Covelong Beach, Chennai

It was 3 AM in the morning when I decided to take a short road trip to Covelong/Kovalam, a fishing village right next to the Taj Vivanta Fisherman’s Cove, a lovely resort in itself. As someone who loves beaches, I reached Kovalam beach at 5:30 AM, just few minutes before the sunrise and when the fishermen were readying their boats for the daily catch. The beach’s shore is rocky in parts with fishing boats lining a good stretch of beach and of-course the village.

It is also a place for surf boarding enthusiasts and wind surfing! (there are regular classes apparently). The beach also has some old broken down amusement rides, which add character to the place (pictures of the rides in the next post!) Click on images below to expand –

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Ancient TamilNadu – Gingee Fort (Rajagiri)

Hello boys, I’m baaaccckkk ! I finally got to visit the extremely stunning and beautiful Gingee Fort, which is about 160Km from Chennai, Tamil Nadu. My my, where do i begin? – With a brief history ofcourse!

History indicates that Gingee (Senji) was originally under the rule of Pallavas (think Mahabalipuram) (600 AD – 900 AD) and then under the Cholas (900 AD – 1103 AD) and  later to the Pandyas and Hoysalas (1104 AD – 1190 AD).

The foundations of the Gingee Fort itself were laid by the Kon Dynasty in 1190 AD, with Ananda Koan (the Konar clan is an ancient shepherd community in Tamil Nadu present to this day) building the Anandagiri (now called Rajagiri). It was later developed by the Cholas and several structures were later added over the history of the several kingdoms ruling Gingee.

The Gingee Fort Complex has 3 hillocks – Rajagiri (which we visited), Krishagiri and Chandrayandurg (closed for the public). Each hillock has its own set of structures and self-contained citadels. The fort complex covers an area of 11 sq.km with the fort walls spanning 13Km in length. Rajagiri is built at a height of 800 feet (240 m). It took us about an hour to climb the hillock through the twisting, steep convoluted steps that go around the circumference of the hillock by itself (no wonder it is a tough fort to conquer, imagine the soldiers tiring out even before reaching the summit!). The summit is connected to the outside world by a small wooden draw bridge with a chasm that is 18 metres deep!

The Rajagiri fort complex is huge and has several interesting structures – granary, gymnasium, elephant tank, prison, courtyard, kalayana mahal to name a few. It took us 2 full hours to explore the length and breadth of the lower fort before even making the actual climb (!), which took another 45 minutes – 1 hour under the hot sun. But the 360* views at each precipe and outpost during the climb makes you wonder – with no modern tools or technology, how the hell did they build such a brilliantly positioned defense structure?! The enemy can be seen from miles away on all four sides (with smaller outpost structures on surrounding smaller hillocks). I can now understand why Chhatrapati Shivaji ranked this as the most impregnable fortress in India ! Overall it was a fantastic road trip – worth all the heat and burning quadriceps! See for yourself – Click on images to enlarge

Until next time!

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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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Sri Perumbudur Temple, Tamilnadu!

Ramanujar Temple

I recently realised that there are many interesting places to visit in my backyard, when otherwise i would be thinking about which cities/countries i should potentially travel to during my vacation. In that spirit, my goal in the years to come is to visit and experience the grandeur of the thousands of ancient temples/places in and around Tamil Nadu (well not all of them!)

To kickstart this ambitious goal, i present to you Adi Kesavaperumal Temple in Sri Perumbudur, Tamil Nadu (40km+ from Chennai). This temple is supposedly more than 500 years old and Sri Perumbudur is the birth place of Saint Ramanuja Acharya, an important proponent of the Vaishnavism movement in South India. He is also one of the presiding deities of the temple and the temple by itself holds great value to those who are aware of its history.

More about the Saint, he was born in 1017 CE and lived for 120 years! According to legend, it is said that he transferred his powers (no not Lord Voldemort style) to 3 idols made in his image, one of which is the vigraha in this temple. Among the many beliefs attached to the temple is the ability to cure skin related ailments and persistent health issues (faith is key ofcourse!)

You can read more about the temple’s Sthala Puranam (History) here.

Interesting right? I for one, am looking forward to the other fabulous places in Tamil Nadu that are probably the last surviving links to our ancient and glorious past!

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Diwali – A Visual Spectacle!

To all my followers and casual visitors, here’s wishing you a very happy and prosperous Diwali ! Once again for my non-Indian friends, Diwali is an Indian festival celebrated with extravagance every year where we buy new clothes, burst crackers all day long and eat tons of home-made sweets. But the real fun begins in the night when people start bursting their fancy fireworks for hours together (poor Ozone!) . And THAT is my favorite part of the day!

This time i decided to try my hand at long exposure with fireworks and the results were pretty interesting! See for yourself!

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Madras War Cemetery

So here’s a bit of history from my fantastic city! The images above (taken with a 5 MP phone camera) are from the Madras War Cemetery. A surprisingly beautiful cemetery in a place away from the hustle and bustle of city traffic!

From the CWGC website –

The MADRAS WAR CEMETERY was created to receive Second World War graves from many civil and cantonment cemeteries in the south and east of India where their permanent maintenance could not be assured.

The cemetery contains 856 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.

The MADRAS 1914-1918 MEMORIAL is situated at the rear of the cemetery. It bears the names of more than 1,000 servicemen who died during the First World War who lie in many civil and cantonment cemeteries in various parts of India where it is not possible to maintain their graves in perpetuity.

So dear readers, if by some amazing turn of events, you see the names of your ancestors fly into Chennai to pay your respects!

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