Tamil nad / Pondicherry Articles

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...

With royal connection

PRADEEP CHAKRAVARTHY A favourite of the Nayaks, the Rajagopalaswamy temple is full of inscriptions. Two images of a king, one in stone and another in a moth-eaten paper manuscript. The stone image shows the king in a gesture of supplication though his pose itself is regal and grand, beautifully encased inside a foliate arch facing a similar one of his father on one side of the temple gopuram, on his leg he wears a fabulous gold anklet called the Sahitya Raya Bendaram. He is after all a poet...

The literary connection

PRADEEP CHAKRAVARTHY The Vellai Pillaiyar gets a mention in Kuravanji. Tucked away to the side of the Thanjavur-Kumbakonam road that enters the Thanjavur fort through the north gate are two small temples frequented by devotees who do not know their heritage. They are not architecturally famous either and off the tourist circuit. After a sumptuous meal at Vittal Mandir, I had to walk off the lip smacking Methkut and Kelache gole. Shivaji Rao, who hails from a distinguished Maratha family in...

Land of the blazing sun

Thiruvekha – Little Kanchi The four forms of earth are chewed and spat out by the fiery sun This dry desert is the last we need to cross dearest girl! Vekha is beyond, where even the celestials worship Krishna And beyond that Tirutankal amidst a shaded grove Be patient dearest for our long journey draws to a close (Tiruvirutta 26) So saying the Vaishnavite Saint Nammazhwar mentions Vekha. The metaphor of the sun chewing and spitting out the land had always fascinated me and I...

On facts less known

Patience and perseverance could well sum up the personality of George Michell, who talks about the book he has recently co-authored with Indira V Peterson illustrated with photographs by Bharath Ramamrutham. Now, how did an Australian find his way to India and to Thanjavur? India was Michell's first visit abroad and after his 1965 visit to Madras and a degree in School of Oriental and African Studies, the U.K., this architect decided it would be his area of research as well. His Ph.D got him...

Temple above a royal sepulchre

The cool breeze at dusk strikes a discordant note in the landscape, parched and full of thorn bushes. The Gundar river is a trickle that negotiates the clumps of flowering Nanal grass. Our vehicle comes to a halt outside a temple that is not very different from the thousands of other temples found in the villages of Tamil Nadu. Two temples, each simple two or three-room constructions, are set amidst a grove of trees with an incomplete gopuram doorway, in Pallimadam, a village near...

Storehouse of information

P ersistence pays with visiting temples off the beaten path. While crossing Cheranmadevi, an hour from Tirunelveli, I had been intrigued by the Ramaswamy temple in the outskirts. The pillars outside had beautiful 16 {+t} {+h} Century images of Lord Rama affectionately resting on the shoulders of Hanuman. The area had interesting connections between the Pandyas, Cheras and Hoysalas. With a bit of persuasion we were able to gain entry and I had epigraphist Dr. Santalingam with me to share his...

Cleaning is his mission

Santhanam looks like your average retired person, sitting in front of the TV or playing with his grandchildren and perhaps doing the mandatory temple visit daily. Hear him speak and you are amazed by the extraordinary thing he is doing, at an age when people will be maintaining a calendar for doctor's appointments or complaining about how the present is not as good as the past. Uzhavaram is a small spade that Tirunavukkarasar is depicted with. The saint was revered for his habit of keeping...