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Tamil Nadu

Travel

Two temples in the Gingee Fort

I shared this photo in my last post – do you see a temple tower on the top right?
Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu
That is the stunning Venkatramana Temple inside the Gingee Fort. I never imagined I’d use the word eerie for a temple, but I really cannot think of another word to describe it. It was built by a Nayak king in the 16th century, but is now dilapidated and not in use even for worship. When we went, free food was being distributed outside the temple, but there were very few people, and inside, there was hardly anyone. It probably looks a lot more cheerful when it is sunny, but in the rain, it was very dramatic and super gorgeous despite the decay. It was raining pretty heavily by now, so those strange circles you see in some pictures are raindrops on my lens!Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu
Now the next temple – I don’t remember for sure, and am unable to confirm looking at my photos, but I think this tiny temple by a pond is dedicated to Lord Ganesh. Isn’t it charming?
Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu
Check out my earlier posts part 1 and part 2 for more about the fort and how to get there.

 

Edited to add this warning: This was on a rainy day – on a regular day, the place gets ridiculously hot – don’t get misled by the mist in these photos 😀
Travel

Gingee – The Fort

Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu
The Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji, is believed to have considered the fort of Gingee (also called Senji or Chenji) India’s most impregnable fort. And yet, the fort has apparently been occupied by most dynasties that ruled the region, like the Cholas (who built it), the Nayaks, the Vijayanagara empire, the Marathas, the Mughals, many others in between and finally the British.
 
Located about 160 kms from Chennai, the fort is built on three hillocks – Krishnagiri, Rajagiri and Chandrayandurg. When you drive into the fort area, it is easy to see how hard it must have been for an enemy army to invade while being attacked from 3 hills simultaneously. Since it was raining pretty heavily when we got there, we could only do one hill, Rajagiri, and did not even climb too far up. A friend said he climbed all three on one day and couldn’t even feel his legs by the time he was done!

 

The Archaeological Survey of India keeps the Gingee Fort really clean. The Rajagiri hillock has an assortment of structures like temples, stables, granaries, tanks and pavilions. Let me now show you some pictures from the hill – mostly from around the base. What would have otherwise been just another (very beautiful) fort, was transformed into a mysterious wonderland by the clouds, the rain and the mist.
Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu
Gingee Fort, Tamil NaduGingee Fort, Tamil NaduGingee Fort, Tamil NaduGingee Fort, Tamil NaduGingee Fort, Tamil NaduGingee Fort, Tamil Nadu

Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu

After spending some time walking about the ruins, we went to a couple of temples at the foot of the Rajagiri hill before beginning the drive back to Chennai. I’ll show you those in the next post 🙂 
 

If you happen to be in Chennai and have a day to spare, definitely visit Gingee. The road is pretty great most of the way, but traffic can get rough – we saw a very gruesome accident on the way back 🙁 Gingee is stunning in the rains, but slippery roads obviously make the drive riskier, so that’s a factor you must consider. You might want to carry snacks and water with you – there are no shops around the fort. There is a lot of vegetation all around the fort, so it is a nice place for birdwatching too.
Gingee Fort, Tamil Nadu
A lily pond on the way to Gingee
Travel

A Drive To Gingee In The Rain

It’s been sooooo long since I posted anything on either of my blogs. When the new year began, I honestly meant to post regularly, but between sheer laziness and other projects that took up my time, I never got around to it.

 

Gingee is a beautiful fort about a hundred miles from Chennai, and I visited it in February. The day before we went, Ashwin, who’s been there many times, kept warning me that it would be really really hot. But when we woke up in the morning, it was drizzling! And then it rained all the way to Gingee and back, right through the day! Such good luck!

 

I thoroughly enjoyed the drive, and we stopped every now and then to take photos – some through the windshield too. So how about I make this post about the drive and the next one about the beautiful fort?
Now that we are well and truly into summer, even looking at these pictures is making me all wistful 🙁
This was how misty the fort looked when we got there!
My first owl spotting on the way back. A Spotted Owlet.
Travel

Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary

Happy New Year, people! I hope all your dreams come true this year 🙂

 

Almost 3 months ago, we drove to the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary about 75 km from Chennai, only to find it closed. In the weeks that followed my interest in birds kind of waned. And then last month, when we heard that the birds have arrived and the sanctuary is open, my interest shot up again and we went back 🙂 The drive was even lovelier than the first time because the weather was brilliant.
 
The Vedanthangal lake is dotted with clusters of trees and attracts migratory water birds from many parts of the world that have very harsh winters. The relationship between the birds and the villagers of Vedanthangal is symbiotic – the lake provides a warm and safe feeding ground for the birds, and the bird droppings that fall in the lake fertilize the surrounding fields that receive water from it. The water in the lake recedes in summer, and fills up once the North-East monsoon sets in, just in time for the birds to arrive. One side of the lake is lined by a bund with a tiled walkway and a couple of watch towers for bird watchers, and the rest is surrounded by fields.Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary Vedanthangal Bird SanctuaryCheck out this pelican (I think) landing in the water. I was amazed at how wide the bird is when its wings are open – at least as large as an adult human’s arm span, I bet.Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
Travel

Kanchipuram Diaries III

After visiting a couple of Shiva temples in Kanchipuram, we moved on to the Vaikunta Perumal and Varadharaja Perumal temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. As you’ve probably guessed, Perumal means Vishnu 🙂 The Vaikunta Perumal Temple was built in the 8th century by the Pallava king Nandivarman II.  Lion pillars like the ones in the Kailashnathar temple make an appearance in this corridor as well.
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
Vaikunta Perumal Temple
An Iyengar priest at the temple
The Varadharaja Perumal Temple was built in the 11th century, when the Chola kings ruled over the region. Additions were made by later Chola and Vijayanagara rulers. The structure to the left of the above photo is a 100 pillared hall, an exquisite example of Vijayanagara architecture. The pillars are carved with scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
As with most temples, photography isn’t allowed in the innermost part of the shrine, where the idol of the main deity is. The walls and ceilings there are covered with gorgeous murals from the Vijayanagara period.
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
A small shrine on the way to the main one of Varadharaja Perumal. The temple was shutting down for lunch.
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
A small shrine under a peepal tree in the huge open corridor around the temple.
Travel

Kanchipuram Diaries II

The Kailashanathar Temple is the most beautiful temple in Kanchipuram (read about the city here), and probably the most beautiful of all Pallava temples. It was built between 685 and 705 AD – its construction was started by Pallava ruler Narasimhavarman II and completed by his son Mahendravarman III. It was during the reign of Narasimhavarman II that the practice of building structural temples began. By structural temples, we mean the kind of temples we see today – built from scratch, as opposed to carved out of rocks. The Shore Temple of Mahabalipuram was built during his rule as well, and you can see the similarity in the shikharas of the two temples.
Kailashanathar Temple, Kanchipuram
The entrance wall is lined with 8 small shrines and a doorway to enter the temple
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
A chamber with a blue door flanked by huge dwarapalas or guardian deities supports the main gopuram
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
The entrance to the inner compound that houses the main shrine
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
The main temple with a pyramidal shikhara that resembles Mahabalipuram’s Shore Temple
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
All along the wall enclosing the shrine, are 58 small shrines decorated with carvings and frescoes.
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
Small shrines supported by lion pillars all around
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
Erect lions in different directions all around the base of the shikhara
Kailashnathar Temple, Kanchipuram
Intricate carvings and paintings fill all the small shrines and niches between them
Our next stop was the Ekambareshwarar Temple (also called the Ekambaranathar Temple), Kanchipuram’s largest temple, also dedicated to Lord Shiva. There are 5 Shiva temples in South India that represent the 5 natural elements. Of these, the Ekambareshwara Temple represents the Earth. The temple was built in the early 7th century, when the Pallavas were in power. But the 57 meter high main ‘gopuram’ and a thousand pillar square corridor around the central shrine were built later in the 16th century under the rule of the Vijayanagara ruler Krishnadevaraya.
Ekambareshwara Temple, Kanchipuram
An idol of ‘nandi’, the bull, facing the inner shrine
Ekambareshwara Temple, Kanchipuram
One side of the thousand pillar square corridor
Ekambareshwara Temple, Kanchipuram
1008 Shivalingas line the outer edges of the corridor
Ekambareshwara Temple, Kanchipuram
The imposing entrance tower or gopuram