This trip was planned two months before, as it involved many train journeys. Our tickets booked through 62 express always materializes & this one did too. This trip started with Vadodara on 22nd Sat with Appa & Amma. On 23rd, we boarded Karnavati Express to Mumbai at 06-45 am. Train comes from Ahmedabad & stops for 5 minutes at Vadodara. The coolie at Vadodara refused to budge below Rs. 150; but we coolly got inside the train. Luckily, ours were the last seats which provided extra space for luggage. We had Veg ‘Cetlace’ as it is pronounced by the cutlet vendor.
The coach was almost full with many people coming to Mumbai for Diwali vacations. The train was running minute perfect. We got down at Borivalli. Srivats’s driver had come to receive us & drop at the airport, for our onward flight to Chennai. It took us some time to locate him. We reached airport in 15-20 mts, very soon than what we had expected. We had two choices for lunch, either at Food Court inside the airport as advised by Srivats or Balaji Restaurant outside the airport. But we eventually settled for Udipi restaurant very close to the airport. Food was OK.
As usual, following our tradition, we were at the boarding gate, almost 70-80 minutes before the flight time. The gate no. printed on the ticket was not matching with the display; but all were very close, like the old airport style. Eventually, we boarded, forgetting which gate was it; the printed one or the displayed one. It was a Jet Connect flight to the displeasure of Radhesh. I could not find anything wrong with the craft, except that it did’nt have an in flight entertainment system. The snacks were free; (thank God it was’nt Indigo) and enjoyable- Samosas in Chole gravy with fruits.
The flight landed; we were a bit perturbed to hear that Chennai is cloudy. After reaching Chennai, we got a pre-paid Taxi to Anna nagar (west), which took lot of time due to heavy traffic. We had the wildest thought of covering Mylapore temple on the same day, but the very sight of traffic & also when the driver told that this is close to the airport, this thought was abolished within no time. After reaching Guest house, we got a room to freshen ourselves, after waiting for a while in the lobby. We also had dinner, which was very simple & tasty. The guest house uys could not provide any cab driver contact for Thursday’s trip of Kancheepuram & Mahabalipuram ; they were only having Fast Track phone number which was very costly. The guest house people got us an auto for Rs. 200 for going to Chennai Egmore. We reached Egmore again 90 minutes before the train time, but we could not take any chances for the Deepavali traffic. On Meera’s and radhesh’s insistence, we avoided the 1st class AC waiting room & waited outside the platform. But the wait was not very long as the train barged into Platform 4 ( surprisingly, this is the first platform at Egmore). The AC coach was far.
I took milk at the station. Our seats were at the end of the coach resulting in disadvantage in going up the upper berth. AC in our seats were not effective, only one plant was working, plant 2 started after the train started. Plant 2 was vibrating and making noise. But the cooling improved substantially, due to which I got good sleep. Early morning at around 4-15 am, I could see through the station name, which was schedule at 2-15 am. I signed & thought that even on this small distance, train is late by 2 hours. So I retired to sleep more, but a little later, I could see the train reaching Srirangam station.
I asked the attendant about the expected time to reach Trichy; he quickly remarked to my surprise that train is on time. Then only I noticed on the time table that the last leg of the journey has lot of margin, something like covering 5-6 km in 45 mts. This makes all trains recover & reach the final destination on time. We alighted Trichy station as usual first among all the passengers, to be greeted by the sweet sound of Nadaswaram, which made me remark that the real Tamil Nadu is here. We had tasty coffee on the station itself & then proceeded out.
Immediately, on calling the driver Sharavanan, we could locate him as he was just close to us, waiting in a white Indica Car. Sharavanan was very young & as I could make out from the short telephone conversation we had before, he was very polite & straight forward. We reached BHEL guest house in about half an hour, at about 6-15 am. Sharavanan proposed to start at 7 am. But on checking with the guest house, breakfast will start only at 7-30 am; so we settled for a 8 am departure. We took more time as it took a while to get accustomed to the solar geyser. The guest house incharge also could not set it right.
Later the technician came & opened the correct valve, after which we could get hot water. After a quick breakfast in the dining room of the guest house, we started for Kumbakonam. The road was excellent upto Thanjavur; wide double road, each with three lanes. As we were approaching Kumbakonam, the road became single & narrowed. To my surprise, first was Swami malai & later Kumbakonam. We opened our temple sightseeing programme with the Sarangapani temple. Here also, the Lord is in the lying posture, similar to Srirangam. The Utsava murthy has the Lord with bow & arrow; which is why the name Saranga- Pani.
After the puja, the priest asked where we have come from; I replied Vadankancheery , presently residing in Noida and also told him that my grand father’s name was Sarangapani, to which he advised to come again. Then we visited Adikumbeshwar temple, a Shiva temple. We visisted the famous mathematician , Ramanujam’s house, which was a typical village house, with a well, bathroom at the back of the house etc. I made an entry in the visitor’s book also. Then we visited Mahamayam tank with a sanidhi for each river; a total of nine rivers and also a temple where also Shiva ling was there, The priest advised us to donate ghee for today’s Pradosham.
Only then we realized that today is Pradosham. We donated Rs. 150 in good faith. With this, we ended our Kumbakonam visit. Our next destination was Swami malai, where we climbed 60 steps. After the darshan, we searched for murghan vigraham with attached vhel. We didn’t get it near the temple. So the driver took us the place where we could get it. We wanted to have lunch at a place nearby, but the driver insisted on a place in Thanjavur. We went to thanjavur which was a long trip. We had fixed south Indian meal on leaves at sarvana. Then, we went to Tanjore art gallery till 3:00 PM.
Then we went to the museum and took video of sculptures. We saw a palace with a whale skeleton. Then we saw chola bronze images and garlands made of cardamon. We saw manuscripts and inscriptions. At about 4 pm, which is when the Big temple i. e. Brihadeeswara temple opens, we were inside the temple. And what a vast and magnificent temple complex!!. A big Nandi statue was there. Abhisekham was being performed on this Nandi through a special ladder arrangement. A big crowd was witnessing this spectacular event. We moved inside the sanctrum & had darshan of probably, the biggest Shiva linga, we had ever seen. Great indeed !!.
We moved around the boundary of the temple, which had many Shiva lings & other idols holding us in awe. We then entered Komala Vilas Sanidhi, sancrum of Goddess Kamakshi, the presiding diety of Kancheepuram temple. We bought photos & finished our visit of the spectacular Brihadeeshwara temple, an ASI monument too. We finished the day with a visit to Mariamman Koil & proceeded back to our Guest House at Trichy. We reached the place at about 19-45, which gave an opportunity to have a good rest, after an early dinner. The second day, we started for Madurai, very early at about 5-45 am. Bed tea promised at 5 am arrived only at 5-30 am.
I refused my tea. Coming out of the room, the key came out of the handle. There was no one at the reception to collect keys; so I took the key with me, in my wallet, keeping the handle on the reception table. Later, while on the car, I got a call enquiring about the key. Probably, the key handle on the reception table made them call me. This was just a light way of protest for the non-fulfillment of bed tea commitment & the non-availability of person at the reception, while we were moving out. This small incident didn’t affect our spirits as our car sped through the excellent highway from Trichy to Madurai, with hills on both sides.
We had a brief halt at Iyengar Bakery shop on the roadside for tea & some delicacies. The scenery was splendid, made me wonder whether the natural boundary of hills between Trichy & Madurai, could be the reason for separate kingdoms, one Pandian & other Cholan. The first temple on the second day of the tour was also a Vaishnavite temple, Adhyar temple. We went to the Thanjavur Big Templenly a went to srirangam temple and one shiva temple and went to trichi station and had lunch and boarded the train to Chennai Egmore.