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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Reunion at Yercaud

My school mate from St.Xavier's Patna had also landed up in Yercaud with his family and staying at Sterling Resorts in which he owns a time share. We met up at the lake side around 12.45 noon and went on a long drive through the 33 Km loop road to see coffee and pepper plantations. After close to an hour we decided we were hungry and decided to have lunch at the Water Front Restaurant ( owned by Shevaroy Group of Hotels). Food was good clean & tasty and reasonably priced too. Overall we had a great time together.

Lalitha Tripurasundari Temple

28 December 2017: We visited the Lalitha Tripurasundari Temple, a contemporary temple consecrated in the year 2010 which has the largest Sri Chakra atop on the Vimanam. A serene place in sylvan surroundings - a perfect sanctuary for meditation in peace and solitude.There are sanctums for Vinayaga, Dakshinamurthy & Subramania. For detailed information on this temple you can log onto: http://aalayamkanden.blogspot.in/2012/06/worlds-largest-sri-chakra-mahameru.html

Friday, December 29, 2017

Yercaud the Hill Station

27 December 2017: Yercaud is a  hill station 30 Kms from Salem and situated atop the Shevaroy hills. It is not as popular as an Ooty or Kodaikanal and less frequented by tourists. It has a small shrinking lake where boating is still possible. Apart from there is a deer park, botanical gardens, a rose garden, a Maha Meru Temple, a waterfall & some breathtaking view points like Ladies Seat etc. All these can be covered in a single day. Yercaud is most famous for its extensive and expansive coffee plantations which was introduced to Yercaud by David Cockburn the first Collector of Salem in 1820. You can walk around for miles and miles and see nothing but coffee plantations. An assortment of tall trees stand in the midst of these plantations like sentinels.The weather is superb throughout the year. 
We reached on 27 Dec 2017 and it was quite cold with chill winds blowing intermitently. You would be most comfortable wearing a jacket, jerkin or a full sleeved cardigan. Fortunately it was neither rainy nor cloudy and we enjoyed bright sunshine during our peregrinations around the lake.
The Guest House caretaker was a nice chap and fetched food for us from a nearby restaurant. He would bring it in a hot pack and serve us hot puris, idlis & dosas piping hot with sambar, chutney or potato curry.

Onwards to Yercaud

Coffee break at A2B - near Salem
Using our GPS we guided ourselves from Vellode back to the Salem Highway No.544. Before Salem we briefly stopped over for coffee at A2B. Then we reached Salem town and again with assistance of GPS steered through the labyrinthine traffic onto the Yercaud road. Yercaud is a relatively less known hill station situated atop Shevaroy hills around 30 Kms from Salem. Negotiated 21 hair pin bends saw armies of rhesus monkeys & encountered phalanxes of tall trees enroute.The entire landscape was swathed in sunlight & there was virtually no traffic. What a fantastic and enjoyable drive uphill. Took us a little over one hour to reach Yercaud and we straightaway drove into the Forest Dept. Guest House - a cosy cottage set amidst sylvan surroundings.We were accorded VIP treatment and allotted the special room normally reserved for the Conservator of Forests.The room was chill and we climbed under the thick blankets for a brief nap.

Vellode Bird Sanctuary (Erode)

27 December 2017: Embarked on a three day road trip. First stop was Vellode Bird Sanctuary located at around 90 Kms from Coimbatore & around 18 Kms from Perundurai off National Highway 544. Enroute stopped briefly at KDFC's outlet for some superbly aromatic Kumbakonam Degree Coffee on the highway. Reached Vellode around 9.15 am but was quite disappointed to see very little water in the lake probably due to severe deficiency in rainfall. Most of the lake was dry and there was a small pool of water in the centre. There were very few birds and we could hardly see any nesting/breeding activity. We could however spot a large contingent of grey herons, some cormorants & egrets, teals,pintail ducks,lapwings,stilts,terns & swallows.Hope the rains are better in 2018 and the lake full of birds next year. We had idli/chutney/mulakapodi for breakfast sitting on one of the benches facing the sanctuary,

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Oothukadu Krishna Temple

14 December 2017:Located 11 Km from Kumbakonam via Patteeswaram & Tirukarugavur..Presiding deity is Veda Narayana Perumal with consorts Sridevi & Bhudevi. The Utsavar is Kalinga Narthana Perumal with consorts Rukmini & Satyabhama.This is a 1000 year old temple.
The idol of Sri Kalinga Narthana Perumal within the inner sanctuary of the temple is about 2.5 ft high. Lord Krishna, portrayed as a five-year-old boy, is seen dancing with His left foot on the serpent's head and his right leg in the air. Krishna is depicted holding the tail of the serpent with His left hand and showing Abhaya Mudra with His right hand. It is so intricately sculpted that one can insert a thin piece of paper between the Lord's left leg and the head of the serpent. According to the temple priest the beauty is that the weight of the Lord's body rests on the left hand that holds the serpent's tail. One can also see the scars on the right leg of Lord Krishna formed due to the violent beating from Kalinga's tail.

Tiruvalanchuzhi Shwetha Vinayakar-Pasupateeswarar



14 December 2017: This was our final day of the tour. We had breakfast, checked out of the hotel and were headed back to Chennai. Our first stop was at Tiruvalanchuzi Temple near Swamimalai. Main deities are Kabardeeswarar, Brihannayaki and Shwetha Vinayakar.The temple is renowned for its shrine dedicated to Ganesha (Vinayagar, Vinayaka). The idol of Vinayaka is white in colour and is believed to have been created out of sea sand. Hence, the temple is also known as Swetha Vinayagar Temple.According to popular legend,Indra the king of the Devas created the idol of Ganesha out of sea sand during the churning of the ocean and left it in a niche in the temple hoping to get back the idol sometime later. But later, when he returned to remove the idol of Ganesha, it would not budge. So, the idol was allowed to remain where it was.
Shwetha Vinayakar
The pillared corridor to reach Shwetha Vinayakar
Pasupateeswarar Temple: The temple is one of the 70 madakoil built by 2nd century Chola king Kochenga Cholan.This is also a padal petra sthalam. The temple is known for the Panchabairavar, the five images of Bhairavar.The main deities are Pasupateeswarar & Mangalanayaki. The temple looks decrepit due to dereliction and dilapidation as a result of poor upkeep and maintenance.I have posted several pictures of the temple below. I particularly liked the black ferocious looking bull found tethered inside the temple.
1.Mada Koil or Temple built at a height to prevent entry of elephants
2.Pancha Bhairavas or Five Bhairavas (below)
Pancha Bha

Tirucherai-Nachiarkoil-Uppiliappan

13 December 2017:We had completed visits to Mannargudi,  Vaduvur & Alangudi in the morning session. We returned to Kumbokonam for lunch and a well deserved rest. We left once again in the evening for yet another fascinating temple rendezvous. We visited Tirucherai-Nachiarkoil-Uppilappankoil-Tiru Nageswaran.

Tirucherai: The temple is one among the 108 Divya Desas of Lord Perumal. This is the only temple where Lord Saranatha Perumal Perumal graces the devotees with five consorts – Sridevi, Bhoodevi, Mahalakshmi, Saranayaki and Neeladevi. The soil of the place contains high properties (Saram), hence Lord is called Saranathar and the place Tiru Charam which later changed as Tirucherai. This place is also called as Panchasara kshetra sthalam: Saranatha Perumal, Saranayaki,Sara Pushkarni,Sara Vimanam, Sara Kshetram.
Saranatha Perumal flanked by Sridevi, Bhidevi & Neela Devi and Mahalakshmi on his chest
We also had a brief visit to the nearby Sara Parameswarar Temple which is considered on the 275 Padal Petra Sthalams since tirupani (renovation works) was in progress. We paid obeisance to the Lord and his consort Ambal Gnanavalli.
Nachiarkoil: One of the 108 Divya Desams believed to have been built by Kochenga Cholan. Srinivasa Perumal and Vanchulavalli Nachiyar both in Kalyana Kolam.Separate but important sanctum for Kal Garudan. The sanctum also houses the images of Brahma,Pradyumna,Aniruddha, Sankarshana and Purushothaman (Vishnu) and a set of gods, who are depicted attending the wedding. The festive idols of Srinivasa (Vishnu), Sridevi (Lakshmi), Vanjulavalli (Lakshmi) and Bhudevi are housed in the same shrine.
Garuda (Brahminy Kite)- Lord Vishnu's vehicle
Kal Garuda, an image of Vishnu's mount Garuda, is the most prominent feature of the temple.While only four people are needed to carry the idol of Garuda out of the shrine, it multiples to 8, 16, 32, 64 and 128 people when the image is taken outside the temple.
Oppiliappankoil: Oppilappan Perumal & his consort Bhumi Devi. Oppiliappan mean a force without equal. Also referred to as Uppiliappan. The Lord married the daughter of Margandeya Rishi.When the rishi countered that she was so young and immature Lord said he would eat even she cooked without salt. Hence even today all prasadams (offerrings) in the temple are prepared without uppu (salt). I have an endearing love for temple elephants and Bhumadevi is no exception. Here she is being lovingly being fed a mixture of rice and jaggery.
Our final visit for the evening was Tiru Nageswaram Temple.This is one of the 275 padal petra sthalams as well as a Rahu sthalam (part of the group of Nava Graha Sthalams around Kumbakonam), The main deities are Naganathaswamy and his consort Giri Gujambikai.
                                        
The colorful gopuram or entrance tower

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Colorful Chariot at Tiru Alangudi

During festivals the Utsavar is placed on the chariot and a procession is taken around the temple.

Mannargudi Rajagopalaswamy-Vaduvur-Alangudi

13 December 2017: Left Kumbakonam around 8.45 am towards Mannargudi via Needamangalam (22 Kms from Kumbakonam) which is a huge railway junction. We had to wait at the Railway crossing for around 15 minutes. From Needamangalam there is a diversion of 14 Kms to travel to Mannargudi.
Rajagopalaswamy temple is a Vaishnavite shrine located in the town of Mannargudi.  The presiding deity is Rajagopalaswamy a form of Lord Krishna. The temple is spread over an area of 23 acres (93,000 m2) and is one of the important Vaishnavite shrines in India. The temple has a 192 ft (59 m) Rajagopuram the temple's gateway tower. Haridra Nadhi, the temple associated with the temple is outside the temple complex and is considered one of the largest temple tanks in India.
Sanctums: Moolavar: Vasudevaperumal, Utsavar: Rajagopalaswamy, Amman: Sengamala Thayar.
The Temple Chariot


The massive Rajagopuram
The sprawling colonnaded entrance corridor
Haridra Nadi
Rajagopalaswamy
The Temple elephant Sengamalam
Dont I have a pretty tuft of hair ?
From Mannargudi we motored towards Vaduvur Kothandaramar Temple a distance of 15 Kms. A young priest was carrying out the morning pujas for Moolavar. A smart, well informed and articulate priest who went to great lengths to explain the history & legends associated with this temple. He even permitted us to take pictures of the Utsavar Moorthy.You can see below Lord Sri Rama along with his consort Seetha devi and brother Lakshman. Dont they all so serene and divine.Lord Ramas beuatiful smile is bewitching & enchanting to behold. You can see Anjaneya Swamy to thr right. This temple is also known as Dakshina Ayodhya.
 
Kothandaramar - holding the powerful and invincible Kodanda Bow

From Vaduvur we took a shorter route directly to Needamangalam and travelled back on Kumbakonam road for around 8 Kms. We stopped at Tiru Alangudi for a quick darshan. This temple derives significance for worship of Lord Dakshinamurthy. This is a padal petra sthalam and Lord Shiva is worshipped here as Abathsahayeswarar & Ambal is Tribhuvanayagi.