Day 1- 9 Sept 2010 – Started from Bangalore

Bangalore to Madurai — 9 Hrs / 460KM – NH7

Road Condition – Excellent

Struck in heavy Bangalore traffic (Common on long weekends due to congestion in Majestic) . At last reached KSRTC bus stop just on time. Our bus was scheduled to start at 10.00 P.M. Bus started bit late but reached Madurai by 7.30A.M. Reached hotel by 8 A.M.


Day 2- 10 Sept 2010 – Spent the day in Madurai

———Little about Madurai ———

Madurai is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Indian peninsula.It is an ancient and prestigious city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, situated on the banks of the River Vaigai in Madurai district.

The city is widely known as the Temple City, and is often also referred to as City of four junctions (Koodal Maanagar), Cultural capital of Tamil Nadu (Kalaachaara thalainagar), City of Jasmine (Malligai Maanagar), Sleepless city (Thoonga Nagaram), Athens of the East and The City of Festivals (Thiruvizha nagaram).It is the third largest (was second largest from its origin till 2001) city in Tamil Nadu.

Madurai was the capital city of ancient Southern civilization. Madurai’s cultural heritage goes back 2,500 years, and the city has been an important commercial center and has conducted trade as far as Rome and Greece since as early as 550 B.C.E.

—–Starting Journey—–

Started around 9.30A.M. visited lots of temples near & around Madurai.

Weather was cloudy through the journey. Roads are in good condition. So enjoyed a lot.

Alagar Temple 

Another Vaishnav temple Alagar Koil,20 km away from the city located in the nearby hills. At the top of the hill is a natural stream from where the water is carried fresh daily by the temple priest for the Lord. Famous for Chittrai Festival(First Tamil month)/9April-May)-Summer Festival. The Lord is considered the brother of Meenakshi (Lordes Paravathi) given in wedding with Sundareshwar (Lord Shiva).

The temple is very old but maintained well.

Alagar Temple

Alagar Temple

Palamudir solai (hill)Vishnu temple

Madhan Gopal Temple

Gandhi Museum  – was closed due to Holiday


Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal

This palace complex was constructed in the Indo-Saracen style by Thirumalai Nayakar in 1636. It is a national monument and is now under the care of the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department.

The original palace complex was four times bigger than the present structure. It was divided into two parts, Swarga-vilasa and Ranga-vilasa. In each of these there are royal residences, theater, shrines, apartments, armory, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and garden. The ceilings are decorated with large paintings showing Shaivite and Vaishnavite themes.

Indo Saracenic Dravidian Architecture

Indo Saracenic Dravidian Architecture

Ceilling – Indo Saracenic Dravidian Architecture

The portico known as Swarga Vilasam is an arcaded octagon wholly constructed of bricks and mortar without the support of a single rafter or girder. The stucco work on its domes and arches is remarkable. The gigantic pillars and structures represent architectural mastery. The courtyard and the dancing hall are central attractions for visitors. There are 248 pillars, each 58 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter. Furniture and utensils used by the kings is on exhibit inside the palace. The palace is equipped to perform “Light and Sound” shows depicting the story of “Silappathikaram”, in both Tamil and English languages. The palace is in Indian films such as Bombay, Iruvar, Guru and Jodi.

Myself Exploring

The Entrance

Indo Saracenic Dravidian Architecture

Mariamman Tank

Once the tank was full of water.That time I can imagine it was pleasure for eye.Now no water. Its became a playground for young stars with lash green field.

—–Break—–

Around 1.30 p.m. we finished morning explore. Now its time for Lunch. Be are of-course very hungry & tired also.

But for people who don’t like South Indian lunch will have hard time to find a place where you can eat.

We took rest till 5.00 p.m.

Its time to start again. We have only one destination – the world famous “Meenakshi Amman Temple”.

—–Starting Journey—–

Meenakshi Amman Temple

Temple opens 4.30 p.m. at evening & you can visit till 8.00 p.m.

We spent almost 3 hours there. Still feel could have spent several hours more.The temple premises is huge and there is every possibility you can be in dilemma where to go & we came from which side.

We finished puja & brought some memento for parents way back home. Now its time to explore the beauty of the temple.

Weather was not great.It was raining constantly. So, I don’t more snaps of the temple.

——Little about Meenakshi Amman Temple ——

 

Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple or Meenakshi Amman Temple

Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple or Meenakshi Amman Temple Tamil: மீனாட்சி அம்மன் கோவில் is an historic Hindu temple located in the holy city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is dedicated to god Shiva – in the form of Sundareswarar or Beautiful Lord– and his consort, Parvati in the form of Meenakshi. The temple forms the heart and lifeline of the 2500 year old city of Madurai. The complex houses 14 magnificent Gopurams or towers including two golden Gopurams for the main deities, that are elaborately sculptured and painted. The temple is a significant symbol for the Tamil people, and has been mentioned since antiquity in Tamil literature, though the present structure is believed to have been built in 1600. The tallest temple tower is 51.9 metres (170 ft) high.

Thousand Pillar hall of Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple was built with the oldest Nellaiappar Temple, Tirunelveli as a model. The Aayiram Kaal Mandapam or Thousand Pillar Hall contains 985 (instead of 1000) carved pillars. It is considered culturally important and is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. The Thousand Pillared Hall was built by Ariyanatha Mudaliar in 1569. He was the Prime Minister and General of Viswanatha Nayak of the first Nayaka of Madurai (1559-1600 A.D.). He was also the founder of Poligar System, the quasi-feudal organization of the country, which was divided into multiple palayams or small provinces and each palayam was ruled by a palayakkarar or a petty chief. At the entrance of the Mandapam, we can still see his statue; the majestic pose of Ariyanatha Mudaliar seated on a beautiful horse-back which flanks one side of the entrance to the temple. The statue is still periodically crowned with garlands by modern worshippers. Each pillar is carved and is a monument of the Dravidian sculpture. There is a Temple Art Museum in the hall where icons, photographs, drawings, and other exhibits of the 1200 years old history are displayed. Just outside this mandapam, towards the west, are the Musical Pillars. Each pillar, when struck, produces a different musical note. The kalyana mandapa, to the south of the pillared hall, is where the marriage of Shiva and Parvati is celebrated every year during the Chithirai Festival in mid-April.

Thousand Pillar Hall

—–Break—– 

Around 8.30p.m. we finished dinner. We need rest. Next way we have to cover huge distance & we need to be ready by 7.30 a.m.

 

Day 3- 11 Sept 2010 – Traveled from Madurai to Rameswaram – Explored Rameswaram – Traveled from Rameswaram to Kanyakumari

 

Madurai to Rameswaram — 4 Hrs / 177 KM – We followed some diversion. So took more time.

Rameshwaram to KanyRameswaramakumari — 6Hrs 30 Mins / 330 KM

Road Condition – Excellent

—–Starting Journey—–

We woke up early & was prepared by 7.30 a.m.We started exactly at 7.30 a.m. skipped breakfast.In between we had some food from our old stock. Due to some local tension we had to follow diversion. That diverted road was not that great & increased our traveling time by 30 to 45 minutes.

During the whole journey our beloved driver Muthu helped us (entertained us) with his “thora thora Hindi”.


Pamban Bridge

Arround 11.00 a.m. we passed Pamban Bridge. Its a engineering marvel. You can have a scenic beauty from the bridge. Water under the bridge is blue in color.

The Pamban Bridge (Tamil: பாம்பன் பாலம்) on the Palk Strait connects Rameswaram on Pamban Island to mainland India. It refers to both the road bridge and the cantilever railway bridge, though primarily it means the latter. It was India’s first sea bridge. It is the second longest sea bridge in India (after Bandra-Worli Sea Link) at a length of about 2.3 km.

The Pamban Rail Bridge

 

Arround 11.30 a.m. we reached Rameswaram. Our first destination was Ramanathaswamy Temple.

———Little about Rameswaram ——— 

Rameswaram (Devnagri:रामेश्वरम, Tamil:இராமேஸ்வரம்) is a town in Ramanathapuram district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is located on Pamban Island separated from mainland India by the Pamban channel and is about 50 kilometres from Mannar Island, Sri Lanka. Pamban Island, also known as Rameswaram Island, is connected to mainland India by the Pamban Bridge. Rameswaram is the terminus of the railway line from Chennai and Madurai. Together with Kashi, it is considered to be one of the holiest places in India to Hindus, and part of the Char Dham pilgrimages. Hence, it is a bustling pilgrim centre.

It is situated in the Gulf of Mannar at the very tip of the Indian peninsula. According to legend, this is the place from where Lord Rama built a bridge Ram Setu (also known as Adam’s Bridge) across the sea to Lanka to rescue his consort Sita from her abductor Ravana. Both the Vaishnavites and Shaivites visit this pilgrimage centre which is known as the Varanasi of the south.

Rameswaram has dry tropical climate, with average annual rainfall 94 cm, mostly from North East monsoon from October to January. Temperature is a around 30°C to 35°C. Highest ever temperature recorded at Pamban station is 37°C and lowest is 17°C.

Ex-president of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, hails from a fishing hamlet called Dhanushkodi situated on this island.

—— Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameswaram ——

Rameswaram temple

Ramanathaswamy Temple is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to god Shiva located in the island of Rameswaram in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. According to Shaiva mythology, Lord Rama is believed to have prayed to Shiva here to absolve any sins that he might have committed during his war against the demon king Ravana. The temple is one of the holiest Hindu Char Dham shrines that has to be visited in one’s lifetime and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holy abodes of Lord Shiva temple dedicated to god.

According to Skānda Purāṇa, twenty-four of them are important. Bathing in these Tīrthas is a major aspect of the pilgrimage to Rameswaram and is considered equivalent to penance. Twenty-two of the Tīrthas are within the Rāmanāthasvāmī Temple.

Take a bath in sea.Then enter into the temple.The temple is very old but not maintained properly. Lot of “pandas” are there. They will charge Rs.80/- for parikrama & 24 kundas.For puja seperately Rs.251/-. If you didn’t came for pilgrim, you can avoid.

Pooja procedure

It is very important for you to know the correct procedure to offer Pooja at the main temple. Temple management allow only hindus to perform this pooja. It is advisable to hire a guide one day in advance, who could assist you in Teerth Snanam and getting Pujari in main Pooja. Doing everything on own is a little painful process. Generally, guide charges Rs 400-500 for everything. Pooja at main temple is a 4 step process:

1.Mani Darshanam: One should watch the Sphatic(Emerald) mani first thing in the morning at main temple. Darshan timings are 4:00 – 5:00 a.m. You should not take a bath before Mani Darhanam. There is a special entrance of Rs 50/- but it is advisable to stand in the general queue of Rs 10/- which counter intuitively moves faster.

2.Samudra Snanam: After Mani Darshan, you should walk down to Samudram(Sea) for Snanam(taking bath). Sea is half a kilometer away from the temple. Sea is very peaceful and shallow here without any tides at all. Mythological story says that Samudram surrendered before Lord Rama during his attack to Lanka and since then it is calm.

3.Teerth Snanam: After Samudra Snanam directly proceed to temple for Teerth snanam(Holy bath). Needless to say that don’t change clothes or dry yourself as you have to bathe again. Temple has 22 wells, that are supposed to contain holy water from different holy places. You need to sequentially take bath at each place. Your guide will arrange for an attendant for you who would help you at each well. Attendant would pull the water from each well and pour it on on you. Admission fees for this is Rs 80/- including service fees of attendant.

4.Main Pooja: After Teerth Snanam, you can change your clothes and dry yourself. There are different prices for different kind of pooja. Basic one starts with Rs.251/- Your guide will arrange for the Pujari(Priest), who will do some rituals. Then he will offer milk,grass, leaves, etc to Lord Shiva on your behalf in main temple. You can view all this sitting in front at a price of Rs 500/- special darshan ticket. After the main Pooja, he will tell you the story of Rameswaram. He will also ask you to recite some shlokas after him. Pujari charges around Rs 500-600 for his services.

–Break– 

Now its time for lunch & some shopping. Food is OK if not that great. You can do some shopping from road side. If you want authentic shop you can visit “A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s” brother’s shop. Most tourist vehicles stops there. Some pearls I captured from the shop. Pricing was reasonable, so decided to buy a metal Ganesha .

— Sugreevar Temple/Theertham — 

Situated on the way to Gandamadana Parvatham near the Doordarshan Kendra.

Gandamadana Parvatham – Ram Padyam —

Gandamadana Parvatham – is a hillock situated 3 km away and is the highest point in the island. Here one can see the imprint of Lord Rama’s feet on a chakra. The entire island of Rameswaram is visible from this point.

View from Ram Padyam. The Sky – Sea – Land – Water body  – Wind Mill

View from Ram Padyam . Left Ramnathaswamy Temple , Right Doordarshan Broadcasting antenna.

— Satchi Hanuman Temple — 

Considered to be the place where Hanuman delivered the good news of finding Sita to Rama with satchi or evidence, Choodamani or the jewel that belonged to Sita. Situated 3 km from the main temple, on the way to the Gandamadana Parvatham.   

After that we saw the floating stone(Personally I feel those are sporadic corals). We visited Shita & Lakshman Kunda.

We stopped at Pamban bridge (while coming) to take some snaps.Again I have to mention the place is too good.

Our driver was in hurry as we need to travel long distance.Now its time for long journey.

Rameshwaram to Kanyakumari — 6Hrs 30 Mins / 330 KM

Road Condition – Excellent

We started around 4.00 p.m. reached Kanyakumari around 10.45. We were getting board so Antakshari was there.

Aroung 6.30 p.m we took some break.Clicked few snaps while having some tea.

Finished Dinner & checked into hotel around 11.30 p.m.

We were too tired & we need to get up early (5.30 a.m.) next morning.




Day 4- 12 Sept 2010 – Exploring Kanyakumar – Travelled from  Kanyakumari to Madurai – Madurai to Bangalore

–Little about Kanyakumari —

Kanyakumari  (Tamil: கன்னியாகுமரி) is a town in the Kanyakumari district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. Located at the southernmost tip of the Indian Peninsula, its former name was Cape Comorin. The closest major cities are Nagercoil, the administrative headquarters of Kanyakumari district, (22 km) and Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala (85 km).

Kanyakumari has been a great centre for art and religion for centuries. It was also an area of great trade and commerce. It was ruled by the Cholas, the Cheras, the Pandyas and the Nayaks. The architectural beauty of the temples in the area are the works of these rulers. Later Kanyakumari became part of the Venad kingdom with its capital at Padmanabhapuram. The king of Venad, Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, established Travancore by extending his domain further north up to Azhva, during his reign from 1729 to 1758. By this, the present Kanyakumari District came to be known as Southern Travancore. In 1741, Maharaja Marthanda Varma defeated the Dutch East India Company at the famous Battle of Colachel.

Kanyakumari was under the rule of the Paravar Kings till the downfall of Pandyas, and later by kings of Travancore under the overall suzerainty of the British until 1947, when India became independent. Travancore joined the independent Indian Union in 1947. The reign of the Travancore royals came to an end.

–Sunrise Point —

Watching the sunrise and sunset is one of the most cherished activities at Kanyakumari. In fact it would not be any exaggeration if we say that this activity has assumed almost a ritualistic proportion. If you are in a hotel your sleep would automatically break at around 5.30 am with the sounds of alarm clock all around. Bleary eyed, you head for the sunrise point or take up a vantage position in the terrace of your hotel building. By 6 am the majestic sight of daybreak unfolds gradually. It is a lifetime experience to observe the image of the night sky metamorphosing bit by bit into various hues of colours. The effect is all the more appealing against the silhouette of fishing boats in the foreground. You can never forget the sun rising above the horizon from the Bay of Bengal. 

Sunsets are also equally spectacular. But unfortunately we missed it due to lack of time. We need to catch a bus to Bangalore from Madurai.

 

–Suchindram–

Suchindram (Tamil: சுசீந்திரம், Malayalam: ശുചിന്ദ്രം) is a panchayat town in Kanniyakumari district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is an important pilgrim centre and the site of the famous Thanumalayan Temple.

–Vivekenanda Memorial rock–

Vivekananda Rock is about a hundred meters from the shore and a regular ferry service exists between the mainland jetty and the rock. The tickets are Rs 20 for a ride. The Rock has two Mandaps (halls); one belonging to Swami Vivekananda and the other belonging to a Holy Foot. The Holy Foot is a foot shaped carving found on the rock and is believed to be the footprint of Goddess Kumari who stood on this rock on one leg and performed the Tapasya (penance). The Rock memorial has a tall statue of Swami Vivekananda whose photographs are not allowed to be taken from inside the hall. Below the statue was mentioned the year of death of the Swamiji and the “probable” dates when Swamiji attained Samadhi on the rock. Here you can see both sunrise and sunset and it is one of the main tourist attractions here. Golden Hues of the Horizon are very impressive with a silhouette of the Rock Memorial. Timings: 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. You should enter main gate to the jetty for ferry before 4 pm, after that entry is denied. One can stay at the rock even until after sunset.

 Vivekananda Rock Memorial is a sacred monument and popular tourist attraction in Kanyakumari, India. The memorial stands on one of two rocks located about 500 meters off mainland India’s southernmost tip. It was built in 1970 by the Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee in honour of the visit of the great spiritual teacher Swami Vivekananda to Shripada Parai during the month of December 1892 for deep meditation and enlightenment. He swam to this rock and meditated about the past, present and future of India. It is said that he attained enlightenment on the rock, and henceforth became a reformer and philosopher.

From very ancient times, the rock has been regarded as a sacred place. The mythical tradition states that it has been known as ‘Sripada Parai’, meaning the rock that has been blessed by the touch of ‘the sacred feet’ of the Devi Kumari. On the rock is a projection similar in form to a human foot and a little brownish in complexion, which has traditionally been venerated as a symbol of Shripadam. According to legend, it was on this rock that Devi Kumari performed austerity.

A meditation hall (Dhyana Mandapam) is also attached to the memorial for visitors to meditate. The design of the mandapa incorporates different styles of temple architecture from all over India. It houses a statue of Vivekananda. The merger of three seas – Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean can be seen from these rocks.

The memorial consists of two main structures, the Vivekananda Mandapam and the Shripada Mandapam.

  • Dhyana Mandapam – The meditation Hall with six adjacent rooms
  • Sabha Mandapam – The Assembly Hall including Pralima Mandapam (statue section) two rooms, a corridor and an open Prakaram round the Sabha Mandapam
  • Mukha Mandapam
  • Front Entrance – The steps with two rooms and a corridor below the steps.

–Thiruvallavur Statue–

Thiruvalluvar Statue is dedicated to arguably the greatest Tamil poet, philosopher, and saint Thiruvalluvar. The rock supports a huge statue of the saint carved out of many rocks that were then joined together. It was inaugurated fairly recently. The statue is about 133 feet long which corresponds to 133 chapters in the greatest epic written by the saint – Thirukkural. Tourists can climb up to the feet of the statue. The view from this point is quite breathtaking! It is a very entertaining and enlightening piece of work and inspires one to lead a very principled and moral life. It is a must read for anyone who visits this place and it is advisable to spend at least half an hour specially dedicated for this exercise. Such is the beauty of Kanyakumari that a lot of people find themselves attracted to it. Mahatma Gandhi too could not resist its charm and there is a place here dedicated to him called Gandhi Mandapam. This is the place, as told by locals, where one could witness the ‘Sangam’ (confluence) of the three oceans! Gandhiji arrived here and succumbed to the beauty of the place as described in his beautiful words inscribed below his portrait in the Mandapam. After he died, his ashes were brought to this place and kept before they were discharged into the sea. The Gandhi Mantapa is engineered in such a way that at the place where the ashes were kept stands a small stone which is said to receive the Sun’s rays only on the 2nd of October, Gandhiji’s birthday, every year through a small hole on the roof.

–Kanyakumari temple–

Devi Kanya Kumari, known as Kumari Amman (the virgin goddess) is one of the forms of Devi. She is popularly known as “Bhagavathy Amman”. Bhagavathy Amman Temple is located in Kanya Kumari (formerly Cape Comorin) on the confluence of the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean. She is also known by several other names, including Kanya Devi and Devi Kumari.

–Gandhi Mandapam–

Mahatma Gandhi too could not resist its charm and there is a place here dedicated to him called Gandhi Mandapam. This is the place, as told by locals, where one could witness the ‘Sangam’ (confluence) of the three oceans! Gandhiji arrived here and succumbed to the beauty of the place as described in his beautiful words inscribed below his portrait in the Mandapam. After he died, his ashes were brought to this place and kept before they were discharged into the sea.  

The memorial site lies in proximity to the famed Kumari Amman temple on the beach; it is a lovely walk from the temple through colorful bazaars. You can pay your tribute to the noble soul anytime between seven in the morning to seven in the evening.

Interestingly, the height of the central dome of the memorial is 79 feet, the age of Gandhiji at the time of his assassination. But the most amusing part of the structure is the manner in which it is designed. On 2nd October every year at 12 noon sunlight beams in through a hole in the roof onto the urn that once contained his ashes. Pan through the hall for old photographs that speak volumes about the life and times of the Mahatma. Take the staircase to the terrace for a sweeping view of the sea and the town spanning the shores. Gandhiji had visited Kanyakumari in 1925 and 1937, and completely fell in love with it. Among others the mandapam also houses a few memorabilia that were with him in his last hours. 

This place is eminently suited for contemplation. I wish I were to stay here for ever.

–Tribeni Sangam–

India is also one of those rare countries that have their shores shared between not one, not two, but three great seas – The Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean. And there is probably only one place in the whole world where one can witness the ‘confluence’ of three great seas; and that place is Kanyakumari.This unique geographical phenomenon has made this little town in the southern most tip of mainland India one of the significant destinations in any religious or pleasure trips that one seeks to undertake in this country. 

Now its time to finish quick luch. we have to travel 270 KM to Madurai then to bangalore at night. 

Catch a glimpse of the Windmills on the way: This is one of the most charming sites that you would ever encounter. Could you imagine there are some 2000 windmills in and around the road that leads Tiruvenveli to Kanyakumari.


Kanyakumari to Madurai — 5 Hr 30 Min / 270KM

Madurai – Bangalore – 7 Hr 30 Min / 460 KM

Before signing off I would like to quote few lines from the wall of Gandhi mandapam that touched my soul.

I am writing this at the cape, in front of the sea, where three waters meet and furnish a sight unequalled in the world. For this reason is no port of call for vessels. Like the Goddess, the waters around are virgin. ” 

– 15/01/1937 MK Gandhi

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