Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu

16th Apr 2018
Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria

Tamilnadu, east southern state of India. I was planning to visit south India for a very long time and Tamilnadu fulfilled my wish.

Best time in Tamilnadu is from October to February when the atmosphere is pleasant and the city is full of tourists, which is exactly why you shouldn’t visit Tamilnadu at that time.

Humans can ruin your trip, but in the month of April when the heat is at its peak, you should visit Tamilnadu. Heat can filter tourist from the places you are going to visit and trust me, this feels really awesome (no hard feelings against humans)

So I boarded my flight on 16th April to Chennai. In the flight, I met Mr Ramanuj kutty, the first friend on this trip. He is from Chennai and works for an MNC company in Delhi.

I shared my itinerary with him and he advised me to make a few changes in it which I did. After all, who can advise you on exploring a city better than a local? He asked me to add Chengalpattu, an abandoned village in Tamilnadu instead of roaming around in Chennai.

Day 1

I landed in Chennai at 9:30, it was drizzling there. Chennai is the same as Delhi but with different language. Same chaos, auto drivers running after you, hawkers on the roadside, etc.

I decided to cover Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh on the first day of my trip. So I boarded the metro from Airport to CMBT(Bus terminal) and from there boarded the first bus which was moving towards Tirupati.

I reached Tirupati in 4hrs, where I met Hemanth, a tall dark south In dark green shirt and a white Dhotti who did master in public health from the Hyderabad university and practising in a hospital and some other organization in Tirupati.

We reached bus terminal and boarded Temple Sanstha Bus which charged us the 60 INR each for that 40-minute long journey to Sri Venkateswara temple, TIRUMALA.

Tirumala, Tamilnadu

Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria

This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is known as the richest temple in the world. The temple parisar were really big, the biggest kitchen, lawn, an artificial lake, etc. The kitchen serves the best and the large ladoos as Prashad.

The making of some 300,000 laddus and other prasad types a day at the Tirupati Balaji Temple generates employment for hundreds of people.

The main temple was in the middle of the Parisar, with long queues of devotees. And the moment I saw the statue, trust me it was worth to take 5hr bus journey and 2hr waiting in the queue to see him. That black statue just made was attracting my all focus I just couldn't see anything around me when I was looking at it.

So I reached back to Tirupati at 10:20 PM and found out that buses are not in operation from 10 pm to 5 am. I decided to stay at the bus stop for the whole in every it was an experience to sleep at a bus stop, that People from cities never encounters. So I boarded the 1st bus in the morning from Tirupati to reach Chennai and then another to reach Chengalpattu and I was in there at 11 am.

Pro tip:

1. Take the Chennai metro from the airport to travel around. It is well connected throughout the city.

2. Take government bus from CMBT for Tirupati which runs in every 20 minutes.

3. You should book darshan tickets and Prashad tickets in advance(Online)

4. Spend a night at the bus stop, at least once in a lifetime.

Day 2

I reached CLTRI village, an abandoned village, because of leprosy patients. But when I entered the village all I saw is greenery, cleanness, and smiling faces.

CLTRI, Chengalpattu TN

Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria

CLTRI, Chengalpattu TN

Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria

Central Leprosy Teaching and Research Institute stands as an elegant testimony to the inexorable fight against leprosy. I met Dr Sushrut Kaomoji, a dermatologist from Belgam, Mr.Kutty(plane friend) referred his name. He arranged my accommodation there and I volunteered for leprosy people just for a day.

The village was amazing. Sushrut told me that this started as “Lady Willington” leprosy sanatorium under contribution from the church of Scotland Mission in 1924 and was taken over first by the Govt. of Madras in 1948 and then by the Government of India in 1955.

I spent my day at scientist hostel and shared my dinner table with the team & the director of CLTRI Dr.M.K.Showkath Ali. It was his last day in the organisation so had a good gathering of doctors and good food.

Protip :

1. Always try to ask for south Indian food instead of north Indian, they will love it.

2. Try to explore new undiscovered places(Chengalpattu) instead of the popular city(Chennai) only. Drop your phones or google references.

Day 3

Next day I woke up in scientist hostel, repacked my stuff and bid a warm adieu to patients & doctors, especially Dr Sushrut Kamoji.

Chengalpattu, Tamilnadu

Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria

I decided to go to Mahabalipuram this day, for that I boarded an auto and Mr Shyama, the auto driver, dropped me at Chengalpattu bus stop. From there I boarded 516 Cross to Mahabalipuram.

In that same bus, I met Mr.Leo Krishnamurthy who was a History teacher in Chengalpattu senior secondary school. He guided me to “a must visit” places in Mahabalipuram. Something that I was fortunate to encounter with the people I met on my way was, their selflessness to cooperate. Mr Leo is a kind fellow offered me with the availability of a guide (his cousin precisely) and explained everything that we crossed in between that 40min ride. The gestures were kind.

I reached Mahabalipuram bus stop, last stop of 516 Cross. From there I took the Beach road and reached shore temple. It named as shore because it's located at the shore of the bay of Bengal. The temple was surrounded by green lawns and 108 Nandi(the abode of Lord Shiva). This has a beautiful history, the temple is right next to the Indian ocean.

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram TN

Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria


There are few more places to see/visit like,

The beach: where you will find the minimum tourist and clear sea.

The lighthouse: From where you can have a bird view of Mahabalipuram and the blue sea.

Panch Ratha: It is an example of monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture.

Krishna butterball: Do a google, you will be amazed.

Mahabalipuram, Tamilnadu

Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria

After roaming around in street in Mahabalipuram and lunch at Mallai I started looking for bus stop from where I could board a bus to Puducherry. I asked an Anna driving white activa, to drop me at the bus stop and as I expected, he didn't refuse.

After waiting for 12-14 min. I boarded the bus to Puducherry. In this bus, I met Neyaz, a 4th year CA student who studies in Chennai and belongs to Chidambaram, TN. He was going back to his home for a vacation after his exams. He shared his love story and I shared my travelling story. When I told him that am going to Puducherry, he suggested me to go to Auroville too. Auroville is just 15-20 km before Puducherry. He suggested me a good beach to visit and a place to eat. I asked him if he would like to accompany me in Auroville, to which he surprisingly agreed! we deboarded at Auroville bus stop.

He took me through some narrow streets, every house there were built with red bricks with a "Tulsi" plant in the garden. Crossing all those strips we reached a huge sea and a beautiful beach.

The Beach, Auroville TN

Photo of Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India by Rahul Rewaria

The beach he mentioned had no tourists but a few locals. It was literally a No human beach (hence a soft corner!). I found a perfect place where I could click some picture without someone posing in the background. There I met Hari, fisherman he was clear his nets. There were some crabs, fish, plastic bottles and a dead starfish stuck in the net. I clicked him too. So we spent some time at Auroville beach and had lunch at "Mritunjay bhojansthana". After that, we reached Puducherry in the next 25-30 min by bus.

We hired a scooty and took a ride around Pondicherry. Puducherry also know as New town in Tamil (புதுச்சேரி), It was developed by French people and was a biggest French colony in India. There is a strong French influence in the city, especially in the old quarters. And it is clearly visible in the city.

I supposed to board the train from Villupuram, which was 12-16 min away from Puducherry bus stop. I shared my train details with neyaz and he told me that train has a halt in Chidambaram(his hometown) too and I can board the train from there.This time I agreed to accompany him till his hometown.

We reached Chidambaram at 10-10:15 PM and neyaz took his way to his home with good luck wishes for my trip and I was all alone for one more time. My train supposed to be at Chidambaram railway station at 12:20, so I decided to have a detour here. I heard of this temple in Chidambaram named Natraja Temple which is dedicated to the lord Shiva and is famous temple in india, as it known as the origin of Nritya(dance) especially Bharatanatyam. An interesting fact is this is situated on the magnetic line of the earth.

Natraja Temple, Chidambram TN

Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria

This temple also had 4 Dwar (4 Gates), I entered from the east gate. The temple huge, the corridors were long and the the art was beyond my words. The vibes there were different, not to be explained in words. Rationally, it may be because of that magnetic line or just a state of mind. The architecture of that temple was beyond of what I or you would have ever seen in the whole north India. This temple was never on my itinerary and I am thankful to Neyaz for suggesting it to me in the bus and witness the beauty there.

Note: Add this temple in your itinerary.

When I came out, the time it was 11:00 and streets were empty already, which I didn’t expect. My train was scheduled at 12:20 and I had no clue about the roads. With 2% battery in my phone, I called Neyaz to guide me how to reach railway station from the east gate of the temple. The gentleman said “Don’t worry am coming to pick you up”, this made me realize that humans are not that bad and south Indians do fall in this category for sure!

So my phone turned off and I was standing in front of the east gate of the temple. I gave an ultimatum to myself that if Neyaz doesn’t show up in 20min, I will move towards the station through local’s help as I was supposed to reach the station before the train arrives. But Neyaz showed up at 17th min with his blue platina bike and the first thing he asked was “ You had dinner? ”, he took me to the best restaurant in Chidambaram, New Moorthy cafe. we had aaloo gobhi there, and I never had that tasty aaloo ghobhi in my life. From there he dropped me to the railway station.

Pro tip:

1. One ticket is enough to visit all the tourist place in Mahabalipuram. (INR 30)

2. Ask locals about places to visit instead of the internet.

Day 4

Next day I woke up in the train which was running towards Rameshwaram, that train showed me some magnificent views. Blue train with sky blue seat covers Inside and Green Palm trees with clear blue sky outside, perfect day start. People in train were talking about Pamban bridge which is just before Rameshwaram station, I had no clue all the of them are excited just for a bridge.

The bridge came with a moment I have never ever wondered of; in my entire life! “ Oh my god”, “How I can be so lucky to see this”, “Is this real”, “How something can look like this" were a few statements that popped out of my mouth the moment I saw it. Blue never ending sea was just few meter away from my foot. I just can’t explain what my eyes witnessed, although I clicked a number of photographs. The scintillating combination of colors soothing my mind, taking away all the fatigue of this trip! Heavens know what I felt. I have visited more than 16-17 states but trust me I never encountered anything like this. I can fly back to Tamilnadu, just to see this bridge.

Pamban Bridge, Tamilnadu

Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria

The train was on that bridge for 7 minutes there and so did my eyes asking my mind to stay here, to live here, to stop the rushing hours here and here only! I would tag this as the Second Best Gem of my trip!

After which I reached Rameshwaram and I decided freshen up at station only instead of booking a hotel. So I went to AC waiting room where I met Ramnath, the room in-charge who charged me 20INR for an hour. I got ready and reached in front of the west gate of the Ramanathaswamy Temple, All I could see was rush of devotees and Police who were managing them. I submitted my bag, shoes, electronics at cloak room and wore my Dhoti , it’s a traditional dress code for a male there.

In the temple, I saw the floor was all wet and everyone was drenched, wearing a green-purple paper band on wrist. I tried to find someone who can speak my language and I met Mr. Anil and his teen aged son Lakshya from Chhattisgarh. They have a Plastic molding manufacturing unit in Chattisgarh. They were here for the third time.

On asking them about what It was all about, I got to know that there are 22 holy wells (२२ पवित्र कुंड) in the temple area each dedicated to a God. For that, I would have to buy that band. Lakshya helped me in getting one and I joined them for “22 kund snanam” (22 baths) and Mr Loi, the temple staff guided us to each temple.

We started our ritual स्नान(bath), First was Mahalakshmi, followed by Gayatri, Savitri, Saraswathi, Gavya, Gavyaksha, Nala, Neela, Sethumadhava, Gandhamadhava, Brahmahatya Vimochana, Shanku, Surya, Chandra, Chakra, Shiva, Sarva, Satyamrita, Gaya, Ganga, Yamuna and finally Kodi. All of them were deep well and each and every water has different texture and different taste, I have no clue how 22 wells at same place can have different characteristics. All I can say for that snanam is that it is a must do. There are no words to express the inner peace I got when Pandits gave me 22 showers from 22 different wells at different spots in the temple. This was the best thing of this journey for me, the best gem. A completely different vibe that was beyond spirituality and everything.

Go by your self and take the २२ पवित्र कुंड स्नान.

After the temple, I came out and got ready for roads again.

Dhanoshkodi, it was on my list from the very first day. So I boarded bus number “3” from the bus stop nearby and reached Dhanoshkodi in 45 mins. The place from where Lord Ram started his journey to the Lanka, the place from where you can see Sri Lanka’s light after 7:00 PM, place where you encounter two seas (Bay of Bengal on the left and Indian ocean on right ). It was just an amazing, eye whelming view when you see the sea. Who wouldn't be exited and amazed to see two different seas at the same time.

I met Mukunt, a software engineer in Bangalore who was in Tamilnadu for some yoga event and Rameshwaram darshan. I roamed around in Dhanushkodi with him. Near to that, there is Dhanushkodi village which got trashed in 1964 tsunami and was never rebuilt. That abandoned village is another beauty to see in Tamilnadu.

I came back to Rameshwar in evening had dinner, visited the temple for one more time and then booked a room for an overnight stay.

Day 5

I woke up at 4 in the morning because I got to know you should do समुद्र स्नान (Sea bath) in morning in Rameshwaram. So I went to take that bath, It was really dark at 4Am but still there were alot of pilgrims for the Sea Bath. After that I went to the temple for one more time and man it was more beautiful. When there were almost no pilgrims and corridors were just empty for you. Big Huge corridors where you feel like a tiny ant who can just admire the art around it. Outstanding.!!

After that, I ran for the railway station and bought rail ticket for Madurai. I boarded the first train at 5:25 (Train - 56724) in the morning and I again encounter this pamban bridge. For one more time, The dawn created another magnificent view. (Just Look at the photographs)

Pamban Bridge, Tamilnadu

Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria

Pro tip:

1. Keep dhoti/sari with you, as modern dresses are not allowed in the temple.

2. Buy tickets from the counter next to the west gate. 25₹ each.

3. There is a bus stop near temple from where you can board a bus to Dhanushkodi in every 20 min.

4. It’s not easy to get a room for a single traveller in Rameshwaram, keep the adhaar card with you.

I reached Madurai at 9:20, again I went for AC waiting room and got refreshed there.

After that, I went to the Meenakshi temple, most famous temple of lord Parvati. This temple was copy of Rameshwaram temple but it was all white in the color and had a huge lake in between. I stored my stuff in clock rooms and wore dhoti for one more time. In Minakshi temple, most of the workers were female.

Meenakshi Temple, Madurai TN

Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria

When I entered in this one, I felt Tamilnadu amazed me for one time. Big corridors, Mishtan, people and everything else was just amazing. There are shops within the temple where you can have a bite of Mishthan/Prashad. (should try Appam)

After that, I visited Thirumalai Nayak Mahal palace, a big yellow and red Mahal. It was built by kind of Madurai, Thirumalai Nayak in 1636AD. They have entry fee of 10INR to maintain the building.

After roaming arround in Madurai's streets I boarded the train for Kodaikanal, one of the best hill station in Tamilnadu. I stayed there in green paradise until midnight and boarded the train for Chengalpattu.

Day 6

I reached Chengalpattu in morning and switched train for Kanchipuram district from there. Kanchipuram, place which is famous for its marvellous sarees. I deboarded at station and every lady were in stunning sarees, they all were dressed like there is an occasion. I actually visited a famous saree store AS Babu Shah. Big Huge shop, you need to remove your footwears outside before you enter in the shop, Cameras are not allowed and you can have a staff who can talk in your language to take care of you properly. They had staff who can talk English, Malyali, Hindi, Kannad, Tamil or any other language to assist you. According to them Celebrities buy there Kanchipuram from here only.

AS Babu Shah, Kanchipuram TN

Photo of Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, India by Rahul Rewaria

I also visited Kammakshi Amma temple in Kanchipurram, and again it was amazing as all other Temple I visited on this trip.

After that, I reached Chennai in late evening, a place I supposed to be on the very first day but the destiny had another Itinerary. I reached Chennai, Chennai is a city where you see greenery, beaches and people wearing yellow Dhoni t-shirts. Whistle-Podu!!

I booked my lodge right next to Chinnaswamy stadium and it was during IPL, hence more Dhoni. I loved the food, beach and specially people. I visited Marina beach that night and came back to my room to take rest.

Day 7

I woke up and roam around in the city and explored places like Broken bridge, Elliott beach, San Thom Cathedral Basilica, Burma bazar, etc.

It was all good and I enjoyed this Chennai too. My flight was at 7 in the evening and I landed in Delhi at 10:05.

And within 5 min. I started missing Tamilnadu.

I was thinking about a south India trip but I never thought that it could be this. Beyond every limit. The spirituality of this place made few very beautiful mark on and in me.

In this trip

I visited 2 states and a UT.

Made 14 new friends, few of them altered my itinerary and I loved it.

Clicked 1200 photographs with my 3 cameras.

And reached home with an ocean of good memories.

Tamilnadu can take you to different axis of life. And you will love it the moment you land there.

Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria
Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria
Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria
Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria
Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria
Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria
Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria
Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria
Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria
Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria

Chennai, Tamilnadu

Photo of Backpacking to the Unexplored Tamilnadu by Rahul Rewaria
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