Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Chennai – Part 1: My little guide to the southern metro

In & Around Chennai City - 1: My own experiences with Idli, Sambar and Loads of chutney…

Overview: I somehow like the word 'Madras' compared to 'Chennai' as it reflects the era of 50s to 80s. I have visited Chennai a couple of times with a gap of 3 years and did not find a significant change in the city's culture and looks as compared to Bangalore. I got a chance to work in Chennai for 3 months in the beginning of 2010 when I decided to explore the real city and around it. I had heard a lot of publicity on the Hop-on-Hop-off service from Chennai to Mahabalipuram on the East Coast road. So decided to try it out on a weekend when my parents happened to visit Chennai.
The AC buses start from TTDC office and reaches the first stop at Thiruvanmiyur Marundheeshwara temple. As I was staying at Thiruvanmiyur, I decided to visit the temple on the way back in the evening. So boarded the bus there and the fare was around 225 but got a discount of 15% as introductory offer. We were the only people in the bus (Our group) and the ride was very comfortable. The next stop which we decided to hop off was Thiruvidandhai. This is an ancient temple around 35 kms from Chennai built by the Pallavas. The deity here is Nithyakalyana Perumal and the temple is located off the sea coast. It has an interesting story behind it, its believed that a Sage here was worried about getting his daughters married. So he prayed Lord Vishnu, and the God himself appeared and said that he would help him getting his daughters married. Eventually all his daughters got married and hence the name of the Lord became to be known as Nithya Kalyana Perumal. People flock this place everyday in order to seek blessings from the Lord to get married. There is a huge tank(Kalyani) near the temple.
Thiruvidandhai Thiruvidandhai Thiruvidandhai Thiruvidandhai Thiruvidandhai Thiruvidandhai Thiruvidandhai Thiruvidandhai Thiruvidandhai
Next we boarded the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus and decided that next stop would be at Mahabalipuram. Mahabalipuram was a port city built by the Pallavas in the 7th Century. We got down at the stop where on the right side was the Arjuna's penance and on the left side we had the Shore temple.
Arjuna's Penance which is so called as there are carvings on a massive monolith depicting Arjuna seeking a boon from the God by standing on one leg during the Mahabharata war. Also the carvings depict the falling of the Ganga from heaven to earth which is held by Lord Shiva. Also some scenes from the Panchatantra can be seen on the Bas Relief. Several carvings like Lord Krishna holding the Govardhana hill and various Gods and dancers are carved out of the rocks. Its amazing to see the minute carvings in the rocks without modern technology during those times. We then went further up the rocks to find a few rock cut temples which had Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva all together. The we saw a huge boulder balanced on a single point which looks a bit scary looking at its balancing act. This is popularly known as Krishna's Butter Ball. Also there was a Varaha temple which we visited around the place.
Arjuna's Penance, Mahabalipuram  Arjuna's Penance, Mahabalipuram Arjuna's Penance, Mahabalipuram Arjuna's Penance, Mahabalipuram Arjuna's Penance, Mahabalipuram Arjuna's Penance, Mahabalipuram Arjuna's Penance, Mahabalipuram Arjuna's Penance, Mahabalipuram  Arjuna's Penance, Mahabalipuram Mahabalipuram Mahabalipuram Mahabalipuram Mahabalipuram Mahabalipuram Mahabalipuram Mahabalipuram Krishna's Butter Ball, Mahabalipuram
Next we went to the Shore temple which was on the opposite side of the road. The temple stands on the shore of the Bay of Bengal and hence it is named so. It is an ancient 700 AD temple having a Shiva lingam inside. This is one of the oldest temples around that place and is maintained by the ASI. The Gopuram was undergoing some renovation work so we couldn't see the details carefully in the Gopuram. The temple is surrounded by a compound which itself has a lot of carvings and is designed in a typical South Indian fashion.
Shore Temple, MahabalipuramShore Temple, Mahabalipuram Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram Mahabalipuram  Mahabalipuram
We decided to have lunch after visiting the Shore temple. There are quite a few restaurants nearby but all are usually crowded as it is a UNESCO heritage site so people flock in huge numbers.
The next place in the list was the Five Rathas which was around a kilometre from there. Its really amazing to see 5 Rathas or the Chariots carved out of a rocky mountain without using any bricks. It looks so unbelievable to walk on that area. Many carvings of animals can be found inside the Rathas. This place dates back to 7th century. This is the last point in the Hop-on-Hop-off service so we boarded the bus bound towards Chennai.
Five Rathas, MahabalipuramFive Rathas, Mahabalipuram  Five Rathas, Mahabalipuram Five Rathas, Mahabalipuram Five Rathas, Mahabalipuram Five Rathas, Mahabalipuram
Next we stopped for a sea-lion show on the way. It was really amusing to see how the sea-lions were trained to dance to the music.
Sea Lion ShowSea Lion Show  Sea Lion Show
From there we boarded the bus and went to Crocodile Bank which had a collection of different species of crocodiles. We were lucky enough to catch a few migratory birds as well.
Crocodile Bank Crocodile Bank Crocodile BankCrocodile BankBank Crocodile Bank Crocodile Bank
Then we decided to end the day by visiting the only place within Chennai City, the Marundheeshwara temple in Thiruvanmiyur. The temple, located in the city limits, was a bit crowded as it was a weekend. Its a typical Tamil temple built by the Cholas around 1200 years ago. The inscriptions found in the temple date back to 7th century. The huge kalyani tank is also well maintained and as Pongal had just passed by, it was really a festive time.
We then had our dinner at Thiruvanmiyur to wind up for the day.
 Marundheeshwara temple Marundheeshwara temple Marundheeshwara temple
Day 2: We planned to visit the temple town of Kanchipuram today. We started early and went to Koyambedu bus terminus to catch a bus to Kanchipuram. Kanchipuram is one of the oldest places in India and was the center of Sanskrit learning. It is famous for a number of temples built across dynasties. The most popular being the Kamakshi Amman temple, Vardaraja Perumal temple and Ekambareshwar temple.
The Vardaraja Perumal temple was built by the Cholas in 1053. One main attraction in this temple is the lizard carved in the ceiling plated with gold. The devotees have to touch the lizard to get blessings. The temple is loaded with carvings on all the walls. After darshan of the lord its really great to eat the prasadam which is Pongal and Sweet rice or some Puliogere which is delicious.
Vardaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram Kamakshi Amman temple, Kanchipuram Vardaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram Vardaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram Vardaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram Vardaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram Ekambareshwar temple, Kanchipuram Ekambareshwar temple, Kanchipuram Ekambareshwar temple, Kanchipuram Ekambareshwar temple, Kanchipuram Ekambareshwar temple, Kanchipuram Ekambareshwar temple, Kanchipuram Ekambareshwar temple, Kanchipuram Ekambareshwar temple, Kanchipuram Ekambareshwar temple, Kanchipuram
As Kanchi is more popular for its Silk Saris, we made a quick dash into a saree store and the ladies helped themselves..:-)
We came back to Chennai later in the evening and wanted to enjoy the cool breeze at Marina beach. The beach was damn crowded and had a lot of stalls for eating as well. This beach is supposed to be the longest beach in the country and is just next to the main road. The IPL match was going on between Chennai Super Kings and the Delhi Daredevils so we got to hear more noise from the spectators. The floodlights made it a wonderful spectacle.
It was still early evening so we decided to pay a quick visit to the Kapaleshwara temple in Mylapore. The temple was in full glory with people thronging in and the rich Tamil culture was clearly visible. The temple lived up to its reputation of being the most visited in Chennai and had the ancient look with Dravidian architecture. This was also built during the same period as the Marundheshwara temple but this was even bigger in stature.
Chennai Central Chidambaram Stadium from Marina beach Marina Beach Kapaleeshwara temple Kapaleeshwara temple
After a chaotic experience at the temple, we went to the ever popular Saravana Bhavan in Mylapore which happens to be the best one in Chennai. The food was delicious and was a wonderful way to sign off for the day. From Mylapore we took the last local train for a different experience. This was a very pleasant ride and very unlike where trains are always crowded but are more frequent and the whole city depends on them.
Day3: We had a lot of places to cover in Chennai but due to time constraints had to sacrifice a few places. We first visited the St George's fort near the Fort station. The fort was built in 1640s by the East India Company and built its eastern center of Government. The fort had a St Mary's Church inside the premises. We went inside the church and prayed for sometime. Had a nice experience in the cool surroundings, we then went into a museum which had all artifacts of the British rule. The old paintings and the coins of different eras is very much admirable.
Fort St George's Fort St George's Fort St George's  Fort St George's Fort St George's Fort St George's  Fort St George's Fort St George's Fort St George's Fort St George's Fort St George's Fort St George's
The next plan was to visit the Saravana Stores in T Nagar. We got a direct bus outside the fort area and we reached T Nagar in 45 mins. The store had the collection of all the items one wants from a store like that. Spread over a vast area with 6 floors, each floor was dedicated to a particular category of items. We need a whole day just to visit Saravana Stores..
This concluded my parents’ trip to Chennai. I will continue with my own experiences further in the next part.

5 comments:

  1. Nice , should do this circuit once .

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Arun
    Thanks for visiting my blog
    you have a gr8 blog 'payana" is superb. channagidhe paynada kathe. am sure you understand kannada?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Sushma, and yes of course I do understand Kannada.. :)

    ReplyDelete