Pilgrimage - Phase 1

Tue, 16 Sep 2008.

We were in Bangalore Cantonment Railway Station at 6.30 PM, well ahead of the arrival time of Mysore-Mayiladuthurai train. This was the train route (courtesy, erail.in, which, by the same, is an awesome site for train information in India).

The train was late (so what's new), and after taking off from Cantonment, spent nearly half an hour in Byappanahalli Station as well! We had packed our dinner and once consumed, hit the sack.

Wed, 17 Sep 2008.

The train must have picked up speed for 5.45 AM found us at Kumbakonam Railway Station. We checked into Hotel Raya's (Annexe 1). The Standard A/c room was so large as to accomodate 2 extra beds, which meant all the four of us could be together.

Breakfast was at the nearby hotel. We had arranged for a car to take us around. The driver Chandramouli (Mouli Taxis) was well informed of the place.

Kumbakonam is a temple town. The plan was to cover a subset of navagraha temples, plus additional temples in the route (or as time permits). This gives an idea of how the navagraha temples are laid out.

It was 8.45 AM. We started out with Alangudi Guru (Jupiter) temple, about 17 km from Kumbakonam. The temple has Lord Siva as the main diety, though the temple is prominent for Guru.

After this, we proceeded on the same route to Thirunageswaram, which houses Rahu temple. This is a larger temple with beautiful gopurams. It had become quite hot by then. Carpets had been thoughtfully placed in some locations to lessen the impact to the bare soles! Besides the Siva diety, Girugujamba diety is also present, who is flanked by Saraswathy on one side and Lakshmi on the other.

We then retraced our route and changed directions to go to Suryanaar, which as the name indicates houses the temple for Surya. One interesting discovery that we made was that, this temple also had separate small temples for all grahas - thus a navagraha temple-in-one! The main temple had Surya and Guru, and then one had to follow a particular sequence (anti-clockwise) to cover the rest of the grahas. It was auspicious to do 9 circumambulation of the dieties, which considering the weather was quite a task.

A tender coconut drink refreshed us and we gave a shot at Kanjanur Shukran temple, 3 km away. It was 12.45 PM and temples usually close at 1 PM. However, it being a lean day (the busy days are Friday to Monday), the temple was closed by the time we reached.

Back we went to Kumbakonam for lunch and some rest.

We recommenced our journey at 3.30 PM - the first place of worship was Vaitheeswaran temple. This was a fair distance from Kumbakonam. The temple is gigantic and houses Lord Siva, as also Chowwa (Mars).

From here, we went to Thiruvenkaadu (Budhan) temple and Keezhaperumpalam (Kethu) temple nearby. It was now close to 7.30 PM, but our driver felt we should give a shot at Thirunallar Sani temple.

This temple is in Pondicherry and we crossed the border. It was 8.15 PM when we reached the temple. But it was still open and we could have a good darshan.

Then it was a long drive back to our place, where we reached exhausted.

Thur, 18 Sep 2008.

We started leisurely after recovering from the hectic schedule of the previous day. The first halt was Rajagopalaswamy Temple in Mannarkudi. In contrast to the temples of yesterday (which were all Shaivaite temples), this is a Vaishnavite temple. We had an excellent darshan, especially since the temple wasn't crowded.

A few kilometres from the temple, we found a gigantic tank, (theppakkulam, as it is said in the local language). While the weather was hot, the periphery of the tank was cool. There were trees surrounding the tank, which provided shade as well. We took a few snaps here.

We then returned to Kumbakonam and had enough time to visit Sarangapani and Adi Kumbeswarar temples.

It was time for lunch and Meenakshi Bhavan it was, like yesterday. The Air-conditioned hall was not functioning due to the prevailing power cut. As we saw, Kumbakonam was experiencing around five hours of power cut every day.

The afternoon leg was devoted to an interesting temple called GarbhaRakshambigai in a town called Thirukadakaavoor. We had to take a 5 km detour to reach this town, as a bridge to cross the local river was under construction.

Once back in Kumbakonam, we visited a couple more Vaishnavite temples - Ramaswamy and Chakrapani.

Fri, 19 Sep 2008.

I took a walk in the morning and got to visit a few more temples - Kasi Viswanathar and Nageswarar temples. It was then time to bid Kumbakonam goodbye.

One could easily spend a week in Kumbakonam and not cover half the temples in and around the town.