Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I recently visited Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum as it was known earlier. I arrived from Palakkad Town by the Amrita Express reaching early morning. The Railway Station building is a magnificent granite edifice and a significant landmark of this city. I checked into Hotel Horizon located at Aristo Junction.
The name of this city has its origins from Sri Anantha Padmanabha Swamy Temple a 5000 year old legendary & awe inspiring monument. This temple has been sung by the Tamil Alwar Saints and is revered as one of the 108 shrines held sacred in the Sree Vaishnavite tradition. As per Bhagavadam, Balarama was supposed have worshipped here during his pilgrimage. According to another legend Diwakar Muni, a Tulu Brahmin, was doing penance and praying to Vishnu. The Lord was pleased and appeared before him as a two yr old child. The Muni requested that the child stay with him. The Lord agreed but under one condition- that no harm shall befall the child. The Muni agreed. One day the child tried to swallow a saligrama that was kept in the puja and the muni was angry. The Muni pursued him and the child ran away. Before disappearing the child told him that he can find him in Ananthakad. The Muni searched for the Lord in Ananthakad and discovered him hidden in a tree. The tree then fell assuming the pose of Ananthasayanam. The Head was in Tiruvallam (3 miles away), the body in Tiruvananthapuram and the feet in Tirupapuram(5 miles away). The Muni was so overawed and scared that the Lord offered himself in a compact form. Till today Puja at the temple is done only by Tulu Brahmins.
The temple is located inside the Fort or "Kottai Kulle" which earlier was the private property of the erstwhile Travancore Royal family. Most of the land and buildings now belong to the State but the temple still continues to be owned by the present day "royals". The Fort itself has now transformed into a busy contemporary bazaar with a mixture of large modern showrooms & small businesses as well as residential colonies with narrow streets and heavy pedestrian and motor traffic. It is almost an independent town ship in itself. As you approach the Temple you see on your left the Puthiran Maaligai which has an exquisite clock tower with a dial type clock. To your right is a large temple tank called the Padma Teertham with plentiful cool, clean and clear water filled with fishes. It serves as a bathing ghat especially for devotees visiting the temple. You walk up a dozen steps to reach the temple and enter through the main gopuram. Entry is restricted and dress code is very strict. Cell phones and cameras are prohibited and have to be deposited at the entrance. Men can enter only if wearing white vesthi (dhoti) - Pants, shirts, banians are barred. Ladies wearing traditional saree or 'mundu nerithu' can enter with ease. Ladies wearing Shalwars/churidars need to drape a white dhoti around their waist before they are permitted entry. Dhoties are available for hire & a change room facility is provided for convenience. I did not have a dhoti; so I bought a new one from a nearby shop. There is a separate stand for leaving your footwear.
The main gopuram is a massive structure with myriad sculptures. Once inside the temple area you can see huge outer prakaram comprising large spacious stone corridors and innumerable skillfully sculpted stone pillars. There also exists a lot of open space covered with white sea sand probably transported from the Shanghumugham beach. The temple stands on a 9 acre property and is surounded by tall granite walls on all sides- a veritable fortress. The temple has a total of 366 stone pillars in the prakaram each one has a lady holding a lamp carved in it. As you go straight in you reach the Dwaja Sthambham and to your left you find the Kulasekhara Mandapam. This is also called as the Ayeeram Kal Mandapam (1000 stone). This is a unique mandapam containing many musical pillars and also pillars containing artistically & intricately carved figures & figurines of gods & Goddesses. This was supposed to be built by Kulasekara Alwar but the stone plaque says it was built by Maharaja Rama Varma. The ceiling design is sculpted from a single large stone slab and integral with this is an amazing hanging chain and bell of stone. Then you enter the inner prakaram pass through the shrine of Narasimha and as you go around the sanctum you find bright attractively coloured paintings on the outside of the sanctum walls. On the prakaram wall to the rear you see a large colour painting of Lord Vishnu in the Ananthaasayanam pose lying on the naga with hood covering his head and devotees thronging all around. Next is the Vyasar shrine and from there you enter the inner sanctum to get the most breath taking & awe inspiring view of Sri AnanthaPadmanabhaswamy. It is a stone sculpture (similar to the painting you see earlier) with Lord Vishnu reclining on Adisesha with the hood providing protection above the Lords crown. You cannot view the Lord as a whole - you view through 3 windows and see three portions namely the head, the middle portion and the legs. The Utsava murthy is visible from the middle window with Sri Vishnus two consorts - Bhodevi & Sridevi. You can also see Brahma seated on a lotus originating from Sri Vishnus navel. As you exit the inner prakaram to your left you can see a tall Anjayanaya statue. I saw the statue covered with white butter from head to toe with a vada malai around the neck.
In 1686 there was a major fire in the temple which destroyed everything except the wooden idol. In 1729 Martanda Varma replaced the wooden idol & installed one made out of Saligramam and completely rebuilt the temple prakarams.
About 1750 Tiruvananthapuram was a flourishing town and the ruling family under Raja Martanda Varma and family and relatives became staunch devotees of Padmanabha and handed over the ownership of the Travancore State to the Lord. He placed his sword at the deity's feet and then ruled as custodian of the Lord and the family called themselves Padmanabha Dasas. Till today the descendants continue to call themselves by the same name. The Maharaja comes to pray every single day through a private entrance.

Pazhavangadi Pillayar :
My next stop was Pazhavangadi Pillayar Koil situated just outside the Fort at a busy crowded intersection. This is a contemporary temple under the upkeep & maintenance of the military establishment. A large crowd had gathered at the time I visited which was around 7 pm. The rapid beating of drums & ringing of bells was in progress and the crescendo was rising. The nadai or temple door was closed with the priest inside. The crowd was waiting anxiously for the Deeparathanai. Meanwhile the number of devotees was surging and the inner & outer prakaram was bursting with people.
Breaking of coconuts is a tradition here and a separate stone trough with a hard surface is provided at the temple entrance for this purpose. Devotees were thronging this counter many with sackful of coconuts. During the short period I was present in the temple several hundred coconuts would have been thrown & smashed. The broken halves fall automatically into the trough and are immediately cleared away by volunteers. Coconut vendors parked outside the temple were doing brisk business. Smaller coconuts were available for Rs.5 apiece & larger ones for Rs.7. I too bought a couple of coconuts and smashed them against the wall. I was offered a small piece and I gratefully put it into my mouth.
Meanwhile the noise of drum beats & bells ringing continued to rise to a high pitch and suddenly the temple nadai was flung open for Deeparathanai. The priest carried out aratis with single wick, multi wick & multi tiered oil lamps. The devotees chanted and prayed and payed obeisance. It was a wonderful spiritual experience and exhilarating, enlightening and elevating.

Thycaud :
In the morning I visited Thycaud and my first stop was the Sastha or Ayyappan temple which we had frequented often as children. The temple had been simple & unpretentious in the early days but has now transformed considerably and expanded with new mandapams & a high roof at the entrance where the dwaja sthambam stands constructed with the help of liberal donations from devotees from India & overseas. Other than the main deity 'Ayyappa' you also find Mahavishnu, Mahadeva, Anjaneya, Muruga & Vinayaka.There is also an enclosed shrine for Nagas and the Navagrahas. The interior landscaping includes several “Techi” plants with beautiful crimson flowers in bloom and several coconut palms . There is a separate mandapam for performing Ayyapa poojas and “kettu narai” for those bhaktas proceeding on pilgrimage to Sabarimalai.
From there I proceeded to the Model School where my brother Ganapathy and cousins Natarajan & Sambamoorthy had studied. My brother was a brilliant student and an excellent sportsman and received the most outstanding student Award in Class X. Unfortunately in 1959 at the tender age of 14 he was plucked away from our midst due to an unfortunate incidence of brain fever. As a memorial to him my father instituted an Award- a cup which is given away every year to the most outstanding student in Class X.
Next I visited Lakshmi Nivas (named after grandmother manni) the house where my grandparents lived. I was born in Lakshmi Nivas and spent the first 5 years of my life there along with my parents. We lived in the outhouse in the early days. Then my father who was an engineer with All India Radio was transferred out to Bombay in 1953 and the three of us moved away leaving my brother Ganapathy(Mottai) and sister Anandavalli(Kunju) behind to continue their education in Trivandrum and live with the grand parents. Kunju studied at the Parithi Kunnu (Cotton Hill) Girls High School.
Many old memories came flooding back when I entered this memorable mansion which has witnessed several births & deaths and several significant events like Weddings, Upanayanams, Kolus, Homams, Bhagavathi Sevais,Punyajanams,Tharpanams, Sastiaptapoorthy's. etc over several decades spanning over 60 years. Laxmi Nivas was a regular haunt for the summer vacation for the Travancore sisters Sarada(my periamma), Lalitha(my chitthi), Rama(my mother) and families. Rain or shine whether from Delhi, Bombay or Patna they would unfailingly keep up their annual rendezvous to Lakshmi Nivas. Ambi,Rajamoney & Moorthy (all of them my mamas) and families were regular visitors too. The holidays were real fun and spent playing games in & around the house,dining in the thavaram, going for movies,visiting the local sister Ankichi's (my periammai) house,travelling to Karamanai to visit mannis brother & his wife Ammami and to visit other relatives like Ganesan,Rasha etc. Travelling in a jutka was a unique & exciting experience. Alas jutkas have now become extinct and given way to crude automotive inventions like auto rikshas.
Many years after grandfathers death it was decided to sell the house and is currently owned by The Teachers Training Institute. They have maintained the place very well. The only changes made by them is the laying of light crimson tiles on the floor replacing the old red oxide flooring that existed earlier. This has added elegance to the interiors. The old rose wood cane sofa sets that were left behind are still in good shape and used by the occupants. The granite compound wall and steps are intact but the grilled cast iron gate has been replaced. The mangostein and vilvam trees are still standing after so many years - living but silent witnesses of our yester years. I went in to take a few snaps. The 'nadu mittam' was exactly as I remember it - perhaps a little jaded through disuse. Nostalgia swept through me - I had a vision of thatha sitting on his easy chair reading a book and smoking his favourite cigar in the massive hall while manni slowly walked up from the "tavaram" her upper torso bent over horizontally, carrying a cup of coffee !

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Den Happenings

Clockwise : Murthy mama, Padmini Ramani & kids, Guhan solo, Rama's Grihapravesam

Friday, February 23, 2007

Navagraha Homam

23 Feb'07 :
Navagraha Homam was performed at the Den today. Main purpose was to appease & ward off any evil spirits or influences that might have been lingering in and around the Den. This homam is done to worship the nine planets i.e. The Sun, The Moon, The Mars, The Mercury, The Jupiter, The Venus, The Saturn, The Rahu, and The Ketu. Every planet has its own importance. Sun is the king of planets, which gives health. Moon is the planet, which rules over mind and gives success. (The sun & moon are considered planets of the earth in Hindu mythology)
Mars (chevvay) is the planet, which gives prosperity and wealth. Mercury (Budhan) is the planet which gives knowledge, Jupiter (Vyazhan or Guru or Brihaspati) gives education, Venus (Velli or Shukran) gives the knowledge of art, music etc. Saturn (Shani) gives happiness. Rahu makes the life stronger. Ketu prospers the family.(Ravi & Ketu are snake planets) All these nine planets are important, so in order to worship them this homam is done. Navgraha Homam is an extremely useful & beneficial Homam, since it's worship strengthens benefic planets & increases their positive influence and pacifies malefic planets & neutralizes their negative effect. Navgraha Homam is recommended for all, particularly those planets that are detrimental or malefic as per horoscope. Navgraha Homam shall be performed every year to ensure that you always get maximum advantage from your planets. The planets are to propitiate against their evil influences, to ward off them, the Navgraha Homam is done with faith to ward off all evils of planetary configuration.
Shobha & her father Doraiappan had both been suffering from beginning of the New Year and the ill effects continued to dog theml causing considerable distress, pain & agony. The homam was conducted by one Sundara Vadhiyar and the entire arrangement was contracted to him including raw materials, transportation and the morning breakfast for Rs.5000. Raw materials included flowers, fruits,ghee, coconuts, paruppu thengai, yellow rice, cooked rice, incense, camphor, kalasa vastram, beetel leaves & nuts, sandalwood paste, kumkum, homam materials, nava dhanyas & navagraha vastras and also the dakshinai (fees) for 6 Vadhiyars (priests). The bricks required for the homam and pancha patram, uddharani, kalasam,deepam, oil, matches were our responsibility.
The previous evening the drawing room had been emptied of all furniture and the floor thoroughly scrubbed clean and polished. A white & bright mavu Kolam artistically drawn by Shobha appeared on the floor. A mango leaf thoranam was put up by driver Ramesh over the front door.
At 6.30 am sharp Sundara Vadhiyar and team (cell phones slung around their necks) landed in a convoy comprising an Auto Rikshaw and motor bikes. Shobha was ready before their arrival - expertly and elegantly draped in her 18 mozham(9 yards) saree( with a little bit of help from Raji !) Since I lacked the necessary skills in wearing panchagacham I had to seek S.Vadhyars help for this.
The priestly team then rapidly got into action to complete the basic preparations for the homam - each vadhyar had a specific task allocated which was carried out expertly. The Homam started at 7.00 am sharp as planned and concluded by 9.00 am. The mantras were chanted with great authority, clarity and confidence & S.Vadhiyar was fully in full command incessantly issuing instructions to his deputies. Cell phones kept ringing at regular intervals to a variety of ringtones and S.Vadhiyar was frequently communicating with / advising some client or the other. Breakfast was served to the priests on banana leaves -Idlis, vadas, pongal, sweet (kashi halwa) , 2 chutneys & coffee. The vadas were particularly delicious.
The vadhiyar team appeared happy & satisfied after the breakfast. They evinced interest in Guhans kennel activities & some of them were seen having an animated discussion about dogs & breeding. Guhan took them on a tour of the kennel and explained about the various breeds of dogs.

For more information about Navagraha Homams read :

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Walkers Paradise

The 2.50 Km circular track on Race Course Rd is a paradise for walkers. It was renovated & beautified around 18 months ago. The track is now repaved with ornamental cement tiles & beautiful gardens have sprung up on either side. The maintenance of the gardens has been handed over to leading Corporates - each has been allocated stretches varying from 10-20 metres. The overall management of the walkers track rests with the Walkers Association which has a Secy & a President. An open air Walkers Gym is available to those who wish to exercise & develop their physique. A separate area is earmarked for those who wish to practice oratory in Tamil (Muthamizh Arangam) and an impromptu audience gathers around to listen & encourage these amateurs. This normally happens on Sunday evenings. There is also an enclosed playground for children –swings, slides, jungle jim, see saw, merry go round etc. Evenings finds large crowds gathering - children with supervising parents . Hawkers sell balloons, ground nuts & pop corn. The litter bins are choc a bloc and overflowing onto the pavement.
Cycles & Dogs/ pets are prohibited from entering the track. A brisk walk round the race course takes from 20-30 minutes depending on your pace. If you are early say around 5.00 am the crowd is less. As the morning progresses the crowd intensifies. You find quiet walkers & you find noisy & boisterous groups. You find walkers with hands free mobiles talking to themselves & those who quietly listen to music with ear phones plugged in. You also find those who enjoy their music loud with blaring transistor radios. You find young ones in track suits & old ones in shorts. You find walkers who walk, trot or run. You have morning walkers, noon walkers, dusk walkers and mid night walkers. You see people with long hair, short hair, black hair, grey hair & no hair. There are cement benches for those who wish to rest a while. There is a pebbled walkway for those who choose to walk barefoot looking for acu cures.
You find salesman trying to peddle their wares ranging from T-shirts to health drinks like arakampullu juice & masala tea to diet foods and slimming equipment & exercisers & stuffed toys. There is a chap who sells varieties of Keerai (ara keerai, mola keerai, palak etc) (spinach), Vazha Poo, Vazha Thandu , kari leaves & kotha malli. He starts his day 4.45 am (he claims he brings the stuff freshly picked from a nearby farm) & by 7.00 am is sold out. The menu for the day in many walkers homes is keerai machiyal or vazha poo kootu. I took keerai home today & we had keerai kootu for lunch.
You get see many significant and stately buildings and campuses as you go around. On the inner side of the track you go past Raheja Enclave,The Collectors Bungalow, Sri Saradambal Temple Complex, Govt Arts College Hostel, CSI Matriculation School, The CSI Church & Bishops residence, Cosmopolitan Club, Chief Engineer TWAD, IG’s Bungalow, the 101 Pillayar Temple. On the outer side across the road - Chamaraj Guest House, T.Stanes& Co, Bi-Metal Bearings, TAL & Amco Batteries, HDFC Bank, Income Tax Office, Jayams Hall, Defence Quarters, Govt Arts College,SBI Officers Colony, Restaurants like Barista, Café Coffee Day & Annalakshmi apart from many spacious private bungalows and commercial establishments. New structures built recently as part of the beautification program include replicas of the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Great Wall of China, Lotus Temple, Red Fort & Hawa Mahal. These monuments are well illuminated at night and transport you to fantasyland.
The density of walkers reduces to a trickle after 8.00 pm and deep & dark shadows fall on the track. Suddenly, as if appearing from nowhere, you see young couples romantically occupying the darkest spots amorously holding hands and engrossed in deep bilateral conversation-the walkers paradise is transformed to a lovers paradise !
The Coimbatore Race Course Road Walkers track is exciting, exhilarating, energizing - an unparalleled experience and a must for every resident of & every visitor to Coimbatore.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Natarajan wrote

Dear Ramu,
First of all, sorry for the delay in replying. Actually we had seen your writing in blog earlier about Calicut Dog Show where, Guhan's dog breeding made Pickcy the proud winner of two prizes. We are very happy to note the same and congrats to Guhan for this marvellous feat of Pickcy. Today we have seen your other musings and really hats off to you, you have become a good writer of travellogue and describer of wealth of South IndianTemples & its architecture. During our visit to Palakkad in 1999,we had theopportunity of visiting Manapally Kavu, Mohana's parents kuladeivam. I find you have adopted the Deity as your kuladeivam.We noted your visit to Bangalore and Indiranagar where I had the opportunity to stay with you in Sri Venkitadri, which unfortunately , I note is demolished now and spent some of my very memorable part of life. You have mentiuoned about Menons, whom we had the opportunty of meeting them when he was posted as Commissioner of Chottanagpur Division in Ranchi. We had invited him to be the Chief Guest of a function in Ranchi Malayalee Association, when I was the Chairman of the school management committee of Kairali School,which Malayalee association was running. I had introduced myself as Chithappa's nephew and we had come closer. When Chithappa & chithi visited Ranchi from Jamshedpur at that time, we had taken them to Menon's house and had a grand dinner. So on reading your last few musings, we find there are many things of common interest. But I do not have the patience like you to write like this and also I find you have squeezed in lot of time from your work to write also. Very good.Now coming to other things, we are fine here. It is more than one month since our return from India afterVinu's marriage. Kunju is doing her internship in Mumbai staying with her grandparents. Vinu & Shweta are fine in the US. Hope you are hearing regularly from Bhavna & Rohit. We saw a few photos of Mira. She looks like a doll and very cute.How is Guhan. He must be busy with his kennel now. Our namskararams to Shobha manni's father. Hope Chithappa Chithi are fine in Chennai. Pl conveyour namaskarams to them. Did you go for Sekhar's Grihapravesam on 22nd Jan. Our regards to Shobha manni.
With best regards Natarajan


9 Feb’07 :
Left for Ernakulam around 7.00 am by road. Took the Highway via Palakkad, Vadakkancherry (famous for nendrankai chips & knives) Pattikad, Trichur (turn here for Guruvayoor & Irinjalakuda), Chalakudy, Koratty, Karukutty, Angamali (turn left here for Kaladi & Perumbavoor), Nedumbasseri (Cochin International Airport is 5 Kms off the highway on your left), Athani, crossed Mangalapuzha & Aluva puzhas ( rivers), into Aluva, Kalamassery (Apollo Tyres factory), Edapalli,(crossing for Vytilla & bye pass Rd to your left and Paravoor to your right) & into Palarivattom & Kaloor cross the Railway flyover & Town Hall into Banerji Rd the entry point for Ernakulam. Checked into Hotel Bharat one of oldest hotels in Ernakulam(see for details) – I prefer this Hotel as it is fully vegetarian & serve sumptuous & and typical mouth watering Kerala style breakfast comprising puttu, kadala kari & appam/stew along with steamed nendram pazham. The rooms are comfortable and you can get harbour facing rooms with a fabulous view. Later that evening attended an award presentation ceremony organized by Stanes Motors in recognition of its superlative performing dealers in Kerala. The venue was the spacious open air lawns near the swimming pool of Renaissance Hotel at Palarivattom. The expert illumination provided a magical atmosphere and all the participants had a wonderful time. With cocktails flowing freely many of the attendees carried on till the wee hours of morning.
Got up early on 11th morning & visited the Ernakulathappan Temple situated close to my Hotel. Had to remove my shirt as per custom for entering the sanctum of Lord Shiva or Ernakulathappan. Quite a few devotees had already gathered at 5.30 am for the early morning arati & darshan to the chanting of “Shambho Mahadeva” (other names for the deity)The inner sanctum was of circular construction with intricate stone sculptures on the outer walls. Tall multi-wick lamps outside & smaller lamps inside provided ethereal illumination. The space in front of the sanctum is restricted with wooden structures overhead and as a result devotees have to remain bowed in obeisance or risk impacting their heads. There is a central square thinnai (raised platform) with wooden pillars in front of the santum which limits the number of worshippers in front of the deity. As you go around the inner prakaram clockwise you collect prasadam consisting of sweetened water, chandanam, flowers and Aval/vellam given on plantain leaf. Then after praying to Vinayaka you exit through the main entrance where Nandi(The Bull) facing Shiva and the Dwaja Sthambam are located, into the outer prakaram which is very spacious. The temple outer walls are of typical Kerala style architecture with myriad oil lamps which are lit every night to create an enchanting environment. A stage has been built for music and dance performances to enliven the atmosphere on festive occasions. There is a large shrine of Lord Ayyappa ( Dharma Sasta) where you chant Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa and then reach the shrine of the Nagas or serpents. There is another temple for Lord Subramanya (adjacent to Ernakulathappan) where the deity stands majestically with Vel in hand and his consorts Valli & Devayani. Beautifully sculpted on the outer sanctum walls you find statues of Nrithya Vinayaka (dancing pose), Dakshinamoorthy, Vishnu, Brahma & Durga . A large stone peacock facing the deity is placed outside on a raised pedestal. Beside this you have shrines of Utsava Murtis, the Nava Grahas and Vinayaka. This architecture is Tamilnadu style & the Archakas are Tamilians.
After this I check out my Hotel room and quickly get on to the Highway and speed towards Angamali. As you approach this town which is known for timber factories and TELK (Telecommunications & Electronics, Kerala) you see new Hotels that have sprung up in recent times – Mundadan’s Inn & Surya (3-star category) and Chettungals Tourist Lodge (no star) and you can choose your dwelling to suit your pocket. You turn right onto Kalady Road & reach the town of Kalady (5 Kms) and turn left towards Malayatoor for about 2 Kms to reach the Janma Bhoomi or birth place of Adi Sankara on the banks of the river Poorna. This is a scenic spot set amidst sylvan surroundings. The morning air is fresh and salubrious as you inhale the same,you find yourself energized and enthused. As you enter you find large open hall and spacious interiors with the shrine of Saradambal to your left & that of Adi Sankara on the right. You also see the Samadhi of Aryambha the mother of Adi Sankara & a shrine of Sakthi Vinayaka where a Ganapathy Homam was being performed as I entered. Around the circular shrine of Saradambal you find installed stone figurines of Maheswari, Kaumari, Varahi, Indrani,Vaishnavi and Chamundi all reincarnations of the goddess. In the shrine of Adi Sankara you find several paintings on the walls depicting the saints story & life and times. Three young boys squatting on the polished floor were chanting the Vedas. There is also a nadu mittam (open to sky) which brings in abundance of natural lighting and an oval lotus tank with innumerable red fish. Outside the Janmabhoomi you have a Temple of Lord Krishna also known as Kaladi Appan since the course of the river Poorna was altered on the strength of Adi Sankaras prayers to bring it to follow his footsteps. Besides this is a Rig Veda Patashala where young boys are taught the Vedas & initiated into priesthood at an early age.
After spending close to an hour at the Kaladi monument I got back to Angamali and stopped briefly at the IBP petrol filling station to fill up gas, have breakfast of ghee roast & chai and proceeded back towards Coimbatore. Crossed Cahalakudi from where you can take a right turn visit Athirapalli(36 Kms) & Vazhachal (31 Kms) water falls. Reported to be amongst the most awesome waterfalls in Kerala, I was tempted to steer the car towards this spot but chose to continue towards Cbte. As you approach Trichur you see a board pointing right towards Chimney Dam(25 Kms). Then a nice highway Motel-Vasantham a 3 star category on your left. You get on to the Trichur bye pass past the massive campus of Kerala Agricultural University (Mannuthy) and to Pattikadu which has many roadside nurseries the biggest of them all being the Kairali Agri Farm & Nursey. A visit to one these nurseries is a must as they attractivelydisplay a mind boggling variety of flora.
After Pattikadu you take a right turn to reach Peechi Dam and I actually turned this time. After driving through vast stretches of forest land and plantations I reached Peechi. Peechi dam & its catchment area comprising a large body of water with a down stream garden provided a big relief & relaxation. Tucked away secretly far away from humanity with virtually no visitors at the time I drove in, I experienced great peace and tranquility. An Irrigation Dept. bungalow "Peechi House" located atop a hill has suites which can be reserved with advance notice. The caretaker was gracious enough to show me around. The tariff for a suite ? An incredible Rs.155/- for two. Food is available on order. For reservations contact Tel: 0487-2699 022(John) or write to Asst. Exec. Engineer, Head Works Sub division, Peechi Dam, Pin. 680 653 (Trichur Dt). Rooms are old fashioned and unattractive and there are no air conditioners. On the return stopped over at the Kerala State Forest Rearch Institute Guest House ( also at Peechi). KSFRI has a huge campus covering hundreds of acres of forest land and containing multitude of forest trees. The Caretaker there guided me to The International Trainees Hostel located nearby about 100 yds from the main road. This place was very attractive and had been inaugurated in 2005. Simplicity & modern architecture were the hallmarks. It was provided with all facilities for a comfortable & memorable stay. A/c rooms(Rs.600/-) as well as dormitory rooms (Rs.100/-) with kitchen & dining room and a utility room with washing machine for washing & pressing, a common room with sofas for reading or viewing TV and a games cum gym room- Table Tennis, Carom Board, exercycle & Tread Mill. A wonderful place to get away from the mad city and spend a quiet weekend. For reservations the caretaker, Antony, advised to contact : 0487-2698063(Hostel) or 0487-2699037/061(The Director or Registrar,KSFRI)
Back to Pattikadu & the Highway again. Large Rubber plantations appear on both sides of the road. We drive through a forest range. We cross Kuthiranmalai where a road side Ayyappan is located and travelers traditionally throw coins to appease the deity. Then onto Aryas Hotel at Vadakkanchery for a coffee stop. This is a nice place for breakfast and is the standard stop for morning travellers. As you approach Palakkad you find signs showing directions to Mangalam Dam (15 Kms) & Nelliampathy (35Kms) to your right. We pass Alathur & Chittor intersections. Hotel Araam a KTDC highway Motel beckons you for stay and a glass of beer (18 Kms from Palakkad). We cross vast rice fields of varying hues – green, golden and yellow. You see large groups of ladies manually felling the crop with sickles and white egrets keeping them company in close proximity trying to grab the worms & insects unearthed during the harvesting.
Before you reach Palakkad you see Mannadiars Handicrafts a worthy place to stop for traditional Kerala items. Next you find signboardss for Koduvayoor & Pallasena( Meenkolathi Amman Bhagavathy), Malampuzha Dam, Fantasy Park. Then you cross Manapally Kavu, Palakkad Cosmo Club, and Sitaram Motors a new Maruti Dealer which are the prominent land marks on the bye pass Rd.And back to Coimbatore.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Patteswarar temple

8 Feb'07 :
Visited the Patteswarar Temple in Perur, Coimbatore located around 8 Kms away on the Siruvani Rd. Perur is a small crowded town and the entrance to the Temple is shabby & crowded with beggars. Once you step inside you are in a different world altogether.You are into a long passage with sculpted stone pillars on either side leading to the temple entrance. You reach the dwajasthambam & on your left to pay obeisance to Vinayakar. Then you enter through the inner prakaram & into the sanctum sanctorum where the idol of Patteswarar is installed. It is a Sivalingam with the hood of a cobra protecting it with water dripping on the lingam through a metallic pot hung above. Behind the lingam on the wall in silver is Kamadhenu the divine cow. As the legend goes it was Kamadhenu who discovered the spot where the lingam was buried below a snake mound ("puthu") & released all her milk from her udder. Kamadhenus calf was named Patti & her foot got entangled in the puthu. Kamadhenu used her horns to release the calf and as she did so blood started gushing out of the puthu. The lingam is a swayambhu or self formed and not sculpted. The lingam came to be known as Patteswarar & carries the hoof mark of the calf. The temple was reportedly consecrated around 1800 years ago.
After offerring prayers at the sanctum sanctorum you emerge into the inner prakaram towards left and as you go around you reach Dakshinamurthy facing South. Idols of 63 nayanmars(devotees of Siva who have composed & sung songs in praise of the Lord) can be found installed in a separate enclosure on the Southern side. Behind the sanctum(West Wall) is installed Lingodbhavar. Besides this is the Sthala Vriksham (panneer tree). In another enclosure are installed different lingams (Astha lingams). As you move to the Northern side you come across Durga on the sanctum wall & Chandikeswarar ( Siva's accountant) to whom all devotees must report. Also on the Northern side is shrine of Subramanya facing East (Muruga) with his consorts Valli & Devayani. As you keep walking you reach Gnana Bhairavar facing South. Then you turn to East side to find Chandra & Surya.
Next you exit to the outer prakaram and go around clockwise. The walls are tall with statues of Nandi mounted prominently round the temple -Nandi is a feature of all Siva Temples even as Garuda is of Vishnu Temples. You pray at the Vinayakar shrine & turn right and reach the shrines of Visalakshi, Baladandayuthapani(Subramanya) & Viswanatha(Siva) - a unique arrangement known as the Somaskandar (swamy+Uma+skandar) formation. Next you go past Chandikeswari & Anjaneya (carved from a single piece of brown polished wood) and reach the Ambal Sannithi - The ambal Pachainayaki or Maragathavalli ( Maragatham means green !) is flanked on either side outside the sanctum by Parasakti & Varadaraja Perumal. Paintings of Dashavataram hang on the wall outside the Perumal shrine & of Asthalakshmi near Parasakti. You complete the pradakshanam of the prakaram when you reach Murugan Shrine & the Navagrahas. Then you enter the Kanaka Sabhai which has the sanctum of Natarajar (in Ananda Thandavam pose) & his consort Sivakami Sundari. The Kanaka Sabhai is a large mandapam containing exquisitely sculpted statues and frescoed ceiling. Some of the awe inspiring statues are those of Narthana Ganapathy, Arumugan on a peacock, Oorthva Thandavar & Alangatu Kali, Agni Veera Bhadrar, Agora Veera Bhadrar, Bhikshadhanar& Gaja Samharamurthy. As the legend goes there is a dance competition between Siva & Kali and when Siva lifts his feet to his ears to put on his ear rings (This is the Oorthva Thanadavar pose) Kali accepts defeat as it is inappropriate for a lady to lift her legs so. If you look at Kali from a distance you will see her eyes are down cast in defeat. As you draw close however you see her eyes looking up seething in anger.
Usually you can see the temple elephant Kalyani both mornings & evening. This elephant is maintained by the owners of Lakshmi Mills. Devotees normally place coins in the trunk & in turn get blessed. There is also go-shala where find about a dozen Jersey cows tethered along with some calves - you normally carry bananas to feed them.
for more details see :

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Bangalore Trip

Left Cbte for Bangalore by Jet airways on 5th noon to attend a Mico organised program. The travels car picked me up & proceeded to my destination - a hotel in Indiranager. There was heavy traffic enroute and progress was slow. Enroute we passed Kids Kemp,Brittania, Titan, Intel & Manipal Hospital on one side and the thickly forested sprawling campuses of ISRO Satellite Centre & National Aeronautical Laboratories on the other followed by Leela Towers the only 7-Star Hotel in Bangalore. After this we reached the Koramangala crossing & turned right into HAL 2nd stage towards Indiranager. New flyovers had been constructed at this point resulting in faster & more regulated traffic at this once upon a time bottleneck. Finally checked into the Hotel around 2.30 pm & switched on CNN-IBN to listen to some terrible news being telecast - the final award by the Tribunal on Cauvery water sharing between states - Tamilnadu had been awarded a whopping 419 tmcft against only 270 tmcft for Karnataka with Kerala & Pondicherry getting 30 & 9 mcft respectively. This was indeed unpleasant news for the Kannadigas as Cauvery has remained a flash point between the 2 states for past several decades. Karunanidhi was being shown grinning victoriously in all channels. Violence against local Tamils as well uncontrolled violence by unruly mobs was being anticipated.
The Mico award ceremoney initially scheduled to begin at 6.00 pm at Mid-fort Gardens (off MG Road) was delayed to 7.30 pm. Fortunately there had been no untoward incidents - the Karnataka Govt was unsure about how to react to the unequal award. Finally the program got under way & the evening began with a recital of Vatapi Ganapatim Baje in Raag Hamsadwani (Carnatic) by an eloquent flutist accompanied by Tabla, Gadam & Mohana Veena. This was followed by Hindustani recital on Mohana Veena to Raag Kalyani. The final piece of this orchestra was a Bengali folk tune. Mesmerising stuff.
This was followed by a series of beautiful and elegant Indian dances - Yakshagana, Kuchipidi, Odissi followed by an amalgamation of four dances - Kathak,Bharatanatyam, Kuchipidi & Odissi. Thunderous applause. Overall a really enchanting evening followed by cocktails & dinner.
Got up leisurely next morning not sure how the day was going to turn out ! Finally decided to take a walk down the 100 ft road to visit Ravindranath Menon an old friend of my fathers for over 50 years. After a brisk 15 minute walk tracked down his house named "Shyam". Wife Shyamala recognised me after a brief pause but Menon uncle (who at 82 had aged considerably since our last meeting close to 18 yrs ago) could not identify me even after I had provided several easy clues. Finally recognition dawned on him only when I mentioned fathers name. Daughter Lata(erstwhile Sanku papa) & hubby( a PG from Berkeley who teaches at IIM,Bangalore) along with daughter Poornima(a lissome girl of 24 who works for KPMG) and son Balu were home. We talked about old times( Bombay,Patna & Alleppey) and many memories came flooding back. Balu is unmarried, aged around 50, thin & a heavy smoker. He is practicing corporate law. Son Surendran aged 55 is a Vice President in a software company. He has two daughters - Kavita(studying fashion design in New York) & Aishwarya at school in Bangalore. He is divorced from his first wife Ambica Pillai(now a reknowned & acclaimed fashion desiner) & happily married to second wife Lata. On their (the Menons) insistence I had breakfast (idli,vada,sambar) & coffee with them.
The Menons along with Sanku( a baby then) and Surendran a few years my junior(together at St.Xaviers) were guests for 4 months at our( my dad was a Sation Engineer in AIR) house in Chajju bagh, Patna before Mr.Menon, an IAS officer, got his posting & moved to his official residence at Boring Road. The year was1961.
My next stop was Mallya Hospital to see my erstwhile colleague(and ex-boss) from Escorts days Mr.K.A.Krishnan. At 64 he had suffered two strokes during the past two months,paralysed on his left side, followed by a severe bout of pneumonia. A trachaotomy had been recently done to prevent total collapse. He was fighting for survival at the Medical ICU - it was a heart rending sight to see him sedated & totally helpless & breathing through a tube stuck into the throat.
My next destination was Domlur. The car proceeded on Residency Road past Cash Pharmacy circle, Sacred Hearts Girls School, St.Patrick Church, past Brigade Rd & Public Utility blgd turned right into cantonment area & finally into Domlur Rd. Gopu and Thangam were at home due to a forced holiday arising out of the Cauvery waters award. Lunched with them, exchanged notes on the latest developments in the two families,visited the website to see a slide show of Mira's photos and to briefly read my blog which I have recently started writing. Jyotsna & Samit are now happily settled in Sao Paulo. Vandana was recently unwell Gopu & Thangam had been on a short trip to Mumbai to cheer her up.
Some of the landmarks we had fondly associated with during our stay in Bangalore(1977-80) have disappeared - Sri Venkatadri Apts in Indiranagar has been demolished,only a vacant site exists there now. Like wise Lido Theatre (we saw E.T. Crazy Boys of the Games,Airport 77 there), Kamadhenu Hotel(Ulsoor)(Shobha & I stayed there once in 1975) & Cash Pharmacy bldg(we regularly bought medicines prescribed by Dr.Thimmarayappa) have all been demolished.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Coimbatore Temples

Sri Saradambal :
This temple situated on Race Course Rd is a Branch of Sri Sarada Sringeri Madam. The main sannathi is that of Sri Saradambal flanked on either side by sannithis of Vinayakar & Muruga. There is a sannithi of Adi Sankara on the left. There is a separate priest for each of the sanctum sanctorums. To the left there is a Kalyana Mandapam attached to the temple. Pujas are carried out at regular intervals. There is an independent block towards the right which contains a veda patsalai on the ground floor & quarters on the first floor for the priests to stay. Ganapathy Homam is conducted every morning in a specified place in front of a large picture of Ganesha.
The present Sankaracharya at Sringeri is Sri Sri Bharathi Teertha Swamigal & he has been the math head since for the past 18 years since 1989.
The temple premises are maintained spic & span. Offering of flowers to Saradambal is considered very significant. Sri Saradambal is always radiantly decorated in Pattu vastram, gold ornaments, gold padam,and heavily decked with garlands of flowers. Red & yellow chambarathy (hibiscus) and a variety of other flowers from the Den are regularly offerred to all the deities.

Sri Dhanwatari :
This is a private Temple inside the premises of the The Arya Vaidya Pharmacy, Trichy Road,Coimbatore. The main deity is Sri Dhanwantari or the God of Health(reincarnation of Vishnu). This a typical Kerala style temple. Other Sannithis include Uma Maheswara, Siva, Subramania, Ganesha, Durga, Ayyappa, Anjanaya & Bhagawathi and the Navagrahas.The Arya Vaidya Pharmacy (Coimbatore) Ltd. (AVP), was founded in 1943 by late Arya Vaidyan P. V. Rama Variar who was a humanitarian, philosopher and physician par excellence.The Hospital has both out patient consultancy as well as in patient facilities. treatments include Dhara, Pizhichal,Navarakizhi, Sirovasti and Sirolepa. In addition, the Panchakarma treatments like Vamana, Virechana, Snehavasti, Kashaya Vasti and Nasyam are also conducted here. Accomodation is available against payment- tariffs ranging from Rs.100 for general ward to Rs.2500/- for executive suites. For more details refers

Sri Kottai Eswaran :
Located off Big Bazar St near Clock Tower. As you enter you are greeted by a Dwaja Sthambam and a bull facing Easwara and to your left Sakti Ganapathy under the sthala Vriksham, a towering peepul tree. There is a second Dwaja Sthambam and a peacock facing Murugan Sannithi. The three deities of Sangameswara- a sivalingam (Kotai Eswara), Subramania in the form of Shanmugha (6 faced Muruga) & Ambal(Akhilandeswari) are in Somaskandar formation. Around the prakaram you find 63 moovars (nayanmars) in a separate enclosure, Kanni Moola Ganapathy, Dakshinamurthy,Neelakantar, Vaswanathar (lingam), Visalakshy(ambal).
Around the Kotai Eswara shrine sculpted on the temple outer walls are Nrithya Vinayakar, Dakshinamurthy,Lingodbhavar, Brahma & Durga. Similarly around the Ambal sannithi you see sculpted figurines of Brahmi,Kaumari, Varahi, Vaishnavi & Maheswari. You also find dwarpals in the form of Dindan & Mundan(outside Easwara), Dindi & Mundi(outside Easwari). The three main gopurams of the main deities are tall & beautifully sculpted and painted in bright multi colours. Outside the Shanmuga Sannithi there is Airawathan & outside the Ambal Sannithi is a sthamba anjaneya covered with butter on special occasions.There is also a Sannithi for Natarajar. Then as you complete your pradakshana clock wise you see Bhairavar Sannithi & the Navagrahas.
Overall a spacious temple and one which gives you strong vibrations. A kumbabhi shekam was recently conducted about a year ago after extensive expansion and renovation works were completed. The temple comes under the auspices of the HR&CE.

Sri Ramalinga Chowdeswari Amman :
This is the titular deity of the Devanga Chetty's who are the weaver community of Coimbatore.
Located on the narrow & crowded Raja street having heavy vehicular traffic especially buses, you are almost bound to miss the entrance except for the tall gopuram towering above the commercial buildings surrounding it. As you enter through the tall carved wooden doorway to the temple you don't know what to expect - suddenly you are in a spacious, quiet,clean,serene and pious environment quite in contrast to the hustle,bustle,dirt & dust outside. There is a special vibration here which you have to experience yourself. Inside you find carved painted pillars leading straight to Vinayaka & to the sanctum of Chowdeswari Amman & to Ramalingaswamy to her right. On your left is the sanctum of Anjanayar. As you exit after offerring prayers to Chowdeswari and walk around clockwise you see Saptamata(in panchaloha) &sanctums for Sapta Kannikais (in stone) ,Bhairavar, Saniswarar,Chandran, Navagrahas, Suryan. There is a mandapam containing 8 beautiful bronze statues of Asthalakshmi. Next you see an enclosure carrying stone statues of 63 moovars. As you complete the circummambulation you enter a mandapam containing sanctums of Baladandapani, Mahavishnu -Sridevi-Bhudevi, Natarajar-Sivakami and portraits of Nalvars. You are back where you started & you pray to Muruga-Valli-Devayani.
A visit to this temple gives you a great amount of peace and solitude.

Eachanari Pillayar :
Located 15 kms away on Coimbatore Pollachi Rd beyond Kurichi is the town of Eachanari. The drive is scenic with trees on either side & the Western Ghats on one side. Legend has it that around 300 yrs ago the idol of Ganesha was being brought in a chariot to be installed at Patteswarar Temple in Coimbatore. The axle of the chariot broke down at Eachanari and thereafter the idol could not be moved. Therefore devotees decided to build a temple and instal the idol at Eachanari. The temple is under the administration of the Hindu Religious & Endowments Board. The temple was expanded in phases in 1973,1978 & 1992. The thanga theru (golden chatiot) was inaugurated in 1998. The new office complex was completed in 2002. In front of the sanctum overhead on the ceiling 12 zodiac signs are painted. All around the inner prakaram you see various legends of Ganesha pictorially depicted by way of paintings framed & hung on the walls.

Mahalakshmi Temple :
Also located in Eachanari close to the Pillayar temple, this is a contemporaray temple. As you enter you see a huge idol of Vishnu in Ananthasayam pose Sanku (Panchajanyam) on his right & Sudarsanam Chakram on his left. Sridevi & Bhoomi Devi kneeling besides him & Brahma sitting on a lotus stem emanating from Vishnu's navel. The main deity is Mahalakshmi(holding lotus on either hand) with Durga (holding a trisoolam) & Saraswati (holding a Veena) on either side. The sanctum and the inner prakaram floor and walls are richly inlaid with beautiful red & white granite. The temple has a rich opulence about it. Around the sanctum walls hang paintings of Astalakshmi - Adilakshmi, Santanalakshmi, Gajalakshmi, Dhanalakshmi, Dhanyalakshmi, Vijayalakshmi, Veeralakshmi & Jayalakshmi. Asthalakshmi figurines also adorn the outer walls of the temple. In the outer prakaram are shrines of Anjaneya, Vinayaka & Navagrahas.

Perumal Temple :
From Avanashi Rd you go past Residency Hotel into GKNM Hospital Rd & Mani School to reach this temple. The temple construction undertaken by Lakshmi Mills Group family and completed between 1910-1918. The expansion of outer prakaram & mandapam was completed & kumbabhishekam performed in 1973. You can drive into the temple campus into a spacious bay & park your car. A Dwaja Sthambam in stone greets you before you enter the temple. At the base you see sculptures of Sanku & Chakram and Anjaneya & Garuda. You enter through the main gopuram which has a high well polished wooden door & then walk through a corridor flanked by tall granite pillars, past a copper plated Dwaja Sthambam, the Garuda shrine and finally into the sanctum of Lord Srinivasa (a silver throne behind the deity) with his consorts Sridevi & Bhudevi on either side richly decorated in gold plating and ornate jewellery. Just outside the sanctum are two large beautiful brass vilakkus (lamps) around 5 ft tall one with Sanku (conch) & another with chakram(wheel) at the apex. The archakas are friendly and invite us to the inner most sanctum. There is thick smell of burning incense in the air. The archakas do puja & ring a silver bell. They do arati and offer you Teertham & Thulasi and bless you by placing a silver chadari on your head. As you go around the outer prakaram you see tall gopurams containing stone figures of various incarnations of Lord Vishnu - Krishna playing flute, Krishna dancing on the head of Kalia the snake, Vamana, Narasimha, Laxmi Narasimha, Rama & Sita, Varaha, Lakshmi Hyagrivar, Anantasayana with Bhudevi. There is a large nursery at the back which contains a large thulasi garden apart from a banana thottam & many other plants. Tall coconut palms adorn the temple all round. A gentle cool breeze and swaying of the palms add to the magic in the air. You are really impressed by the immaculate neatness & cleanliness inside - this is indeed the path to Godliness !
Finally near the exit you see the sanctum of Anjaneya & besides this on the wall is a large framed picture of Varaha Lakshmi. The temple has an open well & water is lifted through an electric pump mounted outside. The temple also has a generator as power back up.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Manapally Bhagawati

4 February'07 :
Shobha decided on Saturday 3rd that we leave for Manapally Kavu early Sunday morning considering the bad period we had gone through during January'07 - what with Shobha & her father both down with Chikangunya during the first fortnight & just as they were both well on their way to recovery Doraiappan(Shobha's father) suffered a hip fracture when he fell at home & was admitted to Richmond Hospital for surgery & implant of ball joint.
We left early around 6.00 am & reached Walayar forest 6.30. Walayar is a nice place. For those who wish to spend time trekking in the forest and look out for deer & other flora & fauna Aram Hotels (KTDC) is a convenient place to stay. You could also visit the Walayar Dam which is 2 kms from the highway.
We neared Palghat around 7.00 am. There are good highway hotels on the outkirts of Palakkad - Hotel Sri Chakra(3-Star) at the entry point into Palakkad is a nice one. We took the Palakkad bye pass towards Trichur & within a few a few minutes reached the intersection leading to Manapally Kavu to our right.
After buying the Vazhipadu tickets & purchase of chandu we offered prayers to Bhagawathy. Manapally Kavu is a family deity (Kuladeivam) to thousands ( perhaps lakhs) of people in Kerala. A kavu is basically a small Bhagawathy (Devi) temple which normally exists in almost every village in Kerala. Through donations from devout followers (from all over the country & abroad) Manapally Kavu has now developed into one of the significant temples in Palakkad & perhaps in Kerala. The large lighted brass lamps at the entrance mandapam ( there are five such lamps - four are "amai vilakkus". At the apex of the lamps are figures of lion, peacock, swan & nandi) & the floral decorations on the polished & shiny bronze statue of Bhagawathy adds special beauty. The garbha griha is enclosed in a wooden lattice carrying oil vilakkus all around. Praying for a few moments to the Bhagawathy creates a wonderful feeling, elevates & enlightens you & brings about great peace to your mind.
We are not sure about our family deity so we have decided to adopt Manapally Bhagawathy as our kuladeivam. After partaking of prasadam (flowers,chandanam,kumkumam) we went around to the Pillayar (Ganesha) sannathi. The temple has an open well behind the Pillayar which contains plentiful water - the water table was hardly 10 ft below ground. We exited from the left & walked to the Ayyappa sannathi & offered prayers. Between the two temples to the North is located the large temple tank which also has a bathing ghat.
We proceeded next to pray to Kala Bhairavar & to perform the "muttu odakkal". The priest asked me to hold the coconut above my head & swirl it around 9 times clockwise before handing it back to him. He then proceeded to place the coconut on a stone & with one powerful blow from a heavy chopper split the coconut into 2 equal parts. This is considered a good augury - if the coconut splits equally then we have Bhairavar's assurance that all obstacles coming in the way of our well being will be removed.
The temple also has a Bhagawathy Kalyana Mandapam which is hired out to devotees for conducting weddings and other celebrations.
We left the temple & went into Palakkad town. After crossing Fort Palakkad ( campus of the Archaelogical Society of India) and the Fort Maidan - a large playground (Ranji Trophy matches are sometimes played here) we went to Hariharaputra, a modest Brahmin's restaurant, for hot steaming South Indian decoction coffee. We also packed a few packets of sevai (a vermicelli preparation) & chutney to carry home. We were back in Coimbatore at 9.15 am.


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