartikeya,son of Shiva. Another shrine is dedicated to Brihannayaki, the goddess is situated between Nandi temple and the main shrine. A shrine of Vinaygar ( Ganesh ) is located on the south western corner, another is of Nataraja on the north eastern corner, and chandikeshwara on the north western portion of the temple complex.

Bridheswar temple which is dedicated to Lord shiva is built on six tier level construction. On the first floor there are mural paintings on the edifice and walls which is restricted to public visit. The secret enterance is blocked for public entry, which can be accessed with permission.


Currently the temple is under the ASI, which is declared a World Heritage Monument in 1987. Thankfully it has saved the temple for total modernization with mindless painting. The old heritage is maintained under strict supervision from the ASI. It is however surprising though why are poojas being allowed in the temple which is supposed to maintained as heritage structure.

Originally the Cholas introduced an elaborate system of administration of the temple. The major part of the expenditure of the kings revenue collection and plundering of the enemies, wealth went into maintainence of temples. The priests, artisans, accountants, actors, dancing masters, flute players, jewelers, singers, dancing girls, washermen, guards and various other staff were part of the paid employees of the king. It is alleged there were 400 dancing girls under the role of the temple. The source of funding was from donations from public and merchants and through contribution by the king.


The architects and workmen who were engaged in making of bronze castings were used to construct the temple. The Vishwakarma Brahmins were employed in sculpting the statues, which are similar to the Bronze statues produced by them in ancient times. The Master craftsman's name is SOMA VARMA. Many of the artisans from the Chalukyan area were used to complete the fine carvings on the temple façade due to their expertise. This was possible due martial alliance forged with Chalukyas, with marriage of Raja Raja Chola’s daughter Kundavai with Vimal Aditya of Vengi.


Raja Raja Chola had number of wives, chief among them was Loka Maha Devi who occupied the centre stage. The official son of Raja Raja Chola was Rajendra Chola who is progeny of Vanavan Maha Devi. He was blessed with 3 daughters as per record, they are Kundavai, Mahadevigal who adopted Buddhism and remained a spinster. The number of official wives mentioned in the inscription are 8 in number. The unofficial concubines in form of dancing girls may outnumber them. However, Raja Raja chola seems to be influenced by his elder sister, who seem to have influenced his character and decision making.


Luckily the temple of Brideshwar had survived the Islamic invasion of Mallik Kafur, Thuglak, Aurangazeb and Tipu Sultan may be because of the abandonment of the territory. Rajendra Chola shifted his capital to Gangaikonda Cholapuram from Tanjore. The 400 dancing girls may have once again played an important role in protecting the chastity of the temple.

Location :
Brideshwar Temple is located at Thanjavur which is 58 km away from Trichy. One can reach by train from Chennai, Bangalore and Madurai. The nearest airport is Trichy.

Timings :

8.30 to 12 pm
4.00 to 6 pm

Free Entry, No camera Fee, Only parking fee is charged for vehicles. No barrier of visitors, foreigners are welcome into the sanctum too by eager priests.

Thanjavur Palace :

A renovated palace of the Chola Kings was undertaken by the descendants of Marathas. Serfoji reign lasted from 1798 till 1832. During his reign he had built Chattrams, Saraswati Library, which contains 4000 books from different parts of the world. There are number of ancient manuscripts in this library.

Various collections, artifacts which are collected across the globe are available in the palace museum. The number of entry tickets and camera fees is more than 4 which seems to expose the greediness. The palace premises are maintained in absolute shabby condition considering the amount of fees collected. An ancient tower with a bronze bell, museum with whale bone, and secret tunnel from the palace are the highlights. There is also a palace antique selling counter, which sell copy of the various artifacts. There is a government museum in the adjacent premises, which has lot of artifacts collection.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chidambaram, Abode of Lord Nataraja the cosmic dancer

We set out from Maylathdurai by hiring a cab for a round trip beginning with Vaitheswaran Koil which is one of the navagrahas, the weather which was calm started showing its true colours. When we reached Chidambaram, the rain gods started pouring like cats and dogs. The downpour was so immense that we witnessed water was flowing like a river in the temple complex. Without 2 separate umbrella and blessings of Lord Shiva we would have been drenched to the core.

HISTORY It is quite perplexing not to have a clear cut founder of the temple. The majority of the patrons were from Pallavan, Pandyan and Vijaynagar empire. The Southern gopuram was constructed by Pandya king in earlier times, but renovated by Pallava king Koperunsigan I ( 1216 – 1242 ). The southern gopuram has two fish symbols signifying Pandyan emblem. The Eastern Gopuram was constructed by by the Pallavan king Koperunsinghan II 1243 – 1279, the western Gopuram was constructed by Jadavarman Sundara Pandyan 1251 – 1268 and the Northern Gopuram was constructed by Krishnadevaraya of Vijaynagar 1509 – 1529.

But who is the real architect behind this huge temple ? The most probable suitor is the Parantaka Chola I ( 907 – 950 ) who installed the golden tiled roof on the Chitsaba Subsequent Chola kings Paranthaka II , Rajaraja Chola I, Koluthunga Chola and Vikram Chola ( 1118 – 1135 ) have made substantial donations for the upkeep of the temple.

The antecedents of the temple is much earlier to Chola period, since the temple architecture is of older version. Some historians believe that the credit of the temple construction should be bestowed on Simmavarama II 430 -458. ( Pallava Prince ) The declaration made out on the copper plates confirms that he gave up his rights and settled in Chidambaram. It is believed that he was responsible for constructing the initial edifice, which later expanded by Chola kings.

Chidamabaram temple is built across an area spread over 40 acres, in the heart of the city. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva in his dancing posture known as Nataraja, a cosmic dancer. This dance form is also known as Tandava. Tandava is a vigorous form of dance symbolizing the cycle of pro-creation, preservation and ultimately destruction. These are categorized into Shrishti ( creation ) Sthiti ( conservation ) Samhara ( destruction ) Tirobhava ( illusion ) Anugraha ( Grace ) Whereas Rudra Tandav depicts the violent form of dance which heads towards destruction. All the dance postures literally 108 karanas are embedded on the Eastern Gopuram ( which is exposed in my video )

ETYMOLOGY The etymology of the word Chidambaram translates literally into Chit meaning Knowledge and Ambaram Infinite space. Thus Chidambaram signifies Infinity in Knowledge. The other interpretations of Chit and ambaram are Consciousness and sky. The third inference is to stage and sky, where Lord Shiva is performing the cosmic dance. Therefore among the five holiest of Shivaite temples Chidambaram ranks no 2. The other places are Thiruvannamalai ( fire ) Kanchipuram ( earth ) Kalahasti and ( wind ) Thiruvanaikaval ( water ). Thus Chidambaram is one of the important Pancha Bootha Stalas.

GATEWAYS :The temple has 9 gateways and we entered through the Eastern gateway where the 108 postures of Bharatanatyam is embedded on the façade beautifully. The rain was literally preventing us from going further without noticing the grandeur. Thus are the ways of Lord Shiva. I was transfixed to the exquisite form of sculpture and its conception and execution.

The gopurams are located in all 4 directions inviting the devotees from all corners of the world literally. The five Sabhas ( hall) of the temple are :

Chit Sabha : Houses the idol of Lord Nataraja

Kanaka Sabha Where the daily rituals are performed

Nrithya Sabha Dancing hall of Lord Shiva along with goddess Kali.

Raja Sabha Where yoga is performed

Deva Sabha Abode of all the hindu gods such as Ganesh, Parvathi, Murga, Chandikeshva and Somaskanda

There is a popular saying that the standard of civilization is determined by how the society or government maintains its water bodies. In this direction the credit should go to the patrons of the temple to have an elaborate system of ponds around the temple for harvesting rain water literally.

The largest tank is known as Shivagangai, next is Paramanandha koobham, Kuyya theertham, Pulimadu ( 1 km away ) Vyagrapatha theertham ( not to be mistaken for Viagra ) Anantha Theertam, Nagaseri, Bramha Teertam, Siva Piriyai and Thiruparkadal.

Chidambaram complex houses the Lord Govindaraja Perumal which is symbol of Vaishnavism. This depicts the secular fabric of the temple administration, which is not normally found in the Vishnu temples, because of intense rivalry.

The temple poojas or rituals are performed by Dikshitars. A class of vedic Brahmins who claim lineage from Mount Kailash. There was obviously scope for malpractises and mismanagement by private management. The govt. after protracted battle has taken over management of the temple. However the rituals are conducted by the Dikshitars.

In 1312 AD the invasion by Malik Kafur on all the temples of the south prompted pre-emptive precaution by the Dikshitars. They removed all the precious jewels and statues and hid them. Some of the valuables were taken away to Allepey for safety. It is obvious that some never returned to the temple after fear of invasion subsided.

Overall visit to Chidambaram is refreshing and quite historical in terms of multiple myths associated with the temple. The purchase of the Guide book written by Dr S. Meyyappan on Chidambaram would reveal 88 pages of mythical association. In a hurry to proceed towards Velankanni I missed buying the CD of the temple.