May 21, 2017

Cosmopolitan Club Travancore Pavilion

When Chennai was under the control of East India Company, the Madras Club was formed in 1832 CE. In those days, it was the center of social activity in Chennai. However, the Club did not satisfy the social needs of the rich Indians, as only the Europeans were allowed to become members of the Club.  In 1873 CE, the Cosmopolitan Club was set up mainly to enable the affluent Indians to have social intercourse with the Europeans.

Although the Cosmopolitan Club was set up in Moore's Road in Thousand Lights area, it soon moved to Mount Road (Anna Salai). It still remains in the same location. However, the Club extended its operations beyond its complex. It acquired the Travancore Pavilion in Nandanam area in 1938 CE.

Travancore Pavilion is named after the Raja of Travancore, Padmanabha Dasa Bala Varma, who was one of the founding members of the club. Today, this annexe has many recreational facilities. Importantly, it has the prestigious 18-hole golf course. It is one of such golf courses of Chennai.

Happy travelling.

May 20, 2017

The Anglo Indians of Chennai

What is the similarity between Perambur of North Chennai and Pallavaram of South Chennai? In both these areas, you can find Anglo Indians (though very few in numbers nowadays). Who are Anglo Indians? The child who is born to a European man and an Indian woman is considered as an Anglo Indian. (Of course, the descendants of these original Anglo Indians are also Anglo Indians). Chennai is one of the earliest settlements of Anglo Indians. In fact, the Anglo Indians were there in Chennai even before the word "Anglo Indian" was officially recognized by the then Viceroy of India, Charles Hardinge, in 1911 CE.

The Anglo Indians migrated to European countries and only few people (mostly senior citizens) still live in India.  Chennai is one major city where quite number of Anglo Indians are still found. Apart from Perambur and Pallavaram, they are also found in few other areas such as Madhavaram, St. Thomas Mount, Ayanavaram, Vepery and Purasawakkam.

As mentioned earlier, the number of Anglo Indians who live in Chennai are very less. Only few among those few people live in the traditional Anglo Indian homes. The designs of such homes are unique and look interesting. Some of those lovely 150-200 years old houses are still found in the calm and serene Veteran Lines of Pallavaram.

The architectural style of the traditional Anglo Indian houses include saddleback roofs and arched windows. If it is a big house, even spacious garden is found in the front side. Veteran Lines was designed by the Britishers as the residential area of the retired military men. However, it was occupied completely by the Anglo Indians later. Even after independence, till 1960s, almost each and every house in this area was occupied by the Anglo Indians. Unfortunately, there is a major drop in Anglo Indian population as well as their traditional homes.

Happy travelling.

Manimangalam Vaikuntha Perumal Temple

Site Name: Vaikuntha Perumal Temple
Site Type: Hindu ancient temple
Location:   Manimangalam, near Chennai, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: Ancient Chola period lesser known temple
Nearest Railway Station: Tambaram
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road from Tambaram and Chennai
Hotel: A lot of options across Chennai
Restaurants:  A lot of options across Chennai and Tambaram

Manimangalam is a small locality located near Tambaram, which in turn is located near Chennai in Tamil Nadu state of India . Manimangalam is a historic site. The battle between the Chalukya King Pulikesi and the Pallava King Narasimha Pallava was fought in Manimangalam in the 7th century CE. The village had three ancient Vishnu temples and two Shiva temples. Out of three Vishnu temples, one temple is not found nowadays. Raja Gopala Swami Temple is the bigger Vishnu temple, about which I have written in detail in this blog as well in my "Temples of Chennai" book. In this article, let me discuss about the other Vishnu temple of the village, Vaikuntha Perumal Temple.

Unlike Raja Gopala Swami temple, which is a huge temple with so many sub-shrines and beautiful vimanas, Vaikuntha Perumal temple is very small. In fact, hardly few people in the village know about the exact location of this temple. The temple remains always closed, except for 5 minutes in the morning for poojas to be conducted.

Vaikuntha Perumal is a very attractive Murti. He is found seated and has four arms. He holds conch and discus in his upper arms. His lower right arm is in abhaya hasta whereas his left arm with fingers folded is found rested on his lap. (I have heard that this unique mudra is called as Uri hasta; though I am not sure). He is flanked by Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi.

This small and beautiful Chola period temple has no tower or any other sub-shrine. An idol of Ganesh, probably excavated in this village, is placed at the entrance of the sanctum. Few inscriptions of Raja Raja Chola I and Kulotunga Chola I are found in this temple.

On the very next lane, there is a small current era Bhajan temple which has two Pallava period lion pillars at the entrance. One of the lion interestingly has horns. Such lions are called as Vyalas. This is perhaps the only Pallava period work found in this village where the Pallavas fought their best battle.

Happy travelling.

May 18, 2017

The Gigantic Muneeswara

You could probably count all the Vedic and Puranic deities of Hinduism, but it is impossible to count the Grama devtas (village deities). The tradition of depicting the ancestors as the deity is very old. Although it is said that the village deities are present only in South India,  it is a misconception. All over India, we can find village deities. No scholar has analyzed this tradition completely so far. That is the truth.

In Tamil Nadu, after Mari Amman and Ayyanar, Muneeswaran appears to be the popular and widely spread grama devta. If we can call Madurai Veeran as the boundary guard deity or grama devta of Madurai and Mada Swami as the one for Tirunelveli, we can similarly consider Muneeswaran as the grama devta for Chennai and its surroundings. Although Muneeswaran is worshiped all over Tamil Nadu and even in some foreign countries, the only male village deity who is found in every village of Chennai region (Tondai Nadu) is Muneeswaran.

Muneeswaran is considered as the Avatar of Shiva. Some believe he himself is Lord Shiva. In the last 20-30 years, the practice of installing gigantic images of village deities is followed in Tamil Nadu.
In Burma Colony of Ekkattuthangal area in Chennai, one such gigantic image of Muneeswaran is found. The idol is 48 feet high. It is located in the complex of Angaleswari Temple. The temple is located right on the banks of the river Adyar. Had the river been clean, the location would have been a treat to our eyes. You can reach this temple easily from Nandampakkam area.

This idol is the second tallest idol of Muneeswaran in and around Chennai. He is found seated and holds sickle (which is about 9-10 feet tall) in his arm. In front of this big idol, Muneeswaran is found in the form of Mukha Linga.

Karuppanna Swami is also found in this temple.

Happy travelling.

May 17, 2017

St. Thomas Garrison Church

Do you know which building bears the door no. 1 of the postal address in the famous GST Road of Chennai? It is the most elegant Garrison Church of St. Thomas Mount.

If you enter inside the Cantonment area where this church is located, you would never believe that this is located in the highly congested St. Thomas locality. The location is calm and serene with wide and neat roads having trees on both sides and less traffic.

Towards the end of the 18th century CE, the East India Company stationed troops along with their families in St. Thomas area. They felt the need for a separate church in their locality. Their request was represented to the Company by Rev. Atwood in 1804 CE. In 1817 CE, Rev. C. Ball represented this case with the Company once again. At last, in 1820 CE, the order was sanctioned to construct the church.

The building was raised in 1825-26 CE and the Church was consecrated in 1830 CE by Bishop Turner of Kolkata (Calcutta in those days). The Church is said to be designed after St. Clement Danes of London.

This beautiful church has bomb proof roof and rust proof iron railings. It is said that the iron used in the construction of the church was imported from England. Originally, the top of the tower had the bell cast in England. Now, it has been replaced by a smaller bell.

One of the highlights of the church was the multi level spire, which should have been one of the tallest structures in and around Chennai in those days. Unfortunately, it was shortened to accommodate the passage of flights, as the Chennai airport is located near this site. In Chennai, many heritage sites have suffered a lot due to various reasons, starting from Pallavaram cave temple in the beginning to the British period monuments due to Metro rail project in the recent time. This is perhaps the only monument which suffered due to the height rule of the airport.

The beautiful painting of Jesus appearing to St. Thomas adorns the altar in the church. There are many tablets around the walls that mention about various people who were buried here. Few busts of some Britishers are also found.

The attractive paintings of the other eleven Apostles are also found in the hall. The interior of the church and the ceiling look awesome and the devotees would definitely feel a positive vibration on entering inside. The exterior is also equally attractive with four giant pillars adorning the front side.

The vast golf ground located adjacent to the Church was a battle field. As part of series of wars between the British and the French, Yusuf Khan (Marudanayagam) marched St. Thomas Mount on 27th December 1758 CE. It appears that the battle was fought for three days in this site. Khan's soldiers were defeated by Count Lally's men. However, Achilles Preston's unit came to help Khan and it caused heavy losses to the French army.

Happy travelling.

May 14, 2017

Procession of Special Umbrellas to Tirupati from Chennai

If I say the procession of Chennai city, most of you would get reminded about 63 Nayanmars procession of Mylapore festival. But, this post from me is not about that festival. There is another procession which is conducted regularly every year in Chennai for the past two centuries. How many of you have heard about that? Let me discuss about this procession in this post.

Srivari Brahmotsavam is the most important annual festival celebrated in the internationally famous Tirumala Tirupati temple. This festival is conducted for nine days during the Ashvin month of Hindu calendar, which falls either in September or October. The Utsava images of Venkateshwara and his consorts are taken on different Vahanas on every day during this event. Thousand of people across the country gather to participate in this grand festival of Tirupati Balaji.

From the state of Tamil Nadu, only two holy things are being sent to Tirupati Balaji every year. One is the garland from Srivilliputhur and the other one is the set of holy umbrellas from Chennai.

Every year, two small and nine big sized special umbrellas are made in Kanchipuram and Chennai. Later, they are assembled in Chennai. During the Tirupati Brahmotsava time, all the eleven decorated umbrellas are sent to Tirupati. The procession starts at Chenna Keshava temple in Sowcarpet, Chennai with Poojas. Then, the procession of these holy umbrellas pass through various areas of North Chennai and finally reach Tirupati Devasthanam. 

It is believed that this procession started sometime in the beginning of the 19th century CE. For the past few years, the holy umbrellas are also accompanied by the idols of 10 Avatars and 12 Alwars. In addition, a piece of silk for Lord Venkateshwar is exhibited in a glass case in this procession. Hundreds of people participate in this grand procession every year. 

Happy travelling. 

May 12, 2017

Tiruchendurai Chandrashekhara Temple

Site Name: Chandrashekhara temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Tiruchendurai (a.k.a. Jeeyapuram), 19 kms from Trichy, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: Nataraja in unique style called Urdhvajanu; Some stucco images of the tower are unique; Goddess holds deer in her arm
Nearest Railway Station: Trichy
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Lalgudi and Trichy; public transport is not dependable
Hotel: No good hotels nearby; better to stay in Trichy or Lalgudi
Restaurants: No good restaurants nearby; it is better to go to Lalgudi

Tiruchendurai, which is known as Jeeyapuram nowadays, is a small village located at a distance of around 19 kms from Trichy in Tamil Nadu state of India. It is located in Trichy - Lalgudi route. This village has an ancient and beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The name of the temple is Chandrashekhara Swami. Let me discuss about this temple in this article.


  • God - Chandrashekhara a.k.a. Mrityunjayeswara Murti
  • Goddess Maanendiya Valli a.k.a. Mrigadharambika
  • Sthala Vruksha (Holy tree) - Jack fruit tree
  • Nataraja in unique posture called Urdhvajanu
  • Two Trishul signs of Linga
  • Devi is found with deer in her arm
  • Unique sculptures on the tower
  • Goddess in Ardha nari form
  • Goddess holds deer in her arm


I could not come across any Puranic legend connected to this temple. However, there is a legend that connects a Chola King with this temple.

Parantaka Chola wanted to destroy the bandits who were residing in this region, which was a forest full of jack trees in those days. He camped along with his army here. However, he could not find any bandit here. But, he found a lot deer in the forest. The King desired to hunt the deer. When he was chasing a deer, it went inside a deep pit. The king released arrow towards the pit and blood oozed out of the pit. He also heard an asariri voice which informed him that there was a Shiv Linga idol inside the pit. The King wanted to lift Linga out of that land and construct a temple. However, he could not do this in his lifetime. He had mentioned about this incident in a copper inscription. In the future, his daughter in law, Kundavai, excavated Shiv Linga and constructed this temple.


The temple is a Chola period temple. There are about 50 stone inscriptions found in this temple. The inscriptions belong to the period of various Kings which include Parantaka Chola, Rajendra Chola, Kulotunga Chola I, Rajadhiraja Chola, Vikrama Chola, Rajaraja Chola II, Koneri Devaraya and Sri Ranga Deva Maharaya of Vijayanagara.

The temple must have been built using mortar or brick by Aditya Chola I in the 9th century CE. It was later rebuilt as the stone temple by Kundavai in the beginning of the 10th century CE.

Parantaka Chola I was aided in his battles against the Pandyas by the Velir Chiefs of Kodumbalur. His son Arikulakesari (Arinjaya Chola) married to Pudi Adicha Pidariyar, the daughter of Tennavan Ilangovelar of Kodumbalur Velir lineage. Tennavan was also called as Bhuti Vikramakesari or Maravan Pudi. Pudi Adicha Pidari was also called as Kundavai. She constructed this temple in Tiruchendurai.

Later, the temple was renovated by Kings of various dynasties, which include Vijaya Nagaras and Nayakas.

Temple Layout:


The east facing temple has five tiered tower. The tower has a lot of stucco figures. Some of them are unique and interesting, which are listed below. It is unfortunate that all of them are painted badly in the name of renovation.

  • Devi with four heads; her right head is of elephant and her left head is of lion. She has ten arms and an Asura or Rakshasa is found below her feet. Female attendants are seen on her either sides. (As per the researcher Dr. Ira. Kalai Kovan, this deity is called as Shakti Chatuska, the combined form of Lakshmi, Kirti, Jaya and Maya).
  • Narasimha with four heads and ten arms (I doubt if he has only four heads or five heads with one head behind). This is something which cannot be seen anywhere else.
  • Urdhva Tandava - Shiva with ten arms with his leg raised towards the sky
  • Kali in dancing posture
  • Trivikrama with twenty arms

There is a vast area between the tower and the superstructure of the temple. It is dotted with a lot of trees. Nandi Mandap and bali peetha are located here and they face towards the sanctum. There is no flag staff in this temple. 


The east facing sanctum with a beautiful vimana enshrines a big Shiv Linga, which is named as Chandrashekhara. It is a self manifested Linga. The shape of the Linga is not polished and is very rough like a jackfruit. There are two small Trishul signs in Ishana direction and Agni direction on this Linga. 

The Vimana has two tiers and it is fully made of stone.

In the entrance of Ardha Mandap, two big and beautiful Chola period Dwarapalas are found.

In Maha Mandap, Nandi is found facing towards the sanctum.

Maanendiya Valli:

The Goddess of the temple has a very beautiful Tamil name, Maanendiya Valli. In Sanskrit, she is called as Mrigadharambika. (The word Maan in Tamil means deer). Her shrine is facing the southern direction. It is said that she is the only Goddess in the entire world, who holds deer in her arms. (There are Koshta deities who hold deer, which cannot be considered in this list).

It is said that she is in the form of Ardhanari. She holds Mazhu in her right arm and has Surya Prabhai behind the right side of her head. Her right leg is thick like a male. She also wears Upanayana. She holds deer in her left arm and has Chandra Prabhai behind the left side of her head. Compared to her right leg, her left leg is thin and feminine. 

There are five female deities as the niche idols around the shrine of Maanendiya Valli. All of them are found seated and interestingly they all hold Mazhu and Deer in their arms. 

Nandi is found facing towards her shrine. 


The bronze idol of Nataraja in this temple is in unique style called as Urdhvajanu. It is one of the rare forms of Nataraja with his knee raised upwards. (I visited this temple after multiple attempts. It remained closed throughout the day; I had to literally travel few times to this village, wait for the priest in his house to get this temple opened. I could not get a chance to see Nataraja though. The shrine was closed.)

Niche Idols:

The west facing outer wall of the sanctum has the beautiful niche idol of Vrushabhantika Murti. He is found leaning over Nandi, with his right arm held between the horns of Nandi. His head is also slightly tilted. 

The other two niches do not have the original Murtis. The not-so-beautiful stucco idols of Ardhanareeswarar and Durga are found in those two niches. Durga also holds deer and mazhu in her arms.

Other Deities:

The original Chola period Chandikeshwara is found.

The sub-shrines of Ganesh, Vishwanatha and Subramanya-Valli-Devasena are located in the prakara. It is said that Gaja Lakshmi shrine was also there, which is not found nowadays.

Navagraha is found, where Surya alone is found along with his consorts.

The idols of Surya and Bhairav are found facing towards the sanctum. They appear to be of original period.

Dakshinamurti's sub-shrine is located near Vrushabhantika Murti. It appears to be a new unnecessary addition. 

Happy travelling.

May 5, 2017

Tirupalathurai Adimoolanathar Temple

Site Name: Adimoolanathar temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Tirupalathurai, 14 kms from Trichy, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams (the most important temples of Lord Shiva)
Nearest Railway Station: Trichy
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Lalgudi and Trichy; public transport is not dependable; it's remote village
Hotel: No good hotels nearby; better to stay in Trichy or Lalgudi
Restaurants: No good restaurants nearby; it is better to go to Lalgudi

Tirupalathurai is a lesser known and remote village located at a distance of around 14 kms from Trichy in Tamil Nadu state of India. It is located in Trichy - Lalgudi route. The nearest well known locality is Panayapuram. This village has an important temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The name of the temple is AdimoolanatharIt is considered as the 59th among the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams (274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in the Chola region north of Cauvery river.

Although this is an important temple, it remains lesser known mainly as it is located in a remote location, which is not easily accessible. Let me discuss about this temple in this article.


  • Sambandhar has revered the temple in his verses in Devaram.
  • God Adimoolanathar a.k.a. Tirumoolanathar a.k.a. Adimooleshwarar a.k.a. Tiruppattrurai Mahadevar
  • Goddess - Nitya Kalyani a.k.a. Meghalambikai a.k.a. Moga Nayaki
  • Teerth (Holy water) - Kollidam river
  • Sthala Vruksha (Holy tree) - Bilva
  • Considered as one of the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams.


As per the legend, the sage Markandeya visited this site once. He could not find milk to perform abhishek to Shiv Linga, as part of his pooja rituals. All of a sudden, milk sprang from the ground with the blessing of Lord Shiva. The sage happily used that milk to perform his pooja.

There is another version of the legend which states that a Chola King was passing through this place, which was a forest in those days. He saw a rare white colored bird. He aimed his arrow towards the bird, but the bird somehow escaped from his arrow. He kept following the bird and ultimately reached a place where all of a sudden milk sprang up from the ground. He was scared and left for his palace. Lord Shiva appeared in his dream and ordered him to dig up the place where milk was oozing out. The King accordingly dug up the land and discovered a Shiv Linga in that place. Then, he built this temple for Shiva.

Although there are two different versions of the legend associated with this temple, both indicate that the site was named as Tiruppaatrurai due to its association with milk. Tiruppaatrurai is the original name of this village. In Tamil language, it means the place of milk.


The temple is a Chola period temple. Probably, it was built by Parantaka Choal I in the 10th century CE. The stone inscriptions of Parantaka Chola I and Vikrama Chola are found in this temple.

Temple Layout:


The east facing temple has three tiered tower. At the entrance, the sub-shrines of Ganesh and Bala Dandayudhapani are located.

The flag staff, bali peetha and Nandi mandap are located outside the temple complex and they face towards the tower.


The east facing sanctum with a very beautiful vimana enshrines a big Shiv Linga, which is named as Adimoolanathar. (Interestingly, in few temples even Vishnu is named as Adimoola; here, Shiva is named so.) The sanctum is guarded by two big and beautiful images of Dwarapalas. In Maha Mandap, Nandi is found facing towards the sanctum.

Nitya Kalyani:

The Goddess of the temple is named as Nitya Kalyani. Her idol is big in size. She has four arms and is found in the standing posture. Her south facing shrine is located in the front side mandap. A Nandi is found facing towards her shrine.

Koshta Deities:

One of the highlights of the temple is the extremely beautiful Koshta Murtis. Bhikshatana, Veenadhara Dakshinamurti, Shankara Narayana, Brahma and Mahisasuramardini Durga are found as the niche images around the sanctum. Each one of them is incomparably beautiful. In addition, a carving of Ganesh is also found in this outer wall. A small shrine is built around another niche idol, Dakshinamurti in his regular form.

Utsava Deities:

In Maha Mandap, there is a sub-shrine where many of the bronze idols are kept. They include Nataraj-Sivakami, Somaskanda, Uma-Maheshwara, Ganesh, Subramanya-Valli-Devasena and Chandikeshwara.

Unusual Idols:

In Maha Mandap, there are few idols found which are unusual for a Shiva temple.

Venu Gopal is found along with his two consorts on either sides. A Shiva devotee is found next to Gopal. Then a male deity holding deer in one of his arms is found; he has his two lower arms folded in Namaskar posture. He is named as Narayan by the temple authorities. However, he must be Shiva or Rudra. Why does he have folded arms as if worshiping someone? I don't have a clue. Next to him, there is a Devi seated similar to Uma in Somaskanda group of idols. She is named as Lakshmi by the temple authorities. This also seems to be incorrect to me.

I assume all these idols might have been excavated out near this temple or somewhere in this village. They do not seem to belong to this temple originally.

Other Idols:

In the prakara, the sub-shrines of Ganesh, Subramanya-Valli-Devasena, Gaja Lakshmi, Chandikeshwara and Nava Graha are located.

Bhairav is found near Navagraha. Facing towards the sanctum, the Chola period beautiful idols of Surya and later period Chandra are located.

Happy travelling.