Travelogue: Madurai – Munnar – Manarkkad – 2

After another beautiful darshan of Devi and Shiva in the morning at Madurai Meenakshi temple, we left Madurai by 9.30 and drove straight into Munnar by about 2PM. The drive into Munnar is beautiful once you are climbing the hill. We spent two nights at Munnar and here are some impressions:

  • Munnar is stunningly beautiful, neither the words nor the photographs can do justice to it.
  • We soaked in every bit of the moment out there and loved it.
  • It was a long weekend and the place was terribly crowded with traffic jams all over the place. Still didn’t deter us from enjoying the place.
  • There are lot of sight seeing places in and around Munnar and like all other tourist places filled with shops and consequently dirt and filth. The lake near Echo Point for example is being dumped by roadside food and coconut shells spoiling the beauty of the place. Same state of affairs at other places too.
  • If only the administration puts an entry fee and does its bit to keeping the place clean and provide some loos for the tourist – but this is asking for too much, isn’t it?
  • The drive to Chinnar wildlife sanctuary is breathtakingly beautiful.

We then drove off from Munnar to Kerala on our way to the most beautiful vacation place we have been to….but that is in the next installment.

  • The drive from Munnar to Mannarkkad is beautiful as long as you are in the 50kms radius of Munnar.
  • As we descent the hills and move into TN state highways, the landscape changes and we again come face to face with the harsh realities of TN highway signboards – all of which are only in Tamil.
  • We turn on the Google Maps, Navigate function and rely on all through our commute within the towns and through TN and Kerala. Maps on phone is God send gift.
  • We enter Kerala and realize that there are no National Highways in God’ own country.
  • Kerala roads, I think are one big bazaar street. The driving hours on maps do not make any sense for Kerala roads.
  • Toddy, Bakery and Gold shops are the only three things constant as one drives through Kerala. Hear that Car Showrooms are another constant further down south in Kerala.
  • We did a night halt at KTDC Tamarind in Manarkkad and loved the place – the guys managing it are customer friendly and we got to eat some real good dinner and breakfast at the place.
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Travelogue: The Grace at Meenakshi temple – 1

The Gear Box of my Hyundai i20 gave away and the gentle folks at Trident Hyundai promised a delivery within 2 weeks and our vacation happened to fall bang in the middle of those two weeks period. Left with no choice, we fell back on our Santro which had already clocked close to 80K. Servicing done, the vehicle was still making strange noises and the A/C was just not effective. Despite that, we took the name of Ganesha and set forth to Madurai – our first halt on the 6 day drive through TN, Kerala and Karnataka.

The benchmark of a good highway for us is the NH7, Bangalore – Hyderabad road, the NH7 going down to Madurai, Kanyakumari just doesn’t measure up. We took about 7 hours to drive into Madurai – left Bangalore at about 1 and reached Madurai at about 8PM – and checked into the hotel and stepped right out to the Meenakshi Devi temple to have the Darshan. We wanted to have a quick Darshan and come back early next day morning for a more longer tour of the Temple.

As we entered from the West Gate, a local guide stopped us and dissuaded us from going for the Darshan and he pointed out to the long queue which had meandered all the way from the North Gate towards the Western Gate. It was VijayaDashmi and we did expect the crowd. Despite the warning, we took a walk around the outer circumference, had the Darshan of Ganapathi on the Eastern side of the temple and walked in from the Eastern Gate towards the Devi temple. Just as were standing near the entrance of the Devi temple, someone just came and waved us all in – straight into the sanctum sanctorum and we had an awesome Darshan of the Devi. This was unbelievable, a while back we had resigned ourselves to coming back the next day morning and within a moment someone waves us all in.

Having attended the Navaratri celebrations in the presence of Gurudev at ashram, the darshan of the Devi, and the way it happened, despite the teeming crowd was nothing short of Grace. We were overwhelmed with joy!

Tidbits:

  • The temple is beautiful.
  • The maintenance though leaves a lot to desired and the way the Administration has put marble flooring in the 1000 pillar hall is a shame.
  • Lot of murals, depictions on the temple walls, but all the signage and wordings are in Tamil.
  • If you don’t know Tamil, you will be at a loss.
  • Wondering if it is hard for the Administration to put bi-lingual signs and/or provide Audio systems in multiple language for visitors?
  • There are shops within the temple complex and I think it may better serve the temple, if they are all moved outside the temple.
  • Less said about the town the better – dirty and stinks.
  • TN is currently reeling under a massive power shortage, the power cut in Madurai was upto 18 hours a day. We got lucky since there was no power cut on account of VijayaDashmi.
  • The folks though are warm and very helpful more than making up for the state of affairs in the town.
  • Do not miss the food and tea/coffee at Sabarees
  • Did not encounter a single beggar near the temple or in the town.
  • Meena had a word for all she encountered with – and while leaving she would put on a big smile and say “Poitu Varen” in Tamil and the folks just couldn’t help give a big smile back. It was as if she made their day!
  • Lastly, this temple is out of bounds for non Hindus and this is a real shame. The Sanatana Dharma is all inclusive and to see a temple prohibiting someone’s entry just on the basis of religion defies the premise of Sanatana Dharma.

The awesome ruins of Hampi

Both Lepakshi and Kabini were travel trips, but I was at Hospet to conduct an Apex program and very fortunately the customer wanted the course between 7 and 3.30PM leaving me free for the evening and I utilized the opportunity to visit Hampi twice. I had heard about it several times, but this was my first visit to Hampi and I now know why everyone makes such a great deal about this place.

And for the first time I wished I had a camera with me.

The place is stunningly beautiful and no words nor any camera can do any justice to the place. I could never imagine that there could be such a beauty in ruins!! And the vivid image of the Vijaya Vittalla temple ensconced within the miles and miles of stunning hillocks! (See this pan-image to get an idea of ruins of Hampi)  Just can’t wait to get back to this place with my family!

Travel

Last week we drove down to Lepakshi – a small town in Anantapur District of AP and about 120Kms (~ 2 hours of drive) from Bangalore. Worth a visit to take a look at the architecture marvel of the Veerabadhra temple. Pack your own lunch for there is hardly any place for the visitor at Lepakshi.

And then it was onto Kabini for a night’s visit. This was our second visit to Kabini and it was worth it. The weather mercifully held up and we did get to see quite a few animals including a new born baby elephant and a whole lot of birds!

I leave for Hospet tonight to teach the Apex program and have a busy rest of the month with couple of more courses scheduled, so posts will be slow to come by!