We set out this winter on a temple trail on what is fairly familiar stretch to me, but with my family of wife and children who had not seen these ancient temples in the Tiruchi-Thanjavur belt.
We arrived at Tiruchirapalli Junction from Chennai on Rockfort express by 5.30 am and we had a pleasant ride to the Hotel ( Hotel Femina, Tiruchi) in their pickup cab.
It is a good hotel to stay for trips like these, a little up-market but comes with a good complimentary breakfast in their Woodlands restaurant and you won’t have any complaints about their room and service.
There is even a Travel desk where we booked a cab for both the days of our tour..Charges were quite decent, I can say, as the drivers were courteous and well-informed.
We had planned to see Thanjavur the first day and Tiruchi on the second. A compact Indica meant for four of us stood ready at 8.45 am at the Portico.
It is around 60 kms to Thanjavur town from here and our first stop was though at Thiruvaiyaru which is about 13 km away from the city. We started at 9.00 am. The driver seemed to know his way around and was quite co-operative.
The driver took us through what he called a ‘shortcut’ and it was a new tarred village road under PM Graam sadak plan, so it was a smooth ride through green paddy and sugarcane fields, but it was 10.20 when we reached the Thyagaraja Samadhi at Thiruvaiyaru.
We met hundreds of villagers dressed in yellow who do annual padayatra to Samayapuram temple all along the road. Young and old with walking sticks, stood out for their spirit and devotion.
The annual celebration of Thyagaraja is around the corner and Ganapathi homam was in progress when we had Darshan of the revered poet-saint’s samadhi.
The next stop was the ancient panchanatheeswarar temple at Thiruvaiyaru also called Iyaarappar temple. It is one of the saptha sthanam temples of Lord Shiva, a huge temple with a no of prakaarams one after another but it looks like the temple really needs some maintenance.
After darshan here, we left for Chandran temple, one of the navagraha temples nearby.
Thingaloor Chandran temple:
One of the smaller shrines outside the usual Moolavar (always Shiva) had quite a few devotees praying there when we reached. We offered our prayers and left taking arati and vibhuti.
It was around 11.00 am now and we needed a cool break and so we drank delicious tender coconuts outside the temple.
Thittai Guru Bhagawan temple
We reached here in about 20 mins from the last stop.
This navagraha temple had celebrated Guru peyarchi just a week or so back, (the moving over of Guru from one zodiac sign to another) and we could see the Shamiana and barricades for it too. Vasishteswaraswamy is the ruling deity here and the Lord Guru is outside in compact enclosure bedecked in yellow. Children prayed for their smooth sailing in education and we two for everything else in life.
Punnainallur Mariamman temple
As we enter Thanjavur there is a diversion to Punnainallur on the suburbs, and there stands a lovely temple dedicated to Goddess mariamman.
Though there was a huge rush, we managed to have darshan with special ticket and broke for lunch at Gnanam Hotel. The food was moderate, both in price at Rs 70 per Veg. meals and taste.
Thanjavur Palace and library
( All pics below-click to enlarge)
Maratha ruler Serfoji II was a connoisseur of art and literature and has a palace full of antique statues and palm leaf, manuscripts and rare books. This is worth a visit for art and literature lovers and quite awe inspiring. Wish they could renovate the place and make it more attractive.
Brihadeeswara temple or Periya Koil (Big temple)
It is without doubt a colossal monument of Chola style stone architecture. The sheer size of Gopurams, shiva lingam and statues are magnificent.
We are there on a Pradosham day and hence even this huge temple looked very crowded. I had a ‘near darshan’ while the other three family members managed to push inside and had direct darshan. Felt blessed and blissed!
We had managed to cover 6 temples and one Samadhi in one day from 9 to 7 , which was pretty good going. Thankfully wife and children co-operated with the tough schedule and enjoyed themselves too.
We returned to Tiruchi, had dinner (snacks like idli , dosa) in Guru Hotel near our stay and took well deserved rest.
· Travel taxis charge Rs 600 plus Rs 4 per Km. We had covered 160 kms in day.
· One needs to provide for the temple special darshan tickets which vary from Rs 5 to 25/-
at most places in this stretch besides parking fees also in the same range.
On the way Thanjavur-Trichy –a green stretch!
We managed to leave by 9 am after a sumptuous breakfast, courtesy of Hotel Femina and left for the Trichy- Srirangam tour. This time the driver was more informed and did the entire basic route planning for us.
The famous oldest rock formation in the world houses two ancient temples.
One needs to climb 200+ steps to Thayumanuvar temple midway and all 430 till Uchi pillaiyar.
We had decided against climbing the steps of Rockfort to uchi pillaiyar temple due to our physical constraints; so we had darshan of Manikya Vinayakar at the foot of the hill and left.
Jambukeswarar temple at Thiruvanaikaval
Situated on the banks of Cauvery River, this one takes one’s breath away at the sheer size and beauty associated with the architecture.
Hailed as “Jala sthalam” of the famed panchaboota sthalam (representing earth, water, fire, air and space) and one of the 275 shiva sthalams of Tamil nadu, this temple has a no of long carved corridors and you must see it to believe its ambience and effect it creates on devotees.
The Sivalingam is said to be submerged by water when the neighbouring river stream is in spate and meant to represent God form as water. At other times you can see and feel water inside the garbhagriham where you have to stoop and enter. The Lord’s consort is Akhilandeswari , housed in a separate temple.
Samayapuram Mariamman temple
Although we did go Srirangam temple next, there was a very heavy crowd waiting for doors to open at 1 Pm. Hence we quickly left this place to visit Samapayapuram Mariamman temple.
Thousands of padayatra pilgrims had gathered there and it was a sea of yellow.
Momentarily my family got separated in the melee but got reunited inside the garbhagriham. The rush and jostling all was worth it and we had the benign darshan of the red faced Devi soon.
We had a quiet delicious Veg. lunch, Iyer style at Maduraa hotel in this interval.
Srirangam temple is not just another temple but a small town in itself. It was three days after Vaikunta Ekadashi and naturally there were serpentine queues and it looked like three-four hours at the least and we chose to pay to have special darshan quickly. The paramapada vassal door is open during these days.
The Lord was decorated with Moti( Muttu) and we really felt blessed seeing the deity at very close quarters.
Gunaseelam Perumal temple
On the Trichy stretch, amid greenery and flowing Cauvery canal waters lies a lovely temple dedicated to Prasanna venktachalapathi.
The temple opened at 4.30 pm an we had towait for 30 mins. Again the wait was worth the trouble and we had good darshan with little crowd for a change this time.
It is supposed to be a powerful deity and a no of mentally disturbed and diseased people are said to have been cured by praying here.
We took timeout and wet our feet in cool welcome waters on the way back.
Woraiyur vekkaliamman temple
This is an open to sky temple and we had evening darshan here in the last lap. The amman is said to have saved the villages from mud rain and asked the devotees to build a temple where she would stand unsheltered.
The deity is lovely and so was alankaram. This one is not to be missed by anyone touring this stretch.
The second day trip took us 96 kms in a day but we covered 6 temples again between 9 to 7 pm!
It was a memorable trip for the family and we cherished it.
We took the night train back to Chennai.
Some pics from our mobile cameras are shown below