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 ? “
………………………………………………..अज्ञेय 
[ 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

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA

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Vidur’s Travel Diary – 5 : Puducherry


CHENNAI – TAMILNADU – INDIA         NOVEMBER 30 , 2011            01.00 A.M.

After finishing Darshanam and Abhishekam yesterday , me and my wife proceeded for Chennai from Vaitheeswaramkoil in the morning . We reached Puduchery at noon and decided to visit few important places . If one is passing through Puducherry , is it possible to just escape the city and proceed further ?

In 1969 when I went to Allahabad for higher studies , one day me and my friend went to Universal Book Store to buy ” Savitri ” and ” Life Divine ” , books written by Maharshi Aurobindo . I couldn’t buy the books because of paucity of funds but my friend bought those books . He used to narrate few important things from those books and my admiration and respect for Maharshi Aurobindo grew . Unfortunately I was unable to visit Puducherry , which was known as Pondicherry at that time . So when I passed through Puduchery on November 25th , I decided to visit it thoroughly while returning from Vaitheeswarankoil .

Main road of Puducherry is adorned by beautiful gates . In my knowledge the only other city in India adorned with gates is Jaipur . But these gates are very different . They carry distinct French style .

Gate of Puducherry City

After this gate , the most important thing in Puducherry is Sri Aurubindo Ashram . Ashram is closed from 2.00 t0 4.00 . I am sorry that I reached there at 1.45 and spent only 15 minutes there . I could visit the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and Sri Maa and I am happy that I could pay my obeisance there . Photography is not allowed inside , so I could not click photos of Samadhi .

With My Wife at Aurubindo Ashram Gate

My Wife at Sri Aurubindo Ashram

The promenade of Puducherry is something to be seen to be believed . It is different from Marina Beach Chennai and Juhu Beach , Mumbai . It’s old name was Rue Du Rampart and now it is called Beach Road .

Beach Road - Puducherry

Beach Road - Puducherry , Another View

My Wife at Beach Road - Boat House Chunambur in the Background

Very close to Sri Aurobindo Ashram is Vinayak Temple , most famous temple of Puducherry .

With My Wife at Vinayak Temple Gate

After Vinayak Temple we again returned to Beach Road . At one end there is a magnificient Gandhi statue .

Mahatma Gandhi Statue at Beach Road

Pondicherry , apart from Sri Aurubindo , also belongs to Subramanya Bharthi , a great modern Tamil poet . His house was declared a national memorial. I went to visit it but it is sad that it has been closed two years ago . Millions are spent on the memorials of Gandhi – Nehru family but it is appalling that a national poet of the stature of Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathiyar a.k.a. Subramanya Bharathi is so neglected . Totally disappointed and crest – fallen , I returned from his so – called memorial

House of Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathiyar

There is another worthwhile monument near Puducherry . It is called Auruville . It is 12 km. from the main town .Auroville is a global village conceptualised by Sri Maa . It was raining heavily and we were wet , so the picture is not very clear .

With my Wife at Matru Mandir - Auroville

With visit to Auroville , my Puducherry visit ended . I returned to Chennai . While sitting in the room of Hotel Golden Tower , while I am writing this blog , I am thinking about Puducherry . It is very different from other Indian cities . Have you seen such kind of lanes and by – lanes anywhere in India ?

A Lane of Puducherry

Or do you think such kind of structure for a Church is prevalent anywhere in India ?

A Church of Puducherry

Puducherry was a French Colony and was known as Pondicherry then  . After India’s independence , French government decided to hand over this colony to Indian government and on November 01 , 1954 Pondicherry came under India’s rule and was made a Union Territory on November 01 , 1956 . At the time of transfer of power French government insisted that the distinct French character if this town should be maintained . It is heartening that this pledge is maintained by our government and Puducherry remains unique and distinct .

As usual when I am about to finish the blog , I am contemplating about my next visit and as usual words of Hindi poet Agyeya come to my with a teasing reminder :

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 ? “
………………………………………………..अज्ञेय
[ 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 ? ]
But in case of Pondicherry , I know that I would be visiting the town soon . After Deoria , my place of birth and after Mumbai , my place of work , if I have to settle in any other city ever , it would be Puducherry .

VIDUR

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA

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