Konark – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

25.06.2017:

Odisha is popular for its architecturally celebrated temples like the Lingaraja temple in Bhubaneshwar, Lord Jagannath’s shrine in Puri and the Sun Temple at Konark and many more sacred shrines and heritage monuments along with the famous Odissi dance, fairs, festivals and exotic handicrafts. The first thing that comes into everyone’s mind when heard of the state’s name is either the famous Rath Yatra or the Konark Sun Temple. This itself proves that how heritage has become an integral part of Odisha!

As I reached the entrance, I could see the Kalinga architectural marvel standing as a living sonata in stone! This 13th century temple dedicated to the Sun God, is built in black granite during the reign of King Langula Narasimhadeva – I of the Ganga Dynasty around 1250 AD. This is one of the most important temples dedicated to the Sun God in India and is a leading Hindu pilgrimage centre. This place is now under the maintenance of Archaeological Survey of India and the entry fee is Rs. 30/- per person.

There was a queue of tour guides behind us by the time we entered the temple complex and we politely rejected their services! 🙂 The first structure we encountered upon entering the complex is the Natya Mandir (the Dance Hall) where the temple dancers once performed. A stone staircase flanked by seated lions led us on to the platform from where we can get a better view of the Sun Temple. Once upon a time, the temple dancers used to perform here as a ritual offering to the God, but now this ritual is no more!

The Natya Mandir had exquisitely carved pillars with various mythical figures, floral motifs and human creatures etc. I can imagine how the musicians might have seated there with their drums and other instruments and the temple dancers performed in front of the God here 🙂 , would have been good if I got back to those days 🙂 . Nevertheless, we can have the same experience now too; by attending the annual Konark Dance Festival which is held in every December, dedicated to the classical Indian dance forms. Why late, grab the tickets now! 😉

We walked towards the main temple which is visibly in ruins, corroded by time and sea air. Yet the temple shares the brilliance and dazzle of the sun with its fascinating architecture, exotic sculptures and intriguing social history of Odisha; which was also a beacon to mariners in medieval times. Konark has got its name from two Sanskrit words – Kona, meaning corner and ark implying the sun. And this temple which was dedicated to the worship of the Sun God holds the sun as the soul of whole manifestation, primal cause of this universe and its different cycles of manifestation and annihilation. The Suryopanishad – a scripture on the Sun God asserts that the Sun is the creator, protector and destroyer.

Though in ruins now, this place retained its rustic charm and serene aura. The mighty sculptures, beautiful lawns and gardens around the temple attracted me the most and I instantly fell in love with this place!

Advertisements

Chandrabhaga – Almost desolate :)

 25.06.2017:

We left Puri at about 02.00 hrs to Konark, one of India’s best known. Konark, which is a part of the Golden triangle is around 35 kms from Puri and can be easily reached by road. Odisha is a land of great history and heritage, art and architecture, fairs and festivals. The traffic on the road was comparatively less as everyone’s journey today is towards Puri. We parked our car on the roadside to stretch for a while and continued with our journey towards Puri.

The roads are good and covered by trees on either side of the roads. Half way through, the way became more scenic with the sea on one side and lagoons on the other. Bordering the Bay of Bengal in the east, Odisha is famous for its beaches such as Gopalpur, Puri, Chandipur and Chandrabhaga to mention a few. Chandrabhaga, yet another famous beach of Odisha after the Gopalpur on Sea is located at a distance of 4 kms from the famous Sun Temple Konark. Just few hundred meters away from the Chandrabhaga, there is a jet-ski hub where we can go on a water-bike ride.

Continuous travels, bad weather, soaking in the rain for hours together started to take a toll on me. I had a bad cold, sore throat and was running of fever; so I had to stay back on the shores while the guys went on with their jet-ski rides 😦 Nevertheless, watching them ride those beasts was also fun 🙂 . A small tip here is that if one wants to ride a jet-ski, bargain hard 😉 We went on a walk along the shores of the Chandrabhaga beach, where they say that in the past river Chandrabhaga joined the sea here, but now only the confluence remains to be seen. Tourists do visit this place also to take holy dips on some auspicious days!

Chandrabhaga with its cool blue waters has its own charm and serenity! Long stretch of fine sand beach, neat and clean, camels and horses waiting for their passengers, a functioning lighthouse are the main attractions here. Chandrabhaga is mainly a sun-set point. Though I didn’t experience this, I heard my dad sharing his experience about the stunning views of this beach during the sun-set! A seven day festival fair called the Chandrabhaga Mela takes place here every year in the honor of the Sun God. It is also in this beach, the International Sand Art Festival is organized alongside the internationally famous Konark Dance Festival. Owing to the Rath Yatra in Puri, the beach is comparatively less crowded. After enjoying the cool sea breeze, we returned back to our car to continue our journey to Konark.

Konark is just 10 minutes away from Chandrabhaga and finding our way to the temple wasn’t that difficult as all the roads here leads to the architectural masterpiece! Konark is a small town situated on the east coast of Odisha and as soon as we entered on to the road that leads to the famous Sun Temple, we could see a small Rath Yatra (Chariot Parade) taking place here too! 🙂  Though the chariots are so huge, they are like the exact replicas of those which we saw in Puri. Praying the lord Jagannath for his blessings, we moved towards the Sun Temple!

The Annual Rath Yatra of Puri

25.06.2017:

It’s the Big Day – The Ratha Saptami. Every year, on the day of Asadh Shukla Dwititya (falls in June-July), the spectacular Annual Rath Yatra or the Chariot festival is celebrated at the famous Puri Jagannath Temple. This is a possession of three huge and elaborately-decorated temple chariots bearing the three main temple deities – the Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and their sister Subhadra from the Jagannath Temple to their Aunt’s Gundicha temple through the Grand Avenue of Puri (Bada Danda). The preparations for this grand Rath Yatra in Puri starts two months before the main festival.

The environment around us transformed into a more lively one with the chant ‘Jai Jagannath’ of the pilgrims. More and more number of people started gathering near the chariots. The chariots are examples of the indigenous craftsmen-ship; they are riot of colors, culture and history. It is this occasion on which millions of people all over the world gather here to witness the magnificent possession! I managed to get into the front row just behind the police personnel to get a better glimpse of the chariots. They are not simply huge – the are magnificent indeed!

These chariots which are built anew every year were placed infront of the temple the day before. Adorned in brightly colored fabrics and mounted on giant two-meter-high wheels painted in festive colors, these three giant chariots will be built by the same family of craftspeople every year. The wood which would be used for making these chariots would be collected from a nearby village called Dasapalla. Over 150 carpenters build these two-storey high wooden chariots entirely by hand, and a team of 20 sculptors creates the woodcarvings decorating them. Important aspect is that these craftsmen still used their indigenous methods like hand spans etc and the tradition of making them is being passed down to the generations orally! 🙂

The Jagannath’s temple is surrounded by a lot of legends which makes it more special among the other temples in India. The deity here is said to be the truest form of Vishnu and called as ‘Neel Madhav’. Everything regarding the Lord Jagannath here is so special – as we know most of the idols in Indian temples are either made of stone or metal, here they are made of wood; the other ritual called the ‘Nabkalebara’ in which the deities shed their old bodies every 12 or 19 years to get into a new ones – proves us the eternal truth that even the creator has to die in this world! This shows that India is perhaps the only place in the world wherein which even the Gods die.

More and more people started gathering on the Bada Avenue. Though the princely states do not exist in India today, the heirs of the Gajapati Dynasty of Khurda still perform the rituals of the temple and the rituals of the Rath Yatra are conducted by Daitapatis, the descendants of the Tribal King Biswabasu, who was the first to safeguard the Lord Neel Madhav in a cave in his village. The rituals started inside the temple, I could hear the drum beatings and mantras emanating from the temple courtyard. Everyone is eagerly waiting to get a glimpse of the gods. Water is being splashed over us as the humidity started to soar up because of the increasing masses of the people. Ambulances and fire-engines were placed in middle of the crowds in case of emergency if any.

Though it was slightly raining, water is being splashed over us and the sky cloudy, we were sweating because of the suffocation. What all one could see there is only humans and humans everywhere – on top of the vehicles, terraces, mobile towers what not – everything was filled up with people! It was around 11.00 hrs, the first deity Balabhadara was brought out from the temple in a step-by-step rythm swaying in midst of priests and artisans beating their drums while singing and dancing. One can clearly distinguish among the deities chariots from their appearance.

The chariot on the extreme left, adorned in green and red cloth is of the Balabhadra is called the Taladhvaja which is 44 feet high and has 14 wheels. After, Lord Balabhadra had been placed in his chariot, his sister, Subhadra was brought out in almost a laid down posture was placed in the middle chariot which is adorned in black and red cloth called the Darpadalan or literally the trampler of pride. It is of 43 feet height and has 12 wheels. Now the crowd went surreal. The place was filled with more and more chants of Jagannath and acquired an aura of faith, tradition and devotion. Everyone’s anticipation is for the Lord Jagannath.

The conch-shells were blown, the dancers started performing the traditional Odishi dance, the drummers began to beat the drums more vigorously and finally our beloved God – the Lord Jagannath was brought out! It’s an incredible moment in my life to witness the Lord. Lord Jagannath was placed in his chariot called the Nandighosa which is 45 feet high and has 16 wheels. It is this grand spectacle that gave the word ‘Juggernaut’ (a huge, powerful, and overwhelming force) to the English lexicon! The rituals began to set off the deities on their journey to their Aunt’s home – the Gundicha temple, which is just 3 kms away from the main temple.

The deities would be placed there for the next seven days and would be brought back to the Jagannath’s Temple on the eighth day in the same manner. It’s believed that touching one of those thick 50-metre-long ropes which are used to pull these chariots during the Rath Yatra washes away our sins and helps in attaining salvation. Am still spell-bound watching this event!

Puri – The Last Stop of Golden Triangle

Heard of the “Golden Triangle” of India? If not, here is a short brief on this 🙂 The “Golden Triangle” is a pilgrimage circuit which comprises of the Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneshwar, the Sun Temple of Konark and the Lord Jagannath’s Temple of Puri. The last stop on the “Golden Circuit” Triangle – Puri is also one of the four great ‘Char Dham (the Purushottam Dham)’ pilgrimage sites and most sacred of India! I feel blessed for being arrived in Puri during a particularly auspicious time – the annual Rath Yatra or the Chariot Parade!

25.06.2017:

It was still raining by the time I woke up! Though it was a disturbed sleep all through the night, the charm of the city and the festival vibes that day made me feel positive 🙂 A perfect way to start a day! When came out the room to check on the guys, I was surprised to see Bhojnadh watching the rain holding a cup of hot tea in the balcony. Eshwar too was awake while Pappu still lay tucked inside his blanket. I asked the bell boy for a bucket of hot water for my shower and he simply rejected my request :-0

We got ready quickly and checked-out from the hotel to go to the temple. The roads were muddy coz of the rain and they were jam-packed with thousands of devotees who are proceeding towards the temple to catch a glimpse of the Lord Jagannath (God of the Universe). Every nook and corner is under the scrutiny of the Armed Forces, Para Military forces and the Odisha Police. The roads were filled up with barricades to regulate the movement of vehicles during these peak hours. Though we thought of parking our car near to the Railway Station, we ended up parking it on road-side, a little near to the temple.

After walking through the narrow streets and alleys, we reached the Bada Danda or Grand Avenue of Puri on which the famous Rath Yatra takes place. The Avenue is filled up with shops of all kinds and various ashrams for the pilgrims. Volunteers were providing drinking water, lemonades and fresh food to the thronging pilgrims and tourists. Further towards the temple, a huge crowd of people were competing to stand as close as possible to the temple in order to get a better view of the deities.

We too started walking towards the huge mass of people. The security forces had cordoned off the place near to the temple for around a distance of 800 mts. As we were closing nearby, we got the first glimpses of the mighty chariots and the temple tower. The great Jagannath Temple of Puri was built in the 12th century atop the ruins of the Gundicha temple by the progenitor of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, King Ananatavarman Chodaganga Deva and the temple complex covers a huge area of over 400,000 sq ft. The temple tower, built on a raised platform of stone to a height of 214 feet above the inner sanctum, is truly dominating the surrounding landscape.

The temple style here is quite different – it is mainly dominated by colossal cylindrical and pyramid-shaped towers rising skyward in multiple tiers, covered with elaborate stone carvings. A striking feature of the Jagannath Temple is the flag atop and it is said that it always flaps in the opposite direction of wind. Yet another one is the wooden deities! In most of the Hindu temples the icons of the deities are either made out of stone or metal, but here it’s wood and this is replaced every twelve or nineteen years ceremoniously.

Owing to the Rath Yatra, the temple is closed for pilgrims and entry into the temple on normal days is restricted only to the Hindus. This is the only occasion when people of all castes and creeds can catch a glimpse of the gods and hence the annual Rath Yatra draws close to a million of devotees all over India and the world!

Stay tuned!

Playing our cards safe with Eshwar ;-)

24.06.2017:

Eshwar’s plan was to visit Gopalpur on Sea and return back to Vizag, spend a day there and head to Rajahmundry – our native! But, Bhojnadh and I had other plans for him 😉 . Though we told him that let’s think about this on our way to Gopalpur, we didn’t get a chance to discuss it as we were quite occupied in rewinding our childhood and discussing our present lives! Once to Gopalpur on Sea, Bhojnadh and I planned how to persuade Eshwar with going on this trip further!

It was at this time, Bhojnadh reminded me that Eshwar is a bit religious person and the icing came as a phone call from Maithreyee saying that the Annual Rath Yatra or Chariot Festival of Puri is the next day 🙂 The card which we need to play is in our hand and the only thing we need is to find the right time to play it 😉 On our way back from Gopalpur on Sea to the NH 5, I told Eshwar that the Rath Yatra is tomorrow!

Bhojnadh took up from here and told Eshwar that it’s a matter of another 180 km and we would return back to Vizag after attending the ceremony. Eshwar, who was silent all this time surprised us by immediately saying an yes to the proposed plan :). So, there we go, the next destination – Puri! Reaching Puri is not a problem at all, but the issue at that point of time is our accommodation, as getting accommodation at the time of Annual Chariot festival is way too difficult 😦 We took a short break in the mid-way to stretch our legs and continued with our journey.

The signals were poor owning to the bad rain all through out the way and though I checked all the travel websites like makemytrip and goibibo, I couldn’t find any rooms available in any of the hotels in Puri. I called up Maithreyee and asked her to check in the other websites too to find some suitable accommodation for us. It’s 22.00 hrs when we all felt hungry and we were still to travel another 100 kms and it might take us another 2 hours owning to the traffic on that road because of the Rath Yatra.

We stopped at a roadside Dhaba, not a big one though, in fact we were the only customers during that hour. We ordered some roti, egg bhurji, aloo matar and some crispy fried mushrooms. The food is tasty, budgetary and hygienic too 🙂 Satisfied, we started with our journey again and proceeded to Puri. The road leading to Puri is narrow and way too dark. Except for a village or two here and there, there is not even a small lamp flickering anywhere else except the headlights of our car! It is as if a sea of darkness had engulfed the entire area. The road is potholed, it was raining continuously and there were no street lights or any lights along the road – one of the scariest roads so far 😦

Maithreyee informed us that there are few rooms available; gave us the number of the person whom we should contact and asked us to call and inform him that we would be a bit late! In fact we were late, we reached Puri only around 12.oo in the night as it took more time than expected because of the road. We reached the hotel and the manager told us that he had only one room and a common washroom. We rejected the idea of staying there and went around the place to find out if any other accommodation was available!

Owing to the rush of tourists and pilgrims during this time, it became really difficult for us to find accommodation. After inquiring here and there, we reached a small hotel where two rooms were available and we checked-in to grab some sleep before going to witness one of the biggest festivals of India!

Once upon a time….. in Gopalpur on sea

24.06.2017:

Berhampur – the silk city of Odisha, is just about 30 kms from Icchapuram – the border area of Andhra Pradesh and we looked out for a right turn after crossing Icchapuram as showed by the Google Maps. Gopalpur on Sea is located at a mere distance of 15 kms from Berhampur and is easily accessible.  The road which leads us to Gopalpur on Sea from the NH 16 is a bit narrow, but enough number of sign-boards were placed along this road to show us the way to Gopalpur.

Gopalpur was once buzzing with maritime activities which Odisha is known for ages. It was one of the outlets through which early settlers of South East Asia sailed off. During the days of Kalingas, Gopalpur on Sea was known as the port of Paloura from which traders sailed as far as Java, Bali and Sumatra mainly dealing in silk and pearls. Later it became a prominent trading port mainly a transit point to  export sugar and cheap laborers for the tea gardens of Assam in North Eastern India during the days of the British East India Company. Like Middleton-on-sea, the ‘on-sea’ tag has been conferred on Gopalpur by the Britishers.

Gopalpur-on-sea is a small quiet town which is popular for its beautiful pristine  sandy beach and a perfect beach destination for a tranquil holiday. We reached here around 16.30 hrs when it was drizzling a little. The beach is fairly isolated and there are not many tourists – the continuous rain may be one of the reasons! We parked our car aside and started walking towards the beach. The beach with its golden sand of the blue sea has its own sleepy charm and looked pretty during the drizzle! 🙂 There are no palm trees along the coastline and one get an uninterrupted view of the mammoth Bay of Bengal!

There is a light house which stand witness to the past port and also acts as the landmark of the place. This would be open only for a while in the afternoon and if you are lucky enough to visit this place during that time, you can get a sweeping view of the country side as well as the Bay of Bengal. But we were late that day 😦 We walked along the quite seashore which is undisturbed by the regular tourists or day-trippers. It was so serene that all we could hear is the symphony of the waves and our own heart-beats. And all that we could see is a vast stretch of blue waters with the fishing boats anchored on the sands of the beach by the fisher-folk with the crumbling walls and pillars of an ancient jetty together with some crumbling bungalows in the background!

The sea here is a bit rough and completely idea for sailing and surfing. And importantly, it’s comparatively a clean place to swim, but one has to take precautions as this beach is not that shallow! Once onto the road after a long walk along the beach, we went around the place to explore a bit. Once a favourite of British travellers during the Raj and home to retired British and Anglo-Indian railway employees, Gopalpur-on-sea still has several bungalows and mansions belonging to the Europeans and this gives the place still a colonial look.

Some of these buildings and bungalows were modified into small hotels and offers accommodation to the budget travelers. The promenade along the beach is filled up with small shacks selling a wide range of food products like prawns, fish, crabs, delicacies of mutton and chicken etc. Though we didn’t try any of these delicacies here, we ate few ice-creams and made our way further deep into the town. There is also a local market here which looked deserted at that hour of time and just about 3 kms from the beach, the local creeks in the vicinity of the sea have created a network of backwaters, which is an ideal place for a picnic.

Men were fishing; children were playing and boat-men were patiently waiting for the tourists who would like to go on leisure boat rides and others waiting for passengers who would travel across these backwaters to reach their villages on the other side. This is one of the most picturesque place in the vicinity, but one should be more cautious as these backwaters are quite deeper and the undercurrents more stronger! We returned to our car after clicking enough of photos without knowing what our next destination would be :-p 😉

If you are looking for a perfect weekend gateway away from the busy city life, Gopalpur-on-sea would be a perfect choice, as this beach with her backwaters continue to spread its aquatic magic since times immemorial! 🙂 There is also this 99 year old Mayfair Beach Resorts which offers luxurious accommodation for the tourists!

Let’s find our destination for the day….

24.06.2017:

I got a flight from Trivandrum to Vizag on the previous day, while Eshwar was already into Vizag. Bhojnadh too started from Nellore on 23rd to Vizag. By 22.00 hrs, each of us were into our respective places and decided to start our journey around 07.00 hrs the next day. Trust me, never ever would we make out on the exact time! 😮 I woke up around 06.00 in the morning and got ready by 07.00 and was waiting for these guys to pick me up from my uncle’s home. I tried to call them since 05.00 hrs in the morning, but none of them attended my calls and Eshwar called me only at 08.00 hrs!

He started with a sorry and told me that they would be there at my place by 09.30 hrs, but they turned up only at 11.00 hrs. Pappu (Krishna), a friend of Eshwar’s younger brother too tagged along them and I bid a bye to dad, mom and uncle, aunt. Once onto the road, Eshwar told me that as we are just 4, we would go till Srikakulam and return back. But, I told him that we will go atleast till Gopalpur on Sea – a good beach destination. All the four of us agreed upon this and the destination was decided thus – It’s Gopalpur on Sea! 🙂 🙂

Gopalpur on Sea can be reached easily from Berhampur in Odisha and is around 250 kms from Visakhapatnam. Vizag is connected to Berhampur by the National Highway 16 (NH16), previously NH5 and is a part of the Golden Quadrilateral Project. The weather was cloudy and cool. We took a 10 minutes break near Bhogapuram to sip the tender coconuts that were being sold on the roadside and got our bottles filled with sweet coconut water before we started our journey again. We reached Srikakulam within an hour and planned to have our lunch here. But then, none of us were hungry and so we continued with our journey.

In the meanwhile, Eshwar checked with couple of his friends about restaurants/dhabas where we can get some good food and few told him to have it in Srikakulam while few suggested to drive to Palasa. When checked online we found a restaurant in Palasa with some decent reviews on google. We decided to have our lunch there. Just after crossing Srikakulam, the weather changed drastically and it started raining heavily making the climate more cool and our drive a bit slow. The clock ticked 14.00 hrs! While Eshwar was driving, pappu was sleeping, Bhoje was busy answering his office calls and I busy in finding a gas station online.

Though we reached Palasa, we were not able to find the restaurant and after inquiring with few people, they asked us to take the Palasa – Kasibugga road to reach this restaurant. From this, we were able to conclude that the restaurant is famous in and around its surroundings perhaps! Wondering how could a restaurant could be so famous in such a remote place, we started driving on the narrow Palasa-Kasibugga road and reached there. To our surprise, the restaurant was jam-packed and we had to wait for almost 15 minutes to get a table 😦 While Eshwar, Pappu and I started going through the Menu Card, Bhoje went near to the ATM to do some business transactions!

A perfectly dressed gentlemen came to us and asked for our order and Eshwar inquired about the specialties of their restaurant. The answer came instantly – it’s Biryani! Ofcourse Biryani, especially the Hyderabadi Biryani is quite famous in the states of Andhra Pradesh and neighboring Telanaga, but this restaurant is famous of two unique variants of Biryani i.e Gongura Biryani and Aavakai Biryani! Gongura is a sour leafy vegetable that is available in Andhra Pradesh while Aavakai is a hot and spicy pickle Andhra Pradesh is famous for. Don’t think these two are as simple as they sound – they are the base of a small-scale industry in the state 🙂 😉

Without further discussion, Eshwar and I ended up ordering Gongura Vegetable Biryani for us while Pappu chose Aavakai Chicken Biryani for himself and Bhojnadh. We ordered Hot and Sour soup too along with Mushroom Tikka – a spicy stater of barbecued Button Mushrooms marinated with yogurt and spices. The food was served hot and truly it’s delicious. I never ever imagined that we could get such good food in this pocket of the state and Eshwar ended up ordering for Paneer Tikka too – a variant of Cottage Cheese, to munch on during our drive!

Once onto the Highway, we changed our driving turns! Clouds…Rain…Soothing Music…Childhood friends…A long drive.. What else could be an ideal therapy for a tired soul? 🙂 🙂 We made our way to Berhampur with a brief halt on the road-side just to stretch our legs and relish the cool weather. Ofcourse, munching some Paneer Tikka along with a hot cup of tea on the roadside while it’s drizzling is not such a bad idea. What would you say? 😉

 

A million dollar question – Who are going to join me on this trip?

Whomever made this is absolutely right 😉 😀 Because, group travels will be always like this! This time, I thought of exploring the east coast and asusual had put-forth the plan infront of my friends. My goodness, everyone was ready – Maithreyee, Bhojnadh, Meghna, Eshwar, Sharat, Naveen, Praveen, Divya, Shruti and ofcourse I was already there! Just 10 days before the trip, Praveen informed us that he won’t be able to make it as he had to attend some official work in Pune, Naveen can’t because his exams were around, Divya can’t coz she can’t skip her classes of Big Data, Shruti is going to Delhi to join her Civils Mains classes and Meghna is going on another trip with her other group of friends. There we go, the Toyota Innova became a Maruti Suzuki Swift D’zire!! 😀 😀

5 days before the trip, Sharat called me only to say that his Section Officer didn’t sanction him leave and so he can’t join us on the trip. Still, we stuck to the Maruti Suzuki Swift D’zire! 4th day while I was in the office, my phone beeped and when I unlocked it, the next obvious thing happened –  A photograph of Maithreyee with a huge Plaster of Paris bandage  around her left leg popped up on my WhatsApp. 😦 Therefore, the Maruti Suzuki Swift D’zire became a Maruti Alto!! 😀 😀

Finally, it was Eshwar, Bhojnadh and I who were left to go on this trip if we are not to cancel it. I made up my mind and told them that we are going to Odisha anyways, no matter who else joins! There is no proper plan as such, but we made a point that we all will meet in Vizag (Visakhapatnam) and then decide what we gonna do.

Stay tuned to see what happened next 😉

Padmanabhapuram Palace – The Travancore heritage in Tamil Land

Off to Mathur Hanging Bridge – We reached Kanyakumari Bus Station and inquired about the route which we need to take to reach Mathur village. Some of them suggested us to go to Nagercoil as we could get more number of buses from there and we followed the same. After reaching Nagercoil, they suggested us to catch a bus to Thuckalay and catch another bus to Mathur Village from there. Thuckalay is about 25 kms from Nagercoil and it took us around 30 minutes to reach this place. We sought the help of few people to guide us to reach Mathur bridge but could see people being confused either because of the language or the place about which we are asking. No idea what’s going in their minds!

After a long wait of about 45 minutes, we started feeling frustrated as we were not able to get even a single bus which could drop us off at our destination. In the mean while, my friend got busy surfing the internet when I was about to tell her that we would go back to Trivandrum as it’s getting late. It was at this point of time that she showed me her mobile pointing out the Padmanabhapuram Palace, which is like just 5 minutes from the bus station. That’s how we ended up at this place instead of the Mathur Aqueduct! 😀 😀

What will be one’s expectation will be like when heard of a palace? The Mysore Palace, The Falalknuma?? Here is a different one from the routine. The Padmanabhapuram Palace located in Padmanabhapuram Fort against the backdrop of the Veli Hills that form a part of the Western Ghats in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. A magnificent wooden palace of the 16th century, this is a fine specimen of Kerala’s indigenous style of architecture. Though this palace is located in Tamil Nadu, the palace and its surroundings are owned and governed by the Kerala state.

The palace was built by Iravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal, the ruler of Travancore in 1601 AD and was also called Kalkulam Palace. At a later point of time, the King Marthandavarma rebuilt this palace to its current state. Spread across some 6.5 acres of area, the palace enthrall its visitors with intricate wooden work. Lavish use of wood can be seen in this palace; thanks to the rich forest cover of Kerala! 🙂 Also one can witness the defining aspects of Kerala structure in this palace, like the high steep sloping roofs, often covered with tiles, copper plates or thatched palm leaves supported on a roof frame made of hard wood or timber.

 

The first structure we encountered after entering the palace complex, is Poomukkham with images of horse riders on both sides of the entrance, showing exquisite wood carvings. There are few people who guide us inside the palace and explaining the history. The main attraction of this structure is the wooden ceiling which is ornamented with almost 90 lotus medallions and each one is different from the other. It was here that the erstwhile king used to entertain his special guests. Yet another attraction is a chair presented to the former king by Chinese merchants and Onavillu presented as a tribute by landlords and chieftains.

On the first floor of this structure are the Mantrasala, the King’s Council Chamber and the main attraction of this part of the palace is the bed used by the erstwhile king. It is said that the bed is made of sandalwood and is layered with a mix of 400 different kinds of medicinal herbs which are available abundantly in the state of Kerala. One can also see the Dining Hall which can accommodate 400 persons at a time!

Next structure is Thaikkottaram (Mother’s Palace), built of finely decorated and carved wooden pillars. The other structures include the Navarathri Mandapam, built by King Marthandavarma in 1744 AD which is breathtakingly beautiful and mesmerizing with it’s exquisite architecture. We came across a temple inside the palace which is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, but it was closed at the time we visited!

There is a long corridor in the first floor of the building bordered with small balconies on the sides called Ambari Mukhappu (bay window). It is said that the kings and queens used to view chariot races during festivals and make public appearances from this very place.  A significant feature of this structure is the lattice work on the sides of the pathway. Once out of the palace, we walked towards the southern side of the palace called Thekkekottaram. It has a heritage museum now which shows the younger generations the old palace articles, belongings of the royal family like kitchen utensils, easy chair, swing etc.

Another antique piece of this palace is the Manimalika (Clock Tower), which is believed to be some 200 years old. This tower contains a rather unique clock as its movement is regulated by two weights made up of disc-shaped blocks, that is raised every week by a 1.5 meter pendulum. This can be see from the entrance of the palace.

There is no spectacle of pomp and show about the palace and looks understated when compared to other royal palaces of India.

But what truly makes this palace outstanding is it’s rich architectural grandeur, indigenous craftsmen ship of Travancore artisans and royal splendor of erstwhile Travancore!

A day in the Land of Virgin Goddess – Kanyakumari (II)

Part-II:

After having a darshan of the Goddess, we were onto the streets of Kanyakumari which are packed with various shops selling a wide range of goods like clothes, antiques, toys for the children and souvenirs. We went to a shop where my friend bought a jewelry box for her cousin while I bought  a small sindhoor box for my mom. After going around few more shops, we headed towards another important tourist place of this town – ‘Gandhi Memorial‘, which is located near to the Kanyaka Amman temple.

From the outer view and architecture of this Memorial, one can find it different as this is not of the Dravidian style which is quite common in South India. Instead this was constructed in the Kalinga style or the style which is most common in Odisha. It is said that the urn containing the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi was kept at this place before immersing them in the waters here. This is a two-storied building with the roof-top offering some of the best views of the town. The ground floor has a meditation hall with it’s walls adorned by various photographs of Mahatma Gandhi and the height of the central dome is 79 feet which indicates the age of Mahatma when he died! Though they said that there is a library here, which will remain open on Saturdays, we couldn’t find any that Saturday!

Our next place to visit is the church which we saw from the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. It seemed huge from there, so we made a point to visit this church also. We took an auto-rickshaw asking him to leave us at one of the most beautiful churches I would say called the ‘Our Lady of Ransom Church‘. It is 15 minutes away from the Amman Temple and when we reached there, the church was indeed huge. It is a pristine and exquisite example of Gothic Architecture and the church is dedicated to Mother Mary. The church stands on the sea shore and this huge white structure with the blue sea in it’s background is picture perfect!

The height of this church is 153 ft with a cross on top of it which is made of pure gold. And a mast is erected infront of the temple, which was donated by a merchant who bought a foreign ship that got stuck on the seashore of Leepuram at Kanyakumari. This is an added attraction to the church! Having enough of photographs of this beautiful monument, we left the place to visit yet another significant structure called the ‘Mathur Aqueduct‘ or the ‘Mathur Hanging Trough’.