Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lakshmi Narasimha Perumal Pazhaya Seevaram

Kanchi Varadar makes his annual 20km trip to this temple on the day after Pongal

Lord Narasimha with Goddess Lakshmi

Located about 20kms east of Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal koil on the Kanchipuram-Chengalpet State Highway is the Lakshmi Narasimha Perumal koil in Pazhaya Seevaram.

The Story
Wanting a darshan of Lord Narasimha, Rishi Aathri Anusaya was undertaking penance at Naimisaarinyam. With his prayers not being answered there, the Rishi increased the intensity of his penance.

One day, he heard an invisible voice that asked him to move southward to the foot of Padmagiri parvatham where there is a confluence of three rivers

He is said to have to come this place and undertaken penance, facing East ward, on the banks of the three rivers- Palar, Cheyyar and Vegavathi- that meet here.

Lord Lakshmi Narasimha is said to have appeared before him and provided darshan facing the west. And as per the wishes of the Rishi, Lord Narasimha remained here, ever after and is seen in a grand sitting posture, west facing, with Goddess Lakshmi on his lap.

Historical Reference
One finds a reference to this episode in chapter 17 of the Brahmanda Puranam relating to Padmagiri Mahaatyam.

Lord Varadar’s yearly trip to Pazhaya Seevaram
The big highlight at this temple is the annual trip of Kanchi Varadar.

The story goes that the moolavar deity of Kanchipuram Perumal Koil (Lord Varadarajan) is said to have been damaged during the invasion of the Muslim rulers. As a damaged deity could not be worshipped, it was immersed in the temple tank (This moolavar deity- Athi Varadan- is taken out once every 40 years and placed outside for worship for a period of 10 days. This event will take place next in 2019).

The moolavar that we see today at Kanchipuram Varadarajar Perumal Koil was brought from Pazhaya Seevaram. In memory of this event, the Utsava idol of Kanchi Lord Varadarajan is taken on a procession once a year, on the ‘Maatu Pongal’ day during the Tamil month of Thai (Jan-Feb) to Pazhaya Seevaram.

Paari Vettai Utsavam
Lord Varadarajan leaves Kanchipuram on the evening of the Pongal day and reaches Pazhaya Seevaram Lakshmi Narasimha koil at 6am the next morning (He is scheduled to leave on the evening of 14th January 2009 to reach Pazhaya Seevaram at 6am on 15th January 2009).

The morning of Maatu Pongal day is one dedicated to the people of Pazhaya Seevaram, celebrating this once in a year ‘Paari Vettai’ Utsavam where they play host to Kanchi Varadar as the Lord goes on a procession around the streets of Pazhaya Seevaram.

At around 9am, Kanchi Varadar climbs the 250 odd steps( atop the Lakshmi Narasimha temple) to the hill top where he originally belonged !!!

That evening, along with Lord Narasimha of Pazhaya Seevaram, Kanchi Varadar is taken on a procession to Keezh Seevaram to the Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal koil at Thiru Mukoodal. Lords from five different temples congregate here that evening.

Back at Pazhaya Seevaram after about 3 hours, Kanchi Varadar bids good bye to Lakshmi Narasimhar at around 930pm at the Pazhaya Seevaram Temple and makes his way back to Chinna Kanchipuram for another year!!

Rivers in full flow
Devotees who have been to this temple in the 1960s/70s say that they used to reach here by bullock cart (there were no buses then) and would stay here for a month enjoying the cool breeze and peaceful surroundings. The rivers, they say, used to run full through the year which would make a wonderful sight from the top of the temple.

At the time of writing this piece, Palar was completely dry.

Management of the temple
Interestingly, this temple has been managed by a private Gujarathi trust (at least for the last 300 years) and has been maintained very well.

Quick Facts

Deity : Lakshmi Narasimha West Facing Sitting Posture
Temple Time : 730am-11am and 4pm-630pm
Priest : Srinivasa Bhattar
Contact : 94437 18137
Festivals : Brahmotsavam in Aani, Pavitrosavam in Aavani, Narasimha Jayanthi

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ranji Trophy Tamil Nadu v Railways

Baffling decisions by Tamil Nadu think tank mark final day of the Ranji Trophy match against Railways
Abhinav Mukund, Ashwin lose out on opportunities on the Final day

The final day of Tamil Nadu’s Ranji match against Railways at the MA Chidambaram Stadium left one completely disappointed with the attitude of the team (read captain and coach). Having already qualified for the knock out stage, Tamil Nadu chose to bat out (with a changed batting order) the entire final day with a drab batting display instead of giving the bowlers the opportunity of a work out, ahead of the knock out match.

At the end of day 3, TN led by around 175 with all 10 wickets in hand (having led by around 150 on the first innings). Another 125-150 runs on the final morning may have been enough for Tamil Nadu bowlers.

Every indicator would have endorsed this decision- TN had already qualified for the knock out, Railways was out of contention and clearly disinterested in the proceedings on the final day and TN bowlers desperately needed a bowl (especially Ashwin and C. Suresh).

2 things stood out:

1. Not going for outright win/ Giving bowlers the opportunity
The decision to not give its bowlers a chance to have a go at a not so strong and a disinterested Railways team was baffling. Mind you, R. Ashwin has not been amongst big wickets this season, with L. Balaji coming back strong from his injury in the early league matches this season. Would Ashwin not have liked to bowl about 10-15overs ahead of the crucial knock out match later this week?

Would not have Yo Mahesh, who bowled very well in the 2nd half of day 3 and took 4 wickets to help TN with a sizeable lead, liked to have had a go at the Railways top order further boosting the confidence he had gained in the first innings, just 24 hours ago.

Has C. Suresh bowled enough this season (he bowled only 12overs in the first innings)? Was this not a great opportunity to give him a decent bowl in the 2nd innings ahead of the Knock out match in Bangalore.

Obviously, the TN think tank led by Dinesh Karthik and Coach WV Raman did not think it fit to set Railways a target on the final day…Did they fear Railways scoring 300 in 50odd overs on a final day pitch( i.e if TN had declared shortly after lunch). Is that the confidence TN has in its bowlers and against a reasonably weak Railways batting line up (whom TN had bowled out for 200 in the first innings).

2. Changes in the batting order
If Tamil Nadu had indeed decided last evening or this morning that they were not going for the outright and that there would be no declaration today on the final day, what business did they have to push Abhinav Mukund to No. 6.

Here is a boy, just 18 years and playing only his 2nd season in Ranji cricket, who reached 1000 Ranji runs in 11 matches with a brilliant 150 in the first innings against Railways, being asked to bat at No.6.

If indeed you had decided to bat out the day, why not give this talented youngster another chance to build on his profile of being a prolific scorer by sending him in his usual opening slot. Abhinav is no legend yet that you would rest him from batting and give others (even if they too are youngsters!!!) the opportunity. Abhinav is still in the process of establishing himself as the long standing opener for TN. He, earlier this year, unfortunately missed out on the chances at the U19 world cup (Virat Kohli who played there, has already moved up the ladder).

Lost Opportunity for Abhinav and Ashwin
Every innings and every match is crucial for emerging players and Abhinav and Ashwin have missed out on an opportunity to further stage their claims at the higher level. In fact, Dinesh Karthik, the captain, himself has just had a terrible run with the Indian team and that’s the reason he was in Chennai today and not in Mohali!!! Does he think that a double hundred and a hundred is good enough for him to take it easy on day 4 of a Ranji match (Unfortunately wicket keepers these days are judged on the number of runs they score).

Did he not see this (today’s 2nd innings) as yet another opportunity for him to impress upon the national selectors (Parthiv Patel has also got a double hundred in this round of matches. Having decided not to declare, should he not have batted in the top 4 and amassed more runs.

Who required practice today- Batsmen or the TN Bowlers?
Did TN Captain/Coach/Team Management require today’s batting display (by Arun Karthik/Prasanna/Vidyut/ Suresh Kumar) to conclusively decide as to who will make way for Badri and Vijay in the next match… I wonder !!!!!!!!!!!!

It was the time for Abhinav Mukund to score more runs as an opener (till the declaration time or to bat through the day), it was time for Yo Mahesh and Ashwin to bowl and see if they could bowl out Railways on day 4 (in worst case scenario, it would have been a good, competitive bowling practice for them).

Unfortunately, it turned out to be runs galore against a disinterested Railways bowling attack (Sanjay Bangar for a long part of the day didn’t bother to even change the field. He just let the game drift to a tame draw. Murali Kartik did not bowl, choosing to stand at slip and short mid wicket through the day).

Clearly, Yo Mahesh, C. Suresh and Ashwin lost out on an opportunity today. It would have been a nice challenge for Yo and Ashwin to bowl with a target of 300+ in 50 overs…and it would have made up for a good competitive bowl for them ahead of the knock out match.

Abhinav, M. Vijay, S. Badrinath and Dinesh Karthik have been in top batting form this season and they are confirmed choices for the next match and will fill the top 4 batting slots. Off Spinner Ashwin has just scored a century in the first innings and has many times in the past made useful batting contributions down the order.

Hence, if at all practice was required on the last day, it was for the bowlers of Tamil Nadu, not their batsmen. It would have been invaluable for Yo Mahesh and Ashwin to turn their arm over on the final day than have Arun Karthik and Suresh Kumar batting out a large part of the day(and despite their knocks on the final day, they may be the ones to be left out of the knock out fixture).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dasavatharam Temple Agaram Village

The only temple in India with all the Dasavatharam idols in one single stone
Parikara Sthalam for different kinds of Dosham including Pitru Dosham

Located about 15kms East of Tirunelveli off the Tuticorin highway on the banks of Tamaraibarani is the historical Anjel Enra Dasavatharam Perumal koil in Agaram Village in Vallanadu (Tuticorin District). The speciality of the temple is that one finds all the Dasaavatharam idols made from a single stone.

Dasavatharam Idols at Agaram Anjel Perumal temple

The Story
Mitrasaga, who lived in the Agaram Village, was a devotee of Lord Vishnu and he took it upon himself to spread the name of the Lord by enacting the Dasavatharam story through his dramas. Chandramalini, the daughter of a Kashmir king, was drawn by his artistic performance and fell in love with him.

She married Mitrasaga and came to stay with him in Agaram Village. Having enacted the Dasavatharam story several times through their plays, they wanted the real darshan of the Lord in that form.

One day after the morning bath at the Tamaraibarani Theertham, it is believed that Lord Vishnu appeared in an invisible form and chanted the Dwadasi Mantam – Om Namo Bhagavathey Vasudevaya.

Granted the prayers on this Dwadasi day in the Tamil calendar month of Maasi, Lord Vishnu is believed to have provided the Dasavathara darshan, all at the same time, at this place. Hence this place came to be known as Dasavathara Kshetram.

Chandramalini got Mukthi at this place- Lord Vishnu is believed to taken her in his Pushpaka Vimaanam.

Historical ReferenceIn the 4000 year old Veda Vyasa’s Tamaraibarani Mahatmiya Puranam, there are references to Manimahodaya Agraharam (which in course of time became ‘Agaram’ village) and the presence of a large number of Bhaagavathars here at this place. Hence, this was called Bhaagavatha Kshetram. The Agaram Village was also a place for Vedic Education.

Anjel Perumal

Dakshina Ganga
The Tamaraibarani Puranam points out the significance of a bath at the Dasavathara Theertham at this Dasaavathara Kshetram. A bath here is said to be equivalent to and bear the same fruits as a bath at the Ganges in Varanasi.

Garudan

Parikara Sthalam
Each Dasavathara idol relates to a Navagraha and the belief is that one will be liberated from all kinds of doshams if one bathes in the Tamaraibarani Theertham here, has a darshan of the Dasavatharam Lords and performs the relevant parikaram at this temple.

(Matsya- Kethu Parikaram, Koorma- Sani Dosham, Varaha Avataaram- Rahu, Vamana-Guru Dosham, Krishna- Chandran………….)

Liberation from Parental Curse
The Anjel Enra Dasavatharam Perumal is also said to be a place for liberation from Pitru Dosham (Parental curse) and is believed to be equivalent to visiting Kasi.

Renovation of the temple
A large part of the temple was destroyed by floods in the Tamaraibarani in the early part of the 20th century. However, the Dasavatharam idols have remained intact. In 1952, Shri. Muthuswamy Sastri is said to have spent Rs.50000 for Kumbabishekam of the Moolavar deity. In 2003, a Dasavathara Kainkarya Committee was formed to undertake complete renovation of the temple, including building walls around the temple and a parikara mandapam.

Temple in ruins
The committee is expected to perform the kumbabishekam in July 2009.

Those interested to help restore this ancient and special one of a kind temple can call: 04630 261142 or 97501 58622 or email dasavatharaperumal@gmail.com

Address: 2/43 New Agaram village, Vallanadu 628252 Tuticorin District


Quick Facts
Deity: Anjel Enra Dasaavatharam Perumal, East Facing Standing Posture
Utsavar: Anjel Perumal with Sridevi and Bhoodevi

How to reach Agaram Village
There are buses every 5-10minutes between Tirunelveli and Tuticorin. One can reach Vallanadu within 30minutes from Tirunelveli.

One can take an auto (about Rs. 40-50) from Vallanadu bus stop to the Dasavatharam Koil in Agaram Village (about 2kms)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fall of the Wall Rahul Dravid

9 months ago, I wrote a piece http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2008/03/rahul-dravids-defensive-cricket-costing.html
on Rahul Dravid’s slow (and selfish) batting and the need for him to show more positive intent at the crease to hold to the coveted No. 3 spot in the Indian batting order.

We are now into the 2nd series since, there has been a change of test captain and a new selection committee headed by K. Srikkanth (known for his open and straight talking and decision making) but Rahul Dravid continues to occupy the No. 3 position and more importantly has continued with his defensive dead bat cricket.

Out of Form with a difference
Unlike several other cricketers, who when out of form and/or going through a lean phase are shaky and edgy, Rahul Dravid has looked solid in defence (though more often his first edge has been held behind the wicket). But that(his ultra defensive mindset) really has been his downfall. Rarely during this period, has one seen Rahul do what I think would have been(and continue to be) possible solution to his problems:

1. To take quick singles early on his innings so he does not get into a situation of 3 runs of 25 balls or 10 runs of 40 balls… (this is possible even with dead bat cricket). He just hasn’t showed any positive intent in his batting and more often than not his batting partner’s progress has been halted (not receiving the strike often enough). And Dravid’s own running between the wickets, while at the non-strikers end, has been less than positive( What is Robin Singh- fielding coach is also responsible for running between the wickets- doing!!!).

2. He has not tried to stroke the ball off the square. He has rather been content playing ‘dead bat’ cricket, playing the ball back down the pitch or to the cover fielder. Even his flicks to square leg or through the mid wicket have deserted him as have the hook and the pull which he has executed in the past, when in form.

3. The other brave and daring and to me the most sensible action on his part would have been for him to accept that he was no more the best batsman in the team and to have proactively moved down the order to No. 6, a position where a little bit of defensive cricket may not necessarily put pressure on his own team. Rahul could have requested and may be even aggressively pushed the team management to allow him to go at No. 6 or the team management could have forced him into this for his and the team’s benefit. Neither seems to have happened. MS Dhoni, known for his positive instinct, also has not done anything so far, on this front, though knowing him I do believe it will be only a matter of time, before Rahul Dravid is pushed down the order, where his slow batting will be less of a burden for the team.

No. 3 is a position that has traditionally been allotted to the best batter in the team. It is also a position given to one who is solid both against pace and spin. As Richie Benaud said earlier today, it is a position where the most important thing for the (No. 3) player is that he should have an attacking game as well.

Ian Chappell is of the view that No. 3 is a position where the player really sets up the pace of the game for his team and helps shape the game.

Rahul Dravid clearly in the last 12 months has slowed down the pace of the game (and this has not been reflected in a more glaring manner only because of Sehwag’s extraordinary aggression). Dravid has in fact, time and again, with his slow batting at No. 3, given the opposition an opportunity and almost almost opened the gate to put added pressure on the Indian top order.

Sooner than later, Rahul Dravid will have to accept the No. 6 spot as his best option to prolong his career, unless ofcourse if the team management under MSD believe it is time to induct M. Vijay or S. Badrinath in place of Dravid(which I think may not be a bad thing for Indian cricket under Dhoni). This could mean an end to his career, closely following the departure of Ganguly and Kumble.

This may not be the ideal way for Dravid to leave, having served India for over a dozen years, but he will have no one to blame but himself for the hole he has got into.

Defensive Mindset, Dead Bat Cricket , poor running between the wickets (and hence not rotating strike) and failing to stroke the ball beyond the square will stand out as reasons for the ‘Fall of the Wall’.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Uthira Merur Sundara Varadar

8th Century AD temple built by Nandi Varma Pallava has several unique features not found in any other Vaishnavite Temple

Uthira Merur was home to a ‘Best in Class’ Constitutional Framework - No current politician may pass the Governance Model and Election ‘Code of Conduct’ laid out in 10th Century AD by Parantaka Chozha. 

The Current PM and Current CM of Tamil Nadu would not have met his 'Age Qualification' criteria!!!


Located about 85kms South West of Chennai is the 1300 year old three tiered Sundara Varadar temple in UthiraMerur, a town that holds a special place on the map of India, for it was here that the formal Guidelines for Assembly Elections and a constitutional framework was laid out for the first time ever in India.

In fact, our current constitution and governance model is said to have been modelled on the framework created by Parantaka Chozhan in 10th Century AD. Unfortunately, though, the disqualification criteria seem to have been given a serious pass by the Indian Electorate.

Sundara Varadar Temple built by Pallavas
It is believed that UthiraMerur was gifted to 1200 Vedic Vaishnavite Brahmin Scholars in the 8th Century AD by Nandi Varma Pallava who also built the Sundara Varadar temple. Clearly, a lot of focus was laid on Vedic Education during that period with this village being a hub of Vedic Learning. Hence, Uthira Merur was also referred to as ‘Chaturvedi Mangalam’, a place where one could hear the recital of the four Vedas all the time.

Was this temple constructed before 8th Century AD?
While the inscription leads one to believe that this was a 8th Century AD temple built by Nandi Varma Pallava, the construction materials used here raises the question if this actually was built much earlier, possibly in the 6th Century AD. Uthira Merur’s Sundara Varadar temple has been built using a mix of Karungal (base of the temple), red bricks and Lime (Tier 2 and 3).

Most of the temples built around the 9th/10th Century AD are ones built largely out of Karungal, while the 6th Century AD temples in Tamil Nadu were built with Karungal, red bricks and other materials. Hence it is quite possible that the construction of this temple may have actually started in the 6th Century AD and not 8th Century AD. However, there are no inscriptions confirming this…

The Story- Pancha Varada Kshetram
It is believed that Lord Vishnu, in different forms, gave darshan to Pancha Pandavas, who are believed to come here (Virata Parvam) during the time of their exile. Hence this place is also referred to as Pancha Varada Kshetram. While there are no inscriptions confirming the visit of the pandavas, several of the villages in and around UthiraMerur were named after the Pandavas and this serves as an indication that they visited this place.

Sundara Varadar

Details below:

Vaikunta Varadar provided darshan to DharmaRaja
Sundara Varadar - to Bheema
Achuta Varadar - to Arjuna
Aniruddha Varadar provided darshan to Nakula
Kalyana Varadar provided darshan to Sahadeva

Also, it is believed that Goddess Ananda Valli provided darshan to Draupadi.

Structure of the temple
While three Divya Desams- Thiru Koshtiyur (where Ramanuja was initiated the Thiru Mandiram), Parameswara Vinnagaram (Kanchipuram) and Koodal Azhagar (in Madurai) have three tiered Vimana, Sundara Varadar temple in Uthira Merur is one of the few non- Divya Desam with a three tiered structure. And this one is with a difference.

This historical temple has 4 deities each in Tier 1 and 2 and one deity in Tier 3 thus being the only Vaishnavite temple with Nine Murthies in a three tier structure. Hence, this is referred to be a Nava Murthy Sthalam. It was the belief that Nava Murthies could be installed only where over a 1000 Brahmins recite the Vedic Paaraayanam, another indication that Uthira Merur was a hub of Vedic learning in those days.
Drawings Photo- With special approval from Temple Authority

Nava Murthy Sthalam
The East facing standing posture of Sundara Varadar in the main sanctum is surrounded by the tall and handsome Achutha Varadar on the Southern Side, Aniruddha Varadar on the West (behind Sundara Varadar) and Kalyana Varadar on the Northern side.

Sincere Prayers
Those who pray here (with their horoscope) to Kalyana Varadar on 5 consecutive Wednesdays are said to find their life mate immediately. Those who offer prayers on Tuesdays to Achutha Varadar are said to find jobs immediately.

Four Murthies on Tier 2
On to Tier 2, one finds Vaikunta Varadar in a sitting posture (he provided Darshan to Dharmaputra). There are also idols of Nara Narayana- Arjuna and Krishna. Belief is that those who are not able to go to Badri can invoke the blessings of Nara Narayana at this temple and the devotees are said to get the desired results.

Also, on Tier 2 is Yoga Narasimha. It is believed that those who are not able to climb the several hundred steps at Sholingur can visit Yoga Narasimha here and the Lord here is said to fulfil the wishes of the devotees.

The fourth idol in Tier 2 is that of Lakshmi Varahar seen here in Sitting Posture (in Thiruvidanthai one finds Lakshmi Varahar in a Standing Posture).

Tier 3
As one climbs another 10 steps onto Tier 3, one finds Lord Anantha Padmanabha(Lord Ranganatha) in a sleeping posture atop Adhiseshan. Tier 3 presents another unique feature of this temple - the Dwarapalakas(in this case Dwarapalikas!!) of Lord Ranganatha are Goddesses Ganga and Yamuna, not seen in any other Vaishnavite temple.

Anantha Padmanabhan

TriMurthy inside the Sanctum
On this tier, one finds Vishnu (in sleeping posture), Brahma and Siva inside the sanctum, the only Vaishnavite temple where one can find the Tri-Murthies inside the sanctum. Shiva is seen here as an idol and not a lingam, which is another unique feature at this temple.

There are several interesting and colourful drawings inside the sanctum that gives one an insight into the encouragement given to artistic work in those days.


Did Thiru Mangai Azhvaar really miss out on Uthira Merur Temple?
Thiru Mangai Azhvaar has praised in ten verses Lord Vaikunta Varadan and this has been currently credited to Parameswara Vinnagara (Divya Desam) in Kanchipuram.

Says R. Seshadri, the hereditary Trustee at this temple, whose family has been managing the temple for the last 140 years (since 1869) “It is quite possible that Thiru Mangai Azhvaar may actually have sung praise of the Uthira Merur Varadar and his reference in the Paasuram of ‘Vaikunta Varadar’ and ‘Kachi’ may actually be of Vaikunta Varadar at Uthira Merur alongside the Varadar at Paremeswara Vinnagaram in Kanchipuram.”

“Several centuries ago, when Kanchipuram was the capital of the Pallavas, all the towns in this region may have been referred to by the Azhvaars in a generic address as ‘Kachi’, even when he was singing praise of different forms of Vishnu, in this Pallava Kingdom.”

There is a 3 ½- 4 feet idol of Thiru Mangai Azhvaar at this temple. It is difficult to believe that Thiru Mangai would not have visited Uthira Merur and that he would not have been lured by the Nava Murthy here.

Having said that, there are other temples in Tamil Nadu, which we have seen earlier that have escaped the attention of the Azhvaars.

Mannargudi Rajagopalaswamy http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/05/mannargudi-rajagopalaswamy-temple.html and Krishnapuram Lord Venkatachalapathi(near Nava Tirupathi)
http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/07/non-divya-desam-temple-tale.html are two two such.

Thirumangai Azhvaar also threatened to pass Thiruvazhandur (in Mayavaram) without singing praise of Parimala Rangan http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/08/108-divya-desams-thiru-indhalur.html.

Uthira Merur and its special status in history

As seen above, Pallava king Nandi Varma Pallava was responsible for the creation of UthiraMerur and the Varadar temple. Chozhas, who succeeded the Pallavas here, can be credited with pioneering the ‘Process of Assembly Elections’ in India. Inscription that can be found here provide insights into the constitutional framework that was in vogue at that time.

The Chozha king Rajendra Chozha 1 also visited UthiraMerur and made significant contributions to the Sundara Varadar temple. Contributions were also made during the reign of Raja Raja Chozha. The Great Vijayanagara king Krishnadeva Raaya, who had a special liking for Vaishnavite temples, is said to have visited this place and made liberal contributions to the UtharaMerur Perumal koil. This was also said to be a ‘Thulabaaram Koil’ and Thulabaaram was said to be a common feature at this temple.

Belief is that one who does a simple 48 day pradakshanam at this temple will have all his wishes fulfilled.

10th Century AD Inscriptions- Governance Model

Assembly Hall-Currently Vaikunta Perumal Koil
The significance of UthiraMerur dates back to the 10th Century AD and the inscriptions relating to that period. The constitution of the assembly under Parantaka Chozha as detailed in the inscriptions (in Tamil as written in those days) that one can still find on the walls of the Assembly Hall, 200 yards east of Sundara Varadan Temple, leaves one in awe of the great governance model followed by this Chozha ruler.

Kolatunga Chozha, in the 11th Century AD, is said to have built the Vaikunta Perumal Koil on top of the super structure of the Assembly Hall, but the inscriptions remain intact on the walls of the temple. This structure has been recognised as a heritage monument and is currently under the Archeological Survey of India.

Clear cut policies were laid out regarding the mode of election, appointment of candidates, actions that would warrant disqualification to the assembly (No current politician may pass this governance model of Parantaka!!!!!!!).

Says Shri.Seshadri, “Not just electoral procedures and constitutional frame work, there were clearly laid out procedures for testing of gold, which was the currency for commercial transactions.”

List of qualifications

Age Limit
Minimum age for candidature – 35 years (reason being levels of maturity and experience)
Maximum age for candidature- 70 years (passing on the baton to the youth so they could contribute more actively to the society)

Property
Interestingly, one of the qualifications was the possession of immovable property. And this seems to have been based on a very sound logic that one who was responsible for public property should have had prior experience of handling his own property. The property should have been constructed on his own private site and not on public site.

Educational requirement
There was also an educational qualification laid out for candidates interested to contest in elections.

List of Disqualifications

1. One who has not presented accounts for the previous year
2. One who has accepted bribes
3. One who has appropriated another’s property(immoral conduct-seen on the West wall)
4. Acting against public interest

Interestingly, the entire family (both mother’s and father’s side) of the member will become ineligible to contest again for 7 generations, such was the severity of the disqualification norms and this acted a strong deterrent against committing frauds and behaving in an immoral way.

The election itself was a very open and transparent process conducted in the presence of all the people in the village and was to definitely include the (presence of the) priests.

When Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi visited this temple over 2 decades ago, it is said that they were completely clued in on the constitutional framework of Parantaka Chozhan and that Rajiv Gandhi just rolled out to the people here the entire constitutional charter of Parantaka in a matter of minutes!!!

One would hope that the current set of politicians in India would take inspiration from the Governance model of Parantaka Chozhan and set us back on the right path.

Quick Facts
Moolavar : Sundara Varadarajar east facing Standing Posture
Vaikunta Varadar in Tier 1 Sitting Posture
Ranganatha in Tier 2 Sleeping Posture
Goddess : Ananda Valli Thaayar(Separate Sannidhi)

Temple Timing : 7am-12noon and 4pm-8pm
Priest : Aravamudhan Bhattar @ 94423 11138/ 97510 35544
Raja Gopala Bhattar @94863 69455
R. Seshadri(Trustee)@ 94430 68382

Festivals : Brahmotsavam in Chitrai, Pavitrotsavam in Aadi, Andal Aadi Pavitrotsavam- Recital of the 4 Vedhas, Sudarashana Homam in Puratasi

How to reach UthiraMerur
Direct Buses between Chennai and UthiraMerur(2 hours)
One can travel by train to Chengalpet(from Chennai) and then take a 30 minute bus trip to Uthira Merur

One can reach Uthira merur by car from Chennai in 1 1/2hours.
(Take the right after 69kms from Chennai on the GST road)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Vallam Madhava Perumal Temple

A historical 12th Century AD temple built by Vikrama Chozhan back to its glory days
Located on the Thanjavur-Trichy National Highway, about 10kms from Thanjavur is the historical almost 900 year old Madhava Perumal and Yoga Narasimha temple in Vallam.

The Name-Vallam
Vallaba Chozhan, who ruled this region, founded this village. Hence this place came to be called Vallaba Puri. Over time, this became Vallam.

Historical Reference
Vikrama Chozhan who ruled Thanjavur between 1118 and 1136 built the Madhava Perumal koil. The temple was then called Vikrama Vinnagaram, a reference to this can be found in the inscriptions inside the Gowri Amman and Siva temple (a historical temple that is also said to have been built around the same time as the Madhava Perumal temple) about 2 kms from here.

The story
Indra is said to have come here, bathed at the Vajra Theertham and was liberated from the curse of Gowthama Rishi, who was undertaking penance here. Hence, the lord here is also called ‘Devendran’.

Swayambu Murthies
Both Madhava Perumal and Yoga Narasimha are ‘Swayambu’ idols. Abhishekam takes place only four times a year during Vishnupathi Punyakalam ( 2am) on the first day of the Tamil Calendar months of Vaikasi, Aavani, Karthigai and Maasi.

Madhava Perumal can be seen in a sitting posture with a folded left leg and the right leg on the ground.

The temple currently does not have Utsava deities, which are said to be under the protection of the Palace in Thanjavur. The temple authorities are hoping to have it installed inside the temple in the coming months.

Yoga Narasimha
Lord Narasimha is believed to have killed Vallasuran and then given darshan to the devotees here.

There are Sannidhis for Raama, Azhvaars and Thaayar. A slim Anjaneya looks handsome in a smallish idol. Andal, for whom a separate sannidhi was rebuilt, also looks beautiful.

Contributions to the temple
Pandyas, Hoysalas, Nayaks and Marata kings contributed significantly to the upkeep and renovation of this temple.

20th Century AD-Temple closed for half a century
The temple was ignored for a major part of the last century and remained closed for 48years. With bushes surrounding this entire area, the temple had almost gone into ruins and seemed to become a part of ‘history’ until it was revived a decade ago. After renovation, the temple was reopened in 1996 and has since regained a lot of its lost beauty.

The temple is seeing an increasing number of devotees, of late.

Mottai Gopuram
The temple is currently without a Gopuram. The one that existed previously is believed to have been knocked under the Sultan Invasion.

Quick Facts
Deity : Madhava Perumal (Devarajan) East Facing Sitting Posture
Yoga Narasimha –South Facing
Goddess : Komalavalli
Temple Time : 6am-10am, 530pm-8pm

Contact : S. Kuppuswamy Bhattar @ 99437 32491 or 04362 266553

Festivals : Aadi Pooram Andal Kalyanam, Puratasi Kalyana Utsavam

How to reach Vallam
Buses every 5 minutes between Thanjavur and Trichy. The temple is a 5 minute walk from the Vallam Bus Stand.

Where to stay
Best to stay in Thanjavur

Vaduvur Kothandaramar

Sarobhoji Raja installed the idol of Lord Rama and built this temple

Located 24kms South East of Thanjavur off the Pattukottai Highway and 14kms West of Mannargudi is the Kothandaramar temple at Vaduvur. This place is also referred to as Vakulaaranya Kshetram.

The Story
Originally this was a (Raja) Gopalan temple. Gopalan is seen facing South with Rukmini, Satyamabha and Shengamala Thaayar.

During the rule of Sarobhoji Raja of Thanjavur, it is believed that the idols of Rama and Sita were found under the Indian Fig Tree in the Thiruthuraipoondi Taluk. Sarabhoji Raja, whose plan it was to take it to Thanjavur, is said to have installed the deities in Vaduvur and built the Kothandaramar temple, on the request of the people of Vaduvur.

Kothandaramar, at Vaduvur, is seen as a handsome Lord (like the Raja Gopalan of Mannargudi) with a bow and arrow.

There is also a separate North Facing Sannidhi for Hayagriva.

Behind the temple to the west is a big lake.


Vedic Paatshaala
To the North of the Kothandaramar temple is the Vedic Paatshaala, started here in 2001. Vaduvur has a rich heritage and has been traditionally known for its strong Vedic Education. There is a family called ‘Puraanathaarargal’ who have been rendering ‘Bhaagavatha Paaraayanam’ for generations. About 400 years ago, the swami of Melkote is said to have come here and created his own vyakyanam of ThiruvaiMozhi (Divya Prabhandham). He was born on the same day as Ramanuja and hence was called ‘Saakshaath Swami’.

The Vedha Paatshaala in Vaduvur is an offshoot of the 85 year old Vedic Paatshaala in Mannargudi. There are currently about 50 students (including from Vizag and Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh) in the Paatshaala run by Srimad Andavan Ashram, Srirangam. Vaduvur Veera Valli Ganapadi Desikachari, who is well over 80 years, has been instrumental in imbibing Vedic knowledge into the young students for the last 50 plus years in Mannargudi and now Vaduvur.


Quick Facts
Moolavar : Kothandaramar with Sita, Lakshmanan, Hanuman
                  RajaGopalan, Rukmini, Satyabhama, Shengamala Thaayar

Time         : 8am-12noon, 430pm-830pm
Contact   : Govindarajan @ 94434 48834 / Oppili Deekshithar @ 98652 46471/ Badri Narayana Bhattar @ 04367 225398

Festivals 
Rama Navami- Brahmotsavam (Panguni)
Karthigai 7 day Pavitrotsavam,
Puratasi Desigan, Hayagriva Utsavam,
Vaikasi- Vasantha Utsavam for Gopalan

How to reach Vaduvur
Buses every 10-15 minutes between Thanjavur and Mannargudi. It takes about 45minutes from Thanjavur.

Can also be reached via bus from Thiruvarur and Kumbakonam via Mannargudi

Where to stay
Best to stay in Thanjavur

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thirukudanthai NammAzhvaar Paasuram

NammAzhvaar's praise of Thiru Kudanthai Aaravamudhan

Aaraa Amudhey, Adiyen Udalam, Ninbaal Anbaaye
Neeraai Alainthu Karaya Udukinra Nedumaaley

Seer-Aar Sennel Kavari Veesum
Sezhu Neerth ThiruKudanthai

Er-Aar KolamThigazhk Kidanthaai
Kanden Emmaney



NamAzhvaar falls in love with the Lord who resides by the Cauvery river side amidst all the cool breeze that hits from the fertile paddy fields. He says he has been taken in by the Lord's resplendent beauty, who is seen here in a beautiful reclining posture, the kind not seen any where else.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Singaperumal Koil Narasimha

Ugra Narasimha inside the cave
The 1500 year old temple near Madras is believed to be one of the several cave temples built by the Pallavas

Located about 50 kms South of Madras is the cave temple of Padalathri Narasimha at Singaperumal Koil that finds a mention in the Brahmmanda Purana.
The temple is said to be one among the several cave temples built by the Pallavas. A rock carving at this temple refers to a donation given to this temple around 500 century AD. Hence, this temple can be said to be at least 1500 years old and can be called as a Puraana Sthalam.
(Pallava King Mahendra Varma (580-630AD) had built about ten cave temples during his time)

The Story
During the Narasimha Avataaram time, this place was said to be a big forest. It is believed that Japali Rishi undertook penance at this place and had darshan of the Lord, after the killing of Hiranyakashipu. Given the timing, the Lord here is seen in an angry posture as Ugra Narasimha.
To the North East of the main deity is the Lakshmi Narasimha Sannidhi, who is said to cool the ‘Ugra Narasimha’. Every Pradhosham, special poojas are conducted for the Pradhosha deity.The temple tank, found east of the temple, is said to be full through the year.While Azhvaars have not praised this temple, the Goddess here is the same as the one in Ahobilam (Ahobila Valli).


Quick Facts

Moolavar : Padalathri (Ugra) Narasimha Sitting Posture with Goddess Lakshmi in his chest
Goddess   : Ahobila Valli Thaayar
Utsavar    : Prahalada Varadar with a maze in his left hand
Time        : 7am-12noon and 4pm-830pm
Priest       : V. Gopalakrishna Bhattar @93801 14686 / 044 2746 4441

Festivals 
Brahmotsavam in Vaikasi
Pavitrotsavam in Aavani
Davana Utsavam in Maasi

How to reach Singaperumal Koil
All Sub-Urban Trains from Chennai Beach –Chengalpet stop at Singaperumal Koil Station. (Trains once every hour).Autos charge Rs. 30 from Station to the temple(a distance of less than a km).

New Deluxe buses have been introduced between Chennai city and Chengalpet.
Buses Stop in front of the Temple.These buses are quite comfortable to travel in.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mayakoothan Thiru Kulanthai

Perungulam Perumal Koil-Sani Sthalam

Garuda seen alongside Utsavar -a unique feature at this Divya Desam
10kms North of Thiru Pulingkudi and about 12kms North East of Sri Vaikuntam is the Mayakoothan Perumal Koil in Perungulam and part of the Nava Tirupathi(Divya Desams) near Tirunelveli. This is a Sani Sthalam.

The Story
Vedhacharan and Kumudavalli were childless. They bathed in the river here and undertook penance. Pleased with their prayers, Lord Vishnu blessed them with a daughter. The daughter, Kamalavathi, turned out to be no ordinary girl. She desired to marry the Lord himself and to this end, she relentlessly pursued the Lord offering daily prayers. Moved by her sincerity, the Lord appeared before her and asked for her wishes. Delighted at having darshan of the Lord, she said that her mind had not changed and HE was the one that she wanted. Granting her wishes, he accepted her and took her in his chest.
It is believed that Lord Vishnu came on his Garuda Vaahanam to defeat Asura Asmachaaran. Having defeated the asura, Vishnu is said to have performed his victory dance standing on the asura’s body. The Devas who watched this 'dancing victory' of Lord Vishnu wanted him to provide darshan here as ‘Maaya’ ‘Koothan’.
Special Status for Garuda
Since Garuda was instrumental in bringing the Lord to this place, he was accorded a special status at this temple and is seen as a Utsavar.

Lord is seen alongside Sree Devi, Bhoo Devi and Neela Devi at this temple with Kamaladevi in his chest.


NamAzhvaar Praise
In his only verse on Mayakoothan, NamAzhvaar refers to him as a wonder dancer,riding on Garuda in the West in Southern Kulanthai. His reference to groves and big mansions indicates that this was a prosperous location in centuries gone by. NamAzhvaar says that desiring to see the beauty of the Lord, he went all the way only to lose himself completely on seeing the handsome Lord Mayakoothan.

கூடச் சென்றேன் இனி என் கொடுக்கேன்
கோல்வளை நெஞ்சக் தொடக்கம் எல்லாம்
பாடு அற்று ஒழிய இழந்து வைகல்
பல்வளையார்முன் பரிசு அழிந்தேன்

மாடக் கொடி மதிள் தென் குளந்தை
வன்குட பால் நின்ற மாயகூத்தன்
ஆடல் பறவை உயர்த்த வெல் போர்
ஆழி வலவனை ஆதரித்தே
Thiruvoi Mozhi (8-2-4)


For auto to Nava Tirupathi temples contact:  9442370844 / 94435 27620

Quick Facts
Moolavar      : Sora Nathan (Sora Naattiyan), Srinivasan East facing Standing Posture
Thayar          : Kulanthai Valli Thaayar, Alarmel Mangai Thaayar
Utsavar         : Maaya Koothan
Azhavaar      : Nam Azhvaar- 1 Pasuram
Temple timing : 730am-1230pm and 430pm-730pm
Contact    : Venkatesa Bhattar @ 94436 19222/Muthukrishnan Bhattar@99940 98664

How to reach:
Perungulam is about 15kms East of SriVaikuntam and near Eral. After finishing Mayakoothan perumal, one can visit Rettai Tirupathi (about 5kms from here and then move West to finish the Nava Tirupathi trip with Pulingudi and Natham Divya Desams)

Thirumangai Azhvaar on Thiru Vinnagar UppiliAppan

Lord -Free me from this birth

Paar Ezhu, Kadal Ezhu, Malai Ezhumaai
Seer Kezhum Ivvulagu Ezham Ellaam
Aar Kezhu Vayitrunil Adakki Ninru, Angu
Or Ezhuthu Or Uru Aanavaney

Aandaai, Unai Kaanbathu Or Arul
Enakku Arulaathiyel, Venden,Manai Vaazhkaiyai
Vinnagar Meyavaney – 1452



To you belongs the 7 Continents, the 7 Oceans and the 7 hills and everything else in this world. You who decided not to eat salty food. I request you to grace me- I have had enough of this world. I seek no more from this world. Lord of Vinnagar - Please free me from this birth

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Madurantakam Eri Kaatha Raamar

Kothanda Raamar is seen holding the hand of Sita

Located about 80kms South of Madras on the Madras-Tiruchirapalli Grand Southern Trunk (GST) Road is the Kothandaraamar(Eri Kaatha Raamar) Temple in Madurantakam. This place was once referred to as Vakularanya Kshetram (this place is believed to have been full of Maghizham flowers- Vakulam= Maghizham flowers. Hence the name.).
The story- Raama visiting this place
Vibandaka Maharishi’s son Rishya Singar was the one who helped King Dasharatha conduct the Putra Kameshti Yaagam which resulted in the birth of Raama.

In his search for Sita, Rama and Lakshmana reached Vibandaka Maharishi’s ashram here in Madurantakam. It is believed that the Rishi reassured Raama that he will locate Sita and wanted him to visit this place and provide Darshan along with Sita.

After having defeated Ravana, Rama comes back with Sita on the Pushpaka Vimaanam showing her, on the way, all the places that he had been to in search of her. On reaching Nyana Giri Parvatham, he was reminded of his promise to Vibandaka Rishi.

To fulfil this commitment, he is said to have landed here in the Pushpaka Vimanam and given darshan to Vibandaka Rishi along with Sita and Lakshmana.

No Hanuman inside the temple
A unique feature at this temple is the absence of Hanuman inside the temple. As Raama had sent Hanuman as a messenger to inform Bharata that he was on his way and did not come along with Raama in the Pushpaka Vimaanam, Hanuman is not seen inside the temple.

It is also believed that having given the idol of Lord Ranganatha to the new Lankan king Vibeeshana, Raama, the king of Ayodhya, is said to have invoked the blessings of Karunakara Perumal and that he was the pooja deity of Raama.

Karunakara Perumal

The Name-Eri Kaatha Raamar
Just over a couple of centuries ago, in 1798, the people of Madurantakam sought the help of the then British Collector at Chengalpet Lionel Blaze to protect the temple from the floods that would strike the town every year, resulting in the breach of the tank bund, thus ravaging the villages and the crop.

The collector, who found some granite stones behind the temple, suggested that these be used to prevent the breach. In the argument that followed, he was told that these stones were to be used for the construction of the Sannidhi for the Goddess inside the Kothandarama temple. Not pleased with this answer, the General questioned as to why their favourite Lord could not protect this place.

Reacting to this, the people of Madurantakam performed Vishnu Sahasranama Parayanam seeking Lord Raama’s help. With the rains belting down and the lake close to its brim, the Collecter visited Madurantakam once again and this time is believed to have camped here on the night that the tank bud was expected to breach and lash out into the temple and the entire town.

What he saw that night was a miraculous event. Amidst the flash of lightening, he saw two people in the lake holding a bow (and arrow). The next morning, to everyone’s surprise, there was no breach and everything was normal.

A delighted collector is said to have immediately allocated 10000 Pagodas for the construction of the Thaayar Sannidhi and a bridge across the lake, just behind the temple.

As Lord Raama is believed to have protected this place from the bursting of the lake bud, this place is called ‘Eri Kaatha Raamar’.

The meeting of Ramanuja with Periya Nambi
Ramanuja, coming from Kanchipuram, met with his Acharya Periya Nambi, sent by Lord Ranganatha to bring Ramanuja to Srirangam, at this temple below the Makila tree and Pancha Samskaram took place here. Amongst Ashtaacharam, Dwayam and Saramaslokam, Ramanuja is said to have been specifically initiated with the ‘Dwayam’ manthiram here. Hence, this place is also called ‘Dwayam Valaintha Tirupathi’.

Rama Navami Celebrations – The Lord in 5 different attires

On the Rama Navami day, Raama provides darshan in five different attires- ‘Lord with a Plait’, ‘Ekaantha Vastram’, ‘ThiruAabarana Alankaaram’, ‘Vaira Mudi Sevai’ and ‘Muthu Kondai’.

Parivettai Utsavam


Once a year, on the 3rd day of the Tamil Calendar month of Thai (mid January to mid February) on the occasion of Parivettai Utsavam, Karunakara Perumal goes on a procession to Nyana Giri Parvatham, the hill where Raama is believed to have descended on his Pushpaka Vimaanam.

History
This temple is believed to be about 1500 years old. Uthama Chozhan, the ancestor of the great Chozha king Raja Raja Chozhan, is said to have played a role in the construction of this temple and is believed to have dedicated and given this temple to those learned Vedic Scholars (Vedham Othum Anthanar).

Later, Pandya and Naayak kings are said to have helped in the renovation and contributed to the improvement of the temple. Naayaks are believed to have constructed the Raja Gopuram that is seen today.


Ahobila Mutt Educational Institution
Outside the Eri Kaatha Raamar temple is a six decade old Oriental high school run by Ahobila Mutt with hostel facilities. Started in 1950, the school runs classes from 6th to 10th standard with Sanskrit as the first language.

The Ahobila Mutt also runs, entirely free of cost for the students, a 7 year Vedic Education class, a 5 year class to learn Divya Prabhandham and a 5 year Shiromani class (equivalent to MA). The school currently has around 150 students, who have come from across Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Quick Facts

Moolavar : Kothanda Raamar(Kalyana Raamar) with a bow in Hand, East Facing Standing Posture
Goddess : Janaka Valli Thaayar

Utsavar : 1. Karunakara Perumal
2. Raama

Temple Time : 730am-12noon and 430pm-830pm

Contact : Rangarajan Bhattar @98429 09880 or 93814 82008

Address : Lord Kothanda Raamar Temple, Madurantakam- 603 306

Festival : Sri Raama Navami in Panguni, 15 day Brahmotsavam in Aani,Bashyakaarar Jayanthi in Chitrai

How to reach Madurantakam
Buses every 5-10mts between Madras (Chennai) and Tindivanam/Villipuram/Trichy

By Train
One may also take the Sub-Urban train to Chengalpet and then a 30 minute bus drive to Madurantakam (25kms from Chengalpet)is a good option.

By Car
With the 6 laning of the Chennai-Trichy highway, one can reach Madurantakam from Chennai in an hour and half by car

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kalyanapuram Srinivasa Perumal

A Temple that finds a reference in a historical scripture relating to Kandiyur Divya Desam

Located in a serene location about 10kms North of Thanjavur and 2kms South of Thiruvayaru is the temple of Lord Srinivasa in Kalyanapuram, one that dates back a 1000 years or so. One finds reference to this temple in the verse relating to Kandiyur Divya Desam which is about 2 kms South of Kalyanapuram. This place was once referred to as the Srinivasa Kshetram.

“Cauverya….Dakshinney Subhataayakey…….
Siddhi Kshetrothrarey….. Nairudhyaam Sangama….
Srinivasya Vaayavye Kandan Kshetramuthamam.”

Centuries ago, the direction to this temple, was given as 4miles North of Vannar Banks, South West of Aaduthurai Perumal Divya Desam and East of Srirangam.

Talking about the historical importance of Kalyanapuram, Thirumeiyam Shri. S. Satyamurthy, who has been here for the last 6 decades says, “Shivaji Nayakkar, who was ruling Thanjavur, took a trip to Kasi and was quite impressed with the surroundings there around the Ganges. He came back and built bridges across the five famous rivers between Thanjavur and Thiruvayaru. This serene place- Srinivasa Kshetram- was dedicated to his wife Kalyani Bai and this became the hub of educational and vedic learning. This place came to be called Kalyanipuram after her name, and over time became Kalyanapuram.”

One can find inscriptions relating to the construction in the old river bridge on the Thanjavur Thiruvayaru road.

*River Cauvery splits into 5 small rivers and the sight of these rivers, amidst greenery, is beautiful to watch and experience

Quick Facts
Deity : Srinivasa Perumal, Standing Posture East facing
Goddess : Alarmel Mangai Thaayar

Contact : Prasanna Bhattar @ 94424 21029 or S. Sathya Murthy @ 04362 262903

Timing : 730am-1030am and 530pm-8pm

Festivals: Garuda Sevai and Praarthanai Kalyana Utsavam are very special here.

How to reach Kalyanapuram
Local buses every 5-10minutes between Thanjavur and Thiruvayaru. One can also take the bus between Thanjavur and Ariyalur to get down at Kalyanapuram

Auto will charge Rs.100-120/- from Thanjavur Railway Station/Old Bus Stand

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Train Travel- A unique occurrence

A code that technology has not cracked or atleast Indian Railways has not cracked.


November 1 marks a revision in the timings of trains down South(Chennai Egmore to Kanniyakumari).

Technology has been a great enabler in terms of online train ticket booking. However, technology today proved that manual intervention still plays a role in life.

Here goes the story:

Salem-Chennai Express(Train No. 2298) leaves Salem at 21.40, arrives in Vriddachalam at 00.05hours and departs at 00.15 hours.(as per current timings).

Beginning November 1, this train will leave Salem at 21.00 and arrive at Vriddachalam Junction at 23.30 and depart at 23.40

Those who want to travel by this train(Train No. 2298) from Vriddachalam to Chennai on Friday night/Saturday morning (31st Oct night/ 1st November morning) will be in for a rude shock. The online portal(irctc.co.in) does not show the existence of this train!!!

Yes, Why so??

Because in possibly one of a kind occurrence, Train No. 2298(Salem Chennai Exp) halts twice on November 1 at Vriddachalam Junction.

The train that leaves Salem on 31st Oct at 940pm halts at Vriddachalam at 0.05hours on November 1(just after mid night) and Train that leaves Salem on 1st November evening at 9pm(after revised timing from Nov 1) halts at Vriddachalam at 23.30.

Hence, on November 1, the train No. 2298 halts there twice- first at 0.05hours and later that night at 23.30 hours.

The online portal as well as all the computer terminals recognise only the train that leaves Vriddachalam at 23.30. (i.e the train that leaves Salem on Nov 1 night at 9pm and not the train that leaves Salem on October 31 at 940pm)

Hence if you want to book a ticket from Vriddachalam to Chennai on 31st night/1st morning, you will not be able to book through online or through any of the computer reservation terminals.

You would have to do a manual booking – but that booking will be from Chinna Salem to Chennai Egmore because the train halts at Chinna Salem on 31st night at around 10pm.

Since technology recognises only one halt for a train number on a given day, two halts for the same train at the same station on the same day is a code that technology has still not cracked!!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sunil Gavaskar-Role Model Cricketer for Next Generation

CNN IBN Rajdeep Sardesai’s interview with Sachin-Gavaskar
Sunil Gavaskar as a role model

One would have hoped for some new insights from Rajdeep Sardesai’s interview with Sunil(Gavaskar) and Sachin(Tendulkar) but it turned out to be a damp squib. Guess it was meant to be a ‘positive hype’ interview of the two legends of Indian cricket and the aim was not to provide any fresh perspective into the cricketing lives of Sachin and Sunil. In fact, it turned out to be truly disappointing with the two players exchanging compliments.

Could not Rajdeep have asked them to select one other player instead of making it a ‘complimentary session’ for each other. It also seemed Rajdeep had not done enough research into the cricketing lives of the two or may be this interview was not meant for that.

Yesterday’s interview led me to ask if Gavaskar of the 1970s and 1980s was a role model for the next generation, as was kind of positioned in the interview( or may be he was a role model to emulate in terms of the number of runs he scored...but is 'Role Model' defined by the batting or bowling contribution alone) - Yes he did score runs and in tons and thousands. And no denying his great contribution in the number of runs he made, the quality of those runs, the soundest of techniques seen for an Indian opener, his almost flawless catching at first slip and his captaincy.

But was he a role model outside of the runs he made. Read the following:

1. In 1975, when India was chasing 300 plus in 60overs against England in the first World Cup under Venkataraghavan’s captaincy, Gavaskar scored 36 Not Out in 60 overs!!! Is that the mark of a role model- a team player?
2. In 1980-81, he forced his opening partner CPS Chauhan to walk off after being given out LBW to Dennis Lillee in a test in Australia. Was Australia’s biased umpiring in those days and/or Lillee’s provocation (if any) a justifiable reason for the world’s greatest opener to force his partner to walk off the ground in a Test Match!!!
3. In a domestic Ranji Trophy match in the early 1980s and a prestigious and high profile match at that (Bombay v Karnataka was one of the best duels in those days in domestic cricket), Gavaskar shocked one and all deciding to bat left handed, all of a sudden, leaving every one bewildered including the umpires!!! Is this a role model story???
4. In the mid 1980s, Gavaskar captaining India against the touring Zaheer Abbas’s Pakistan refused to agree to an early finish on the final evening when there was no chance of a result(other than a draw)- Reason….. Gavaskar was close to a century!!!! Zaheer protested….but ultimately match had to continue(because match could be called off only if mutually agreed by the two captains) and Gavaskar completed his century….Role Model????
5. Gavaskar dropped Kapil Dev from a test match for that one rash shot (which supposedly cost India the match) against England to teach Kapil a lesson and to make him more responsible….. Role Model!!! For someone who played 60 overs and scored 36 runs, any one playing a shot would be a villain…

While I guess Rajdeep’s interview was a platform to showcase the greatness of these two great Indian cricketers and to that end I think it served its purpose, I wish he had brought out the darker or tougher moments of these two great cricketers and asked as to how they handled those days….

Rajdeep also spoke about the two legends making runs against the toughest of opponents and asked if they moved a notch up playing against tougher opponents. Good line of thought….(Gavaskar against the West Indies and Tendulkar against Australia, but what about Gavaskar’s repeated failures in Australia when his team needed him the most)

For example, what was the dressing room scenario on the evening after Gavaskar batted 60overs for 36 runs or did he ever regret asking his helpless opening partner to walk off in that test in Australia in an embarrassing moment for Indian cricket.

There is no doubting that Gavaskar was the greatest opening bat of his generation and he thwarted many a new ball attack (and some of the best ones at that- yes Marshall, Roberts, Holding, Imran Khan etc…) in his fearless style in the non-helmet days. However, he was no role model… GRV recalling Bob Taylor in the Golden Jubilee test of 1980 was closer to a ‘Role Model’ scenario in what was once called a ‘Gentleman’s game’.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Darasuram Airavateswarar Temple

Chozha's 'Wonder Work on Stone'

This 12th Century AD Airavateswarar Temple in Darasuram (originally called Raja Rajeswaram) was the third in the series of temples built by the great Chozha Kings of that time.

While the 10th Century AD Thanjavur’s Brihadeeswarar temple, built by Raja Raja Chozha 1 is known for its tall tower, covers a huge area and symbolises bigness (hence called the Big Temple/Periya Koil), Darasuram’s Airavateswarar temple,built by Raja Raja Chozhan II,is a marvel and a standing example of the architectural expertise and 'work on stone' of the Chozha kings. The Jagannath Puri temple in Konark is believed to have taken inspiration from Darasuram’s architectural master piece.

The Name
The lingam is believed to have been worshipped by Indra’s white elephant (Airavatham) and hence the name ‘Airavateswarar’.

The Story
The Lord of Death, Yama, once incurred the wrath of a rishi and was cursed to have burning sensation all over his body. Yama is said to have visited this temple and invoked the blessings of Lord Airavateswarar by bathing in the temple tank. Pleased with his prayers, Airavateswarar is said to have liberated Yama from his curse.

Architecture
While being smaller in size, Darasuram’s Airavateswarar temple is easily the most artistic piece of construction among the four grand temples constructed by the Chozhas- Thanjavur’s Big Temple, Gangai Konda Cholapuram (North of Kumbakonam on the Sethia Thope-Vadalur-Neyveli Highway) and Thirubhuvanam (East of Kumbakonam enroute to Mayavaram).

Chariot Shaped Main Mandapam
The main Raja Gambira Mandapam is in the form of a chariot driven by Horses(Chariot Mandapam) - Eastern side and Western side. Inside this are 108 pillars, each one with exquisite sculptures depicting a historical event or a dancing moment- Shiva’s marriage attended by Vishnu and Brahmma, the entire sequence of Murugan Kalyanam, Saraswathi in Yoga Posture, Kannappa Nayanar, Annapoorani-with sharp nails that has been crafted beautifully, miniature forms of Pillayar, Shiva, Parvathi, Murugan.

While on the eastern side of the mandapam, one finds Saraswathi with a closed lotus (symbolic of the rising sun) and as one moves on to the western side one finds the depiction of Saraswathi with an open lotus (symbolic of the Sun having moved on to the west). On the upper walls of the Raja Gambira Mandapam, there are some drawings- of demons and birds, a large portion of which has lost its form and one finds only sketches.

Periya Puranam
Periya Puranam, a poetic account of the lives of the 63 Nayanmars, is depicted in a miniature form through 17th century vegetable colour paintings.

Some of the interesting and distinctive sculptures that stand out are Arthanareeswarar (half Shiva-half Shakthi) at the Eastern Entrance, Arjuna’s Penance, Agastyar and Naga Raja (Snake Lord) and Rathi-Manmatha story on the Southern side.


Chopped off Nandi’s head

On the Southern side of the temple, one finds a line of lamp posts on the ground. Lamps were believed to have been placed on top every evening. Along side the stretch of lamp posts are sculptures of Nandi, whose heads have been knocked off (I will stay away from the details relating to this rather treacherous act but one can guess as to who chopped off the head and during whose assaults at the Airavateswarar temple!!!!)

Yaali

At the Thirumaligai Mandapam, on the North Western side of the temple, one is welcomed by a beautiful depiction of Yaali, the mythological animal- Single body in 5 forms- Elephant’s tusk, Lion’s body, Goat’s horns, Pig’s ears and the tail of a cow. One can only wonder at the minute detailing of the sculptor and the effort that must have gone into this depiction.

A hiding Rama striking Vali in the Sugreeva-Vali fight is another interesting artistic work seen at the Thiru Maligai Mandapam.

Ball Dance of 12th Century AD
If one thought that ball dance was a recent invention, one would have to go back and look at this 12th Century AD sculpture.

Some of the artistic work that keeps you hooked on to the Northern side of the tower are Durgai, Mahisaasura Mardhini, Raavana on Mount Kailasa, Bairavar, a flute playing Radha Krishna and Dhanvantri. Across the entire stretch, there are also several carvings of ladies exhibiting their gymnastic skills.

On the North Eastern side, there is depiction of Vishnu playing drums in the Nataraja Dance Mandapam.

As one gets inside the Raja Gambira Mandapam and on way to the sanctum of Iravateswarar, one finds the pillars that are very simplistic and without any artistic work, reason being that one should not be distracted while praying to the Lord.
Wild Bull and an Elephant


A distinctive feature-Construction of the temple – Chozhas v Nayaks
While the base of the temple was built by the Chozhas, as can be seen from the granite construction, the top portion/structure was renovated by the Nayak Kings as can be seen from the mixture of the construction materials used- Gun Powder and Red Bricks.

The main Eastern entrance to the temple remains a Mottai Gopuram(no tower). Interestingly and not to be seen elsewhere, the Amman Sannidhi is in a separate temple just next to and North of the Airavateswarar temple.

Not to miss when at Darasuram
Beautiful Silk Sarees on the street opposite the Amman temple

How to reach Darasuram
Darasuram is about 3kms South West of Kumbakonam off the Thanjavur Highway.
Rock Fort Express from Chennai/ Mysore Mayiladuthurai Express from Bangalore to Kumbakonam. State Transport buses every 5 minutes from Trichy/Thanjavur to Kumbakonam.

Auto to Darasuram temple costs about Rs. 75/- from the Railway Station/ Bus Stand

There is a registered guide (Chinnadurai) at the temple to take visitors around the temple(He has been around since 1970).