Indian ruralscapes : A temple tour inside Tamil Country

Tripoto
29th Sep 2018
Photo of Indian ruralscapes : A temple tour inside Tamil Country by Raj Abhishek

Tamil Nadu is well known for all the colorful temples that dot it's landscape from the days of yore. Many powerful dynasties have flourished in it’s folds and have left long lasting impressions that will exist forever if preserved well. We set out to explore only some such gems that could be explored over one weekend; the ones in Trichy and Thanjavur being the prominent ones, but then we visited so many others that dot the countryside !

It’s also of note to know that the land can be best explored during winters alone. Summers can be quite scorching in these parts.

Day 1:

It was a day of a relaxed afternoon drive from Bangalore till Karur where we stopped for the night. Lunch was had at Shree Annapurna, an air-conditioned vegetarian restaurant bang on the highway just before Dharmapuri. It is a decent place to stop by and worthy of recommendation to try a nice south indian thali.

Not much photography this day, except for few sunset shots from atop a bridge over the river Cauvery, just as we were approaching Karur. A small temple near the bridge looked quite well maintained and grabbed my attention; a precursor of grander sights to come !

Day 1

That white gopuram ( entrance gate ) looked freshly painted; a job quite clean !

Photo of Velur, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Finally, after sunset, our temple tour started off with a visit to the famous Magudeswarar Temple at Kodumudi, 25 kms west of Karur. River Cauvery kisses the ghats here, and it was flowing full and serene before us that evening. It was a pleasant sight alright, but I could not click any as it was pretty dark already. We paid our obeisance to Lord Shiva and other shrines which are part of the temple complex, and then drove off towards Karur to end the day. Our stay was booked at Hotel Valluvar for the night. A pretty decent place again for the price on offer, with a nice restaurant ( vegetarian again ) just beside.

Day 2:

We drove towards Trichy and Thanjavur this day, but not before visiting my friend’s village just outside Karur. It sits a bit inside from the highway, but with a decently paved and a quiet pathway leading up to it. The drive was a breeze through the fields literally. We had peacock sounds for company, but we could not find any when we looked out for shooting at least a few.

First of my rural shots were going to come by here.

Day 2

Morning time frolic for these village boys. The river is Amravathi, a tributary of the Cauvery.

Photo of Karur, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Carefree times !

Photo of Karur, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Horn OK Please ( Only Indian readers will be able to relate ) ! They were something to marvel at, and at the same time be wary of !

Photo of Karur, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

On our way back from the village; the corn field and it’s shy owner !

Photo of Karur, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

On our way back from the village, we decided to stop by at the banks of the Amravathi, another river which flows by in these parts before joining Cauvery further ahead. While my friend decided to take a dip, I decided to take my chance with the local fauna. I did spot a few river terns and some other birds who decided to tease me for a while before flying off. I could not get a decent shot.

Off we moved on towards Trichy after getting back on the highway. I had hoped yet again to shoot some peacocks on our way back, but without any luck.

I saw this queer assortment by the riverside when we stopped beside the Cauvery for a break !

Photo of Indian ruralscapes : A temple tour inside Tamil Country by Raj Abhishek

We reached Trichy an hour later, just at the lunch hour. We drove straight towards SriRangam, one of the major highlights of the town. This island is home to the very famous and very magnificent Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple, a sight to behold with your own eyes if you ever arrive here. According to the temple website, it is the largest functioning Hindu Temple in the world, and so I would leave it to you to draw your imaginations about the same. Built by the Cholas, then ransacked and looted by the Delhi and Bahmani sultanates, and then fortified and re-established yet again by the VijayNagar empire, the temple stands tall and beautiful as of today.

Lunch was a simple vegetarian fare yet again; a local thali at the Hotel Sri Hayagriva, very close to the temple. It’s restaurant ‘Sri Balaji Bhavan’ is worthy of recommendation, and so is it’s stay. I did check out the rooms which looked neat and clean enough, and which I may utilize on my next visit.

A good two and a half hours were spent at the temple thereafter, at first waiting for a peek of the deity, and then circumambulating the entire complex to picture it’s various marvels. This time, however, I had not taken my camera inside as we were under the impression that they were not allowed. We were mistaken though, and missed capturing gorgeous views of the temple gopurams from atop one of it’s terraces where visitors can pay a fee and enter. There are said to be as many as 21 of such gopurams in that mammoth complex. It was a very colorful view alright with the setting sun setting them aglow in their colors. I knew I had to make another visit to capture it all through my cam.

Trichy awaits yet again, but summer stops me at the moment, as it is said to be one of the hottest places in Tamil Nadu.

We got out of the temple a little before sunset, and headed straight towards Thanjavur. On our way, we stopped for a while on the bridge connecting SriRangam with Trichy, and clicked a few shots during sunset; Once again the river Cauvery to enthrall us.

The view, what with the sun playing hide and seek with us all the while !

Photo of Trichy, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Trichy skyline from the bridge, sometime after the sun had set. A church spire can be see on the left. I guess it’s that famous ‘Our Lady of Lourdes’ church , an imposing edifice and a tourist attraction in it’s own right !

Photo of Trichy, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Rest of the evening was pretty uneventful till we landed in Thanjavur after an hour’s drive. I must say I was impressed by the way the city has been kept as soon as I entered it’s main thoroughfare. Sufficiently wide and space still left in front of buildings/shops on both sides, it’s an ideal representation of how our cities and roads need to be designed.

This very main thoroughfare then took us to another of the gems of these lands; One of the 3 great living Chola temples of this day, The Temple of Lord Brihadishwara ( The big lord, as Shiva is known here ). We managed to enter it’s hallowed precincts just as it was getting ready to close for the day. We joined the steady stream of devotees still trickling in, and were again conjoined in the excitement and awe that ran through our veins just as we set food inside the temple complex and saw the Nandi mandapam ( hall ) in front of us. Huge and magnificent is how I would describe the monolithic Nandi statue that sits inside it, facing forever in veneration the lord himself. It is one of the largest in the country, and so is this temple complex, with the main tower ( vimana ) towering 16 storeys high.

We were witness to the closing ceremonies of the temple when the God was taken out from his sanctum sanctorum and led out in procession to his sleeping chamber nearby. It is a ceremony heaped in frenzied devotion, and is something that can be best experienced personally. It was quite dark already, and I was so enamored with the whole flow of proceedings around me, that I willfully laid to rest any thoughts of taking out my camera. But then we were to return the next day well in time to capture at least some of the beauties that our cams could picture. Rest assured that none of the pictures would make justice to the grandeur and scale of this place of worship; nothing less than a visit yourself.

Dinner accomplished at a basic local eatery in the market somewhere between the temple and our place of stay, we laid ourselves to rest for the day at the decently reviewed Naadi Home-stay. This place has a sufficiently big parking, an affable service staff, and clean rooms. The only lacuna being lack of homely food and that this place is a bit inside from the main road, so it may not be convenient if you need to depend on public transport. It is a peaceful residential neighborhood though. The food service needs to be confirmed if one is particular about the same. Our timings were such that we had our food outside most of the time, but then the service guy went out even for a cup of tea that I asked for. Even reviews on TripAdvisor say the same.

Day 3:

The next morning was one of visiting the Shiva Temple and the ghats at Thiruvaiyaru, a small town just outside Thanjavur; an half hr drive from our home-stay. We had learnt about beautiful views at this place while inquiring at the Big Temple last night, and we were not to be disappointed. We spent the whole first half of this day in it’s environs.

Day 3

The resplendent mother Cauvery, flowing up to it’s brim and nurturing us all in it’s wake ! From atop a bridge leading in to Thiruvaiyaru.

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Old buildings and the ghats leading up to them, aglow in the morning sun. A closer view from the bridge.

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Inside an erstwhile Chola palace just as one crosses the bridge.

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

An old watchtower perhaps, from when it was still possible to see afar from such heights. Old worship stones lie below a tree nearby; a tree that may have been witness to events past.

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Golden thrones replaced now by plastic chairs; chairs that still await their king perhaps !

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

And so does this little puppy; confused as to why it is where it is !

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

The ruins of the palace were now left behind even as we moved to more habitable environs; the Shiva temple up ahead.

Just as I entered inside from the temple gates, I saw this person in a nice pose at the steps of this small shrine.

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

The kalyani ( pond ) inside the temple, with that brightly colored mandapam. I wonder how one reaches there in the first place without the water being drained out.

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Even the Gods would beckon man-made machines at times; so it seems ! Just as the tractor was about to enter inside.

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

We were wandering around when we saw this nice setting of the nandi sitting atop the temple’s wall and gazing at the moon yonder ! The sight brought peace to our hearts immediately and we sat down to take rest and savor the sight more, through our eyes and also through our cams !

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Shiva Shiva !

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

One of those ornate gopurams !

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

A closer look would reveal such sculptures. Characters from stories long forgotten ?

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

We started our circumnavigation yet again, when we came across this artist renovating one of the sculptures.

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Once inside the temple’s main complex. Before they caught up with me and told me that clicking is not allowed !

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Having our fill after visiting the Lord and clicking up all that the temple had on offer, and of course after playing witness to some of the ceremonies going on inside, we left this abode of the Gods and started driving back to our room. No sooner had we gone a little ahead that we saw the ghats again, and decided to click a bit more. There was some action to be had !

This is how some boys take their mid-day bath !

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Get Set Go, while I sit by watching you !

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Having fun is but so routine !

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

We spent around half an hour at the ghats chatting up with these folks and clicking them, and this is when they told us that we could drive all the way opposite to the ghats and click them head-on as well. We decided to make the best use of this tip, and were not disappointed at the outcome !

A beautiful sight alright !

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

A closer look would reveal such architecture !

Photo of Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Another half an hour and we were done here. We drove back towards Thanjavur now, seeking to find food. Another vegetarian thali at a local eatery later, it was time to ward off the mid-day heat by tucking in to more comfortable quarters; our rooms. Sleep was rather peaceful !

Closer to sunset, we came back to the Big Temple yet again to picture all that we could not do last night. Too much crowd irked me for a bit, but then it was a long weekend and crowd was expected. I clicked on for a bit nevertheless.

The ornate entrance gateway !

Photo of Brihadeeswara Temple, Membalam Road, Balaganapathy Nagar, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

The grandeur of the main temple !

Photo of Brihadeeswara Temple, Membalam Road, Balaganapathy Nagar, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

The scale !

Photo of Brihadeeswara Temple, Membalam Road, Balaganapathy Nagar, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Too many people and absence of straight light on the temple frontage did not allow me to shoot much, and I knew I had to come again. Determined with that resolve, we paid our respects to the Lord for the last time this time, savored the sights of some of the beautifully designed Kanchipuram dolls in the temple’s premises ( I’d certainly buy some of them when I visit next ), and then drove off for our night stay at Kumbakonam, another of the famous temple towns of these regions.

On the way, we visited Lord Shiva again at the Kailasanathar temple at Thingalur, a decent drive through interior village roads after sunset. Nothing to complain about, but to savor really. We also stopped by to pay our obeisance to Lord Murugan at Swamimalai ( a.k.a. Lord Karthikeya, son of Parvati and Shiva, and brother of Ganesha ), just as he was about to go to his sleeping chambers. It was fun running up the steep steps of the temple ( there were many ), and we made it just in time to see the lord before he would be laid to rest for the day.

Dinner was a basic affair once again at one of the messes nearby. We were pretty close to Kumbakonam by now, and it was getting late alright. We looked up for a hotel as soon as as we entered the city, and decided to zero in on the decently reviewed SivaMurugan Hotel, near the new bus stand. Breakfast was complimentary at the pure vegetarian restaurant there, much to our delight :-) !

Day 4:

Kumbakonam is called the temple town, a fact pretty evident as I looked out from the hotel terrace next morning. Gopurams were conspicuous all around; some near, some afar. It was a pity then that we were to leave Kumbakonam without visiting any of it’s gems. But then this town demands a separate trip of it’s own, of at least a few days to do justice to what it has on offer.

This was the last day of our trip, and we had decided to get back to city life after visiting another landmark of these regions, another of the great living Chola temples, the one and only one matching the Brihadeeshvara temple in it’s scale and architecture; the Shiva temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram.

But it wasn’t going to be just another uneventful drive to that town. We were to click some rural life on our way, and one other temple was in the offing too. Just as we had started our drive towards the Thirunageswaram Naganathar temple, did we encounter some activity in one of the fields that we were passing by. My mate asked me to stop, and so we did !

Day 4

The farmer amidst his fields !

Photo of Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

A pose !

Photo of Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

and then another for my portrait lens; old but going strong as ever, a result of hard labor in the fields.

Photo of Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Next of my shots were to come to by at Tirunageswaram, a Shiva temple again but quite famous for the shrine of Lord Rahu as well. Clouds had started gathering even as we arrived here, with warnings of rains that were so imminent.

That colorful gopuram with a cloudy backdrop !

Photo of Thirunageshwaram naganathan Swamy Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

When a sudden and quick downpour ended, these selfie seekers were not far behind in utilizing the temporary cascade !

Photo of Thirunageshwaram naganathan Swamy Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Inside the temple, when we found this beautiful spot from where to picture people coming in and leaving !

Photo of Thirunageshwaram naganathan Swamy Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

We left the temple amidst a heavy downpour, stopped by for lunch soon after, and then stopped again for clicking up some beautiful sights that revealed themselves when the downpour ceased for a bit.

These beautiful green fields looked so lush after the rains.

Photo of Indian ruralscapes : A temple tour inside Tamil Country by Raj Abhishek

Paddy ready to be sown.

Photo of Indian ruralscapes : A temple tour inside Tamil Country by Raj Abhishek

The landlord’s daughter.

Photo of Indian ruralscapes : A temple tour inside Tamil Country by Raj Abhishek

and when she posed for us for a while !

Photo of Indian ruralscapes : A temple tour inside Tamil Country by Raj Abhishek

After clicking them for a bit, we bid goodbyes to those folks in the fields, and drove off ( there was this old woman who quite disapproved of us clicking the little girl I suppose, and asked us to get lost. We obliged ! ) . We moved ahead for a bit, crossed the Kollidam river for the first time, and clicked up a few fishermen trying to catch their catch of the day ! Technically, this river is a dis-tributary of the Cauvery and splits up from it at the island of Srirangam that we had visited earlier.

Photo of Anaikarai Dam, Kollidam North., NH 45C, Ulkottai South, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

All the above clicks later, we finally arrived at the erstwhile capital of the Cholas, the city that they reigned from for almost 250 years. It must have been a prosperous place alright, but sadly, nothing remains of the city as of today. Multiple invasions took their toll on this once magnificent town, and it is still a mystery why only the Shiva temple was left standing, and all else destroyed. Perhaps it’s grandeur was such even during those days ?? No one knows !

It was this temple that was to host our final visit in these lands.

Even as one sets foot in it’s holy precincts !

Photo of Gangai Konda Cholapuram Shiva Temple, Gangai Konda Cholapuram, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

The sculptures and their poses ( mudras, as per local parlance I believe ).

Photo of Gangai Konda Cholapuram Shiva Temple, Gangai Konda Cholapuram, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

Selfie seekers galore everywhere these days !

Photo of Gangai Konda Cholapuram Shiva Temple, Gangai Konda Cholapuram, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

A glimpse of the Lord is but good enough for many !

Photo of Gangai Konda Cholapuram Shiva Temple, Gangai Konda Cholapuram, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

I’d like to know the story behind this one.

Photo of Gangai Konda Cholapuram Shiva Temple, Gangai Konda Cholapuram, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

We spent a good half an hour waiting for the temple gates to open up and clicking away in the process. Now, it was time to leave and get back on our journey back to Bangalore. We paid our last respects to the Lord and took one final shot before driving off, from just outside the temple gates.

A cloudy evening this.

Photo of Gangai Konda Cholapuram Shiva Temple, Gangai Konda Cholapuram, Tamil Nadu, India by Raj Abhishek

It was a relaxed and a comfortable ride thereafter, what with good roads to support us all the while. A rich colorful sunset and few tea stops later, we stopped for dinner at a well known eatery in Salem; The Selvi Mess ( main branch at ArthaNari Nagar ). It’s quite well known for it’s non-vegetarian fare, and seemed like a decent option to end the trip. We were not disappointed !

An awesome dinner and another 3 hrs drive later, we were back in Bangalore at a bit of a late hour ( around 12:30 a.m. ). Good for us because there wasn’t much crowd at the tolls we crossed; otherwise long weekend traffic is horrendous ( might be an exaggeration, but it does get really bad ! ).

My bed seemed so inviting at the end of it all !

So long again before my next write-up !

Stay and food options of Note:

1. Stay at Karur: Hotel Valluvar ( http://hotelvalluvar.in/ ). Pretty clean and decently reviewed, with a vegetarian restaurant just on the side.

2. Lunch at Trichy: Sri Balaji Bhavan at Hotel Sri Hayagriva ( http://www.hotelsrihayagriva.com/ ). Very close to the temple and recommended for stay as well.

3. Stay at Thanjavur: Naadi Homestay. A sister concern of Naadi Nest ( http://naadinest.com/ ), so you can go there as well if it suits you. Both have good reviews. Naadi Nest is actually at a better location, but without attached toilets ( or may be none were available when we inquired; reason why we chose the other ).

4. Stay at Kumbakonam: Hotel SivaMurugan; comfortable and with a decent vegetarian restaurant as well ( http://www.sivamurugan.in/ ).

5. Selvi Mess, Arthanari Nagar, Salem: Highly recommended for non-vegetarian food. ( http://selvimess.com/ ).

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