December 24, 2011

Thirumalai Murugan Temple

Courtallam, the city of waterfalls, located in South India, is an important tourist spot. If you travel just 13 kms away from the highly crowded Courtallam, you will reach a quiet and calm place named Thirumalai in Western Ghats. This small village is famous for its hilltop temple of Murugan.

Thirumalai Murugan temple, located at a height of 400 m in Western Ghats can be reached by 600+ steep steps from the foothills. Before you start climbing the steps, you can find the huge idol of Vallaba Vinayak along with Siddhi. The shrine of Meenakshi-Sundareshwar along with Ganesh is also found at the foothills. You can find some small mandaps and shrines such as Murugan with Valli-Devasena, Naduvatta Vinayakar and Idumban between foothills and the top of the hills.

The main temple is located at the top of the hills at the backdrop of Western Ghats and breathtaking aerial view of the surrounding villages. The main deity Murugan is found with four hands in the standing posture. It is belived that Lord Agastya used to visit the deity daily. The current structure of the temple appears to be at least 300-400 years old. There are some 18th century inscriptions found in the temple.

The sacred tree of the site is Tamarind tree. Lord Murugan is depicted by the Vel weapon. The idol of Valli and peacock are also found under the Tamarind tree. A small shrine for Lord Ganesh is also found in the area outside the main shrine.

At the entrance of the main sanctum, there is a small idol for Lord Ganesha. The shrines of Meenakshi-Sundareshwar, Utsav Shanmukha and Utsav Murugan are also found within the main shrine.

The prakara (corridor) is full of small shrines and idols such as Kanni Vinayakar, Shasta, Gajalakshmi, Chandikeswarar and Bhairav.

The tank is found outside the main shrine. One more shrine for Ganesha named as Tirupani Vinayakar is also found in the outer region.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:

Site Name: Thirumalai Murugan Temple
City Name: Thirumalai

An ancient temple located on top of a hill in Western Ghats
Location: 60 kms from Tirunelveli; 13 kms from Courtallam; Located in the Southern part of Tamil Nadu state, India
Nearest Railway Station: Tenkasi
Nearest Airport: Madurai (around 200 kms)
How to reach: Easily reachable by road from Tirunelveli, Tenkasi,Courtallam or Madurai
Hotel: A lot of luxury hotels and budget hotels are available in Courtallam and Tenkasi
Restaurants: There are a lot of good restaurants in Courtallam and Tenkasi

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December 21, 2011

Ilanji Kumaran Temple

Courtallam is a small town located in the southern most part of India. The town is one of the important tourist spots in South India thanks to the nine waterfalls located within this town. Near Courtallam, there is a village named Ilanji full of fertile land. With the backdrop of hills and green fields, the ancient temple of Kumaran is located in Ilanji village. The temple is popularly called as Ilanji Kumaran Koil. Ilanji is located at a distance of 3 kms from Tenkasi and 5kms from Courtallam.

Ilanji Kumaran Koil has been revered in Tirupugazh by the great saint Arunagirinathar. This temple is believed to have been visited the mythological saint Agastya. As per the mythology, he was sent to South India by Lord Shiva. Agastya visited this temple before visiting Courtallam temple. Although, this ancient temple is considered as Kumaran temple (Murugan aka Kumaran - the son of Lord Shiva) nowadays, it is orginally the temple of Lord Shiva.

The current structure of the temple appears to have been renovated in the 15th century AD. The east facing temple has two entrances. There is no tower for this temple. The temple has ardha mandap, maha mandap and mani mandap (3 types of halls as per the South Indian temple architectural style).

The main sanctum of the temple is dedicated to Iruvaluga Ishwar (Lord Shiva in the form of Shiv Linga). The entrance of the sanctum has two big and beautiful sculptures of Dwarapalaks. There is also an idol of Lord Ganesha located near the sculptures of Dwarapalaks. The main sanctum is facing east.

Apart from the main sanctum of Shiva, the main shrine houses a small shrine for Nataraj-Sivakami and utsav (processional) idols. In addition, the Goddess Iruvaluga Isarkkiniyal is found in a separate south facing sanctum. The entrance of the main shrine has the idols of Ganesh and Murugan.

To the left of the main sanctum of Iruvaluga Ishwar, there is another main sanctum dedicated to Velavan. Lord Murugan is found with four hands and sitting on the peacock flanked by his consorts Valli and Devasena. The temple is nowadays named after this idol as Velavan temple. The Lord is also called as Tiruvilanji Kumaran.

The flag staff (dhwajastambha) and peacock idol are located facing the shrine of Velavan. Nandi idol is located facing the main shrine of Lord Shiva.

There is another important shrine in this temple. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the name of Varadaraja Perumal.

The temple has two prakaras (corridors). The inner prakara has the following idols/shrines:
1) Surya idol
2) 63 nayanmars
3) Sapta Mata
4) Suradeva
5) Kanni Vinayak shrine
6) Murugan-Valli-Devasena utsav idols
7) Venugopal with his consorts
8) Viswanath-Visalakshi along with Nandi and Ganesh
9) Kuttralanathar-Kulalvaimozhi along with Agastya
10) Ayyanar in a different shape
11) Sapta Kanni
12) Nagakanni
13) Vasuki, Lakshmi, Saraswati and two Ganesh idols
14) Shanmukha with his consorts in a separate shrine
15) Dakshinamurti on the niche
16) Shaneeswarar
17) Chandikeswarar
18) Bhairav
19) Shanmukha with his consorts as metal (procession) idols

The outer prakara has just one shrine for Shanbaga Vinayak.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:

Site Name: Ilanji Kumaran Temple
City Name: Courtallam
An ancient temple located near Courtallam
Location: 55 kms from Tirunelveli; 3 kms from Tenkasi; Located in the Southern part of Tamil Nadu state, India
Nearest Railway Station: Tenkasi
Nearest Airport: Madurai (around 200 kms)
How to reach: Easily reachable by road from Tirunelveli, Tenkasi,Courtallam or Madurai
Hotel: A lot of luxury hotels and budget hotels are available in Courtallam and Tenkasi
Restaurants: There are a lot of good restaurants in Courtallam and Tenkasi

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December 18, 2011

St. Mary's Basilica - Bangalore, India

St. Mary's Basilica is the oldest church of Bangalore city in Karnataka state of India. Also, this is the only church in the entire Karnataka  state which is elevated to the status of a minor basilica. The church attracts a large number of devotees from in and around Bangalore during the St. Mary's Feast in September every year.

When the British captured Srirangapatna town from Tipu Sultan in 1799 AD, the French priest Fr. Abbe du Bois arrived at Bangalore and started restoring the Catholic religion. He build a small chapel in 1803 in the location where the basilica currently stands. IN 1813, Fr. Abbe du Bois, with the help of the British, enhanced the chapel and named as 'theChurch of Purification of Our Lady'. It was destroyed in 1832 during the communal violence. In 1882, it was rebuilt by Rev. L. E. Kleiner.

The spacious church is built in Gothic style in the form of a cross. The magnificent tower of the church is 160 feet high. The statue of Mary holding the infant Jesus in front of the church is a main attraction of the site. There is another statue of mother Mary located outside the main church building. It is believed that some miscreants destroyed the entire church in 1832; however, when they tried to destroy this statue they couldn't do that; they lost their sight.

The interior of the church is artistically beautiful and is built in a typical Gothic style. The church also has few statues such as Jesus Christ's father, few apostles of Jesus and Mary holding the falling Jesus.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:

Site Name: St. Mary's Basilica
Site Type: Catholic Church
Location:  Bangalore city, Karnataka state, India
Highlights: One of the popular tourist sites in Bangalore; the oldest church in Bangalore
Nearest Railway Station: Bangalore
Nearest Airport: Bangalore
How to reach: Train, road and air
Hotel: A lot of options ranging from star hotels to budget hotels
Restaurants: A lot of restaurants - vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian, all over the city

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