South Tamilnadu - a Shoestring budget trip - July 2018

#1 Aug 7th, 2018, 12:48
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For many years taking a three-day break was fraught with spending most of vacation answering mails and attending work calls! Hatefully recollect an hour of price negotiation on a pristine Goan beach! But now for the third time in the last 12-month period a 10-day downtime! Having blown a year’s vacation budget in my Andaman trip in February we were (me and Mrs!) left with the prospect of a threadbare shoe string budget. Checked train availability and was happy to see a couple of sleeper berths available in Kanyakumari express! Mrs kept adding (as usual) all the temples she wanted to see in that region. This meant crisscrossing a bit and traveling by buses for the most part. Had a decent 40 litre rucksack but needed another. Ordered one on Amazon (no more prime – due to budget cuts!)

Wanted flexibility so did not book a return, did not book any hotel rooms until almost the last day and when I did, it was only for the first two days at Kanyakumari.

Considering ‘auspicious’ time to start the journey, started early and reached Chennai Egmore railway station 110 minutes early. Train arrived, coach did not look appealing from outside, but thankfully the insides were quite clean. We both had window seats (lower berths). Train left on time, usual co-passengers – not respecting personal space, throwing trash out through the window, talking loud on cell phone and sharing all their personal travails in a public place in a loud voice and a bawling kid too! Looking back, it is entertaining, but then it was grating on my nerves! Yet to develop a thicker skin!



Day1: Kanyakumari - Thirparappu

A lovely sun rise along the lush green field of Kanyakumari greeted us in the morning.



Train arrived almost on schedule.





The hotel – Temple Citi (recommended) was about 700m. Started walking out only to be accosted by many hotel touts and autorickshaw drivers and to add to the discomfort they were talking to me in Hindi! Just ignored them and kept walking – thanks to downloaded offline google maps of the region – got to the hotel without having to ask anyone.

The hotel allowed an early check-in at 0700 rather than the 1200 but with a rider that I should checkout at the same time. Room was spacious, it had an A.C. but the remote was not given to me as I had booked a non-A.C. room. Spacious room with an LCD tv, water heater, very comfortable bed and complimentary breakfast – all at Rs1150 per day. Freshened up and decided to skip the boat trip to Vivekananda rock memorial and the Thiruvalluvar statue. Found the bus stand to be about a KM away and walked there to enquire about bus timings and routes. Found that the same information was accurately provided by the Hotel reception person though he initially tried to sell us a cab trip!

Our first stop was Thirparappu waterfalls about 65km away from Kanyakumari – had to first get to Thuckalay (or Kulasekaram if you get a direct bus) and change buses there. First shock – Tamilnadu buses used to be cheap, but now they are expensive – we paid a total of about Rs 56 per head! A year back this would have been Rs 40 or less! I know it is not much still…!



Thirparappu is a man-made waterfall on the Kothayar river and we were to learn that this is the only waterfall where we were to have a peaceful and comfortable bath. Has separate bath area for ladies and changing rooms too (wet floors but clean). Though the waterfall is only a deceptive 50 ft high (about 300ft long) but the force was much and ended up with my whole back reddened as I had spent a little under a couple of hours most of which I was under the waterfall! It was truly rejuvenating and full body massage at no cost. (Don’t even think about ‘happy ending’ with all the water force!).



Walked up to the upper level and on the left, is an old Shiva temple (it is called Mahadev temple where Lord Shiva manifests as a fierce Veerabhadra), closed at that time.



Walking a little further we reached the constructed Thirparappu weir (small dam). It was filled and overflowing feeding the water falls. We learnt that the falls has water for almost 7 months in a year. The whole bed above the falls is one rocky mass which extends up to a distance of about quarter of a kilometre upstream where the weir has been constructed for supplying water to the paddy fields. There is a boating facility too.









Kanyakumari district is green, many waterbodies and looks lush. The dam area was beautiful, clear blue skies and wooded all around. Wish I had some more time to spend at Thirparappu.
#2 Aug 8th, 2018, 18:45
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Nice Travelogue... Keep posting...
#3 Aug 9th, 2018, 10:13
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Day 1: Mathur Aqueduct

Our next destination was Mathur Aqueduct (Thotti paalam in Tamil). We were apprehensive about being able to see the place and then get back to Kanyakumari as it was already about 1500. We should have probably taken up the offer by one of the auto drivers at Thiraparappu to drop us there at Rs 250. We felt it was too much and we were penny pinching!

We got a private van that took us upto Kulasekaram @ Rs 10 per head and were dropped off at a junction with the assurance that Mathur buses will pass through. We learnt through people in that bus stop that the buses to Mathur are infrequent and the next bus may come only by about 1630. The distance was around 4km and if we had time, we would have walked. They guided us to take another bus up to Kalladimamoodu @ Rs 7 per head (Google lists this as kalladimoodu) and take an auto from there. A nice auto driver asked us for about Rs60 for 3km (reasonable given that he has to go back empty) and we reached there spending about a third of what the auto driver quoted! As is the practice he gave his cell number to call once we were finished!

At the entry many vendors vie with each other selling jackfruit kernel(? Palasulai in Tamil but don’t know the English equivalent) & slices of pineapple for Rs10. A steal deal – we pay three times as much in Chennai for the same quantity. A small entry fee, clean toilets (pay and use) and a tiny children’s park with the mandatory swings and slides are the amenities.

The aqueduct (Mathur Hanging Trough) is supposedly the tallest and the longest aqueduct in south Asia, built over the river Paraliyar (Aaru is the Tamil word for river – it is also just called as aar when combined with the name of a river). It takes water from one hill to another for irrigation. Its total height is 115 feet from the ground. The trough is 7 feet high, 7.5 feet wide and about a Kilometre long, raised with 28 pillars. Some of the pillars are set in rocks of the Parali river, though some of the pillars are set in hills on either side. There is road access to one end of the aqueduct and to the foot of the aqueduct (the level where the Parali flows) on the opposite side. There is a huge flight of stairs, made more recently, that allows one to climb from the level of the Parali river to the trough.

To the right of the walkway is the duct that carries water from one side to another - as there were rains it was not carrying water when we visited





The river downstairs seems to be safe for bathing – a few locals were washing clothes and bathing at about 5pm! The views were awesome from the top – dense forests, hills, cloud cover and cool breeze. I’m no fan of heights but did need not worry as the bridge is safe and has parapet walls on both sides.

It is surrounded by the hills of Western Ghats. The trough is covered in the center, making a path for people to walk on. While walking on the bridge, we can see beautiful greeneries all around, water in the trough (no water flowing the trough at that time) on our both sides and Paraliyar River flowing below the trough (the river had water).

Left side view from the bridge


Right side view from the bridge


What gave me the shivers was school kids from the local villages riding their bikes on the bridge! They were nonchalant and they probably do it daily a few times! Should have taken some photos of them riding, but at that time I was holding my breath praying for them to reach the other end safely. Often we see news that many village kids have to take similar risks to get to school - wish it were not so

We went down and the view on the ground did not appeal to us as much as the view from top did. Open from 7am to 7pm but ideally visited before the sun sets.



Called our friendly auto driver – came soon and dropped us off at the bus stop – promising plenty of buses to Nagercoil! Had to wait for nearly an hour – many buses to Marthandam and Kolachel but none to our desired destination. Asked a police inspector – very friendly – gave some idea but turned out it was not the ideal way as per a friendly local who came once the police jeep left! He gave a different set if idea and we were about to board a bus but backed off as all seats were occupied and a few standees as well. This helped as the next bus that came was direct to Kanyakumari! Jumped in joy and boarded it. On reaching Nagercoil, we were told that we have to take a different bus as it had too few passengers – The driver got us in to the other bus and we did not have to buy tickets for this leg! Reached Kanyakumari well in time for – no not sun set – but for bed! Too tired but still went looking for a pure veg restaurant – Saravana (not the popular Chennai chain). One look at the menu and the prices, 2 idlis for Rs 45 (seriously? Our late benevolent "Amma" unavagam gives an idly for Re1.). Walked out sheepishly and Google reviews said Ramdev Bhojanalay is a good place! It turned out to be lousy – a channa masala tasted like crap with thick but hot rotis. Just ate so that wont starve! The waiters speak only Hindi. Avoid this place at any cost!
Thankfully the 9 inch mattress in the hotel room was a blessing – slept well!
#4 Aug 17th, 2018, 17:44
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Day 2: Sunrise and Suchindram temple

After yesterdays travel, it was difficult to drag ourselves up. Woke up at a relaxed 5.40 and went to the beach – taking a longer route – there was a quick access we found on our return. We missed the sun rise by a few minutes as it was well above the horizon. Have any of us really seen the sun rise from the horizon over the sea waters?



The crowd was way too much, probably over a thousand people? Every inch of space on the eastern beach was filled with people. Is there an increase of Chaiwallahs – hoping to be a PM or a deputy CM of TN one day? Every few steps one was offering us piping hot tea out of their cans. Literally hundreds of imitation jewelry vendors selling sea-shells, conches and even the ‘divine’ sands of Triveni. For those who are not familiar, Kanyakumari is bound on the east by Bay of Bengal, on the south by Indian Ocean and on the west by Arabian sea. Triveni is the confluence of these three and considered sacred by Hindus. The vendors had packs of sands with different hues and claimed that it will bring untold riches if you keep it in your home. Didn’t even think of asking these poor souls eking out a living, why he does not keep the sands in his house and become rich! This and similar amusing sales pitches were given tough competition by a preacher exhorting the perils of not following Jesus blaring from one of the many churches that dot the beach. If pitted against these, the poll time promises of the politicians will sound lame! The concept of a quiet, serene sun rise is impossible in Kanyakumari.

Hotel Templeciti offers complimentary vegetarian breakfast, good not great. Attentive waiters. Filled ourselves up with as much as possible!

Set out for Suchindram 13 km away. Just out of the hotel, climb a few steps, cross the road and board the bus. Rs. 13 per head. Bus was crowded as it was morning peak hour. Bus dropped us off close to the Sthanumalayan temple. The large temple tank is filled with water, a few people as usual washing and bathing. The unpainted seven storied temple gopuram (tower) grabbed our attention right away at 134 feet height and the entrance itself is about 24 feet. Awesome sculptures kept us captivated not just in the gopuram but everywhere in the temple. The quality of stone work, attention to detail, perfection achieved is amazing. Every sculpture tells a story.

The temple is about 1300 years old. Construction took place over a 600 year period, so parts of the temple date back to the late 8th century, while others are 15th century. The earliest lithic records of Suchindram belong to the 9th Century CE.

This is one of the rare temples where the Hindu Trinity of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma are worshipped. The presiding deity is called Sthanumalayan, (Sthanu for Lord Shiva, Mal for Lord Vishnu and Ayan for Lord Brahma) and they are worshipped in a single ‘Lingam’ form. The idol rests inside the hollow of a 2000 year old Konrai (Cassia Fistula) tree. The bottom of the idol represents Brahma, the middle Vishnu & the top is Shiva. To the left is the shrine for Vishnu. The idol is made of 8 different metals. 13 feet high, 21 feet long & 10 feet wide Nandi (bull) made of lime and mortar, a 22 feet Hanuman, the Navagrahams carved on the ceiling, Female form of Lord Ganesha as Vallabhi Ganeshani, are some of the special deities in this temple. As is the case with many such magnificent temples of India this one was also mutilated / vandalized by Moslem rulers (Tipu Sultan in this case).

Legends: Indra misbehaved with a Rishi’s wife and was cursed. To remove the curse he worshipped the trinity and did penance. He was purified here(suchi means pure). Another legend is related to chastity of Anasuya, wife of Sage Atri. The legend says that the Trimurtis appeared in front of Anasuya as begging brahmins. When she was about to serve, they imposed a condition that they would eat only if she served them naked. Through the power of her chastity she converted the three Gods into babies and suckled them fulfilling her duty to feed every mendicant. The legend indicates the power of the devout even over Gods. They were restored to their normal form only on the plea of Goddesses(their wives). On the same spot a linga sprouted which still exists.

Right at the entrance of the Alangara mandapam (the one leading to the sanctum) are the 4 large musical pillars. Two of these musical pillars consists of 33 small ones which produces the sound of jalathrangam & tambura. The other two consists of 25 small pillars & produce the sound of mridangam & sitar as per a local. He demonstrated it too by hitting it with his palm, I did hear different sounds, but at the best I could not identify the associated musical instrument! All these pillars are carved out of a single block of granite.

The outer corridors have intricately carved pillars – some of these are risqué! Guess the erstwhile kings and rulers kept people employed by building such magnificent temples with such intricately detailed sculptures. You can spend hours and hours exploring the temple prakarams (outer corridors) and the Gopuram (tower) itself. People who want to explore Tamilnadu (dravidan style) temples should definitely add this temple to their list. It is awesome.

Temple is open from 6am to 1230pm and 4.30pm to 8.30pm.
Dress code: Men: Dhoties / Pants. No shorts or lungies. Men are expected to remove shirts. Women should be fully covered.
#5 Aug 17th, 2018, 17:50
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Pictures of Sthanumalyan temple - Suchindram

Temple tank



Temple tower




Top right of Temple tower



Temple Corridor (photography prohibited inside temple - I obeyed everywhere, but could not resist this beauty

#6 Aug 17th, 2018, 18:21
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Sculptures on the temple tower - Suchindram Sthanumalayan temple

Depiction of Generation of nectar using Vasuki (snake) for churning ocean milk - Samudra manthana



Kanyadan of Parvati by Vishnu - Shiva, Parvathy celestial wedding



Guess this is from the Ramayana - given the presence of Vanara




Lord Murugan (also known as Lord Karthikeya, the younger son of Lord Shiva)



There must be a story behind these - I am not aware - those in the know - welcome to share!














#7 Aug 19th, 2018, 18:22
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Day 2: Thengapatnam beach - Dont waste time going there!

After Suchindram temple high everything went downhill. Trusting some vested reviews in a very popular travel site, we decided to go to Thengapatnam. We regret wasting almost half a day and enduring 6 hours of backbreaking bus travel!

It started drizzling. We saw a Nagercoil bus coming and boarded it. We should have ideally taken a bus to Vadaseri bus stand but got into a bus that took us to Anna bus stand. Every town in Tamilnadu worth its salt has these old, new and umpteen other bus stands that confuse visitors!

It started raining even inside the bus. We all had to find spots where the bus roof was not leaking and stand/sit there. Rain lasted almost 30 minutes. The conductor said that a bus to Thengapatnam will come at around 1300 and it was about 1245 by the time we reached the wrong bus stand. We waited and pat came the bus, but the driver and conductor got off saying the bus will be delayed but did not say how long. We assumed (the second mistake) that it would be 10-15 minutes. Universe has a way of telling you of things going wrong – we just ignore the signs.

The bus started at 1345. It was rickety and was taking a route that touched almost every village in every direction along the route and got us to Thengapatnam ultimately – around 1545

The road from the town centre to the beach leads to black sands - diesel/oil spill? Still the cleanest area?!. A fishing harbor has come up and a lot of construction and fishing activity going on. The whole area is filthy with all the waste strewn.

There is a passage on the breakwater, but you cant see anything as it is covered on both sides by large inverted y shaped concrete blocks. Casting activity of these blocks is going on and it is noisy.

Some distance away on the right is the place where river Thamirabharani meets the sea. There was much water and there is no way to cross the Thamirabharani river mouth and go to the other side where the coconut groves are except by boat. We encountered quite a few drunks along the way and did not feel safe at all.

The walk to the river mouth is also fraught with risk as you can see eagles and other birds circling for the fish/waste. They dive all of a sudden close giving you a scare. The area stinks of rotting/rotten fish. Unbearable! You need to cross the river by boat and we did not find it safe to do so.

Avoid wasting your time visiting this beach - may have been a good place in past, but definitely not so now! Muttom is a much recommended beach – may be we should have gone there! May be next time.

As usual the locals had no clue about bus timings, but they assured us that a Nagercoil bus will come soon. It came and thankfully we got a direct bus to Kanyakumari like yesterday but this time the bus dropped us off in Kanyakumari! We were late for dinner! After last night’s dinner problems, we searched a few sites and went to a restaurant that was closed. We ended up at Triveni – it turned out to be very good. We stuck to south Indian food – it was hot, tasty and well prepared. Lesson learnt to stick to local cuisine!
#8 Aug 19th, 2018, 18:38
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Having wasted some time at Thengapatnam, some photos!

Construction spoiling the beachfront



Blocks for breakwater





Breakwater




Thengapatnam beach
#9 Aug 19th, 2018, 19:07
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I have enjoyed reading about your trip, I think the words "shoestring budget" appealed to my own needs to economise.
I have taken note of your recommended hotel, but it it interesting that you enjoyed the food at the Triveni restaurant, as some trip advisor revues are not too good.

I guess one persons tastes are different to the next, always the problem when deciding which revues to follow.

Thanks again,

Ed.
#10 Aug 20th, 2018, 10:09
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldandRambling View Post I have enjoyed reading about your trip, I think the words "shoestring budget" appealed to my own needs to economise.
I have taken note of your recommended hotel, but it it interesting that you enjoyed the food at the Triveni restaurant, as some trip advisor revues are not too good.

I guess one persons tastes are different to the next, always the problem when deciding which revues to follow.

Thanks again,

Ed.
Thanks for your appreciation. Keep reading - more to come!
Very true about restaurant reviews - they are subjective! In tourist places the restaurants did not bother much about customer satisfaction till internet arrived. Mine is positive because 1.I stuck to basic south Indian 'tiffin' both times I ate and did not order any fancy or non-local item (north Indian food), 2. Poor food the previous night and this was relatively better and 3. a few hours after eating, it did not cause any damage to my stomach. The same restaurant in my home town would not attract anything more than an average rating but it is ranked 4th in all Kanyakumari restaurants!
#11 Sep 16th, 2018, 17:25
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Day 3: Sunrise and Kanyakumari

Undeterred by yesterday’s assault on all senses, woke up early and made it well before sunrise to the eastern beach for the sunrise view. The Vivekananda memorial was lit and tried to capture it on camera, just as I was focusing the lights were switched off! Today the sun was hiding behind clouds! Just walked a bit and escaped quickly to the confines of the hotel room.

Checked out at 8, left our bags at the hotel and breakfast at Triveni.
Today being an Aadi (Tamil month) Vellikizhamai (Friday) Mrs. decided that we go to the Kanyakumari Amman (known also as Bhagavathi, Kanya – Virgin, Kumari - Girl) temple located at the tri-sea confluence. Just at the entry there was a scam run by a few ‘enterprising’ cheats. They asked all tourists to pay Rs 20 for a special darshan or take a different entry for free darshan. It is highly despicable that people with more money get to see God closer and the others from a distance. This stupid practice is prevalent in all popular Tamilnadu temples. In other temples, at least there is a clear board indicating a fee and a printed receipt is provided. Here the receipt was for something else altogether and not at all for ‘special darshan.’ Caused a scene and walked in without paying only to be accosted by a goon. Went straight to the office and asked a person who seemed to be in-charge, how he allows these people to charge when there is no official board or receipt. He did not pull up the goons demanding money but asked me to go through the ‘special’ route. Obviously, he is hand in glove with this thievery.

The temple was built by Parasurama and is deemed to be over 3000 years old as it finds mention in the ancient scriptures Ramayana, Mahabharata, Yajurveda and also in the Sangam age Tamil works Manimekalai and Puranaanooru. The legend associated with this temple: Banasura who was wreaking havoc in the region could only be killed by a virgin. Goddess Parashakthi took the form of Kanyakumari. Lord Shiva fell in love with her and was set to marry her at midnight. He was traveling from Suchindram (the temple I visited yesterday). Naradha (a sage), was aware that only if she remained a virgin Banasura could be killed, turned into a cock and crowed, misleading Lord Shiva to believe that it is already dawn and the auspicious time has passed. Lord Shiva turned back to Suchindram. Kanyakumari, waiting in her bridal finery, was disappointed and vowed to stay a virgin. Banasura, attracted by her beauty, tried to marry her forcefully and was slayed by the Virgin Goddess.

A remarkable feature of the Goddess Kanyakumari is her lustrous diamond nose ring. As per a popular tale, the shine reflecting from the nose ring is so strong that once a sailor mistook it as a lighthouse and ultimately hit the ship on the rocks. This is the reason why eastern door of the temple is kept closed and is opened only five times in a year, on special occasions.

It is said that She actually performed her ‘tapasya’ (a spectrum of practices ranging from asceticism, inner cleansing to self-discipline to attain Moksha) on a large rock as big as a small island, a few hundred metres off the southern tip of the mainland called the Sri Pada Parai, a raised spot on the rock in the shape of a footprint. It was to this rock and spot that Swami Vivekananda spent the 25th, 26th and 27th of December 1892 in meditation. During that meditation he gained the firm resolve to go to USA to participate in the Conference of World’s Religions in Chicago and to spread the Vedanta philosophy to the West. It was his vision that the West was suffering from spiritual bankruptcy and India material bankruptcy. (now India suffers from both!) He believed the scientific and technological knowhow of the West was the answer to India’s problems and that the wisdom of the Rishis was the answer to the problems of the West.

You must be wondering about Vivekananda Rock - the most popular landmark every tourist to Kanyakumari visits - I saw it from a distance - Here is the proof!





Walked leisurely along the coast, went to the Triveni point, Gandhi Mandapam, Kamaraj memorial etc. We had decided not to do the Vivekanandar rock or Thiruvalluvar statue boat trip. The space around Kamaraj memorial has benches facing the sea – nice sea view and cool breeze! Walked back to the hotel along the shops (area between Triveni sangam and Gandhi memorial) selling a variety of items – Mrs bought a couple of bracelets that looked different from general stuff and did not burn a hole in the pocket.

It was cloudy and the seas were a bit rough







Southern tip of India



Indian Ocean - along the southern coast



Hindsight 20/20! For the benefit of people who want to see Padmanabhapuram palace, Tirparappu, Pechiparai dam, Perunchani dam, Mathur Aqueduct & Muttom (or Thengapatnam if you make the mistake of going there!) I strongly suggest that you make Nagercoil as your base for these excursions as it is closer by about 22km and more buses go/originate from there! Kanyakumari is best for local sightseeing: sunrise, sunset & Vattakottai fort. Suchindram is closer to Nagercoil than Kanyakumari.
#12 Sep 29th, 2018, 16:34
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Day 3 Afternoon: Thiruchendur

Collected bags from hotel and took an auto to the bus stand (Rs.50). Direct bus to Thiruchendur between 1200 – 1230hrs. Bus was never full. Took about two and half hours to cover the 100km+ route – it went around so many villages off the main road that we lost count! Just one or two people boarded the bus in those places! Bus was rickety, seats were hard (no cushion) causing literal pain in the *ss! The driver has instructions probably to never cross 50-60km per hour for fuel economy. The route passed through Kudankulam – in the news for protests by vested interests to stop the nuclear power plant. The plant seems to have spawned a lot of local business in this dry, arid desert like location. Could see a lot of luxury passenger cars (taxis) and a lot of shops – some fancy labels too.

Arrived in Thiruchendur, the bus dropped us off at a distant point – it did not go to the bus stand near the temple – check before you board – we had to walk nearly a kilometer to get there Day time, especially afternoons are very hot in this region.

Second mistake of the trip happened here. We were tired and settled on Mani Iyer hotel – based on a famous veg restaurant connected hotel. Non-deluxe at Rs 770 per night. They showed us the room, should have refused right away, but travel weary from the heat just did not want the hassle of roaming around finding a better place. Nothing too wrong with the hotel – it is run down, paint peeling off the walls and a tiny bathroom but clean nevertheless. It is very costly for the rate and not at all worth it. The temple administration has even AC rooms at a lower price, can be booked online but they get filled up fast. They have some strange booking rules: the advance booking is available a minimum of 4 days and a maximum of 30 days in advance. If you want to book for the weekend, you have to book for a combination of Saturday and Sunday. The booking can be done here

Freshened up and went to the temple. Luckily not much crowd and we could have a good darshan. Bordered by the Gulf of Mannar on the East and the North, the temple walls on these sides are washed by the waves and present a lovely picture. There is always a sea of people here as this is one of the 6 sacred abodes of Lord Muruga (Aru (6)padai veedu (abode) in Tamil)
Lord Muruga's association with Tiruchendur is described in the Skanda Puranam. The young Muruga as the Devasenāpati (Head of armed forces) vanquishes evil in the form of Surapatuma. The Tamils have ever since been celebrating the event as an annual festival during Skanda Sashti. The original nucleus of the structure was carved out from Kandamadana Parvatha by the famed architect Mayan and has been here for more than 2,000 years as the Tamil Classics inform us. Portions of the original cliff are still to be seen as left as far as possible to form the circuit walls and pillars, and the reinforcements of stone to support the stone superstructure of this sanctum sanctorum.

This temple measures 300 ft by 214 ft. The Temple Mela ( western side, main)-gopuram, a massive structure of nine storeys, is about 137 feet high above yāli-mattam, over a ground-floor 90' feet long north to south and 65-1/2 feet broad east to west. The finials stoopis at the top are nine in number in consonance with the number of storeys as a general rule with such temples. They are of plaster and stucco, 7 feet, 6 inches in height; and placed over a pedestal base 5 feet wide and 45 feet long. The location of this principal gopuram on the western side of the temple instead of on to the east as is usual to mark the entrance of any temple of importance, is possibly to wisely take advantage of the hardened sandstone rocks and the cliffs nearby to place its large foundations.

View of the western tower from outside temple walls



The crowd control measures and the ill-advised “special-darshan” (if you spend more money you get to see the Lord at close quarters) implementation plays havoc with the traditional pradakshinam (clockwise circumambulation) of the temple. You don’t get to see the frontal manadapams (ceremonial halls) and sculptures in the pillars as many areas are barricaded.

The sea view was just lovely from outside the temple. As we were kept engrossed by the calm blue waters the peacocks on the outer walls were too beautiful to ignore. I tried my best, but lost out to the sunshine from behind in capturing these beauties on my camera. Even in good times, I’m a terrible photographer!

Peacock neck - Shades of blue!







We visited the Cave temple of Valli and came back to admire the sea view. Spent time till sun set. We were about to leave for dinner, when we saw that the Lord will be taken around in the golden chariot. The procession started and started going around – it was glorious. This is the second time, I got the opportunity to see the golden chariot – the previous occasion was over 25 years ago – the difference – then I was the only person to capture it on a Minolta point and shoot, but now everyone just whips out their cellphones and click away!

The Golden chariot - Now



The Golden chariot - 25 years back!



Returned to the restaurant at Mani Iyer hotel. Was planning to eat Keralite food, but somehow just went ahead and ordered chana bhatura – taste was ok, but I should remember to eat local cuisine rather than trying to relive days I spent in Punjab! It is not bhatura but as the name itself is clear – chola puri!

A hole in the wall shop just below the central bridge in Chandigarh sector 17, near the fountain – we used to get Chole Bhatura for one rupee that used to taste divine! The only other time I found similar tasting Chole Batura was in Bhopal – South TT Nagar market – another hole in the wall shop run by a Sardarji that did brisk business. Cant find anything remotely similar tasting in Tamil Nadu or anywhere south of the Vindhyas!

Went back to the room – only one plug point to recharge two cell phones & camera battery. The bleak room did nothing to uplift our spirits. Our next destination was Courtallam – the spa of the south – waterfalls. Knew that this being the peak season and the next day Saturday, the rush would be too much to handle and decided that we will go to Tirunelveli for exploring Nelliappar temple and buy the famous iruttu kadai alwa! Was too tired and drowsy but still managed to book Hotel Sri Bharani on goibibo! A room that costs around Rs1400 per night was available for Rs 950 per day and free breakfast too!
#13 Oct 13th, 2018, 16:58
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#13

Day 4: Thiruchendur & Thirunelveli

Mrs wanted to have an early morning darshan at the temple. Woke up early and went to the temple before 5am. There was already a long queue and as usual there were the influence peddlers helping people jump the queue. That they use shortcuts & unethical ways to see the almighty rankles. We were let in by about 5am and had to wait till the morning prayers were done before the public can view the Lord. This took around 30-40 minutes. Gents have to remove shirts, vests (bare upper body). Tad uncomfortable with all the jostling but forgot everything once we saw the Lord.

Came out of the temple to be greeted by cloudy skies, preventing any sun rise view! But the seas were turning from a gray-blue to blue as the rays of Sun appeared well over the horizon. The peacocks were not backlit now, so managed to click a few snaps. The main gopuram was again awesome with its fantastic sculptures. You can just marvel at each level, try to decipher what story these sculptures tell and the skill of the artisan in creating these timeless works of art. We have the tradition of ‘Golu or Kolu’ (a display of dolls – mostly religious) during the Navratri festival. To find dolls that have clear, well proportioned, symmetric features has become an ordeal these days. Mrs is happy with the old greying out dolls as the newer ones in small size & natural materials are far too imperfect. Where have the skills gone?

Back to the hotel for breakfast – mini tiffin – bit costly for local standards but very tasty. Checked out, walked to the bus stand, just in time for an express bus that was leaving for our next stop – Tirunelveli.

Unlike yesterday, this was a fast, really fast bus – sometimes the driver seemed to be driving recklessly fast, but he was in full control. In just about an hour or so we were in Tirunelveli, but the bus was going to the new bus stand and our hotel was closer to the old bus stand! A change of buses – took a private bus – only to realise that the bus will wait till all seats are filled and some more! A distance of 6km took nearly 40 minutes!

Early check in at Sri Bharani hotel – with a caveat that I should checkout in 24 hours. Worked well with our plan. Comfortable, well maintained air-conditioned room with an LED TV, safe and the works for just about Rs 200 more than what we paid for the dump in Thiruchendur. Decided to leave early as the Nellaiappar temple is large and will take hours to see. Walked 2 minutes to the bus stand, plenty buses going to ‘town’ and got in on one – standing space only – took us to the temple entrance in just about 20 minutes are so.
#14 Oct 13th, 2018, 17:50
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#14

Day 4: Thiruchendur & Thirunelveli - Photos

Thiruchendur-temple-gopuram



Thiruchendur-gopuram-sculptures







Oordhva Thandavam - Shiva Thandavam



Shiva Thandavam



Main deity of Thiruchendur - Shanmugha (6 faces)



The 'vehicle' of Lord Muruga - Peacock





Man shown to bear the weight of the temple tower



Women equally capable of bearing the temple tower weight




#15 Oct 16th, 2018, 15:06
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#15

Reposting last two images

Reposting last two pictures as they ended up having the watermark at the wrong place!



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