India Trip Day 2

August 3rd, 2009 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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Read the caveats here before proceeding.

The following are events that took place on 5th July 2009 and covers Chennai-Kanchipuram-Vellore-Thiruvanamalai route.

Day 2. Left the guest house at  7.40 am.


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First trip was to Aalamara Iyarkai Vinayagar Temple, located in Triplicane, Chennai. Kumaravel mentioned that tours starts off with a prayer at temples such as this. Its a very small temple, more like a shrine. This temple has a Vinayagar shaped tree trunk/stone. It was established in 1968. Currently, the new state government complex is being built next to the temple. In front of the temple, there’s a building in which the late MGR’s body was kept shortly after he passed away (so said the driver). The road to the temple is quite small and narrow.

We started the journey towards our first destination, Kanchipuram, leaving Chennai at about 8.45am. Along the way, we got to see Chennai on a Sunday morning. This part of Chennai was quite a dirty place. Dusty due to the soil/land and construction work. There were road and building constructions in many places. Road detours, and really outrageous way of during. I think I won’t even last for 10 minutes on the roads in Tamil Nadu! The scenes started to change gradually, from concrete to more greenery and open areas as we travelled further from the city. We took breakfast at a Highway Motel. I ate 3 chapatis while Then took thosai and idli. Passed Sriperumbudur Toll Plaza, paying Rs30. Arrived in Kanchipuram at nearly 11am. We had a local guide, Iyengar guy named Ragu who serves in the Varada Raja Perumal Temple. He took us to Ekambeswarar Temple (one of the pancha bootha Sivan temple). There’s a mango tree in the temple compound which is an offshoot of a 3500 years old mango tree which was destroyed 8 years ago. The temple charged Rs50 for bringing camera, but we can’t take photos in the inner compound.

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My first grouse started here – many places disallow cameras, and some even disallow mobile phones (which meant it was a problem finding our driver again at times). My second grouse is the priests who asks for money for various reasons, but then saying they are “not compelling”. I realised later that this is common in many temples around Tamil Nadu. I find it irritating and disrupting our concentration. But what to do. If I knew all the mantras, I’ll just take over and conduct prayers myself! 🙂

Anyway, a bit on the pancha bootha thing – Sri Ekambeswarar is a lingam made out of earth (one of the five – pancha – elements). Thus there’s no abishegam done on the main deity. Instead, abishegam is done on another lingam which has 1008 tiny lingams carved on it. The temple compound has many, many lingams all around.

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Next stop – Kanchi Kamachi Amman temple. We rushed to the temple because it was nearly 12.30pm, time for temples to close (Temples in Southern India usually close between 1 and 4pm, so do plan properly). Managed to reach in time, and due to our guide’s connection, we managed to get in front of the queue. I then realised that this is also normal in many temples there. You either pay special fees to get in front faster or you have contact with the temple staff/management. Just had a glimpse of Kamachi Amman, and the golden gopuram before being ushered out. There were so many people waiting. It was a tiring start to our journey, and still got 25 more days to go!

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Since it was already 1pm, all the temples will be closed, so we took a trip to a silk saree weaving place. Kanchipuram is famous for two things – temple and sarees. We saw how the sarees are made. It takes up to 20 days to make a set of three sarees using the traditional hand-powered tools. Then then took some time to purchase a saree. We were famished, and headed for lunch at Saravana Bhavan. The chapati there was thin and not so filling. After that, we headed to Varada Raja Perumal Temple, the place where our guide works. According to him, the main deity took form about 3000 years ago, and the temple was built 2000 years ago. As like other old temples, this temple was expanded by different rulers in different eras. The deity in this temple is submerged in the water tank (teppakulam). The Perumal is 32ft tall while the pool is 46ft deep. Every 40 years, the water in the pool is drained and the prayers are conducted. Next session is expected to be on 2nd July 2019. A replica of the deity is kept in the main sanctum, measuring 11ft tall. The reason the deity is submerged is because it was partially damaged long time ago. In order to preserve its power, a deity must be kept in water or rice. Another unique thing about this temple is that the sanctum is accessed by climbing stairs, meaning its on higher ground. There’s also a pair of lizards that visitors can touch in order to get blessings and good fortune. One is made of gold and the other silver. The pair are embedded on a ceiling. We took leave from Kanchipuram and Ragu around 4.30pm, and made our way to Vellore.

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Along the way to the famous Golden Temple in Vellore, we spotted a temple on a hill, near a town called Ratnagiri. Made an unscheduled stop here. The temple is Ratnagiri Hill Murugan temple, build in the 1960s. Its on a hill with about 60 stairs to climb. The view from top allows us to view the town.  Left around one hour later.

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Reach the newly built Narayani Golden Temple in Sripuram, Vellore around 7pm. It was getting dark already. In India, daylight starts early around 6am and nightfall is around 7pm.  The Narayani temple was packed due to being a Sunday. We had to leave our handphones and camera with the driver. If you do bring it in, you’ll be asked to deposit it with the temple counter and given a token nmber to collect your things later. There are 3 or 4 checkpoints, so you can forget about bringing in cameras or handphone. They even took my spare camera battery which I was carrying in pocket without realising it. Trying arguing with the temple people but to no avail.

Anyway, we took normal entry and walked the entire star shaped pathway around the main sanctum for about 25 minutes. The place was well lighted at night and feels just like a garden. The crowd was concentrated at the main sanctum. We couldn’t really see much due to the crowd. Anyway, this temple is famous for….its GOLD sanctum. Yes, PURE GOLD! I think 1500 kilo of gold was used.  No photos from me, but have a look at the image search results from Google. Its definitely something worth visiting.  The official website of the temple is here, while some other sites on this temple are here, here, and here. While the Peedam who owns the temples justify the use of such large amount of gold and its expense, I personally feel the money could have been put to better use. The Peedam runs some charity and social projects, so expect counters all over the compound promoting their products and services.

Left Vellore around 9.00pm, after calling our driver from a phone booth (STD as its known there). Remember, no handphone, so make sure you keep some coins. Our halt for the night was Tiruvannamalai, about 70km away. Night driving in India is not advisable unless you have a good driver and high tolerance against dangerous moments. The roads are narrow, sharp bends, obstacles like cows may appear suddenly, and the overtaking by oncoming vehicles may make your stomach churn.

Reached Tiruvannamalai around 11.10pm and went straight to the hotel for a much needed sleep. Day 3 next.

Oh yeah, another thing which we noticed while on the road was that the rivers were dried up in many places. Driver told us that Kavery river is dry due to heat and the closing of dam by Karnataka state government. Things will be better once the rain comes.

Photo of the day:
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Photos from Day 2:

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