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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A historical temple on which the city was named - Kalikambal Temple, Chennai, India

Kalikambal Temple, which is located in the northern Chennai of South India, might not be known to most of the people in Chennai today. But, it is surprising to know that this is one of the few temples of “original” Chennai city, and even the city got its name from this temple. Let us explore about this historically important temple of Chennai in this post.

The temple is located at Thambu Chetty Street, George Town area, in Chennai city of South India.

Kalikambal, the main deity of the temple, was once called as “Neithal Nila Kamakshi”, “Chennamman” and “Kottai Amman” (Kottai mean fort in Tamil language). The area where the temple is located got the name “Chenna Patinnam” or “Chennai Kuppam” due to this goddess. The British East India Company brought Chennaikuppam, Madras Kuppam and Vadavarukuppam in 1639 CE. In Madras Kuppam aka Madrasa Pattinam, the company built a fort (the St. George Fort of current Chennai located near beach). As the original temple of Kalikambal was located inside the fort area, the company wanted to shift the temple to somewhere else for security reasons. Thus, the idol was shifted to Thambu Chetty Street of today’s George Town area, and a new temple was constructed there in 1640 CE.

It is believed that a fierce ugra form of the goddess was held in worship earlier, and it was replaced with the Shanta Swaroopa (calm) form of Kamakshi aka Kalikambal. At the foot of the goddess is present the Meru, which is believed to have been installed by Adi Shankaracharya. It is believed that the saints such as Vyasa, Agastya,Angreesa, and Varuna have worshipped the goddess. Kuber is believed to have worshipped the deity who is said to have bestowed him with wealth and prosperity. In 1667 CE, the great Maratha ruler Shivaji visited this temple and worshipped the goddess. The great Tamil poet, Subramanya Bharathiar, when he was working for Swadesha Mithran, used to visit this temple often. He song the famous “Yadumaki Ninrai Kali” song on this deity.

The temple has a small Raja gopuram (tower). The main shrine enshrines Kalikambal aka Kamakshi. The idol is strikingly beautiful and at the foot Meru is situated.

Near the entrance of the main shrine, the utsava idols of Kalikambal along with Saraswathi and Lakshmi are located in a separate shrine, which is full of mirrors.

Adjacent to the main shrine, there is a shrine for Arunachaleswar (Shiva) with Unnamalai, and another shrine for Kamadeswarar with Ambal. Kamadeswarar (a form of Shiva) is another main deity of this temple. This temple is actually called as Kalikambal Kamadeswarar Temple.

In the prakara around the main shrine, there are also shrines for Subramanya with Valli-Devasena, Navagraha, and Veera Brahma Sankarar (a guru). The idols of Chandikeswarar, Chandikeswari, Brahma Vidya, Bhairav, Surya, Chandra, Vaishnavi, Mahalakshmi, Durga, Brahma, Dakshinamurti, Ganesha, Durga, Subramanya, Vishnu and Vinayaka are located around the main shrine of Kalikambal.

In the prakara (the corridor surrounding the shrine), there is a shrine for Subramanya along with his consorts Valli and Devasena. There is another shrine for Ganesha along with his consorts Siddhi and Buddhi. The sub-shrines of Gayatri, Durga, Virata Vishwa Brahmam, and Veerabhadra are also found in the outer prakara. Virata Vishwa Brahmam, as per some beliefs, is believed to be the supreme God who created even Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The highlight of Veerabhadra shrine is that there is an idol of Kali also. You can find Veerabhadra and Kali idols together only in few temples. There is a big idol of Pratyangira Devi which has been installed recently. There is also a separate idol for Ganesha located in the prakara.

Happy travelling!

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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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An unknown temple of 700 years old - Mallikeswarar Temple, Chennai, India

When I visited the 700 years old temple of Lord Mallikeswarar Temple located in Chennai, South India, I was wondering why this temple is being ignored by the public and remains unknown to the most of the people even in Chennai city. The temple tower is very artistic and beautiful and the temple complex is big and attractive.

Mallikeswarar Temple is located at the Lingi Chetty Street of George Town area. The temple is hardly 3 kms from the Chennai Central Railway Station.

Mallikeswarar Temple is believed to be 700 years old, although no further details of the temple history is found. The temple was once completely buried under the ground and the top most portion of the temple just showed up during a digging. On further digging, the complete temple was discovered. When the temple was uncovered, fresh jasmine flowers were found on the main deity (Lord Shiva in Linga form) of this temple. Hence, the deity is called as Mallikeswarar (the word “Malli” means jasmine in Tamil language).

The east facing temple has a Raja gopuram (tower). It looks very artistic and majestic with a lot of good stucco images. The front side mandapa that is located in front of the tower has many pillars with beautiful carvings.

The temple tank is located inside the temple complex. On the banks of the tank, a sub-shrine of Ganesha is found.

The sanctum sanctorum enshrines Shiva Linga called as Mallikeswarar, who is the presiding deity of the temple. The Goddess of the temple Maragambal is found in a separate south facing shrine adjacent to the sanctum.

A small idol of Ganesh is found at the entrance of the main shrine. The shrine of Maragambal has Ganesha and Subramanya at the entrance.

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

The temple also has the sub-shrines and idols such as Shiva Linga, Chandikeshwara, Vishwanatha-Vishalakshi, Mahadeva (Linga), Shanmukha, Shanmukha as utsava idol, Kailasanathar (Linga), Adipureeswarar Linga, Saraswati, Nalvar, Nataraj-Shivakami, Lakshmi-Vishnu, 63 Nayanmars, Ganesha, Kartikeya, Nagas, Surya, Chandra, Bhairav, Shaneeswar, Ananda Vinayaka, Bala Vinayaka, Bala Muruga and Navagraha. All the Navagrahas are found along with their respective vahans, which is not usual in all other temples.

When you find time, please go and visit this ancient beautiful temple. It makes sense to support the existing temples rather than coming up with new temples.

Happy travelling.

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January 15, 2010

A rare cute church - Armenian Church, Chennai, India

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. The church is located in Armenian street in George Town area of Chennai, which is hardly 1.5 km from 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.

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, and they belong to 18th century or 19th century period.The complex also has a small cemetery.

The beautiful church is definitely worth visiting. Go and visit this church and get the blessings of Mary.

Happy travelling.

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A small Temple but very powerful - Chinna Kadai Renuka Parameswari Temple, Chennai, India

Chennai, one of the main cities of South India, has its major North Indian population in an area named Sowcarpet. Sowcarpet area is located very next to the main railway station of the city, Central Railway Station. This area is a part of George Town area, and George Town area is considered as the original Madras/Chennai and this is where British started acquiring Chennai and its surrounding. In due course of time, Chennai/Madras got expanded and became a big city.

Even though the Sowcarpet/George Town area is congested with a lot of shops and commercial complexes along with its narrow and highly crowded streets, it also has a lot of temples. Some of those temples are very prominent and are 200-400 years old. Chinna Kadai Mariamman a.k.a Renuka Parameswari Temple is one such old and prominent temple of this area.

Chinna Kadai Mariamman Temple, which is also called as Renuka Parameswari Temple, is located at the junction of NSC Bose Road and Mint Street in Sowcarpet area. The distance of the temple from Central Railway Station is hardly 1.5 km. This place can be reached either by auto rickshaw or cycle rickshaw. (Sowcarpet is one of the very few areas in Chennai city where you can still find cycle rickshaws). Or else, you can walk down to the temple from the nearby bus stop or railway station.

Chinna Kadai Mariamman Temple  is more than 200 years old. Even though this is very small temple, the goddess is considered as very powerful and it is always crowded. There are a lot of shop owners in the Sowcarpet area who do not open their shops without getting “darshan” of this goddess. The main shrine of the temple has two idols – Mariamman idol (in the typical iconography where only the head of the woman deity is present) and another idol with full human body (Renuka Parameswari). Apart from the main shrine, there is a shrine for Lord Shiva in the form of Kasi Viswanath along with his consort Vishalakshi. The highlight of the temple is that camphor burns always in front of the temple. You will hardly get a chance to see the temple without camphor burning. Swami Vivekananda and Vallalar have visited this temple.

Happy travelling.

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A cute ancient church - Anderson Church, Chennai, India

Chennai city, the capital of Tamil Nadu state of India has a lot of heritage buildings of British era (India was ruled by the British till 1947 CE). Some of those heritage buildings are beautiful churches. In the famous Parrys corner in NSC Bose Road of George Town area, just opposite to the High Court building, there is a cute church named Anderson church is located. This church is a fine example for the heritage sites of Chennai city belonging to the British period.
In 1837 CE, Reverend John Anderson arrived in Madras as the first missionary of the Church of Scotland. He established The General Assembly’s School in a rented house on the east side of Armenian Street (near NSC Bose Road) in George Town area. (In 1877 CE, the school became the Madras Christian College, and the college was shifted to Tambaram area in 1937 CE.) Anderson died in March 1855 cE. Four years later, the Anderson Church was constructed, with Reeverend P Rajagopaul, the first convert of Anderson, becoming the first minister of the church. Surprisingly, the name of Anderson, an educationist, is associated more with the church than with the school he founded.

The church, along with its towering steeple, remained a landmark of the Madras Christian College for many decades. Even today, the towering steeple is a landmark of George Town area/Parrys corner. The church is very small and hardly crowded.

The interior of the church is very beautiful and it is one of the very few well maintained churches of Chennai city.

Happy travelling.

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January 13, 2010

One of the biggest and oldest malls of South Asia - Spencer Plaza, Chennai, India

Spencer Plaza is one of the most famous landmarks of Chennai city, the gateway to South India. Spencer Plaza is located at the heart of the city in Anna Salai (Mount Road) area of the city. This is one of the biggest malls of South India.

When India was ruled by the British, the first departmental store in India was started by Charles Durant and J. W. Spencer in 1864 CE in Chennai city. Within few years, the store was shifted to the current site, where Spencer Plaza is located. It remained as a departemental store/shopping mall and one of the big hangouts for Chennai people for several years. You should note that this site remained as a shopping mall even before the modern day’s word “mall” became popular in India or when there was no mall anywhere else in India. In 1985 CE, the building was completely destroyed in fire and a new shopping mall was constructed in the same site. Over the years, the mall got extended and it has three phases now – Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3.

The Spencer Plaza mall has a lot of shops and eateries including international brands and local shops. Some of the popular shops with popular brands are Swatch, Cookie Man, Nike, Color Plus, Van Heusen, Pantaloons, First Flight, West Side, Arrow, Navigator, Music World, Bata, Adidas, Timex, Land Mark, Vummudi Bangaru Chetty, Food World, etc.

Happy shopping and happy travelling.

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The oldest existing bookstore of India - Higginbotham's, Chennai, India

Higginbotham’s is the oldest bookstore and book publisher in existence in India. The main store of Higginbotham’s is located in Mount Road (Anna Salai) in Chennai city in South India. If you are a bookworm/book lover based out of Chennai, you would have certainly visited this store. This book store is so popular that no book lover visiting Chennai city can miss. Even though this book store has many other branches in the other parts of the city and some other South Indian cities, the main building at Anna Salai located opposite to LIC building is considered as the landmark.

In 1840s when India was under the British rule, an English man named Abel Joshua Higginbotham was appointed as a librarian of a bookstore named Weslyan Book Shop run by the Protestant missionaries. The book store did not run successfully and to avoid further loss, the missionaries wanted to sell off the book store for a cheap price. Higginbotham, who was working as a librarian in the book store, bought the book store and named it as Higginbotham’s. The bookstore became very popular very soon and in 1850s and 1860s people started considering Higginbotham’s as one of the prominent bookstores of South India. The business spread to various other locations of the city and various other South Indian cities over the years.

The building where this book store is located is a fine example of British architecture. It remains as one of the favorite places in Chennai for book lovers and it will definitely remain as the one forever.

Happy reading….happy travelling.

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Body guard is the God here - Body Guard Muneeswaran Temple, Chennai, India

Body Guard Muneeswaran Temple – this temple might be very small. However, if you are a person, who owns four wheeler and residing in Chennai, it is more likely that you would have either visited this temple or at least you would have heard about this temple.

Chennai, the gateway to South India, has a lot of popular temples. How this small temple of Muneeswaran has become famous on its own way itself is a beautiful story. In 1919 CE, few labourers from North Arcot district brought the idol of Lord Muneeswaran with them. (Lord Muneeswaran is a village deity worshipped in and around Chennai; there are people who believe Muneeswaran as merely a saint; there are also people who believe Muneeswaran as an incarnation of Lord Shiva). The labourers placed the idol under a neem tree adjoining the military barracks. A British troop commander objected this and he met with an accident on the same day. Then, he allowed the deity to stay there. Thereafter, a lot of devotees, especially the drivers of various vehicles started believing that this deity would save them from accidents and started visiting this temple. The tradition continue even today and a lot of people visit this temple as soon they buy a new vehicle. This is the story of Muneeswara, who is believed to save you from the accidents and hence he got a special name called ‘Body guard’.

Body guard Muneeswaran temple is located at a distance of around 1.5 km from Chennai Central railway station. You can find this temple on the route of Anna Salai (Mount Road) from Chennai Central Railway station near the bridge. The temple is a small temple located at a corner of the highway.

Happy travelling.

Site Name: Body guard Muneeswaran temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Site location: Near Central Railway Station, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Highlight: The Lord is believed to save the devotees from the accidents

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A 17th century Dargah with healing power - Mount Road Dargah, Chennai, India

Mount Road or Anna Salai is one of the most happening places of Chennai city, the gateway to South India and the capital city of the state Tamil Nadu. There are two famous Islam shrines in Mount Road – one is Thousands Light mosque and the other one is Dargah-e-Hazrath Syed Moosa Shah Qadri Baghdadi (Rahmathullahi Alaihi) aka Mount Road Dargah.

Mount Road Dargah is very popular. It attracts hundreds of devotees including the local celebrities every Thursday. Hazrath Syed Moosa Shah Qadri Baghdadi (RA) arrived from Baghdad Shareef in the middle of the 17th Century CE and lived in this site. It is believed that he had healing powers. When he died, he was buried next to his house and here his family raised the Dargah Shareef. Since then, not only Muslims but even people from the other religions visit this Dargah based on the belief that this Dargah has healing power.

You can easily locate this Dargah as it is well located opposite to LIC building in Anna Salai (Mount Road). You can reach this place easily by your own vehicle or using pubic transportation.
Happy travelling.

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January 12, 2010

A Kerala-type Temple in Chennai - Mahalingapuram Ayyappa Temple, Chennai, India

The beauty of Kerala lies not only on its nature and greenery, but even in its well maintained beautiful temples. Most of the temples for Lord Guruvayurappa and Ayyappa (the two main deities of Kerala) in all over India are built in Kerala temple architecture style. Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu state of India, also has three important temples for Lord Ayyappa. This post will talk about one of those three temples – Lord Ayyappa temple at Mahalingapuram area.

Lord Ayyappa is the son of Lord Shiva and Mohini (the female incarnation of Lord Vishnu). Apart from the famous Sabarimala temple in Kerala, there are hundreds of temples for Lord Ayyappa all over India, especially most of them are located in South India. Chennai city has three important temples for Lord Ayyappa – all of them are constructed in Kerala architectural style. The rituals are also similar to that of Kerala temples as the management of all these three temples are from Kerala.

Lord Ayyappa temple in the Mahalingapuram area near the famous Kodambakkam bridge, is one of the three popular Ayyappa temples in Chennai. The temple is very popular and a lot of devotees keep visiting this temple daily. Especially during the months of November and December, you can find more number of devotees visiting this temple. The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Ayyappa. There is another shrine having equal importance in this temple, which is dedicated to Lord Guruvayurappa. There are also small shrines in the temple, dedicated to Manjanamatha, Ganesha, and Subramanya with his two consorts. There is also an idol of Lord Ranganath (Lord Vishnu in the sleeping posture) located in this temple. The temple looks beautiful in the evening as it is lit by natural light majorly.

You can reach this place easily either by your own vehicle or by auto rickshaw/bus/taxi. As this place is located very near to the famous Kodambakkam bridge, it will not be difficult for you to locate this place.

Happy travelling.

Site Name: Lord Ayyappa temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Site location: Mahalingapuram, near Kodambakkam bridge, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlight: One of the popular Ayyappa temples of Chennai

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January 9, 2010

The Second Largest Electronics Market in India - Ritchie Street, Chennai, India

Ritchie Street, the narrow street which is always crowded like anything, is located near the famous Mount Road (Anna Salai) area of Chennai city is South India. The street that goes next to P.Orr & Sons will take you to Ritchie Street.

There were hardly five shops in Ritchie Street in 1970. Now there are around 900 shops which deal with all kinds of electronic items and computer peripherals. After Nehru Place market in New Delhi, Chennai’s Ritchie Street is the second largest market for computer spares and peripherals in India. If you know bargaining well, you can buy any electronic items cheaply in this street, which is not possible in another part of Chennai city.

Happy shopping and happy travelling.

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A beautiful beach within the city limit - Tiruvanmiyur beach, Chennai, India

Chennai city, the gateway to South India, has a many beaches including Marina beach, which is arguably considered as the second longest beach of the world. However, this is unfortunate fact that only few beaches in and around are neatly maintained. Tiruvanmiyur (Thiruvanmiyur) beach is one such beautifully maintained beach located in Chennai city.

Tiruvanmiyur is one of the well developed areas of Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu state of India. Tiruvanmiyur area is located at the northern end of the city. The famous Marundeeswarar temple, related to Ramayana period, is located in Tiruvanmiyur. Tiruvanmiyur beach is located hardly one km from this temple. The beach is located on the popular East Coast Road (ECR). ECR connects the cities Chennai and Mamallapuram, and it is one of the most happening places of Chennai.

Tiruvanmiyur beach is different from the other beaches of Chennai as it is comparatively less crowded and much cleaner. The approach roads to this beach are also well laid and maintained properly. The beach stretches to around one km. You can find a lot of IT professionals and college students hanging around in this beach.

You can reach this beach easily by public transportation or on your own vehicle as the nearby Marundeeswarar temple is a well known landmark.

Happy travelling.

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Thousand lights were needed to lit this site - Thousand Lights Mosque, Chennai, India

Even though the majority of the people in India are Hindus, India is one of the countries in the world having the largest Muslim population. As India was ruled by hundred of years by Muslim rulers, you can find a lot of mosques all over India. I would like to write about one such important mosque named Thousand Lights mosque, that is located in Chennai city, the gateway to South India.

In 1810 CE, this mosque was built by a Nawab named Umdat-Ul-Umrah. For those who are not familiar with the Indian history, the Urdu word "Nawab" refers to the governor appointed by Mughal emperors. Before the mosque was built in 1810 CE, this site was used by Shiite Muslims to gather and worship in the month of Muharram. Later the assembly hall was built and also the mosque. It is believed that around one thousand oil lamps were used to lit the assembly hall and hence the mosque got the name Thousands Lights (Ayiram Vilakku in Tamil). However, there is another belief, according to which the lights were provided by the Indian National Congress to mark their first visit to the city of Madras.

Thousand Lights mosque is located well at the heart of the Chennai city. It is located in the famous Mount Road (aka Anna Salai) in Chennai. This mosque is so popular landmark, that even the surrounding area itself is referred as Thousand Lights. You can reach this place easily either by public transport or on your own vehicle, as this is located in the center part of the city.
The mosque has a wonderful architecture with multiple domes and minarets. The mosque is adorned with the quotes from Quran, the holy book of Muslims. Thousand Lights mosque is considered as an important pilgrimage site for Shiite Muslims.

Site Name: Thousand Lights Mosque
Site Type: Religious place for Muslims
Location: Mount Road (Anna Salai), Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: 19th century mosque; an important pilgrimage for Shiite Muslims

Happy travelling.

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A beautiful Church and a calm Cemetery - St. George Cathedral, Chennai, India

"It's unbelievable! Am I really at the heart of the congested and crowded Chennai city? Or else, have I travelled to a remote village? The place is absolutely calm, man! Incredible!" - This is what my friend told me when I took him to the beautiful St. George's Cathedral in Chennai city, India.

St. George’s Cathedral is the Cathedral Church of the Church of South India, Diocese of Madras. The Cathedral is located in the centre of Chennai. The Cathedral has a big campus with a well maintained garden in front of the church. The church is architecturally very beautiful with its tall spire and clock tower. The church is a majestic piece of architecture with thick pillars, attractive roof, rich looking interior and beautiful statues. The cemetery that is located inside the cathedral campus is one of the few places in Chennai city ,which gives you a soothing silence and calm. The 19th century cemetery has its own charm and in fact it enhances the beauty of this site.

The church was constructed in the year 1815 CE by the people using some money gained through lottery. The cemetery was also constructed in the same year. It was in 1835 CE, that St. George’s Church became prominent as the Cathedral of Madras. For the sake of those who are unfamiliar with Christianity, let me briefly explain what is a cathedral. A cathedral is a church building presided over by a bishop, and therefore the central church building of a diocese, an administrative unit of the larger church.

St. George's Cathedral is well located in the heart of the Chennai city, very next to American Embassy, in Cathedral Road. The cathedral is very near to the famous land mark - Gemini flyover. As the site is well located inside the city, you can easily locate and reach the place either on your own vehicle or by public transportation. The area is so busy, crowded and congested. But, if you enter into this campus, you would feel as if entering into a different world altogether. The entire campus - church, garden, cemetery and the entire surrounding are well maintained and very calm. You will definitely be excited to visit the site. When you happen to travel to Chennai, ensure that you visit this church.

Happy travelling.

Site Name: St. George's Cathedral
Site Type: Religious - Christianity worship - Cathedral - Church
Location: Cathedral Road, Near Gemini Flyover, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: Architecture of the church, well maintained cemetery

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The Temple built by a Dubhashi - Ekambareswarar Temple, Chennai

Chennai or Madras, whatever you call it, is one of the earliest settlements of Britishers in India. Do you know about this temple which is indirectly associated with the British? 

The British, in their initial days, used the service of middlemen, who could speak the local language and English. They were called as Dubhashis. The senior most Dubhasis were rewarded with the title of "Chief Merchant of the East India Company".

When a person Betha Venkatadri by name, became the Chief Merchant of the East India Company, two people were assigned to serve him. One among them was Alangatha Pillai. He became very popular later and the British considered him as the best Dubhashi. He also became the Chief Merchant of the East India Company after Betha Venkatadri.

The Corporation of Madras is the second oldest municipal body in the world after London. It was set up in 1688 CE and Pillai along with two other Indians became part of 12 members team. 

The Britishers could not pronounce most of the Indian names. They had spoiled the names of many villages and towns. Few examples - Triplicane, Trivandrum, Egmore, etc. Similarly they called Pillai as Alingall Pillai in their records. 

Alangatha Pillai made lot of money through his service to the British. He was probably religious. He used his wealth to build a huge temple for Lord Shiva called as Ekambareswarar. He became Dubhashi in 1680s (the exact year is not known) and died probably in 1689 CE. Hence, this temple must have been built sometime in 1680s CE. It was built in Mint Street, which was called as Washer's street in those days. 

The temple of Ekambareswarar was very popular in Madras those days. It was referred as Allingal's Pagoda in a map that belongs to the period of early 1700s. 

Today? Although, this temple is being visited by hundreds of people from Park Town and George Town areas, it remains unknown to the rest of the city. It is indeed sad.

Temple Layout

Ekambareswarar temple is east facing and has a tower, which was built in the recent past. The sanctum enshrines a very small Shiv Linga. The utsav idol of Kamakshi is found along with Linga in the sanctum. 

Adjacent to the sanctum, Kamakshi Amman is enshrined in a separate south facing shrine. The Goddess look extremely attractive and the devotees would get a divine feeling in her shrine for sure. 

The flag staff, bali peetha and Nandi mandap are found facing towards the sanctum. There is a separate flag staff and bali peetha facing the shrine of Kamakshi. 

Near the flag staff, there are multiple shrines that include Dwara Ganapati with his two consorts, Kartikeya with his two consorts, Nataraj-Shivakami and Utsava deities. 

The temple has two prakaras. 

The inner prakara is full of idols and sub-shrines. Some of them are:
  • Hanuman
  • Nalvar
  • Vrudhagireeswarar Shiv Linga
  • Vadaraneswarar Shiv Linga
  • Kasi Vishwanathar Shiv Linga - this is perhaps the biggest Shiv Linga found in and around Chennai
  • Arunachaleswarar Shiv Linga
  • Chidambareswarar Shiv Linga
  • Kalatheeswarar Shiv Linga
  • Jambukeswarar Shiv Linga
  • Ganapati
  • Subramanya
  • Vishalakshi
  • Annapoorni
  • 63 Nayanmars
  • Bhairav
  • Surya
  • Chandra
  • Chandikeshwarar

It should be noted that all the five Pancha Bhoota Shiv Lingas are found in the prakara. 

Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga are found as the Koshta idols around the sanctum. 

Navagraha in this temple is believed to be very powerful and hence it is popular among the devotees.

The outer prakara is spacious. The shrine of Vanni Ganapati is located here. The idols of Vallalar and Chandikeshwarar are situated near this sub-shrine.

Next to the shrine of Ganesha, the holy tank and the sub-shrine of Vaveshwar Shiv Linga under a holy tree are found.

A holy Pipal tree with the idol of five headed Ganesh with Subramanya under five hooded serpent on the back side is very unique.

The sub-shrines of Bhairav and Hanuman are also located in the outer prakara region. 

Near the tower, there is another sacred Pipal tree, which is probably as old as the temple. The idols of Shiv Linga, Vishnu, Uma, Ganesh, Surya and Mari Amman are all found under this holy tree. 

A big Ganeshji is found in a separate shrine opposite to the temple.

Happy travelling. 

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January 3, 2010

The site where St. Thomas was killed - St. Thomas Mount, Chennai, India

There is a general belief that Christianity was brought to India by the European priests during the 16th century CE. However, only very few people know that some Indians embraced Christianity in the very beginning – in the 1st century CE itself. St. Thomas was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ. He was perhaps the only Apostle who crossed Rome to preach Christianity. He was believed to have landed in Kodangallur town located in Kerala state of India in 52 CE. It is also believed that St. Thomas was killed in Chennai in Tamil Nadu state, India, and the St. Thomas Mount area in the outskirts of Chennai city and the popular hilltop church are associated with the history of St. Thomas.
St. Thomas Mount, which is also called as "Parangi malai" by the locals of Chennai city, is a small hillock located in the outskirts of Chennai city. It is very near from Chennai airport (around 6 km). The word “Parangi” in Tamil language refers to “foreigner” (interestingly this word was originated from English word), and “malai” means “hill”.
As per the legend, St. Thomas, who was preaching Christianity in India, spent his last years in a cave in St. Thomas Mount. Someone who did not like his preaching of new religion in India assassinated him with a spear in 72 CE in this mountain. Because of him, this mountain got the name “St. Thomas”.

A church dedicated to “Our Lady of Expectation” (Mother Mary) was built by the Portuguese in 1523  CE on the top of this hill. It is believed that the altar of this church was built on the spot where St. Thomas was killed. At the northern foot of the mount, an impressive gateway with arches inscribed in 1547 CE would welcome you to the church. You can reach the church located at a height of 300 feet above the sea level by climbing around 135 steps. On the way, you can find the sight of fourteen statues (Stations of the Cross) which talk about the last day of Jesus Christ.

On the top of the hill, there is a Calvary, built in 1963 CE, which acts as the landmark of this mount. Near the Calvary, you can find a prayer hall and next to that the 16th century church dedicated to “Our Lady of Expectation” is located. The small church houses the holy stone cross which was believed to be carved by St. Thomas. When he was pierced to death his blood sprinkled on the Cross and the Cross was believed to be bleeding many times especially on 18th December. It was found bleeding publicly in 1558 CE, and it was bleeding till 1704 CE. The church also has the holy relic of St. Thomas. There is a painting of Mother Mary with child Jesus which was believed to be painted by St. Luke and was brought by St. Thomas himself. It is considered as the oldest Christianity related painting in India. You can get a beautiful aerial view of Chennai city from top of the hill. If the climate is good, climbing up the hilltop and enjoying the sight of Chennai from top would be a pleasant experience for you.

Please note that there are many people who challenge if St. Thomas visited India and if he was killed and all. According to them, the story was cooked up by the Portuguese. 

When you find time, go and visit this beautiful church either in the early morning or in the pleasant evening.You can reach this place easily either by public transport or on your own transportation. The distance is around 6 kms from the airport and 16 kms from Chennai Central Railway Station.
Happy travelling.

Site Name: Our Lady of Expectation Church or St. Thomas Mount
Site Type: Religious site, Church
Location: St. Thomas Mount area, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India


1) The site where St.Thomas was killed
2) One of the sites arguably associated with the initial spread of Christianity to India
3) The bleeding cross
4) 2000 years old painting of Mary with Baby Jesus

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