Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kanyakumari - Cape Comorin

Kanyakumari and near by places will blow your mind. This is one of the rarest places in the world where you could visit a palace, an amusement park, dams, waterfalls, temples, mountains, beaches, forts, windmills, historical monuments, famous bridges, museums, memorials, wildlife and the greenness in and around this city. All these places are enhanced further by the magnificent Western Ghats. Most people are not aware of what Kanyakumari could offer. Most outside People come here to visit Kumari Amman Temple, Vivekananda Rock, Thiruvalluvar Statue and Padmanabhapuram Palace. Few local people know about other significant places and visit these places as they wish as they are local to the city. I would advice people coming to Kanyakumari to plan ahead and make sure you have enough time to cover at least half of the places I have mentioned here. Here you could see unmatched beauty else where in the world. I would call this place "A little Kerala in Tamilnadu". Kanyakumari and surrounding places can mesmerize you by their beauty even better than Kerala.

Places to Visit in Kanyakumari:

Kumari Amman Temple
Kumari Amman Temple - This temple is one of the Shakti Peethas dedicated to Lord Parvati. This temple goddess is named as Bagavathi amman or Kumari amman. The diamond nose-ring of the goddess is famous and this ring said to be visible from sea.

Vivekananda Rock
Vivekananda Memorial or Vivekananda Rock - Swami Vivekananda meditated in one of the rocks southeast of the Kumari amman temple. In his memory, Vivekananda memorial was built and the rock named after him. The ferry services are available to reach the rock from north of the Kumari amman temple.

Thiruvalluvar Statue
Thiruvalluvar Statue- This statue is dedicated to Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar. This 133 feet statue was recently built. The ferry services are available from the same place where you catch a ferry to Vivekananda rock.

Kanyakumari - Sunrise
Sunset and Sunrise at Kanyakumari - The sunset and sunrise point are very famous tourist places. As three seas are merged together at Kanyakumari, Sunrise and Sunset are breathtakingly beautiful. These points are close to the Kumari amman temple.

Kamaraj Memorial
Kamaraj Memorial or Kamarajar Mani Mantapa Monument – Mr. Kamarajar’s ashes were kept at this location for Public to pay homage before immersing in to the sea. This place is located next to Gandhi memorial.

Gandhi Memorial
Gandhi Memorial – Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were kept at this location for Public to pay homage before immersing in to the sea. This memorial is located just few yards southwest of Kumari Amman temple.

Baywatch Amusement park – This sea view amusement park is located close to the major tourist points in Kanyakumari. This park is located 2.5 kilometers west from Kumari Amman temple on Sannathi Street.

Wax Museum – This museum is located inside Baywatch amusement park. This museum is only one of its kinds in India.

Nearby Attractions:

I understand that there are so many places around Kanyakumari and visiting these places with no proper planning would be a cumbersome. I tried to put itineraries which would reduce the trips needed to visit these places.

Kanyakumari – Nagercoil – Thuckalay – Pechiparai trip:
            Start from Kanyakumari to reach Thuckalay via Nagercoil. In and around Thuckalay, you could cover the palace, Udayagiri fort and the church. From Thuckalay, you can catch Pechiparai road through Marthandam or Thiruvattar or Kulasekaram. But try to use the first two routes which would give you a chance to visit the places in Thiruvattar. After crossing Thiruvattar and Kulasekaram, you need to deviate from Pechiparai road to reach Thiruparappu. After Thiruparappu, you can join the Pechiparai road again to reach Pechiparai.

Thuckalay Palace
Padmanabhapuram Palace, Thuckalay – This seventeenth century CE palace is palace of the Travancore kings. This palace is entirely made of woods. It is located 35 kilometers from Kanyakumari and the route is Kanyakumari – Nagercoil – Trivandrum road.

Udayagiri Fort
 Udayagiri Fort – This seventeenth century fort cum Bio Diversity Park is located thirty one kilometers from Kanyakumari, nearer to Thuckalay.

Thiruvithamcode Arappally
Thiruvithamcode Arappally or Amalagiri or Thomaiyar Kovil – It is believed that this church was built by St.Thomas in 57 CE and named by Chera king Udayancheral. But there are no proper evidences to back this claim. Sangam literatures or any other documents never mentioned about Christianity in ancient Tamilnadu. This church is located forty kilometers from Kanyakumari on Trivandrum road, nearer to Thukalay.

Sri Adikesavaperumal Temple
Sri Adikesavaperumal Temple, Thiruvattar – This temple is one of the 108 divya desams and located 50 kilometers from Kanyakumari, towards Trivandrum.

Mathur Hanging Trough
Mathur Hanging Trough, Mathur, Thiruvattar – It is an aqueduct that carries irrigation water through a canal between two hills. It is located at Mathur nearer to Thiruvattar.

Chitharal Jain temple
Chitharal Jain Monuments, Thiruvattar – This place is historically known as Thirucharanathupalli and located fifty five kilometers from Kanyakumari, nearer to Marthandam. The rock shelters and idols of Jain are dated back to ninth century CE.

Thiruparappu Waterfalls
Thiruparappu – This town is famous for its waterfalls and temple. Many movies have been cinematographed by the waterfalls. The ancient Shiva temple here is one of the twelve temples of Shivalaya Ottam pilgrimage. This is located fifty eight kilometers from Kanyakumari.

Thirunanthikarai Rock-cut temple
Thirunanthikarai temple – This seventh century CE rock-cut cave temple of Pallava is located sixty kilometers from Kanyakumari, nearer to Pechiparai.

Pechiparai Dam
Pechiparai Dam / Chittar Dam – Both the dams are nearer to Pechiparai town. This place is located sixty five kilometers from Kanyakumari and it can be reached from Kanyakumari – Nagercoil- Thackalay – Tiruvattar – Kulashekaram – Kalilal – Pechiparai.

Kodhayar Forest
Kodhayar – This forest is sixty kilometers from Kanyakumari nearer to Pechiparai and it is very famous for wild bisons. The drive to Kodhayar is very scenic. Special permission needs to be obtained from Forest department to visit this forest.

Kanyakumari – Nagercoil – Keeriparai trip:

On the way to Keeriparai from Kanyakumari through Nagercoil, you could visit the following places in the order given. First stop would be at Thittu Vilai to visit the Mukkadal dam. The next stop would be Azhagiyapandiapuram to hike Olakaruvi waterfalls. The final stop of the trip would be at Keeripari itself where you could visit Vattaparai falls, the sanctuary and Perunchunai dam.

Mukkadal Dam
Mukkadal – This sixteenth century CE dam built across Vambaru River is the main fresh water supply for Nagercoil. This is a famous picnic spot among locals. It is located thirty kilometers from Kanyakumari.

Ullakarvi Waterfalls
Olakaruvi(Ullakarvi) waterfalls – This waterfalls is nearer to Azhagiyapandiapuram village located thirty five kilometers from Kanyakumari. One hour trekking should be done from the village to reach the falls. There are two falls, lower falls and higher falls. It is advised that only people with good heath can attempt this adventurous travel. Also make sure to travel along with group as the path to the falls goes through dense forest.

Vattaparai Falls
Vattaparai Falls, Keeriparai – Keerapari is located forty five kilometers from Kanyakumari and it is surrounded with waterfalls. This is a place for natural-lovers. There are two hidden treasures in this reserve forest, Vattaparai falls and Kalikesam falls. These two falls are less popular among tourists, which offer serence and peaceful places.

Kanyakumari wildlife sanctuary - This sanctuary has many flora and fauna and is a reserved forest. It is located fifty kilometers from Kanyakumari. You can get more travel information by contacting the forest officer at 175, College Road, Municipality campus, Nagercoil. Phone – 045652 – 233305

Perunchani Dam
Perunchani Dam: This dam is located nearer to Keeriparai.

The coastal trip:
            This route is not a straight route and you got to make few extra turns to reach the places of interest. But I strongly believe that you would not regret it as your mind will be amazed by the places on this route. The route would be Agastiswaram, Chothavilai beach, Sanguthurai beach, Muttom, Mandaikadu, Colachel and Thengapattanam. All these places are on the coastal area, located west of Kanyakumari. To visit Maruthuvamalai and Swamithoppe, you have to deviate from the route at Agastswaram and travel three kilometers to reach Swamithoppe.

Agastiswaramudiyar Temple, Agastiswaram – This town is named after the great sage Agstya and the temple was visited by the sage. This temple is located six kilometers east of Kanyakumari.

Marunthuvazh Malai
Maruthuvamalai(Marunthuvazh Malai) – This hill is southernmost tip of the Western Ghats. It is believed that this hill is a fragment of Sanjeevi Mountain. A piece of Sanjeevi Mountain fell down here when Hanuman carried the mountain from Mahendragiri to Lanka. It is located close to Agateeswaram.

Swamithoppe – This place is the head of all Worship centers of Ayyavazhi, and the place where Ayya Vaikundar is said to have performed the Tavam. It is located 10 kliometers from Kanyakumari. Swamithope pathi, Ambalappathi, Muttappathi, Tamaraikulampathi, Pooppathi are the five main worship places of Ayyavazhi, called Panchappathis. All these places are located with in a fifteen kilometers radius of Kanyakumari

Chothavilai Beach
Chothavilai Beach – It is located twelve kilometers from Kanyakumari. Nearer to this beach, there is a lagoon at Manakudy.

Sanguthurai Beach
Sanguthurai Beach – This beach is located fifteen kilometers from Kanyakumari and famous for its palm-fringed sand beach.

Muttom – It is a small fishing village, located thirty five kilometers from Kanyakumari. This village has become tourists’ hot spot when well known Tamil film director Bharatiraja filmed couple of famous movies here. This village has a beautiful church on the back drop of Indian Ocean.

Mandaikadu Bhagavathi Amman Temple
Mandaikadu Bhagavathi Amman temple – Marthanda varma built this temple. It is believed that Sri Sankaracharya perfomed pooja. This temple is famously called as a Sabarimala for women. This temple is located thirty three kilometers from Kanyakumari.

Colachel Beach
Colachel(Kolachel) - This historically famous town where Dutch were defeated by Marthanda Varma in seventeenth century war. There is also a recent finding that this port was functional even during sangam period. The beach here is very popular among locals. This town is located forty kilometers from Kanyakumari.

Thengapattanam Beach and Estuary
Thengapattanam Estuary – This estuary where river meets sea is a nice beach with coconut groves. This place is located fifty five kilometers from Kanyakumari. The catamaran ride on the river is famous here.

The random trip:
If you are coming from Tirunelveli, prefer to take Tirunelveli – Nagercoil – Kanyakumari route. In this route you will cover the wind farm, Nagercoil and the Suchindram temple. From Kanyakumari, you could travel to Vattakottai separately if this place should not be missed in your itinerary.

Aralvoimozhy Wind Mills
Aralvoimozhy – The wind farm in this town is the largest in Asia. This town is famous for a catholic church where Devasahayam pillai was martyred. It is located thirty three kilometers from Kanyakumari on Nagercoil to Tirunelveli road.

Nagercoil Nagaraja Temple
Nagercoil – The capital of Kanyakumari district has its own places to add to the lengthy list of tourist places in the district. The Nagaraja temple, Kriishnancoil, St.Francis Xavier’s church are the few important places in this town.

Suchindram Temple
Suchindram Thanumalayan Temple – This temple is architectural marvel, known for its stone works. The Main tower of the temple was built around seventeenth century CE. But records show that this temple dates back to nineth century CE. This temple is famous for musical pillars, thousand pillars hall, 22 feet Hanuman statue, 13 feet Nandi statue. This main deity Shiva linga represents Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma.  

Vattakottai Fort and Vattakottai Beach – This eighteenth century CE fort stands tall by having sea on one side and western ghats on another side. The view from this fort is picturesque. The beach nearer to the fort is famous for its black sands. This place is located seven kilometers from Kanyakumari.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Madurai - The oldest city

Madurai - The temple city

Madurai is the oldest inhabited city in the Indian peninsula. Madurai is more than 2500 years old, was once the mighty capital of the ancient pandya kingdom. Reference to Madurai is made in the Indian epic Ramayana and kautilya’s Arthasastra. Great chroniclers such as Megasthenes (302BCE), pliny (77CE) and Ptolemy (140CE) have made references to this city. Ashoka inscriptions dated back to 300BCE referred this city and its rulers Pandyas.
Legends state that Madurai was originally a forest known as Kadambavanam, where the kadamba trees grew luxuriously. The discovery of the sacred place is attributed to a merchant by name Dhananjaya of Manavoor, a few miles to the east of the present town of madurai. The Merchant was returning from the west coast, it became night. The day was somavara or Monday and the merchant observed Indira, the lord of the Devas, workshipping the swayambu(self-created) linga. He reported the fact to the king, Kulasekara Pandian, who then cleared the forest and built the temple and the beautiful city around it, as laid down in the sirpa sastras or the science of architecture. The town is planned in the shape of coiled serpent and it is said that the design of the town was suggested to the king by Lord Sundreswarar himself.
                This ancient city has many attractions in and around the city. This city is also the commercial and transportation hub for South Tamilnadu. It is well connected by Road, Rail and Air.

Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple

Meenakshi Amman Temple: The Meenakshi Sundrareswarar temple located at center of Madurai city is the major attraction among tourists and locals. This temple brings people all around the world to this ancient city. The temple was initially built by Kulasekara Pandya. Later Nayaks constructed the current structure and the gopuras. There are twelve temples towers among which four towers in each direction on the outer corridor are huge and more than 160 feet in height. This temple complex is very vast and you need to take breaks to cover each one of the prominent structures. Some of the major tourist attractions in the temple are Ashta Shakthi Mandapam(Hall), Meenakshi Nayakkar mandapam(hall), Potramaraikilam(golden lotus tank), Oonjal mandapam(hall), The thousand pillars mandapam(hall) and Vasantha mandapam(hall). The temple will be closed in the afternoon.

Madurai Tirumalainayakay mahal

Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal – This 17th century palace was built by Thirumalai Nayak. It is a classic architecture of Dravidian, Islamic and European styles. This is a national monument and it’s maintained by Archeological Survey of India. This palace is located nearer to Meenakshi Amman temple, 2 kilometers southeast. Operating hours are from 9AM to 5PM.

Madurai Gandhi Museum - Tamukkam Palace

Gandhi Museum/Tamukkam Palace:  The palace of Rani Mangamma, constructed around 16th century CE, has been converted to Gandhi Museum, one of the five Gandhi museums in India.

Madurai Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam

Vandiyur Mariamman Temple/ Theppakkulam: This temple and the massive tank 300 meters in length and width built by Thirumalai Nayak. This is situated seven kilometers from Meenakshi temple and it’s almost as vast as Meenakshi temple. This tank is connected with Vaigai river through underground channels. Theppam festival celebrated in January or February is very famous.

Madurai Koodal Alagar temple

Koodal Azhagar Temple: It is one of the 108 divya desams and one of the oldest temples in the city. Though this temple does not have big temple tower, this temple’s vimana is very unique and only one of its kind in south India.

 Nearby Attractions:               
  • Thirupparamkundram Murugan Temple – 7 km
  • Palamudhirsolai – 25 km
  • Azhagar Koil  - 21 km
  • Thiruvengadam – 15km
  • Thiruvadhavur – 30 km
  • Madapuram Badrakaliamman Temple – 20 km
  • Vaigai dam – 70 km
  • Cumbum Valley – 125 km
  • Surli falls – 128 km
  • Thekkady(Periyar wildlife sanctuary) – 155 km
  • Courtallam – 160 km
  • Kodaikanal – 120 km
  • Palani – 122 km

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sankarankoil - Hari and Haran are same

Sankarankoil - Tower

  • This temple was built by Ukira Pandiyan ruled Ukkirankottai around eleventh century CE.
  • The deity of this temple very unique, half Lord Shiva and another half Lord Vishnu. Hence the name Sankara Narayanan temple. Even the city name was Sankaranayinar kovil in old times.
  • This temple is situated over 4 acres site and has 135 feet beautiful tower.
  • It is one of the Pancha Bootha temples in South Pandya country.
  • Lord Shiva appeared as Sankaranarayanar to emphasis that both Hari and Shiva are one and the same.
  • The Nataraja sculpture in this temple is unique.
  • Adi Thabasu festival is very popular among pilgrims and celebrated in tamil month Adi(July-August).
  • There is a belief that the holy sand from this temple would cure all the diseases. There is a sacred tank called nagasunai, dug by serpent kings Paduman and Sangam, has miraculous power to heal anyone who takes bath in this tank.
Sankarankoil - Tower

  • The legends says that Gomati Amman, the consort of Siva wanted to see Hari and Hara as one and the same murti. So, Amman went on doing penance on the earth at Pungavanakshetram for 9 days in the month of Adi to have the darsan of Hari and Hara in one form. On one full-moon day Lord Siva gave her darsan as Sankaranarayana. In commemoration of this date the Adi Tapas festival is performed every year near Pungavanakshetram.
  • Another legend is about how this temple was built. Ukira pandiyan's daily routine was to go to Madurai on elephant to worship Lord Somasundarar and Meenakshi. One day his elephant dug a pit with its trunk, fell and rolled over the earth, and refused to move further. Manikreevan one of the king's guards informed the king about this. When the king came there to witness this an oracle was heard at that time which instructed the Pandiya king to construct a temple and to worship him with utmost devotion which the king obliged.
Gomathiamman  shrine

  • Sri Sankareswarar
  • Sri Gomathi Amman
  • Sri Sankara Narayanan
Sankarankoil - Inside temple

  • Sankarankoil, Tirunelveli District, Tamilnadu
  • Located 56 kilometers from Tirunelveli.
Nearby Attractions:
  • Nellaiappar temple, Tirunelveli
  • Srivilliputhur Andal temple
  • Mahalingam hill
  • Courtallam

Nadi Jyothidam - Astrology at its best

Nadi astrology was written on palm leaves in ancient India. It is mostly prevalent in South India particularly in the Tamilnadu. Its main center is a place called Vaitheerswarankoil near Chidambaram in Tamilnadu. It is also available in some other places of Chennai, Kanchipuram, Salem, Hyderabad/Secunderabad, Tirupati etc. There are many Nadi Grandhas and they are named after Hindu Gods, Sages and Planets such as Mahasiva Nadi, Brugu Nadi, Kowmara Nadi , Koushika Nadi, Vashishta Nadi Agastya Nadi, Sapta Rishi Nadi, SatyaNadi, Chandra Kala Nadi etc. They are available in the languages of Tamil, Sanskrit mainly. The palm leaves are held by certain families who read the results from the palm leaves mostly by taking the thumb impression and some from palm and birth data.

The origin of these leaves can be traced back to approximately 2000 years ago. It is presumed that the Sapta Rishis (Seven Sages) had written the life patterns of each person on palm leaves along with their types of names by their Yogic Powers. It is believed that Sage Agasthya has written these predictions in Tamil. It seems that these Nadis were originally written on animal skins and on leaves and later they were copied on palm leaves. They were preserved by applying oil extracted from peacock's blood. The leaves were found lying idle in Vaitheeswarankoil by about 13th century the forefathers found them realized their values and copied the contents on palm leaves and made exact replica. These leaves have been handed down over generations of one particular community called Valluvar to make predictions. They earned their livelihood through Nadi Astrology. They got trained from their elders to do Nadi reading. The language is poetic and the script is also different. It is the same as in the ancient temples.
The Nadi readers say that people whose leaves are available will somehow come to them at the appropriate age specified on the leaves from any corner of the world. Leaves are there not only for Indians but for foreigners also belonging to other religions. Whoever desires to look into the leaves will go to them on their own accords. The very word Nadi in Tamil means destined. Those who are not destined may not even know such a type of astrology exists. Even the very age when the native is destined to go to them is marked on the leaves.

  • The person needs to take an appointment with the astrologer.
  • Astrologer takes impressions of the right thumb for males and the left thumb for females and asks the person to wait until he calls you.
  • Then the astrologer looks for the palm leaves at his library. It’s not accessible to others. This process might take some time based on the availability of the index leaves.
  • Astrologer tells the person to answer his question either by ‘yes’ or ‘no’. He reads from the leaves in a poetic way and asks few questions. Remember to answer only yes or no. Most of the questions are very generic details about the person and his/her family. That’s why it is better that the person for whom the nadi astrology is being sought is present or at least the person who knows every detail about the consulted person.
  • If he gets ‘No’ to all the leaves of the first bundle, then he goes back into his library and brings another bundle. He continues this process until he finds the correct index leaves. Once he finds the correct index leaves, he goes back to his library to get your exact palm leaves of yours.
  • The astrologer reads in your actual birth date, month and year, the astrological birth chart with position of planets sometimes with lagna, exact names of yourself, parents, wife/ husband, siblings, education, profession and gist of future predictions in a broad way and this is called General Kandam (chapter) of first bhava.
  • Then the astrologer records the same in an audio tape. For other kandams(chapter), the charge will be additional.
Various Kandams:
  • Kandam 1 - Parents names, wife/husband's name, brothers, sisters, maternal uncles, children, profession and general future predictions.
  • Kandam 2 – Money, family, speech, eyes, education.
  • Kandam 3 - Brothers and Sisters
  • Kandam 4 - Mother, House, Lands, Vehicles, Pleasures
  • Kandam 5 – Children, Birth of children, reasons for not having children.
  • Kandam 6 - Enemies, Diseases, Debts, cases in court.
  • Kandam 7 - Marriage, Married life
  • Kandam 8 - Danger to life, longevity, period of death.
  • Kandam 9 - Father, Wealth, luck, Temple devotion to God ,Preaching from Holy man
  • Kandam 10 - Business, Job, Profession
  • Kandam 11 - Gain, Second Marriage.
  • Kandam 12 - Expenditure, Foreign visit, salvation, next birth.
  • Kandam 13 - Shanthi Kandam - Last Birth, Sins committed, remedial measures
  • Kandam 14 - Deekshakandam- Mantra Japam and wearing of talisman(Raksha)
  • Kandam 15 - Avushathakandam Medicines for long standing diseases.
  • Kandam 16 - Dasa Bhuktikandam prediction for the present major and sub period of the planet.
In addition to these, there is also a special chapter for 'Prasna' where any query is answered. Generally Remedial measures are like visiting particular temple, feeding the poor etc,. Corresponding to sins, the remedial measures are suggested.

                If you believe in any kind of astrology, then Nadi astrology is the most perfect form. As the nadi astrologers claim, it can be 99 percent correct. Though some cases are total failures, those might be failure of the particular astrologers not the nadi astrology itself.

References: Pemmaraju V.R.Rayudu‘s articles published on The Times of Astrology magazine.