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

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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October 6, 2009

The bachelor God is no more a bachelor here - Kalyana Anjaneyar Temple, Thailavaram, Chennai

Lord Hanuman a.k.a Anjaneya, the great devotee of Lord Ram, has always been portrayed as a staunch bachelor. However, Lord Hanuman is found along with his consort Suvarchala Devi in the Kalyana Anjaneyar temple at the Thailavaram village. The temple is located on GST High Road (Chennai – Tricy route) in Thailavaram village, which is located between Guduvanchery and Maraimalai Nagar. The distance from Chennai is around 40 km and the distance from Guduvanchery to this temple is around 3 km. The temple is located next to the famous SRM Engineering College.

The Kalyana Anjaneyar temple is perhaps the only temple where Lord Hanuman is found along with his consort. The temple authorities claim that there is a reference of Hanuman’s wife in Parasura Samhita. Suvarchala was the daughter of Lord Surya (the Sun God), who was the guru of Lord Hanuman.

The temple is very small. Lord Hanuman’s idol is eight feet tall and has four arms, which itself is different from the other temples. The Goddess Suvarchala is found along with Hanuman only as Utsav idol (the mobile idol).The temple has a big bell like structure which is called as Ghanta Stambha where the images of Lord Ram along with Sita, Lakhman and Hanuman are sculpted.

When you happen to be in Chennai, don’t miss this unique place.

Happy travelling.

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October 5, 2009

An unknown ancient temple near Chennai - Guduvanchery Nandeeswarar Temple

Nandivaram is a small village near Guduvanchery town. Guduvanchery is located at a distance of around 35 kms from Chennai (in GST road - on Chennai-Chengleput route). (When I wrote this blog post in 2009, the village was not known much. Now, due to Government's announcement on moving the inter city bus stand to this village, this has gained significance. Also, I find this content of mine has been copied by many bloggers now.)

The main attraction of Nandivaram is the ancient Nandeeswarar temple. The exact date of the construction or the history about the builders of the temple is not known. The temple is located at a distance of around half a km from Guduvanchery bus stand.

The main deity of the temple is Nandeeswarar (a name for Lord Shiva). The idol of Nandeeswarar (Shiv linga) is big and attractive. The name of the Goddess is Soundara Nayaki who is found in the standing posture in a separate shrine. There are also other idols in the prakara such as Ganesh, Shanmukha, another Ganesha, Chandikeswarar, Surya, Bhairav and Veerabhadra. There are separate shrines for Lord Ganesha and Lord Subramanya with his consorts Valli and Devasena. There is a separate shrine for Navagraha.

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

As per the legend, Lord Brahma advised to churn the celestial sea to obtain “amrudha” which would help the Devas to become immortal. Devas, unable to churn the ocean alone, sought the help of the Asuras. In the beginning, poison came out of the ocean. Lord Shiva consumed the poison  and saved this universe. At the end of the churning, Dhanwantari appeared with Amrudha pot in his hand. After the brief quarrel with the Asuras, the Devas were able to retrieve the pot and consume Amrudha. The Devas started singing, dancing and enjoying and they totally forgot Lord Shiva due to who they were alive. After some time, they realized their mistake and apologized to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva forgave them and danced in the middle of his vahanNandi's (bull) horns, and hence he got the name Nandeeswarar. Even though the temple is old, it should have been rebuilt multiple times as there are no antique signs in the temple except for the idols.

Visit this ancient beautiful temple near Chennai. Happy travelling.

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