There is no existence of a place without the people, And with civilisation exists the culture. Madurai has its own share.. Here goes the list:
* The temple arts- the sculptures on the temple towers and the wooden vahanas used to carry the idols.
* Handicrafts- accessories used for decorating Devi idols to made of delicate sequins, etc.
* Mural paintings from the Pandyan era adorning the temple walls
Breakfast – Idly & Sambar, Pongal + a cup of filter coffee
11.00.a.m – Jigarthanda(more like a combination of falooda & kulfi)
Lunch- Puliyogare @ the temple store, curd rice, Sambar rice(similar to Bisibele bath)
4.00.p.m.- Karupatti(palm sugar) coffee
Dinner- Anything after 7.00.p.m is called meals.
Must try is the ghee roast & rava Masala dosa
Jigarthanda – A roadside vendor
* Sarees for women & Dhotis for men
* Madurai cotton sarees with simple prints and zari borders with temple designs are famous
Among the locals- particularly those belonging to the Thevar cast, it is believed that women are prettier with bigger earlobes. Hence, the girl child born in this community is made to wear a particular traditional earring called the ‘Thandatti’ when she is young. Each piece of this weighs 27 gms and is made of gold. This is particular to Madurai. The thandatti is said to evoke the 3 levels of our world: terrestrial, astral and divine and these levels are associated with Mandala.
A Thevar woman wearing the traditional Thandatti earring
Shopping at Madurai is all about wholesale vendors… and there are specified streets for each of them.
* Cotton sarees/ dress materials- shops are all around the temple complex
* Steel utensils- plastic beads & girls’ accessories, gold plated imitation jewelery to name a few.
* Pooja related accessories & crafts- particularly inside Pudumandapam
* Varieties of plantains / bananas and green groceries among the others.
A brief intro to a city full of life and activities.. Justice yet to be done..
Signing off with a hope that it has helped someone somewhere in some form who is seeking for some info on this Pandyan city….
An overnight bus journey took us to Madurai at 6.00.a.m.
We found a decent lodge to stay for the day-freshened up there and left for the main part of the trip- The Meenakshi temple- An abode of the Pandyan architecture. The entire temple complex is fortified by walls with 4 entrance towers at 4 directions. The sculptures on each of these towers are out of the world. Once inside the complex- you start to wonder which world of wonder you have stepped into.. It took us about 3-4 hrs to finish our rounds admiring this place of beauty and also get blessed with the darshan of Meenakshi Amman and Lord Sundareshwaran. There are a lot of stalls inside the complex selling various handcrafted articles.
The temple art museum within the same premises is a must visit. There are 1000 pillars- all decorated with rare pieces of sculpture. The dim light used for each pillar adds up to the beauty of the place.
A small walk through the narrow lanes took us to the Thirumalai Nayyakar Mahal built in the 16th century. Fine architecture with elegant paintings on the roofs and vaults is neatly presented in a simple combination of off-white and velvet red colour combination. There is sound and lights show every evening conducted here. However, we could not make it.
The interiors of Thirumalai Naickar Mahal
We took a local bus to Vandiyur. This is where the annual event of the famed Teppotsavam / Float festival takes place to celebrate the birthday of King Thirumalai Nayak in January. This tank is supposedly the biggest of its kind in the state. With the float festival just 2 months away and monsoon season just passing by- this tank still remains dry. When enquired how the event is going to take place in a dry tank, we were told that the water will be fed in January from the Vaigai river through artificially laid underground channels. This is truly amazing how such a concept was laid way back in 16 century. But, for a new-commer, the dried lake is an eye sore as it is used as a watering hole by many vandals.
Another bus from there to Periyar and a small walk from there through the stinking / dirty by-lanes, we reached the Koodal Alagar temple. A quick pooja and a walk around the temple was a nice boost up. The architecture here too is similar to that of Meenakshi temple.
We had to rush to The Gandhi museum as it would close by 6.00.p.m. However, we could not make it on time. This was once called the Tamakkum palace of Rani Mangammal. Today, the museum supposedly houses 14 artifacts used by Gandhiji including his sacred ashes and blood stained dhotis. Gandhiji is said to have visited the city 5 times.
So next we headed back towards our lodge just infront of the temple;s west gate. But, on the way- we checked into Pudumandapam. This is a 1000yrs old shopping mall- supported by huge sculpture rich stone pillars. The stalls are occupied with tailors, handicrafts vendors, wholesale dealers of pooja related and general Ladies’ accessories. A good place for shopping traditional aritifacts at Madurai.
We took a local bus from Periyar bus stand to travel 21kms to reach Alagar Kovil- the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu- Meenakshi’s brother. The village is surrounded by an old fort wall, gives a good view of the green hills around the temple. The architecture is similar to Koodal Alagar temple in the city.
A trek of 3kms uphill though green forests and monkey infested walkways leads you to the Murugan temple. It is one among the six abodes of Lord Murugan and hence important among the pilgrims. A walk of half a kilometer further uphill leads us to Pazhamudhir Solai temple. A temple dedicated to Goddess Rakkaya exists close to a natural spring called Nuburagangai here where the devotees take a holy bath. But strange & probably the only temple I have ever been to where there is an entry fee into the temple itself. This is where the famed Chittrai festival is observed during the month of April.
From there, we took the next bus back to Periyar from where we had to take a bus further to Tiruppanakundram. This is a cave temple at the foothills of a rock hill. It is believed that Lord Murugan was wedded to Devyani, daughter of Indra at this place. Hence, this is also counted one among the 6 abodes of Lord Murugan. Up the hills is the Dargah of Hazrat Sultan Sikandhar Badushah shaheed Radiyallah Ta’al anhu. Owing to time constraint and exhaustion, we thought of skipping the climb.
Other lesser known places we skipped due to time constraints were the Kazimar mosque and Goripalyam Dargah.
At the centre of the city is the Kattabomman junction- This is where a part of the old Madurai fort exists. Today this is not more than a public library.
I don’t do this usually, but would make a special mention about the streets of Madurai. Every street in the city has a history behind it: This link to an article from “The Hindu” explains it all- ‘Where moats made way for motorways’
Very few people know of the grandeur of the Dasara celebrations in Madikeri. Considered next to Mysore Dasara in pomp and celebrations in Karnataka; it is a 9 days long event.
The festivities start off on the day of Mahalaya Amavasya with 4 karagas getting all set at a place called Pampina Kere. These Karagas represent the 4 Mariamma temples of the town: Dandina Mariamma, Kanchi Kamakshi, Kundurumotte Sri Chowti Mariamma and Kote Mariamma. The Vrathadharis or the Karaga holders travel across the town to all households through the 6 days of Navarathri. They dance and perform a balancing act with the idols on their shaved heads with a knife in one hand and a club(Bettha) in the other.
On the eighth day: people decorate their shops and vehicles to celebrate Ayudha Pooja- Also, vehicles are decorated and assembled at Gandhi Maidan where the best one is awarded in each category.
The 9th night commemorates the last part of the Dasara celebrations where 10 temple cars or Dasha Mantapas- one from each temple depicting a story from one of the epics. Each tableau will be as long as 4-5 trailers connected to a tractor. This inturn will have separate trucks loaded with sound systems and other backup.
The participating temples in this grand finale of Dasara are: mantapa of Kote Mahaganapathy temple, Sri Kanchikamakshi temple, Pete Sri Rama Mandira, Sri Kote Mariamma temple, Dechoor Sri Rama Mandira temple, Sri Chowdeshwari temple, Sri Dandina Mariamma temple, Sri Karavale Bhagavathi temple, Sri Kodanda Rama temple and Kundurumotte Sri Chowti Mariamma temple.
These mantaps will congregate at the center of the town in late night hours and put up a great show of colour, light, sound and an amazing display of creativity.. people flock to see this splendous show of efforts of over a 100 dedicated minds behind every tableau. The best temple car is awarded each year.. Finally- all the 10 mantaps proceed towards ‘Banni mantap’ and this brings the curtains down on the festivities and marks the dawn of a new day..
I always wanted to witness this celebration but have been quite apprehensive about facing the wrath of the abuses that will follow with the joy.. And moreover, this happens in the southern part of Coorg and I get to know that the festival happened only after it has happened..!!
But some wild wishes do come true- this time my encounter was unplanned and I’m glad it happened.. Occasion: “Kunde Namme” a.k.a. Kunde Habba or the “Festival of abuses”.
The tribes belonging to the Jenu-kurubas, Betta-Kurubas, Yeravas, Paniyas, Kembetti and other sects all congregate in a common place- usually a town area to celebrate their festival of abuses and to make merry. By abuse- I mean abuse God, man, machine and everything that they come across on that day. This is a tradition that has passed on through generations among these tribes.
Legend has it that the main deity Aiyyappa had taken the tribe into a thick jungle for hunting. Deep in the jungle, he fell in love with Bhadrakali and eloped with her leaving his followers abandoned. Since then, the day is observed every year where these tribes abuse their god for betraying them. They find god in everything and every person they come across and hence abuse them in turn.
The people are togged in weird clothes- some men dress up like seductress, some like ghosts, some like witches and some dress up just random and as weird as possible.
They block every man(outside the tribe) on roads, barge into shops in the town and demand money. If you don’t pay them what they demand- you are abused; If you pay what you are demanded for- you still get abused..!! Remember.. God will not come to your rescue on that day as he himself is in soup 😛 (Kidding..!!)
Also, most of the members of this group belong to the labour class who work in estates, domestic helps etc. Hence, the day doubles as a good chance for them to vent out all the frustration on their masters..!!
But, at the end of the day- they all congregate in their common place of worship and surrender to their god, plead for his mercy and ask for his blessings for the rest of the year. A part of the total money they collect for the day is used to have a lavish dinner and the rest is religiously offered to the deity.
This festival happens on the 4th Thursday in the month of May and is celebrated in and around Gonikoppal considering its proximity to the Nagarhole National Park where most of these tribes are based.
It is said that Jataayu- The vulture (mentioned in the Ramayana) fell here when hit by Ravana. Later, Rama is said to have commanded the bird to rise- Le Pakshi, and hence the name of that town.
Initially the plan took off with the idea of covering a lot of places along the way.. A super awesome NH7 led us straight till Bagepalli- From there a small deviation took us to Lepakshi.. But this place is a storehouse of history.. Every stone here has a tale to tell.. Be it from mythology or the recent past history of the Vijayanagar empire.. We walked carefully reading every story that unfolded at every step.. and that ended for more than half a day..
The sculptures in the main hall of the Veerabhadra temple gives us the specifications to measure the beauty of a perfect man and a perfect woman.
Naga Linga- A view from the Veerabadra temple porch
Nagalingesvara- Carved out of a natural boulder to the west of the shrine, is a seven-hooded Naga sheltering a black-polished lingam cradled in its ribbed coils. A saptamatrika panel is placed below to the right. History tells us that the sculptor had come home for lunch one day. His mother said she would be back soon with food. She was surprised when she had returned. She exclaimed “Oh my son..!! You have carved such a big and a beautiful statue in such a short interval.” Even before she completed, a big crack developed across the linga. This makes it un-worthy of any Pooja/ offerings at the temple.
Among the several ornate pillars that decorate the temple corridor, one takes a special mention in several architectural marvels lists- The hanging pillar. It doesn’t rest completely on the ground and hence a sheet of paper can be easily passed through the gap under it.
The half finished Kalyana Mantapa
This Kalyana mantapa has been depicted as the site of the celestial wedding between Shiva and Parvati, and each of the pillars is a celebration of this – drummers and musicians adding to the atmosphere and lesser gods and goddesses blessing the couple. A similar place is believed to exist in Kailasa and it was therefore pronounced that a place more beautiful shouldn’t exist on the earth. And hence, this remains unfinished.
Eyes of Virupanna
The Running Basava
As the history says, the place could have got its name referring to the two brothers- Veeranna and Virupanna, under King Achutaraya of the Vijayanagara dynasty. The latter who was the treasurer of Penukonda province (today’s Anantpur) spared no expense to have the temple built the way he wished as a tribute to the Lord, as his mute son regained his speech after playing near the Udbhava moorthy of Shiva which was on this hillock, leading to suspicions from the king about embezzlement of money. In grief and in anticipation of royal punishment, Virupanna plucked out his own eyes and threw them against the wall. And thus, lepa-akshi (blinded eyes). Till date one can find those blood stains on that wall. It has even been tested and proven that the blood stains are indeed real..!!
Ancient paintings on the temple ceiling
The Basava / Nandi is the largest monolithic Nandi in India. It is built facing the Naga Linga within the temple complex. However, this is half a kilometer away from the main temple.
We were told that Jataayu died in another place i.e. about 2 kms from the temple. But there isn’t any walkable road to the exact spot. This is quite sad that a place of such importance is not maintained or highlighted anywhere in the map..
But, overall- it was a wonderful trip with a lot of gyan on history and the epics.. that too at a distance of just about 120kms from Bangalore..!!
It was Sunday morning and our trip was fixed: to cover Belur, Halebeedu and Shravanabelagola.
I prefer to write less in this as I choose the pictures to speak for themselves..One among the very few well maintained monuments in Karnataka- The Hoysala Style of architecture is a treat for the art-buffs.
We started at around 6.00.a.m from Bangalore to Belur in a KSRTC bus. Then to Halebeedu in a local bus. Then to Channarayapatna from where we took KSRTC to Shravanabelagola.. And back to Bangalore in KSRTC.
Shantala- the wife of King Vishnuvardhana was so mesmerised by the Sculptures of the dancing ladies carved here in different postures, that she used to dance with these Madalikes or ShilaBalikas in her dreams.
Hoysalas founded their dynasty with Belur as the capital initially. Later, the capital was shifted to Halebidu.
This is one of the most important pilgrimage places for the Jains. Also, this is considered to be the largest monolithic stone statue in the World. ShravanaBelagola has 2 hills- Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri. The statue is on the Vindhyagiri hill.
Wake up….!! Wednesday morninggg…. A weekend when the rest of the world is working their asses off half way through their week.. n I sit wondering how I’m going to kill the rest of the day amidst the four walls of my house jobless….
Some old place I was told about, by my friend who had done her internship at- popped in my mind- “Kaiwara”. I jumped out of my bed and began to goggle it out.. lot of things put together.. I was able to jort down places to see and a rough route map.. n that’s it.. dragged my mum along, pulled the car out of the garage n zooommm we go…….
We started at around 9.a.m from Bangalore. Reached Devanahalli from where we took the Vijayapura bypass road to reach Kaiwara. A good 45min drive from the airport at an average 60kmph speed.
I ain’t a good photographer, but definitely these photos might be of interest for those of you planning for a weekend exploration.
As soon as one enters the kaiwara town, a small lane to your left leads you to the Narayanapa Mutt. This is a mutt managed by M.S.Ramaiah trust. This is where Saint Narayanappa attained “Eternal Bliss or jeeva Samadhi”.
Half a kilometer away from the Mutt is the “Bheemeshwara temple”. This is where the mythology has it that Bheema killed Bakasura during the exile period of the Pandavas. There is one small temple named after each of the Pandava brothers within the same premises.
Overlooking the Mutt, is the Bheema baana Betta or Kaiwara Betta. We thought of giving it a miss considering the number of steps we had to climb up and the time we had to cover other places around. Or rather, my mum thought it would be impossible for her to scale it up 😛
One kilometer further ahead, you reach “Tapovana”, place where the saint used to meditate once. There is a small garden here which you can give it a miss. Few yards uphill from here, you reach the “Vaikunta Betta”. At the base of the hill is the “Amaranareyana Temple” dedicated to Lord Vishnu built by the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. Climb upstairs(which more looks ignored by vistors)- you reach the “Yoganarasimha Temple”, the cave temple where it is believed that the Lord appeared infront of Narayanappa. The temple terrace gives an excellent view of the entire town. A word of caution though: Too many monkeys around here.. it’s no monkey business.!!
Then starts the best stretch of the drive. 5kms uphill…. It surely makes you wonder how beautiful Mount Kailash(in the Himalayas) could be if the lesser known “MahaKailasaGiri Betta” is so beautiful. Atop the hill is a newly chiseled man made caves home to 3 temples.
Food is provided unlimited to every pilgrim/visitor at KailasaGiri temple and the Mutt between 12.30.p.m and 3.00.p.m. So we decided to hog some yummy temple food at Kailasa giri itself.
By this time, we had covered all the places I had googled to visit in Kaiwara. But it was still 2.30.p.m and lot of time left. While coming downhill, we decided to follow a signboard which indicated the way to “ChenaKeshava Cave Temple” but once we reached it, it was quite a disappointment.
Enroute to Channakeshava guhantara temple
Someone had mentioned about “Venkateshwara Temple” in Alambagiri- about 10kms from Kaiwara. This place is supposedly famous for Paper made handicrafts. So we decided to explore this place too. But, some renovation work in this ancient temple and absolutely no shops in this place (forget handicrafts stores) left us saddened.
Oh n by the way.. Kaiwara is famous for silk rearing & weaving. Maybe you should try to pick up some silk stuffs here. But we did not look like we wanted to check it out..
Google told me that “Ambaji Durga Cave temple” is 7kms away from Kaiwara, but nobody seemed to have heard of it. So we thought it was time we returned back to where we belong to- Bengaluru. It was still 4.00.p.m but done with the day’s outing.. Though it was a small trip, totally unplanned- it was worth the visit..!
getting lost in traveling through places and time…