Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Valparai - Intoxicatingly yours !

The summer vacations this year was mostly a drab and spent running behind the hyper kids not to mention simmering in the sweltering heat indoors.The harried me needed a break even if  it was a very short one and that's how we landed in Valparai.
A quaint little hill station dotted with tea estate  all over was the perfect antidote to the cauldron that was Trichy. The picturesque place overwhelms you with its  unpolluted charm and it's like you have checked in to paradise.

With abundant lush carpeted mountains and misty curtain hanging all over, I never wanted to wake up from the dreamy state we were in for 2 whole days. 

Valparai, a hill town is located 3500 feet above the sea level on the Anaimalai hill range of the western ghats. It is roughly 65 kms from Pollachi and a good 100 kms from Coimbatore (Tamilnadu,South India). The place is high on nature and every inch of it manages to keep you mesmerized. En-route to Valparai from Pollachi is a scenic drive and passes through the Indira Gandhi Wild Life Sanctuary, Aaliyar Dam & the Monkey Falls.

Often called as the Switzerland of South India and popularly referred to as Seventh Heaven the place is surrounded by evergreen forest, greenery and lush foliage all over. As far as your eyes go, the land is a tea haven with many private tea companies having a huge stake.

The road to the top is through 40 hair pin bends that offers you such stunning view of the area below.

In one of the winding bend, we spotted a solitary Nilgiri Tahr also known as Nilgiri Ibex or simply ibex. This endemic wild goat is known as Varaiaadu (வறைஆடு ) in local areas

 Guess what makes a regular visit here - Elephants & Bisons. 

Monkeys & deers make themselves equally comfortable and can be spotted every once in a while.

We stayed at Misty Creek - Homestay. This idyllic accommodation has well furnished and clean rooms overlooking a gurgling stream. 

Located in a residential street, the stay is not very far from the Valparai town. Head to Misty Creek if you are looking for peace & calm. 24 * 7 hot water in this home stay is yet another plus. The stream as clicked from just outside our room was beautiful.

The owner of the property Mr.Frank Benjamin popularly known as Benny was a gracious host. He looked after the food requirements & also advised us on the must-visit places. Besides, he organised a Night Safari in a Tata Sumo to spot some wild animals. Armed with camera & flash-lights we looked forward to this nocturnal trip feverishly hoping a leopard might want to catch a leisurely stroll  thereby gracing us with his presence. No such luck though. However, the drive in to the dark alleys of Valparai after 11 PM was not entirely unlucky. We spotted a lone Tusker at a considerable distance  enjoying some sugarcanes. Also a bison and few wild boars were seen lazying around before disappearing in to the night.

Waking up early to the singing birds my heart lapped up all the charming hues of the morning sky even as the sun rose in the horizon.

After a hearty breakfast provided by the host, we started our sight-seeing and the first on card was the nearby Subramanya Temple.


15 Kms from Valparai, this view point is situated in a private tea estate - Nallamudi Tea Estate. To get to the viewpoint, there is a walk of 1 km inside the estate. Along the way we see many tea pickers going about their job with a spirited fervour. My daughter fancied picking some tea leaves and had good fun doing it. On the we saw some dropping of elephant and were told that the pachyderms make a regular visit. Leopards are also said to prowl here. The view from this point is beautiful. A deep valley and a few waterfalls catch our eye.

Tea-picking by Samyu with expert guidance :D


This place receives the second highest rainfall in India after Cherrapunji. To visit this place there is a good walk in to the forest


Situated at a distance of 25 kms from Valparai, the drive to this place is refreshing and scenic. It is the second deepest dam in Asia and is one of the longest too !


Owned by Peria Karamalai Tea Company, it is a very beautiful temple with well tended gardens sporting such lovely flowers. The temple is on a high altitude and the steep walk on the estate housing this temple is roughly 1/2 km. The presiding deity Lord Balaji is the same like Tirupathi Venkateswara.

Besides Koozhangal River, Siddhi Vinayagar Temple, Neerar Dam, Annai Vellankanni CHurch, Grass Hills are a must visit.

The short getaway was a well enjoyed break leaving us quite refreshed and wishing for more.But we have promised ourselves to soak in the scenic beauty and further explore the area sometime soon :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Thiruvengadu Budhan Temple (Navagraha Temple - Planet Mercury)

A trip to the Navagraha Temples was one of the must-do's when my parents visited me. While a few of them has already been explored by yours truly and blogged about, revisiting them again was a spiritual high. We  ended the trip savoring every aspect of all the temples pertaining to the 9 planets. Each temple had a nuanced story or a legend. While many legends are supported  by manuscripts or carvings, what held us in awe was the popular belief of the locals. Truly, faith and hope is what runs the world around. 

Thiruvengadu is for Budhan (புதன் )/ Planet Mercury.

Situated near Poompuhar in Sirkazhi Taluk, Nagapattinam District, Thiruvengadu housing Budhan, (Planet Mercury) is also called as Adhi Chidambaram  and Kings Aaditya Chola & Rajaraja Chola have contributed immensely in its development. Visiting this temple is said to be equivalent to visiting Kashi.

This temple has the distinction of being praised and sung paeans to by the royal 4 – Appar, Sundarar, Manickavasagar and Thirugnanasambandar.The temple is a huge structure and houses 3 big ponds/teerthams and 5 praharams (perimeter).  The 3 ponds are agni teertham, surya teertham and Chandra teertham.

Lord Swetaranyeshwarar is the presiding deity while Brahma Vidya Nayagi is his consort. There's a huge Nandi(Bull) before the Lord's Sanctum that just stuns you with it's well carved structure.

Lord Shiva in the form of Nataraj looks stunning and he is said to have performed 7 forms of dance in this temple. His dance is called as the Hasti nadanam and the 7 forms are Anandha Tandavam, Sandhya Tandavam, Samhara Tandavam,Tirupuranadha Tandavam, Bhujanga Thandavam,Urdhava TandvM nd Lalitha Tandavam. 

The reason this place is called as Adhi Chidambaram is because like in chidambaram there is a sanctum for Lord Vishnu right behind Lord Shiva's.

There is a separate space for Lord Shiva as Agoramurthy(with a beast head and bird’s body) also called as veerabhadrar. The idol is a good 6 ft tall and is under a vanni maram(vanni tree).Legend goes that a demon named Maruthuvan recklessly tortured saints and devas after receiving a boon from Brahma. The Devas went to Shiva for helping them out. Lord Shiva took the form of Agoramurthy  and destroyed the evil demon.

Other than the above there are many idols of Goddess Kali/ Durga including a serene Pillai Idukkai Amman. The Goddess is portrayed holding a child and hence the name.The story behind is the renowned poet Thirugnanasambandar visited this temple and found it to be akin to Shivloka with various shivlings scattered around. Unable to place his foot for fear of stamping on those lingas, he called out aloud to Shakthi who appeared in the form of Goddess Periyanayagi. She lifted him like a mother would lift her child and the same is portrayed.

A separate sanctum for Budhan is our next stop.Just opposite to the idol of Budhan is that of Planet Chandra (father of Budhan). Budhan if appeased is said to bestow skills in art, music and education. medicine, wisdom, knowledge. The planet is appeased by offerings of Green Clot or Green Mung Dal.

Budhan Mantra and it's meaning:-(Source:here)

Priyangu Kalika Shyamam
Roopena Prathimam Budham
Soumyam Soumya Gunopetham
Namami Shashinam Sutham

O Son of the Moon and Representer of all academic Knowledge ! My salutations
to Thee !
Just outside the temple there is another must-visit abode of knowledge and wisdom

Sir Mahaperiyava Thirukovil and Sri Rama mada Veda Vyasa Ashramam

The building houses a whole lot of treasures including various photographs of Maha Periyava including a life like statue of HIM.

It also houses a vedapada  salai where young boys are tutored all the vedas & shastras thereby enlightening them with profound knowledge.

Visiting this temple and the vedapadasalai was spiritually enlightening.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Koothanur Maha Saraswathi Temple (Goddess of Knowledge and Learning)

My parents are holidaying with us for the past few days and the kids are having a blast. It's a pleasure to watch my folks become kids all over again. Samyuktha & Sreenivas are not only indulging in all merriment , but also learning a whole lot of things with fun and ease. We have embarked on visiting quite a few temples and my daughter is delighted with this spiritual cum fun trip. 

One of the temples we visited was the Maha Saraswathi Temple in Koothanur. Saraswathi, the Goddess of learning and wisdom has a special shrine devoted to her and it is the only temple in the whole state of Tamilnadu.

Koothanur, a town situated in the Thiruvarur district of Tamilnadu, is approximately 25kms from Mailaduthurai and 19 kms from Thiruvarur. The Goddess who is the consort of Lord Brahma is seated in a white lotus and is the embodiment of all grace, glory and divinity. Draped in white, she holds a Veena, (Musical instrument) , which represents mastery over art and music. She is generally shown to have four arms, which represent the four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness, and ego. While her left lower hand holds a book of scriptures (Vedas) that represents knowledge and wisdom, her right lower hand is in a protective blessing pose. Her two upper hands are said to hold a pot of sacred liquid and a beaded mala (chain) representing powers of creativity,spirituality and meditation. 

According to the history, King Rajaraja Chola donated this temple to Ottakoothar a renowned poet so that he could compose in peace. Hence this town came  to be called as Koothanur = Koothan (the poet) + oor (village). 

Legend holds that, once a dispute arose between Lord Brahma and Saraswathi. The quarrel between both of them worsened and hence to teach them a lesson they were born as siblings in the Earth. When their parents started looking for suitable matches  they recalled their original relationship and approached Lord Shiva for the solution. Lord Shiva made Saraswathi as part of the Ganga river and brought her to Koothanur as Arasalar river. She became the Sacred Water for Lord Shiva. She also was blessed with a temple for Herself in Koothanur. Lord Shiva also go Rivers Ganga and Yamuna to converge with Saraswati River in to the Arasalar and hence this place being a confluence of 3 holy rivers is called as Dakshina Triveni Sangamam.

The Navrathiri Festival especially the Saraswati Puja is celebrated with much fanfare and pomp.On Vijayadasami, the children folk to this temple to get the blessings for the Vidyarambam. After seeking her blessings by writing on paper/slate/rice grains covered dish, they go on to get admission

Not only does the Goddess shower her devotees with wisdom, her blessings go a long way in empowering a person to shine throughout in life. Children are taken to school for admission after a visit to this temple and performing a puja. Those aspiring for higher education,arts, craft and music also perform their prayers to shine in their chosen profession.

With the schools  slated for reopening in the first  and second week of June, it was heartening to see many kids seated reverently before the Goddess and religiously write alphabets on slates or in notebooks with/without help from their parents.

A must-visit abode of enlightenment and wisdom !