Angkor – Stunning Angkor Wat!

I had an exciting opportunity to visit Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park last week after a few days of work related travel. My oh my, nothing could have prepared me for what i saw and experienced!! Many photographers have talked about their experiences with the great temple, but what is the old saying about a picture again? 🙂

On a side note, i just have to say that i had an amazing guide – Kamsan Sreng – i took the 1 Day Tour Package which worked very well for me as i traveled solo. We visited Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Phrom & Banteay Srei. His energy and dedication to the job is second to none and his passion about his country’s history and culture is just wonderful. “San” as he likes to call himself, made it a superb private tour!!   Being an Indian, i had a lot of fun discussing our common mythology and history! Kamsan can be reached here.

Click on images to enlarge!

Angkor Thom, Ta Phrom and Banteay Srei photos to follow very soon 😉

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Naturellement Garden Cafe – Auroville, Pondicherry

Last week, i visited Pondicherry and stopped for lunch at the Naturellement Garden Cafe in Auroville. I had read some great reviews on Tripadvisor and other food blogs and decided to give the place a whirl! The Cafe has a very relaxing ambiance, having lunch under the warm sun and cool tree shade was very soothing – The mushroom soup was rich and creamy, but the Gnocchi with tomato sauce was disappointingly very average. For an Italian cafe, i expected much more. Yet, desserts more than made up for the main dish – Tiramisu (exceptionally strong liquor taste!) and the Swedish Cinnamon Rolls (ah heaven!).

The staff is polite and courteous (all women staff), the produce is sourced locally from organic farms, there are homemade jams and sauces too!

Clearly the Garden Cafe is a big draw for the residents in Auroville and nearby Pondicherry. Maybe i should try a different main dish next time!

Auroville can be reached by car via the East Coast Road and is about 120Km from Chennai.

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Chennai – Bharatanatyam!

Bharatanatyam performance by artistes from Kaladiksha School, Chennai!

(Click on image to enlarge)

Artistes:

  • Padmashri Meenakshi Chittaranjan
  • Aparna Chittaranjan
  • Krithika Ramachandran
  • Preethi Nedumaran

Chennai is definitely one of India’s top cultural spots right 🙂

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Ancient TamilNadu – Alamparai Fort

I am back after a satisfying 235 Km road trip to Alamparai Fort in Kadapakkam village, almost 100 Km from Chennai (via East Coast Road). I simply loved the fort ruins and the lovely backwaters!

From what i gathered, this brick and limestone fort was built by Nawab Dost Ali Khan (Nawab of the Carnatic from 1732 – 1740). It was then gifted to the French who subsequently lost to the British (think Battle of Plassey – 1759), post which the British captured and destroyed the fort. The fort by itself was used a primary trading port by the Arcots of Nawabs and recently state archaeologists found a copper mint beneath the fort ruins along with arms and ammunition in the soldiers quarters!

The coins minted at the fort were used as official tender from Mughal era till the 19th century (apparently had great monetary value at that time) Each coin was called as an Alamparai Varagai (equal to 3 rupees) and the fort exported ghee, zari (cloth) and salt to Rome, France and other European countries. There is evidence of trade with certain South East Asian countries such as China as well.

This place is a history buff’s delight and i was certainly awe-struck imagining the soldiers and traders walking/guarding the fort in front of my eyes! This place is on the very popular ECR stretch, but is not well-known among the locals – i for one am quite happy i stumbled on this marvelous location! Each brick has a story to tell, but sadly the fort is in terrible shape – thanks to the British and the 2004 Indian Tsunami. I came to know about the copper mint only after i visited the fort, else i would have done some 200+ year old alamparai varagai hunting myself!

If you folks ever take a drive down ECR, do not miss this gem of a fort – the backwaters is amazing!

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Lighthouse, Chennai – Part II

So i was able to visit the now-open viewing gallery in the Lighthouse (see my previous post here) and my-my, the view of the city, beach and the sea was fantastic! See for yourself – (Click on image)

Next post is on a couple of old forts in and around Chennai ! Watch this space 🙂

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Ancient TamilNadu – Parthasarathy Temple

As promised in my previous post, here is one of (hopefully) several photo posts on the historical temples/places in and around Tamil Nadu. I don’t know if i can cover one place every week, but i hope to cover as much as possible in the coming months!

The temple in the pictures above is the Parthasarathy Temple in the Triplicane area in Chennai. The temple is a Hindu Vaishnavite temple and was built-in the 8th century (!!) by the Pallavas especially the Pallava King Narasimhavarman I (630 AD – 668 AD), who also completed the work in Mahabalipuram started by his father Mahendravarman. The temple was later developed/expanded by the Chola kings and Vijayanagara kings over the next 700 years.

Fun facts about the King:

  • Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is named after Narasimhavarman who was also called as Mamallan (great wrestler)
  • Narasimhavarman was a devotee of Shiva! (how about that huh? Shiva devotee building a Vishnu temple, hehe)
  • Hieun Tsang, the Chinese traveller visited Kanchipuram (Pallava capital) during his reign.

Coming back to the temple, the name Parthasarathy means ‘Charioteer of Arjuna’, which is not surprising as the main deity of the temple is shown to have battle scars, but sans weapons (as Krishna was the Charioteer of Arjuna during Mahabharatha and did not take up arms in the war). The other interesting aspect is that the temple houses 5 forms of Vishnu – Narasimhar, Ramar, Ranganathar, Varadarajar and ofcourse Krishna. Though the temple has been preserved using modern techniques, it still possesses the old world charm with its detailed carvings, many inscriptions of Pallava/Chola Kings and the overall architecture in itself. (Oh the temple is also ISO 9001:2008 certified!)

It is in the heart of my city, close to the Marina Beach and has stood the test of time since the foundation stone was laid. To walk in the corridors as many great Kings did, to pray in the sanctum sanctorum as many great saints did… that is just something else!

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