Padhinettaam Peru


(image courtesy – subbu’s kitchen – where you can find some yummy recipes as well for this festival)

Today is Padhinettaam Peru, or as some people call it Aadi perukku – the 18th day of the Tamizh month of Aadi (mid july – mid aug in the Julian Calendar). On the average year, this is a typical spring day. This is celebrated as a Spring Harvest Holiday. This is not a typical harvest festival to thank the Gods – that is Pongal (Sankranthi). The ritual in this festival is to make simple mixed rice dishes (such as lemon rice, tamarind rice, etc), take it to a river bank or beach, and have a picnic. I kid you not, that is the ritual, and people did it a thousand years ago, and still do it. What a beautiful culture that we have.

If you want a detailed description, read the first chapter of Ponniyin Selvan by Kalki Krishnamurthy. The first scene is when the protagonist, Vandhiyathevan rides into the sunset, along the banks of the Veeranarayana Lake, fed by the Ponni river.

If you just want to read an abridged version, here is my PS-Chapter-1.

Read the rest of the abridged volumes here.

Ponniyin Selvan Book 1 Vol 2 is out!


The second volume was released early today morning. Follow along with the adventures of our hero warrior – Vandhiyathevan and his encounters with the veera vaishnavite – Alwarkadiyaan Nambi, Nandhini, the seductress, and the beautiful Princess Kundavai.

Buy the two books here -> Book 1 -> Vol 1 and Vol 2.


The Argumentative Follower (Vanthondan) – Part 3

Story so far: Nambi Arooran of Thirunaavalur had almost gotten married. Lord Shiva in the guise of an old Brahmin comes and stops the marriage, and reminds him of his duties to be fulfilled on earth. [Part 1] [Part 2]

Nambi thought back to his time in Kailasa.

Lord Shiva was once admiring his own beauty on a mirror. He was so pleased at his own beauty, that, without realizing what he said, he said – “Sundaraaa vaa” (Come here, my beautiful one). The powers that Shiva had, his reflection stepped out as a person from the mirror. From that day on, Sundarar had become a constant companion and servant of the Lord (anukka thondan). 

On a fine summery morning, he was out plucking flowers for the Lord, he happened to see two maidens (Kamalini and Anindhithai) also in the garden. They were maidens of the Supreme Goddess Parvathi. In a spontaneous minute of love, he fell for both of their beauties. Lord Shiva got to know and did not approve. 

“There is a time and place for everything, and this is not it. You would need to go down to earth for this and finish what you started. You will enjoy your time with these two maidens, who will also descend to earth with you. I also want you to go to the Southern part of India, and sing about me. “

Sundarar had realized his mistake and was ready to accept the punishment, but he made on request of the Lord – to come and remind him of this very moment, in case he got lost in the the pleasures of earthly living. 

All these thoughts came flooding in as he stood in front of the blinding light, now feeling thankful that the Lord had come and reminded him of his past.

But, I do not know how to sing, or compose, or any of that, my Lord, How am I supposed to sing about you?

The Lord still loved him very dearly. He said, “Talk to me, swear at me, admonish me, like you just did a few hours ago. Remember you called me a senile old fool. It will still sound like music to my ears.”

Lord Shiva also added – you will always be my Sundarar, my beautiful self. So I do not want you to renounce anything. I want you to always dress up like what you are now – in true wedding dress (kalyaana kolam). You will also be called Van thondan – the argumentative follower. And he vanished.

Over the course of the next 2 years, he meets Anindithai and Kamilini as Paravai Naachiyar (from Tiruvaaroor) and Sangili Naachiyar (from Thiruvatriyoor). And in these 2 years, he makes dozens of temple tours, singing on Lord Shiva, as he moved from temple to temple. Anecdotes abound on how the friendship of the Lord and Sundarar are played out. The Lord pulls out all stops to keep Sundarar, his friend, happy. Sundarar on the other hand, continues to admonish the Lord, never being satisfied with what he is given.

A peculiar friendship based devotion plays out in this Nayanmaars life. The story is meant to personify how devotion to God should not be of fear, but of trust and respect.

The Argumentative Follower (Vanthondan) – Part 2

Story so far (link): Nambi Arooran of Thirunaavalur is getting ready to get married. An old gentleman comes to the wedding venue and claims Nambi as his slave. He shows a parchment showing that his grandfather had indeed agreed to make his entire clan slave to the brahmin.

The village elders of Vennainallur gathered in front of the temple – where most disputes were settled. The elderly brahmin brought forth the original manuscript.

The brahmin turned to the village elders and said – “Please make sure this young fellow does not tear up this document also. It is your responsibility. “

The contents of the manuscript were verified. The signature matched of some other records that had been preserved by the village authorities, and the case was settled. Nambi was now the old Brahmin’s slave, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Sadness was wrought on Nambi’s face. All of 16 years old, he was looking forward to the marriage and settling down to Grihastaashrama. He followed the old man towards the local Shiva temple, where he was to witness the miracle of miracles. The old man vanished into a blinding light as he approached the main sanctum sanctorum (garba griham).

It was then Nambi realized that the old man was none other Lord Shiva himself, and that the Lord had come down to earth to remind Nambi of his past at Kailasa and fulfill his task on earth.

To be continued ….

[Read part 3]


The Argumentative Follower (Vanthondan) – Part I

It was marriage day. It was celebrations all around. Nambi Aaruran looked around his familiar town of Thirunaavalur with its festivities. It was a time, when a marriage in town meant celebrations for the entire town or village. It was getting closer to the Muhurtha time – the time when he would tie the maangalyam, and officially declared wedded.

There was a commotion in the crowd, and Nambi saw someone walking in from the entrance towards the dias. It was an old man. He walked with a stick. He was brisk though. The age did not show in his pace. Something about him was divine, but Nambi could not figure out what it was. Nambi wondered who this mysterious fellow was, and why he was causing a ruckus here.

He stood in front of the crowd and with a booming voice said –

Hear Ye, one and all. I have something to say before the wedding happens. This man here, and he consulted his olai (leaf scroll) and paused for a dramatic effect, Nambi, is a slave to me.

He let the confusion sink in for a while. A fine orator he was, for he knew, when to get the audience engaged and when to stop. In his booming voice he continued, “So it says, in this parchment, which was signed by his grandfather.”

Nambi was furious. He hissed at the old man – “Who are you, and where are you from?”, to which the Brahmin responded, he was from the adjoining village, Thiruvennainallur. Nambi then roared in laughter, “You, my dear friend, must be stark raving mad (afflicted by pitthu).” He sized the old man  up and down, and hissed – “perhaps senility has set in at this old age of yours.”

The old man smiled and responded by showing Nambi the parchment. Nambi’s smile vanished on reading the parchment, which clearly mentioned that he was his slave. Nambi smile returned with an even more evil twist to it, and in a fit, he tore up the parchment, thinking he had destroyed all evidence.

The old man, in his booming voice, said – “This young whipper snapper thinks that, by destroying that parchment, he has gotten rid of the evidence. I knew this would happen, and that is why I brought a copy of the parchment, and not the original itself. The original is in Thiruvennainallur. The only way to settle this argument is to settle it in front of the elders of vennainallur.

Nambi did not have a choice. The entire crowd, along with Nambi followed the elderly brahmin to the adjoining village, where a village hearing was organized.


[Read – Part 2]

Thiruvalanchuzhi, SwamiMalai, Patteeswaram, Thirusakthimuttram

.. in exactly that same order – is a good plan for a morning 2.5 hour tour plan starting from Kumbakonam 🙂

From Kumbakonam, take the Tanjore road, all the way to Thiruvalanchuzhi. You will see an arch on the right hand side. Take a right and the temple is on the left. No special parking – so park in one of the side roads. The temple has quite a rich history. Star of the temple is ofcourse the Swetha Vinayagar – white Vinayagar. Legend has it that this was moulded out of ocean water foam by Indra – during the Nectar Churning incident. The temple itself is big – Chozha style architecture – mainly focussing on being grandiose.

Temple Garden (Nandavanam)


Carry on that same road for about kilometer and a half, you would hit Swamimalai. You would cross two of the five-rivers-of-the-cauvery-delta — Cauvery and Arasalaar.

Swamimalai is one of my favourite temples – nice tall Subramanya Swami – about 5 ft ish tall. It so happened that when we went, abhishekam (traditional annointment) was happening. The best part of this is when they smear the entire idol with sandal wood paste, and then slowly reveal the eyes, nose, mouth, ears etc by swiping off the sandal at the different places. Beautiful.


From Swamimalai, drive back on the same road towards Tanjavur road, and then proceed on exactly the opposite side. This road leads straight to Patteeswaram. Fairly good asphalted road. Leads you straight to the Dhenupureeswarar/Gnanamibai/Durga temple. See pics here.

From Patteeswaram, take the road right opposite the gopuram near the Durga sannidhi, and go about half km. You will see a gopuram on the left. That is Thirusakthimuttam. Beautiful temple. Very ancient. The speciality of this temple is the Siva-Sakthi sannidhi. Here, Sakthi is in close embrace with the Siva lingam – something that I have not seen anywhere else. Other wise the temple is another Chozha style temple. There are Chozha ruins all over the Patteeswaram area. This area, Pazhayaarai, was the capital of the Chozha kingdom for a period of time.


And from Patteeswaram, there is a direct road to Darasuram, from where you can take the Tanjavur main road back to Kumbakonam.

All pictures taken from my Samsung Galaxy Grand. Post processing done on snapseed.

History of the South


I have written about this before and I will continue to write about this in the future. And I am not writing this because I hail from the South of India. I am not one of those who divide the country between Madrasis and the Northies. I was born in the south. I have lived in the North. I still have several friends from all over India. I studied in the US for a brief period of time, and hence, I think my views are fairly unbiassed. And now, that I have that out of my chest and out of my way, let me get to my rant.

In all of my history lessons (I studied CBSE), I have studied about the Maurya empire, the Gupta empire, the Great king Ashoka, the mughal invasions, Ghazini and his ghastly incursions into India. We studied about the World Wars, and how India participated in it, because of the British. And ofcourse finally we studied all about the Independence struggle, and Sepoy mutiny, Maulana Azad, Gandhiji, Nehru, Bhagat Singh, and the likes. In Geography, we studied in detail about the Gangetic plains, the Brahmaputra, the Himalayas, the 5 Rivers of Punjab. We even studied about the Rock Garden of Chandigarh.

By now, if you are like me, you may have gotten a pattern emerging from this. When we studied about our country’s ‘rich’ history and diverse geography, what we had been studying is pretty much the history and geography of the North. I distinctly remember, we had about 2-3 pages (out of the 250 page text book) each year dedicated the powerful rulers of the South. Some of the things that we learnt about these rulers were: The rulers of the South built splendid large temples. They fought amongst them heavily. They were dark skinned and of Dravidian origin. There were also mentions of the grand Vijayanagar empire, and two things I remember from that are the Belur and Halebid temples, and how they stopped the Mughals in their tracks from invading the South of India.

In more recent years, as I travel a bit through the erstwhile Chozha (Chola) empire and reading classics like Periya Puranam (a chronicle of the Saivite saints of the south) and Ponniyin Selvan (en semi fictitious epic of the Chozha-Pandiya times), I realize how painfully little I know about the part of the country I hail from. If I, who is from the South, know so little about my own history and geography, I can imagine how much somebody from (say) Delhi or Mumbai would know.

For the sake of elucidating the fact that there is more than what I studied, I am going to gloss over some of what I have learnt in recent times. And by no means, am I going to cover too much, or bore you with details.

The Chozha empire under the reign of Raja Raja Chozha  (the one who built the Big Temple in Tanjore) had direct or allied control of territories which spanned from parts of Burma, Cambodia, the islands of Indonesia, and further. [link]

There are inscriptions and books of historical significance in South East Asia (specifically the Malay peninsula) stating that the rulers had origins from the Chozha rulers. The temples and architecture of Angkor wat are of distinctly a fusion of the Chozha and Kalinga style. The Khmer king who built it was Suryaverman II. Does the name ring a bell? Well, Raja Raja Chozhan’s original name was “Arulmozhi Verman”. He was nicknamed Raja Raja Chozhan (king of all). The Chozha kings had captured all of the southern peninsula – inclusive of Sri Lanka. The tamil eelam guerilla force (LTTE) had the tiger in their symbol and called themselves tigers too.

The Chozha kings were for the most part great administrators and did not mind other religions to flourish. Buddhism and Jainism was spreading at that time. In most places, the state maintained a balance. The state was mostly Hindu, but there are defenitely instances of the Kings helping build Buddhist monasteries in Nagappatinam and in several places in Sri Lanka. In some areas like Sri Lanka, Buddhism gained more power and started having influence in the state – which continues to this date.

The textbooks briefly mention Mahabalipuram (Mamalapuram) and their exquisite sculptures. The Pallava kings did way more than that. They waged war against the Kalinga empire at one time and won too. Did we know that? Yes, Kalinga is currently Assam and Odisha.

There is even more that I could go on and on forever, like the siege of the Madurai Meenakshi temple by the Jains. Or of the three main saints of the south – Appar, Sundarar, Manickavachagar. (Note: We learnt about Kabir and Meera.) The text books briefly mention the few days that Swamy Vivekananda spent in Tamilnadu on his way to Chicago. Oh, he spent much more than a few days. He spent quite a few days and has a deep rooted connection in the South of India. He even made the famous “Arise, awake and stop not till you succeed” statement first in Kumbakonam near Tanjore. I now have my North Indian brethren’s attention who are now trying to pronounce that town’s name. Instead, we learnt about the dark skinned people of Dravidian origin lived in the Southern parts of India.

Now, let me put aside all of this (probably) mindless ranting. With the schools of the land following such text books (which are the standard), I have stopped blaming the people. If folks like me, who have spent their school years fully in the south are not able to appreciate the historical context from where we hail from, how can I expect my brothers and sisters from the North to know any better. Times are slowly becoming better. And by that, I am not meaning text books are changing. I mean people are becoming more aware. My north Indian friends in Bangalore and slowly beginning to shed their fear of Tamizh/Other Dravidian languages, and venturing deep into the South, to see the spectacular temples of the South. I only wish the Governments (well, all of them, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, AP, and Kerala) get together, and put together a better tourism program, which will enable this. Right now, the governments are focusing only on those areas, where they can make the money – Navagraha temples (temples for the Nine planets) in Tamil Nadu, Belur-Halebid circuit in KA, beautiful beaches of Kerala, and of AP, I do not know what they are up to (let them first figure out their statehood status). I also wish there are private players in the market, who could enable this for the inquisitive.

With that, I will stop …. I hope to have reached some readers of this blog by giving them a slightly fresher perspective on what ‘more’ is there to our country than what we just study in our text books. Let us first discover our country. We can then open the gates for the “Incredible India” to our friends from other countries. It is currently the opposite now.


PS: Please do pardon any factual inaccuracies that may be present in this article. They are probably products of the emotional cloudburst that happened while writing this article. 

Cadillac’s Comeback


We did this as a case-study when I did an Engineering Management class at University. This Co.Design article captures beautifully the rise to the top of Cadillac, and how it fell during bad times, and how since 2000 they have slowly crawled back. If you have driven sedans in the US, and if you have ever driven a Cadillac, you would know the difference in driving a Caddy and the rest. The luxury is very evident.

Read the Co.Design article here.

(pic courtesy the same Co.Design article above)

Pink vs Blue

An awesome read on Co.Design on how the pink vs blue dressing for girls vs boys was not always the thing. It is a much more recent happening. What is more interesting is the fact that, it was originally the other way around – pink for boys and blue for girls. And then that changed too.

For example, a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department wrote, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.

My opinion is on the same lines, but a little more brutal. I think this is similar to the whole “Hallmark” days (fathers day, mothers day, dogs day, neighbors dog day, dentist’s daughter day etc!). I think this came when the kids clothing manufacturers entered the game, and found that bleached white dresses didnt fetch them enough.

Read the Co.Design article here.

The article references a #longread Smithsonian article which is also a great read. Read that one here.