I had been looking forward to this trip for a while. The wife and kid typically go to their home town (Kumbakonam) for a few weeks for the summer vacation. We had taken the Mayiladuthurai express. This is a very elusive train – the one train, the Mysore Mayiladuthurai Express that connects the Bangalore to Trichy, Tanjore, Kumbakonam, and Mayavaram (this is how the local refer to Mayiladhuturai). And it does so happen, that there are a large number of techies who are from this area. So there are only two ways of getting into that train:
- Book 4 months in advance (and book all the tentative dates that you want a booking) – cancel the unwanted ones later.
- Book even a waiting list ticket, and pray to your isht devata (Literal translation: God of your pleasing) that one of the tickets I cancel in step (1) gets allocated to you.
Of course, if you have an isht devata for whom you are his/her favourite devotee, and you enjoy special status of being granted boons by the God, then you can try tatkal as well.
So we headed off to the Majestic Railway station on a warm thursday evening. The train arrived half an hour late (it comes in from Mysore). Having lugged in our luggage into the train, we started off. The train journey was large uneventful.
Morning welcomed us with this:
Woohoo. The sweet smell of the Tanjore delta. My paternal roots are in this district, and hence I get a big kick whenever I visit this region. For some reason, I get this warm fuzzy unexplainable home feeling. And am I glad, my wife is from Kumbakonam, and I can visit here fairly regularly.
I had an agenda this time though. More recently, I have started reading the Periya Puranam (and also listening to some tapes of lectures on this by Shri RBVS Manian). Needless to say, that I have been captivated by this single piece of Tamil literature. Couple of reasons (actually three) stand out for me liking this scripture so much:
- The scripture is in beautiful Tamil. I did not study Tamil in school, and I cannot make out very complicated classical Tamil. But it just sounds so sweet. It really is.
- It has proof of a very rich cultural heritage in the Southern parts of Tamil Nadu.
- And of course, the main reason has got to be that, most of the tales and historical anecdotes happen in this beautiful Tanjore region.
So, with this new found interest of mine, I had decided to seek out as many temples as I can, that are referenced in Periya Puranam, in this area. These are also called “Paadal Petra Sthalangal”. Literal translation: Places where songs had been sung. Songs sung by the great moovar (the three apostles of Tamil Literature) – Appar, Sundarar, and Gnanasambandhar. Manikkavachagar does not figure in the Periya Puranam Compilation, though he has given us some fantastic works. Sometimes, they are also collectively referred to as the Naalvar (the great four).
Of course, Kumbakonam, being the temple city, I will visit other incidental temples, and document my visits to those as well. One more observation to make is that, being a Smartha (neutral towards Shaivites (Shiva worshippers) and Vaishnavites (Vishnu worshippers), I have a greater variety on my plate to go discover.
This post is the first of many, which will document my visits to several of the temples in this historically significant area. I will try and provide as much data about how to get there, and as much historical/mythological data that I can garner.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – for the temple visits to actually start, where I visit Sirkazhi, Thirukolakka, and Thirukadayur.