During our second day in “Sri Ramana Ashram”, after breakfast @ 7:30 Am. We went to visit “Thiruvannamalai Temple“.
You can read My Sri Ramana Ashram Visit, here.
Let me be honest, I visit temples for its archaeological significance and seeing the sculptures and the work of medieval artisans. Tiruvannamalai & Kanchipuram Temples are of profound significance in Indian culture. “Tiruvannamalai Annamalaiyar Temple” built-in 9th century by Chola kings as an icon of Saivism culture, provides us valuable insights on Sangam Period. Temple “Gopurams” (towers), including the tallest “Rajagopuram” (king’s tower) is built on solid granite rock, and carved with eclectic imageries which is a treat to watch. Unfortunately, temples which could even be the contenders for the world wonders are treated like trash. Archaeological pieces are white washed by temple keepers. In one place we saw people removing white wash using chisel on an archaeological piece. In some other significant places like “Patala Lingam” vault, anarchists and ignorant punks have scribbled their love affair fantasies on the walls. No wonder, no such great temples are on the world wonders list. When we reached near temple, we were converged by loud shopkeepers selling garland and whining beggars. If you wore new cloths, you will surely have a beggar zerg-rush on to you.
Tip : Watch for your wallet and footwear. Even remotely good looking shoes are stolen by the beggars.
I washed my one and half year old sandals with water for the first time in my life. They thought it was new and lifted it. There are regular footwear thieves around the temple premises.
Temple is big and beautiful. Two main gates are breathtaking and spectacularly crafted. Thousands of artisans and engineers might have took years to finish a single gate. The main Annamalaiyar Temple consist of complex towers and shrines. A model of temple architecture is showcased in front of the temple. A tormented elephant is employed in front on the temple to bless the devotees. For selected pilgrims they charge 5 Rs Coupon to enter the temple. I didn’t knew if they were legit. Some of the temple pujari’s love money more than God. Don’t wonder if the priests themselves ask you for money. They tell some unbelievable stories about the importance of the temple, give some prasads and tell you giving donations to the priest (daanam) would undoubtedly increase your chances of going to heaven and push a plate in front of you. Everybody would be forced to throw some coins into it. People from Andhra Pradesh (Telengana) regions love temples. There would be plenty of Telugu devotees on my every temple visit. There were an Andra family with us on our visit to Thiruvannamalai Temple, heads clean shaved, probably coming from Palani temple, were giving donations like water, pujari’s loved giving extra blessing for them, and made sure they would reach heaven on time.
Going out of the temple, there are stalls selling prasads of the temple. They sell a kit for Rs 100. It has multiple Items, sweets and crunchies. We bought one for home. There is also Ramanamaharishi’s meditation place, “The Patala-lingam” vault, where he meditated despite bites from vermin and pests.
Temple is big, a fast stroll around might take 30 minutes. Despite getting my footwear stolen from the temple premises, Thiruvannamalai Temple visit was fine. We returned to Ramanashramam for lunch.
On early morning, next day we packed our bags, vacated our rooms and took an auto in front of the Ramanashramam to Thiruvannamalai (TNM) railway station, 5AM in the morning. Auto Charged Rs 80.
Route from Tiruvannamalai to Kanchipuram
We reached Kanchipuram @ about 1′ O clock noon. Before we got off the bus itself, auto rikshaw wallas started canvassing us to show the temple. Some said 500 Rs for 4 temples, some said 400 Rs for 5 temples. There were also brokers for auto rickshaw wallas and brokers for their brokers. Every auto driver inside bus stand was more an insurance agent than a driver.As we were tired and had luggage, we had planned earlier to lodge a room and visit temple peacefully. So we ignored them and went searching for a hotel room. A lodge nearby the bus stand was full. We got into the restaurant nearby for lunch. When we enquired the hotel cashier about the temples and rooms, we knew that he was also from our place. He arranged an auto driver and recommended an affordable hotel for room nearby. The auto driver, an obvious drunkard, didn’t forget to campaign us to show temples, on the way to hotel. He also gave us a visiting card, named “Kovai Somu“. The auto driver knew the hotel authorities, and was continuously reminding them that he have brought us to the lodge, all by himself. Later we knew that auto drivers had a commission for getting people to the hotel.
Hotel SSK ( Handloom and Hotel) rent was 700 Rs for a day (1500 Rs for AC rooms), which according to Kovai Somu, was cheap on that area. He told us some mediocre hotel charged up to 2000 Rs per night. We told we didn’t wanted to go to those hotels. Our posh looking hotel had lift which had voice overs, but the room we got was pretty mediocre. Tube light was yellowish and as the room was converted from an AC room to an ordinary one, there were no side windows. One grilled window without lock was easier to open from outside than inside. Room had cable T.V. Hotel rooms were oddly engineered, one room peeking into another room along a tiny corridor. We just had to store our luggage and sleep, so it was O.K for us. Our lodge was also partly a hand-loom sewing mill. When we had to go out by stairs, we have to pass through workers sewing sarees. One time after getting off the lift we lost our way, and had to go back to the reception to ask for directions. Curiously, we had to go through a store-room to reach our allotted room.
There are restaurants nearby on Sangusapet street and Ennaikara street. There are 2 types of restaurants. High Class restaurant ( I am not making it up, it’s literally written on each hotel ), and Ordinary hotel. High class restaurants are for tourists (moderately charged) while local hotels are for working class people. Food was good. Some bajji & sweet sellers sell their items displayed on streets shop showcases. Kanchipuram shops are not cheap nor pricey. The place still had some laments of fading rustic heritage. Streets are just like any small towns, small paths cutting the larger more crowded roads. Kanchipuram is famous for Kanchipuram Silk sarees. We thought of buying one for mother, but didn’t. Saree vendors on that area resembles auto rickshaw drivers on the bus stand. They shout harder when you pass by their stores. Auto rickshaw drivers also had tie-ups with saree vendors. They got commissions for taking a customer to their store. I cannot write much about Kanchipuram sarees, as I neither researched saree shops properly, nor am I any experts on sarees. We just roamed around the streets for the day and planed to visit temples the next day. Bus stop is nearby, straight forward road, walk able distance, Auto rickshaw from bus stand would charge at least 30 Rs.
Next day, we had to return back after visiting the Kanchipuram temples so we got up at 5:30 AM, We saw an auto rickshaw waiting for someone, when we reached he asked us to take us to temples, for 400 Rs.
Kanchipuram was the capital of Pallava dynasty, during 2nd – 9th century.
Excerpt from wiki
” The Pallavas captured Kanchi from the Cholas as recorded in the Velurpalaiyam Plates, around the reign of the fifth king of the Pallava line Kumaravishnu I. Thereafter Kanchi figures in inscriptions as the capital of the Pallavas. The Cholas drove the Pallavas away from Kanchi in the mid-4th century CE, in the reign of Vishugopa, the tenth king of the Pallava line. The Pallavas re-captured Kanchi in the mid-6th century, possibly in the reign of Simhavishnu, the fourteenth king of the Pallava line, whom the Kasakudi plates state as “the lion of the earth”. Thereafter the Pallavas held on to Kanchi till the 9th century CE, till the reign of their last king, Vijaya-Nripatungavarman. “
We went to
- Ekambareswarar Temple
- Kamakshi Amman Temple
- Varadharaja Perumal Temple
- Vamanar Murthy Temple
- Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham mutt
There is also famous Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple, which is the oldest Pallava temple (7th Century).
There are hundreds of temples in Kanchipuram. At least 40 – 50 temples with archaeological significance. If you wanted to cover all the temples, at least 3 days with proper planning would be needed. I didn’t had a good camera with me, so I didn’t took much photos with my petty mobile cam. They allow to take pictures on some places like 100 pillar hall on Varadharaja Perumal Temple, but inside the temple it is restricted.
During our auto driver was resilient, which was a relief. We reached Vamanar Temple on 6:30 AM, but the temple was not opened yet. we were surprised as in our place, temples would be open by 5:30 AM itself. Our Auto-Rikshaw driver Moorthy, told us we can return back afterwards.
We went to Ekambareshwar Temple, a temple of Lord Shiva was one of the biggest temple on that area. Temple didn’t had much rush. There were many small temples around the main compound. Main temple is quite big. There was a piece of chopped wood showcased in front, which was said to be from a 3000 years old tree. There were huge queue racks, to steer devotees in festive seasons, when it would be crowded. Temple is made of granite with stone carvings around. The Temple corridor was darker. Inside the temple there is a tree, and a small temple in the middle. Which can be seen as a marker, so that we don’t get lost in the temple. There were crafted avatars carriages of god, on the side paths, like elephant, horse, snake etc used to carry God in festival. There were 1000’s of shiva lingams placed on one side. Also one shiva lingam was made of 100 other shiva lingams stacked into one. On the outer compound there is a big temple pond.
We went to Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, which is a small mutt. Mutt was said to be established by Sri Shankara. There is a wax moulding of shankara inside.
After having breakfast from a hotel opposite to the mutt, we went to “Varadharaja Perumal Temple”. All azhwars (Vaishnavite temple priests ) were distinguished by “Namam” on their forehead. Kanchipuram Varadarajaperumal Temple is the most famous Varadarajaperumal Temple in India. Temple depicts “Vaishnavism” culture, with Lord Vishnu as God. The temple along with Ekambareswarar Temple and Kamakshi Amman Temple is popularly known as Mumurtivasam (abode of trio).
Varadharaja Perumal Temple was known to be originally built by the Chola Dynasty in 1053 AD. The temple also have a huge pond in front of the temple, divided into two sections, one for women and other for men. Inside the temple, small motor vehicle service is provided for the elderly people.
There is also a place called “Golden & Silver Lizards” inside the temple, which is a main attraction there. There is a 5 Rs ticket to see the Lizards. I thought, it would be a real lizard, but it was just a golden and silver lizard mouldings on the ceiling. There was a ladder to climb up to the ceiling and touch the lizard moulding. Touching the lizard is supposed to give relief from any untoward happening due to the fall of real lizards on our body.
The legend is like this, ” Two sons of Sage Bringi were the disciples of Sage Gautama. They did not notice that two lizards had fallen into the water they brought for their mentor’s puja. Gautama cursed them to be changed as lizards. When they sought a relief, the Rishi said your relief lies in Kancheepuram. After a long journey around the world, they reached Kancheepuram and begged Lord Perumal for salvation. Perumal said that their soul would reach Him while their mortal coil would stay in lizard forms. Those who worship the lizards would be relieved of all adverse aspects on them, added Perumal. He also said that Sun and Moon would be witnesses to this boon.” Sun & Moon, hence “Golden” and “Silver”, Got it ?
In front of the temple there is a 100 pillar hall. We have to give a small fee to get inside, cameras are allowed. As the name suggests the hall has 100 pillars, and stone sculptures of horses and tigers around it. The craftsmanship is awesome. There is a place to sit in the middle.
After that, we went to “Kanchi Kamakshi Temple“. Kamakshi is a form of mother goddess Kali (Parvathy). In Kamakshi Temple, one of the tower is golden. Garland sellers, big pond, sculptures, large towers, etc are customary in all the temple in that area.
Near the Kanchi Kamakshi temple, there is a Vamana Temple, which has a large Vamana Idol ( 8 feet tall ), stepping on the head of Mahabali Emperor. If you are interested, here is the link to the story. We wrapped up our tour around noon.
We vacated the room and took bus from Kanchipuram to Arakkonam railway station .
Tip: Nearby Arakkonam Railway station, If you get outside to the main road, nearby there is a side road leading to a bakery / flower street. A variety of delicious bakery items are available there (eg: Bitter gourd-Masala Fry). Worth buying.
From there @ 04:25 PM we took ” 12695/Chennai-Trivandrum SF Express “. As we didn’t had any reservations and had luggage, we were a bit concerned. But, even without reservations, the return journey was comfortable. I think we cashed all our blessings on it, as a new general coach was attached into our train. The compartment was almost empty. Most of the passengers didn’t knew it was a general compartment as “sleeper” was written on its side. So only a few boarded on it. Return journey was easy. Both Kanchipuram & Ramanashramam are worth seeing.