The erstwhile grand capital of the Chola Kingdom, Thanjavur is an important trade and cultural hub of Tamil Nadu. With the river Kaveri flowing through the heart of it, surrounded by lush green paddy fields, doted by many temples, Thanjavur has so much to offer!
The most prominent, iconic identity of Thanjavur is the grand Brihadeeshwara Temple. This temple was constructed by Raja Raja Chola, the most illustrious among the Chola Dynasty. The temple, which is a magnificent and beautiful granite structure, is dedicated to Lord Shiva, as Brihadeeshwarar.
Here I go, with the pictorial description of the temple, the grandness of which, cannot be justified with any mere words!
The grandness of the temple can be realized, only by paying a visit and respect to the vision and labor of the several hands, that made this wonder, stand the test of time, over a millennium, and going strong!
More about Thanjavur, coming up in the following post.
In continuation of the previous post about Chidambaram, let’s travel to the Pichavaram mangrove forest!
Pichavaram is small coastal village, situated to the east of Chidambaram. The huge Kollidam river and the Vellar river pour into the Bay of Bengal here, forming two massive estuaries. Several sand bars are formed between these two estuaries, over which the mangrove trees flourish. The mangrove forest here, is the second largest in the world, with the Sundarbans being the largest.
There are many state and private operated boats, steamer and rowable, that take us for a ride through the mangrove forests, over the shallow waters.
The mangrove trees are quite hard and strong, than they appear to be. They support a variety of life forms within them, forming a major eco system of their own, within the marshland. There are also occasional trees of other variety nestled within these mangrove shrubs.
The boat operators are well versed with the routes, and they maneuver the boat smoothly. The water ways are quite shallow a places, with knee deep water, and deep at other places.
Thus said, Pichavaram is a must visit, for any adventure seeking traveler!
Our next destination, in the pilgrimage of Temple Tales would be Chidambaram. Being quite famous, Chidambaram doesn’t need any specific introduction at all!
The Thillai Nataraja Temple situated here, is one of the holiest shrines in Shaivite tradition. The generic term kovil (meaning temple) refers to this temple, in Shaivite tradition. Such is the importance and reverence attributed to this divine destination!
This temple, where Lord Vishnu resides as Govindaraja, is equally celebrated in the Vaishnavite tradition, with this place also referred to as Thiruchitrakoodam.
Chidambaram is an ancient town, situated on the northern bank of the mighty Kollidam river, which is a tributary of the river Kaveri.
This place is said to have been covered with Thillai (a variety of mangrove) trees, from which the name, Thillai Nataraja is derived.
The Thillai Nataraja Temple complex, is one of the largest temple complex in the world! The main shrine is dedicated to Lord Shiva, in his dancing form, Nataraja. Adjacent to this shrine, is that of Lord Vishnu, as Govindaraja. Goddess Parvathi is present here as Shivakamasundari, with a huge dedicated shrine. There are several other shrines within the temple complex for various other deities, and several mandapams (processional halls) where the several rituals are conducted.
Lord Shiva is worshiped here as the Lord of the Nether, among the Panchabootha (Five Elements of Nature – Earth, Fire, Water, Air, Nether) Shiva Temples. Attributing to this reason, there are vast open spaces in the temple complex.
The sanctum shrines of Nataraja and Govindaraja are constructed in the way of a high rise stage. Hence we are blessed with the vision of the Lordships from a distance. This set up is a unique beauty of this temple.
Speaking about the most important feature of this temple, there is an empty space next to Lord Nataraja in His sanctum. This space is referred to as Chidambara Ragasiyam (Secret of Chidambaram) As mentioned earlier, Shiva is worshiped as the Nether Lord in this shrine, and hence he is represented in this nether form.
Is it the Lord, who is present in every form, in our vision and apart? Or is it none, whom we refer to as God, present in the sanctum of the grandest of shrines? What do we see? What do we unsee? Whom do we see or unsee?………
The Chidambara Ragasiyam is quite elusive, which makes us rise more questions, that ultimately lead us to the answers, even for the questions unasked! No wonder, Chidambaram gets its name from the term Chit-Ambalam (Hall of Consciousness)
Resting over the strong stone pillars that support the equally strong columns, and pondering over the thoughts, take us to a trance, that cannot be described by words!
A few kilometers away from Chidambaram, is the mangrove forest of Pichavaram. This is the place, where the mighty Kollidam river pours into the Bay of Bengal. The mouth of the river is interspersed by several sand bars, with a dense mangrove forest, which is one of the largest mangrove sanctuary in the world. The sojourn at Pichavaram to be continued in the next post.
In continuation of the previous post about Mayiladuthurai, here is the next post on Thiruvilandhur, another famous neighborhood within the town limits of Mayiladuthurai, where the Parimala Ranganathar Temple is situated.
Thiruvilandur, also known as Thiruindhalur, is a Diyva Desam (Temple/Holy Places, glorified in the works of Alwars) Lord Vishnu resides, in the form of Parimala Ranganathar.
Gently resting on the five hooded serpent Adisesha, flanked by Sridevi and Sri Boodevi, worshiped by Lord Brahma, with Surya and Chandra, Kaveri and Ganga, the Lord smiles calmly, within the rectangular sanctum, illuminated by the ghee lamps, besieged in the aroma of fresh Tulasi leaves!
As per the legends, the moon is said to have been cursed to lose his shine, and was relieved of the curse and regained his splendor, by performing penance and worshiping the Lord at Thiruvilandur.
The uniqueness of this temple, is the presence of Kaveri and Ganga, personified as Goddesses, present within the sanctum, worshiping Lord Parimala Ranganathar.
The temple is quite spacious, with several beautifully carved stone pillars. The temple pond, abounded by fishes, is situated right opposite to the temple.
This temple is said to be the Antya or Tail end of the Ranganathar Temples situated along the banks of the river Kaveri, over its course. The Adi or beginning being Ranganatha Temple at Srirangapatna near Mysore, followed by Ranganatha Temple at Shivasamudra, then the humongous Ranganathar Temple at Srirangam, the Sarangapani Temple at Kumbakonam being other four Ranganatha Temples, in order.
The temple has a calm atmosphere, intercepted by the occasional chants of the devotees and recitals of the priests. Several festivals are celebrated in the temple, throughout the year. It is no exaggeration, to mention this little neighborhood as a fragment of Vaikunta on earth!
Continuing from my previous posts, about the trip to Delhi, I start another series of posts – Temple Tales. Right now, i’m based at Mayiladuthurai, a vibrant town in the heart of Tamil Nadu. Mayiladuthurai is a temple town, with many temples, big and small abounding the neighborhood. It is also the base for visiting the various other popular temples, temple-circuit of Tamil Nadu.
Mayiladuthurai, which was earlier known as Mayavaram, Mayuram, is a vibrant town, situated on the banks of the river Kaveri. The place derives its name from Mayuranathar Temple, which is the largest of the many temples in Mayavaram.
Mayuranathar Temple is an ancient one, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Legend has it that, Parvathi in the form of a Peahen, worshiped Shiva. Hence, the Lord gets the name Mayura – Nathar (Peafowl – Lord). Historically it also mentioned that Mayavaram was abounded by peafowls.
Historically, the huge temple complex was built, re-built by the Chozha kings. And currently, it is administered by Dharumapura Adheenam, a Saivite monastic institution. The temple is situated about a kilometer to the south of the river Kaveri.
The temple is surrounded by North Madavilagam, South Madavilagam, Mela Veedhi (West Street) and Keela Veedhi (East Street), on the four sides, on each direction, as indicated by the names. The names of the streets, were found quite captivating. Usually temples have mada veedhis around them, as I had known, and these names were new to me!
Mayiladuthurai is also a bustling trade hub. There are several shops selling a variety of products. Owning to the temple circuit, there is huge inflow of pilgrims, and other tourists to this place, throughout the year.
The tales of this beautiful town, is to be continued, in the next post too.
In a significant judgement, the Supreme Court of the US has recognized the equal status of its LGBT citizens. It’s nice to see people offering their support by various means. There is so much positivity, hope, warmth shown all around in the social media. But how much of it is genuine? Is India ready for such a change? Are Indians willing to accept such a reform wholeheartedly? All I had to say about this were 5 things, as tweets.
Status updates, profile pic changes, etc are good and give a positive feel, but how many actually support LGBT wholeheartedly? (1)
Constitutions, courts can give mandates, but it’s up to the people to overcome prejudices! (2)
Talking about India, when just tweeting about gay things can fetch rude, ‘well-wisher warning’ messages, miles to go ahead! (3)
Anyway, people judge, hate, love, accept according to their capabilities but one leads their own lives…
In continuation of the previous post Travelogue – Delhi, I carry on herewith with my next post, on the trip to Agra.
It was a misty Sunday morning, that we mobilized, to set out over the widespread Yamuna Expressway, enroute to Agra. The path was lined with occasional fields, some abandoned stations, grazing cattles, random buildings, Dhabas, huge electric transmission towers.. the list of interesting sightings are endless. Though these weren’t anything new to be seen, all of them had an inquisitive quality, which seemed as if they wanted to display to the South Indian visitors!
Too obvious to be said, our visit stop was at the Taj Mahal. The crowd to enter the fortified enclosure of the wonder, was quite huge, given the weekend, with about two hours being spent in the serpentine queue. Honestly speaking, I wasn’t that big a fan of the Taj Mahal, and have even commented on how over rated the building is! Well, the marble wonder, proved me wrong at the first live sight I had. The mausoleum stood calm, bathed in the shining rays of the sun. The monument seemed to grow in size, as we proceeded further towards it!
We got to spend some quality time relishing on the beauty in stone. The interior of the mausoleum housed the tombs (or replica) of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz. The mighty Yamuna was smoothly meandering along.
After spending some quality time with the Taj Mahal, we bid adieu to it, and moved to the Agra Fort. It was this, that came as a surprise. The Agra Fort Complex is one severely underrated destination/monument. Built of red stand stone, with interior chambers built of white marble, and also some splendid inlay works, this is yet another monument, matching (or should I say towering) the magnificence of the adjacent Taj Mahal!
The fort complex, was well designed with demarcated quarters for the royals, soldiers, public meetings, and various other Mughalistic occasions. The Mughals seemed to have a specific love towards setting up artificial water formations, that were designed in a quite interesting manner, be it the formations at the fort, or the fountains at Taj Mahal.
Another interesting feature of the Mughal architecture is the extensive usage of marble inlays, be it a fort, or a mausoleum, or a private chamber, or a public gateway!
Few other clicks of the majestic Agra Fort…
The sole day tour to Agra, was worth every minute spent, though it requires several days to explore through the streets of the old city!