Omus’s Weblog

Politics, Trekking, Environment & Personal

Cholaland Tour: 14-16th Jan,2011 January 23, 2011

Purpose:

There were two, infact three purpose & all “selfish“, kind of philanthropic to myself. First, I didn’t want to bore myself in Bangalore by wasting rare 3 day holiday. Secondly, I wanted to live up to my long planned dream & I found the time to be perfect to execute it (but late than never). Thirdly, trip would be milestone for me, as I would complete 1 round trip to all big cities n tourists places of Tamil Nadu.

So, the trip had purpose, but all selfish. 🙂

When: 14th, 15th & 16th Jan,2011. Me n my Avenger.

Trip meter: 977 Kms

Route: Bangalore- Hosur-Krishnagiri-Thoppur-Salem-Attur-Chidambaram-Kumbakonam-Tanjore-Trichy- Namakkal-Salem-Krishnagiri- Hosur-Bangalore.

Route map I traced

Places of Interest: Its all about temples, temples & temples, with some great views of Rice bowl of India. Nataraj temple of Chidabaram, World heritage temple: Brihadeswar of Tanjore, Dharasuvaram & Swami Malai near Kumbakonam, Rock fort of Trichy, Huge Ranganatha Swami temple of Srirangam & Rice fields of Cauvery delta are major attractions.

Another great aspect of whole trip has been excellent infrastructure TN has put & is still putting in. 70 % has been on 4 lane highway, another 10% on 4 lane highway under construction, another 15% through excellent 2 lane highway. What is more encouraging is fact, that there are flyover or bypass for almost all villages & towns. Next best thing is public transport. it’s “Anywhere, Anytime“.

Note: Almost in all temples, Non-hindus are not allowed inside main sanctum, but certainly allowed inside boundaries of temple. So no stopping in seeing n appreciating architecture of 1000 yrs old skyscrapers.

Best time to visit these places: No doubt, Winter. I guess I went in  best time. It was Pongal, main festival of Tamil Nadu. But also mind, this is the peak season for these places.

Day1: 440Kms: Bangalore- Hosur- Thoppur – Salem- Attur-Veppur- Vridhachallam- Bhuvanagiri- Chidabaram– Sirkazi-Mayuram- Kumbakonam

Started 3:45 AM from my home, had excellent tea in Hosur bus stop (discovered on new year day, this tea stall is permanent on my list). After filling up my tank in Hosur, did a personal record breaking non-stop drive of 124 kms till Thoppur, that too only on one occasion I changed my gear from 5th to 4th at Krishnagiri toll gate. Roads of NH-7 till Salem was great & there after NH-68 are on its ways to be great. Was surprise to see 4 lane highway under construction. With music playing in my ears, sun not being so harsh, I reached Chidabaram by 2PM. After struggling to get a hotel, just to take bath, got a stinky lodge worth Rs 230. Took bath, some rest, as temple would open only at 4PM. I reached temple before time, expecting a big pongal crowd. To my surprise, there was hardly any crowd & I was in front line of devotees, witnessing Nataraja: Dancing Shiva. This world famous temple, is huge with usual South Indian pattern consisting of tall Gopurams, with riots of colored characters on it, a sacred tank, wall demarking boundaries of temple, long & dark alleys lined with “Ganas” & “Shiva linga” inside temple. I explored the temple as per my standards by 5:30PM & was all set to start my drive towards Kumbakonam, ~70 Kms from Chidambaram. The road were ok, but certainly crowded for many reasons. One it being Pongal, two it is one of the densely populated part of TN (because it is one of the most fertile land in India). The roads were infested with village markets, which seemed to be selling brown Sugarcane, all 2-3 mts long. Anyways, the night drive was bit dis-comforting on these crowded & occasional patchy road & reached Kumbakonam by 8PM. And surprise was waiting, its a town, but was in its full glory. The main roads around clusters of temples, are all lined with neon-lit, yes neon-lit shops, either selling gold or silk sarees. The festive season coupled with tourist season made my room search hard, but was finally able to a get double bed room in Hotel Chela (rating:6/10)  for 660 bucks a night.

Paddy fields enroute to Chidambaram

Chidambaram:

    Hotel Food Parking Facility Places of interest Timing Town facilities To get here Season
    Low to medium available in n around temple. Mostly South Indian Yes, in n around temple Nataraja Temple-Lord Shiva 6:00-1:00 PM ATM Train-good December to mid feb
      Shoes stand-Local shops 4:00-9:00 PM Petrol Bus-Excellent  
            Net-café Trichy-Nearest airport  
              Vehicle servicing Personal vehicle  
              Small market    

 

  LONELY PLANET RECOMMENDATIONS
  Economy Mid-end High end
Hotel to stay Star lodging; Mansoor lodge;Vandayar Gateway in Hotel Akshaya; Hotel Saradharam  
Restaurants Udupi Sri Vishna vilas; Annupallavi  

 

Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram

 

Colorful characters of Gopuram

 KUMBAKONAM:

It reminded me of Kanchipuram. It is infested with huge temples, all of Chola architecture, all with history of at least 1000 yrs old. Gopuram with colorful characters often telling stories of Ram or Krishna or Shiva, water tank, long & dark alleys  within 4 walls of temple. 5 main temples of Kumbakonam are within 1 sq km area & best time to visit all these are to be an early bird. Sarangapani temple & Ramaswami temple are worth mentioning with more denser architecture.

DHARASUVARAM:

This is different, unique & worth spending more time. Its smaller version of “Brihadeswar Temple” of Tanjore, but definitely more rich in terms of architecture. Also it boasts of a small museum with lots of history documented. Its just outside Kumbakonam (immediate left after big bus shelter) on Kumbakonam-Tanjore highway. Also it has huge well maintained garden to boast off & most pleasurely less vistors. People generally skip this because of impression that its similar in taste to Big temple of Tanjore. Even I was about to do same, but changed decision at last moment & frankly speaking I really took a very good decision. I ended up spending good 1.5 hr there. If one want to understand architecture of Tanjore & Gangakondacholapuram temples, then this is a must place to visit.

Dharasuvaram, Tanjore & Gangakondacholapuram are one set of temples & are different from usual South Indian temples of Trichy, Kumbakonam & Chidambaram. They are all completely brown, i.e no color riots on gopurams. Gopurams of bit different style & all these are actually forts given some religious angle to it.

Parking facility available, 6AM-1PM & 4PM-9PM: timing of tmeple & for anything else one need to go Kumbakonam just few kms away.

Dharasuvaram

 

Dharasuvaram

Dharasuvaram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SWAMI MALAI:

Again a huge temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, is just 8 KMs outside Kumbakonam on Kumbakonam-Tanjore highway. Again many visitor skip this & I say that’s mistake. Yes, it is definitely of same taste as other Kumbakonam temple, but its worth spending time, because its huge, it has good garden & is less crowded. The long allay,leading to main sanctum is very photogenic.

Swami MalaiSwami Malai

TANJORE/TANJUVUR:
Nested in Cauvery delta, it is supposedly 2nd home to Tamil culture, after Madurai. The fertile land enables 3-4 harvests a year & the region is no doubt “rice bowl”. The drive from Kumbakonam to Tanjore is awesome, as one cruise through lush green paddy fields on both sides of road. Tanjore is home to Brihadeswar Temple, also known as “Big temple” & one of the few temples of India, with a tag of World Heritage Site. The history of temple dates back BCs & is a fusion of a fort & temple. It has 3 mts tall Shiva lingam, which is supposedly tallest lingam in world & is very sacred to Hindus.
The site has all facilities: History of place, Parking facility, Bathing facility for day out-station visitors, toilet facility, drinking water facility, wheel chair facility, seating facility etc. There is no entry fee & being an early bird certainly helps in enjoying the site more. The whole place would at least take 2-3 hrs to just see. The well maintained garden are certainly place to take rest, appreciate beauty of huge temple n enjoy with fellow tourists.

History of Brihadeswar temple

Big temple-World heritage site

Brihadeswar Temple-Tanjore

Besides “Big temple”, Tanjore boasts of a palace which houses couple of museums, Bell tower which provides decent view of Tanjore skyline (consisting of Gopurams) & also a good place to view world famous Tanjore painting. The colored Saraswati library, can make eyes allergic to colors. Its just riot of colors over there. The place is worth visiting (in total of Rs 15), especially to learn about Tanjore paintings & appreciate the art on ceilings of & walls of palace. I wonder how those guys had painted on ceilings with such accuracy & precision. Hats off. The place is just 1 km away from Big temple.

Very colored way of saying a storyriot of colors on ceiling: palace

 

Saraswati library

Tanjore painting..colors have faded over yrs obviously

    Hotel Food To get there Season Places of interest Town
Tanjore   Low to high end available Mostly South Indian food Train-Excellent Dec to mid feb Big temple ATM
    Bus-Excellent   Palace & museum Petrol
      Trichy-Nearest airport     Net-café
              Vehicle servicing
              Big markets

Kumbakonam to Trichy, via Tanjore (~110Kms)

To avoid drive in bad roads in evening, I started early from Kumkonam (3:30PM). Kumbakonam to Tanjore, was scenic 2 lane highway & Tanjore to Trichy was all against my expectations. It was a 4 lane highway (NH-67). And so I reached Trichy by 5PM. Enroute were some important landmarks of Trichy: NIT Trichy, BHEL township & a duplicate Rock fort temple. It was a smooth ride in Trichy, with some really good infrastructure in place. NIT Trichy from outside looked a bit dis-appointing. The stadium was right on highway & a six will surely land on a travelling vehicle on highway.

NIT Trichy

NIT trichy stadium view from NH-67:Tanjore-Trichy highway

 

Rice Bowl-Tanjore

TIRUCHILAPPALLI or TRICHY or TIRUCHY:

Population: ~1 million. One of the largest city of Tamil Nadu. Its a major railway & road junction of South India. Rail connects whole of India, Air with India & South East Asia, Road connects with whole of South India. No doubt, it has got some best public transportation in country.

Places to stay: Most of the budget to high-end hotels are in n around Central Bus stand, near Tiruchilapalli junction. It’s also called Cantonment. After lot of struggle, I checked in Hotel Kanteera Plaza, where a double bed room costed me Rs. 770 per day. Other areas to find some hotels to stay are in n around Sri Rangam (mostly low end ones) & near City Bus stand.

About City: The metropolitan City all to make stay pleasant, except weather. So best time to visit : December – Jan. Best way to explore its city is to use its public transport. It’s dirt cheap & buses are comfortable compared to buses of other Indian cities.

Places of Interest:  Rock fort, temple of temples:SRIRANGAM, river Cauvery, Lourdes Church & Jambukeshwara temple. Except last one, I had visited all & in my opinion all are worth visiting.

Rock Fort: Right in heart of city, the temple atop a ~100 mts high rock, provide some stunning view of Trichy & river  Cauvery. Best time to visit is during sun-rise or sun-set. There was few cave kind of temples, all on ~300 steps journey. There’s entry fee of Rs. 2 & camera fee of Rs. 50, shoe stand costing Re 1 per pair.

View of Trichy from Rock FortRock Fort temple-Trichy

LOURDES CHURCH: Right opposite to Rock fort, the big red-white painted church is a good place to relax. Hearing musical prayers that were recited in Tamil, I had some peace of mind, after a day long drive.

Lourdes Church: Right opposite to Rock Fort

Markets around Rock fort: It’s sea of humanity here. Worth a place to spend time, if there’s money in your purse.

River Cauvery: Walk along roads running parallel to River Cauvery. Although not really developed for such an outing, but its still worth, if one has time & weather is perfect.

River Cauvery. Trichy

SRIRANGAM or RANGANATHASWAMY TEMPLE (5AM-1PM; 4-9PM):

It’s temple of temples. It’s a town within walls of a temple. This is a perfect place to know: How a city looked like 1000 years ago. The temple is sacred to Hindus & is crowded 365 days a year. Being an early bird certainly gives an edge. Even reaching there at 5AM, it took me good 3 hrs to have darshan of main deity, Sleeping Vishnu, also known by name Lord Ranganathaswamy. The main sanctum is out of bounds for Non-Hindus, but temple has lot more to offer. 21 Gopurams, 4 entry gates (North, South, East, West), one of the largest Gopuram on South Gate, close to ~50 odd temples, 1000 pillar mandapam & a view point inside temple, kept me holded up inside temple for 6 hrs in total, including darshan time. And this time just to seem things once. So, in short, SriRangam has enough tto keep one holed up inside for one complete day, without even realizing when time passed.

Must see inside temple is a viewpoint (near South Gate entry), costing Rs. 10 per person. But it is dirt-cheap, compare to what one sees from here. The viewpoint provides good views of all Gopurams, crowd below.

 Another must visit is 1000 pillars mandapam, near East gate, a part of which cannot be seen, as it is infested with bats.

Another must visit is Sri Ram temple, housing really beautiful well-decorated deities, a corridor with Tanjore style paintings telling story of Ramayana.

West gate, SriRangam1000 pillars Mandapam: Sri Rangam

Some quick tips: Be early bed, although South Gate is where most action is, its good to enter via East or North gate, which are relatively very calm & one can park vehicles easily out there. There are three types of darshan of Lord Ranganatha Swamy: Free, Rs 50 & Rs 250. And as money increases, darshan time decreases. Rs. 50 is a good option & if one has more money, then 250/- is way to go. Be as light as possible, as it involves lot of walk. Photography is allowed in most parts, except taking photos of deities. Better get your bellies filled, before entering, else Prasadam are the only way to go inside the temple.

Places to stay/travel: Bangur Dharmasal (South Gate) is a perfect n cheap, but obviously will always be over crowded. There are few more in & around the temple. Local buses are best way to visit temple.

View of South Gate Gopurams from Temple View point

TRICHY- VALADI-MUSIRI-NAMAKKAL-SALEM-KRISHNAGIRI-HOSUR-BANGALORE:

My final leg of journey started 12 PM & thanks to good roads, I was in Bangalore before dark. Trichy – Valadi-Musiri- Tottavam, runs parallel to River Cauvery. During this ~35kms odd journey, one is just few 100 mtrs away from River Cauvery. It is worth to stop & take rest in one of the banks. Trichy to Namakkal, as of now is 50% pathcy & 50% good. From Namakkal to Bangalore, its butter roads (NH-7) & boasts of couple of good Dhabas especially in n around Salem, Dharmagiri & on Krishnagiri-Bangalore route. My recommendations: a hotel right on Gandhi chowk in Salem, Anand Bhavan near Toll gate of Dharmavaram, Anand Bhavan near Krishnagiri, Jodhpur hotel near Hosur.

Namakkal fort off NH-7, Krishnagiri Fort off NH-7, lake near Krishnagiri off NH-7, Sun-set view on Krishnagiri-Hosur highway, are something, where extra time can be killed. Since I didn’t had much, I bypassed all of it.

Bridge on Cauvery connecting NH 67 & SH, near Musiri

My Verdict on Trip:

This trip was planned 2 years ago & finally I executed. With this trip, I have covered all major attractions of Tamil Nadu. Also I have done that, for which all Tamil Hindus will envy me, that is visiting 12 sacred Shiva temples of TN. As per Tamil beliefs, each Hindu should have darshans of all 12 Shiva lingams of TN (kind of Teerth yatra for them), at least once in a life time. Me n my bike foot steps are there in all big cities of Tamil Nadu.

The reason, I could achieve this, is continous call of TN & thats because of :

1) Excellent infrastructure. I think it’s way ahead of rest of India (except Gujarat, if reports are to be believed). Whether it’s roads, public transport, tourist infrastructure, food facility. You name it, TN govt. has done commendable job. It’s now upto us, tourists to maintain it, to respect it. We should take care, we justify its usage by paying required entry tickets, camera charges & most importantly not trashing.

2) Excellent people. I donot know Tamil & locals donot know Hindi or English, but still I have been able to communicate. Simple reason, people are lovely, co-operative, helping. Especially in this trip, I realised how helpful people are. Trichy has implanted great impression on me. I think other cities can emulate Trichy’s model of development.

All an alien (read tourists) need is proper & safe Infrastructure, helping people, proper sign boards, good food, some places to relax n rest, good n affordable hotels to stay, to make it a dream Holiday. And with ~10000 kms of travel in TN, I can safely bet: Tamil Nadu has all that. And to all readers, language is not a problem, its just you need to do some homework.

Again special request to all: PLEASE DONOT TRASH & RESPECT OTHER CULTURE,FOOD & LANGUAGE. If you follow all these, I bet, you gonna have memorable holidays.

But surely it’s not end for me, it’s just a beginning. I am looking forward for oppurtunities to visit all these places again.

TAMIL NADU ROCKS. 

Chola land infoSome more info-Chola land

 

My companion

chidabaram temple

Gopuram of ChidambaramCharacters on Gopuram-Chidambaram

Big Temple: TanjoreTanjore

Companion of day timeMain deity of Srirangam-potrait

Main deity of Srirangam-potrait

Tanjore main deity: ~3mts high lingam.
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4 Responses to “Cholaland Tour: 14-16th Jan,2011”

  1. abanish Says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed…. Wish i can plan for such trip!!!

  2. Great picture.Kumbakonam travels is a pioneer in the travel industry of tamilnadu.The ‘Temple City of India’. We are in the industry for the past few years .We own a fleet of vehicles, which includes all latest model A/c and non A/c cars,bus,indica,indigo,innova,tempo traveler, with dedicated staff and world class services at any time.

  3. tamil Says:

    I just browsing about my native place musiri (trichy district) ohhh I am so happy some one take a picture of musiri cavery river bridge .I thankful to the persion who travel on my native roads. but very sad part is when he saw my place in 2011 it may be look green and beautyful but now in 2013 the sand mafias completely destroied the river cavery and the beauty of srounding villages and trichy districts i lost my hope and my love with my native place .( i visited trichy from mysore last week) a small explaination : the sand mafias dig the river cavery with in 12 years at the deep of 10 feets with pocline mechines(farming 4 feets sands take 3000 to 3500 years )


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