January 26, 2010

Adventure Games at Wild Tribe Ranch, Chennai, India

The Wild Tribe Ranch is a theme park with lot of fun and adventures, located off NH5, the Calcutta National Highway, near Ponneri, around 35 kilometers from Chennai city in South India. This is an ultimate place for adventure sports and it is new kind of theme park for Chennai city. For the first time in Chennai city, a lot of adventure games such as ATVs, trampoline jumping, army-style obstacle course, paintball, swimming and a WII game arcade have been introduced in the Wild Tribe Ranch theme park.


ATV aka All Terrain Vehicles - Ride the awesome 50 cc to 150 cc All Terrain Vehicles at The Wild Tribe Ranch. Paintball is a sport in which players eliminate opponents by hitting them with pellets containing paint, usually shot from a carbon dioxide or compressed-gas (HPA or N2) powered paintball gun (or marker). A well maintained swimming pool is an added advantage of the park.

Trampoline jumping is a kind of bungee jumping. The army-style obstacle course is really adventurous and fun.

It is a good place for Corporate people for team building exercises or annual outing. You can also visit this place along with your family if your family members are interested in adventure sports. For kids, there is a separate play area along with WII game section.

There are lot of other attractions such as bull ride (which falls you off if you try to ride it), monkey walk and even some indoor games.

Go and enjoy the place...get scared and have fun. :-)

Happy travelling.




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January 23, 2010

An illegal Merchandise Heaven - Burma Bazaar, Chennai, India

Burma Bazaar, located near Beach Railway Station in North Chennai, South India can be considered as an illegal merchandise heaven. You can find a lot of foreign materials here. You can bargain and get all brands of electronic items. You can even buy CDs and DVDs of all foreign and Indian movies, be it legal or illegal over here. If you pass by this area, you will be harassed by the shop keepers and will be disturbed to buy something from these shops.



Burma Bazaar was apparently established in 1960s for the purpose of refugees from Burma to sell the products for their livelihood. Now, you can find only locals in these shops, who sell foreign things mostly seized by customs.

If you really want to buy things from Burma Bazaar, you should know how to bargain and should be in a position to ensure the quality of the product you buy. Or else, it is better not even to pass by this place.

Happy travelling!

January 16, 2010

Worshipped by Tortoise - Kachaleeswarar Temple, Chennai, India

Kachaleeswarar or Kachabeswarar means “the Lord worshipped by a tortoise”. As Lord Vishnu took the form of a tortoise (Koorma incarnation) and worshipped Lord Shiva, Shiva got the name “Kachabeswara”.

Kachaleeswarar temple is located at Armenian Street in the George Town area of Chennai, South India. The main railway station of the Chennai city, Central Railway Station is located at a distance of around 3.5km from this temple.


There is a famous temple for Lord Kachabeswara in Kanchipuram city, which is around 75 kms from Chennai. Talavay Chettiar, a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva used to visit Kachabeswara temple in Kanchipuram whenever he wished to. But during one of such visits, he could not reach Kanchipuram due to heavy rains and had to return. He was extremely sad over the incident. Then, he built a temple for the same God – Kachabeswara in Chennai. He took eight years to complete the work, and the temple got completed in the year 1720 CE. In due course, the name of the Lord became Kachaleeswara.

The main deity of the temple, Kachaleeswarar, is portrayed with five seats – koormasanam (tortoise), ashtanagasanam (eight serpents), simhasanam (lion), yugasanam (time), and kamala vimalasanam (lotus flower). Lord Shiva is portrayed as lingam in all the South Indian temples. But in this temple, at the back side of the lingam, Lord Shiva is portrayed with five heads as Sadasivamurti along with his consort Manonmani. This is something rare which cannot be found in the other temples. Also, the tortoise at the foot of Shiva linga is Lord Vishnu. The main goddess Soundarambikai is found in a separate shrine.

The inner prakara (corridor surrounding the main shrines) has a lot of small shrines for various gods and godesses such as Panchamukha Vinayaka (Ganesha with five faces) along with his consorts, Shanmukha with his consorts, Nalvar, Natraj with Sivakami, 63 nayanmars, Navagrahas in which Surya alone is found with his consorts, Somaskanda and Durga. There are idols such as Ganesha, Karthikeya, Dakshinamurti, Ganesha, Lingodbhava, Brahma, Durga, Chandikeswarar, various forms of Shakthis, Akora Veerabhadra, Bhairav, Saraswathi, Lakshmi, Varadaraja (Vishnu), and Dattatreya.

The bigger prakara (corridor) of the temple has shrines of Ganesha, Karthikeya with his consorts, Subramanya, Adi Shankara, Hanuman, Ayyappa, and Shasta along with his consorts.

When you find time, don’t miss to visit this historical ancient temple.

Happy travelling.



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Kalikambal Temple - Chennai

Did the great Maratha King Sivaji visit Chennai? Did the Britishers demolish a temple to build Fort St. George? Is the city named after a Goddess? Let me discuss about all these in this article on Kalikambal Temple.

Who is Kalikambal? 

Kali is a ferocious form of Goddess in Hinduism. She is also called as Kalika. Hence, Kalika Ambal refers to Kali. Similar to Delhi (Kalkaji mandir) and Kolkata, Chennai city also has an ancient temple of Kali.

Where is this temple located?

Kalikambal Temple is located in Thambu Chetty Street in George Town area. It is easily reachable from Parrys Corner or Beach Railway Station.

Kalika or Kamakshi?

Although the Goddess of the temple is called as Kalika, the iconography of the idol does not resemble any form of Kali. She is found in the seated posture similar to that of Kamakshi. She is also called as "Neithal Nila Kamakshi".

Although there is no historical evidence or record, it is widely believed that the original temple of Kalikambal was located in the area where the Fort St. George is found. The temple was reportedly shifted to the current location in the 1640s by the Britishers.

It is also believed that the original ferocious form of the Goddess (Kalika form) was replaced with the new idol of Kamakshi.

As the temple was shifted from the fort area to a new location, there are people who call the Goddess as "Kottai Amman". (The word "kottai" means fort in Tamil language).

Chenni Amman

It is also believed that the Goddess was also called as Chenni Amman in those days. No historical book support this. But, still there are few people who claim that the original Chenna pattinam village was named after Chenni Amman. (Chenna pattinam and the other adjoining villages developed as the modern day Chennai.)

Did Sivaji visit the temple?

There are historians who argue that Sivaji, the great Maratha King, never visited Chennai city. However, the temple authorities strongly claim that he had visited the temple on 3rd October 1677 CE.

What do historians say?

The historians do not deny that the current temple is there in this location from the middle of the 17th century CE. However, they are unable to say when this temple was built and by whom.

Bharatiar

As per the temple authorities, Bharatiar had visited this temple and had authored his famous "Yadhumagi Ninrai Kali" on Kalikambal. (Well, the historians have never denied this so far. :-) )


Mythological Connection

As it is believed that the original temple in the Fort area was there for hundreds of years, there are few legends about this temple.

It is believed that the holy Meru image that is found in the sanctum was installed by Adi Shankaracharya.

It is believed that the sages Agastya, Vyasa and Angeerasa worshiped Kalikambal of this temple. Varun and Kuber are also said to have prayed to the presiding deity of the temple. Kalikambal bestowed Kuber with wealth and prosperity.

Temple Entrance

The temple has two entrances. The east facing entrance is located in Thambu Chetti Street, which is used by most of the people. The west facing entrance is located in Armenian Street. Both the entrances have towers, with lot of stucco images depicting the Goddess in different forms. The temple towers are constructed in the 1980s and they are not very old structures.

Kalikambal

The west facing sanctum enshrines the beautiful image of Goddess Kalikambal a.k.a. Kamakshi. She is found with four arms and in the sitting posture. The entrance of the sanctum has two big images of Dwarapalikas. (They are named as Jaya and Vijaya.)

The sanctum is surrounded by a cluster of sub-shrines. The enclosure that contains this sanctum and the other sub-shrines has the south facing entrance.

The flag staff and bali peetha are situated facing outside this enclosure and they face towards the direction of the sanctum.

Brahma Vidya, Saraswati, Vaishnavi, Maheswari and Lakshmi are found as the niche images around the sanctum.


Kamateswarar

To the right side of the sanctum, the shrine of Kamateswarar, a small Shiv Linga, is located. He is one of the presiding deities of the temple. Actually, the temple is called as Kalikambal Kamateswarar Temple, although Kalikambal has outshoned Kamateswarar in popularity.

Nandi is found facing towards Shiv Linga. The small prakara around this shrine has very small bas relief niche images of Ganesh, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Vishnu Durga. Chandikeshwara is also found.

Inner Prakara

The enclosure which contains the sanctums of Kamateswarar and Kalikambal as well as the inner prakara has few more sub-shrines such as Subramanya-Valli-Devasena, Arunachaleswar-Unnamalai, Brahmendra Swamigal (utsav) and Navagraha. The idols of Ganesh, Subramanya, Shiv Linga, Nagas, Surya, Chandra and Bhairav are also located in this enclosure.

Periya Nayaki

To the backside of the sanctum, there is a big east facing mandap. The bronze idol of Periya Nayaki with Saraswati and Lakshmi on her either sides is found in this mandap. The utsav deity of Kalikambal is called as Periya Nayaki.

Veerabhadra and Kali

In the outer prakara, in a separate sub-shrine, eight armed big image of Veerabhadra and four armed Kali are found. It is not usual to find Bhadra and Kali together in a single shrine in and around Chennai.

Virat Vishwa Brahma

The temple is administered by Vishwakarma community. According to them, the supreme deity is Virat Vishwakarma a.k.a. Virat Vishwa Brahma. The big idol of Virat Vishwa Brahma with five heads and ten arms is found in a separate shrine. As per Vishwakarmas, his consort is Gayatri. She is also found in small sub-shrine nearby.

Pratyingira and Dakshinamurti

The very big stucco idols of Dakshinamurti and Pratyingira Devi seated on lion are new additions to this temple.

Other Shrines

Some of the other shrines that are found in the outer prakara include:

  • Ganesh and Subramanya-Valli-Devasena at the entrance of the enclosure. Subramanya shrine is called as Vada Kathirkamam.
  • Ganesh-Siddhi-Buddhi
  • Subramanya-Valli-Devasena
  • Shanmukha-Valli-Devasena as utsav murtis
  • Nataraj-Sivakami
  • Utsav murti of Durga
  • Ganesh and Naga Subramanya at the entrance of the east facing mandap 

Happy travelling.





Kalatheeswarar Temple, Chennai, India

Kalatheeswarar temple, located at Coral Merchant Street in Mannady/George Town area of Chennai, South India, is a small but old temple, which is quite popular in and around George Town area. The temple is located at a distance of around 3.5 kms from Chennai Central Railway Station. The bus stop and the railway station are not nearby. Hence, you need to take a cycle rickshaw or auto rickshaw to reach this place, if you are not on your own vehicle.


The main deity of the temple is Lord Shiva in the form of Linga, who is named as Kalatheeswarar. There is a separate shrine for the goddess Gnanambikai. All the idols including Kalatheeswarar and Gnanambikai are very small in this temple. The idol of the goddess is stunningly beautiful. There are also shrines for other gods and goddesses such as Ayyappa, Manjanamata, Chandikeshwara, Shivlinga, Subramanya along with Valli-Devasena, Ganesha, and Navagraha.

Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga are found as niche images.

Happy travelling.

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Chennai Mallikeswarar Temple

It is indeed difficult to believe that there is such a big temple located in the ever-congested Lingi Chetti Street of George Town in Chennai. Mallikeswarar Temple, which is also called as Mallikarjuna Temple, is not to be confused with Chenna Malleeswarar Temple. This temple is much older. Even in 1652 CE, the British records mention this temple as an old temple. They call it as Mally Carjun's Old Pagoda. Hence, it is evident that the temple is older than the colonial era. There is a possibility that this temple could have been built in the 16th century CE or even before that. In the entire Black Town area, if we go by the available historical records, I believe, this is the oldest temple.

It is said that the temple was completely buried under the ground and only the top most portion showed up. The entire temple was discovered by digging up the land. When did this happen? There is no historical record. However, it is true that the temple is below road level. The pillared hall in front of the temple tower is on road level. From the entrance, a flight of steps would lead us down into the courtyard of the temple. (Ekambareswarar temple in Mint Street is another temple in Black Town area, which is below road level.)

There is an legend added to the above information. When the temple was uncovered, fresh jasmine flowers were found on the Shiva in Linga. Hence, they called the newly discovered deity as Mallikeswarar (the word “Malli” means jasmine in Tamil language).

The frontside mandap as well as the Piallaiyar (Ganesh) shrine facing the mandap were built in 1897 CE by Manicka Chettiar. The gigantic and colorful seven tiered tower was constructed between 1874 and 1888 CE by Vedavalli Ammal, the wife of Ekamra Vaidya Lingi Chettiar. (I believe that the street is named after this Chettiar as Lingi Chetti Street). The tower was repaired and a lot of stucco images were added in 1928 CE by Ellappa Chettiar. The vimanas were rebuilt in the 1930s. There are few mandaps in the prakara which were built in 1925 CE. The temple has been favorite for the Berri Chetti community. They have contributed a lot to this temple in the last three centuries.

During the Siege of Madras (1758-59 CE), the Regiment of Lally camped in this temple. (Thomas Arthur Lally was a French General who commanded French forces during this period).

Temple Layout and Structure

16 Pillared Mandap

In front of the temple tower, the 16 pillared mandap is located. The lintel of the mandap has the details of the builder of this mandap. Also, the bas relief images of Rishabha Vahana Shiv-Parvati, Nalvar, Sapta Rishis, Shiv Linga and a pair of erotic sculptures are found on the lintel. The mandap has many interesting sculptures on the pillars, such as Vishnu's image on top of Shiv Linga, Melakottai Perumal and his consort, Ram and Sita, Nataraja, Palani, Vaikunthavasa, Shiva presenting mango to Ganesha while Kartikeya watching, 12 Jyotir Lingas, different depiction of Parthasarathy, Kunti, Pandu, Dharmaraja-Draupadi, Sahadeva and others.

Where else in Chennai we could find Pandu and Kunti? These are rare sculptures to be found only in this temple.

Raja Gopuram

The magnificent seven tala Raja Gopuram is very attractive. It has so many interesting stucco images.

Each tier (tala) has a pair of Dwarapalas. The top most tala has Dwarapalas with four arms. The Dwarapalas at the second tala from the top have six arms. The Dwarapalas at the next level have eight arms. The number of arms of the Dwarapalas keep increasing for every tala down and the bottom most tala has Dwarapalas with sixteen arms.

The images of Elappa Chettiar and his wife are found in the gopura. The images of many half naked females are also found. The soldiers wearing European style boots are found, which reminds us the period of the construction. Ekapada Murti, Lingodbhava, Meenakshi Kalyanam, Sadasiva Murti, Shiva presenting the divine fruit to Ganesh, Nataraja and the dancing Kali, Markandeya Anugraha Murti, Veerabhadra, Gaja Samhara Murti, Narad and Tumburu, Ten headed Raavan playing veena and pleading Shiva, Shiva seated on Adhikara Nandi, Devatais with wings like angels (later influence), Rati and Manmada with a small cupid like representation, etc.

The tower as well as the entrance of the temple face the south direction. The entrance on either side of the tower has the idols of Ganesh and Kartikeya.

Presiding Deities

The presiding deity of the temple is Mallikeswarar, who is found in the form of a Shiv Linga. His sanctum is facing the east direction. At the entrance, the relief images of Dwarapalas are found.

The Goddess of the temple is Maragambal, who is found in a separate south facing shrine.

Nandi and Simha are found facing towards the shrines of Shiv Linga and Amman respectively in the Maha Mandap area.

Outside the enclosure, in the courtyard, the flag staff, bali peetha and Nandi mandap are found facing towards the direction of the sanctum. Similarly, there is a separate flag staff and Simha Vaahana for the Goddess.

Inner Prakara

The sanctum, shrine of Goddess, inner prakara and Maha Mandap are located within an enclosure. The entrance of that enclosure is at the southern direction. The idols of Ganesh and Kartikeya are located near the flag staff in the east direction. Inside the enclosure, at the entrance of the shrine of Maragambal, another set of Ganesh and Kartikeya idols are found. The entrance of the sanctum has just one Ganesh idol.

There are so many shrines and idols found in the inner prakara area. Nardana Ganesh, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga are found as the Koshta Murtis. Chandikeshwara is found in the usual location near Brahma and Durga.

Two big shrines are found adjacent to the sanctum. In one shrine, the big sized metal idols of Nataraj-Sivakami-Manickavasagar are found. The other shrine enshrines the big utsav murtis of Somaskanda.

The sub-shrines of Polla Pillaiyar, Shanmukha-Valli-Devasena, Saraswati, the utsav murtis of Shanmukha and his consorts, big Kailasanathar Linga, Adipureeswara Linga, Nalvar and Vishwanatha Linga with Vishalakshi.

Additionally, there is a Shiv Linga found to the true right side of the sanctum. Two small Shiv Lingas called Mahadeva are found in two separate sub-shrines. The utsav murtis of Uma and Chandrashekhar are found in a separate sub-shrine. The entrance of the shrines has the small idols of Ganesh and Kartikeya.

The idols of 63 Nayanmars look very attractive. Ganesha, Sekkizhar, Sundarar, Lakshmi-Narayana, Bhairav, north facing Ganesh, Shaneeswara, Surya and Chandra are also found in the prakara.

Outer Prakara

The outer prakara or the courtyard spreads across vast area. The sub-shrines of Ananda Vinayak, Nriti Vinayak, holy tree, Nagaraja idols under the tree, Goshala, temple tank, a sub-shrine of Ganesha on the banks and few small mandaps are all located in the courtyard.

Navagrahas are found along with their respective vahanas. Also, all the remaining eight planets (grahas) are found surrounding Surya in circle.

The temple is historically the oldest temple of George Town (a.k.a. Black Town). This is one of the biggest temples of the area. Similar to Bairagi Mutt temple, this is also artistically beautiful temple. Some rare sculptures are found in the mandap as well as on the tower. It is unfortunate that this temple is generally neglected. Not even the people from this area regularly visit the temple.

Happy travelling.





















January 15, 2010

Armenian Church


It is believed that Armenians came to Chennai city in the 16th century CE for the purpose of trade and they settled down in the city slowly. The Armenian church or the Church of Virgin Mary was constructed by the Armenian community in 1712 CE. The church is located in Armenian street in George Town area of Chennai, which is hardly 1.5 km from the Central Railway station.

The Armenians were once a rich community that made significant contributions, economic and cultural, to the Chennai city. Now there are only 275 registered Armenians in India.




The church got destroyed during the French invasion and it was rebuilt in 1772 CE.

Armenian church is well maintained even though it has hardly any visitor nowadays. It has a huge complex with a small chapel and a tower. The highlight of the church is the tower which has six bells, which are believed to be the largest and heaviest in and around Chennai city. Each bell weighs approximately 200 kg. The oldest bell belongs to 1754, there is one which belongs to 1780s and the remaining are from the 19th century CE.












The complex also has a small cemetery. There are around 350 graves of Armenians found there. There is a plaque in memory the most famous Armenian of the city, Coja Petrus Uscan. The editor of the first Armenian periodical  in the world - "Azdarar", Rev. Haroutium Shimavonian, is also buried here.





The beautiful church is definitely worth visiting. The tablets on the walls, the beautifully arranged seats in the prayer hall, the traditional Madras roof, the circular pillars, the historical information with the names, dates and other details found on the graves, some old photographs - everything is worth visiting.


Happy travelling.