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.
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.
|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|
|Vehicle servicing||Personal vehicle|
|LONELY PLANET RECOMMENDATIONS|
|Hotel to stay||Star lodging; Mansoor lodge;Vandayar Gateway in||Hotel Akshaya; Hotel Saradharam|
|Restaurants||Udupi Sri Vishna vilas; Annupallavi|
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.