Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu

"City of 1000 temples", "Golden City of Temples". Kanchipuram has many names to its credit and is one of the oldest city in South India. It underwent many name changes, in ancient times it was called Kachi, Kachiampathi and Kanjivaram in different periods. This city of temple is ruled by many dynasty from Pallavas, Cholas, Vijaynagara & Mughals to British. Few temples are incarnated during Pallavas dynasty (3th-9th centuries) period and later  extended or added during Cholas & VIjayanagara Dynasty. The city is revered as one of the seven sacred city in India and is in 2nd place next to Varanasi. The remains of Budhist stupas reminiscence the presence of Buddhism religion at that time. Jainism is also prevalent here. The majority of spoken language here is Tamil and Telugu. You might know the art of Shoulin Temple is preached by an Indian Buddhist Monk, the same monk was hailed from this city only. 
Its 75km from Chennai and is well connected by Buses and Train. Regular buses ply from Chennai as well as local train

Kamakshi Amman Temple

The presiding deity of this city is Goddess Kamakshi (Incarnation of Paravathi) & is one of the triad temple of Maa Shakti, the other being Madhurai Meenakshi & Kasi Visalakshi. The temple is situated in the heart of city and is surround by many other ancient temples near by. Its noteworthy that this famous temple is not the original temple of Kamakshi. The acutal one is near to this and is called Adi Peeta Parameswari, though I missed to visit this. Its also noteworthy that the present temple was once a Jain Tara temple until 12th century after which it was gradually converted to Shakti temple. 

The famous Sri Chakara which is installed in this temple is not the actual one installed by Adi Shankaracharya (Great Hindu Saint and disciple of Goddess Shakti) but in the original temple i.e. Adi Peeta Prameswari. There are few inscription which clearly shows that this was once a Jain temple. There isn't any entrance fee and camera can be carried inside the temple but not allowed to take snap of the sanctum. The deity is in sitting posture and can be seen within 7-8 feet distance. Since we went on Sunday so didn't faced any major rush. The gopuram of sanctum sanctorum is gold plated. The whole temple is fortified with stone wall. Each side has a gate having a temple like structure built as a gate way (common in almost all South Indian temples). 
In the pic below the guru (third from the left) is believed to have attained Shakti's  (Amman) divine darshan and he himself had talked to her. The pond is on the back side of the temple a common for all temples, not maintained at all and looks like it gets its share of fresh water only through rains. Saw one old elephant in the entrance gate beautifully marked on his forehead and standing helplessly. I suggest its better to feed fruits etc then to give money, by giving fruits at least you know that you fed. 

Varadaraja Perumal Temple
After visiting Kamakshi Temple we headed for Vishnu temple which is in the other end of the city, area which is commonly called as Chinna Kanchi (little Kanchi) where most of the Vishnu temples are erected and other side where Shiva temples are is called Shiva Kanchipuram. The very importance of this temple is that it is one of the 108 Divya Desams. There are 108 Vishnu temples which are considered as Divya Desam's, 105 are in India, 1 in Nepal and 2 is not on this earth. 

There are total 18 Divya desams in Kanchi itself and all are very ancient built at the time of 9th-13th century during Pallava Dynasty. There are three Idols incarnated here, Life size idol of Lord Vishnu is in the upper portion of the main temple where ground level is occupied by Lord Narismha and on to the right resides Goddess Tyaar (incarnation of Goddess Laxmi). It is few km far from Kamakshi temple at the end of the city. Currently the Temple Gopuram is undergoing some structural reforms or cleaning. This is said to be the biggest in area in Kanchipuram. 

Few architecture like 100 pillar (actual 96) mandapum is built during Vijayanager Dynasty. Each pillar is exquisitely sculpted depicting the pillars in various forms mainly a horse rider with each sculpture differing with other. Now housed as a ticket counter.
The burning heat has stopped me shooting the pillars in close that to with bare foot. It was an extremely hot weather and to walk bare foot from the gate to the temple sanctum was a bit burning attempt. The temple authoritative should have at least laid out some shed upto the main door instead they just put series of rubber pathway on one side. They charge Rs 5 for still camera. This meticulously sculpted stones can be very well compared with the one found in warangal fort (I yet to find sculptures which is more aesthetic this these ones) but sure it is worth seeing.
This temple also host Anna Daanum (free lunch just near the entrance gate) but then its only applicable for devotees who visits this temple. Beggars of the city were not allowed to enter the premises. This raises one question which I even asked the security gaurd i.e. "Whats the use of giving free lunch to those who themselves are capable to buy out?" obviously he can't answer this and I didn't donated anything towards the free "Anna Daanum" (they have Hundi's at few places for collecting money towards this free lunch).They charge entrance fee of Rs 5 if you visit temple between 12-12:30 pm, rest of the time its free. The prasadam are available just opposite to the 100 pillar structure, not free though. 

Ekambaranatha Shiva Temple:
This is Shiva temple and is situated near Kamakshi Amman temple. This is the very place where Goddess Paravathi worshipped/performed tapas to marry Lord Shiva. During her tapas she built a Shiva Lingum out of sand which is still there in the temple sanctum covered by metal/or glass shield (the same way we have in Rameswaram). On the back side of the sanctum sanctorum is the Mango tree under which Goddess Paravathi has performed her penance. This mango tree is believed to produce 4 different taste of mango out of its four different branches and is said to be 3500 years old (the old one which died already 3-4 years back). The temple was built by Pallavas and later contributed by Chola Dynasty. Sanctum is not big and has special darshan provision for Rs 5 (its nothing special, general public enters through left side door and this by front door in general both will be standing facing each other, temple authoritative are just making money out of this). The Lingam (shield) can be clearly seen even from the entrance far outside where Nandi Idol is erected (if its not that much rush).
Another noteworthy fact of this temple is it has 1008 Shiva Lingam built along the inner wall of the temple. Not all in same shape & size. There are four Idols in each corner of the temple (inside just outside the sanctum sanctorum) Ganesha, Vishu & Shiva (i forget the fourth one). The Shiva Idol (Lingum) in one corner has a special feature i.e. it is the biggest Lingam in the Kanchipuram (well it is much smaller then what you will see in Warangal) but what set this apart is it has 1000 small miniature Lingam engraved on the main Lingam and also believed that Sri Rama has worshiped here. (There are total 3 places where Lord Rama offered worship to Lord Shiva) 1. Rameshwaram 2. Kanchipuram 3. Kaasi. True or not but the Lingam appearance is breathtaking as i haven't seen such structure any where.
The exteriors surrounding sanctum is quit intricate and looks like almost new as seen in the pic its only these exteriors which are meticulously carved rest of the outer temple structures are rather plain. There are quit long corridors supported by pillars on both side and series of Lingam running along the wall.
Some more pics

First pic above on second row shows the series of Shiv Linga (hand held shot so not that clear), 2nd row on the same pic is Idol of Shiva and Parvathi (doesn't look like ancient one as is metal sculpted). There was a 1000 rudraksh planted just above the deity head on some metal plate which was donated by Nepal Raja. 3rd pic on the same row shows the Mango tree (the new one) the very place where Goddess Paravathi is said to have worshiped Shiva and the tree was 3500 years old (as said earlier the original tree already died few years back, this one is new but the hoarding stating 3500 years old still stays there). One peculiar thing about this temple is that they wont accept donations which we usually offer to deity or priest, they says we will offer puja if only you want to and pay for that puja only (this means you can't pay 1 or 2 rupee coin). One more thing i liked about this temple is the metal door of the sanctum, it has a diya like structure engraved throughout the door one just needs to place their diya or pour oil and put a thread to lit. Once if all lit up would surely look marvelous. Some hand held shots below

All the temples are closed between 12 - 4pm daily. And surely need more then one day if you wanted to cover other temples (remember it has around 1000 temples).What I have stated here is just a tip of an ice burg as this city holds many many more historical facts and events. Every Vishnu followers aspire to cover all the 108 Divya Desams in his life time 106 in this life and 2 after life (in heaven). I just visited 2 of them (Tirupathi and this one). Its the hot weather which dithered me to cover rest of the 17 temples (there are 18 Divya Desam in Kanchi alone) but then I am still alive so will try to cover them in future.

Apart from temple Kanchi is famous for one more thing, the same which Mysore is famous for yes it is Silk Sarees. It's a hub of hand woven silk sarees in Tamil Nadu which may range from few thousands to lakhs in cost. During our 12-4pm break we visited one store in Gandhi Rd called Pachayappan (one thing I liked about this store is the price is fixed, I usually hate bargaining as I am weak on that). The owner also runs school and college by the same name.

On the end note, below is the pic of Ganesha (I know you know this) in standing position on the front wall of Kamakshi Temple. Well you might have guessed by now the standing position and the scary eyes holds an important significance i.e. Drishti to sway away any evil entry to the temple. This particular posture is never used inside any house or temple but on the entry gate

More pics in Flickr Click here


                  My last one day trip of 2009 is Mysore, a small city with great history, the city reminiscence the great warrior of all time "Tipu Sultan". The name Mysore is derived from the demon name Maheshasur who ruled here and was killed by Chamundi after fierce battle. Initially the city was named as "Mahisuru", then transcends to Mysooru and then finally became Mysore. Few years back the proposal was put to rename the city back to  "Mysooru" (not sure where this proposal is standing now)

It was an overnight journey by train from Chennai directly to Mysore. It was my bad judgment of not staying a night here, instead headed for Bangalore in the evening. Mysore requires at least two days. I took one day tourist bus trip ("Sri OM Shakthi"), booked the ticket from the railway station itself (they have tie up with some private bus operator) cost Rs 120 per individual (food excluded) and Rs 170 (the Guide took in advance for all entrance ticket, he provided the tickets for each place we visited, thus avoided the queue to purchase the same, a time saver). One prudent thing i realized after the trip is over that is "Its better to cover few important places in detail then to cover everything in rush". Its virtually not possible for any tour operator to give you ample time to look around all the places he promised for, after all it was a one day trip. They didn't cover few important places like Chamundi Temple, Big Bull, Statu of Mahishasura and few in Srirangapatna despite being listed in their one day trip pamphlet.

Sri Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery
There are several palaces in Mysore which was now converted to either hotels or museum. This one was Janganmohan palace now converted to an Art Gallary in 1875. People who has even little knowledge of painting might enjoy this gallery as it hosts one of the remarkable paintings which is found only in Russia n here. Well I don't have much knowldge of the same, but one interesting thing it has is the life size musical clock made of heavy metals with extensive carve. It is said that it produce music every after 30 min through the miniature music band people postured inside the clock. The similar structure (much smaller in size) can be seen in Chowmahal, Hyderabad.
Entrance ticket is around Rs 20 and photography is not allowed :-(, they have the deposit place where you can deposit your camera.

Mysore Zoo
This is our second stop just 2-3 kilometer away from bus stand/Mysore Palace. Its a century old zoo inaugurated in 1892. The unique thing about this zoo is its spaciousness. All the enclosures are spacious enough for the occupant to road around freely. Several animals are adopted by notable artists and social workers even by many Infosys groups. Its quit big spanned across 25 acres (need at least 2hr to look around). The one on the right top is Brown Lumer. Left bottom is an Mandarian Duck (cute one), right pic well you know it.

Chamundi Temple: 
This the most famous temple in Mysore situated in hill and is few centuries old. Due to time shortage we were not able to cover this but just went upto the Nandi idol which is situated just 5km downside from the temple. This Nandi Idol is mammoth measuring 16 feet in height carved out of single black stone. It is said that there are only 5 such Nandi Idol in this world 2 in Tamilnadu (one being in Rameshwaram), 1 in AP, 1 in Bangalore (within city) and 1 here in Mysore. This temple can be reached by public buses which ply from city bus stand and by steps (1000 steps). The whole city can be viewed from the hill where the most attractive scene is of the race course, few palaces can also been clearly seen from here. 

Karanji Lake Nature Park
Small park with boating as main attraction, though lake is not big enough to excite you but people do throng in for boat ride. Entry fee Rs 20 and still camera costs additional Rs 10 (in fact there is nothing much to shoot so don't know why they are charging). You can skip this park all together as boating is allowed only within 50 meter radius and just for 20-25 mins

St. Philomena's Church
Its said to be one of the oldest church of India and is more then 200 years old. This isn't the original architect at the time of built,initially it was a small church but over time due to growing Christianity population here the need for bigger church come to surface and the one is constructed which we are seeing today. This is built in a Cross structure, Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV laid the foundation of this church in 1933. Was given only 10 min by the Guide to roam around.

Mysore Palace
The top attraction of Mysore is this Mysore Palace. This palace is the 4th one to be built in here in the same site. Initially it was built by wood and mud (not in the same style) which was burned down completely during the wedding ceremony of 4th daughter of Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar in 1897. The reconstruction started immediately after that, and took almost 15 years to complete this and costs 41 Lacs at that time. The whole area is around 24 acre but the Palace is constructed within 4 acre rest is garden. The Royal family was at that time moved to Jaganmohan Palace. The whole Palace glitters in night (Sundays, Holidays and Dashera) through around 97 thousands lights running through its walls. Entrance fee is around 15 or Rs 20. Camera is not allowed inside the Palace but are allowed outside within the premises.

Ranganatha Temple
Its in Sirangapattanum. Lord Vishnu resides here in sleeping posture. This temple is more then 1000 years old.

Tipu's fort was nearby to this temple the same for where he took his last breath. The fort was completely destroyed within 6 hours of his death. The pic on right is the exact place where his body was found. With in this premises is the Masjid Gumbaz which is built by Tipu Sultan in tribute to his father Hyder Ali. Few other places to visit is Dariya Daulat Bagh, but since you are tied to your tour operator you cant do anything except follow his timelines. He was in hurry to take us to last stop i.e. Brindavan Garden (Mysore is more popular for only two tourist place, one is Mysore Palace and this Garden). Garden is 25k from here, so without stopping here we headed for Brindavan.

Brindavan Garden: Now comes the last and the second most famous tourist spot of Mysore. It lies around 20km away from Mysore and is built Krishnaraja Sagar Dam (one of the oldest Dam in India). The Dam spans over 3km in length and is said to be the first to implant automatic sluice gates. It is financed by Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodayar and thus named after him. The garden is spread over 150 acre is best known for its musical fountains of different shapes and color. Entry fee around Rs 20 and Camera costs Rs 50.

That's the end of the Mysore trip, caught a bus from here to Bangalore (Rs 100, 2.5-3 hr journey). As mentioned earlier don't go for tour buses instead hire a full day taxi or visit one by one through public transport, each place is well connected by public transportation.

The best is to start with Chamundi Hills in the morning, second half cover Mysore Zoo, Art Gallary and off-course shopping (Mysore is famous for its Silk Sarees). Have a night Halt, morning visit Palace then head to Ranganathan, Dariya Daulat, Gumbaz and last to Brindavan Garden in the even. Zoo, Palace, Chamundi Temple and the Garden requires ample time so plan accordingly.

Nandi Hills, Bangalore, India

Nandi Hills (also called Nandi Durg or Bull Fort/Hill) is situated around 60km from Bangalore City and is well connected by broad road. Gov bus also runs up to the top from Bangalore. This lies in Chikballapur District of Karnataka and located in close proximity to Bangalore International Airport. The road is smooth and away from the Bangalore hectic traffics.
Just after around more then 20km from NH-7 (after Devanahalli Town), left diversion on this road identifies the start of the hill which is around 15km from here to to top of the hill. This hill road is wide enough for two buses to cross each other but believe me it requires great skills as visually you can't say its that wide enough. Its prudent to stop for few minutes and enjoy the hill view and have some best photo shoots.
After 2 hours of the drive from Bangalore here finally we reached the entrance gate shown above. The entrance gate is not that big and secured as other forts are used to have (i haven't seen even the doors, so curious how it was secured?).Tickets per individual is Rs 5. An interesting thing is, two wheelers are not allowed beyond this point whereas four wheelers are (except Buses).

Tipu's Lodge

Just on the left side of the gate (after entering) is "Tipus Lodge" (shown on right side pic), a two story small building where Tipu Sultan is said to stay whenever he comes. This lodge has been declared as "archaeological site" and with that it doesn't look like its been given that importance. The building is not big as you can see it and is not open for public.

Shiv Parvathi Temple

We continued to walk up along the right side of the entrance gate, few meters away is the Shiva and Parvathi temple. Temple is not big but it has still maintained its charm and prayers is still being offered, Shiva and Parvathi idol has been put in seperate room and both have Pujaris (Priest) appointed. Photo shoots are not allowed so we just offered our prayes and moved on.
Just a few walks away this temple towards a sharp slop is a spot called "Tipu's Drop" from where Tinpu Sultan is used to throw his prisoners who were sentenced to death. Side to this temple is a small restaurant, we stopped by and had a nice tea.

Nillakai Bassavana

Now passed this restaurant crossing the the garden is another end of this fort, where on the downside is a "Nillakai Bassavana" temple, its a Nandi temple whose Nandi Idol measures 10 feet long and 6 feet in height, side to this is "Brahmashrama" cave where it's being said that Sage Ramakrishna Paramhamsa meditated here once upon a time.

Inside this hill, has a few lodges best for couples to spend happy times, its a peaceful environment and cool climate. People come here as early as 4 AM to watch sun rise (near Tipu's Drop) spot.
All together a must see place, Its more like an open park types then a conventional fort.
Travelavenue.com-Travel guide-favorite blog 2010 Related Posts with Thumbnails