We undertook the our first temple tour to Trichy during January'2008 which has been documented with photographs in my Blog.(See archives Jan'08). We decided to take a second trip this month - 5-9 March'08. This time we travelled to Thanjavur, Tiruvarur,Nagapattinam & Pondicherry Districts which abounds in Tevara Sthalams & Divya Desams. In 5 days of hectic road travel we covered 31 temples & one Church (Velankanni). This included six out of seven Vidanga Sthalams. We halted two nights each at Thanjavur & Tiruvarur. At both places we stayed at the Circuit House where we had made prior reservations through the respective Collectorates.
The primary objective of this trip was to see the Big Temple (Siva) at Thanjavur, Tiruvaiyar Panch Nadeeswarar, Tiruvarur Thiagarajar & then try and see as many temples as possible in the Thanjavur/Tiruvarur belt. The Big temple is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating monuments I have seen & an architectural marvel. Big Temple was holding a dance & music festival for one week starting sivaratri day - reputed dancers like Padma Subramaniam were amongst the performers. Tirunallar Saneeswar was not in our original plan but we made it on the penultimate day. At Tiruvaiyar we went to the Thiagarajar Samadhi and received an unexpected treat - a group of reputed Carnatic musicians (singers, mridangists, flutists) had gathered to sing 'pancharatam' on occasion of Sivaratri.
The travel was overall comfortable - Mornings & evenings were cool but afternoons had become considerably warmer as compared to our January trip.
The most unique feature of this trip was the abundance of large water tanks (tirthams) in all the temples & the innumerable lotus & lily ponds we sighted throughout our journey in Thanjavur & Tiruvarur belt. Incredibly there was a pond at intervals of every 100 meters (no I am not exaggerating). This can probably be entered into the Guinness Book of Records ! And added to that miles & miles of irrigated rice fields - after all Thanjavur was once considered the Rice Bowl of India. Virtually all temples were carrying large quanties of grains received from temple lands - for want of storage space these grains were temporarily stocked in the swami & ambal sannithis
We also stopped by briefly at Mukkombu on the Karur Trichy Route (18 kms before Trichy) - where the mighty Cauvery branches in two - Cauvery & Kollidam (or Coleroon). The Upper Anicut,which facilitates this,was built by Karikala Cholan around 2000 years ago. These two rivers encompass Srirangam turning it into an island before they meet again at Kallanai or Grand Anicut. This is an immensely beautiful place & serves as a sanctuary for a weekend getaway.
We were keen to visit Vedaranyam Wild Life Sanctuary but could not make it due to time constraints. Temple by Temple details will follow in subsequent blogs. Meanwhile readers can view some of the select & fascinating photographs taken during the trip at : http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/ThanjavurTemplesTour