Monday, October 05, 2009

Road Trip to the "Iyer" Belt

Had a major road trip from the 24th to the 29th of August, clocking about 1500 kms on a nostalgic trip to Kumbakonam, Chidambaram and Trichy (an area I'd like to call as the Iyer Belt). The main purpose of the trip was to undertake a pilgrimage to certain temples in the above mentioned areas to correct some problems in my horoscope.

Started from Bangalore at about 8:30 AM with mom on 24th and proceeded towards Tiruvannamalai, making the customary stop at the Adyar Ananda Bhavan located a few kms before Krishnagiri. I was in two minds to either use the route via Salem, Namakkal and Trichy and most forums on the net advised against this and encouraged me to take the route via Tiruvannamalai.

The road to Tiruvannamalai from Krishnagiri is pretty good except for the occasional pot-holes. One can do 60-70kmh without too much hassle. I was surprised to see the Eastern Ghats emerge suddenly about 10 or 20 kms before Tiruvannamalai. The entire range seems to be thickly forested. We din't have time to visit the temple at Tiruvannamalai and headed to Kumbakonam via Thirukovilur, Panruti and Sethiya Thopu. We managed to grab a decent meal at Panruti. I was pleasantly surprised by the condition of the roads till Kumbakonam. Neatly laid out and the Swift was doing about 80 km/h on an average.

We reached the village of Tirupanandal (about 15 kms before Kumbakonam) at about 2:30pm and decided to check-out the location of the first temple which was supposed to be close to the village. We found ourselves at the gates of an old dilapidated temple at about 3:30 pm. The temple houses the Hindu god Rama. It was believed that the guru of the Asuras, Sukracharya prayed to Vishnu and Garuda at this temple and got his eyes restored in the process. The temple care taker gave us details on what needed to be done for the pooja the next day. We reached Kumbakonam and checked into a decent hotel called Rayas. An A/C room costs about Rs 1000 a night for two persons. We drove through the street where my grandmother used to live and waves of nostalgic memories gripped me. We used to spend our holidays as kids here. I always use to pester dad to take me for an evening walk and he would always oblige. However he is now gone only etched in my heart and memory for ever. So has grand mom and the place she used to live in (55 Mutt Street). The house has now become a hotel. But nothing else has changed here. It is as noisy and crowded as it was before. There was a sense of peace..some kind of bliss that I experience whenever I visit Kumbakonam which I find hard to explain or to express.

Mom was keen to go to our ancestral village of Swamimalai in the evening and I was only too keen to oblige. Lord Swaminatha captivates me like no other god does and we soon found ourselves at Swamimalai at 7 pm. The lord did not disappoint us and we were blessed with an excellent darshan as usual. Thursday's are considered auspicious as the lord adorns his diamond crusted "vel" (spear). We also made arrangements to have an "abishekam" done the next Monday. It was a long standing wish for mom to get this done. We drove back to Kumbakonam and had dinner at the famous Venkatramana hotel and crashed for the night.

We proceeded to the Ramar temple the next day and performed the necessary pujas. The next stop was Uppiliappan temple located about 10 kms from Kumbakonam. This temple is again dedicated to Vishnu. The main deity, Oppillappan (one without equal) or Uppillappan (one who does not take salt) is considered to be the elder brother of the famous Tirupati Balaji. The deity stands at an impressive 7 feet and is truly a sight to behold. Our next stop was the temple at Ayyavadi. The main deity of this temple is goddess Pratinkara (similar to Kali, a violent manifestation of Lord Shiva) and the temple is surrounded by burial grounds and the goddess is terrifying in appearance. She does not leave you with a sense of calm but with a sense of fear. No archanas or special poojas are performed at this temple. It is when one places like these that one truly comes to understand the enormity and vastness of Hinduism as a religion/philosophy and call me a fanatic but there is in my opinion no religion that comes even close in terms of being able to describe the very fabric of the cosmos and creation like Hinduism does. However I digress. After Ayyavadi we headed back to Kumbakonam for lunch (at Venkatramanas as usual). The change in weather from the cool confines of Bangalore to the sweltering heat in Kumbakonam was extreme to say the least.

We headed to my fathers ancestral village of Vaishtacheri (about 45 kms from Kumbakonam), passing the town of Mayiladuthurai on the way. Mom even showed me the hospital where my sister was born. If the trip was nostalgic for me, I could only imagine the flurry of emotions mom must have been growing through. We visited the temple of our Kula Deivam (Governing god of the family). The temple is situated in the middle of paddy fields and houses Sannasiappan. The keys to the temple doors were with a villager and he had gone to the fields to do his work and we ended up getting darshan of the lord from the outside. The village surroundings in this part of the world haven't changed for probably centuries. The peace and calm that one finds here is pretty overwhelming. I was sad to leave the village and promised myself to come sometime in the future, hopefully with my family. I was surprised to find out that Traquebar, a seaside town once a Dutch colonial outpost was only 15 kms from the village.

We headed to Thiruvarur on Saturday morning, the birthplace of my mother. Thiruvarur is home to the lord Thyagaraja (a form of Shiva) and visibly nostalgic mom showed me around the school she studied in and the places she lived in etc. We were fortunate enough to witness multiple abishekams (bathing of the idol in milk, curd, sandalwood paste etc) at the Thyagaraja temple. It was a fantastic experience and often as is the case with spiritual experiences, words cannot or do not seem to justify the feelings that one has during such experiences. On the way back we visited another unique temple. The temple was the abode of yet another avatar of Lord Shiva called Sarabeshwar. The main deity has the head of a lion and is shown holding Lord Vishnu upside down. The lord also has two wings on which sit the goddesses Kali and Pratingara. Legend has is that Vishnu in his avatar of Narasimha was becoming uncontrollable due to the blood he had taken when slaying the demon king Hiranyakashipu. In order to pacify the world, Shiva in his avatar of Sarabeshwar holds Vishnu while Kali and Pratinkara take out the blood of Hiranyakashipu from Lord Vishnu's mouth.

We headed out to the town of Chidambaram in the afternoon to see what arrangements needed to be made for the pooja we had to perform on Sunday (the following day). We were greeted by one of the temple poojaris who agreed to make all the necessary arrangements for the pooja the next day. Chidambaram did not seem to have any decent lodging and the ones that were decent didn't seem to have any car parking facilities. We decided to head back to Kumbakonam for the night.

We traveled back to Chidambaram early next morning and had an excellent darshan of Lord Nataraja followed by the pooja we had to do for Lord Chitragupta (who is Lord Yama's accountant). The poojari was kind enough to invite us to his house for lunch and we duly obliged. All the non stop driving was now getting to me and we got back to Kumbakonam and hit the sack.

The abishekam at Swamimalai on Monday was fantastic as usual. All through the trip the signs seemed to be positive all the time and this was very encouraging for the both of us. The only regret I had was that I did not bring along my digital camera and was left cursing myself everyday. We headed to Trichy later that morning and reached Trichy at about 12:30 PM. We headed out to the final temple we needed to visit and once again did a breif recon visit to find out what needed to be done to perform the puja.

The temple was situated at a village called Thirupainjili, about 20 kms from the main city of Trichy. The temple at Thirupainjili houses Lord Shiva and Lord Yama. This temple apparently is the place where Lord Shiva gave back Yama his life (after he had taken it protecting his disciple Markendeya at Thirukkadaiyur). We performed the necessary poojas the following day and headed back to Bangalore via Namakkal and Salem. The roads by theway are excellent and is four laned from Namakkal to Hosur.

We reached Bangalore at about 4 PM on 29th August and the odo read 1500 kms and I was well and truly exhausted physically. Mentally and spiritually this will go down as one of my most memorable trips.

Om Nava Shivaya!
Thennarudaya Sivane Potri!

1 comment:

nourish-n-cherish said...

I love the lush paddy fields, and the beautiful kolams. I often feel people there don't realise the tranquillity in their surroundings. On the other hand, somebody could look at us and say the something.