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Tamil Nadu Cultural Tours

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Of music and Hindu history, carved in stone

If you are to participate in author and epigraphist Pradeep Chakravarthy’s heritage walks, then you have to be accompanied by a schoolgoing child. On Sunday morning there was only one child among the group of enthusiasts at the Marundeeswarar temple where he sung Tirugnanasambandar’s padigams in soothing Hindolam and Mukhari. And the youngster persisted with numerous questions about the various stone carvings on the pillars. The early start to the day didn’t seem to bother...

Dispelling darkness

(A monthly column that highlights many fascinating facts about the heritage structures around the State, this one talks about gifts of lamps to the temples.) Several inscriptions in temples mention the gift of lamps. From a philosophical angle, they signifed the banishment of ignorance by casting light (knowledge) and in a practical sense, they were indispensible at a time when there were no other illumination facility. Lamps were found both in stone and metal. In several temples, even today,...

Hailed by the Azhwars

"WHY MY companions do you blame me? It's not my fault that I am in love with him! On seeing my Lord of Thirukurungudi, I think only of His discus, His conch, His lotus eyes and pair of coral hued lips. My heart is mine no longer!" Thiruvaimozhi 5.5.1 Going on, Nammazhwar explains in the next 8 stanzas the overriding obsession of Parankusa Naayaki towards the Lord in Thirukurungudi. In what are among the most beautiful paasurams, one hears Parankusa Naayaki replying to her companions and...

Rushes to the devotee's rescue

TIRUKKOLUR IS BIRTHPLACE of Nammazhwar's ardent devotee, Madurakavi, whose praise of Nammazhwar is always recited before reciting Nammazhwar's work. In his hymns on this temple, Nammazhwar assumes the role of the heroine's mother, who complains of the young girl forsaking everything to be with her lord at Tirukkolur. The first stanza captures the essence beautifully, ``The food she eats, the water she drinks even the betel leaves she chews are all submerged in her passion for Kannan. Eyes...

Temples that reverberate with history

DRIVING TO Pudukottai from Madurai to attend a marriage recently, it was hard not to be captivated by the small but impressive fort on the side of the road above the village of Tirumeyyam. The wedding in Pudukottai wouldn't wait and promising myself that we would come back the same way I had a quick glance at the fort as we went on. The sumptuous food needed to be burned off and what better way to do it than climb the hill? Fortunately as I came back, the sun had permitted a few rain clouds...

Handsome and prosperous

IN SINGING the praise of the Lord of Thentirupperai, the last on the southern bank of the Tamiraparani, on the main Tirunelveli-Tiruchendur Road, Nammazhwar, again, assumes the role of the heroine. The girl confides in her friends the fact that she has surrendered to the charms of the deity. She says: The sound of Vedic chanting rivals the roar of the ocean. Amidst this, holding the conch, he rests at Tirupperai. I have lost myself to him and sent my heart to retrieve myself. But my heart too...

Pining for the Lord

PERUNGULAM (THIRUKULANDAI) is 8 km from Srivaikuntam on the Srivaikuntam-Tiruchendur bus route. Nammazhwar's hymn goes like this: ``... in Thirukulandai nestled among verdant groves, He sits on the Garuda and wields the fiery discus. I went after him in search of my heart that he took away, I pined for him as my bangles slip away from my emaciated wrists... " — Tiruvoimozhi (8.2.4) Like most other of his pasurams on the Nava Tirupati, here too Nammazhwar takes on the nayika bhava, a...

Unsung but not forgotten

THE HARSH rays of the mid morning sun were effectively blotted out by the boughs of the Banyan tree as was the bird song by the crows. Sitting on a rather uncomfortable rock under the tree I could glimpse through a pathway in the jungle of thorny shrubs a thin trickle of the River Tamiraparani. The pathway had cracked in the drought and the trickle itself seemed to be unsure as to whether it should go on or just stop and give up in its fight against the overpowering heat. Ananthakrishnapuram...

Shrines that Nammazhwar glorified

SPENDING SUMMER vacations in a fairly religious Vaishnavite household in Tirunelveli, it is next to impossible at not being taken to the nine Vishnu temples on either side of the Tamiraparani collectively known as the Nava Tirupati. My first visit was as a teenager. In just a day's visit, I had become an `addict' of the temples that are repositories of art, sculpture, architecture, bronze work, frescos and so on. Just to look at the impeccable craftsmanship gave great pleasure. Their setting...

Touched by Pandya generosity

PRADEEP CHAKRAVARTHY The Kailasanathar temple in Perungulam, spread over a few acres of land, has been built in an elegant, square shape. Lesser known than the nine Vaishnavaite temples on the Tambraparani banks — the Nava Tirupati — are corresponding Saivaite temples. Many of these temples are in fact coeval to their Vaishnavaite counterparts and speak for the broad-mindedness of the Pandyas. Some of them like the one at Manathi are on the verge of collapse, and others like those...