Thirunallar – Kottuchery – Govindapuram – Bangalore

After a fitful night’s sleep, I woke up feeling ok.¬† I looked and sounded cross and so nobody wanted to ask me anything. I was glad ūüôā Managed to get ready by 8 am – we were planning to go to Thirunallar today.

Day 3

Breakfast at Meenakshi Bhavan took forever and when we finally left¬†Kumbakonam – it was 9 am. The Senior Arien had arranged for a taxi to take us to Thirunallar. I think I slept the entire journey away – that does not go to show the roads were gr8 – it goes to show tht I was pretty sick ūüė¶

I was rudely awoken by the Arien (he probably wud have liked to doze off as well Рbut did not Рso the rudeness) when we reached Thirunallar. I could not remember the temple at all Рwe kept walking towards the entrance and as we neared РI realized tht we were walking to the temple frm the right and not frm the front. Whtever the reasons, I was glad to remove my sandals and walk into the temple. (Yupp Рthe sandals continued to hurt). It was xtremely crowded inside and we all realized tht we had come to the sanishwara bhagawan temple on a saturday Рa very auspicious day for sanishwara bhagawan. A priest stopped us from taking spl darshan tickets and asked us to get to the normal darshan queue Рnot wanting to get on his bad books we did jes tht. It was one of the best things to do. The spl darshan queue hardly moved Рours on the other hand was moving at a steady pace.

We finished our darshan and reached the car at 12 – the Senior Arien wanted to visit a place known as Kottuchery – which was pretty close to Thirunallar. His cousin lived there – plus he wanted us to see their old house – where he spent his vacations. I was pretty sick and would have lowed to fall asleep anywhere – to really raise objections – I also realized tht the Senior Arien already had the Taurean’s support. So, we met them, visited the old home, the senior Arien showed us the entire house, sharing funny anecdotes¬†– he was nostalgic – almost sentimental¬†– and he was totally enjoying it. We chatted with them for an hour and¬†left after having tea.

modernizedThe senior Arien had another plan up his sleeve -to  visit his aged aunt and uncle who stayed at Govindapuram. We had not seem them in two years and so no objections were raised. On our drive to Govindapuram, the driver felt xtremely hungry and so stopped to have sm grub Рwe stewed as we waited. We had not had our lunch as well n we def cud not eat at the place where he had stopped Рwht a mess!! arienenthu

The Arien decided to take sm snaps.¬† The first thing we all noticed was this board – I really did not know that things had changed so much in this lil village – this was common in B’lore quite a few years ago – now, almost everyone has net connection at¬† home ūüėĬ† We giggled incontrollably like it was¬†the funniest joke – I think we were hungry. The¬†senior Arien got¬†us Good Day biscuits which we¬†had after saying “Biscuits?? Now???”¬†. The Arien and the senior Arien bonded over biscuits while me and the Taurean¬†‘Hi-Fi’ ed each other over various issues that we agreed on and both the Ariens did not.

When the Ariens realized¬†wht we were doing – both sulked in their¬†own ways – senior Arien¬†occupied himself with¬†asking for directions to Govindapuram. Arien took more snaps. We (Piscean and Taurean) had coconut water and then went to¬†pacify them – they can¬†sulk for a looong time ūüėĬ†

When the driver returned and we started on our way – we saw a huge snake on the road – it was crossing the road – the driver went mad trying to miss it – he braked hard n turned sharply so as to miss it – all of us stared ahead¬†– the snake was also a lil psyched – it slithered like it was drunk.¬†After we crossed the snake, the driver braked and told us tht the snake¬†was a “nalla paambu” – literal translation being “good snake” – funda being you don’t kill it even by mistake ūüėÄ The Arien realized belatedly tht he cud have taken a snap ūüėõ

The visit to Govindapuram was short and sweet. We visited the Anachenayar temple – which¬†housed the Bhodendra swamigal’s samadhi. It is a very calm and peaceful place and on the day of the visit – and tho’ we were walking in pretty late – they shared¬†some of the prasadam (from the vadamalai)¬†with us. The best joy was of course the happiness tht was seen in the face of my great aunt.

We returned early as I was very tired – we had lunch at a small hotel as Meenakshi bhavan¬†was closing. I had parota and was ready to crash – we packed n I fell asleep. The train was at 6:30 and so we left at 5:30. We reached on time and there was no hassle as the taxi-driver dropped us at the railway station. We met the same grp tht we had initially travelled with – but thankfully they were not travelling with us ūüėÄ

We reached Bangalore the nxt day – rather early. It was a good short trip – I was sick for most part of it but I still feel we covered a lot, this time.

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Kumbakonam – Swamy Malai – Uppiliappan Koil

We reached Kumbakonam at 7 am. As soon as we got off, my sandal strap ripped off on one side Рand I was unable to walk. I had not brought a spare as this particular sandal has been good for a looong time Рonly prblm was tht it squeaked Рwell, now Рit was ripped as well РI was totally vexed. Meanwhile, the Taurean who had been walking ahead came bk n asked me wht was the problem Рwhy was I walking so slow?? I showed him my poor sandal and the Arien ran to a shop Рgot me a rubberband to hold the strap to my leg instead of flapping outside and throwing me off-balance. I was now able to walk РThe * I feel good* song was reverberating in my head!

Day 2

The plan for today was to visit¬†Swamy malai in the morning and go to the Uppiliappan Koil post lunch. We were ready by 10 am after having breakfast.¬†I insisted that we travel by bus to Swamy malai as it was a mere 7 kms away.¬†On the way to the bus-stop, I got myself a pair of sandals – tht was jes ’bout ok. The wait at the bus-stop took forever. Usually, there was a bus every 15 mts – we stood in the hot sun for an hour before the first bus to swamy malai arrived. It has been years since we travelled by bus and so it took us a while to get accustomed to ppl pushing you frm behind – surprisingly, our seat finding ability had not rusted! we sat far apart and the bust stopped every two mts and picked up a min. of 5 ppl at every stop.

swamymalaientWhen we reached Swamy malai, the bus was packed to capacity and we really had to push our way out. We had been dropped pretty close to the temple entrance, for a change. However, we still had a small walk ahead of us. My cousin, the Capricon, calls to let us know that he is already waiting at the temple. When I return his call Рno answer РI assume that the pujai has already started. The moment I tell the other folks this Рwe are moving forward at a faster pace.  I am not moving with them РI am slowing down Рreason: the lovely beads of my new sandal start digging at my skin РI know I am getting a shoe bite РI hate this sandal Рmy walk becomes slower. Soon, they are walking a long way ahead Рthe Arien slows down to keep me company. The Taurean wants to know why I am taking forever to walk РI cannot share the reason as I had been the one who said this sandal was gr8 Рand refused to chk for comfort- I glare at him and he decides to keep the Senior Arien company.  murugan2

At the entrance of the temple, while the Senior Arien is getting the archania thattu –¬†I get the¬†damn sandals off. I feel relieved almost instantly.¬†

We catch up with my cousin¬†and his family – they are waiting in the queue to get the spl darshan tickets – we join them. The entire pujai takes arnd half an hour and¬†after tht we¬†catch up with whts going on in each other’s lives – we¬†spend an hour in¬†the temple and then¬†decide to¬†catch up in the Uppiliappan temple later in the day.¬†My cousin and his family leave immediately.

We find a bus waiting at the place where we got off and it is in the process of getting filled Рwe take the last seat. The Taurean is totally against sitting here, but the idea of moving was totally unacceptable as more ppl had followed us in. We stayed where we were Рlaughed and joked and reached Kumbokonam pretty quickly. I was really tired, and feeling sick, the sandal continued to bug me. We had a quick lunch at Meenakshi Bhavan. I wanted to sleep almost immediately Рwe are supposed to meet my cousin at 3:30 and there was really no time to catch a nap Рbut I was looking so green Рeverybody asked me to take a small cat nap. 

kfWe reached Uppiliappan Koil arnd 3:50 pm by auto. I was feeling terribly guilty only to find that the Kalyana Utsavam was going to start at 4pm. For once, we were actually early!! * I feel good* My cousin was in the temple kolam with his daughter, feeding the fish. It was a nice break and we joined them. Saw a cute kingfisher sitting atop a steel pillar. The Arien could not resist taking snaps. The Kalyana Utsavam started sharp at 4 pm and went on for almost an hour.  It was lovely. The Lord Vishnu, also known as Uppiliappan was being wed to Bhoomi Devi Рthe elaborate Kalyana Utsavam was a sight for sore eyes.

During the entire Kalyana Utsavam, I coughed infrequently. I thought the cold was ok Рsore throat had disappeared. I started feeling very tired. We had planned to visit another temple РI was suddenly in no mood for anything. I told the senior Arien that I would like to sleep and so we left. Of course, my aunt, the Gemini, is known for her ability to quickly divide prasadam into multiple packets, bless her Рdid all the dividing and handing it to both the Ariens, while I was acting slightly weird as I was very sick. The goodbyes happened in a rush РI wanted to rest my head and soon we were at the hotel. I fell asleep almost imm РI knew I was likely to get fever РI had started trembling.  When I woken by the Arien for dinner РI asked for Idlis and refused to wake up. I do recall eating two of the idlis Рwith sugar and falling asleep again. What a blaaaah end to Day1.

Bangalore – Kumbokonam

The Taurean finally agreed to the long due trip to Swamymalai.¬†Senior Arien was ready at any time – “Jes book the tickets and I’ll join you” – was his latest tagline. We realized that getting tickets on the Myladudurai express was akin to recieving Darshan at Tirupathi. Senior Arien asked us to go for Tatkal and finally a day or two before the journey – we had tickets and we knew were¬†travelling for sure.

Day 1

We reach the railway station with 10 mts to spare.¬†After the luggage is dumped and I am kept as guardian of the luggage – The Senior Arien gets water bottles for all, the Taurean gets chai for himself, pays for the chai, collects the change and¬†forgets to take the chai, realizes tht after a¬†few mts and goes back for the chai, the Arien joins the Senior Arien and they generally walk up and down the railway station buying biscuits, and¬†chips, the taurean is wondering if the senior arien has gotten into the train and leaves again,¬†while I am waiting panic-striken inside the train. The train finally leaves Bangalore at 7 pm with all the three men inside. Grrrr… They always do this – drive me nuts jes before the train moves. I take out my Wheel of Time and am immersed in it. The Taurean is also immersed in his book.¬†The Arien listens to music and the Senior Arien looks out of the window and¬†passes comments frm time to time.

smbWe all see the Side Middle Berth (SMB) and are really glad that none of us have tht ticket.¬†For a while, we¬†are engrossed in our respective worlds and then the group sitting opposite start talking and knowingly or unknowingly you are listening in. The son, who¬†kinda looked like the Kaadhalil Vizhundhen Nakul or¬†“Naka Muka” Nakul,¬†was actually explaining why he¬†does not have a bath everyday. I think uncosciously we all move away¬†(hehehehe).¬†There is a gal,¬†his collegemate probably, who is also travelling with us – who asks “Why not??”¬†He then corrects his earlier statement¬†tht he actually dislikes¬†having baths in the morning and then goes on n on ’bout why must I? An older man, who wanted to show¬†off his command over multiple languages spoke in¬†accented Tamil tht he must have a bath if he wants gals to like him. I think tht was for us – we spoke a few words of Tamil wen we walked in – after which we lapsed into English. When the ticket checker came, he spoke in passable Kannada and asked for a berth for the gal (collegemate) but to no avail. I think he was a malayali. Nakul’s mom was also travelling who initiated the bath conversation.

It was finally time to sleep and I was glad for the break – my eyes were hurting frm reading in train light, my mind frm concentrating on two things (my book and the conversation) at the same time, and¬†I had a sore throat. I was glad to fall asleep. We will be in Kumbokonam in the morning. Hopefully, I won’t have too bad a cold – at least, thts my hope!

Belur – Halebid – Bangalore

The next day dawned bright and sunny.¬†All my fears seemed foolish in the bright light of the morning and I sheepishly moved all the luggage away from¬†the door. I tried hard not to look at the Arien’s face – he was busy planning the drive ahead and was sufficiently distracted so as to forget the entire fear episode and I was not planning on reminding him of it ūüôā

The first stop was to see the temple at Belur. It was a stone’s throw away – we were tempted to walk but did not want to lose time and took the car Entrance– it was a warm day. As soon as we entered the famous temple –¬†a man starts¬†to sell his services as a guide – I am not sure I like him and so we go on ahead. Another man comes forward who¬†speaks clear English¬†with a¬†British style¬†and seemed full of enthu. He clearly mentioned that he was not being paid by us but by¬†some organization – he made it look like he was doing us the favor by helping us. I was glad he cud speak English and so we decided to employ his¬†services. And then he spoke non-stop – we¬†cud have been the statues for all the words tht he let us speak!

I will not attempt to sound like him – I doubt I wud sound even partly as funny ūüėõ¬†The entrance of the temple was majestic but the guide did not let us stare in awe for looong – he was showing¬†us¬†the dasavathaaram that was carved on it – jes below the trunk of the elephant.¬†The 10 Avataars of Vishnu are enslosed within a circle.¬†¬†If the entrance was majestic –¬†it was nothing compared to the rest – we saw so many awe-inspiring statues tht we stared, took photographs,¬†attempted to ask questions, heard a running commentary and kept walking ūüôāElephants¬†As we walked around the temple, the guide insisted there was a lot to observe outside the temple and so we followed him¬†– the first thing he showed us were these elephants – he explained how each elephant¬†was an individual and sported different expressions – and how no two elephants were identical among them in a row – it showed how carefully the artist has sculpted these¬†animals – one elephant is looking back as if he wants¬†to tell the other elephant to stop pushing. It looked¬†very real.lordsnservants

He pointed to sculptures of women that were so high up that we had to crane our necks to observe the same. He explained how the statues were so beautifully sculpted Рpointed out the jewellery that she was wearing, the elaborate hairstyle that she had, the fan in her right hand. The smaller statues were the servants of these women. To differentiate between the mistress and his servants Рthey made them smaller in stature Рmost statutes had at least 2 smaller statues with them.

We also saw the sculpture of a lady who was drying her hair Рthe droplets of water at the tips of her looong hair was so beautifully depicted that you had no words. We also saw a scuplture of women who was surrounded by snakes Рshe was the Vishakanya. The funda being tht she was fed poison bit by bit (the snakes on her) till she developed the ability to withstand poison and could in fact kill ppl. Some women sent pigeons, parrots with messages for their loved ones.  Was it interesting? РU bet!! narasimha

We also saw the¬†scary sculpture of Narasimha – he is the fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu – who is the part Lion – part Human avataar whose purpose in life was to kill Hiranyakaseepu – the evil daemon. Hiranyakaseepu, had the blessings of Lord Brahma¬†that he could not be killed by either gods or daemons or animals or humans, in any place that is inside¬†or outside the house, in land or sky, at any time when it is day or night. Also,¬†no weapon could cause his death. The unique manner he met his death was: Lord Vishnu came as Narasimha (partLion-part human) and killed him at dusk¬†– when it was neither day or night¬†– at the threshold of the palace (neither inside or outside) with his bare hands (no weapon was used) after placing him on his thighs (neither land or sky). The chain like thing around Narasimha’s¬†neck is¬†the intestine of the hiranyakaseepu.¬†We grew up on these stories and so it was very¬†believable to see a sculpture of this.¬†It still looked¬†scary though!¬†pillars

After seeing a lot more sculptures, we were finally allowed inside. It was dark inside and very cool Рlot of ppl were waiting for the puja to begin Рin all my visits this is the first time Рthat I am in time for a puja. There is still quite a while for the puja to begin and our guide drones on. He points the pillars that are holding the temple together. No two pillars are identical and at tht point of time Рthere were no lathe machines. It  really is a wonder to see the lovely pillars Рeach pillar was distinct and symmetrical. This particular pillar looks unbelievable as belonging to tht age. The ridges look pretty cool and you can also catch sight of the neighbouring pillars tht hardly look similar. As we stared awe-struck, the puja started and we stayed back hoping to catch a glimpse of the same. An abishekam was performed on the deity with milk, sandalwood, turmeric, and honey.

roofAfter the puja was over, we watched the folks leave and our guide pointed a huge light (type¬†used by theatre actors to highlight only a single person or section of the stage) to the ceiling to show us the roof. That looked equally amazing. In today’s world – none of these would look difficult ‘cos we have machines that would help us create the same pretty quick – when we think ’bout how looong ago these were created – you def stare in awe.

While you are happily admiring stuff – I must add that some of the sculptures¬†are in pretty bad and decayed condition and¬†can upset you. It seems there was a dhol that would make the sound of the dhol when you lightly tap it¬†– the dhol is broken –¬†ppl lowed it so much they thot they cud carry it hm ūüė¶¬†This is especially true of¬† Halebid. The place looks so bad – you feel sorry that you even came there.

The funnier aspect¬†of this visit¬†is towards the end¬†– ppl try to sell the male members¬†–¬†a book they call the¬†“Kamasutra”. It costs Rs.10/- and¬† consists of¬†photos taken from the temple. It can be pretty embarrassing if you have kids along.¬†The Arien was totally amused¬† and I found it a tad tasteless but funny nevertheless as we tried to avoid them and¬†get past the foriegn travellers¬†who did not know how to handle¬†the¬†sellers of these books or the beggars out front.

 When we checked out of the hotel Рwe were dreaming of home sweet home. We had a laate lunch at Haasan and proceeded with gud speed. We reached Bangalore at 7 Рwalked into Shanthi Saagar to have a cup of tea and a snack Рand then visited our aunt and uncle before reaching home. It was a gr8 break Рone that I truly enjoyed. Being back in Bangalore means not living out of a suitcase but it also means truckload of washing, getting the home back in ship shape, and all the other routine chores. I was still glad to be back!!

Dharmasthala – Belur

The drive went on forever or so it seemed : D¬†and then we saw a board on the road, that stated “Dharmasthala – 1 Km” and both of us seemed happy to find that it was indeed closeby. We were determined to spend less than an hour at Dharmasthala.

DharmasthalaYet again, this place had a connection with my past – I had been to Dharmasthala a loooong time ago with my parents when I was but a small kid – I could only vaguely remember a few details. The place had changed so much and then I saw the entrance and said “I remember this.”¬† I remembered reaching Dharmasthala late in the evening – with only a single street lamp to tell us where the temple lay –¬†and that was my first glimpse of Dharmasthala.¬† I was now seeing the same entrance in the afternoon. To my utter dismay, we find that the temple is closed and will be re-opened only after 6 p.m. – we wud be leaving way b4 that ūüė¶¬†This doorway was all I was going to see of the temple and that totally shocked me!! We had already parked the car and so we wondered if we shd jes leave. I was still too taken aback at the turn of events!¬†

The Arien is practical most of the times and so he enquired ’bout any tourist spots that we could visit – and I wanted to tell him – “No – this is a religious place – there will be nothing” – Surprisingly, there was. Apart from the temple, Dharmasthala was also known for¬†two¬†museums.¬† We decided to visit both those places. The first place we visited¬†was the Car Museum which had an¬†amazing amount of vintage cars – the types we have only read ’bout in old english books or seen in old english movies. These cars actually belonged to quite a few Indian kings – surprisingly.¬†Well, not so surprisingly, I guess.

We were not allowed to take any snaps – we could buy the postcards of the vehicles from the guy who sold us the tickets. I was not too interested and so we went in and were surprised. The bikes looked cute, the cars were totally stylish, well-kept, well-polished and¬†shining, looking as if we could drive them away if we only had the key. I remembered my Honda Activa and realized tht my 3 year old bike looked like it was older to some of the 70+ year old bikes¬†– Yikes!!! ūüė¶ The visit took arnd half an hour and my mood was back on track – we decided to visit the other museum (Manjusha Museum) as well – whch had jes opened – post lunch. This museum had a unique collection of heritage objects, artefacts, objects of worship, utilitarian stuff etc. We walked so much… my feet started to ache pretty badly and the Arien also looked pretty tired out. One item that stood out was the skeleton of a whale – it¬†occupied most part of the back of the hall.¬†Yet again, we were not allowed to take snaps and so I have none to share. When we got back to the street, we were totally worn out ūüė¶

Our plan was to proceed imm to Belur. We had to get to the Ghat section before sun-down and I was getting a lil worried. The GhatsThe Arien ran around talking to various drivers but not recieving any helpful answers – I was ready¬†to give up!! One driver said that the route was fine and we decided to base the nxt part of the journey on tht driver’s words – Cautious??? Hardly!! So we got started – when we were leaving Dharmasthala, it was warm and we liked the breeze that teased the hair and our faces – as we got onto the Ghat section¬†– it progressively got cooler – it was like the AC was on – only it wasn’t!!

The road was curvaceous Рwe ripped РI was screaming out of fear not fun Рthe Arien was enjoying the ride. Then we saw quite a few folks taking snaps of the amazing view, the curved road, and et al and instantly the Arien stopped and started taking pics. I was very tense throughtout this part of the journey. The road was quite narrow and sometimes you jes had to stop so that the other person could go on Рin the opposite direction.  I pressurised the Arien into leaving Рby refusing to: get out of the car, take any snaps, calm down, and generally playing spoil sport.

Ghats2The Arien could not understand why I was being so tense. I wanted us to clear the Ghat section before night fall and he was not being serious. I had promised the Senior Arien that we will not be going via the Ghat section at all and for once I did not find it funny that we were actually doing jes tht. I usually find that most parents, older junta¬†worry too much –¬†but for once I was in total agreement with them. The Arien took one more cute¬†snap of the view and¬†started on the drive – I was not sure if we were going up or going down anymore – it jes felt like we were in a merry-go-around – going round and round.¬†It was getting really cold and we had rolled up the windows all the way up –¬†the glass pane felt ice-cold¬†to my touch and then the Arien gets serious! Grrrr…

Anyways, suddenly we were¬†at the end of the Ghat section – Both of us were taken aback at the suddeness with which we had reached the end. Nope nope – we did not have a fall ūüėÄ – one wud expect tht you have reached either the summit or the bottom level – this was almost level ground.¬†The first thing we did was to fill petrol and ask the guy who filled our tank – how to get¬†to Belur. He told us we were on the right path and asked us to go on for another 15 or so kms.

15 was a small number – right? WRONG!! Firstly, darkness had fallen so swiftly that wen we reached the Petrol bunk – it felt like 7 pm when it was Belurmoonlitejes 6 pm. Secondly, as we drove along – 15 kms felt like 45 kms – really!! It was so dark – tht I actually felt we were driving at midnight – very few street lights – most huts had no lights or had switched off the lights – very few vehicles on the road and so there was no one we cud ask for directions – it was scary!!! The one cute part of the whole drive was the bright and beautiful moon which followed us or rather which we followed ūüėÄ I wanted to take a snap of the lovely moon and it was the turn of the Arien to play spoil sport – he refused to stop – he insisted that I take the snap as he kept driving – looks like he was bitten by the tension bug tht bit me earlier. ūüėÄ Anyways, after a lot of persuasion – he stopped so I cud take this snap.

Did we reach Belur? Yepp – we did. After staring at milestones forever and forever – we finally reached a town – more lights – lots of ppl – and drew sm enthu ūüėÄ We stayed at a hotel tht had heard of better days ūüė¶ The dinner was good and not too expensive but the ppl who visited the hotel seemed like thugs.¬†I became¬†so terrified after seeing them – I did not want to¬†stay at tht hotel – the Arien had this “Do you really want me to drive elsewhere?” expression. I decided I did not want him walking off in a huff and so¬†insisted that we keep the chairs, side-table, and our luggage –¬†against the door of our room – so we wud wake up wen smne tried to force their way in. The Arien stared at me¬†as tho’ I was mad. I¬†insisted on moving all the stuff against the door! He decided he did not want to start a fight and did¬†jes tht.¬†The place was so coooold – tht it felt like Central AC was on ūüėÄ I fell asleep telling the Arien to not open the door under any circumstances!