April 25, 2010

Kanchipuram - One of the seven sacred cities of India

Kanchipuram, the city of 1000 temples, is one of the ancient cities of India. Kanchipuram is also called as Kanchi or Kancheepuram. In olden days, it was called as Kachi or Kachiampathi. You can learn the importance of Kanchipuram city from the description "Nagareshu Kanchi" meaning "Kanchi - the best city" by the great poet Kalidasa of India. Kanchipuram has a lot of important features to talk about. I try to cover as much as possible in this small blog post.


1) Kanchipuram is one of the seven sacred cities of India. The other six sacred cities of India are Varanasi aka Kasi, Haridwar aka Hardwar, Ayodhya, Mathura, Dwarka, and Ujjain.

2) Kanchipuram is called as city of 1000 temples. It is believed that there were around 1000 temples in ancient Kanchi. Now, you can find around 250 temples in and around the city.

3) Kanchipuram is famous for its silk sarees too (Kanchi Pattu). The other city is India which is famous for silk materials is Kasi aka Varanasi.

4) Kanchipuram had its golden times during the rule of Pallava kings between 3rd century AD and 9th century AD. Most of the current temples of the city were built during this period.

5) The great Chinese traveler Xuanzang (Hsuan Tsang) visited Kanchipuram in the 7th century AD.

6) The history of Kanchipuram can be traced back to many centuries before the advent of the Christian era. The ancient Tamil literatures such as Pattupattu and Manimekalai have reference to Kanchipuram. Patanjali's Mahabhashya also refers this city.

7) Kanchipuram was ruled by Pallava kings between 3rd century AD and 9th century AD. During Pallava period, Kanchipuram was their capital city. The Chola kings ruled Kanchipuram between 10th and 13th centuries AD. Then it was ruled by Vijayanagara kings between 14th and 17th centuries AD.

8) It is believed that Lord Buddha visited Kanchipuram. Bodhidharma of 6th century AD, who was from Kanchipuram, went to China to spread Buddhism. He also trained the local people in the art of Varmakkalai (a kind of martial art which is present in Kerala state nowadays). The art underwent many changes and came to be known as Kung fu. It is also believed that it underwent further changes and came to be known as Karate and Judo in Japan.

9) Adi Shankara, the great reformer of Hinduism, established four mathas in the four corners of India, and he also established the fifth matha in Kanchipuram. However, there are controversies on this, and there are people who claim that no matha was established in Kanchipuram by Adi Shankara.

10) Today's Kanchipuram city has a lot of Shiva and Vishnu temples (Saivism and Vaishnavism). However, in olden days, there were four Kanchis - Shiva Kanchi, Vishnu Kanchi, Buddha Kanchi, and Jaina Kanchi.

11) There are five forms of adobes of Lord Shiva. They are Chidambaram (Sky), Sri Kalahasti (air), Tiruvanaikaval (water), and Tiruvannamalai (fire). The remaining adobe is at Ekambaranatha temple located in Kanchipuram (earth).

12) Out of 108 divya desams (the 108 most famous temples of Lord Vishnu), 15 diva desam temples are located in and around Kanchipuram.

13) Kamakshi Amman temple in Kanchipuram is one of the 51 Shakthi Peeths (51 famous temples of Mother Goddess).

14) Kamakshi Amman temple in Kanchipuram is one of the three most important temple of Mother Goddess (Kanchi Kamakshi, Madurai Meenakshi, and Kasi Visalakshi).

15) The translation of Skanda Purana (the biggest among 18 Hindu Puranas) into Tamil language, which became more popular than the original, was written in Kumara Kottam temple in Kanchipuram.

The city, Kanchipuram, has much more importance and there is lot more to write. However, it is humanly impossible to cover everything about this great city. So, I stop here. When you get a chance, go and visit this holy city of India, which is located at a distance of around 75 kms from Chennai in South India.

Happy travelling.

City Name: Kanchipuram
Highlights:
1) City of 1000 temples
2) One of the seven sacred cities of India
3) Famous for silk sarees
4) Has around 250 temples in and around
5) Very ancient city
6) One of the Pancha Bhootha Sthalams - earth adobe of Lord Shiva
7) The city has Kamakshi Amman temple - one of the three most famous temples of mother Goddess
Location: 75 kms from Chennai, Tamil Nadu state, India
Nearest Railway Station: Kanchipuram
Nearest Airport: Chennai (around 75 kms)
How to reach: Easily reachable by road and train
Hotel: A lot of luxury hotels and budget hotels are available
Restaurants: There are a lot of good restaurants in the city


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April 19, 2010

Avudayar Koil Temple, Aranthangi, India

Avudayar Koil temple is one of the oldest temples in Tamil Nadu state, South India. It is located in a small town, Avudayaurkoil, which is situated at a distance of around 14 kms from Aranthangi city of Pudhukkottai district in Tamil Nadu state, India. The town was called as Tiiruperunthurai in the ancient times. The temple is the only attraction of the town and it attracts hundreds of devotees and tourists daily. Avudayar Koil temple (the word "Koil" means "temple" in Tamil language) is attractive not only due to spiritual reasons, but also due to its architecture and sculptures. It is because of this temple, the entire Avudayarkoil town has been declared as a 'heritage town' by the Government.


Even though the temple is popularly referred as Avudayar Koil, the name of the temple is Atmanatha Swamy Temple. The original temple is believed to have been built by Manickavasagar in the 8th century CE. It is evident that the temple has been extended in the later years. Manickavasagar was one of the four important Tamil saints of Shaivism  out of 63 Nayanmars (63 important saints of Shiva). You can find the idols of all 63 saints in most of the Shaivite temples in South India. You can find four saints among 63 saints in separate shrines or in a higher platform in some temples. Manickavasagar is one of those four important Nayanmars. Avudayar Koil temple legend is connected to the history of saint Manickavasagar.


The King Arimardhana Pandian asked his minister Tiruvadhavoorar to buy horses and gave him money for the same. The minister came to a place named Perunthurai to buy horses. However, he was impressed by a Ved "paatshaala". Ultimately, he attained "Gnana" (the ultimate knowledge) here, and he used the money to build this temple. Initially, only a platform was built and offering of rice was kept on the platform. The steam was considered as God (Shiva) for him. It is the same platform which is still present inside the shrine and the same rituals are still followed. In the later years, Pandya kings extended the temple with beautiful sculptures and pillars. The minister Tiruvadhavoorar thus became a great devotee of Lord Shiva and got the name Manickavasagar. He wrote the famous "Tiruvasagam" in Avudayaur Koil temple.

The presiding deity of the temple, Atmanatha Swamy (a name of Lord Shiva) doesn't have any image or figure. There is just a platform in the sanctum. This is a unique feature of this temple.

Another unique feature of this temple is that you cannot find Nandi, flag staff and Chandikeswarar, which are commonly found in all South Indian ancient Shiva temples.

The Goddess of the temple, Yogambal, is found in a separate shrine. Again, there is no idol for the Goddess. You can only find Paadam (foot print) in the shrine. There is a small idol of Goddess located outside the main shrine.

As you enter the main temple, you can find small Pillayar (Ganesha) idol to your left. Next to that, there is a big shrine for the saint Manickavasagar. There are ancient paintings found around this shrine. Also, there are very beautiful sculptures of Narasimha, Kaali, Ganesha, Subramanya and others. There are also big life sized sculptures such as Veerabhadra, Yaksha, Daksha and others. All these sculptures are very beautiful and have uniqueness. Once you enter into the temple, there is a small mandap full of sculptures. There are sculptures that are associated with the temple such as God making foxes as horses when the King was asking the minister for horses, and making the horses back to foxes. You can also find the idols of Arimardhana Pandian, Manickavasagar, and others.

If you enter further into the temple, there is another Manickavasagar shrine surrouded by olden period paintings. There are many pillars with beautiful sculptures. On the ceiling, you can find Pancha Bhootas. The corridor (prakara) surrounding the main shrine has the idols of Chokka Vinayaka, Manikavasagar, Nataraj, Bhikshatana, Kali, Veerabhadra, etc.

There is a tree (Kurutha tree - Sthala vruksham) where the idols of Shiva teaching Manickavasagar is found. There is a small shrine for Nataraj with Shivakami and another shrine for Lord Murugan. The outer prakara has the idols of Lord Ganesha in all the corners. You can also find the temple tank in the outer corridor. The idols of Muthu Vinayaka and Muneeswaran are also found there.

All over the temple, you can find a lot of beautiful sculptures. There is no separate shrine or idols for Navagrahas (nine planets) similar to other temples. They are found only in the pillars. The 27 stars are also present in the form of sculptures in this temple. There is a sapta swara pillar (musical pillar). The stone chain is a famous sculpture in this temple. There are a lot to explore in this temple, which cannot be explained in detail in this post. Visit the temple to get your own experience.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:

Site Name: Atmanathaswamy Temple aka Avudayarkoil Temple
Site Type: Ancient temple, architecture, sculpture
Highlights:
1) One of the oldest temples in Tamil Nadu state, India; built in 8th century CE; 1200 years old
2) The main deities do not have image/shape
3) Built by the famous saint Manikavasagar
4) Life sized beautiful sculptures
Location: Avudayar Koil, 14 kms from Aranthangi, Pudhukottai district, Tamil Nadu state, India
Nearest Railway Station: Aranthangi
Nearest Airport: Trichy (around 100 kms)
How to reach: Take a bus or taxi from Aranthangi
Hotel: Only budget hotels are available that too in the nearby town Aranthangi
Restaurants: It's difficult to find good restaurants


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April 17, 2010

Hotels in Mysore, India

Mysore, the heritage city of India, has a lot of accommodation options in and around the city. I just wanted to list some of the important hotels. Please go through other relevant sites for the address, URL, or phone number of these hotels.







5 Star Hotels in Mysore:



Lalitha Mahala Palace hotel - originally a palace, which was converted into a hotel now.



4 Star Hotels in Mysore:



Golden Landmark Resort

Royal Orchid (at Brindavan Garden)

Royal Orchid Metropole

The Village



3 Star Hotels in Mysore:



Hotel Ramanashree

Hotel Palace Plaza

Hotel Siddhartha

Royal Inn

Parklane Hotel



Budget Hotels in Mysore:



Royale Heritage Hotel

Hotel Roopa

Grand Maurya Resort

Howard Johnson Inn the Monarch

Ginger Mysore


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April 12, 2010

Tourist Attractions in Mysore, India

Mysore or Mysuru, located at a distance of around 150 kms from Bangalore city (the Silicon Valley of India), has been one of the greatest tourist attractions in South India for many decades. Mysore is located in Karnataka state of South India.

Mysore is always crowded by thousands of tourists throughout the year, and it remains as a main excursion option for school children of various schools across India for many decades. Let us see what all the important tourist places in Mysore. This list also includes the important tourist attractions in Mysore and around Mysore.

Tourist attractions in Mysore:

Mysore Palace - Mysore Palace is located at the center of Mysore city. It is the most famous tourist attraction of Mysore. It is considered as the proud of India. It looks like a heaven in the evenings when the entire palace complex is illuminated.



Mysore Zoo - Mysore Zoo is one of the oldest and most beautiful zoological parks in India. It houses a lot of rare animals.

Brindavan Gardens - Brindavan Gardens is one of the most beautiful laid out gardens in the world. It is located at a distance of 24 kms from the Mysore city. The innumerable fountains decorated with colorful lights are the highlights of this garden.

Chamundi Hills - Chamundi Hills which is located at a distance of 13 kms from Mysore city. Chamundeshwari temple and Bull temple are the most important sites of Chamundi Hills. Apart from these two sites, there are two more temples - Mahabaleshwar temple and Lakshmi Narayana temple.



Temples in Mysore Palace - Mysore Palace has a lot of spectacular temples - Shweta Varaha temple, Lakshmiramana temple and Prasanna Krishnaswamy temple.

Tourist attractions around Mysore:

Srirangapatna:

Srirangapatna is a historical town located at a distance of 18kms from Mysore. Ranganathaswamy temple, Gumbaz - the tombs of Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali, Summer Palace, Jumma Masjid, and the memorial of Tipu Sultan are the sites with tourism importance in Srirangapatna.

Somnathpur:

Somnathpur, which is located at a distance of 35 kms from Mysore city, has the 13th century extrordinary sculptural marvel - Keshava temple.


Talakad:

Talakad, the desert like town with full of sand, is located at a distance of around 50 kms from Mysore. It has the architecturally beautiful 14th century temple of Vaidyanatheswara, the color changing idol of Pataleswara temple, the submerged temple of Maleswara temple, and the 10th century architecturally beautiful Kirti Narayana temple.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:

City Name: Mysore
Official Name: Mysuru
Location: Located at a distance of around 150 kms from Bangalore city, Karnataka state, India
Nearest Airport: Bangalore
Nearest Railway Station: Mysore
Climate: Warm and cool throughout the year
Local Transport: Well connected by buses, private taxis, and auto rickshaws; (even you can find tongos (horse driven carts)
Hotel: A lot of hotels - budget as well as high class - throughout the city
Restaurants: Mysore's cuisine is rice-based; Idlis and dosas are also famous; You can find a lot of restaurants both vegetarian and non-vegetarian throughout the city


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April 11, 2010

The tombs of Tipu Sultan & Hyder Ali - Gumbaz, Srirangapatna, Near Mysore, India

Srirangapatna, the historical town of India, located near Mysore city, has many important tourism and historical sites. Gumbaz, the tombs of Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali is one of the most important tourist site in Srirangapatna.


Tipu Sultan, the tiger of Mysore, the great warrior who fought with the British empire, built Gumbaz in the midst of Lal Bagh, a beautiful garden. He built tombs for his father Hyder Ali and mother Fathima Begam (Fakr-Un-Nisa) in Gumbaz. The structure is very beautiful standing on a high and wide platform with an open verandah of polished pillars all round. The highlight of the Gumbaz structure are well shaped large dome, ivory inlaid doors, and carved stone windows of fine workmanship. The chamber is painted with the tiger stripes.


In Gumbaz, you can find the tomb of Hyder Ali in the middle, with the tombs of Tipu Sultan and Fathima Begam on either sides. (The tomb of Tipu Sultan was added to Gumbaz after he died.) You can also find the tombs of other family members of Hyder Ali in the open veranda and surroundings. This Islamic style structure located in the middle of the beautiful garden, also
houses a masjid named Masjid-E-Aksa in its complex.


Don’t miss this place when you go for a tour to Mysore or Srirangapatna.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:

Site Name: Gumbaz
Site Type: Tomb, Garden
Highlights: The tombs of Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali
Location: Srirangapatna, 18 kms from Mysore, Karnataka state, India
Nearest Railway Station: Srirangapatna
Nearest Airport: Bangalore (around 170 kms)
Local Transport: Easily reachable from Mysore; there are lot of private and government buses
Hotel: There are few good hotels at Srirangapatna; If you are looking for good cheap and budget hotels, it is better to go with hotels of Mysore or hotels of Bangalore
Restaurants: There are few good restaurants available in Srirangapatna; better options are available in Bangalore or Mysore


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April 4, 2010

The Wealth of the Sea - Daria Daulat Bagh aka Summer Palace, Srirangapatna, Near Mysore, India

Srirangapatna, the historical town of India, which is located next to the heritage city of India, Mysore, is an important tourist spot in Karnataka state of India. It has a lot of interesting tourist destinations. Among those sites, Daria Daulat Bagh is one of the most important tourist destination in Srirangapatna.


Daria Daulat Bagh aka "the wealth of the sea" was the summer palace of the great warrior of Mysore region, Tipu Sultan. Tipu Sultan built this summer palace in 1784 CE.

The summer palace (Daria Daulat Bagh) is square in plan, and was built on a raised stone plinth. There are a lot of teak pillars in the outer edge of this two storeyed beautiful palace. All the walls and ceilings of this palace are painted, mostly depicting the victories of Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali, the durbar (court) scenes of Tipu Sultan and his contemporaries, and other people and scenes related to Tipu Sultan. The architecture of the palace is Indo-Islamic style. There is a well laid and well maintained beautiful garden in front of the palace.

Daria Daulat Bagh is one site which you should never miss at Srirangapatna. Ensure that this place is present in your Mysore travel itinerary. Your Mysore tour will be incomplete if you don't go to this site.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:

Site Name: Daria Daulat Bagh aka Summer Palace
Site Type: Palace, Museum
Highlights: Palace built by Tipu Sultan
Location: 18 kms from Mysore, Karnataka state, India
Nearest Railway Station: Srirangapatna
Nearest Airport: Bangalore (around 170 kms)
Local Transport: Easily reachable from Mysore; there are lot of private and government buses
Hotel: There are few good hotels at Srirangapatna; If you are looking for good cheap and budget hotels, it is better to go with hotels of Mysore or hotels of Bangalore
Restaurants: There are few good restaurants available in Srirangapatna; better options are available in Bangalore or Mysore


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April 2, 2010

A historical Masjid - Jumma Masjid, Srirangapatna, Near Mysore, India

Srirangapatna, the historical town of Karnataka state in India, is located near Mysore city (the city famous for Mysore Zoo, Mysore Palace, Chamundi Hills, and Brindavan Gardens). Even though the highlight of Srirangapatna town is Ranganathaswamy temple, there are many historical sites and monuments too located in the town. Masjid-e-Ala aka Jumma Masjid is one of the important historical tourism sites in Srirangapatna, which you must visit during your Mysore travel.
Tipu Sultan built Masjid-e-Ala aka Jumma Masjid (some people write it as Jama Masjid too) in the year of 1784 CE, once he came to the throne of Mysore. It is said that he performed his first Imamath here (Imamath = some religious course in Islam). The masjid (mosque) has an open court and a covered verandah. The highlight of the masjid is two lofty minarets, which stand on a high platform. The minarets are very attractive and can be watchable even from long distance. The octagonal shaped minarets are two stories surmounted by domes. There are around 200 steps which would take you to the top of minarets from where you can get a bird view of Srirangapatna.
The history of Tipu Sultan is always interesting. Similarly, the town of Srirangapatna, which is associated with Tipu Sultan is also interesting. Earlier people used to visit only Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangapatna. However, the interest on tourism and travel in India have increased manifold. The travelers to Srirangapatnam ensure that they visit this masjid too.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:

Site Name: Masjid-e-Ala aka Jumma Masjid
Site Type: Masjid, Mosque
Highlights: One of the important sites of Srirangapatna
Location: 18 kms from Mysore, Karnataka state, India
Nearest Railway Station: Srirangapatna
Nearest Airport: Bangalore (around 170 kms)
Local Transport: Easily reachable from Mysore; there are lot of private and government buses
Hotel: There are few good hotels at Srirangapatna; If you are looking for good cheap and budget hotels, it is better to go with hotels of Mysore or hotels of Bangalore
Restaurants: There are few good restaurants available in Srirangapatna; better options are available in Bangalore or Mysore


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