The Pallipadai meeting

It was the night after Amavasya. The night was dark. The stars did not even blink. The fireflies flitted around the bushes. At a distance, a wolf howled. Vandhiyadeevan shivered, not because of the cold, but because of the eeriness. It seemed, even the wind feared coming into that thick forest.

The manthravaadi and his motley gang sat around a circle. They had put out all the lamps except one. The pallipadai temple ruin looked even more eery in this situation. One of the gang brought out an old throne from inside, and made the small child, whom they addressed as Chakravarthy, sit on it.

“Where is the Rani? She is not here yet?”

“She will be here very soon. Let us spend the time singing one of our old folks songs”, said the leader.

Idumbankaari lifted his udukkai and started a low rhythmic rumbling beat. Devaraalan started singing in a low haunting voice. Vandhiyadevan was listening to all this from a distance. It seemed like a haunting sad song. The rhythm from the udukkai matched the sadness. Only some words reached Vandhiyadevan’s ears.

It seemed to be a song talking about the fierce battle between Varaguna Paandiyan and Aparajita Pallavan. The 3 day fierce battle. Gangamannan had come to fight with the Pallava king. During this fierce battle, the Gangamannan fell. This temple where they were standing on, was built as a memorial to those who fell in that battle. After the Gangamannan’s fall, the Pallava forces started fleeing in despair. The victory of the Pandiya king was almost eminent.

At this crucial moment, the Chozha army came to the rescue of the Pallava king. Leading the army was none other than the great VIjayalaya Chozhan, the great one, who had 97 war wounds on his body. The great one, who had lost 2 of his legs in battle. The great one was being carried by 4 people. Two hands circling 2 sharp swords, he entered against the Pandiya army head on. The demoralized Pallava army saw this and got enthused and started to fight back.

17000 swords came rushing at the Pandiyaa army, glinting in the sunlight.  15000 spears came with the great clanging sounds. The swords and the spears clashed. 14000 heads rolled. The horses fell down neighing. The elephants came down next trumpeting and screeching. Rivers of blood where animal flesh and human flesh were indistinguishable. 20000 eagles and vultures were circling the area for the war to finish, so that they could start their feast. 30000 wolves came circling around the battle ground, to compete with the eagles to get their share of the feast. 50000 anguished souls cried out “ayyoooo”. “Dont leave them, cut them, slash them, kill them”, cried the attackers. 20000 victory conches blew.

“Hahahaa” laughed 60000 ghosts. That is when Vandhiyadevan awoke. He was still leaning against the outer wall of the Pallipadai temple. He had probably fallen asleep. Was that a dream? Or perhaps he had gone into a trance.  Devaraalan’s song with the rhythmic beat of the udukkai had gotten him in to a trance. He was still singing about the Pandiya war. It was the gang’s hysterical laughter, which had woken him up. It was not the ghosts. It was the Manthraavadis gang.

The song abruptly stopped. From a distance, he could see a torch fire. The light came closer and closer. The 4 men and the palanquin they were carrying came close and stopped. The palanquin was lowered. The screens parted. From inside, a lady stepped out. Yes, it was the Pazhuvoor Rani – Nandini Devi.


My attempt at translation from the epic Ponniyin Selvan by Kalki. As I typed this, I find myself no comparison to the original author. Such beautiful writing. Such a super plot. Such descriptions. 



Saw this documentary about Orca Killer whales today. Pretty emotional movie. The movie goes against Disney Sea World who maintain these killer whales for amusement. The movie talks about how raising these large beasts in captivity can lead to frustrations in them.

The movie specifically talks about the largest Orca among them – Tilikum. The beast has killed at least 6 people so far. The park still maintains Tilikum for one major reason – he is the largest male of the lot. He is virtually a sperm bank for breeding more and more of these orcas.

The documentary runs through interviews with several of the parks ex-trainers. Most of these trainers express their frustration on the coverups after each accident that has happened in the parks. Almost all accidents have been blamed on trainer error, and the park maintains that the killer whales are the ‘cuddly teddy bears’ that they are.

IMDB – Blackfish (2013)

(img src: wikipedia)

Presentation: Pseudo Analog in digital slideware


If the title got your attention, let me now explain what I meant.

Our CEO is a phenomenally great presenter, and sometimes we just go out of our way to attend his talks only to hear him speak. I recently attended one of his talks at the company meeting. He used a new technique this time. And wow, did it have an impact or what?

He had used beautiful large images as usual. He had picked a nice theme. He had equated the state of our company to be like a construction site and in constant progress, and hence he had fantastic images of construction sites and heavy machinery. And on these slides with the huge images, he had no bullet points. No fancy fonts. Most of his text was a scrawl using a nice flouroscent marker colour (or perhaps he used a fantastic handwriting font).

This blend of a seemingly analog technique (writing by hand) and a digital medium had a pretty good effect. This is not new, if you think about it. In the age of transparencies (not sure how many of the younger readers have even seen a transparency sheet), we used to print out material onto the transparency slide and if we wanted to build up a case, we would use a transparency marker and write on the slide. This gives a feeling of  engagement and involvement of the presenter.

I thought it was a pretty nifty idea, that I would share here in the blog.



I heard about this movie first in Merlin Mann’s podcast with Dan Benjamin (in the 5×5 network). It is a great fun podcast talking about tech and productivity – two things that I am super passionate about. But I digress. Merlin was talking about this movie and was comparing it to living in Florida, and how sometimes the folks are in their ‘own world’. I noted it down and wanted to watch it some time, and I got the chance today.

It is a pretty nice movie about an average guy (Luke Wilson), who is in the army. He gets chose for an experiment called “human hibernation”. Unfortunately, the Army forgets about this top secret experiment, and when Luke gets out of the chamber, it is the year 2500AD. Things are not too dandy. The world has gotten all topsy turvy, and the average IQ has fallen abysmally, making Luke the smartest man on the planet. The world is then fully of super dumb people. Folks who believe water can be replaced with Gatorade (even for watering crops). Everything is amiss.

In all, a pretty good entertainer, and an eye opener. Comes with a nice message of getting your kids to read, to get educated, and just be overall smart.

[IMDB link]

(img src: link)

Thirunageswaram and Uppiliappan Kovil – April 2014

The second day in the Jilla, we did a short visit with the family to Uppilliappan and adjoining Thirunageswaram. There was not much of a rush at Uppilliappan kovil. One good thing about this temple is the massive size of the Perumal and the unobstructed view you can get of the Diety from afar.



By the time, we got to Thirunageswaram, the sun was at its peak – fuming at 40 Deg Cel. Having toasted our feet effectively by running on the solid granite pathway to the temple, we found the situation not very surprising. The main Shivasthalam – Naganatha Swamy had absolutely no crowd. The full crowd was only at the Raahu deity.


Had a good dharshan and returned back to Kumbakonam. A quick 2 hour trip for both temples together.

Aduthurai, Thiruneelakkudi, Thirumangalakkudi, Suryanaar Kovil

First day in the jilla itself saw wheels sprouting below my feet :). Had planned the first three temples from Bangalore itself.

Aduthurai is hardly a 15-20 minute drive from Kumbakonam. Most people do not even know there is a famous Shivan temple here. This temple is of the Ramayana ages, where Sugriva worshipped the Shiva lingam. The original name of this temple town is “Ten-Kurangu-aduthurai”. The temple was renovated and rebuilt by funds from Sembiyan Maa Devi – Raja Raja Chozhan’s grandmother. In the days of the Chozha period, Ladies of the royal family also took active interest in social constructions like temples, hospitals etc. As expected, the grand total of people in the temple was 2 – me and the Shiva Bhattar.



Thiruneelakkudi – This small temple town is about 4 km from Aduthurai on the road that connects the Kumbakonam-Mayavaram road to the Kumbakonam-Kariakal Road. You cannot miss this road. You can just ask for the Thiruneelakkudi road. Qaint little temple. The lad Markandeya clung to the Shiva lingam when Yama came to grab him. Shiva was upset and kicked Lord Yama away. Shiva then asked Markandeya to go to this place – Thiruneelakkudi and do penance. After a while, Lord Shiva gave Markandeya eternal life here. The temple pond is called Markandeya Theertham.





Thirumangalakkudi – is 2 km North of Aduthurai. Just ask for route to Suriyanaar Kovil. Just before you hit Suriyanaar kovil, you will hit a fork – you go left for Thirumangalakkudi and right for Suriyanaar Kovil. This temple is well frequented – partially because of a tradition of starting your Navagraha temple tour by first going to this temple. The Shivan is famous for reducing any mental stress. The bhattar also told me that, the Shiva lingam can absorb any number of litres of oil poured on it.


Also visited Suriyanaar kovil. Did not take any pictures there. The temple is a fully commerical temple now – catering the Navagraha tour circuit tourists only. There are two things that are unique about the architecture of this temple though. Suryan (Sun) is at the centre, and there are shrines for 8 planets all around the Sun. These guys knew their astronomy quite well. The other bigger thing is that, the temple is built such that, only on one specific day which is famous for the Surya God, the sun’s rays fall directly on the deity.

All images were shot using a Samsung Galaxy Grand and post processed using SnapSeed app. Common filters were drama and hdrscape.

Misc Majestic Photos – April 2014

WAM 4/6 Twins – lounging near PF-6 Majestic Station Bangalore.



WAP4 Chilling near PF-8 – Majestic Station – Bangalore.



Diesel Mania. Count the number of Diesel locomotives in this picture. Majestic Station. Bangalore.



All images were shot using a Samsung Galaxy Grand and post processed using SnapSeed app. Common filters were drama and hdrscape.







Misc Kumbakonam pictures – March 2014

Some miscellaneous Kudandhai (Kumbakonam) pictures from last trip.

Ramaswamy kovil



Mahamaham kolam – panorama



Typical Kurukkal home – Near Mahamaham kolam



Kumbakonam Railway Station



All images taken with my Samsung Galaxy Grand (yes, you read that right!) and post processed with Snapseed. Common filters were drama and hdrscape.

Thirubhuvanam and Thiruvidaimarudhur – March 2014

Another mini visit to Thirubhuvanam and Thirividaimarudhur – both fairly close to Kumbakonam – about half hour drive tops.








Thirubuvanam panorama



All images were taken by Samsung Galaxy Grand (yes, you read that right) and post processed using Snapseed. Commonly used filters were drama and hdrscape.

Patteeswaram and Pazhayarai – March 2014

Did a mini trip to Patteeswaram and Pazhayarai in March 2014. We all know about Patteeswaram, but not too many of us know about Pazhayarai. It is a Thevarasthalam, and more importantly a historically significant place.

During a period of time, the Chozha kings used Pazhayarai as a temporary capital, while building/rebuilding the Tanjore fort. The semi-fictional story of Ponniyin Selvan describes Pazhayarai as a grandiose capital city with huge maaligais (palaces). During the ages when Buddhism was rampant in the South, it is said that the Buddhist monks had sealed this temple and raised their monasteries along the tall walls of this temple. The great saint Appar sang and sat in ‘dharna’ outside the temple, until the then-emperor re-opened the temple. Pazhayaarai is also the birth place of one of the 63 Naayanars – Mangayarkarasiyaar. She also plays a big role in Periya puranam – by inviting Sambandhar to come and influence her husband (the then Pandiya king) back to Hinduism from Buddhism.

It is sad that the temple is almost in ruins now. I did see some development though. It looks like there is some renovation happening. Sivan here is named Somanathaswamy. 

Main gopuram – half razed


Another view 


Main sannidhi





Patteeswaram is ofcourse known to many of us. The Durgai Sannidhi is famous. The Shivan is Dhenupureeswarar and Ambal is Gnanambiga (yes, of the Mylapore mess fame :)).




The road to Patteeswaram and Pazhayarai are typical of Tanjavur Jilla roads. One FB friend of mine described my travel in these roads as the “Travels of the modern day Vandhiya Devan” – Read the Ponniyin Selvan to get more background 🙂

Thanjavur Sunset


Arasalaar River


The Road Ahead


All images shot with the Samsung Galaxy Grand (yes, you read that right!). Images were post processed using the Snapseed app. Commonly used filters were Drama and HDRScape.