Bangalore – Kanchi – 2 day trip (June 2011)
This is the latest trip we’ve taken up, and I thought it would be good to put this in right away (well, almost).
We left on Sunday evening by the 10.30pm Rajahamsa bus from Bangalore to Kanchipuram. The bus left from the Shantinagar Bus Stop, and reach Kanchi Bus stop by about 5am. This was a bit later than our last trip, where we had reached Kanchi by 4am. In all the trip was quite uneventful, but comfortable.
At the bus stop, quite a few auto guys tried to get our attention. We even considered calling the auto guy from our last trip, Karthik. But one guy started speaking to us in reasonably good Telugu (which was a surprise). Also he was talking about charging a reasonable amount, which is always good news! So we decided to go with Muthu, the driver, for this trip.
Another important facet of Kanchi has been the Hotel Booking. Both times we opted for Hotel Jayabala International, the only other choice we wanted from MM Hotels. The booking process is extemely simple: call the hotel, check for room availability, give your name and number for booking. Consider it done. Unlike other places, the hotel doesnt ask you to send them any advance amount.
Also an important consideration is that it is attached to Saravanaa Bhavan, one of the best South Indian Eateries in India.
We started the day with darshan of Kamakshi Amma. There wasnt much of a crowd there, so it was easy enough of complete the darshan and archana.
We also wanted to sit for the abhishekam the next morning, so we approached the priest who was taking the details for archana. He directed us to the Gayatri Mandapam located behind the deity. Men cannot enter the mandapam with their shirts. So, after the men doffed their shirts, we were all directed inside to see the deity. The space outside the Garbha gudi or sanctum sanctorum is where the devotees are asked to be seated during the time of Abhishekam. After sitting here for a few minutes, we were asked to return outside. The priest who initially spoke to us then introduced us to another priest who was apparently in charge. After taking down our names and details, he directed us to return the next morning at 5.30am.
After this we went across to the Ekambareshwar temple. The darshan was really good. On the way out from the inside temple, there was a small temple of Vishnu. It is considered to be very auspicious to worship Vishnu in a Shiva temple.
At the Mango Tree, the priest there told us about the tree, its age (over 3500 yrs old), and about the speciality of the idol of Shiva–Parvati there. Most idols have Shiva-Parvati sitting side-by-side. However, in this idol, Parvati is turned slightly inward, and partially hidden from sight between Shiva & Parvati is the Baby Karthikeya.
The next stop from here was The Sri Ulagalanda Perumal Temple (Vishnu in Vamana Avatar).
As the story goes, Prahalada’s grandson, Bali was a powerful asura king, who had designs on taking the heavens away from Indra. Indra then pleaded to Vishnu to help him. Vishnu took the form of a dwarf brahmin, and asked Bali for alms. Bali was delighted to offer what was asked for, even though his preceptor, sukracharya warned him that this was Lord Vishnu. Vamana then asked for land that could be covered by three steps. Bali promptly agreed. Vamana then took on his celestial form, and covered the earth with one foot, and the heavens with the other. He asked Bali where he should put the 3rd step. Bali offered his head. Vishnu put his foot on Bali’s head and sent him Patala (the netherworld).
The image of Vishnu in this form at the temple is very striking. It is about 35ft in height. The right leg is shown as resting on Bali’s head, while the left leg is raised to signify the heavens. The hands are spread out sideways. It is an amazing sight.
The next stop was the Varadarajaswamy Temple, which primarily signifies Vishnu Kanchi. The temple is buit on the Hastigiri hill. To see the main deity , you have to climb a set of steps to reach the top. After having darshan, one can touch the golden lizard, silver lizard, sun and moon images on the roof at the back of the sanctum sanctorum. There are helpfully steps to climb up, and touch these. It is said that touching the images of gold and silver lizards will remove all ill-effects of touching lizards in the past and future.
We returned to the hotel to have lunch and rest for some time.
In the evening we decided to go to Sripuram Golden Temple to have darshan of the famed Temple and Lakshmi Devi. So we took the bus to Vellore Bus Stand, and then another to the temple. The bus stops right in front, so no worries about walking further. This place is about 60-70 km from Kanchi, and there are no direct buses.
Once we entered the temple, we were directed to the shoe stand and bags stand where we had to deposit out bags and phones. Also no cameras are allowed. The first thing that struck us as soon as we entered, was how money-centric everything was. We cannot deposit our shoes directly, as everywhere else. We need to put them all into a plastic cover, which can be bought at a stall nearby. Then we reached the ticket stand. The minimum ticket per person was Rs. 500/-. If you don’t want to shell out this amount, you have to go through the free darshan queue where you have a “compulsory” waiting time of 1 hr. If you dont want to wait, then you have to shell out more money.
After waiting the requisite hour, you are directed onto a path which winds around the temple. Technically it states that the path is only 1-1.5km… but it definitely felt like 2km at least. Also there is no photo of Lakshmi Devi, or anything religious. instead you are subjected to photos and glorifications of “Shakti Amma”, the godman in charge of building the temple, and who claims to be an incarnation of the Goddess herself.
After the painfully long walk, which tired us more that the entire journey and trips to temples in the morning, we finally reached the main temple. The gold on the temple is a truly beautiful sight. The lighting in the evenings is designed to emphasize this beauty, and we were all suitably awestruck. However, on finishing the round of the temple, after which to can get darshanam of the Devi, we were quite irritated. The free queue is kept about 30ft from the Devi. You can just make out the idol in the distance. If you think others have fared better, think again. The Rs. 500/- queue saw the Devi from about 15-20ft, and only the ones who shelled out 1000/- or more got to sit close to the Devi i.e. abt 10ft away. But then, at least they got to see the Devi properly!!!
The return walk was short (thankfully), and we gladly boarded the bus back to Vellore. At Vellore, it took some time for the bus to Kanchi to start. So by the time we returned it was already 10.30pm.We called Muthu to take us back. Saravana Bhavan closes dinner by 10pm. Since there was a gaurd at the door, we asked if we could at least get a snack, since we just got back. The staff was very gracious, and served us tiffin, even though they were all getting ready to shut down the hotel for the day.
The next day, we reached the temple at around 5am. the temple however opens at 5.30am. We were directed to sit down at the main entrance, and at the proscribed time, entered the temple for the GoPuja, or Cow Worship. After this, we weere directed to the Gayathri mandapam, and my in-laws were sent in first. The main coupld in the other groups then followed in. At the end, the rest of us were allowed in for the Abhishekam. This was truly an amazing experience. To be able to see Kamakshi Amma this closely, and the be able to gaze upon her for such a long time, was definitly a blessing.
We were then handed the prasadam. We then paid the priest who called us for the Abhishekam.
After this we decided to go to the Sankara Mutt. It so happened we were able to meet both Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamy as well as Sri Sankara Vijayandra Saraswathi Swamy. The assistants to the Swamys were polite and told us to come back for the free lunch served after 12.30pm. We accepted, and went back to the hotel to change.
On the way back, we stopped at the Chitragupta Temple. This is the only temple in India which is dedicated to Chitragupta, the chief accountant and younger brother of Lord Yama. Lord Bramha had created Chitragupta through the Sun God. He is also considered the AthiDevata for Kethu, one of the Navagrahas. So all vices of Kethu will also be cleared though a visit to this temple. The idol is depicted in a sitting posture with a pen in the right hand and palm leaf in the left.
We returned around 12.30. In the Mutt, you have to cross through a hall which has a placard stating that it is the temple of Sri MahaTripura Sundari. Some elderly ladies were sitting in front of the closed curtains. One of the ladies indicated that we should wait. So we did. The curtains opened for Aarti by Sri Vijayandra Saraswathi Swami.After taking the blessings from the Devi, we moved to the main section of the Mutt.
Lunch was served in a room to the back. There is a raised platform around the room where one can sit. the meal was quite simple, but satisfying. there were also tables arranged for those who cannot sit on the floor.
We returned to the hotel after this, and decided instead to go shopping. The place we prefered to go shopping was The Co-opTex shop on Gandhi road. After buying the saris of our choice, we walked back to the hotel.
We left the hotel at around 8pm after dinner at Saravana Bhavan, and the bus left Kanchi at 10pm. We reached Bangalore by 4.30am the next morning.