Vidur’s Travel Diary – 6 : Kanchipuram

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA          DECEMBER 05 , 2011           01.00 P.M.

On the 30th morning , my last day in Chennai , I started for my journey to Kanchipuram . It is 71 km. from Chennai . I had read in the Holy scriptures that 7 holy cities have powers to give you salvation or Nirvana . They are Ayodhya , Mathura , Maya [ Haridwar ] , Kashi [ Varanasi ] in Uttar Pradesh , Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu , Avantika [ Ujjain ] in Madhya Pradesh and Dwarka in Gujarat .

अयोध्या , मथुरा , माया , काशी , कांची , अवंतिका ;
पुरीद्वारावातिश्चैव , सप्तैते मोक्षदायिका

This is the shloka from Garud Puran and I used to recite it during my childhood . I had already visited 6 cities and only Kanchipuram was left . So the excitement was palpable . After fabulous breakfast in a roadside restaurant , we reached Kanchipuram in 2 hours . The city , formerly known as Conjeevaram , is situated on the banks of Vegavati river and is known for thousand temples and silk sarees . It is also called City of 1000 Temples . Once upon a time , it was kingdom of Pallava empire for 200 years , and is one of the oldest cities of South India .

Our first stop was 3,500 years old Ekambarnathar Temple :

At The Gate of Ekambarnathar Temple

Gopuram of 3,500 years old Ekambarnathar Temple :

Gopuram of Ekambarnathar Temple

Kanchipuram is the centre of one of the four Mathas , stablished by Adi Shankaracharya . Badrinath in the North , Dwarka in the West , Jagannath Puri in the East and Kanchipuram in the South . So our next stop was Kanchi Kamkoti Peetham Meenakshi Temple :

Meenakshi Temple of Kanchi Kamkoti Peetham

Gopuram of Meenakshi Temple : Kanch Kamkoti Peetham

After Kanchi Kamkoti Peetham , we visited Varadharaja Perumal Temple :

Varadharaja Perumal Temple

Entrance of Varadharaja Perumal Temple

Kanchipuram is birthplace of famous Sanskrit poet Dandin . He is writer of Dashakumaracharitam . Another famous Sanskrit poet Bharavi , who wrote Kiratarjuniyam , also hailed from here . Bharavi wrote his Kiratarjuniyam here under the patronage of the Pallav king Simhavishnu .  So out of four most famous poets of Sanskrit , two ; Dandin and Bharavi belong to Kanchipuram . Other two are ; Kalidas and Magha . The famous shloka describing their eminence is still fresh in my memory :

उपमा कालिदासस्य , भारवेरर्थ गौरवं ;
डंडीनः पद लालित्यम , माघे सन्ति त्रयो गुणाः

It is irony of the fate that Kanchipuram , which is second only to Varanasi in Sanskrit learning and which is the centre of Hinduism since time immemorial , is also the birthplace of C. N. Annadurai , an atheist and most famous Dravidian leader , second only to E. V. Ramasami Naicker Periyar . He formed Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam in 1949 and led it to victory in Tamil Nadu assembly elections in 1967 . Though C. N. Annadurai ruled only for 2 years and died in 1969 but his influence on Tamil Nadu and Dravid politics is immense . He is the first Non – Congress and Dravid leader to become Chief minister of Tamil Nadu , then known as Madras  . He is the first Non – Congress leader to come to power with absolute majority in any Indian state and ended monopoly of Congress in Tamil Nadu . M. Bakthavatsalam was the last Congress Chief Minister and since 1967 to 2011 , it is 44 years since Congress lost power . C. N. Annadurai symbolized this Non – Congress sentiment .

Kanchipuram is his birthplace and his house is converted into a memorial . I visited his memorial also ;

C. N. Annadurai's House in Kanchipuram

After Kanchipuram , I proceeded to Vellore . It is a small town 145 km. from Chennai . It is situated on the banks of Palar river . It is famous for hospital and V.I.T. University [ Vellore Institute of Technology ] . Since my sister’s son is studying there I went there to meet him .

With My Nephew Kaustubh in the V. I. T. Campus

V. I. T. Gate

While coming to Kanchipuram from Chennai , one can see Rajiv Gandhi Memorial in Sriperumbudur also . This small place is situated 40 km. away from Chennai and comes under Kanchipuram district . It is birthplace of Sri Ramanujacharya , one of the most prominent Hindu Vaishnav saints . In 1991 Rajiv Gandhi was killed here during an election campaign and this small , unknown town became known to all . I visited his grand memorial ;

Rajiv Gandhi Memorial at Sriperumbudur

Rajiv Gandhi Memorial at Sriperumbudur

Rajiv Gandhi Memorial at Sriperubudur

It is a grand and opulent memorial . I am not against it  . But I am sad that crores are spent on Rajiv Gandhi’s memorial and Subramanya Bharathi’s memorial in Puducherry is now closed .

With this I finished my 12 days pilgrimage , said good-bye to Chennai , took train from Egmore on December 01st and reached Mumbai on December 02nd .

Egmore Station - Chennai

I don’t know whether I would be visiting these place again or not . I do intend to visit but …….? As usual I remember few lines of Hindi poet Agyeya and leave everything to my destiny .

पार्श्व गिरि का नम्र चीड़ों में , डगर चढ़ती उमंगों सी ;

बिछी पैरों में नदी ज्यों दर्द की रेखा , विहग शिशु मौन नीड़ों में ; 

मैंने आँख भर देखा , दिया मन को दिलासा ; 
पुनः आऊँगा , भले ही बरस दिन , अनगिन युगों के बाद ;

क्षितिज ने पलक सी खोली , दमक कर दामिनी बोली ;
” अरे यायावर ! रहेगा याद ? “
[ Tenderness of mighty mountains reflected in pine trees ,
Upward moving pathways symbolizing my enthusiasm ,
River , flowing deep down like a line of pain ,
Tiny tots of birds sitting silently in their nest ,
I saw everything with contentment ,
Consoled myself , I would come again ,
After a year or may be after ages ……….
Horizon opened its eyes , lightning dazzled in the sky ,
As if saying ………………
O Wanderer ! Would you ever even remember ? ]



Vidur’s Travel Diary – 3 : Chennai

VAITHEESWARANKOIL  –  NAGAPATTINAM  –  TAMIL NADU          NOVEMBER  28 , 2011              00 .30 A.M.

I was at Tirupati on November 21 , 22 and 23rd . On 24th November I took Garudeshwar Express from Tirupati and  reached Chennai in the morning . Train reached Chennai Central station . I must admit that Chennai Central station is well-kept and well maintained building .

Chennai Central Station

After checking in Hotel Golden Tower on Periyar road , I immediately booked a cab and went for Chennai sight-seeing  . Though I had visited this city almost 6 years back but that time I was not able to see much as it was Sunday and Chennai was Closed .

First my driver took me to Government Museum . It is a sprawling British era building stablished in 1851 . It is the oldest museum of India .and is well-kept . It has three different sections .

At Chennai Museum Main Gate

Chennai Museum - Exterior

After spending more than 1 hour in the museum , I went to Snake Park . Though park is not related to the snakes in any way and I  don’t like the idea also but the place is named as Snake Park , so I had no option . I am not very fond of reptiles also but still went there . Apart from snakes , it also has crocodile section.

Chennai Snake Park - Crocodile Section

Chennai Snake Park - Exterior

From Snake Park , it was turn of a very different building . During British era it was called Ice Building . Ruling British gentry used to keep ice in the building and used to serve it during the evening to those Englishmen , who came for revelry . Now this building is called Vivekanand House .

Ice House / Vivekanand House

From Ice House we went to Fort St. George , the Vidhan Sabha of Tamilnadu Government . On the way we saw Nappier Bridge , which one has to cross while going to Fort St. George . It was built-in 1869 by Governor Nappier across Cooum river .

Nappier Bridge

After crossing Nappier Bridge , we reached Fort St. George , the administrative headquarters of Tamilnadu government . The Flag Mast , which stands in front of the main building is the tallest in the country . Foundation of the Fort was laid in 1640 . Before that Chennai used to be just two villages ; Madraspattinam and Chennaipattinam . East India Company bought some land from the king of Chandragiri and started building the fort . It took 15 years to be completed and was declared open in 1654 .

Fort St. George in the Background

Fort St. George compound has two very important buildings ; St. Mary Church and the Museum . St Mary Church was stablished in 1680 and is the first church of India .

St. Mary Church - Fort St. George

Fort museum was stablished in 1948 .

Fort St. George Museum

Another British Era structure , situated in between Fort St George and the Museum , is a canopy .

The Canopy

Can any description of Chennai be complete without Marina Beach ? Mile of sand and sky blue , azure sea is beyond words . You have to see the spectacle to believe it .

At Marina Beach with my Wife

We all know about the Samadhis of national leaders in Delhi on the banks of Yamuna river . In Chennai also there are two Samadhis on Marina beach . First Memorial belongs to C. N. Annadurai , the first non – Congress Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and also the first leader of Dravidian party to form a majority government in India . He was also the founder of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam [ DMK ] .

Annadurai Memorial at Marina Beach

Another Memorial belongs to MGR , the founder of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam [ AIADMK ] . He , along with Sivaji Ganesan , was the top most Tamil film star . He broke away from the parent party DMK and in 1972 formed AIADMK and subsequently became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu . He was Chief Minister for two consecutive terms ; 1977 – 1982 and 1982 – 1987 and was the first actor in India to become the Chief Minister of a state .

MGR Memorial at Marina Beach

But journey of Chennai cannot be complete without visiting Adyar river . We north Indians don’t know about this huge river but Adyar flows magnificently and silently in Chennai . Along with Cooum river , Adyar  trifurcates the Chennai city .

Adyar River

After spending just one day in Chennai , I proceeded for Vaitheeswarankoil in Nagapattinam district on November 25th . I will again return to Chennai on November 29th. Chennai is not a remote place that I cannot come here again . I might visit it soon . But who knows ? I might not get another chance ! So I remember a poem of Hindi poet Sachchitanand Hiranand Vatsyayan ” Agyeya ” and finish my travelogue of Chennai .

पार्श्व गिरि का नम्र चीड़ों में , डगर चढ़ती उमंगों सी ;

बिछी पैरों में नदी ज्यों दर्द की रेखा , विहग शिशु मौन नीड़ों में ; 

मैंने आँख भर देखा , दिया मन को दिलासा ; 
पुनः आऊँगा , भले ही बरस दिन , अनगिन युगों के बाद ;

क्षितिज ने पलक सी खोली , दमक कर दामिनी बोली ;
” अरे यायावर ! रहेगा याद ? “




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