Thursday, February 28, 2008

Rural Tamil Nadu

Hi and welcome.

This is the final posting of Tamil Nadu. As we travelled from town to town we were able to enjoy the magical beauty of the Tamil Nadu countryside. The further south we went the more beautiful it was. The soil became very red and the coming together of land and water bestows a sense of mystery where you can imagine fairy tales are no longer just the stuff of books and film.

And of course we witnessed people living and working in traditional rural style. Some of the photos capture that.

Tamil Nadu enchanted us. The people, so warm and friendly. The temples, majestic, in many cases awe-inspiring. The towns, a complete experience of all the senses. The countryside, magical and mysterious. The Mahabalipuram beach, the joy on the faces of children and adults as they played in the water.

I hope from the past four postings that you felt some of that enchantment, and, if you have not already been, will go and see it for yourself.



How green is green!

Where did this come from? Elephant rock outside Madurai

The Pottery Village

The Rock Fort Temple, Trichy taken from the countryside

Hard work, but always a social occasion

Taking the washing back to the village


Placentas of cows, goats and sheep hanging from a Banyan tree. The Banyan tree lives a very long time, possibly up to 300 years so hanging the placenta of your new born animal on the tree ensures it lives to a good age

Why isn't the straw falling off?

Architecture and nature

The holy mountain of Arunachala where Ramana Maharshi lived.
We visited his Ashram in Tiruvannamalai while in Tamil Nadu

Solitary fisherman

Traditional ploughing

The farmyard

Classic image

Harvesting groundnut (peanut)

Another social occasion!

The herd manager seems a bit shy!

No carbon footprint with this kind of vehicle

Silk out to dry

The best horns in town, cool dude!

Bird infested tree

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tamil Nadu - People

Hi and welcome.

This is the penultimate posting of our holiday in India and is dedicated to the people of Tamil Nadu.

One person who made our holiday very special was Ramesh, our driver. Ramesh was the perfect companion. He was always professional, completely reliable, looked out for things that would interest us even if not on the itinerary, friendly and had a good sense of humour. He was a great companion who over the 12 days that we were together became our friend. If you ever go to Tamil Nadu and want a driver contact Indian Panorama and ask for Ramesh. But book early as he is in great demand!

This is a picture of Ramesh with Daniela.

Enjoy the photos and in two weeks the final posting which is on rural Tamil Nadu.



How to be beautiful and elegant on a scooter!

Just striking

A splash of colour and lovely faces.

Thirsty work

Best way to carry stuff

Our guide in Mahabalipuram

Daniela with Gujarati Pilgrims

Heavy load

A lot of ash and kum kum!

The most beautiful construction workers I have ever seen....

Bharatanatyam dancer at Mahabalipuram

It looks so easy....

Another construction worker

Street scene

Indian Spice girls!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Temples of Tamil Nadu

Thank you for coming to see my blog.

I am continuing with the India series. Last year I saw a programme on the Lost Temples of India (You Tube link). I decided then that I really wanted to go to see them myself. These ancient temples steeped in the history, religion, architecture and Sacred Art of India, called to me.

We chose to concentrate on the Temples of Tamil Nadu because it is home to one of the most ancient Indian cultures and has thousands of ancient and modern temples. I have given you some information and links with the photos to make them more interesting

Next time I will show you photos of the people Of Tamil Nadu. The final posting of the series will be on rural Tamil Nadu.

Love, Alan

We had to climb lots of steps to get to Vedagirisvara Temple on
"the sacred hill of the Eagles" overlooking the town of Tirukkalukkunram,
near Mahabalipuram. It is said that a pair of eagles visit the temple daily.
The eagles are believed to be devotees, who, for some reason, offended
Lord Shiva and were ordered by him to take the form of birds. As a form
of penance, the two birds and their faithful offspring in turn, have been
making the journey from Varanasi to Rameshwaram everyday, alighting
at a few sacred places on the way. This, they are bound to do until the end of the present Kali age.

View of Bhaktavatsalesvara Temple in Tirukkalukkunram from Vedagirisvara Temple. The magnificent Gopuras (Towers) are one of the defining architectural features of the Pallava and Chola periods of rule of Tamil Nadu.

Sri Rangam Temple, Trichy. Located in the city of Tiruchirappalli,
(Trichy) on a small island between branches of the rivers Kaveri and Coleroon, stands the massive temple of Srirangam.

Sri Rangam, the most revered of the 108 pilgrimage shrines of Visnu, and
the largest temple complex in all of India, it is surrounded by seven concentric walls (the outermost wall having a perimeter of over 3 kilometers) and 21 gopurams (towers).

Sri Rangam. Vishnu, the second deity of the trinity of Hindu gods, is responsible for the sustenance, protection and maintenance of the created universe. A gentle, loving god representing the heart, he is the focus of intense devotional worship by a large percentage of the Indian population.

Sri Rangam. The temple complex has been rebuilt and enlarged many times over thousands of years and its original date of founding is unknown to archaeology. Most of the temple complex standing today, including a grand hall of 1000 beautifully sculptured pillars, was constructed between the 14th and 17th centuries.

Meenakshi Temple, Madurai
The enormous temple complex is dedicated to Shiva, known here as Sundareshvara and his consort Parvati or Meenakshi.Especially impressive are the 12 gopuras. Their soaring towers rise from solid granite bases, and are covered with stucco figures of dieties, mythical animals and monsters painted in vivid colours.

Beautiful Golden Lotus Tank, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai

Rock Fort Temple Trichy is a combination of two famous 7th century Hindu temples, one dedicated to Lord Ganesh and the other dedicated to Lord Shiva, located on top of a small rock. Geologically the 83m high rock is said to be one of the oldest in the world, dating over 3 billion years ago, perhaps older than the Himalayas.

Rock Fort Temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha.

Gangaikondacholapuram, near Kumbakonam. This temple was constructed by King Rajendra Cholan to celebrate his victories. He assumed the title of Gangaikonda Cholan and named his new capital as Gangaikondacholapuram. Here you can see the great Vimana (sanctuary tower). It rises to a height of 160 feet. In front you can see the back of the Nandi (Bull) or Shiva's vahana, which means "vehicle", the animal on which a god rides, which is keeping an eye on the temple.

: the sculptures and carvings in this temple are a wonderful testimony to the craftsmanship of the Chola period.

Gangaikondacholapuram Temple: Mahisasuramardhini Shrine

Kaliasanatha Temple in Kanchipuram. Kanchipuram is one of the most sacred towns of India and known as the city of a thousand temples. Today almost all of them have been lost with time and just a few, a mere 125 remain!

Kaliasanatha Temple, dedicated to Shiva, Kaliasanatha is one of the earliest temples of the Pallava dynasty, the oldest, and said to be the loveliest in Kanchipuram. The Pallava king, Rayasimha, built it in the late 7th century. Shiva is seen here with his wife Parvati and female attendants.

Brahadeswarar Temple, Tanjore. Rajaraja Cholan, the Great Chola king built The Bragatheeswarar (Peruvudaiyar) Temple, also known as Big Temple in the 11 century.
It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Great Living Chola Temples", which also includes Gangaikondacholapuram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram

Brahadeswarar Temple. The 'Vimana' of the temple is about 70 meters and is among the tallest of its kind in the world.

Brahadeswarar Temple: The Shrine of Sri Subramanya

Chidambaram Natarajar Temple is a famous temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in the heart of the temple town of Chidambaram. In Hindu mythology, Chidambaram is one of five holiest Shiva temples representing the natural element, sky. One of the special features of this temple is the bejeweled image of Nataraja.

Natarajar Temple
: Perhaps the most magnificient structures in the temple are the four lofty gopurams or towers in the four cardinal directions. Each is a gigantic masterpiece in itself - about 250 feet in height, with seven tiers. The towers are embellished with images from Hindu mythology.


Airavatesvara Temple, Darasuram is described as a sculptor's dream re-lived in stone. We caught it at sunset and saw it glow. This photo shows the Sanctum in the form of a chariot.

The UNESCO citation states that the Airavatesvara Temple, Darasuram is "an outstanding creative achievement in the architectural conception of the pure form of the Dravida temple" It is exquisite in its detail because it is said to have been built with nitya-vinoda, "perpetual entertainment" in mind. Here you can see a beautiful detail showing the Lord Ganesha.

Shore Temple,
Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) Pallava Period ( 7th - 9th century)

The Pancha (5) Rathas Mahabalipuram - the ratha temples in the form of processional chariots, monolithic constructions cut into the residual blocks of diorite which emerge from the sand. The five rathaof the south, which are the most famous, date to the reign of Naharasimhavarman Mamalla (630-668), the great Pallavas king.

The Pancha Rathas Mahabalipuram

The Pancha Rathas and one Daniela (10th Century!) Mahabalipuram

The Pancha Rathas, Mahabalipuram

Arjuna's Penance, Mahabalipuram. a massive open air bas-relief monolith dating from the 7th century. It measures 96 feet long by 43 feet high.

Arjuna's Penance is a story from the Mahabharata of how Arjuna, one of the Pandava brothers, performed severe austerities in order to obtain Shiva's weapon. The idea, which pervades Hindu philosophy, is that one could obtain, by self-mortification, enough power even to overcome the gods. In order to protect themselves, the gods would grant the petition of any ascetic who threatened their supremacy in this way - a kind of spiritual blackmail, or "give to get." (This meaning of the word "penance," by the way, is specific to Hinduism. Unlike the Catholic rite of penance, it is performed to gain power, not to expiate sin.)