About me

Am a contradiction of sorts. i love going out and having a good time with friends, and i can also stay home chill out over a book or a movie..

Am very passionate about writing, so give me a topic and watch me float away into wonderland... Love reading books- sometimes i read 3books simultaneously, crazy about music- need it all around me, all the time and ofcourse, i totally am ga ga goo goo over my 7yr old naughty brat- Floppy!! errr, Prince Floppy!! :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Holy Trails...

A boat jetty while on the train

After the wonderful weekend trip it was time for a family outing.. Spent less than 24hours in Chennai before i was off on the train to Mangalore, to head towards Sringeri.[one of the 4 Mutts established by Adi Shankaracharya]. We are all followers of this Mutt and my grandparents make couple of trips during the year. Me - well, i go once in a while!! :)

The Main Sharadambal temple

My cousin's poonal [ Holy thread ceremony] was slated for 4th June, so we booked tickets for the 2nd June!! I was travelling with my parents after ages, felt nice... :) Packed 3sarees[yes, here we wear only sarees, atleast around the temple campuses] , 2 salwars, other essentials, and i was set!!

On the steps of River Tunga..

 The train journey was very nice... esp while we were going past Kerala.. The back waters, West coast, the ocean waves lapping against the shore, fishermen on their small boats, absolutely scenic and breath taking...

Elephants during evening snack

We reached Mangalore around 9.30am on 3rd, hopped into the cab waiting for us and headed towards Sringeri. The route is scenic, Ghats are beautiful and there is something mystical about them. if you were look out the window, you can see River Tunga flowing peacefully down below [except during the monsoons, where she rages on]... Takes about 2.5 hours to reach Sringeri, and by the time we checked into our room it was 12.45pm...!! Normally, we halt at Hotel Sreenivas for breakfast, but since we had already had some on the train, we rode along...

Vidhyashankar temple

Sringeri is one such place where people come for religious purposes, to admire the architecture, worship Gods and Goddesses or as a tourist spot.. Early on, there wasnt so much of Tourist crowd that used to throng the place, but now that crowd is enough to put me off!! eeks... people crawling all over the place, noisy and dirty!! hehehe..

The stone idol of Adi shankara in the garden

A place i've been familiar with for over 15yrs is where am most comfortable wandering about in. No worries of getting lost, or running into dead ends. Priest, admin office staff and even security guards know me quite well [ thanks to grandparents frequency and having known me since i was in my teens]

The Bridge with uncle waving n aunts following close at heel

The main temples to visit here are all within the campus-

Sharadambal temple
Adi shankara temple- which is being renovated
Sri Vidhya shankar temple- part of the Heritage sites - a must see for its rich architecture...
Thorana Ganpathi- a small ganapathi fixed on the threshold
Malayala Brahma
Sri Balasubrahmanya - Murguan temple right on the banks of the river TIunga
Sri Chandramouleeswara
Sri Malahanikareswara- Shiv who resides on top of the mountain..

And then when we cross the bridge over the River Tunga flowing through the Mutt, we come to the Narasimha vanam, where The Sringeri Swamiji resides and does Pooja daily.. the place where we go to take his blessings or be a part of the pooja is the newly built haven called Guru Bhavanam ... Beyond it is where Elephants [2 of them], horses[ right now there are 3], Gosala[ home for cows] and deers run about...

Walking across the bridge, watching the moon light up the sky, crickets and other bugs singing aloud, its a mystical feeling going for the Pooja... Sitting in that massive hall, watching Swamigal do pooja to the Chandramouleeswara Linga and Ganapathi, i realised we stop worrying about the daily aspects of our life and are totally immersed in the Pooja...

A place of tranquility where one can simply sit still for hours is how Sringeri feels to me... Yes, i do make a quick visit to all the temples, say Hello to all the Gods and Goddesses, but the best part if the serenity... this is Spirituality according to me!! :)

Evening sky pver River Tunga..

In the evening, i stand on the bridge, looking up at the sky or at the fish fluttering about in the river, feeding on the puffed rice or generally swimming about...

Vyasar Mandapam on the other side of the river

Today, the place looks very diff from what it did couple of years ago.. Construction going on everywhere, renovations happening here and there.. The main entrance used to be a beautiful archway, today it is a bundle of concrete debris.. there is a huge 127ft tall Gopuram which is being constructed there...

Best way to travel is to take a train from Chennai to Mangalore, and then a cab/bus to Sringeri.. You have trains at 11.30am daily ,and 5pm[on certain days]

Mom n dad ,. as we waited for His Holiness to make an entry

In case you are coming from Blore, then direct buses ply almost every day. Its about 7hrs from Blore ...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dhyanalingam - peace!!

Calm and serene all around.. nothing but silence greets you as walk along the stone path..
Not a word uttered, only thing on our minds was "what's in store for us ?"

This is how mesmerising - Dhyanalingam,about 30kms from Coimbatore.. Set amidst the wilderness, this is a Isha Yoga centre at the foothills of the Velliangiri mountains.

Dhyana, in Sanskrit, essentially means meditation, and Linga means, the form!!
Call it a religious place of worship, or just a place where one finds peace,  Dhyanalingam, and the palatial Spanda hall [spanning 64,000 square feet] has magical powers!! During our trip to Coimbatore nearly a decade ago, we had the pleasure of making this journey!! The entire family i remember piled into two cars and we drove down in search of this elusive spot.. The sight that greeted us from the car park looked nothing spectacular, all we could see was a huge stone building with a gigantic dome fitted with a small shiv linga on top.

As we walked towards the main building, we came across this large beam- "Sarva Dharma Sthamba"- bearing the signs of "Aum", the " Crescent" and the "Cross" and others belonging to Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Shinto signifying that the meditation center is beyond all religions, faiths & beliefs! On the other side are representations of the 7 chakras in our body..

Walking along the stone path, we had to go up a small flight of stairs to encounter a corridor with stone scultpures on either side- each one depicting different stages in a Sage/sadhu's life.. The last one is that of the great Yoga teacher -- Pathanjali, the renowned author of Yoga Sutras. We were told that the snake covering his head represents the raising of energies through the seven chakras, which is the main objective of meditation and yoga.

If one was to look at the architecture across ancient temples, importance is given to the house of the main Deity only, with a bit of importance to the walkway around the shrine. Whereas, here, the energies of the Dhyanalinga have been consecrated to last for more than 5000 years without any dissipation, which is why one can feel the energy rush as they step into the campus.!! The elliptical dome housing the Dhyanalinga is 76 feet in diameter and 33 feet high. It was built without the use of any cement, concrete or steel but with brick and mud mortar stabilized with lime, sand, alum and herbal additives. It's the only structure of its kind in the world!!

The temple has a cave like structure, the mouth being a seven-headed snake made out of a single stone. The garbhagriha/walkway is circular in its shape. In the center sits the Dhyanalinga , at 13' 9", said to be the largest mercury based live linga in the world. Upon looking intently you see the seven copper rings denoting the seven chakras of a human being.

The linga rests on a coiled snake with seven layers called Avudaiyar..Surrounding the magestic lingam are twenty-eight energy cubicles called 'aura cells' made of brick, looking like little cubicles. They are meant for meditation

After a bit of hesitation, i remember each of us climbed into one, and sat in absolute silence for a few minutes. The kind of power, energy you feel cannot be put in words, but has to be experienced..

Hmmm, i think i wanna go visit here once more!!! 
All pics are from postcards we had picked up at the center and google!! Photography is prohibited around the venue!!

Isha Yoga Center Contact Details
Isha Yoga Center,
Velliangiri Foothills,
Semmedu (P.O.),
Coimbatore 641 114, India
Telephone 091-422-2515345
Email: info@ishafoundation.org
Furthur information can be got on www.ishafoundatio.org and www.dhyanalinga.org

Monday, August 10, 2009

Of Temples and heritage sites....

The day started early, and Lakshmi and I were on our way!! Had kinda decided on 2routes, with a whole bunch of places to visit during the day and finally ended up doing a mix of both routes...

1st place we headed towards was Chengelpet, enroute we stopped over at Singaperumal temple..

What a start to the day it was!! very peaceful, calm and not crowded...!! we went into the temple, only to be told we could get darshan in about 15mins, and as hunger was ready to strike, we grabbed a donnai[ lotus leaf cup] of Kesari [sooji] at the prashad counter... :) Finished that and did a round of Girivalam [going around the temple]. this temple is built on a mountain and so the path around it is uphill and downhill, with steps built around it.. There was a tree with small cradles and bundles hanging from it, a Narasimha with his wife on his arms[ wearing a zillion yellow threads]- must be prayers from devotees.. After a few mins, got darshan, said our prayers and made our way towards Chengelpet...

We wanted to check out the lake and the fort, alas, neither happend.. None knew where the fort was[ we discovered later it had become the Taluk office] and the lake was not open to public!! A bit disappointed, but what can we do.. Drove towards Uthiramerur from there.. we stopped over at the Sundaravaradaraja Perumal [has three tiers. There are three main sanctum sanctorum, one on top of the other..with narrow stairs leading up ]

By then the sun was beginning to blaze and we headed out to take a peep at the Kailashnath temple which was being renovated by REACH foundation.. the lady working there told us a man had come visiting in the morning, when she saw a huge snake slither past... we just peeked thru the doors, and all we saw were a bunch of Bats flittering about!! there was another temple, part of the ASI, but alas, that was shut and the ASI person in charge was Missing!! atrocious!!! hmfph!!!

Hunger bells were ringing like crazy in our tummies, but we managed to keep them down by munching on biscuits n juice as our driver drove towards Kancheepuram... Went straight to Sangeetha hotel, and gobbled down a dosa n yummy Mousumbi juice before exploring Kancheepuram.. that town has over 180 temples, i kid you not.. we saw 2 of them, and also spent time at a saree weaver's store, the owner also showed us around his looms [ thanks to Lakshmi's aunt who knew the man]!!

Went to Ekambaranathar Temple, huge campus..with 5 gopurams, each built by a diff ruler- Pallava king, Chola ruler, and so on... took quite a few pictures, made our way into the main sanctum where the priest gave us a brief intro about the temple... there is a Shiva linga and shiva parvathy idol inside[ one among the few temples where they are together]...

and then came around the main sanctum, did a small archana at Vishnu's shrine.. the funny thing was all priests after the intro, would say this dialogue- We dont get salary, have been working here in generations.. so if you could take up a puja or seva, contribute whatever you can-Rs200/500/1000, would go towards the upkeep of the place".. we fled saying we'll come back!!! :)

Rushed across town to Kailashnath Temple -where we spent most amount of time.. we could have lingered there all day.. mind blowing temple...kinda like an outer ring of mini Shrines, which were meant for meditation and innermost is a temple with Shiva in it.. the priest gave us the story and showed us the path to go around the main deity.. it had 4tiny steps that led to what looked like a hole in the wall, a tiny baby would fit in.. apparently the temple is all about accepting the fact that we are born alone and we die alone... devotees used to crawl thru the tunnel and come out the other side...!! scary!!! :D

[It is oldest structure in Kanchipuram. The temple is 65 m high & shadow never falls on the ground. The temple is viewed more as an architectural wonder than as a holy place.]

The priest here too recited the same dialogue as in earlier temple!! hehe ..post this, we spent oodles of time taking pictures and savoring the beautiful architecture that surrounded the temple.. It is part of ASI and so is in decent condition... only thing is
people today dont know what material was used to build the shrines, and so are unable to restore it.... !!!

It was nearly 2pm, and sun was beating down on us... Finally bid adieu, and started the search for the weaver.. after multiple calls and round abouts, managed to find the place...

Meyammai achi silk center, Chidambaram is the man who runs it.. He showed us silk threads, dyed colourful threads, sarees and took us to his looms, where the weavers were more than eager to explain and patiently answer all our zillion odd questions!! they hadnt even had lunch, were waiting for us to come visit... !!! :)

Gave in to the heat, and decided to go have a bite to eat at Saravana Bhavan- had curd rice!! and hit ECR road... enroute, we stopped at Sadras Fort [Sadurangapatinam] , but alas, luck was still not in our favor.. the place was locked up and ASI man missing...

we took some pictures when we saw a funny looking man come running towards us.. he came over and said he was "Anand, the gatekeeper, and that he was a Furniture doctor".. Had golden glitter on his face, was wearing blue shades, pink nail polish and a orange whistle around his neck.. we had a bit of doubt about him, but just played along trying to get rid of him... When Lakshmi asked him about the glitter, he replied- "Oh,today my daughter's bday madam, i am coming from the party" and he even posed for a pic!! i clicked while she was taking her shot !! :D

He said he will take us inside thru the back door[which we had passed by and knew there was no way into the fort there...:)].. this was when a policeman walking past told us "Madam, he is mental".. Our man heard this and was like " tamilians are the reason other tamilians dont prosper, you come madam, i take you"... we beat a hasty retreat, not before he suddenly said "give me Rs10, if i had taken you inside, it would be Rs30" ...we hopped into the car and asked the driver to speed away... had a good laugh!!!

Finally, drove towards Kalpakkam Atomic plant to Pidari Rathas, which is just behind Mahabalipuram... 3 beautiful rathas, unfinished stand tall...

we could see the lighthouse at Mahabs..

Spent some time soaking the evening sunset in and taking pictures of the place before getting on the road to ECR and back home!!

What a day it was!!! were dead tired, but well worth it.. next time, we shall check out more sights around here!! our curiousity has been piqued :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hoysala trail... Coffee trail.. bird watching...!!

A day after our cousin's wedding, Lakshmi called and that was it!! She and a friend were organising a tour, for close friends, as an inaugural offer.. Without a blink , i said YES,AM IN!! She then sent me a mail with info about the tour- we were to cover about 5-6 places, stay at a lovely resort and maybe do a coffee trail as well .. The only i got in was Sharada, cos i knew she would love it as well ..

The temples at Doddagadavalli

Booked our tickets to Blore for the friday, 29th May and packed our back packs.. 30th Morning was when it all began... Lakshmi's friend and avid bird watcher V came over, and we waited for the van... Which came close to 7.45... After piling in, the intial Hi- hellos to the rest of the troops [Arun's friends, V's friends, and Sharada], we were on our way!! Excitment filled the air, and hunger pangs in our tummies..lolz...

Pillars at the entrance at Doddagadavalli

The 1st pitstop was Hotel Mayura where we had a sumptuos breakfast and got on the road with full speed.. Drove straight to Doddagaddavalli, where we spent close to an hour.. A temple that marks the reign of Hoysala Dynasty, each pillar telling a tale... After a tour of the place, we all assembled in the hall near the entrance where Lakshmi and Arun gave us a peek into the history, and some insights into the rulers and the Dynasty.. During this, a rock agama came to keep us company- rich orange in color, he posed for us!!! Amidst all this, we managed to spot some interesting birds as well .. :-)

Rock agama...

Beautiful architecture.. intricate sculptures and more were what welcomed us through the trail.. The layers of the temples were almost piled on top of the other like lego blocks. No cement was used in sealing the space, they were all interlocked ...

From there, we hit the road and drove down to Green Orchards Resort which was our home for the 2days.. A quaint little place with about 9 rooms, of which we occupied 6.. Furniture from Rajasthan, a court yard with a cute little tortoise sitting still [was a statue]... 2 beautiful swings outside where we spent most of our spare time, getting to know each other and laughing over a game of Housie- where err, some people cheated and others slogged it out!! :D

The road that led to the Resort

Post lunch, we venture into Halebid or Halebidu or Dwarasamudra which has a cluster of Hoysala temples...The main is called Hoysaleshwara and its a tourist spot, so we were prepared for a crazy crowd, but still managed to have a good time. Lakshmi and Arun had hired an ASI guide, who gave interesting descriptions for each of the sculptures..

The Hoysala emblem that is found in all temples

Lush gardens, dark skies threating to spill over, a serene lake behind the temple all had us in awe... Clicking pictures, soaking every word the guide said, we relished the experience... The temple is said to remain incomplete, and to have taken over 190 years to build...

The Nandi in front of the Shantaladevi shrine

The Hoysaleswara temple is home to Hoysaleswara and Santaleswara. Hoysaleswara is named after the builder Vishnuvardhana Hoysala and Santaleswara after his wife, Queen Santala. The sancta are built on a stellar plan, with a sukhanasi, navaranga and Nandi Mandapa. Each of these resembles the Belur Chennakesava temple in layout and structure...

Basadi halli

Around the corner we visited the 2 Jain temples... Basadi halli (Jain Mandir) - and the Kedareshwara temple.. The Kedareshwara (Shiva) Linga made by Krishnashila, a variety of black stone. To the south of it is Brahma linga and the statue of Janardhana at the north. The temples are filled with Bats, so there was enough stink to keep us at bay...

Within the Basadi Halli campus, there was a temple tank/well, and plenty of greenery around for us to soak in... We also spotted a Rainbow, feeble but pretty nevertheless...

That night after our return and dinner, we were out walking along the lit pathway within the estate late into the nite..

Having decided we are going Bird walking next morning , we decided to be up by 5.30 and scoot, all scampered to their rooms... Post the bird watching, we were to start off Sunday at 7.15, with a visit to the nearby Biccode coffee estate [belonging to my uncle and family] , starting with the morning Muster call to a coffee trail...

Path inside the coffee trail...

The morning came, troops went for the bird watch and then we joined them in the Coffee trail.. After a quick shower, we went off to the estate, waiting for the workers to pour in.. Vipin, the manager was to be our tour guide for the hour.. but that went on for nearly 3hours, and we covered about 6kms in distance around the coffee estate, exploring venues never heard of and clicking pictures all over..

Wild mushrooms, paw prints, a tree covered in cobwebs, rows of coffee plants, and the long stretches of trees.... In between, we also managed to do a bit of bird watching - spotting and trying to identify birds, geting some quick lessons from the pros- Arun and V... :)

Longing for a cup of coffee, we found just that at the estate office.. Bidding adieu to him, we decided to check out more places related to the Halebid trail... the Ruins spread across acres of land, and then came the best part of it all ..
Hulikere- the tank where Shantaladevi used to go for her showers.. The security was so high then that even a tiger could enter, hence the name... !!

The Hulikere with small shrines all around it..fascinating..

Some local kids followed us around, mustering enuf guts every now and then asking us - Do you have chocolate? Or atleast a pen? ... we were stumped at their fluent english!!! :)

Belavadi in all its glory

Spent a few minutes in the serene surroundings, lost in thoughts we were all in heaven... like school kids asked to get back to the van, we crawled back into the van and looked fwd to the next location... It was nearly 3.30pm, and even tho the driver decided to take us to the Belur Chennakeswara temple, we steered towards the resort to have a bit to eat, pack up and then venture to Belur before heading back to Blore...

The Belur temple is magnificient - again in similar architecture styles.. There are over 40 sculptures of women in different poses outside, all said to be inspired by Shantala devi, and pillars across the temple each in a unique style.. Two of the pillars are simply mind blowing- the Mohini and Narasimha pillar, they are filled with intricate work, minute designs, unimaginable amount of creativitiy.. The God is also in Mohini avtar here, and i got a chance to talk to the priest about the temple...

Oh, just remembered- we also visited the Belavadi temple, a small one with three gopuras, and is called Trikoota temple... The priests here were more than willing to give us insight about this temple, how long it took to build, the God housed within... Veera Narayana, Vishnu and Krishna are the Gods here... What was interesting was that the Sunlight streams in straight to the Vishu shrine on March 23rd and Sep 23rd every year, the day of Equinox, the priest said!!

Phew.. What a weekend it was!!! Got back to Blore on 31st nite around 11.30 and back to Chennai on monday at 6pm... Had a day in town and then was off on a trip to Sringeri with mom & Dad.. more on that in next post..

Think this is long enuf...... way too long a post!!!
For more pics.click here