December 6, 2009

Madras War Memorial


Only few monuments in Chennai, the gateway city to South India, are neatly and properly maintained. Madras War Memorial is one among those few well maintained monuments in Chennai. (For those who do not know, Madras is another name for Chennai).



Madras War Memorial a.k.a. Madras War Cemetery is homage to those soldiers who lost their lives during the Second World War in the period of 1939-1945 CE. The memorial houses 855 graves of soldiers belonging to Commonwealth forces. It also houses a grave of Polish Airman and four other non war graves. There is a beautiful Cross of Sacrifice in the memorial, which was set up on an Octagonal base that bears a bronze sword upon its shaft.



The Commonwealth War Graves Commission set up the Madras War Cemetery in 1952 CE as homage to the people who dedicated their lives during the Second World War. This monument is located in  Nandampakkam area, which is hardly 5 kms from Chennai airport and around 14 kms from Central Railway Station. The nearest landmark is Chennai Trade Center that is located opposite to this monument.

Happy traveling.



Site Name: Madras War Memorial
Site Type: Memorial, Cemetery
Site Location: Nandampakkam area, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highligts: A memorial to those soldiers who lost their lives during Second World War during 1939-1945





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November 17, 2009

A calm beach near Chennai

Chennai, the city considered as the gateway to South India, has arguably the second longest beach in the world. It also has few other beaches. However, it is an unfortunate fact that it is very difficult to find a clean beach. If you want to find a beautiful beach in Chennai which is not crowded, you need to go to the beach located near Tiger’s Cave.

Tiger’s Cave is located at a distance of 52 kms from Chennai city. It is easily accessible either by private taxis or on your own transportation as it is located on the East Coast Road (ECR) (a popular highway) that connects the cities Chennai and Mamallapuram. The distance of Tiger’s Cave from Mamallapuram is 5 kms.


Tiger’s Cave  has a beautiful and ancient cave-like architectural marvel and an old rock cut Shiva temple. Nearby Tiger’s Cave you can find 2000 year old remains of a brick temple discovered recently by Tsunami. The beach is next to the ancient brick temple.


The beach is clean. You can hardly find anybody in the beach. This is a rare sight in Chennai as almost all the places are crowded like anything. The beach and the surrounding is calm, serene, and neat. The site is dotted by a lot of trees such as palm, casuarinas and other trees. It’s really a relaxing experience to visit this great weekend picnic spot near Chennai.

Happy traveling.

Site Name: Tiger's Cave Beach
Type: Beach
Location: Saluvankuppam village - 52 km from Chennai city on East Coast Road (ECR), Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights:
1) A calm and clean beach



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November 8, 2009

Discovered by Tsunami

Tsunami hit Asia on 26th December 2004 and claimed around 220,000 lives, which was an unfortunate event in the history of Asia. Perhaps the only good thing due to that Tsunami was the discovery of 2000 years old brick temple near Tiger's cave, which is located at a distance of around 52 kms from Chennai city, India. Tiger's cave is hardly 5 km from the architecturally beautiful Mamallapuram town.

When Tsunami hit Mamallapuram and surrounding areas in December 2004, the remains of an ancient brick temple was unearthed by Tsunami. This temple is believed to have been built during the first century BCE and 2nd century CE. The temple was dedicated to Lord Murugan (aka Subramanya and Karthikeya), son of Lord Shiva. The period of the temple was possibly the Tamil Sangam Age. An inscription in Tamil on a rock near the excavated site led to the discovery of the temple. The rock, lodged in sand, was exposed fully by the tsunami that struck this area.

It is believed that the original temple was built using bricks. It should be noted that the temples were built using bricks 2000 years ago. It is also believed that this temple was subsequently converted into a granite temple during 8th century CE or 9th century CE by the Pallava kings, who were responsible for the architectural marvels in Mamallapuram and Tiger's cave. This is the first brick temple discovered in Tamil Nadu state of India.

It might not be a complete structure today and it might be just an excavation of temple remains. Still, it is really exciting to find ourselves stand in front of an ancient cultural symbol.

You can reach this place easily either by public transport or on your own, as the place is located well on the main road - East Coast Road (ECR) the road connecting Chennai and Mamallapuram cities.

Along with this place, you can also visit Tiger's cave, rock cut Shiva temple and a beautiful beach. All these four sites are located next to next.

Happy travelling.

Site Name: Ancient Murugan Temple, Near Tiger's Cave
Type: Sculpture, ancient brick temple
Location: Saluvankuppam village - 52 km from Chennai on East Coast Road (ECR)
Highlights:
1) 2000 year old brick temple
2) The first brick temple discovered in Tamil Nadu state of India
3) Unearthed by Tsunami

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November 7, 2009

Atiranachanda Mandapa, Tiger's Cave, Chennai, India

Atiranachanda Mandapa is located at a corner in the Tiger's Cave complex, near Chennai, India. Tiger's Cave is located at a village named Saluvankuppam on East Coast Road (ECR) between the cities Chennai and Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu, India. The distance of Tiger's cave is 5 kms from Mamallapuram and around 52 kms from Chennai.

The front facade of the east facing mandapa is supported by two pillars and two pilasters. The pillars are square at the top and base and in between is an octagonal shaft.There are three cells carved in the mandapa. The central cell alone is complete; the remaining two cells just have the wall portions. The central cell has a black polished multi faceted Shiv Linga and Somaskanda panel on the back wall. Somaskanda is a form of Shiva, Parvati along with the baby Skanda, flanked by Vishnu and Brahma. Two dwarapalaks are carved in the niches at the entrance of the cell. The remaining two cells too have similar Somaskanda panels carved on the back wall. Scholars believe that this monument was built either by Mamalla or Rajasimha Pallava.




The temple is located below from the ground level . The temple also has some rock carvings depicting the images of goddess Durga killing the buffalo faced demon, Mahisasura. Outside the cell, the stone idols of Shiv Linga and Nandi are found.

You can also visit Tiger's Cave, ancient Muruga temple unearthed by Tsunami and the nearby beach along with this serene and calm ancient temple.
It is definitely an architectural marvel which you should not miss.


You can easily reach the site either by public transport or on your own as the site is located well on the high road.

Happy travelling.


Site Name: Atiranachanda Mandapa, Tiger's Cave
Type: Sculpture, ancient rock cut temple
Location: Saluvankuppam village - 52 km from Chennai on East Coast Road (ECR)
Highlights:
1) 7th century AD Pallava architecture
2) Rock cut temple


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Tiger's Cave - Chennai, India


Tiger’s Cave is a place where you can find rock cut temples and sculptures but not tigers. :-)

Tiger’s Cave is located in a village named Saluvankuppam, which is around 5 kms from Mamallapuram towards the direction to Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. You can reach this place easily either from Chennai or Mamallapuram, as this is located on East Coast Road (ECR), the road that connects Chennai and Mamallapuram. The distance of Tiger’s Cave from Chennai is approximately 52 kms.

Tiger’s Cave is a unique cave shrine which is different in style from the other monuments of Mamallapuram. The south east facing structure is cut at a height of 6 feet from the ground level. The pavilion is closed on all three sides and a 4 feet deep and 6 feet high cavity is excavated in the front. There are stairs to reach the high raised platform. They are supported by lion parapets on either sides. The two lion pilasters with a female rider on the rearing lion are important features of the site. Around the central cell, a surrounding garland like arrangement of eleven yazhis (a mythological animal) is found. Interestingly, some scholars believe that this pavilion might have been used as a festival pavilion during Indira Vizha (festival of Indra). There are references about Indra Vizha in ancient Tamil books such as Silappadikaram.

The south facing side of the rock has two big elephant heads and an unfinished horse. The north facing side of the rock has a big lion with an unfinished figure carved in its stomach. It is a perfect picnic spot for Chennai people.  The site, which is believed to have been built by Rajasimha Pallava, is an ideal destination for nature lovers and art lovers.

If you do not visit this place, you are certainly missing something.

Happy Travelling.


Site Name: Tiger's Cave
Type: Sculpture, ancient rock cut temple
Location: Saluvankuppam village - 52 km from Chennai on East Coast Road (ECR)
Highlights:
1) 7th century CE Pallava architecture
2) Rock cut temple


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The Lord gets married daily - Nitya Kalyana Perumal Temple, Chennai, India


Site Name: Nitya Kalyana Perumal Temple
Site Type: Hindu ancient temple
Location:   Tiruvidandai area, ECR, Near Chennai, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: Varaha temple; one of 108 Divya Deshams

Nearest Railway Station: Chennai
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road from Chennai and Mamallapuram
Hotel: A lot of options across ECR
Restaurants:  A lot of options across ECR

Chennai city, the gateway to South India, has a lot of temples. Many of them are ancient temples and few of them are well known even outside Chennai. Nitya Kalyana Perumal Temple is not very popular, but an important temple that is located in the outskirts of Chennai. It is located in a village called Tiruvidandai on the popular East Coast Road (ECR) between Chennai and Mamallapuram. The distance is 42 kms from Chennai and 16 kms from Mamallapuram. Let us discuss about this peaceful temple in this article. 


Highlights:


  • Tirumangai Alwar has sung 13 Pasurams about this temple in his verses.
  • Manavala Mamunigal has also sung hymns about this deity.
  • It is considered as the 62nd Divya Desham temple. It is located in Tondai region.
  • In the olden days, it was also called as Sripuri and Varaha Puri
  • There are 360 consorts for Vishnu in this site.
  • God Aadi Varaha Perumal or Lakshmi Varaha Perumal ; Utsava deity - Nitya Kalyana Perumal
  • Goddess Komalavalli
  • Teerth (holy water) - Kalyana Teerth
  • Vimana Kalyana Vimana


Legend:

Tiru Idathu Eanthai

In this temple, Varaha is found holding Lakshmi on his left side. Hence, the village obtained the name "Tiru Idathu Eanthai" which means "the deity holding Lakshmi on his left side". The name of the site got converted as Tiruvidandai later. 

360 Consorts


As per the legend, the sage Klava had 360 daughters. He wanted Vishnu to marry all his daughters. Vishnu appeared in the form of a Brahmachari and married each girl daily throughout the year.  At last, all of them merged into one form, which is Lakshmi. Hence, Vishnu in this site is called as Nitya Kalyana Perumal. 

As per another version, the name of the first girl was Komalavalli, who is found as the presiding Goddess in a separate shrine. 

Temple Layout:


The east facing temple does not have a tower. It is located in a serene and peaceful locality with the beach in the walking distance.

The sanctum enshrines Lakshmi Varaha Perumal with Lakshmi on his left side. His foot is placed on the heads of Nagaraj and his consort. 

The sanctum also enshrines the festival (utsav) idols of Nitya Kalyana Perumal in the standing posture with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi on his either sides. 

Komalavalli is found in a separate shrine in the prakara. Her idol looks extremely beautiful. 

The temple also houses the sub-shrines of Andal, Ranganath with his two consorts and Ranganayaki. The idols of Ganesh, Vaishnavi, Ramanuja, Krishna, Alwars, Satyan, Aniruddha, Acchuta and others are also found in the temple. 

The flag staff, bali peeth and Garud are found facing towards the sanctum. 

Happy travelling. 



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October 27, 2009

Watch Sea Lions here - Dolphin City, Chennai, India

After returning from the USA, I was showing the pictures of sea lion show at Mystic Aquarium in CT to my family. My daughter started pestering me to take her to sea lion show. As I couldn’t afford to take my family to the USA, I wondered if there would be a place in India where I can find American sea lions. It was unbelievable to me when I was able to find out such a place right in the city where I live. It is at Dolphin City, which is located on the East Coast Road (ECR) at around 46 kms from Chennai in Tamil Nadu State of India.

Dolphin city is an amusement park. It was started in the late 1990s with the objective of entertaining the public with Dolphins. Four dolphins were brought and it was a huge success as it was the first amusement park to bring dolphins to India. Unfortunately, the dolphins were not able to adapt themselves to Chennai’s climate and all of them died within six months. The management of the amusement park thought of an alternative plan and they brought sea lions.

Currently there are three sea lions in Dolphin city. You can enjoy the performance by sea lions in this amusement park. It is really fun to watch sea lions throwing and catching balls, swimming, jumping out of water and doing various other interesting activities as per the orders from the trainers. Even though the performance cannot be compared to that of USA amusement parks, I would say it is pretty decent and good.

There is nothing else to watch or enjoy in the Dolphin city apart from the sea lion event. After dolphins died, the amusement park didn’t do well and all other activities were stopped. There is a restaurant inside the park, which is not good or decent. Hence, you should plan for your food somewhere outside.

Happy Travelling.


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Crocodile Bank, Chennai, India

video
Chennai city in Tamil Nadu state of India has some interesting places which cannot be found in the other cities of India. The Crocodile Bank is one such place. The Crocodile Bank is located on the East Coast Road (ECR) at distance of around 42 kms from Chennai.


The Crocodile Bank a.k.a the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust was founded in 1976 CE and it is managed by a public trust. The Bank was established for the conservation and study of endangered crocodiles. When it was started, it hardly had 30 crocodiles. Now, the bank has around 2,400 crocodiles belonging to 14 different species. Over the years, the crocodile bank has supplied a lot of crocodiles to various zoos in India. Besides crocodiles, the bank also has 12 endangered species of turtles and tortoises, five species of snakes, two pythons and some water monitor lizards. You can get a close view of crocodiles live in the wild as they are housed in enclosures very similar to their natural habitat. I am not sure if you can find such a large number of crocodiles belonging to different species anywhere else in India.

If you are lucky, you can get a chance to watch how the Crocodile Bank staff capture the crocodiles by tying their necks for the purpose of measurement and counting. You can also watch crocodile feeding on some specific timing.

In the snakes section, you can find a lot of pots covered with clothes. Each pot would have a snake and Irular people (a community in Tamil Nadu who capture snakes) would display you how to remove poison from the snake, which can be used for medical treatment.






The Crocodile Bank is definitely a different kind of place to visit in Chennai. Don’t miss this place. Whether you are a child or an adult, you will really love this place. This place, being located on the ECR, is easily accessible by public transport or private vehicles. Do visit this place and enjoy.

Don't miss to watch the special video in this post.

Happy traveling.


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An ancient temple near the beach - Kovalam Kailasanathar Temple, Chennai, India


Kovalam village, which is located on the East Coast Road (ECR) between Chennai and Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu, India, is famous for its beach. A lot of people who travel to Chennai would have visited this beach. However, most of the people including the locals are not aware of the ancient temple located in this village.

If you travel around 300 meters from Kovalam beach towards East Coast Road, you can find the small ancient temple of Lord Kailasanathar (Shiva). It is slightly difficult to locate this temple as even locals of Kovalam village do not seem to have much idea about this temple. One way to locate this temple is look for the architecturally beautiful but old tower when you move towards ECR.

Kailasanathar temple is very small. Lord Kailasanathar, in the form of Shiv Linga, is the presiding deity of this temple. The Goddess Kamalavalli is found in a separate shrine.

There are other idols such as Ganesha and Subramanya with his consorts Valli-Devasena found in this temple. In the prakara, some of the 13th century CE period idols of Surya, Kali, Bhairav and Vishnu with Bhooma Devi (Earth Goddess) are kept. They were excavated in the site near the temple.

Kailasanathar temple was believed to have been built as a brick temple during the 8th century CE, and it was rebuilt as the stone temple during the 12th century CE. The current idols in the temple are believed to be of the period 13th century CE. The idols in the outside corridor and the temple tower are extremely beautiful.

If you happen to go to Kovalam, it doesn’t matter whether you visit the beach or not. You should definitely visit this beautiful ancient temple. This is unfortunate that such an architectural marvelous remains unknown to the outside world – even to the locals.

Happy traveling.


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October 26, 2009

Kovalam Beach, Chennai

Kovalam is a famous beach in Kerala state in India which is popular among the international tourists. There is a beach near Chennai city in Tamil Nadu state, which is also called as Kovalam. However, this Kovalam beach is not very popular like the other one. It is a popular beach among people in and around Chennai.

Kovalam village is located approximately at a distance of around 40 kms from Chennai. This is located on the famous East Coast Road (ECR) between Chennai and Mamallapuram. Even though Kovalam beach is locally popular, there is nothing much to feel good about the beach. The beach is not clean and is always crowded. The maintenance of the beach is very bad.

Kovalam is a fishing settlement. If you want to wear life jackets and throw yourself into the sea for fun and thrill, you can approach some fishers in Kovalam, who arrange boats and life jackets for you.
The place has a small historical background too. The Nawab of Carnatic, Saadat Ali, built a port here where the French General Laboudonnais landed his troops in 1746 CE. British Viceroy Clive took over the port in 1752 CE and destroyed the same.

There is a small architecturally beautiful Shiva temple near the beach, which is unknown to the majority of the people. As Kovalam beach is located on ECR, it is easily accessible either by public transport (town bus or buses between Chennai and Mamallapuram), or on your own vehicle.

Try to cover other places such as Dakshin Chitra and Muttukadu along with this place.

Happy travelling.


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October 21, 2009

An ideal backwater location - Muttukadu, Chennai

Muttukadu is a small village located at a distance of around 36 kms from Chennai on the most popular East Coast Road (ECR). It is an ideal backwater location and excellent picnic spot for a lazy weekend for Chennai people. Even travellers from outside Chennai too visit Muttukadu. Muttukadu is the best boating option available in and around Chennai.

The backwaters of Muttukadu have been developed as a picturesque picnic spot and a centre for water sports. Every year a lot of watersports lovers gather at this village in the month of February to watch windsurfing regatta. Some of the attractions that are available here are windsurfing, boating, kayaking and canoeing. Water scooters are a recent attraction. Speed boats have always been favorite for families. TamilNadu Tourism Development Corporation maintains the site and takes care of boat houses.

Muttukadu is well connected by buses from Chennai. You can otherwise reach the place in taxi/your own transport. There are other attractions such MGM Dizzie World, Kovalam Beach, and Dakshin Chitra, which you can visit along with Muttukadu.

Happy Travelling.



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October 18, 2009

The Furious Lion God - Singaperumal Koil Temple, Chennai


Singaperumal Koil is a small town located at a distance of around 48 kms from Chennai city in South India. It is located in the national highway between Chennai and Trichy. The temple is dedicated to Lord Narasimha.

Lord Narasimha is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He has lion head and human body. He killed the Asura Hiranyakasipu. According to "Brahmanda Puran" (a Hindu mythology book), the Singaperumal Koil temple was surrounded by a big forest. A sage named Jabali was doing penance here. On his request, soon after killing Hiranyakasipu, Lord Narasimha appeared in front of him. The word "Singaperumal" means "Lion God" in Tamil language, and hence the temple as well as the town got the name Singaperumal Koil (Koil = temple).

The Singaperumal Koil temple is around 1300 years old. It might have been built during the period of Mahendravarma Pallavan's reign. However, it is doubtfu if it is a Pallava architecture. There is no data about which king built this temple and exactly when. The temple as well as the main idol have been carved out on the hillock. The temple is also called as Pataladri (meaning Red Hill). If you have to go to circumambulation of the idol (go around the prakara - the corridor surrounding the main deity in Hindu temples), you need to do that by going around the hillock, which is called as "Giri valam" in Tamil language. Giri valam means circumambulating the hill, which is believed to be very auspicious as per Hinduism. The large idol carved out of hillock and Giri valam alone are not only highlights of the temple. The main idol Narasimha has three eyes which cannot be seen anywhere else. The Lord here is a Ugra murti (furious posture) with four arms.


Apart from Lord Narasimha, there are mobile idols (utsav idols) of Vishnu along with Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi in the main shrine. There is also a small Narasimha idol located in the main shrine along with the large idol. The Goddess of the temple is Ahobila Valli, who is found in a separate shrine. There is a separate shrine where you can find a small but beautiful idol of Andal. As usual, Lord Garuda's idol is located in front of the main shrine. There are also shrines and idols of Manavala muni, Periyalvar, and Nammalvar. There is also a small shrine where Lord Narasimha along with Lakshmi is found.  In the prakara, there is an idol of Narasimha and a holy tree.

Singaperumal Koil, as located almost on the high road, is well connected by road. You can reach this place either on your own vehicle or public transport. There is also a railway station in this town.

When you visit Chennai in South India, ensure that you visit this ancient, holy and rare temple of Hinduism. Also, visit the nearby Yoga Hayagreevar temple at Chettipunyam village.

Happy travelling.



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October 12, 2009

The Lord of Knowledge - Yoga Hayagreevar Temple, Chettipunyam, Chennai

Chettipunyam is a small village with just 5-6 streets. However, this small village has become a center of attraction nowadays thanks to Yoga Hayagreevar temple located over here.

Hayagreeva is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. When two Asuras, namely Madhu and Kaidabha stole Vedas from Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu took the form of Hayagreeva (horse face and human body), killed the Asuras and handed over the Vedas to Lord Brahma. Hence, Lord Hayagreeva is considered as the God of Knowledge. Yoga Hayagreeva is a rare form of idol which is present in the Yoga Hayagreevar temple in Chettipunyam village.

Chettipunyam village is located at a distance of around 3 kms from Singaperumal Koil, near Chennai, in South India. If you take the GST Road from Chennai (the highway connecting Chennai and Trichy), after crossing Singaperumal Koil town, you would find a small road on your right side. You can find the board directing you to Hayagreevar temple. You need to take that small road and travel for around 2 kms to reach the temple. The best way to reach the place is by your own vehicle or taxi. Otherwise, you need to take public transport till Singaperumal Koil and you may have to arrange for an auto rickshaw from there. There are buses to this village; however, they are very rare.

The temple is around 500 years old. The temple orginally belongs to Varadaraja Perumal (a form of Lord Vishnu). In 1868 CE, the idols of Devanatha Swamy and Yoga Hayagreeva were brought from Tiruvahindipuram temple near Cuddalore to this temple. It was done to protect these ancient and popular idols (mobile idols - utsav idols) from alien invasion. Since then, this temple was referred either as Yoga Hayagreeva temple or Devanatha Swamy temple. In the recent time, the popularity of this temple has increased as people started bringing their school going children to this temple (as Hayagreeva is considered as the God of Knowledge).

The temple is small. The main shrine consists of Varadaraja Perumal along with Yoga Hayagreeva and Devanatha Swamy. The idol of Varadaraja is found along with his two consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi. There is a separate shrine for Goddess Hemambhuja Nayaki. There are also separate shrines for Andal, Alwars and Garud. In the corrdior surrounding the main shrine (prakara), you can find the idols of Hayagreeva and Nagaraja. There is a big shrine for Lord Rama, where he is found along with Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman.

Happy travelling.


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October 9, 2009

Get rid of fear due to snakes - Kalatheeswarar Temple, Kattangulathur, Chennai

Kattangulathur is a small village on GST Road (the highway connecting Chennai and Trichy) located near Neyveli (outskirts of Chennai). The village has a small but ancient unknown temple named Kalatheeswarar temple. This temple is considered equivalent to that of Kalahasti temple and the belief is that it can cure problems caused due to serpents (sarpa dosham).

The best way to reach this place is either by taxi or on your own vehicle. The other option is local train. The village is at a distance of around 48 kms from Chennai. Once you enter into the Kattangulathur village from GST Road, you can reach the temple within 300 meters in a lane.

Kalatheeswar (in the form of Shiva Linga) is the main deity of the temple. The Goddess is Gnanambikai. There are idols of other deities such as Ganesha, Subramanya with Valli and Devasena, Bhairav and Chandikeshwara. The highlight of the temple is it doesn’t have Navagrahas (nine planets). Instead, it has two idols of Rahu and Ketu alone (for those who do not know, Rahu and Ketu are two planets among Navagraha). It should be noted that these two Grahas are associated with serpents.

Ganesh, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga are found as the Koshta idols.

You should be lucky to find this temple open. The temple remains closed almost for the entire day as hardly anyone visits this temple.

Happy travelling.


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