May 28, 2018

Tiruneermalai Temple Tank (Waterbodies of Chennai - 6)

As per the legend, when Tirumangai Alwar came to this site, the hill was surrounded by water. He waited for six months for water to get drained and then he visited this temple. Hence, the site is called as Tiruneer Malai or Thoyagiri Kshetram. The word Neer and Thoya mean water. The words Malai and Giri mean mount.

Today, we do not have the hill surrounded by water. There is hardly a small temple tank, which looks picturesque in the aerial view from hilltop temple. This is one of those few temple tanks of Chennai suburbs which has water almost for the entire year.

This single tank serves the purpose of all the four deities of this famous temple of Tiruneermalai near Tambaram, the southern outskirts of Chennai. Shri Pushkarani for Ranganatha, Karunya Pushkarani for Neervanna, Sidha Pushkarani for Tri Vikrama and Swarna Pushkarani for Narasimha, all these holy waters are part of this single tank. I presume there must be separate tanks in those days and the other tanks would have been lost. A beautiful Neerazhi Mandapam is located in the middle of this tank.

Happy travelling. 











Note: As per a report, there were about 650+ waterbodies in Chennai region till 1980s. Today, only a fraction of them exist. And, most of those surviving waterbodies hardly have water and even some of them that  have water had been shrunk badly. In Chennai, there are tank roads without tanks nearby and lake view roads without any lake in the vicinity. There is a high possibility that even the few waterbodies that we have today might vanish in the near future. I thought of visiting the currently surviving waterbodies of Chennai and its suburbs and write about them in my blog as a series.

May 27, 2018

St. Mary's Cemetery of Madras

Calm be her sleep! may the tall grass wave lightly
Above the meek bosom that bless'd us of yore;
Like a bird; it has found out a region more brightly
To nestle its pinion, - but glad us no more!

The above lines from William Jones are engraved on the tomb of Acnes Eliza, daughter of Robert James Thomson. The inscription says that she died on 12th February 1866 CE at the age of 21 years. It also reads that "She was too like a dream of heaven for earthly love to merit her".

This is one of the tombs which is easily accessible and also readable among hundreds of tombstones scattered across in St. Mary's Cemetery. This is perhaps the biggest graveyard in Chennai city.



The cemetery, which was formerly called as "The English Burial Ground" has a lot of dilapidate but interesting tombstones, in various shapes, size and styles. Most of them belong to 1800s and early 1900s. Unfortunately, this vast area is poorly maintained. Trespassing by illegal elements, presence of stray dogs, snakes and scorpions, overgrowth of trees and shrubs, vandalism and broken liquor bottles scattered over make it less accessible. I personally wanted to record each and every tomb in this cemetery, but I could not go near many of them. Towards the end of the article, you could find the details of tombs whichever I could recognize.



Located hardly at one km from Central Railway Station and the next door to the famous Body Guard Muneeswaran Temple, this site should ideally attract a lot of visitors. The Gothic style three arches, the middle one being the bigger, flanked by two smaller ones, is the entrance. Even now, the entrance looks very attractive. The entire area would have been a picturesque site once. But, thanks to the poor maintenance and mere neglect, hardly anyone knows about this place with rich heritage value.



The Historian Mr. Sriram V states that this cemetery was located on the Guava Garden originally and then it was shifted in the current location. It was shifted after the siege of Madras by the French in 1758 CE. He further adds that this new burial ground came up in the early 1760s. In 1880s, it was officially closed.



This cemetery, which is one of the oldest English cemeteries of South India, has the remains of many Britishers and other Europeans. Many of the tombs of those who lost their lives during the First World War and the Second World War are scattered throughout the cemetery. The botanist Dr. James Anderson's tomb can be easily recognized. This is a huge structure made of brick.



I understand from V. Sriram's article that the earliest tomb was of William Rogers dated 1763. He also talks about the tombs of Governor Nicholas Morse, the famous lawyer Stephen Popham and James May, the first Superintendent of the Madras Harbour Works. Unfortunately, I could not find any of these tombs in the cemetery now.



The list of few tombs which I could read and recognize. Please note that few information might be missing in few tombs as they are not completely readable.

1)  George Russell - Died in 1851
2) James Taylor, the English Master in College of St. George Fort - Died in 1831
3) John Reily - Died in 1810
4) John Taylor, Manager of Mysore Commission - Died at the age of 53 years on 14th July 1860
5) Alexander Morrison, Surgeon - Died at the age of 33 years on 17th July 1805
6) Thomas Charle - One year old infant
7) Peter Donald Calcroft - Died at the age of 65 years on 3rd February 1886
8) Helena Aucusta - Died on 11th January 1925
9) Ellen Veda and George Gilbert - Infants
10) Captain William Chapman, European Veteran Battalion - Died at the age of 66 years on 16th October 1861
11) Mary Anne Atkinson
12) James Fraser
13) Stephens - Died at the age of 65 years in June 1889
14) Bridget Theresa - Died at the age of 76 years on 16th November 1871

Happy travelling.




























Nava Narasimha Temple of Chennai

If I say "Nava Narasimha Temple", you would immediately think about Ahobilam. Few of you might even think about Avaniyapuram. But, I am not going to talk about those Nava Narasimha Temples, but about the one located right within Chennai.

Thanks to the IT industry, some of the unknown localities of Chennai suburb came into limelight in the last two decades. Navalur is one such locality. Not many know that there is a temple for Nava Narasimha in this locality, which appears to have been adopted by the IT companies. This small temple, which is run by a private entity, is located in a lane behind AGS Cinemas.




This temple becomes unique not only as it has Nine Narasimha Murtis, but also due to the fact that each of the Murtis are in unique forms/postures.

The east facing temple has a modern day structure as it was built 2-3 years ago (I am writing this post in 2018 CE). There is no tower and the vimana is obviously not artistic.

The sanctum enshrines Narasimha along with his two consorts. In this shrine, he is called as Surya Narayana. He is found seated on Adisesha. He has four arms and hold conch and discus in his upper arms. It is around six feet high magnificent icon. The utsav icons of Surya Narayana and his two consorts are also found in the sanctum.

All other eight Narasimhas are found around the sanctum.

At the either sides of the entrance of the sanctum, two niche images of Narasimha are found. The true left side has Narasimha in the standing posture, who has four arms. He is named as Divya Narayana. The right side has Narasimha with two arms, who is in the sitting posture. He is called as Mathi Narayana.

On the prakara, the first image is Veera Narayana. Here, Narasimha is seated with his right leg folded, somewhat similar to the posture of Ayyanar. Ramanuja and Desikar are found in the same shrine.

The next image is Sarva Narayan. He is in the reclining posture similar to Ranganath. Lakshmi is found near his feet.

Then, there is Gnana Narayana, who holds bow and arrow like Ram. His wife is Chenju Lakshmi, who has the typical posture of Sita. Hanuman is also found in this shrine.

Kroda Narayana comes next. Here, Narasimha is found in Adi Yoga form.

Brahaspati Narayana is the next form of Narasimha, where he has four arms and holds book in his left upper arm. Brahaspati is also found in the same shrine.

With Garud standing nearby and having Lakshmi on his left lap, Deva Narayana is found as the as the next form of Narasimha.

Although it is a new temple, all the representations of Narasimha are unique. When you get an opportunity, go and visit this temple.

Happy travelling.


May 26, 2018

Kolathur Temple Tank (Waterbodies of Chennai - 5)

This is one of the best kept secrets of Chennai suburbs. Covering an area of about 1.5 acres, this vast tank is located in Kolathur village, at a distance of around 23 kms from Tambaram.

The tank belongs to the nearby ancient temple of Kalyana Ranganathar. It is surrounded by a huge trees, few village temples and a four pillared mandap. It gives us a perfect fertile village atmosphere.

The best part of this well maintained tank is that it has water at brim level even in the hot summer of Chennai.

Happy travelling.








Note: As per a report, there were about 650+ waterbodies in Chennai region till 1980s. Today, only a fraction of them exist. And, most of those surviving waterbodies hardly have water and even some of them that  have water had been shrunk badly. In Chennai, there are tank roads without tanks nearby and lake view roads without any lake in the vicinity. There is a high possibility that even the few waterbodies that we have today might vanish in the near future. I thought of visiting the currently surviving waterbodies of Chennai and its suburbs and write about them in my blog as a series.

Arubathumoovar Procession of Mylapore

Among various festivals that are celebrated across Chennai city throughout the year, Arubathumoovar Procession of Mylapore Kapaleeswara Temple is the most popular and crowd pulling festival.

During the Tamil Month of Panguni (March/April), the annual festival of Kapaleesvara Temple is celebrated. The most important event among the ten day celebrations is the procession of 63 Nayanmars (the legendary devotees of Lord Shiva). As there are 63 Nayanmars, they are refereed as Arubathumoovar in Tamil, which denotes the number 63.

Photo Courtesy: Mr. Venkateswaran Radhaswamy


During the Arubathumoovar Procession, along with Kapaleesvara and Karpagambal, the bronze images of all 63 Nayanmars are taken in palanquins. The palanquins of Nayanmars face Kapaleeswara and hence they move backwards during the procession. It is a colorful and gala event of the city, which is being witnessed by thousands of devotees every year.

Photo Courtesy: Mr. Venkateswaran Radhaswamy


The other deities such as Ganesha, Singara Vela and Chandikeswara also follow Kapaleesvara and Nayanmars in the procession. Even the icons of deities of other temples of Mylapore also accompany them. Interestingly, the bronze icons of Tiruvalluvar and his consort Vasuki also take part in this procession.

If you live in Chennai, you should take part in this historic festival at least once in your lifetime.

Happy travelling.

Click here to watch the videos of this celebration.