Categories
fiction history misc tamil

Ponniyin Selvan Book 1 Vol 2 is out!

Book1Vol1Vol2

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.

 

Categories
history tamil theology

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.

Categories
history tamil theology

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]

 

Categories
history photography tamil travel

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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

Categories
art misc tamil

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. 

Categories
photography tamil theology tourism travel

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Categories
tamil tourism travel

Misc Kumbakonam pictures – March 2014

Some miscellaneous Kudandhai (Kumbakonam) pictures from last trip.

Ramaswamy kovil

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Mahamaham kolam – panorama

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Typical Kurukkal home – Near Mahamaham kolam

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Kumbakonam Railway Station

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

Categories
tamil theology tourism travel

Thirubhuvanam and Thiruvidaimarudhur – March 2014

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

Thiruvidaimarudhur

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Thirubuvanam panorama

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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.

Categories
tamil theology travel

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

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Another view 

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Main sannidhi

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Panorama

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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 :)).



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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

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Arasalaar River

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The Road Ahead

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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.

Categories
tamil theology travel

Nallur March 2014

I just realized that I had not posted my Thanjavur jilla (mostly around Kumbakonam) pictures on my blog. I had shared several on FB and twitter, but had not shared them here. I will share them in parts.

Where is Nallur?

Outer Gopuram

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Inner gopuram

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Guardian of the temple –  Nandi

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Agraharam Street

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All images were taken with a Samsung Galaxy Grand (yes, you read that right), and post processed with the Snapseed app. Filters commonly used were Drama and HDRscape.