Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Suriyanar Temple - A Visit to Navagraha Temples in and around Kumbakonam

Visiting Navagraha temples had been on our wishlist for quite some time and last sunday we managed to have darshan of 5 out of the 9 temples. Navagrahas as the name implies is Nine Planets and the Hindu astrology & culture attach a lot of importance to the position/placement & movement of these heavenly bodies on a person's life. 
The grahas in tamil parlance-Surya,Chandra,Sevvai,Budhan,Guru,Sukiran,Sani,Rahu & Kethu. While the names of the first seven of the planets are the same as the days of the week, Rahu implies snake's head where as kethu is the tail of the snake.

All the navagraha have relative movement with respect to the background of fixed stars in the zodiac. This includes the planets: MarsMercuryJupiterVenus, and Saturn, the Sun, the Moon, as well as positions in the sky, Rahu (north or ascending lunar node) and Ketu (south or descending lunar node) [Source : WIKI]

Suriyanar Temple :-

Our first stop was the Suriyanar Temple. Located on the Kumbakonam-Mailaduthurai road, the temple is 2 kms to the north of Aaduthurai and is approximately 15 kms to the east of Kumbakonam. Surya is accorded an important place and worshipping him is said to bestow all accomplishments & popularity to the devotees. What I found amazing in the temple was , that while Surya is the main deity and stands majestically with his consorts ,all other grahas also have their own sanctum (sannidhi) too !

Surya Mantra & its meaning (Source : here):-

Japa Kusuma Sankasham
Kashyapeyam Mahadyuthim
Thamognam Sarvapapagnam
Pranathosmi Divakaram

O Destroyer of the Darkness of Ignorance ! O Annihilator of all sins !
My saluations to Thee !

Gopuram of the temple

Temple Premises
Chariot of Surya drawn by 7 horses all of different colours

Read Temple History here

And finally, what was really memorable was that as we alighted from our car to have darshan, the Lord (Surya) with his consorts Ushadevi & Chayadevi was having a happy stroll (திரு வீதி உலா) . We quickly & happily clicked him in our memories and of course the camera !

More to follow !

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Revolution 2020 -Book Review

I never put the book down for a minute - that sums up Revolution 2020 - it is pacy and not for a moment loses steam and if you are a fan of Chetan Bhagat, then the book will move you thoroughly. Now if you are not a fan of CB's writing, the book still promises to catch your attention till the very end. The narrative & crisp story-telling makes up for a few contrived situations at the end. Chetan has indeed managed to bring yet another winner, that has all the potential for turning in to a heavy duty Bollywood movie- and why not, the plot has humor,love,lust,anger,greed,revenge,remorse in equal measures. 

The story revolves around Gopal, Raghav & Aarti - and the narrator of the tale, Gopal weaves an intriguing yarn throughout. The saga starts from the childhood days of the trio and how they grow together and what prompts them to eventually make the choices that define their personality. It goes without saying that both Gopal & Raghav fall for Aarti , though gopal's love for the girl has been etched from the childhood days. However, Raghav's love for the girl has not been sufficiently explored though that adds to the girl's eventual rethinking about their status.While Gopal fails in his attempts to clear the AICTE-JEE exams and is hence branded the LOSER, Raghav secures a comfortable rank and a seat of his choice in a prestigious university. Gopal manages to befriend a corrupt politician and opens an engineering college while Raghav who is always shows as the righteous guy, shows little interest in Engineering and is more driven to journalism and bringing a change to the world through his pen. The tiff between Gopal & Raghav is quintessiantially the clash between the status quo (accepting that the system is befuddled & not doing anything about it) and  change (working to plug the loops and hence moving towards change).
In a way the book manages to expose the shallow mindedness of many Indian parents - getting a rank academically is the BE ALL END ALL and those not managing it are seen as having lost everything ! Also the educational system and people behind the colleges are brought to the forefront beautifully. Now coming to the heroine of the book, Aarti is shown as the very pretty, bubbly next door girl. Her affable charm and likeable personality is highlighted time and again, though I could not relate to this simple small town girl; probably her infidelity or her failing to delve deeply in to relations (by taking things at their face value) bothered me!

But Mr. Chetab Bhagat why was Gopal's efforts to put things in to order so melodramatic & filmi ?? I agree that Gopal realised that being neck-deep in the system, he could do little by way of changing it on his own and hence he conspired his way of enabling Raghav to bring about the change- but should it be that contrived??? Nevertheless, the story moved me a lot and I finished the book thinking that people are not essentially bad- the circumstances moves them in to behaving the way they do !

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Secret of The Nagas - Book Review

Amish's The Secret of the Nagas - a sequel to his book The Immortals of Meluha gives a good continuation to the buzz the First Book of the Trilogy created. This book effortlessly fuses facts and fiction and manages to keep the readers hooked till the end. In this sequel, Shiva the widely accepted vanquisher of evil is on a rampage to find Nagas- they are the folks whom he believes has murdered his friend Brahaspati. 

While the prequel showed how the death of his friend was creating havoc in Shiva's personal life, this volume describes Shiva's journey across the country to avenge his loss. This journey sets off an apple cart literally and HE comes across many startling and disturbing facts. People whom he believed were evil are not really bad and folks whom HE genuinely thought to be good have a few unsettling cobwebs under the carpet---- !!!!

Nothing is really what its seems and the Neelkanth's quest for finding and understanding evil leads to a discovery of self in particular and the Truth in general. What I absolutely loved about the book were the introduction of 2 characters - Kali & Ganesha ; How these characters blend in to the thick of things is nice ! 
The first book was a drop-dead winner; the second book slightly pales in comparison to the first volume but nevertheless  manages to create a mix of curiosity and amusement- You just can't wait for the things to fall in place and reach its logical conclusion in the final volume - The Oath of Vayu Putras!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Immortals of Meluha - A Book Review

 The first reaction as I saw this book in Odyssey store was to get hold of it immediately- the book cover & the title tempted me a lot and  as I browsed through ,I realised it was part of the Trilogy Series and the book no 2- The Secret of the Nagas was also out on stores while the last edition of the Shiva Trilogy- The Oath of Vayuputra is slated for release later this year or probably the early next year. My initial sense of wanting to possess the book is entirely justified as the saga of the Meluhans interspersed with the journey of a common man Shiva & his transformation to becoming Neelkanth is very interesting to say the least. The story is set around 1900 BC & the citizens of the period called their land Meluha. The city  & its inhabitants run their empire on the principles of Lord Ram.The inhabitants of this city are immortals because they partake somras the magical drink that promises a long life. These suryavanshis pride in the fact that they are ruled justly and everybody in the kingdom regardless of caste & creed  has an access to the magic potion. While they seemingly have a peaceful life the city is plagued by terrorist attacks from the land of chandravanshis their arch rivals and people whom they believe as evil. There is an ancient legend that people staunchly belive- a man will rise & come to their land; he will have a blue throat and he will be their saviour- a man who will help them in destroying evil.

The premise of a man like shiva existing and his journey in to becomeing the ultimate destroyer of evil mix myths & fiction convincingly. And in the process what results is a very lovely story & a few stunning relevations. The concept of what is good & what is evil is beautifully explained. How being different is not bad and if any person who does not conform to your beliefs cannot be branded evil are a few highlights. There are vikramas in the city of Meluha. These people are rendered untouchables because they are believed to be carriers of bad fate. Though they have access to certain basic rights & a way of living, they are denied the dignity & humanity of life as they are thought to suffer in this life because of their past sins. The story very cleverly weaves a plot to bring the plight of vikramas to justice & in the process give them the love n appreciation that they have been missing.What I also loved about the book was the  nuanced & practical intrepretations of many issues. I also loved the Har Har Mahadev explanation- There is God in everybody. A man becomes great by his actions as the premise underlying the story is welcome.

The review of the book without talking about the author Amish Tripathi is incomplete - I was completely blown away by the thought process behind the writing; such layered thinking in a very different genre has my hats off. I am already neck- deep in to my second book & its review will be out shortly. But be sure to be part of this mega adventure and experience the varying emotions the book promises !

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tiruchi Malai Kottai - ROCK FORT TEMPLE

Trichy the fourth largest city in Tamilnadu is littered with temples in & around. ROCKFORT, the centre of attraction has 3 temples in its structure -Manicka Vinayagar temple at the foot of the hill, Thayumanavar Swami temple in the hill & Uchipillayar temple at the top of the hill. The Rockfort temple 83m tall, perched on top of the rock ,is said to be as old as 3 billion years .
This phenomenal structure has a mythological connection as well- Lord Ganesha ran to the top of the Rock after snatching the Lord Ranganathaswamy Idol from Vibhishana. The Idol was gifted to vibhishana by lord ram for helping topple Lord Ravan. Not wanting Vibhishan to take the idol back to his kingdom in Lanka , Lord Ganesha tricked him & established the Idol in Srirangam and ran from vibhishana's wrath to the top of the rock.

The Manicka Vinayagar Temple is the first strp after entering the premises; A good soul passed on some pocket-sized pictures of the Idol decked & in its glory !

After the darshan we started our asecent to the top and clicked a few pictures along the way----------

Thayumanvar Swami Temple - Legend goes that Lord Shiva took the form of a midwife/mother and  helped a pregnant woman deliver a child and hence referred to as  தாயும் ஆனவர் (like a mother) . A good 200 steps needs to be climbed to reach this temple. The Lord himself is in the shape of a huge linga and there is a separate sanctum for his consort Parvati . There are beautiful paintings & idols on walls and ceilings. And the photographer in us has all these treasures happily clicked. Unfortunately we cannot take the pictures of the deities, so they are etched firmly in my memory !

The Golden Tower /Gopuram of  Shiva Temple is visble as we climb further up to have darshan of Ucchi Pillayar

A view of the city while climbing another 200 odd steps to the ganesha temple

After the darshan of the Ucchi Pillayar we take a pradakshinam of the idol and while we are at it, the kids have some kodak moments

One of the must-visits of Trichy ! May God Bless you all !!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bannerghatta National Park

Our trip to Bangalore & Chennai was very memorable - eating out in all my favourite restaurants (or rather binging) , shopping like there was no tomorrow (for groceries mostly -now that i am a decent food blogger) , spending time with relatives & friends, visiting National Park - the week was choc- a-bloc !!
The trip is full of pictures that speak volumes ! My kids especially my daughter had a whale of a time and is buzzing with happy memories. As for me, I am delighted that my hubby dearest could take out some time and the family bonding was perfect !! Looking forward to more of such short trips!

Bannerghatta National Park :-

We were visiting Bangalore to attend a marriage of a close friend's son ! Arriving a day before , we took out time to visit this National park that boasted of a Safari as its prime attraction !

Situated 22 kms from bangalore, the National park consists mostly of dense forest and scrub land, and is home to wild animals such as tiger,lion, bison, leopard, wild boar as well as being an important corridor for elephants migrating between the eastern and western ghats. Other attractions include a crocodile farm, serpentarium and a newly added butterfly park. In addition, a portion of the park is used as a sanctuary for rescued wild animals,mainly from circuses. (Source; Wiki)

The main attraction of course is the Safari - visitors are taken  in a mini-bus/van to view the animals that roam freely in an enclosed /protected area. The safari had herbivores & carnivores section - Deers, Bison, Monkeys comprised the former while Tigers, Lions, Bear formed the latter section.

Samyuktha posing merrily & waiting impatiently to board the bus/van for the Safari !

A few pics taken during the Safari:-

Bison taking it easy & A Deer grazing around !

Sambar Deer

Bear having a leisurely morning

Sleuth of Bears

Very close to our bus, sniffing for some food !

Early Sighting of Lions that generated a lot of oohs &aahs

As close as we could get to the Majestic Animal

Our National animal taking a Power Nap !

White Tiger

Up & Close !

Butterfly Park 

India's first Butterfly Park comprises of a butterfly conservatory, museum and an audio-visual room ! Saw a few types of butterflies but they fluttered by so fast that pictures stayed only in my memory !

Inside the Butterfly Park !

Hubby Dearest & my bundle of joy taking a stroll!

Zoo animals/birds:-

Slushing happily in the water, these hippos are having fun beating the sun !

A White Peacock !

The peacock almost took a happy dance but changed mind after some time !

A leopard looking out from its den

A lone zebra looking a little lost

There was a short elephant ride too and the caretakers milked us heavily for a small round; but the kids loved it, though I felt sorry for the elephants that were to bear the brunt of all our weights !

My Mommy is the Best ~!

All-in-all a wonderful trip that will always remain close to my heart !

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trip to Devipattinam Navagraha Temple & Rameshwaram

Has it ever happened that you set out for a trip fully prepared and everything is hunky dory except that you forget to take pictures?? Well it happened to us yesterday ! 
A breezy sunday morning,we set out for Devipattinam fully stocked with water, snacks, extra set of clothes & towels and of course the camera! 
After about a good 6-7 hrs we remembered that we are not taking pictures and made up for it by taking a precious few !

Our first stop--- Devipattinam (Navagraha Temple)

The highlight of this humble coastal village (also called as Navabhashanam- meaning nine stones) is the Navagraha Temple (Nine Planets Temple). Legend is that Lord Ram installed nine stones signifying the nine planets in the sea and worshipped them before he left to conquer Lanka (the present day Srilanka)! Those stones signifying the planets are partly submerged in the sea and any devotee touching the soil of the land is blessed for life ! The temple is said to relieve one of all past and present lives sins ! One more notable feature is that the devotees can perform puja on their own, though we saw some priests like people also performing pujas on behalf of the devotees. But the thing that was very disheartening was the lack of hygiene and sanitation in such a holy place. Not only was the water littered with all crap, i could also see pigs happily loitering away ! It is also imperative that devotess coming to perform pujas can do their bit by binning the covers of the puja-items ! Also the locals of the village can team up and do their weekly cleaning. Something needs to be done instantly otherwise we are in a peril of losing such a divine wonder to utmost carelessness !

Rameshwaram ---

An island situated in the Gulf of Mannar,Rameshwaram is a very holy place because it is from here Lord Ram built a bridge (Ram Setu/Rama Palam /Adam's Bridge)across the sea to rescue Sita from the captive of Ravan.
The presiding deity of this temple- Linga of the Ranganathar is one of the 12 jyotirlingas of India. This place is commonly referred to as the Benaras of South and a visit to Benaras is incomplete without a visit to Rameshwaram.
This holy place is where Lord Ram prayed to Lord Shiva to cleanse himself of the sin of killing Ravan.
Rameshwaram has various sacred attractions including the most important Ramanathaswamy temple and of course the Theerthams, Rama padam, Dhanushkodi.
The Ramanathanswamy temple was built in 17th century and is a testimonial to archaeological beauty and prowess! We stood in line for the darshan of the presidding deity for a good 30-40 minutes (this after buying a special entrance ticket) , but the wait was well worth it ! Darshan of the Ramanathaswamy was very satisfying and am still awe-struck by the image firmly etched in my mind.

Legend has that upon the advice of Rishis (sages), Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana, installed and worshipped the Sivalinga here to expiate the sin of killing Ravana. Rama fixed an auspicious time for the installation and sent Hanuman to Mount Kailas to bring a lingam. As Hanuman could not return in time Sita herself made a linga of sand. When Anjaneya returned with a linga from Mount Kailas the rituals had been over. To comfort the disappointed Anjaneya, Rama had Anjaneya’s lingam (Visvalingam) also installed by the side of Ramalinga, and ordained that rituals be performed first to the Visvalingam. (Source: Wiki)


Dhanushkodi named after Rama's bow,is a village at the southern tip of the island. Dhanushkodi was completely destroyed by the cyclones of 1964. Kothandaramaswamy temple is the only remains of the cyclone. Idols of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman and Vibhishana (brother of Ravana) are here. It is believed Vibhishana surrenderd to Lord Ram here and was later coronated  as the ruler of Lanka

Travel to Dhanushkodi from rameshwaram is by trucks/tempos that are suited to the sandy ground from a point called as  Moonram chathiram; the vans are diesel/kerosene driven vehicles that run or rather bumps ahead with whole lot of people sandwiched in, hanging out and  sitting on top of the vehicle. The ride is roughly 7-8 kms and the end of the ride is a beautiful island, the seas being Bay of Bengal and Indian ocean, it seems when looked from the top they look like bow n arrow !

A few pics here---

While coming back from Rameshwaram we stopped on the Pamban Bridge to take a few clicks. This is the second longest sea bridge in India (first being Bandra-Worli Sea Link). It connects Rameshwaram on Pamban island to mainland India

From the elevated two-lane road bridge, adjoining islands and the parallel rail bridge below can be viewed.The railroad bridge is a still-functioning bridge that can be raised to let ships pass under the bridge. (Source : Wiki). 
Our tired faces mustering some smiles for the camera!