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Our Tirunelveli Temple Run – Part 11: Kazhugumalai

Poring over Google maps to figure out the distance from Sankarankovil to Kovilpatti, the name ‘Kazhugumalai’ jumped out. The chance to visit this ancient site, on our way to the station was too good to pass. And that is how we found ourselves rushing over rickety roads, headed to Kazhugumalai, our luggage rocking in the back of our auto! Kazhugumalai, with the Murugan Temple in the foreground

Our Tirunelveli Temple Run – Part 10: Some temples near Sankarankovil, and Thoughts on Our Disappearing Heritage

When you travel, it is not what you look forward to, and what you expect to see, that captures your attention. It is always the unexpected which remains with you, long after you return. And so it was, with our trip to Sankarankovil. Which is why, this post is going to be slightly different from my other posts in the Temple Run series.

Our Tirunelveli Temple Run – Part 9: Sankarankovil

The local bus from Tirunelveli to Sankarankovil seemed at first empty. Then, the crowds began to appear. The bus was full when it left, but at every stop, there were more people getting in…. and no one getting off. And the most striking thing was – everyone was dressed to the nines! Except us of course! 

Our Tirunelveli Temple Run – Part 8: Karungulam

When you have a long, long list of temples , and are short of time, it is inevitable that you miss some of them. And so it was, on our Temple Run. We chose to stick to the Nava Tirupatis, the Nava Kailasams, and a few other temples we certainly wanted to visit, and skipped the rest. However, there are times when the Lord wants you to come and see Him, and it is at such times that you feel truly blessed. We felt this at many temples, where we made it just as the temple was closing, but it was most apparent at Karungulam!

Our Tirunelveli Temple Run – Part 7: Nava Kailasam

Tirunelveli and the Thamirabarani River are intricately linked with Sage Agasthya. This is one of the reasons the river here is considered as sacred as the Kaveri, or even the Ganga. Most temples here are on the river bank, or somewhere near the river, including the Nava Tirupatis, which we visited earlier on this trip. However, the temples most entwined in myth with the river as well as the sage are the Nava Kailasam.

Our Tirunelveli Temple Run – Part 6: Tiruchendur

Subramanya, Karthikeya, Muruga. He has many names, and in southern India, especially Tamilnadu, he is the consummate hero. He is the divine child, born to subdue the demon, Surapadman, who has enslaved even the Gods. He is born of the sparks from Shiva’s third eye, and he is carried by Agni, cradled by Ganga, suckled by celestial nymphs, and finally raised to be a warrior by Parvati. He is but a young man when he leads his army to victory against the demon. However, he doesn’t just kill the demon, he vanquishes him, and, accepts his surrender. The peacock, his vahana , and the rooster, his emblem are the forms last taken by the demon as he is vanquished. There are stories galore of Muruga – of his fight with Ganesha, and leaving home, to take up residence at Palani, of his marriage to Indra’s daughter, Devayanai, and his wooing of the tribal maiden, Valli. Tamilnadu has so many temples dedicated to Muruga, that it is impossible to enumerate them! Six of them, however, are special. T

Our Tirunelveli Temple Run – Part 5: Nava Tirupati

When you circumambulate a Shiva temple in South India, you see the images of the 63 Nayanmars placed on the same level as other forms of the Lord. If it is a Vishnu temple, these are replaced by the 12 Alvars. All these were devotees, the Nayanmars of Shiva, and the Alvars of Vishnu, who sang the praise of the Lord, and eventually merged with them. It is extremely interesting to see just how important these devotees are considered, for, who would know of the Lord and his greatness, if not for these saints, who sang his praises?

Our Tirunelveli Temple Run: Part 4

The  morning had disappeared while we had rushed through temples. The evening had yet to arrive, but we knew it would disappear just as soon. The afternoon, meanwhile, had to be whiled away. What could we do, once lunch was taken care of? Head to the hills, of course!

Our Tirunelveli Temple Run: Part 3 - Birdwatching at a Temple!

Thiruppudaimarudhur Narumbunathar Temple Driving through the fields , we followed the road to what appeared to be a huge wall looming in the distance. My attention, however, was captured by a board. My Tamil is not too good, and the only word that I recognized was ‘ paravai’ – bird. I perked up at once, though I knew well I had no time to go looking for birds. “I am not here for birdwatching, but to visit temples”, I reminded myself. The road led to a series of stone gates, their arches having long fallen. The temple spire visible between them was a beautiful sight.

Our Tirunelveli Temple Run: Part 2

“The best laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry” w rote Robert Burns. Nothing can describe our Tirunelveli Temple Run better than these words, written over two centuries ago! Entrance to the Nanguneri Temple

Our Tirunelveli Temple Run : Part 1 - An Introduction and the Nellaippar Temple

Have you played the game ‘Temple Run’? I haven’t. I only know of it thanks to my son. However, it was the name which struck me, when I began writing about all the temples I visited during our #summertrip to Tirunelveli. Over a period of three days, we visited almost 40 temples, and the planning, organization and execution of the feat involved a whole lot of research work, and timing it just right. It was way more adventurous, and fun, than the game can ever be, at least for me!

The Nagaraja Temple, Nagercoil

It was cloudy when we set out from Kanyakumari for Nagercoil, but in the short time it took us to reach, the rain gods decided to come down with a vengeance! It was pouring cats and dogs at Nagercoil, and the roads were flooded. We were all set to give up, but our auto driver was a resourceful man. “There are many roads to the temple” he said, and though we knew he meant it literally, we wondered at the philosophical phrasing.

Suchindram - Of Indra's purification, and other stories

Moving on from Kanyakumari, let me take you to one of the most beautiful temples we visited on our Southern Jaunt - Suchindram. This is a special post for me, since its about what I love the most - a temple and its stories. However, even more importantly, this is the 1000th post on the blog! Besides, I have now been blogging for over 8 years, and it has so far been a fantastic journey, with too many highlights to mention here. As I pen this thousandth post, I would like to thank all of you, my readers, for it is you who have made this journey memorable. Meanwhile, I hope and pray for many more journeys, and stories to share with all of you..... Vishnu (left), Shiva (center) and Brahma (right) on the gopuram of the Suchindram Temple

Skywatch Friday - The Ocean, Land, Mountains and Clouds

This was the view from the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari. On one side was the ocean, and on the other, the city. We call this land's end, but if you arrive from the ocean, this would be your first view of India. And how beautiful it is, isn't it, especially with the clouds over the mountains in the background?  This was in May, when summer was supposed to be at its peak. However, unseasonal rains changed everything for us, showing us views like these, and obscuring the sun for almost our entire trip!  For more beautiful skies from around the world, visit the Skywatch Page.  Related Posts: Kanyakumari Crabs at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial The Southern Jaunt - At our Land's end - Kanyakumari The Story of my Summer Trip The Rishikesh series Moving on... From Dharamsala to Amritsar to Rishikesh The Himachal Series The Tadoba series

Crabs at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial

Returning from the Vivekananda Rock Memorial , as we waited for our boat, I noticed some movement on the rocks near the water. Zooming in with my camera helped, and I saw these crabs busy clambering all over. It was Samhith I thought about, since it was he was so fascinated by crabs and spiders. Since he wasn't with me, the least I could do was click some photos! So, this post is dedicated to Samhith! 

The Southern Jaunt : At our land's end - Kanyakumari

I was, but a child when my mom first told me the story of the bride who waited for her groom to arrive, and when the sun rose, but there was no sign of him, she turned the food prepared into sand, herself to stone, and stood forever, looking out into the sea. As I grew older, I heard different versions of this story – of the demon only she, an unmarried girl could kill, and of her nose ring, which shone so brightly, that ships, mistaking it for a lighthouse, steered this way, and were dashed against the rocks – but it remained just as poignant as ever. The stories fired my imagination, and my mom’s descriptions fascinated me. “How fantastic it would be, to see sands of different colours, or to see the merging of two great seas!” I thought, and waited eagerly for the day I would travel to Kanyakumari! The most recognizable landmarks at Kanyakumari today

Tharangambadi - Land of the singing waves

Our train dropped us , early in the morning, at the rain washed station of Mayiladudurai. The rains were unexpected, and we had no umbrellas. We rushed for cover within the station premises, and leaving my son to take care of our luggage, I hurried to find a car to take us to our destination. The drivers outside were huddling inside their vehicles, reluctant to step out. Eventually, one of them agreed, and we made our way through the wet streets of the city to the small fishing village that was our destination – Tharangambadi, on the Tamilnadu coast.

Navaratri 2015 : North, South, East and West - All at home in Chembur

Happy Vijayadasami / Dusshera / Dasara everyone!!!  It has been an eventful Navaratri, starting with the creative satisfaction of setting up our own Kolu after years, to visiting friends and relatives, and of course, temples. The festival winds up today, and as we celebrate the destruction of evil, let me give you a glimpse of the different celebrations I have been able to attend - all within a short distance of my home!

Navaratri 2015 : The Chembur Fine Arts Golu

The Golu at the Chembur Fine Arts is one we look forward to, every year. Not only is it huge, and the dolls are beautiful, but there is always something new and interesting to see, to appreciate. Besides, the experience is enhanced by the music, with students of the institution performing in the evenings. Here is a glimpse of this year's golu.....  The Main Golu... all of 15 steps! 

Navaratri 2015 - Matrikas of Masroor

This group of seven figures caught my eye as I wandered around the ruins of the rock cut temples at Masroor. “Sapta Matrika!” I exclaimed, surprised to see them here.

Navaratri 2015 : Family Kolus

You have seen the Bommai Kolu we have kept at our home . You have seen a few of the Devis who have captured my attention during my travels. The last few days have been ultra busy, visiting friends and relatives, and hosting a few at our home. Today, let me share with you two of the most impressive Kolus from our family..... The first one is the one kept by my mom and aunt....

Navaratri 2015 - Chamunda

At Sirpur, a dark room, with every window tightly closed, doubles up as a museum for the rarest of artifacts discovered here during excavations. Entering the room is like opening a door into another world, one filled with unimaginable treasures. You don’t know where to look, what to see first, and what to look closer at – there is so much to see! My eyes, however were drawn to this one….

Navaratri 2015 : Devis from Nalasopara

On this, the second day of Navaratri , let me take you to Nalasopara. 

Navaratri 2015 : Our Home Bommai Kolu

The best part of Navaratri is setting up the Bommai Kolu!

Book Review: 1400 Bananas, 76 Towns, and 1 Million People, by Samir Nazareth

Samir Nazareth hails from Nagpur . The city is famous for oranges, but beyond that, it is the geographical center of India. Yet, as he traverses the coastal regions, there are few who know where it is, or even in which state. Samir himself is on an exploratory journey. He has quit his job, and is spending months on the road, his aim to explore as much of the coastal regions as he can, on a limited budget.

Faces in the Crowd : Children at Patalpani

We noticed these children playing near the temple of Tantya Bhil at Patalpani... It was a holiday, so they were home. They were kids of the local guard who lived behind the temple, and maintained it. They were too shy to speak, but thrilled when I clicked their photo. And, as I have often noticed, with kids and adults alike, even more thrilled to see their photo on my camera screen.  Read the full story of my Patalpani trip here . 

Book Review: All Aboard, by Kiran Manral

It has been a long time since I have written a book review , and, as the gap grows, it gets all the more difficult. This review is an attempt to break that jinx and get back to talking about books, which are, what I love the most!

Birds of Tadoba - Changeable Hawk Eagle

We first saw a Changeable Hawk Eagle while driving to Mysore from Wayanad. Since then, we have seen the bird often, but never managed to get as good a click as the first time. Then, at Tadoba, as we criss-crossed our way across the forest in search of the tiger, we saw these birds often, either near ponds or just by the side of the road.

Birds From my Window - Purple Rumped Sunbird

Starting the week with this gorgeous bird I see from my window every single morning when I send Samhith off to school....

Taking the train to a journey back in time

“Aap itni door aayi hain is train mein safar karne?” (You have come this far just to travel by this train) exclaimed my driver, when I informed him that I had come from Mumbai to travel by the local meter gauge train from Mhow to Patalpani, Kalakund and back. “Yes” I replied. The century old train is part of our disappearing history, and I wanted to experience at least some of it before it faded into oblivion. It took him a while to digest that logic, and when he did, he came up with another question “Main bhi aapke saath aa sakta hoon? (Can I come along with you?) Amused at the turn around, I agreed, and he went on to tell me that though he had driven tourists across the country, he had never even heard of this little train which passed so close to his hometown!

Skywatch Friday - Sunrise in the Forest

Now that I have written about Rishikesh, it is time for me to take a break... and write about random stuff for a while, before getting back to my #summertrip. To begin with, let me share with you, as part of Skywatch Friday, a beautiful sunrise at Tadoba.... We were awaiting our turn to enter the buffer zone of Tadoba, when the sun appeared, over the rim of the trees.

Rishikesh - The Pahadi House Experience

A lantern hung on the branch of a tree , its pale glow just enough to find our way around. Our host rushed to light the fire, and details emerged from the darkness – the neatly whitewashed house, with a pretty garden around, a water pump, the kind I hadn’t seen in years, wickerwork chairs that reminded me of my grandparents’ house,  and a pair of care-takers, busy whipping up dinner for us. However, there was just one thing that Samhith noticed – the old fashioned charpoy (wooden bed) on the lawn! He needed no invitation to make himself comfortable, and declare that he loved the place! This was to be our last halt at Rishikesh before making our way back home, and I couldn’t have chosen a better place!

Rishikesh with Ravers

Driving through the mountains , I looked out eagerly for my first glimpse of the river. A sharp turn, and the bluish green waters came into sight. I asked the driver to stop, and he did, a little later, at a convenient spot. I just had to get off, and stare at her. Unbidden, tears sprang into my eyes, and I brushed them away hastily. It was an emotional moment, after all, I was setting eyes on the Ganges in Rishikesh, after a gap of over 25 years!

Moving on... from Dharamsala to Amritsar to Rishikesh

Amritsar wasn’t on the original itinerary for our #SummerTrip. The city was added to our plan simply because we were delayed in booking Shankar’s return flight, and the only convenient one available was from Amritsar! It was then that realization dawned – that Shankar had never visited the Golden Temple! Plans were at once re-modified, tickets booked, and I began to look forward to my third visit to the city! Somewhere on the way to Amritsar...

Discovering heritage in ruins - the Nurpur Fort

“Amma, you missed a fort!” cried Samhith. We were on our way from Pathankot to Dharamsala, and I had somehow fallen into a deep sleep. I was still groggy, but the word ‘fort’ was enough to wake me up. Or maybe it was the enthusiasm in his voice. He went on, describing how big it looked, and how it stood atop a hill, and all I thought was – I didn’t know there was a fort here! “Had you heard of the Nurpur Fort?” added Shankar, intruding into my thoughts, and I shook my head. For the first time, I kicked myself mentally for not being prepared enough, and decided we would stop on our way back.

The Kangra Fort

The steep walls of the fort tower over us, and we strain our necks to get a better view. The car winds its way steadily upwards, and we walk into the imposing gates. Our stop at the Kangra Fort is meant to be a short one, tired as we are. As it turns out, the fort and its stories have us enthralled, and we lose track of time!  The Kangra Fort, as seen from the road, with a temple on the hill behind

Skywatch Friday - Mountains and a Temple

There is something about mountains that inspires devotion. Maybe it is the thought that they reach out to the skies, and are our connection to the heavens. Yet, the temples we build, are but specks against the backdrop of mighty mountains such as these..... We saw this small temple with the Dhauladhar Ranges in the background, from the top of the Kangra Fort.  It was a beautiful sight, a lot more impressive than my camera managed to capture, and it reinforced the thought of how small we were, and how insignificant, as compared to these mountains, which have stood here for centuries. Yet, it was deeply spiritual. No wonder someone wanted to build a shrine here!  This post is part of Skywatch Friday . For more beautiful skies from around the world, visit the Skywatch Page.  

Scenes from a small railway station in the hills

Passing via Kangra Railway Station en route to the Kangra Fort, it was impossible for us to simply pass by, without taking a closer look. 

Vaikuntha Vishnu at Masroor

I am back, after two whole weeks offline! It has been rather difficult to get back to writing, with so many thoughts churning inside my head, but, making a monumental effort, here I am, continuing with the last place I wrote about before I left – the Masroor Rock Cut Temples . We saw this image at Masroor , and neither the guide, nor friends I asked after I returned, had any clue as to who it was. The figure looks male, but what about the side faces? Those were definitely not human! I had seen something similar in a Vishwaroopa figure of Vishnu, but that one had many more faces. Besides, who were those two at the bottom he had his hands on?

Wandering Thoughts - Wildlife in the midst of Heritage

At the Masroor rock cut temples , while I was trying to identify all the deities, Samhith was busy elsewhere. He had spotted a lizard on one of the rocks, and spent the rest of his time trying to follow it, and see just how many there were! 

The Rock Cut Temples of Masroor

“Kehte hain, Pandavon ne yeh mandir banaya tha” (They say, that it was the Pandavas who built these temples), says the ASI guide, at the Rock Cut Cave Temples of Masroor. I look at him, askance, expecting a bit more information than that. “But some other king would have rebuilt the temples” I insist, trying not to override his mythological beliefs, hoping to get some historical information. He shrugs, clearly knowing nothing more, and turns instead to show us some of the depictions of deities he does know. My questions continue, and his confusion increases. “Are you studying these temples?” he asks, flicking looks between me and my son. “No, I just write about them” I reply, and he is satisfied. “Lots of people come here to study these temples and write about them. We are applying for UNESCO World Heritage Status” he adds proudly.

Faces in the Crowd - The man at ease, at Norbulingka

We were just entering the main complex at Norbulingka, when my eyes fell on this man....

Norbulingka Institute, Dharamsala

The reflection of the Tibetan styled building seemed to shimmer in the water – the vibrant reds a striking contrast against the greenery, and the blue of the sky. We had seen many such structures over the last few days at Dharamsala. Yet, this was an image that captured my attention. My camera didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm for the sight, but I persevered. And this is the best I was able to do…. Have I been able to capture the essence of the beauty I saw that day? It is for you to say.

Yellow Billed Blue Magpies

We first caught a brief glimpse of the bird at the Aghanjar Mahadev Temple. The temple had been disappointing, but the stream behind had more than made up for it. We were walking back to the car, when a harsh call and a flash of blue alerted us that there was a bird nearby. A big one. Gone were thoughts of getting back to the car and to our next destination. Samhith and I were completely focused on identifying the elusive bird. It took us a while to spot it properly, and when we did, I recognized it as the Yellow Billed Blue Magpie ! 

Heritage in the Wilderness

Nestled within a copse of towering Deodar trees , the Church of St. John in the wilderness stays true to its name. As we walk into the gates and approach the church from the busy road leading to McLeod Ganj, the silence is marked – a much needed respite from the honking of cars stuck in a traffic jam outside. The church comes into view, shadowed by the trees, lit by a few rays of light escaping the green canopy.

How to bathe a sheep - a step by step guide :D

Yes, you read that right. This post is indeed about bathing a sheep. Not elephants, which we travel far and wide and pay to bathe! Not cows and buffaloes which we see bathing everywhere! But this post is about sheep. Have you ever bathed a sheep or seen someone bathing a flock of sheep? We did, while roaming around Dharamsala. The sight was captivating enough to make us want to stop, much to the surprise of our driver! What was so interesting about it? First, that they were bathing sheep! Second, it seemed so well choreographed, such a part of their routine, that each sheep went through the same process to end up thoroughly bathed!! So, do you want to know how to bathe a sheep? Read on......

Egyptian Vulture near Dharamsala

We were on our way to a temple, with a hot spring. "It is a nice temple" assured our driver. "It won't be crowded at all." The single bus standing outside the tiny temple should have warned us, but we didn't pay attention till it was too late. The shrine, and the spring, were filled with people - who stared as we walked in. It was an unnerving experience, and we rushed to get out. A flash of white on a tree diverted me, and I hurried to see what it was. It turned out to be an   Egyptian Vulture. . the saving grace of the long journey it had taken us to get here!!!