Posts Tagged With: Tamil Nadu

Mahabalipuram

Bangalore – Tiruvannamalai – Chennai – Mahabalipuram – 3 days (Dec 2013)

The drive to Mahabalipuram was by far the best drive of the trip. The roads were wide, and very well-maintained.  The traffic too was not too heavy, making this a very fast trip. The road to Mahabalipuram runs right along the sea-coast during the latter half of the journey, making a visually interesting sight, and definitely kept the kids occupied by making them watch out for the next peek-a-boo view! 🙂

Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is a town in the Kanchipuram District of Tamil Nadu. This was a bustling port during the time of the Pallavas (7th Century CE). However, Roman and Chinese coins dating to the 4th Century CE have also been found, making this an active port engaging in trading even during the late Classical period. The place is today famous for the various sculptures dotting the Mahabalipuram coastline that were built by the Pallava rulers. The various styles of the sculptures and their themes (varying from Shiva and Vishnu idols to Buddhist influences) display the various influences brought by the visiting traders and craftsmen. The Pallavas had also brought back craftsmen as “spoils of war” from their wars with the Chalukyas during their reign. This is reflected in some of the sculptures that seem to echo those of Ajantha and Ellora.

The town was also referred to as “Seven Pagodas” by Marco Polo who named to such for the 7 Temples that dotted the shore. Today one 1 temple stands true, and is simply referred to as The Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram now. The Shore Temple along with all the sculptures have been declares as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984.

We reached the town around 1pm, and drove directly to the stone cravings and caves for which Mahabalipuram is so famous for. The caves are spread over a large area, and we couldn’t possibly cover it all, not with 2 kids in tow and a flight to catch in Chennai later in the day. So we decided to stop at the main open-air sculpture called the Decent of the Ganges.  The sculpture, made from 2 huge rocks placed side-by-side, shows the decent of the Ganga from Shiva’s tresses led by Bhagiratha. In fact there are 2 stories that seem to be connected with this bas-relief.

Bas-relief

Bas-relief

The first story is that of Bhagiratha (shown as an ascetic standing on one leg in penance) who preformed penance to Lord Shiva to make the Holy River Ganga flow over the ashes of his ancestors and release them of their sins. To break the force to the river reaching the plains, Shiva caught the river in his hair and broke it up into multiple rivulets. This was apparently displayed in a very graphic way in times part. there is a brick cistern at the top of the relief, and water was apparently let flow through the fissure in the relief to show Ganga flowing to the Plains.

Ascetic is placed on the upper portion of the rock on the left.

Ascetic is placed on the upper portion of the rock on the left.

Another story is that Arjuna from the Mahabharata performed penance to gain a weapon called Pasupata, Shiva’s most powerful weapon. Asuras had let loose a boar to kill him. Shiva took on the form of a hunter and stood next to Arjuna. Both shot arrows to kill the boar, and both claimed that their arrow was the one that killed the boar. They fought a duel to find who was superior, and Arjuna was defeated by Shiva. Shiva then showed Arjuna his true form and gave him the Pasupata weapon.

On one side of this bas-relief was a set of sculptures that depicted the agrarian life in (supposedly) the town. The sculptures were all life-sized, and were a treat to the eyes.

View of agrarian life of the time period

View of agrarian life of the time period

another view with lovely detail

another view with lovely detail

The other side of the bas-relief was an open lawn that led up to the other caves. Further along the lawn is a huge rock, seemly balancing precariously. This is commonly refered to as Krishna’s Butter Ball. It definitely makes for a great set of photos where one can pose as though they are either pushing or lifting the rock! 🙂 And no prizes for guessing who made that particular attempt! 😉

Krishna's Butter Ball

Krishna’s Butter Ball

 

Krishna's Butter Ball

Krishna’s Butter Ball

By this time it was already lunch time, and the kids were getting hungry. So we found a nice tree to sit under, and feed the kids.

The next stop was the Mahabalipuram shore. The temple was shut till evening, so that feature in our to-see list. Along the way we saw a lot of lovely stone sculptures. They were so beautiful, we couldn’t resist taking pictures. Some were idols of various gods, while a lot of the others were meant to be as decor around a house or garden. It was a wonder to see the sheer talent of the stone sculptors.

various religious idols in stone

various religious idols in stone

 

amazing detail in the sculptures, and a small table of trinkets in stone too!

amazing detail in the sculptures, and a small table of trinkets in stone too!

The path to the beach was dotted with shops selling various trinkets, stone items and sea food. The last was a bit of a problem with the over-whelming smell, but otherwise we enjoyed the (rather long) walk to the beach. The beach though felt like an anti-climax after that walk. It was really small. Being a weekday, there were not as many people as on a weekend, but it still felt crowded! We let the kids enjoy the water for 30-40 mins and then made our way back.

She sell sea shells....

She sell sea shells….

Just outside the town was a large Adyar Ananda Bhavan restaurant. We had a quick lunch, and left for Chennai at around 3.30-ish. We finally reached the Airport at Chennai around 4.30 pm in the evening. After seeing off my Sister-in-law and the kids, we started off for Bangalore at around 6pm. The evening traffic on the Highway was pretty heavy, and we finally got home at 12.30 am.

The trip holds great memories of amazing locales and fun-filled memories, and was an amazing end to 2013!

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Categories: Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, Tiruvannamalai | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chennai

Bangalore – Tiruvannamalai – Chennai – Mahabalipuram – 3 days (Dec 2013)

We reached Chennai around 5ish in the evening. We had to reach T. Nagar for our hotel, and a rather long drive we finally reached it.

Sree Devi Niwas is a pretty nice place, and reasonably priced given its location. It is just off North Usman Road, on a small road/lane called Griffith Road (or Giriffith Road as some boards say) which boasts of being The place for clothes/sari shopping. The dinner fare here was mainly North Indian cuisine, and the waiters speak Hindi, which was a great thing, since none of us spoke Tamil.

The nearest restaurant that we noticed on the way was Murugan Idli Shop. We also noticed Adayar Ananda Bhavan on the way in. So we decided to try out Adayar Ananda Bhavan. But after going some distance, we realized that it was actually a lot further than we thought! It was right at the beginning on the flyover on Usman road, and we were near the end. Also there were just too many shoppers on the road taking advantage of the holiday season and discounts. The roads we so packed there was no space for people, let alone vehicles. So we turned and made our way to Murugan Idli Shop on South Usman road.

Having enjoyed a hearty dinner, we made our way back, and decided to take a short walk around on Griffith Road. Here we came across Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, where there were some classical dance and music programmes being performed. It felt so good! We didn’t go inside and watch the performance, but the very fact that there is so much importance given and appreciation shown towards Fine Arts felt good.

After a short stroll, we called it a night.

The next morning, my Sis-in-law and her kids joined us, and we all enjoyed a heavy lunch at Murugan Idli Shop.

Post lunch, and some sleep ;), we decided to take the kids to Marina Beach. The place was packed as it was a Sunday, and there was hardly any space to pack the car! The driver dropped us off at the start, and asked us to call him when we were done. We all had a great time playing in the water, and were all pretty unhappy that we had to return back to the hotel as it got dark! 🙂

The lighthouse at Marina Beach

The lighthouse at Marina Beach

Dinner at the hotel was a pretty nice affair, where they were quite accommodating towards every request we had, especially regarding food for the kids. The food was hot, and tasty.

The next morning we had a late breakfast at Hotel Saravana Bhavan, an all-time favorite! Since it was “only” 11 am, Hubby decided that we should go to Mahabalipuram right then. So a quick call was made to the hotel to have the kids’ lunch ready, and off we went!

Hotel Saravana Bhavan

Hotel Saravana Bhavan

Categories: Chennai, Tamil Nadu | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kanyakumari

Madurai-Rameswaram-Kanyakumari (Dec 2009) – Day 3

The final day of our trip started really early. We found out that the hotel we were staying was at least 35kms away from Kanyakumari. That essentially meant that to see the sunrise at Kanyakumari at 6am, we would need to leave by 4am. So we were up by 3.30am after a measly 4hours sleep. We managed to leave by 4.10am.

Our Hotel nr Kanyakumari

We reached Kanyakumari by 5.50am. The driver directed us to a small path a little away from the main viewing point. The location we were directed was still uncrowded, and we were able to find some comfortable seats on the stones linig the shore. Unfortunately we coundn’t see a proper sunrise as the sky was overcast. Still, the slow brightening up of the sky, and hints of sunrays reflecting through the clouds made the whole experience quite nice. At each stage the lights reflected among the clouds changed. At the end, the world became too bright, and the colour-show was over.

Spray from the ocean in the pre-dawn light - Photography by Hubby 🙂

Sunrise

We left the beach at around 7am, meaning to visit the temple of Kanyakumari Devi. However, when we reached the main road, there was a huge queue along the road. The queue was for the ferry ride to Vivekananda Rock, and no one wants to be left out in waiting for the queue. So hubby decided to stand in the queue along with the others from the bus.

In the meantime the driverr wanted us to confirm that we would have lunch at a specified hotel. This time however, we had to pay for the lunch in advance. So we decided to go with it, and added our names into the list.

The queue started moving at 8am, and we finally got into the ferry at around 8.45am. I spent this time effectively, by looking through all the shops lining the paths and trying to decide my shopping list! 😉

We reached Vivekananda Rock at 9am.
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.
The rock has been long regarded as a sacred place. There is a particular spot on the rock which has an imprint of a small foot. This is belived to be that of the young godess Kanyakumari, who performed austerity here.

The boat on the way to Vivekananda Rock

View of the Memorial from the boat

Setting anchor at Vivekananda Rock

We spent some time here. There is a small meditation room, where you can spend a few minutes in meditation. At the back of the structure is a sovenier shop that sells all kinds of memorabilia. We bought a nice keychain here.

Vivekananda Memorial

Sripada Temple on Vivekananda Rock

Next to the Vivekananda Rock is the the 133ft statue of the poet Thiruvalluvar. This is located on a rock adjacent to the Vivekananda Rock. You can reach here by ferry. We opted to return to the mainland.

Statue of Poet Thiruvalluvar on nearby Rock

Once back on dry land, we made our way to the temple of Goddess Kanyakumari.

Legend has it the the demon Baabaasuran wreaked havoc on the world, and that Vishnu advices the people and Gods together to worship Paraashakthi, the primeveal energy force, to vanquish the demon. Answering the prayers, Shakti  appeared as a young virgin girl at Kanyakumari and commences penance with the desire of marrying Siva at Suchindram.

The Sage Narada had fixed the midnight hour as the auspicious time for the wedding. When Siva’s procession reached a site by name Vazhukkampaarai, a rooster crowd, heralding daybreak. Siva assumed that the auspicious hour was past, and returned home. The disappointed Godess decided to spend the resto of her life in Kanyakumari as a virgin, and all the food prepared for the wedding was laid water. The coloured sand at Kanyakumari is said to be the remains of that wedding feast.

The demon Banaasuran, upon hearing Shakthi’s story proceeded to Kanyakumari to win her hand by force. This led to a fierce battle in which he was slain by her.

The Goddess is beautiful to look at. Of particular significance is the nose stud of the Goddess. This stone seems to light up with a light of its own. It is said that in earlier times, the nose stud used to confuse ships sailing in the night, and caused them to crash into the ricks nearby. There is a door now, which is opened only 5 times a year.

View from the beach near Temple

We spent some time on the beach, bought trickets at the small stalls dotting the beach, and generally had quite a bit of fun. There is also a Gandhi Memorial at the beach, a place where some of the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi are placed, but we skipped that. We slowle made our way back to the starting point, where the driver was waiting for us, and he directed us to the lunch house. The meal was typically North-Indian in preparation: rotis, subzi, dal and rice. The best part of it were that it was hot, and tasty.

After lunch, I wanted to have an ice cream, so we went over the Baskin Robbins nearby. Good fun! 🙂

We left Kanyakumari soon after, and started our journey back to Madurai. We reached Madurai at around 7pm. It was a tiring journey, given the cramped space in the bus. Also we were exhausted because of the lack of proper sleep the previous night. In all, it was an uncomfortable journey. We were glad to get out of the bus. We all went over to the agent we had first met when we came to Madurai. He had all the return tickets. He gave us a note to another bus agent, telling us that he had the tickets. So we quickly picked up our bags and went over to this bus stop. This wasn’t the same we had come to. This one was within the city, and most private buses plyed through here.

When we reached the bus agent, he washed his hands off the situation saying that all buses from Kanyakumari were full, and we could try for a seat in that. The next bus would arrive only at 10pm, and we could try our luck there. After waiting till about 9pm, a driver approached us. Apparently, there was a jeep travelling to Bangalore, and the front seats were empty. We decided to take the chance. It was one of the most singularly painful experiences we ever had. Hubby sat near the gear-shift. So his leg was at an awkward angle trhough the ight. The good part was: we reached Bangalore by 5am, and by 6am we crashed out at home.

This unfortunaly marred the entire experience.

I would advice travellers to ensure they have all their arrangements made well in advance, and confirm when travelling through agents.

Categories: Madurai, Rameshwaram & Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments