More from the Kapaleeshwar Temple - Mylapore

Kapaleeshwar Temple, goluThe Kapaleeshwar Temple at Mylapore is bathed in Hindu culture. If you are looking for a culture fest, come here any day. A festive day would be better. Like Navratri, the nine-day festival that precedes Diwali, the festival of lights.

Kapaleeshwar Temple, golu These photos were shot on the 4th day of the Navratri festival. The arrangements you see here is called the 'Golu' in Tamil.

Kapaleeshwar Temple, goluDolls, rather clay models of all gods, goddesses and even animals considered holy by Hindus form part of this riotously colorful tableau.

Kapaleeshwar Temple, golu Here, I presume it's Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, presiding over the tableau. Notice the lotus flowers arranged on the fringes?

Kapaleeshwar TempleLord Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles. (That reminds me of my friend who was frantically searching for his 'obstacles'. Turned out that he was actually searching for his spectacles. LOL).

Kapaleeshwar TempleThis is not taken inside the main temples, but at a temporary shrine built just for Navratri.

Kapaleeshwar Temple Notice the traditional attire of the priests.

Kapaleeshwar Temple An arrangement... 

Kapaleeshwar Temple Sadhus at the foot of the Himalayas.

Kapaleeshwar Temple The arrangement being completed, by a devotee or trustee, I presume.,

Navratri falls around September/October. Check a Hindu calendar for the dates before you decide. But like I've mentioned before, even otherwise the Kapaleeshwar Temple is a feast to the eyes and balm to the soul.

Read my previous post and see more photographs here.

St. Thomas Mount

Apostles Convent, St. Thomas MountThe Holy Apostles Convent. Come here for the view. You can even have a snack and tea while you enjoy it as there is a tea place here.

Statues at the St. Thomas MountThere are more statues like this all over the place. I actually didn't shoot many pics as my camera developed a zoom problem.

View from the St. Thomas MountThe view from the top.

View from the St. Thomas MountAnother view from the top.

Actually you can see the Chennai airport from here and watch take-offs and landings. Most people crowd around for that alone. But this place is much more than an airport view point.

This place is a part of recorded history, so don't miss it.

Jesus on the cross at St. Thomas MountThe sculpture of Jesus on the cross.

Banyan tree at St. Thomas MountThis banyan tree is massive. And very, very old.

Col. William Lambton, St. Thomas  MountRight under this banyan tree sits the bust of Col. William Lambton, born 1753. Apparently, this genius in trignometrical survey launched his field work from St. Thomas Mount.

Col. William Lambton, St. Thomas  MountSt. Thomas Mount gets its name from Saint Thomas, the apostle of Christ, who is believed to have been martyred here. A church built in 1523 by the Portuguese and dedicated to Mary stands at the summit of this 300 feet high mount. People believe that the altar of this church was built on the very spot where St. Thomas died in AD 72.

Read more about St. Thomas Mount here.

Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary

Vedanthangal is about 90 kilometers from Chennai. That's if you take the road like we did, on public transport.

Chennai Egmore station to Chengalpattu by train and then by bus to the sanctuary. Buses go there every 40 minutes or so. You could hire a taxi too.

The moment you arrive at the Chengalpattu station you get the feeling of mild adventure. Climb the over-bridge at the station to get a better view of the surroundings. There's a huge water body, a lake I suppose, besides the railway station that sets the mood just right.

The whole place is quaint. Old British construction that is now being done up and added to. I hope they follow the original design to the extensions as well. You'll pass a few quaint villages on your way. There's one that gives you a very good feeling inside, peaceful and grounded. What's with quaint villages that are so joyous?

The Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary itself is a little quite. What am I saying? Aren't sanctuaries quite? Apparently, the villagers celebrate any event or occasion quietly during the bird season at Vedanthangal. That's so good to hear. In fact it's the villagers who protect the sanctuary from exploitation.

You need to buy your tickets at the entrance and pay for your cameras and digicams. And then you're in! Oh, don't forget to rent binoculars just outside the gates. Costs you just thirty rupees.

Can you see all the birds? There are thousands all over. And thousands more in the early mornings and late evenings. I did hear someone mention 4.00am sightings. If you can get up that early in the morning...

There's a viewing tower from where you can get a good view of all the birds. Those are the steps leading to the tower. And below you see the water at the foot of the tower. Mind you, that's full of fish, though you don't see them.

The path way is stone-paved.

If you plan to open your picnic lunch inside, bewarned! There are a bunch of really clever monkeys around. The one sleeping down there is only pretending so.

If you plan to stay, there is a Forest Rest House at Vedanthangal. You'll have to contact the Wildlife Warden though. (DMS Compound, No. 256, Anna Salai, Teynampet, Chennai – 600006.) There's more about the sanctuary here and here.

Chunnambar Beach, Pondicherry

Here's what one website says about Chunnambar:

"One can swim, row a boat, stay on a tree house and watch the sunrise, have a picnic at the beach and play beach volleyball, go trekking, or even fishing! It has a fully functional water sports center and a breathtaking pool amidst the backwaters."

I'm not sure there's a pool or fishing facility, but the beach here is blissfully relaxing. You won't find a huge crowd about. Chunnambar is around 7 kilometers from Pondicherry, at Ariyankuppam. Get that right. People you ask directions from just might not know Chunnambar. So ask for Ariyankuppam.

The beach is at the mouth of the backwaters. The sand is clean and sprinkled with shells. Boy! That's something you don't find on beaches these days. Plastic, maybe, but shells in such numbers... oh no.

To reach this beach called Plage Paradiso or Paradise Beach, you need to take a boat ride that lasts about twenty minutes or so. If that's too many names to handle - Chunnambar Beach... Paradise Beach... rest assured. They are the same. Though I must confess that I didn't hear anyone refer to the beach as Paradise Beach.

I was so taken in by the ride along the rather dense forest that closely fringes the waters that I didn't exactly count the minutes. The waters are even fringed with palm groves in some places.

And then, quite abbruptly, you spot a small sandy bar in the distance and beyond it, the bright blue sea. The boat berths at a tiny wooden pier, below which you'll find the water teeming with tiny black fish.

The small bamboo deck on Paradise Beach, quickly knocked up as it appears, is still a good observation point. I guess the beach would be more attractive with fewer crowds, which would be on working days after the schools and colleges open. We went there during the beginning of the summer vacation, on a holiday and found the place a bit too crowded. Not crowded like Marina Beach on a Sunday, but a little too crowded for a beach that is supposed to have just a few people about.

You better not swim out far into the sea as the undercurrent is pretty strong here and there was no lifeguard in sight while we were there. But the waters close to the shore are perfectly safe. Quite a stretch of it is shallow too.

You might want to check out the Chunnambar Beach Resort and the Sea Gull Chunnambar Beach Resort if you plan on a longer stay and not a picnic. I guess both these resorts are the same. Mine was a quick trip to Chunnambar. We didn't stay here.

Kapaleeshwar Temple - Mylapore

The Kapaleeshwar Temple at Mylapore, Chennai is a real treat. You mustn’t miss a visit to this Shiva temple, which is a fine example of 8th century Pallava architecture. It's the oldest temple in the city. You can even find fragments of inscriptions dating back to 1250 AD. That sounds like a real long time to me.

There's legend behind this temple as well. Folklore has it that Lord Shiva pinched off one of the heads of Brahma so as to nip his pride. (He’s four-headed, remember... the Lord of creation…) In penance, Lord Brahma built a Shiva Lingam, known as Kapaleeshwarar, at this spot.

The quaint courtyard of the Kapaleeshwar Temple houses a small shrine of Goddess Parvathi in the form of a peacock, worshipping her consort Lord Shiva. Images of 63 Saivaite saints – the saints who worship Lord Shiva - called the Nayanmars adorn the outer courtyard. Each made in stone. But it's the gopurams atop the various gates that are alive with sculptures, painted in happy, bright colours. A roit of happy colours, I must say.

The temple has other shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Lord Muruga and smaller shrines dedicated to other forms of Shiva - Annamalaiar, Sundareswarar and Jagatheswarar. The stone works are a marvel, detailed and intricate. You'll wonder how many patient hours have gone into the making of these sheer masterpices... Look at these two examples below.

Now here's a tidbit that might amuse you. Did you know that Mylapore has existed for thousands of years long before Madras came into being? I was surprised, because there is no beach near about Mylapore. Didn't Madras come to form as a little fishing village somewhere near Parrys? Or did I get my history wrong? Nevermind. Mylapore is still a treat.

There's something else. Apparently, the original 8th century Shiva temple was built by the Pallavas on the shores of Chennai. But it was destroyed by the Portuguese and was re-built as a church 300 years later. Guess which church? The Santhome Church! Now I'm not sure of this. Like I have already said elsewhere, I'm no historian.

Oh, and did you know that a shrine at the Kapaleeshwar temple with an image of a peahen (a female peacock, if you will…), is where Mylapore derives its name from? Mylapore is also called Maylai or Tirumaylai. That had me confused when I first came here to Chennai, about when the so called flying train used to ply only between Beach and Mylapore stations. When the train stopped at Mylapore, which is where I had to get off, I stayed on because the name board at the station read Tirumaylai!
Confusing, I know. But don't miss the Kapaleeshwar temple when you are in Chennai next. Right near the temple is this restaurant, Saravana Bhavan, where you must pop in after, for some divine vegetarian food. And some ice cream, if you haven’t yet tasted guava or jackfruit flavours.

But that's before you feed the fishes at the temple tank.