June 25, 2011

Belur Math

Belur Math is the headquarters of Ramakrishna Math. It is located on the banks of river Ganga (Hooghly) in Howrah district. It is hardly one hour drive from Kolkata city, the capital city of West Bengal state of India.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa was a powerful Hindu Guru who lived in the 19th century CE. In fact it is difficult to find a person in India who wouldn't have heard about Ramakrishna and his extraordinary disciple Vivekananda. Ramakrishna Math was started by Swamy Vivekanda in the memory of his Guru Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna Math, which has its branches all over India, has its headquarters in Howrah which is called as Belur Math.

When you visit Belur Math during an early morning or evening, you would wonder if you had come to heaven. The math which is spread over around 40 acres on the banks of Hooghly river is such a serene and peaceful location. There are people who reach the math by passing the river on boats, which probably gives them more peaceful experience.

The main attraction of the huge complex is the sacred temple of Ramakrishna Paramahansa where the sacred relics of Swamiji is kept. The temple is very big and architecturally great. A marble idol of Ramakrishna is placed inside the temple. The temple was built in 1938 CE.

Besides this main temple, the old temple is there where some photographs of Swamy Vivekanda and Ramakrishna are found. The site where Swamy Vivekanda spent his last few days has a lot of objects used by him. The temple where Swamy Vivekanda's sacred relics are kept and the temple where Sarada Devi's sacred relics are kept are also found within the compound of Belur Math.

There are samadhis (tombs) of various Gurus of Ramakrishna math. The bilva tree where Swamy Vivekananda used to regularly sit is still maintained. There is a small temple for Brahmananda where his sacred relics are kept.

Whichever place you visit or miss in Kolkata, it doesn't matter. But Belur Math is a place which you should never miss. When you get a chance to go to Kolkata ensure that you visit at least this great peaceful site.

Happy travelling.


Fast Facts:
Site Name: Belur Math
Site Type: Hindu Math; Temple; Tombs of divine people; Ashram
Location:  Belur in Howrah District, Near Kolkata city, West Bengal state, India 
Highlights: The head quarters of Ramakrishna mission and math; the temples built on the site where the sacred relics of Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and Sarada Devi are kept

Nearest Railway Station: Kolkata - well connected from the cities/towns all over India
Nearest Airport: Kolkata has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable from Kolkata
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Kolkata
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Kolkata city

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Valasaravakkam Velveeswarar Temple - Chennai

Valasaravakkam, a fast growing residential area of Chennai city in South India, has an ancient temple for Lord Shiva. The temple is called as Velveeswarar temple or Agastheeswarar temple. It is believed that this temple belongs to the period of Kulothungan Chola.

Velveeswarar temple is located on the Arcot Road in Valasaravakkam area of Chennai. A very big lotus pond is found inside the temple complex. The temple is surrounded by open space in all the four directions. Moreover, as the temple doesn't have surrounding compound walls, the temple looks beautiful and spacious.

The main shrine of the temple has Velveeswarar in the form of a big Shiv Ling facing the east direction with a Nandi idol in front. There is no rajagopuram (tower) or flag staff found in this ancient temple. Adjacent to the shrine of Velveeswarar, there is another shrine with big Shiv Ling named Agastheeswarar. This shrine also faces the east direction. The temple is named after these two Shiv Lingas.

The Goddess of the temple Tripura Sundari is found in a separate shrine facing the south direction.

The prakara (corridor) surrounding these three main shrines has few small shrines and idols of other Gods and Goddesses. Lord Ganesha is found in the name of Vinai Theertha Vinayakar in a separate shrine. Lord Subramanya along with his consorts Valli and Devasena is also found in a separate shrine.

Apart from Velveeswarar and Agastheeswarar, there is another Shiv Ling found in this temple. This Shiv Linga is named as Bana Pureeswarar. Dakshinamurti, Bhairav, Hanuman, Rama-Sita-Lakshman, Navagraha, Natraj-Sivakami and Karumari are also found in small separate shrines in this temple.

The wall surrounding the shrine of Velveeswarar has the niche images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu and Brahma. Chandikeshwara is also found in his usual location. The wall surrounding the shrine of Tripura Sundari has the niche images of Brahmi, Vaishnavi and Maheswari.

Happy travelling.


Fast Facts:
Site Name: Velveeswarar aka Agastheeswarar Temple
Site Type: Temple
Location:  Valasaravakkam, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India 
Highlights: A little known Chola period temple in Chennai

Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India
Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable from any part of the city
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city

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Saligram Bala Vinayakar Temple - Chennai


Saligram is a popular residential area of Chennai city in South India. The temple of Bala Vinayak located in Saligram has become very popular nowadays. Although this temple is built in the recent times and a very small temple, the temple got popularity mainly due to a tree inside.

The main shrine of this small neatly maintained temple has the idol of Bala Vinayak (Ganesh). The wall surrounding the shrine has the niche images of Dakshinamurti, Lakshmi Narayan and Durga. There are small shrines within this temple for Murugan will Valli and Devasena, Anjaneya and another shrine where the wax image of Chandrasekarendra Shankaracharya is found. The idol looks realistic.

The highlight of the temple is Arasu tree where the images of Lord Ganesha are naturally formed. One main image of Ganesha with crown, trunk and tusk is found. Apart from that there are many images of Ganesha are found around the tree. It is true that not all the images resemble Ganesha; however, the temple authorities claim they resemble the Ganesha form.

A calm and serene temple for an unique experience...don't miss this.

Happy travelling.


Fast Facts:
Site Name: Bala Vinayakar Temple
Site Type: Temple
Location:  Bharani Colony, Saligram area, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India 
Highlights: Naturally formed images of Ganesha in the tree

Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India
Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable from any part of the city
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city


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June 19, 2011

Marina Beach - A Walking Tour

Marina beach located in Chennai city of India is arguably the second longest beach in the world. Chennai has a lot of malls, cinema halls, temples, parks and amusement parks. However, marina beach remains the most favorite destination for Chennaite for many centuries and it will remain the same forever.

Walking along the beach road either in the early morning or late evening would be an excited experience for any traveller. Although the Marina beach is technically longer, the stretch starting from Napier bridge to Light House is generally called as Marina beach.

1) Napier Bridge: Start your Marina beach walk from Napier bridge. Napier bridge constructed over the river Cooum is an important landmark of Chennai city. It was built by Napier, Governor of Fort St. George, in 1869. The Cooum river connects with the Bay of Bengal Ocean near this bridge.


2) Anna Square: After Napier bridge, the next landmark in Marina beach Road is Anna Square where the samadhi (tomb) of the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu state Anna Durai is located.


3) MGR Samadi: Next to Anna Square, MGR Samadi is the important landmark. It has the tomb of MGR, the former CM of Tamil Nadu state. He was also a leading actor of Tamil cinema.


4) Madras University: Opposite to MGR Samadi, the University of Madras building is located. It is one of the major landmarks in Chennai city. Some of the buildings in the University campus are heritage buildings dating back to the British period. The statue of Queen Victoria is also located inside the campus.


5) Uzhaipaalar Statue: The Marina Beach Road is famous for its row of stone statues. The oldest statue installed on the beach road is labourers' statue popularly called as 'Uzhaippaalar Silai' in Tamil language. It is located near MGR memorial.



6) Bharathiar Statue: After 'uzhaippaalar statue' the next landmark is Bharathiar statue. Bharathiar was one of the greatest poets of Tamil language and he was also a national leader. Opposite to his statue the heritage building of Public Works Department is located.


7) Kannagi Statue: If you move further from the statue of Bharathiar, you can find the statue of U.Ve. Swaminatha Iyer. He was a great scholar who was instrumental in discovering a lot of old Tamil texts and books. The next landmark is Tilakar Thidal, the site where a lot of important gatherings addressed by many popular national leaders including Mahatma Gandhi, Subramanya Bharathi, etc. were held. Today although the original site is not present, a plaque is placed in the memorial. Then, comes the famous landmark of the beach - Kannagi statue. Opposite lies the popular college of Chennai - Presidency college. Some of the buildings in the college complex are heritage buildings belonging to British period.


8) Vivekanda House: After Kannagi statue, there are statues of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, Valluvar - the great Tamil poet who lived 2000 years back and G U Pope. Opposite to Pope's statue, the statue of Annie Besant is found. Near the the house where Swami Vivekananda stayed during his Chennai visit is located. The house having the statue of Swami Vivekanda outside is called as Ice House or Vivekananda House.


9) Avvaiyar Statue: After the statue of G U Pope, the statues of Tamil poet Bharathi Dasan and Avvaiyar - a mythological character as well as a popular Tamil poet lived during the Sangam age. Opposite to these statues the Queen Mary's college is located.



10) Gandhi Statue: After the statue of Avvaiyar, a new statue for the notable Tamil actor Sivaji Ganesan was erected few years back. The Ashok Chakra statue is also located nearby. After that, you can find the most famous Gandhi statue. This is one of the best landmarks of Chennai city. The beach behind this statue is called as 'Gandhi beach' by people.



11) Light House: After Gandhi statue, only few statues such as Kamaraj statue and Veerama Muni statue are found. The last highlight in the stretch of Marina beach is Light House. Opposite to the Light House, the All India Radio Station and DGP office are located.


When you find time, try to explore this stretch by walking. You will definitely enjoy this experience.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:
Site Name: Marina Beach
Site Type: Beach
Location:  Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India 
Highlights: The second longest beach in the world; a lot of statues, historical structures and heritage buildings alongside on the road

Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India
Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable from any part of the city
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city



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Somnath temple of Chennai

You would have known about the great Somnath temple of Gujarat. Do you know about the Somnath Temple of Chennai? This lesser known temple of Somanatha Swami is located near Ganga theatre in Sannadhi street in Kolathur locality.

This temple has an interesting legend that is connected to Nawab of Arcot. Muthukumarappa Mudaliar was serving as a Diwan under the Nawab. In 1745 CE, he discovered the Shiv Linga idol in Kolathur village. Being a devotee of Shiva, he could not resist himself and misused the Nawab's funds and built a temple. When the Nawab came to know this, he ordered the Diwan to be imprisoned. Before he could be arrested, Lord Shiva appeared in the human form and gave a bowl to Mudaliar. As per his advice, Mudaliar begged and collected money. He managed to collect the sum more than what was spent for the temple. He handed over the collection to the Nawab. The Nawab was pleased and gifted three villages Kolathur, Putharai and Pallavarai to Mudaliar.

The above mentioned legend is mentioned in an old Tamil book. I could not find any further information about this legend or associated historical record, if any, so far.

Nevertheless, the temple has few other legends too. It is believed that Chandra took bath in this temple tank to get rid of his curse, and hence the deity is called as Somanath. As per another legend, there were two Asuras, Vilvan and Vatapi who used to trouble the saints. When they were trying to trouble Agastya, he killed them. The place where he burnt Vatapi, one of the two Asuras, is called as Kolathur.

The east facing temple has a big Ganesh idol at its entrance. There is no tower.


The east facing sanctum enshrines Somnath in the form of small Shiv Ling. The entrance of the sanctum has the small idols of Ganesha and Murugan on either sides. The bali peeth, flag staff and Nandi are found facing the main shrine.

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

Opposite to the sanctum, the idols of Surya and Chandra are located. Navagrahas are found at a corner. The wall around the sanctum has the niche images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga. Chandikeswarar is found in his usual location.

Bhairav idol, Natraj-Sivakami shrine, the shrine with the bronze images, Ganesh with Siddhi-Buddhi in a shrine, Murugan with Valli and Devasena in a separate shrine, Ling shrine and Nalvar (the four important devotees of Shiva) shrine are also located in the inner prakara.

The temple also has a big spacious outer corridor (prakara). The shrine of Amrita Raja Perumal with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi is located here.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:
Site Name: Somanatheeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Kolathur, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India 
Highlights: An unknown old temple of Shiva in Chennai; Chandra (Moon God) got rid of his curse in this temple

Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India

Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Public transport is difficult; hire auto rickshaw from Villivakkam area to reach this place
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city


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Kolathur Agastheeswarar Temple - Chennai, India

Kolathur is a little known residential area of Chennai city in South India. Only few would know that there is an ancient temple for Lord Shiva located in this area. Lord Shiva is named as Agastheeswarar in this temple. It is believed that the Shiv Linga in this temple was orginally installed by the sage Agastya. This little but ancient temple of Agastheeswarar is located opposite to Ganga Theatre in Kolathur area of Chennai city. This temple doesn't have a tower. Instead, the idols of Agastya rishi worshipping Shiv Linga is depicted in the place
of tower.

The presding deity is found in the form of a  small Linga. The Goddess of the temple Akhilandeswari is found in a separate shrine. Both the shrines face the eastern direction. There is no flag staff or bali peeth in this temple. However, there is a small Nandi idol facing the main shrine.

The small prakara (corridor) of the temple has the shrines of Ganesha and Murugan with Valli and Devasena. The wall surrounding the main shrine has the niche images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Lingodbhava, Brahma and Durga. Chandikeswarar is found in his usual location.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:
Site Name: Agastheeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Kolathur, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India 
Highlights: An unknown old temple in Chennai city; believed to have been installed by the sage Agastya

Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India

Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Public transport is difficult; Hire a auto rickshaw from Villivakkam area
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city





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Gangadeeswarar Temple - Chennai

Gangadeeswarar temple is one of the ancient temples of Chennai city, the city which is considered as the gateway to South India. Gangadeeswarar is the name of Lord Shiva in this temple. As Lord Shiva held the river Ganga on his head when it was falling from heaven to the earth, the Lord got the name 'Gangadeeswarar'. It is believed that the king Bhageerath who was trying to bring the river Ganga to the earth prayed to Lord Shiva and only then Shiva let the Ganges to flow down from his head. It is also believed that the site where the temple is located today is where the king Bhageerath prayed to Lord Shiva.

As per another legend, the king Bhagirath got a curse. As per the advice from the saint Narad, he installed 1008 Shiv Lings in various places. The site where he installed 1008th Shiv Linga is the current day's Gangadeeswarar temple. It is also believed that the place where he spilled Ganga water was formed as the temple tank. It is said that there are seven tanks in this temple complex, however only one is seen nowadays.

Big Shiva idol located inside Gangadeeswarar Temple
Gangadeeswarar temple is a big temple built in the typical South Indian architectural style. It has a beautiful rajagopuram (tower), flag staff (dhwajastambha) and bali peeth. Before you enter into the sanctum sanctorum, you can find the shrines of Siddhi Vinayak, Bala Subramanya and Vaideeswarar (Shiv Linga) along with Ganesha. You can also find the idol of Nandi (the divine bull) facing the santum sanctorum similar to any other old South Indian Shiva temple.

The sanctum sanctorum, which is facing the eastern direction has Gangadeeswarar in the form of small Shiv Linga. Near the main shrine, a separate shrine for the Goddess Pankajambal is found which is facing the south direction. Adjacent to the sanctum sanctorum, there is another shrine facing the east direction having Somaskanda idols.

The smaller prakara (corridor) surrounding the shrines of Gangadeeswarar, Somaskanda and Pankajambal have various idols and small shrines. The idols of Surya and Chandra are found facing the shrine of Gangadeeswara. The idols of Nalvar, Nagaraj, Bhageerat, Kasi Viswanath, Veerabhadra, Sekkizhar, Kulachirai Nayanar, Surya, Shanmukha, Durga, Bhairav, Dakshinamurti, Chandikeshwara and another Bhariav are located in the small prakara. The small shrines of Maha Ganapati, Subramanya with his consorts Valli and Devasena, Natraj utsav (bronze) idol with Sivakami, Uchishta Ganapati with Siddhi and Shiv Linga with Manonmani. The wall surrounding the main shrine has the images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga.

The temple also has another entrance, bali peeth and flag staff opposite to the shrine of Pankajambal. The big prakara has the shrine where the bronze idols of 63 Nayanmars are placed. The walls have paintings depicting the stories of Lord Shiva. These are not old paintings. They are very recent time additions. There is a tree under which a Shiv Linga named Kurunda Malleswarar and Nandi are found. It is believed that the great devotee Manikavasagar preached under this tree. A new attraction is the giant idol of Lord Shiva along with Shiv Linga and Bhagirath. Another surprise for the devotees is a rare shrine of Satyanarayana in this temple. Bana Linga shrine, Navagraha shrine and Ramalinga Adiglar idol are also found in the big prakara.

Happy travelling.



Fast Facts:
Site Name: Gangadeeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Purasawakkam, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India 
Highlights: A famous temple for Shiva in Chennai; Believed to be installed by the mythological king Bhageerath; related to the origin of Ganga river

Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India

Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable by road from any part of the city; 
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city

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