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Ladakh - Planning The Trip

Over 2000 Km by road, in around 10 days. Stunning landscapes, wonderful people. That sums up our Ladakh trip. But how did it actually work? How did we make it happen? Read on to find out!  Leh, the capital of Ladakh , is accessible by air and road. Flying into Leh is the easiest, and time-saving option, while the road is the time consuming one, but with the added advantage of driving past some of the most beautiful landscapes in our country. Each option has much to recommend it, and we chose the road for just one reason – altitude sickness. Altitude sickness was one of my biggest concerns, since I suffer from motion-sickness. Yes, I do travel a lot, but that is despite my condition, and, over the years, have learnt how to handle it. I struggled with it when we visited Nathu-La in Sikkim, and wondered if I would be able to manage a week at the even higher altitudes that we would encounter in Ladakh. This was the reason we stuck to a basic plan, of only 9 days in Ladakh, though we

Diwali Tour Part 12 – Mayiladudurai

Mayiladudurai – where peacocks once danced – known more popularly as Maayavaram or Mayuram is one of the most sacred places along the Kaveri. This is where Parvati descended as a peahen and prayed to the lord. It is believed that a bath in the Kaveri during the sacred Tula month (mid-October to mid- November), early in the morning, followed by darshan of Mayuranathar, is certain to wash away every bit of sin, known or unknown. Over the ages, sages and kings, commoners and merchants, people from every caste have flocked to this holy town during this month and have cleansed themselves of their burdens. It is believed that lord Rama himself had a bath here, as have the other gods. These days, however, it makes more sense to make sure that the Mettur Dam has been opened and that there is sufficient water in the Kaveri before venturing here for a sacred bath, for during the months that the river is dry, it is indeed a sorry sight. In fact, we visited Mayiladudurai just after a bout of heavy rainfall, and there was just enough water to have a dip, but it was with great misgivings that we had those three sacred dips, for it was a sorry sight indeed to see the once-beautiful river with hardly any water to speak of, while just a few hundred kilometers upstream, she flowed fast and furious in Trichy, and even near Thiruvaiyaru, there was enough water to swim in.

Mayuranathar Temple

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

Maayavaram is full of temples, many of them interesting, but the most important one is the Mayuranathar Temple. It is here that Parvati as a pea-hen prayed to Shiva, and received his blessings. This is a beautiful temple, huge and filled with interesting sculptures and carvings. I could happily spend a whole day looking at this temple, but alas, it was not to be on this trip. We spent barely an hour here, and I was fascinated by the different forms of Shiva depicted on the gopuram and in smaller shrines surrounding the sanctum – the Ganesha was especially beautiful, as was the Natarajar; there was also the deity Juradevar, who is believed to cure fevers; there was also an image of Maha Sadashiva Moorthy with Umadevi (Shiva with multiple heads, one on top of the other in a grape-like form, with Parvati on his lap). There was also an image of Aalingana Chandrashekarar – Shiva embracing Parvati. The list of such interesting images can go just on and on.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

The main deities in this temple are Mayuranathar and Abhayambigai, who have separate shrines. In the pragaram of the Mayuranathar is a niche with steps leading to a small shrine or a image on a pillar of Sattanathar. This was closed when we visited the temple, as the priest was busy with other duties at the time. The image of Abhayambigai in her shrine is particularly beautiful.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

There is also a smaller shrine outside the main temple, with a Shiva lingam called Aadi Mayuranathar, which is probably the actual site associated with the legend of Parvati worshipping Shiva.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

One of the interesting things I noticed in this temple was a bilva tree with leaves which had seven leaflets, instead of the usual 3. Here is a photo of this.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

Mayiladudurai is filled with, and surrounded by a huge number of temples, and we were able to visit only a few of them. Here are some of the temples that we visited –


Thiruppungur is situated about 4 Kms from Vaitheeswaran Kovil, and is the famous place where the Nandi moved aside for Nandanar to see the lord.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

According to the legend, Nandanar was a man of low caste who was a great devotee of Shiva, and spent his time repeating the name of the lord. He wished to visit Thiruppungur, and asked his landlord permission to visit the holy place. The landlord replied that he could go as soon as the crops, which had just been planted, would be harvested. All night long, Nandanar dreamt of Thiruppungur, and prayed to the lord, and the next morning, woke up to find that the fields were ready for the harvest! The landlord was astounded, and impressed by his farmhand’s devotion, helped him get to Thiruppungur. Being a low caste, Nandanar was not allowed to enter the sanctum, and he stood outside, praying to the lord. The huge Nandi in front of the lord obstructed his vision, and he prayed to him to move, so that he could see his beloved lord. Imagine the surprise of all when the colossal Nandi moved aside, allowing Nandanar to look inside. Interestingly, it is not only the Nandi which has moved, but the dhvajasthambam and the Ganesha too. Even today, you can stand at the main entrance and see the lord directly in the light of the lamps lit in the sanctum without even entering the temple! It is said that Shiva himself asked the Nandi to move so that he could see his great devotee. The dvarapalakas are also seen slightly bent, as if trying to see the great devotee their lord wanted to see himself.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

The main deities in this temple are Shivalokanathar and Soundaryanayaki.


From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

The temple of Thalaichangadu is about 22 Kms from Mayiladudurai and 8 Kms from Thirukkadaiyur. This is one of the temples built by Kochengattan Cholan, built in a manner that elephants cannot enter. These temples are called Maada Kovil, as the main sanctum is approachable only by ascending steps which cannot be climbed by elephants.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

The main deity in this temple is Shankharanyeshwarar, so named because of the shape in which the temple is built – a conch (called Shankhu). This is not very apparent when we visit the temple, for it seems just like any other, but I believe that from a nearby hilltop, this unique shape of the temple can be seen. We were told that the reason for this architecture is because it is believed that lord Vishnu got his conch from Shiva at this place, and hence the name of the deity, and the shape of the temple.
The goddess here is Soundaryanayaki, and she takes her place in a separate shrine. There is a shrine to Lord Muruga in between the shrines of the lord and his consort, thus the family is in the posture of Somaskandar – lord Shiva and Parvati sitting with their son Muruga in between them. It is probably this arrangement that has led to the belief that those who visit this temple will beget children.

There is also a special image of Pradosha Nayakar – Shiva and Parvati, which is worshipped during the time of Pradosham, the time special to Shiva.

The temple is open from 6 AM to Noon and again from 5 to 7 PM. This is not a very popular temple, and the priest frequently leaves after performing his duties. However, he lives nearby and is too willing to come back if you send one of the local boys around to call him.

There are two other temples near Thalaichangadu, both of which we visited, but were unable to enter because they were closed and the priests were nowhere to be found. These are the temples of Pallavaneswarar, about a couple of Kilometers from Thalaichangadu and Chaayavanam – the temple of Chaayavaneswarar, considered to be one of those temples which are equivalent to Kashi, which is between these two temples. Chaayavanam seems to be a very beautiful temple, one that I wish we had been able to see. We waited almost half and hour for someone to open the temple, but had to leave when we learnt that the priest had opened the temple in the evening, performed the puja, locked it and left to visit someone in another village, taking the temple keys with him.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip
The entrance to the Chaayavanam temple

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip
A close-up of the image on the arch

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip
The pond at Chaayavanam

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip
And a kingfisher over the pond


From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

This is a small temple near Kuttalam, on the road from Kumbakonam to Mayiladudurai. It seems to be a small temple on the lines of a guardian deity. We read about this temple in a Tamil magazine, and were able to visit it on this trip. The village itself is called Kshetrapalapuram – the abode of the guardian deity (Kshetrapala – guardian of the area). The main deity here is Ananda Kala Bhairavar. Normally, Kala Bhairavar is depicted as a fierce deity, standing with his vehicle, a dog. In this temple, he has a smile on his face, and stands alone, without his vehicle. The reason for this was not very clear, as there was only one old man there, who was not very interested in telling us anything about it. However, this temple seems to have been renovated recently and there were notices of pujas and homams to be performed, which meant that it does have a following of its own, and should be visited at a better time.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

With this, I complete my post, because the next temple I shall describe deserves a post to itself. Keep reading, and keep coming back for more!


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